Sunday, 18 March 2018


The Beer-thusiast Pack: December 

Since the temporary demise of Tru Bru's Bear Club, I've been looking for a beer club to fill the void. Up stepped The Beer-thusiast Pack from one of Melbourne's finest craft beer establishments; Carwyn Cellars.

The Beer-thusiast Pack is delivered to your door monthly. It's composition is a complete mystery until it arrives - although it's likely to include a number of local offerings. Each month 12 beers arrive, including 4 duplicates. As many of you know I'm not generally one for duplicates, which is where Dylan comes in.

Dylan and I share a love of sport and have been playing indoor soccer together for a few years now. Dylan's love of craft beer has grown over the years to the point that he's now an avid Untappd user and works at a boutique bottle shop, with a large craft beer range. His tastes are not dissimilar to mine; with a preference for sours and hoppy beers over maltier offerings.

For the first time in a few years I'm going to have a co-reviewer on Beer O'Clock Australia. The plan is that we'll divide the duplicates at soccer soon after they arrive. We'll both drink them individually and record our thoughts, before getting together to share the single beers in the pack (and possibly a few more!). The format is sure to change over these first couple of months as we work through some teething issues, so please hit me up if you've got any feedback.

With the exception of the Young Henry's Natural Lager - I thought this looked like a really solid pack. Three lightish Pale Ale's was probably a little over the top, but the variety of styles on offer from the 4 single offerings more than made up for it. I was most excited to try the summer seasonal from Green Beacon, their Scrimshaw IPA made with all Aussie hops.

Rover Henty St Ale - American Pale Ale - 4.3%

Henty St Ale is the latest release from Rover Beer, an offshoot range from Hawkers. I've never quite understood why they choose to split the Rover beers away from their regular range but that is beside the point. A Pale Ale from Hawkers clocking in at only 4.3% is something I can definitely get around!

"This sits somewhere between the Rover Session Ale and the Rover Session IPA in terms of flavour profile, with less tropical fruit than the Session Ale and a drier finish. It’s a solid session beer, one that I could (and no doubt will) happily put away, but I do find myself a little sad that the Session Ale won’t be canned as I do prefer that beer overall."

Mismatch Session Ale - American Pale Ale - 4.0%

I was somewhat surprised that I had not had this beer in packaged form before. I'm continually impressed with all the Mismatch beers that I try; their Evil Archie Red IPA won our Red Ale blind tasting, beating out beers like Former Tenant! I remember being really impressed last time I had this beer with how much flavour they packed into it's 4% ABV body.

"Surprisingly tasty. Lots of peach/apricot from the hops, dry finish, body isn’t too thin. Does quite a lot with the 4% ABV it has. Of the easy drinking beers this month I think this was the pick."

Young Henrys Natural Lager - Kellerbier - 4.2%

I thought it was a genuinely strange choice to include a Young Henrys beer in The Beer-thusiast Pack. The brewery has never gripped me, having a sort of macro feel - despite it clearly being a craft brewery, maybe it's the widespread Dan's availability in the days before craft beer was regularly stocked... This lager has been pouring at their brewery since the day they opened and is billed as a Kellerbier - which is basically an unfiltered German Lager.

"If the Mismatch Session Ale was the pick of the session/easy drinking cans, this was at the other end of the spectrum. I’d had this beer before and not been much of a fan, but was happy to give it another go in case I’d had a bad can in the past. I don’t think I had. It’s a weirdly sweet, stale tasting lager that doesn’t really have any characteristics to balance those flavours out. Bitterness is super low and it’s not particularly ‘clean’ in terms of flavours and balance. Craft lagers are really getting too good to spend time drinking beers like this."

Bentspoke Barley Griffen - American Pale Ale - 4.2%

Bentspoke are the biggest brewery in Canberra, our capital city. Bentspoke produce a heap of really really good beers. In the last couple of years they've really expanded their distribution and have seen their standing in the craft community increase exponentially. This Pale Ale is one that has never really agreed with me - so we'll see how we get on.

"Bentspoke make some awesome stuff but I found this too lightly flavoured. It’s a relatively low ABV beer obviously geared towards putting away quickly, with mild hop flavour/bitterness and a fairly smooth body. It’s not a bad beer, but there’s just not much to it."

I don't think this beer is ever going to really do it for me. As Dylan said, it's not a bad beer there just are a heap more better options out there!

Blackman's/Barrow Boys You're Turning Violet - Gose - 4.8%

I was really excited when I heard that Blackman's were collaborating with Barrow Boys. Both produce really good beers in their own right and I was really keen to see what they'd come up with together. The result was a Blueberry & Violet Gose, with the salinity coming from the ocean directly in front of Blackman's Torquay brewery.

"I’m a big fan of both these breweries so this was a fairly exciting collaboration to see. I didn’t mind Blackman’s Blackberry Gose from early last year but found it a little cloying near the end of the can. This avoids that problem - it’s a stupidly refreshing beer, with a really nice balance of fruit/salinity. I’d like a bit more tartness but I’d happily recommend this as an entry level or session sour."

