As lagers took centre stage towards the end of last year, with the likes of White Bay’s success at The Indies claiming headlines and public persuasion leaning more and more their way, we decided to make them a focus in our current Autumn issue’s tasting section where we deliver 14 pages of reviews on 112 separate craft beer and cider releases.
Alongside giving attention to everything from a hemp IPA to a chai doppelbock, we wanted to scour the country at the start of a new year and provide readers with a snapshot of what the general lager landscape looked like.
What became apparent at first was the sheer amount out there, and then it emerged just how many of them were highly regarded by the tasting team – with most being particularly savoured and then four going on to make our “Panel’s Top Picks” list and a further eight cracking the “Highly Recommended” selection.
You can read all 112 reviews, where we guarantee you’ll find an Australian craft lager with your name on it, by picking up a copy of the Autumn magazine in home brew shops and newsagents or by grabbing a back issue here.
But as we do after each issue goes to print we publish online the 12 standout releases from our tasting section that our panellists singled out. These are those outstanding beers:
Stomping Ground Czech Pils
Czech Pilsner 5.1%
A superb example of style which hits all the notes you want, with noble hop spice, clean and vibrant malt flavour, a bitter forward finish and a mouthfeel that is full yet soft. Bright in clarity and gold with a persistent dense white head, earthy and floral hop spice aromas lead with a clean yeast undertone. Malt flavours of soft and fresh white bread are followed by the same hop spice on the aroma, finishing with a medium high intensity hop bitterness that doesn’t dominate the flavours before it. Full in body but with a soft pillowy mouthfeel and a balanced medium low carbonation. Their Laneway Lager also appeared amongst the panel’s 20 “Highly Recommended Picks”.
Hop Nation Rattenhund
Traditional Pilsner 4.8%
Pours a slightly hazy, yellow straw colour with a simply brilliant nose of classic woody, spicy, slightly earthy notes, with a touch of white peach to round it out. The Saaz and Spalt hops shine very well here while the body is ultra smooth yet finishing with a clean bitter tone. A beautiful lager that is refreshing, complex and very well balanced. Their Head In the Clouds, Feet In the Crowds Hazy IPA also made this list – see below – while their Experiment 102 NZ IPA made the panel’s “Highly Recommended Picks”.
Burleigh Brewing Burleigh Sublime
Mexican Lager 4.6%
“The beer of your corn chip dreams” Burleigh say and they’d be right! Pale straw in colour with brilliant clarity and a thick lacing white head, aroma delivers lime rind with a malt presence ahead of a clean malty profile with low bitterness and lime notes to finish. Boasting a moderate body with a very dry finish and carbonation at the higher end of the scale, this is super enjoyable and refreshing where balance is on point and the lime chimes in perfectly for a warm weather smasher.
Rocky Ridge Crispy Concords
NZ Pilsner 5.0%
Landing at a modest ABV and featuring organic Motueka hops, German specialty malts and a clean lager yeast, this dabbles in IPA territory with its vibrant hop character and a clean but piercing bitterness. A clean ferment, where minimal ester is present, helps to amplify gentle but pervasive hop notes on top of a light but bready body. In the Autumn issue we also looked at a range of their other bottom fermenting beers including their Pilsner, Helles Lager and West Coast Pilsner .
Molly Rose Brewing Skylight
A cracking IPA with old school hop character, bold assertive bitterness and a crisp dry finish. Pale copper with faint haze and a very thick fluffy head, classic American IPA hop aromas of orange, mandarin and pine resin with a malty crusty bread note summon strong hop flavours of citrus, candied orange peel and tree sap-like resin with a bitterness to match that lingers long. Also, Molly Rose’s Lager #3 appeared amongst the panel’s “Highly Recommended Picks”.
