Out now, the Spring edition of Beer & Brewer magazine profiles 86 of the latest and greatest craft beers and ciders with reviews by some of Australia’s best sensory experts. Our main seasonal focus this issue was on sours and we tasted a vast range of styles that fall within the category while we also looked at everything from a Mexican Lager to a non-alc Stout. But amongst all that we tried a select few stood out and made our Panel’s Top Picks selection and these are those beers:
(If you’re a brewery not receiving our invite email to partake in our tastings but would like to, email us here; and if you want to read the Spring magazine’s 70 other craft beer reviews, and all the ones to come in future issues, subscribe to Beer & Brewer here.)
Spring’s top 16 Panel Picks
Jetty Road Brewery Attention to Detail, Oat Cream IPA 7.2%
A burnt orange haze bomb that is straight up dripping in hops. Mango leads peach and mandarin on the nose, backed up with pineapple and pawpaw. Body is full but not overtly sweet with buckets of juicy hop flavour taking hold before a smooth bitterness emerges. Alcohol is well hidden, dropping a smidgen of background warmth that integrates well. The aromatics elevate as the beer warms and opens up to be a balanced and delicious brew from start to finish. A clever name yet it’s clear a high level of attention went into this ripping example of the emerging style. In the Spring issue we also review Jetty Road’s: Beeramisu Pastry Stout; and The Haze Hazy Pale Ale.
Little Bang Brewing Schwang! Black Label, Imperial Sour 8.0%
Little Bang up the Schwang-ometer to Black Label proportions for a chic, upscale reimagining of their Schwang! Sour Series. A glorious, rich, fruit-driven ruby red grapefruit-meets-orange colour greets the eyes as this beer pours into the glass and immediately aromas of fresh berries, namely tart raspberry, sweet strawberry and earthy blackberry, and sour fruit grace the nose. The acidity is spot on, balancing with the sweet fruit and high alcohol to create an austere drinking experience. As it says on the can “let’s Schwang it like we mean it, people”.
Molly Rose Brewing Fernandez, Coffee Citrus Sour 4.9%
Thoughtful and layered in both aroma and palate, this is one of the best beers we’ve had in a while. Presenting a little like a Saison, it’s deep gold and hazy with a thin pure white head. Plush peach aromas, with nectarine and apricot, float with lime and white grapefruit with a skosh of yuzu as roasted coffee notes present late, bringing with them a hint of cardamom. Coffee flavour is up front, complemented by a soft, silky mouthfeel that’s akin to a NEIPA but works with the balanced tartness. A hint of vanilla seamlessly blends the fruit and the coffee with an almost musk stick-like finish. In the Spring issue we also review Molly Rose’s: Tinker Sour Ale; Crowd Goes Mild Nitro Dark Mild; and Skylight IPA.
Nowhereman Brewing Dumb Enough, West Coast IPA 6.8%
Pouring a delicious deep orange, accentuated by the slight haze, the somewhat subdued aromas are clean and zesty and deliver marmalade and grapefruit to the nose. The first taste is a wonderfully bitter marmalade punch in the mouth while the resinous and piney hop character really becomes apparent as it coats the mouth – letting you know there are a ton of hops in this WCIPA. The description on the can says this big piney IPA will make origami of your taste buds and it’s fitting as the layers unfold while it carries the 6.8% with ease and for a big, bold hoppy IPA, it’s well balanced.
Slipstream Brewing Guava Sour 3.5%
One word – delicious! There is simply no mistaking the exotic aroma and taste of guava in this kettle sour and the vibrant character of the fruit is fresh and authentic and on display with every sip. There is good balance between the sweet and the sour and in mouthfeel, while the light tartness in the finish is moreish and refreshing. Absolutely best served and enjoyed in a glass to fully appreciate the fruit character – and the ever so slight pinkish tinge to its hazy, pale straw colour.
Your Mates Brewing Barry, Rum Ball Barrel Aged Imperial Stout 12.0%
Incredibly viscous, this belter of an Imperial Stout, that was Your Mates’ GABS beer this year and made using the labour intensive reiterated mash method, blows the mind and senses at every turn. The head is surprisingly fluffy, and aromas of tobacco, pine and scorched earth are foreplay to the explosion of booze, malt and yeast flavours with good balancing hops. This is a fireplace and a novel type of beer for sure. The brewers tell us Barry’s mash method, used to help extract enough sugar to hit the final ABV, took three of them 18 hours!
Slow Lane Brewing Monument, Barrel Aged Black Sour 7.6%
One of a quartet of beers released to celebrate their first birthday, Monument is yet another testament to Slow Lane’s ability to produce beers of complexity that showcase exceptional balance. The beer oozes liquorice and dark cocoa before sliding into a composed spice blend, offering traits of both the Saison and Brettanomyces ferments. Rich dark chocolate, coffee, cherry and cola all feature on the palate, working with a moderate acidity that’s enhanced by a delicate carbonation courtesy of the six weeks of can conditioning. Finishing clean and dry, it’s an impeccably delicious brew, fit for a birthday tipple! In the Spring issue two other Slow Lane releases made our Panel Picks (see below) while we also review: Hop Barn Mixed Fermentation Farmhouse IPA; and Little One Mixed Fermentation Table Beer.