Green Beacon Scrimshaw - American IPA - 5.8%

Queensland was long a craft beer wasteland. Since Green Beacon was established in 2013 the Brisbane craft beer scene has gone from strength to strength. In 2017 they were chosen by Singapore Airlines to provide beers for their Brisbane to Singapore flight. Scrimshaw is their limited release IPA for summer, showcasing Australian hops.

"Green Beacon had a big 2017 - it felt like their name was constantly popping up, especially in the latter half of the year. This may well have been my favourite beer of theirs I had, with beautifully big hop flavours pushing out resinous fruit and some lightly grassy notes without the bitterness getting too high for the body to handle. It’s a really well balanced hop bomb. Looks lovely too. "

Co-Conspirators The Matriarch - NEIPA - 6.5%

Co-Conspirator's are a Melbourne based Gyspy brewer and produce seriously good stuff. They seem to slide under the radar from time to time, so I was really pleased to see The Matriarch get into The Beer-Thusiast Pack and hopefully in front of a wider audience. The Matriarch is one of the first Australian NEIPA's that I can remember being released and is a damn good one at that!

"This was one of the first NEIPA’s I had in the haze rush last year and it remains close to the top of the pack. When all are fresh I’d take it over Jedi Juice and Juicy. Huge amounts of orange, mango and pineapple hit you up front, with a really well crafted soft, full body and a lip smacking finish. The IBUs are listed at 47 which is a little surprising, as the bitterness on the palate is quite low. This is one of the local NEIPA’s I’d point to as not having the issue of the bitterness to style ratio being off (which seems a somewhat common problem) and I’d put that down to how full bodied and in harmony it is."

Garage Project Day of the Dead - Spiced Beer - 6.7%

Garage Project are known for producing consistently excellent beers. They're probably equally well known for doing so with some weird ingredients from time to time. Day of the Dead is one such beer, brewed every October to commemorate the famous Mexican holiday of the same name, it's a strong dark lager with heaps of chili & cocoa added.

"This can weirdly had next to no chilli in it! You really had to look for it which was a surprise, as in the past it has been easily perceptible. Luckily it’s still a very tasty dark lager, with smooth roast and dark chocolate flavours. It does lose a little zing without the chilli though, it’s obviously crafted with the intention of having that flavour far more present than it was when we had it."

I'm a bit embarrassed how long it has taken me to get this review up - life has been crazily busy for the last few months. If things go to plan; January's review should be up by the end of the week. I've got to work out what I'm doing with the Untappd badges review - it's been a very long time since I've done one! Hopefully there will be plenty of new material on the blog in the coming weeks!

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Saturday, 24 February 2018


The Beer-thusiast Pack: November 

Since the temporary demise of Tru Bru's Bear Club, I've been looking for a beer club to fill the void. Up stepped The Beer-thusiast Pack from one of Melbourne's finest craft beer establishments; Carwyn Cellars.

The Beer-thusiast Pack is delivered to your door monthly. It's composition is a complete mystery until it arrives - although it's likely to include a number of local offerings. Each month 12 beers arrive, including 4 duplicates. As many of you know I'm not generally one for duplicates, which is where Dylan comes in.

Dylan and I share a love of sport and have been playing indoor soccer together for a few years now. Dylan's love of craft beer has grown over the years to the point that he's now an avid Untappd user and works at a boutique bottle shop, with a large craft beer range. His tastes are not dissimilar to mine; with a preference for sours and hoppy beers over maltier offerings.

For the first time in a few years I'm going to have a co-reviewer on Beer O'Clock Australia. The plan is that we'll divide the duplicates at soccer soon after they arrive. We'll both drink them individually and record our thoughts, before getting together to share the single beers in the pack (and possibly a few more!). The format is sure to change over these first couple of months as we work through some teething issues, so please hit me up if you've got any feedback.

I have no image of the box's contents to bring you for November as Carwyn didn't include them in our box! This box had a few new releases, both in the singles and the duplicates, as well as some long term favourites. I was pretty keen to try my first beer from The Beer Farm, a brewery a few hours south of Perth in Western Australia.

Hawkers XPA - American Pale Ale - 4.6%

Hawkers are the latest Australian brewery to join the canning revolution. They released three beers; a West Coast IPA, a Lager and this XPA - that were as on point stylistically as their core range offerings. The XPA has a slightly lower than normal for the style and indicated to me that the hopping would be increased instead.

"Hawkers have been on fire with their canned releases. Alongside the super punchy West Coast IPA and the super smooth lager comes this pale, slotting in nicely in the middle on the hop spectrum. It’s a very tasty beer, with the body on the thinner side of things to allow hop flavour/aroma to dominate. One of the more sessionable hop-heavy beers in recent memory."

Exit Pale Ale - American Pale Ale - 4.6%

Exit were brewery who produced beer number two in the November Beer-Thusiast Pack; and also the second who's inclusion was a 4.6% Pale Ale. I've been a big fan of these guys since day one and was really pleased to see that they were able to release their Pale Ale in cans.

"It’s a good beer, but it’s not a particularly easy one to talk about without sounding like I’m covering well worn territory. It’s a pale! And a nice one! Exit’s hop focus is reflected well here and the can’s Tron inspired art is cool."