One Drop X Duckpond Chase the Crazy
Imperial Fruited Sour 8.9%
The sour specialists Duckpond from Sweden have helped the Botany botanists produce a glorious, luminous, sumptuously textured dark fruit sour – like a Michelin star restaurant-quality berry compote dessert in a glass, but lit from within. The palate is a full-bodied mix of raspberry, blackcurrant and boysenberry and it absolutely pops! Assertive sourness tangling with a good lick of vanilla sweetness. Dazzling and moreish. In the Autumn issue we also looked at another collab from these breweries – the Duck for Cover TIPA – while One Drop’s Onskii’s Yuzu Lager made the panel’s “Highly Recommended Picks”.
Sidewood Estate Strawberry Apple Cider
Strawberry Apple Cider 8.0%
A blush orange-pink with brilliant clarity, the blend of fruit is evident up front as it’s poured. The aroma steers towards ripe, juicy strawberries while the palate is a combination of both fruits showcasing a balance of sweet strawberry and apple notes, rounded out by crisp tartness and texture. This really is a perfect balance between two beautiful fruit varieties in Uraidla strawberries and Lenswood apples. Easy drinking, refreshing and very moreish. We also tasted and reviewed their Apple and Pear Ciders in this latest edition – with the latter making the panel’s “Highly Recommended Picks”.
Green Beacon Windjammer
A classic flavoursome WCIPA that’s now nearing iconic Queensland craft beer status, this is a showcase in balance where fresh hop flavours of pine and resin are matched with a caramel malt backbone. Pouring a glorious bronze and finishing in the back of the palate with a sharp but still balanced bitterness kick, this is a beer to savour and one to enjoy. We got to road test a number of Green Beacon beers this issue where their Wayfarer Tropical Pale and Be The Sunshine NEIPA ranked amongst the panel’s “Highly Recommended Picks”.
Five Barrel Brewing Little Nipper
Hazy IPA 5.8%
A cracking beer with great expression of tropical and juicy stone fruit hop character. True to style, it pours with a golden but clean haze while a sumptuous pillowy mouthfeel lays the platform for the hops to shine. Well balanced and somewhat sessionable at 5.8%, Little Nipper is a great addition to the list of top-notch NSW NEIPAs. Little Nipper’s big brother Big Nipper (DIPA, 8.0%) clawed its way into the panel’s “Highly Recommended Picks” too while we also checked out their “easy drinking, light bodied” Lunch Box Lager that “offers a little more diversity and interest with every sip”.
Felons Brewing Champagne Sour Ale
Champagne Sour 4.8%
Straight off the feel of the can’s embossed label elevates this two-time gold medal winning sour above the norm and as it pours the fluffy white head feels luxurious – like, well, Champagne. Aroma carries the slightest hint of funk with ripe white grape and tropical lychee while mouthfeel is fuzzy and flavour is refreshingly light with a touch of tropical fruit and a nice, dry finish. We’d happily swap the real thing for this any day. An exceptional beer.
Hop Nation Head In the Clouds, Feet In the Crowds
Hazy IPA 6.0%
With a very hazy, pale pour, tropical aromas jump out of the glass as Cryo Eldorado, Cryo Azacca, Talus and Nelson Sauvin deliver flavours of guava, passionfruit, pineapple, nectarine, mango… and whatever else you can find in a fruit salad! What’s truly incredible in this beer, is how chewy those flavours feel along with a bitterness that is fully contained by the heavy coating of this thick body. Sumptuous!
Tallboy & Moose Transwarp Conduit
American Pale Ale 5.0%
This is a prime example of how good and hoppy APAs can be. Straw in colour with a dash of hop-derived haze, a burst of apricot, lemon, lime and basil meet the nose and effortlessly flow into the flavour of the beer. The balance remains sublime throughout what is an excellent beer. We also looked at their RIPPA Rye Lager, Deadset Lager and Q Continuum IPA.
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 Autumn magazine’s 100 other craft reviews, and all the ones to come in future issues, subscribe to Beer & Brewer here.