Black Brewing Coconut Porter 6.5%
Black Brewing Co’s Coconut Porter is a decadent treat perfect for slow sipping. Pouring inky black with a strikingly dense, mocha head, it displays rich cocoa and coconut on the nose. On sipping, it’s brazenly laced with oily, sweet coconut flavours that blend perfectly with dark chocolate traits and delicate but moreish stewed fruit and earthy notes. The mouthfeel is deceptively light however, allowing the bold flavours to fade quickly before each consecutive sip, while carbonation is soft and silky. A perfectly warming, unique Porter. In the Spring issue we also review Black Brewing’s: Pale Ale; Lager; and Bad Boy Bao Bao Milk Stout.
Holgate Brewhouse Campfire, Red IPA 7.0%
A clear, deep red cedar with moderate fine off white foam, initial aromas of warm, rounded caramel with a dash of golden syrup and chocolate peanuts are inviting. Fresh spruce and pine resin over a meadow of gentle floral notes and a splash of citrus complete the introductions. Assertive malt flavours are clean and defined and segue nicely into pine forest resin and spice. Mouthfeel is medium-full and this, along with the firm malt structure, steers the confident hop bittering to its cara-piney conclusion. A smashingly good beer for a campfire and a long, slow howl at the moon! In the Spring issue we also review Holgate’s Double Stout.
BentSpoke Brewing Mort’s Gold, Lager 4.4%
A well-made crusher that’s earned its place in the peloton. It’s a clear deep gold with a touch of haze and a fine, snow white foam while aromas lead off with lightly sweet, bready malt and light hay and a sprinkle of floral and herbal hop. Light fruity esters add a breezy depth and light complexity. Soft malt flavours fold into lightly firm hop bitterness – which is clean, even and elevated by just a splash of yeasty sulphur. Mouthfeel is soft and clean as subtly sweet malts dovetail into spritely bittering and a clean, even finish.
Slow Lane Brewing Solitude, Belgian Dark Strong Ale 9.4%
An incredible beer, Solitude pours a deep and mysterious ruby with a fleeting but solid tan head. On the nose a range of dark raisin and red fruits blend with levels of spicy phenols from the Belgian Abbey yeast which follow through on to the palate. But the nose doesn’t give everything away. Flavours of candy and vanilla sweetness, decadent dark cherry and dark caramel come to balance superbly with a level of espresso bitterness. All this comes together to leave a clean dry finish which ensures the intensity doesn’t linger past its welcome.
Murray’s Brewing Le Pont Rouge, Belgian Saison 6.6%
“Le Pont” is French for “the bridge” and this brew is Murray’s nod to the joining of brewing and viticulture. The pour is impressive – a deep magenta, almost identical in shade to the label, entices immediately. A soft farmhouse spice proceeds a light but penetrating earthy tannin. The palate is exceptionally balanced, berries galore with background cherry and plum notes. The light body still oozes complexity, with an earthy richness from the Shiraz grapes merging with the underlying Saison for an almost Pinot Noir-esque delicacy. An inspiring and rewarding brew, Le Pont Rouge is the perfect tipple to share with friends after dinner. In the Spring issue the sister to this beer – Le Pont Blanc – also made our Panel Picks (see below) while we also review: Ghost Gate NEIPA, Riding the Ghost Train Double NEIPA, After Dark Stout and Puff Pastry Stout.
Murray’s Brewing Le Pont Blanc, Belgian Blonde 6.8%
Grape notes abound above a beer pale straw in colour with some tannins shining through in orange highlights. Despite the gooseberry, honeydew melon, white peach, mandarin and passionfruit characters, the sourness is restrained. This is not a shortcoming, but as a tribute to balance, with a soft note of limestone right at the back giving a deeply vinous experience. Light and refreshing, with fine bubbles persisting in the glass, the palate delivers lime and a great tannic structure from a “brief affair” with French oak. A genuine delight to drink and one of those deeply thoughtful, but exceptionally enjoyable, sours.
Brick Lane Brewing Lager 4.4%
A very well balanced beer with a slight lean towards malt over hop flavours. A light peppery bitterness helps the beer sparkle on the palate and leaves the drinker wanting more. This moreish and sessionable quality leads the beer back to where we began. Well balanced ingredients resulting in an easy drinking lager with sessionable flavour and an approachable ABV. Brick Lane’s Lager will no doubt be enjoyed en masse in Melbourne – and beyond – this Spring. In the Spring issue we also review Brick Lane’s: Backyarder Lager; One Love Pale Ale; and their entire Someday Sour range – Watermelon & Raspberry, Blood Orange and Mango & Peach.
Slow Lane Brewing Outback Sky, Barrel Aged Red Sour 6.4%
A great example of style and one that would hold its own against some very well known Belgium breweries. Ruby brown in colour and brilliantly bright in clarity, it exhibits strong cherry and raisin aromas with hints of vanilla from the oak and a very low balsamic vinegar note. Upon first sip you are enriched by all the same flavours. The acidity is very well balanced, with a bit of malt sweetness that rounds out with some oak character. Medium in body, with a medium-to-high carbonation, it’s very well balanced and gives you everything you love and want in a Flemish Red.
Deeds Brewing Juice Train, NEIPA 6.5%
Hazy pale straw in colour with a thick white head, huge citrus hop aromas abound and only enhance on the palate – as pineapple, citrus and mango dance across it. If you had to mark it down, it would be due to it leaning on the sweet side, with bitterness nearly nonexistent. Although, this could be perceived sweetness due to the juicy hop profile. A silky smooth body coats your whole mouth with length with all the amazing hop flavours as it hides the alcohol very well, dangerously so. One of the best Australian NEIPAs on the market. In the Spring issue we also review Deed’s: Sawtooth Fruited Sour; Thought Pattern IPA; and Survivor Type Hazy TIPA.
If you’re a brewery not receiving our invite email to partake in our tastings email us.