Despite the lag in posting this review, I had this beer very very fresh and it really lived up to the hype I'd built up in my head. I also had it about two months later and was pleased to say that it was still holding up well. If you're into fruity Pale Ales this would be one to try!

Boatrocker Miss Pinky - Raspberry Berliner Weisse - 3.4%

I was so pleased to see Boatrocker's Miss Pinky make it into a Beer-Thusiast Pack. This is a beer that I think has the potential to be one of the most influential beers in the evolution of the Australian craft beer story. It's the first sour to crack a mainstream store (Dan's) - and it's survived far longer than many other beers. The popularity of this beer, a style about as far from typical Australian macro lager as you can get, will hopefully see more brewers produce sours.

"I’d wager this is both Boatrocker’s most popular beer and the most widespread sour in Australia, so there’s not a lot of revelatory information I can provide here. It’s still a really good beer though, the kind of thing I’m always happy to have a six pack of in the fridge. Lovely raspberry flavour, light enough tartness for those not accustomed to sours to enjoy, doughy wheat base. There are better raspberry sours around but not at this price, and not available at your local Dan’s. It’s a great low ABV option too."

Kaiju Cthulhu On The Moon - Black IPA - 6.5%

Kaiju do things differently to other breweries. I can't think of another Australian brewery which has a core range Black IPA in a can. The name references Cthulhu - a leviathan type creature created by H.P. Lovecraft, who died a virtual unknown but is now considered one of the most important authors of the 20th Century.

"This was the first black IPA I ever had and I have a bit of a soft spot for it, but what a great example of the style. Herbal, dense hops combine with this umami heavy malt base (thanks to the roast) to make a beer that is both complex but eminently drinkable. Even better now that it’s in cans - I feel like the brighter flavours of the hop varieties (think pine and light citrus) come through more than they did in the bottle."

Mornington Jiffy Squid - NEIPA - 4.9%

At the start of 2017 I would've been in the minority of beer drinkers in Australia who knew what a NEIPA was. In 2018 it's just about the most talked about style around! I think it's a well known fact by now that I'm a bit of a Mornington fan-boy, so I was pretty stoked to see their take on the cult style included in this pack!

"I feel like this would’ve gone down a lot better fresh at the brewery, but it’s still an admirable effort at an NEIPA, especially for under 5% alcohol (which occupies a bit of a hazy niche). It’s cloudy with a soft body, a little bit of prickly bitterness and some nice fruit flavours."

Founders Green Zebra - Gose - 4.6%

When I first heard about this beer from Founders - I had high hopes that this could fill the Watermelon Warhead shaped hole in my fridge (Feral; hurry up and can/bottle it!). It's a Watermelon Gose, from their Artist Series which is released yearly in August. The Artist Series gives the Founders Family a chance to create a piece of art, with the winner to grace the label.

"This was a genuine disappointment. I love watermelon generally and I especially love watermelon sours (blame Watermelon Warhead). I expected this to be on the lighter, more smashable side but...not like this. It’s just far too sweet, with a jolly rancher like watermelon flavour instead of anything resembling fresh. There’s tartness here, with any salinity getting lost amongst the rest. I’m planning on giving this another go down the line (Founders have earned the benefit of the doubt) but this can was closer to an RTD than a gose."

Dylan and I have shared a few of these, in quite different levels of sobriety, and I don't really have much positive to say about it either. It's so disappointing! It's far too sweet and doesn't live up to what it should/could be.

Beer Farm India Pale Lager - India Pale Lager - 5.2%

Beer Farm is one of a growing number of up & coming West Australian breweries. It's very highly rated out west, but we rarely see any of their offerings on the east coast. This is the first of theirs that I've had the pleasure of trying. It's very interesting to see a brewery having an IPL as their flagship beer, well done this style can be excellent - there just aren't that many good ones around Australia at the moment.

"I’m definitely coming around on IPL’s, probably due to my increased intake of hoppy lagers lately. This was a good effort at the style, coming across as a bigger version of an Aussie lager that was then dry hopped with some American varieties rather than a lagered IPA. I liked that about it though, it lent it a point of difference (and judging by its placing on the Hottest 100 beers, has probably made it more accessible!)."

Founders Backwoods Bastard - Scotch Ale - 11.1%

Backwoods Bastard is one of my all-time favourite beers. It's a Scotch Ale that is then aged in Bourbon barrels, something of a specialty of Founders! I had my first one of these about 4 years ago - and have had at least one, often more, aging ever since!

"I’m very picky with my scotch ales and the offerings from Founders haven’t ever been to my tastes. Backwoods is certainly better than Dirty Bastard, with some nice sweetness and a good, rounded body but I still find it quite muted in terms of flavour. The whole thing comes across as a little flat and uninteresting. I’m not entirely sure what separates a beloved Scotch ale I’m not particularly fond of (like this) to a beloved Scotch ale I enjoy (like Old Chub) but like I said, picky."

We've slowed down slightly on the schedule of reviewing due to various commitments on both our parts. We've completed drinking December's offerings (and I think most of January's) - so with any luck will have them up by the time February's Pack review is due! Let's see how we go... I haven't had much luck with my recent self-imposed deadlines!

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Monday, 22 January 2018


Every year UK based beer bloggers Mark Dredge and Andy Mogg put out the cry for beer bloggers to produce their "Golden Pint Awards". Basically it's a celebration of best beers had during the year by people who know the most about beer, or at least think they do!

This is the sixth year I've done this now and it's getting harder rather than easier! It continually gets later and later by the time I get this post up. This year Dylan has also gone away and written his own version, which is included in Italics below my own. These were 100% blind! All awards that we both awarded the same winner was by pure coincidence, and probably just further legitimizes their win! So without further ado, let's get into the 2017 Golden Pints;

Best Australian Draught Beer - Boatrocker Roger Ramjet (2015) Dylan and I ventured to Ramjet Day this year, the first year I'd been able to go. Wow! What an event! One of many highlights was the 2015 Roger Ramjet, the Bourbon iteration of Ramjet, of this wonderful Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout. Amongst an array of wonderful BA Stouts this was right up there!

Feral Biggie Juice 

In amongst all the drama with Feral in the latter stages of 2017 it’s all too easy to forget how good their offerings were throughout the year. Biggie Juice was the pick of the bunch for mine - serving both as a precursor to the haze craze that was everywhere in the second half of the year and delicious beer in its own right. Stupidly fruity, looked the part and kicked off the 2017 good beer week for me. Could you ask for any more?

Best Australian Bottled Beer - La Sirène Forêt Sauvage That said, La Sirène's Forêt Sauvage; a spontaneously fermented Tripel that spent 18 months in French Oak barrels alongside King Valley cherries, was absolutely superb! Those who've had the privilege of sampling beers from La Sirène will understand the complexity that they've been able to extract in the past, this beer takes that to another level! This beer would stand shoulder to shoulder with any sour you would care to put it up against.

Boatrocker Orange Sherbet

What a spectacular, delicate example of how to make a good sour ale. The berliner weisse base, chardonnay barrels and bitter orange all lend their own piece of character, melding together beautifully into a whole. The name makes sense as there’s a heap of spritzy, bouncy orange up front which rounds out to an almost sorbet-like combination of smooth, round fruit and tartness. It blew me away and was in all likelihood a big contributor to the worrying amount I spent on sours in the following months of 2017.

Best Australian Canned Beer - Hawkers West Coast IPA This beer was only released in the last week of November, but really there could be no other choice. I very very rarely buy 4-packs or 6-packs, yet I think I've bought 4 of these since this beer was released. This is a beautifully clean example of a West Coast IPA, with plenty of pine and stonefruit flavours.

Exit Saison

What a year for the can! I’m such a massive fan of them and was stoked to see so many breweries jumping on board. It’s probably not much of a surprise that putting one of my favourite beers into my preferred drinking vessel took out the spot here, but it’s hard to argue with the extra peppery zest the can format gave an already excellent, yeasty, big bodied saison.

Best Cask Beer Red Hill Hop Harvest Ale I had one cask ale for the year, so I guess it wins by default! That beer was Red Hill's Hop Harvest Ale and thankfully it was really good! I had this over the Easter long weekend, naturally on cask, at the brewery. I remember it being particularly "green" with fresh hops, but in a good way. Next year I'm going to endeavour to drink more cask beer.

Morrison Brewery Industrial Estate Ale

Strangely enough I had a few IPAs on cask this year, with some working better than others. This was apparently a single batch brewed for the serving style and you could tell - the softer carbonation and creamy body worked nicely with the crazy amount of hops in here.

Best Overseas Draught Beer - To Øl Black Malts & Body Salts I was lucky enough to try one of my all-time favourite beers on tap for the first time this year when Grape & Grain had a To Øl & Lervig tap takeover towards the end of 2017. This beer has so much malt complexity that combines beautifully with the various hop flavours. If you love Black IPA's this is an absolute must try.

To Øl Sur Germs Are Coming Eating Our Pomegranate And Redcurrant! 

The pick of a very good bunch sampled during a European takeover at Grape and Grain. This is a Brett saison with what I can only assume is a crazy amount of pomegranate/redcurrant in it. The colour is beautiful, there’s plenty of funk (the good kind), the redcurrants add a nice subtle tartness and it finishes dry and bitter. Just a bloody well thought out and made beer - the type that you want to keep sipping to try to pick up everything it’s putting out.

Best Overseas Bottled Beer - Firestone Walker Parabola The highlight of my beer year, was imbibing far too much of Firestone Walker's Parabola with the brewer at Mega Dega 5! I was blown away by this beer, which was as good of a Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout that I could ever have imagined.

Prairie Artisan Ales Funky Gold Citra  

This is how you do a hoppy sour. All of the flavours work to support the hops, enhancing the juicy citrus from the Citra with earthy funk, punchy tartness and a bracingly dry finish. There’s a deft hand with the overall balance as well as the look and feel of this beer - reminiscent of a good saison with the golden/orange colour and carbonation level. I came away from it with a better appreciation for Citra and that’s the gold standard for a beer like this.

Best Overseas Canned Beer - Oskar Blues Barrel Aged Ten Fidy Another big American Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout took out the Best Overseas Canned Beer. It was a superb melding of all the flavours you'd expect from the style; caramel, coffee, vanilla, chocolate, bourbon and woodiness. It's a beer which puts people off because of the price tag, don't be one of those people! If you're into big stouts, buy this beer it's worth every cent!

White Mischief Garage Project

Another big year for Garage Project, but one in which a very small beer stood out. Clocking in at under 3% ABV came this gose, one which is so delicious it’s difficult to put down. You can’t even rely on the little voice in the back of your head telling you to take it easy due to the alcohol level. There’s something so incredibly moreish about the combination of peach (and there’s a lot of peach here), salt and puckering tartness. The only issue I have is how quickly it always seems to sell in Australia!

Best Collaboration Beer - Black Rhino Cherry Lips 3 of the newer Australian breweries; Hop Nation, Big Shed & Exit, teamed up to make Black Rhino Cherry Lips. It's a Black Gose, which has had a heap of Morello (sour) cherries chucked in towards the end of fermentation. I don't think I can't do this beer justice in this short of a space; it was wonderfully complex with flavours ranging from salty & peaty through to sweet chocolate and cherry. I really hope this gets re-brewed down the line!

Mountain Goat Back to the Brewer

More of a reunion than a collaboration, this gathering of ex-Mountain Goat brewers (including people now residing at Two Birds and Hop Products Australia) with the current crop still fits the bill. Turning the ‘double steam ale’ concept into something close to an NEIPA was genius, with the soft, clean body of steam ale still there but ramped up to accommodate a silly amount of hops. The result was a big, juicy and dangerously drinkable send off to 2017.

Best Overall Beer - Boatrocker Ramjet (2014/2015) I couldn't choose anything else this year! It says so much about how the craft beer scene in Australia is developing that I preferred this Barrel Aged to any of the more fancied American ones. This was far and away the beer of the night, it's aged wonderfully over the last few years!

Boatrocker Ramjet (2014/2015)

You know when you’re tossing up between a Cantillion and something else and end up choosing the non-Cantillion option you’ve got something special. The 2014/2015 Ramjet was the best thing I tried on Ramjet day in 2017, somehow standing out amongst a group of world class imperial stouts (and local whisky...and a couple of sours). This was the best thing I drank this year and I think I knew that’d be the case from the first sip. There’s vanilla and oak up front, with the whisky having mellowed out into a sweeter backdrop for the waves and waves of cocoa and chocolate that come through towards the end. It’s a decadent stout that has aged just about perfectly.

Best Branding - Wolf of the Willows After going with down the eclectic route last year, I've settled on uniformity this year. Wolf of the Willows have this down pat. The labels are really stand out with their use of negative space. I find that their beers really stand out on a shelf when all lined up next to each other.


This one is in recognition of how intelligently CC marketed their beer with their artwork and style. They make excellent beer but they’ve established a foothold in a crowded scene, something I’d wager is in no small part due to their distinctive, striking art and sense of continuity across their range with their characters and colour coding.

Best Bottle Label - Bad Shepherd Russian Imperial Stout This year I thought was actually a bit lacking in really good label art. I ended up stumping for this lovely Russian Imperial Stout from Bad Shepherd (pictured below). The photo doesn't do the gold leaf justice, which really stood out. It was as striking as the beer was good!

Blackman’s Brewery Lager Collective

A bit of an under the radar award here - they’re not the most spectacular, or funny, or thoughtful pieces of beer artwork this year but they just look so damn good. My mind kept coming back to how much I dug the look of these three beers and it eventually wore me down. I love how they look like a series but also look great individually - from Juicy Banger’s floral, tropical chrome to Zinger Slinger’s graffiti inspired look to the jungle sunset of Citra Black Dynamite. They deserve some props.

Best Australian Brewery Boatrocker Defending their Best Australian Brewery title from 2016 is Boatrocker. The breweries barrel program is really starting to bear fruit with a wider array of their 500ml offerings hitting the shelves. The one criticism directed their way at times is the pricing of these offerings; I would imagine that these are relatively low margin considering the time that goes into a product like that, especially when combined with our ridiculous excise tax...

Hop Nation

Not only did Hop Nation make a lot of excellent beers in 2017, they were both consistent in quality and also took steps forward for the brewery as a whole. Their core range remained strong, with new members such as The Heart fitting in well and filling a gap. They built on their forays into sours by keeping The Punch in rotation as well as brewing beers like the hoppy sour Acid Head, the wonderful oud bruin Le Garnet and the bonkers smoked black cherry gose collaboration Black Rhino Cherry Lips. The Kalash and The Sturm were tasty bigger bottles and Jedi Juice was one of the best in the downpour of NEIPAs we saw. I’m really excited to see (and drink) what they do in 2018.

Best Overseas Brewery To Øl The title for Best Overseas Brewery 2017 goes to To Øl. I was already a huge fan of this Danish gypsy brewer before having the To Ølekalender in 2016, but that really sealed the deal in my mind. This year I haven't been able to walk passed a To Øl beer I haven't had, and struggle to walk passed ones I have had before. These guys make consistently excellent beers, across a vast array of styles and I can't recommend them highly enough.

To Øl

I’ve always liked To Øl, but 2017 was when I realised that I like all of To Øl. I literally haven’t had a bad beer from them and they remain the only brewery I automatically blind buy anything I haven’t tried from. The sheer diversity of beers they release, along with their weird and wonderful art and, most importantly, their high benchmark of quality is pretty nuts when you take it as a whole. I hope they never change.

Best New Brewery Opening 2017 - Wildflower This was the easiest category for me to answer this year; Wildflower is already a serious contender for the Best Australian Brewery title! Based in Western Sydney, Wildflower is more a blendery than a traditional brewery - with no on site brewing facility. They use excess capacity at other local breweries to brew their wort, which is then brough back to their site and aged in barrels before blending. Their two core range beers; Gold & Amber, have blown me away each time I've tried them! If you're into sours, check these guys out!

Wildflower Brewing & Blending

It’s a testament to how quickly Wildflower have become a part of the Australian craft beer scene that I almost forgot they opened up in 2017. Specialising in using native, local ingredients to make and blend various sour concoctions (and a straight up lager in there, because why not!), they caught the eye with their careful quality control, excellent flavour profiles and scheduled online/cellar door releases. They’re the kind of brewery where the quality will only increase over time and are a very welcome addition to the laundry list of breweries occupying our shores.

Pub/Bar of the Year Carwyn Cellars Carwyn Cellars is probably best known as one of Australia's best Independent Bottle Shops. What many don't know is that their bar out the back is also one of Australia's finest! I had a heap of great beers here during 2017, and the addition of their beer garden towards the end of the year sealed the Golden Pint for them.

Carwyn Cellars

Could it be anyone else? We’re spoiled with the amount of craft beer bars in Melbourne nowadays but Carwyn remains the holy grail - a place where weird and wonderful tap lineups are constantly rolling in, with a fantastic bottle lineup too. You could argue they belong in here as a retailer more than a bar, but every time I’ve gone down there it has been to partake in one of their many, many events so I’m giving them the nod here.

Beer Festival of the Year Good Beer Week For the second year running I'm awarding the title of Beer Festival of the Year to the Good Beer Week team. It is simply the best beer festival in Australia, if not the world. My beer highlight of the year was at their Mega Dega degustation dinner, where I was seated at the same table as some of the worlds best brewers! 

Good Beer Week

Again, a bit of a lay down misere, but a well deserved win for GBW. I love how it turns Melbourne into a beer lover’s dream for a week, with constant masterclasses and events for all tastes taken care of. All the events, pub crawls and tap takeovers I went to were fantastic, and the GABS weekend portion remains a big part of the Melbourne beer calendar every year.

Supermarket of the Year - First Choice This was a tough one this year, as both Dan's & First Choice did some good things and some bad things. Both I thought dropped the ball a little in terms of looking after their beer, however both increased the quality and quantity of craft beers that they stock. I'm giving it to First Choice because of the beer made by Deep Creek exclusively for them; Kombi. It's been priced very reasonably and is seriously tasty.

Dylan works part time for First Choice, so he skipped this question. I'm sure you can work out who he would've picked...

Independent Retailer of the Year Slowbeer The Golden Pint for Independent Retailer of the Year is becoming a little predictable. This is now an unprecedented third year in a row that Slowbeer have taken this title. Chris has the best curated range in Melbourne, across two stores that are both very conveniently located for me, with offerings that you often can't find elsewhere. A special mention to Otter's Promise is also in order - I'm sure Dan will be right up there again in 2018.

Otter’s Promise

I’m biased because of location here. That’s not to say that Dan doesn’t deserve this award though, with this cracking little shop that evolved into a genuine contender for the best in Melbourne over 2017, especially when they got their taps going. I mainly come here for sours and I’m never left disappointed (even if my wallet often is). Great rotating range, great service and lovely ambience.

Online Retailer of the Year Carwyn Cellars I've used Carwyn's online platform a number of times this year, and have been impressed with the service every time! Delivery is normally within 2-3 days with good tracking information provided. I've never had any issues with incorrect items and they're very upfront with any delays.

Online Retailer of the Year - Slow Beer

Slow Beer is a great place to go visit, but it’s also a great place to order from. You can shop their whole lineup online and it’s well priced and packaged. Always nice to order from a place where you know the beer will be well taken care of.

Best Beer Book - For the Love of Hops My beer related readings have significantly changed this year with my transition into home brewing. For the Love of Hops by Stan Hieronymus is the perfect mix of technical information, whilst still being approachable to people without brewing degrees. If you're a homebrewer, I can't recommend this book highly enough.

Make Some Beer: Small-Batch Recipes from Brooklyn to Bamberg

This is a simple book, but I appreciated the focus on smaller batch sizes and the variety of recipes on offer. The food pairings are good too! It’s a great book to get ideas from.

Best Beer Magazine - Zymurgy Along the same lines, I'm selecting Zymurgy as the Golden Pint Winner of the Best Beer Magazine. It is "The Journal of the American Homebrewers Association" and it provides me with a lot of information, especially relating to recipe formulation and technical aspects to improve my own brewing.

Brew Your Own

Even if you’re not a homebrewer, BYO offers such a wonderful profile of styles and techniques from a historical and technical standpoint. There’s a lot of great information in here for a deeper appreciation of beer in general (and of course, it’s a wonderful brewing resource).

Best Beer Blog or Website The Crafty Pint I'm reverting back to James for this award. I haven't double checked but I'm sure he would have won this award before. The Crafty Pint is the ultimate website for Australian Craft Beer content, plus The Crafty Cabal has to be one of the best memberships, beer related or otherwise, out there.

The Mad Fermentationist

There are so many good blogs and websites focusing on beer nowadays that it really comes down to what appeals to you. While The Crafty Pint remains the king of Australian beer news, I love the Mad Fermentationist for his many bizarre creations, as well as recreations of old beers and love for alternative ingredients. Like above, I reckon there’s a lot of interesting stuff here even if you’re not a homebrewer.

This is going up far later than I would've liked, but at least it's done! 2017 was probably my favourite year in beer - there was just highlight after highlight! I'm already working on ways to try and make 2018's Golden Pints a little less arduous of a task. Thanks to Dylan for chucking up his own awards, we clearly shared a number of highlights this year, but I think the variety in explanation and winners of other awards really added to this post. Stay tuned for more posts in the (hopefully) not too distant future.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world! 

Friday, 29 December 2017


The Beer-thusiast Pack: October 

Since the temporary demise of Tru Bru's Bear Club, I've been looking for a beer club to fill the void. Up stepped The Beer-thusiast Pack from one of Melbourne's finest craft beer establishments; Carwyn Cellars.

The Beer-thusiast Pack is delivered to your door monthly. It's composition is a complete mystery until it arrives - although it's likely to include a number of local offerings. Each month 12 beers arrive, including 4 duplicates. As many of you know I'm not generally one for duplicates, which is where Dylan comes in.

Dylan and I share a love of sport and have been playing indoor soccer together for a few years now. Dylan's love of craft beer has grown over the years to the point that he's now an avid Untappd user and works at a boutique bottle shop, with a large craft beer range. His tastes are not dissimilar to mine; with a preference for sours and hoppy beers over maltier offerings.

For the first time in a few years I'm going to have a co-reviewer on Beer O'Clock Australia. The plan is that we'll divide the duplicates at soccer soon after they arrive. We'll both drink them individually and record our thoughts, before getting together to share the single beers in the pack (and possibly a few more!).

October's pack was a a strange mix of styles considering the improving weather, with a couple of Red Ales, a Smoked Beer, a Schwarzbier and a malty Strong Ale joining the more weather appropriate Pale Ale, Witbier and Lager. All but one of these beers are Australian (if you count Yeastie Boys Australian facility as Australian). One thing I like about these packs is when Australian breweries I've never heard of pop up, such as Left Barrel Brewing from the Adelaide Hills.

Green Beacon 3 Bolt - American Pale Ale - 4.5%

Green Beacon's 3 Bolt is regarded as one of the best examples of an Australian brewed American Pale Ale, recently taking out that segment of Getting Blind with Crafty. This is the first time I've been lucky enough to try this beer from the can, previously having it on tap at a Pint of Origin event during Good Beer Week 2015 - when I was pretty underwhelmed by it... Maybe it's improved in the ensuing 2.5 years.

"This beer recently won the Crafty Pint’s American pale ale blind tasting so my expectations were pretty high - I’ve liked Green Beacon’s stuff a lot in the past. I’m not sure if it wasn’t at optimal freshness but I was a bit underwhelmed. While certainly being a clean and well crafted pale with a fair bit of grapefruit and passionfruit coming through it didn’t reach any particularly noteworthy heights. You could do far worse if you wanted a straight up and down American pale though! "

I have to agree with Dylan on the freshness point, for a beer that is widely regarded this didn't really strike any chords for me...

Fury & Son Red Ale - American Red Ale - 5.5%

Fury & Son is a brewery based out in Keilor Park, a suburb to the north-west of Melbourne. I've been impressed with their new release beers of late and am quite looking forward to this new Red Ale. It's billed as a classic American Red Ale, with strong citrus and pine hop notes.

"Definitely more on the American red side of things with a good hop presence, plenty of pine and citrus. Sturdy body with a bit of caramel malt holds it all together. Not a heap to say about it but it’s well made and enjoyable. "

I don't have a lot to add to this, other than that the bitterness was slightly higher than you'd expect for a Red Ale. It work really well in this beer as it balanced out the sweetish malt bill well.

Yeastie Boys White Noise - Witbier - 4.4%

Yeastie Boys is a New Zealand based brewery, which also brews/contracts out of the UK and Sydney. Since the launch of their Australian operation we've seen a lot more of their beers around Melbourne. This is a Witbier, a style that I have a love-hate relationship with, and one I didn't have particularly high hopes for.

"I had really enjoyed the Yeastie Boys stuff I’d tried to date so I was excited to see this, even if I’m not particularly fond of witbiers. This is billed as a witbier with chamomile which seemed like a solid pairing. It worked quite well, with some sweet spice and floral elements coming through the light wheat base. I had a bit of an odd experience with this beer as I really enjoyed it on the first sip and then gradually liked it less as I went through it - whether it was undesirable flavours showing through more as it warmed or a buildup of the botanicals and sweetness I’m unsure, but I finished the can fairly down on the beer as a whole. "

Akasha Tradewind Lager - American Pale Lager - 4.4%

Akasha Brewing has been a favourite of mine ever since it was founded by the ex-Riverside Brewing head brewer, Dave Padden. Given that, I was really surprised that I hadn't tried this beer before. It's a lager that has been heavily hopped with Galaxy. This was apparently the first beer to come out of their own facility at the end of 2015.

"One of the best lagers I had in 2017. I assume the cans we had were very fresh because the hop profile was wonderful, big nose with mellow pine and tropical fruit upon taking a sip. It’s super clean, refreshing, balanced and packed full of flavour at 4.4% ABV."

Left Barrel Schwarzbier - Schwarzbier - 5.3%

Being completely honest; I'd never heard of Left Barrel before seeing this beer in this pack. I thought a Schwarzbier was a really interesting choice for a Winter Seasonal, until noticing the brewery's location barely 5 minutes from the German speaking town on Hahndorf, SA. These guys are really small and only launched at the end of 2016.

"I had vaguely heard of Left Barrel through the grape (or hop) vine but hadn’t had any of their beers before. This was a cool introduction as Noz and I both love dark lagers! A solid effort, roasty malt with a well rounded body. It was a very hot day when this was opened but it went down very well. Happy to have tried it."

As Dylan mentioned, I'm a massive fan of dark lagers - a category that Schwarzbier fits into very comfortably! I was really impressed with this, particularly its drinkability. Here's hoping that this is the start of a rise in the popularity of dark lager in this country!

Killer Sprocket Amber Ale - American Amber Ale - 4.8%

I was pleasantly surprised to see the first of two Killer Sprocket beers to appear in this pack. I hadn't seen any of their beers for ages and assumed they'd gone out of business. I used to really like this beer 4+ years ago when it was readily available.

"Killer Sprocket was another brewery that stirred some vague recognition within me without having tried any of their beers. Apparently their amber ale is their first commercial release and has won a couple of awards. I wasn’t a big fan. There was a strange menthol/mint note on the finish that really put me off and I found the body a bit too thin to support the nice malt flavours. I respect that they’re trying something a little different but it didn’t work for me."

Either my palate or this beer have changed. I'm sure I would've picked up the weird herbal/menthol flavour that put Dylan and I alike off!

Killer Sprocket Bandit - Smoked Beer - 4.8%

We're back to Killer Sprocket for this one as well. After a little bit of research I believe that Killer Sprocket is still brewing out of Cavalier Brewing in Melbourne's west. The second beer from them in this pack is a Smoked Beer, which utilizes Peated Malt - the most polarizing malt out there! It's sure to be interesting...

"I liked this a lot more than the amber. I didn’t get much smoke from it but there is a bit of weight and depth to the body that I think is partly because of the peated malt. It’s quite a drinkable and flavoursome beer. "

I'm a big fan of peaty whiskey, so I wasn't surprised to find that I liked this beer. I thought it was lacking a little in smokiness and the percentage of the Peated Malt in the grist must have been very low!

Arrogant Bastard Ale - American Strong Ale - 7.2%

Originally brewed by Stone, Arrogant Bastard Ale has spawned its own brewing company; Arrogant Brewing. Despite Stone's protestations to the term; they are a gypsy brewing company who brew Arrogant Bastard Ale (and it's variants) at some of the most high profile breweries across America & the World.

"One of those beers that every craft beer drinker has had at some stage and, most likely, underrates. It’s a beautiful strong amber ale, with a surprisingly big hop presence (clocking in at 100 IBUs) balanced with a heap of malt. It’s a full on flavour bomb in all facets, yet somehow still comes out wonderfully balanced. You’d need a bloody good team to pull off a beer this good and flavoursome in the quantities they produce while still retaining drinkability. I’m not normally a strong ale fan but polished this off very quickly; a cracking beer and one I’ll go back to."

We're slowly catching up! I thought this pack had an interesting mix of beers, without any real standouts. The one beer I would return to regularly is the Akasha Tradewind Lager, which was an excellent example of the style. The review of the November pack will hopefully be up in the first week or two of January, with December not too far behind! Keep your eyes peeled on Beer O'Clock Australia as there should be more contact over the next week or so.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017


The Beer-thusiast Pack: September 

Since the temporary demise of Tru Bru's Bear Club, I've been looking for a beer club to fill the void. Up stepped The Beer-thusiast Pack from one of Melbourne's finest craft beer establishments; Carwyn Cellars.

The Beer-thusiast Pack is delivered to your door monthly. It's composition is a complete mystery until it arrives - although it's likely to include a number of local offerings. Each month 12 beers arrive, including 4 duplicates. As many of you know I'm not generally one for duplicates, which is where Dylan comes in.

Dylan and I share a love of sport and have been playing indoor soccer together for a few years now. Dylan's love of craft beer has grown over the years to the point that he's now an avid Untappd user and works at a boutique bottle shop, with a large craft beer range. His tastes are not dissimilar to mine; with a preference for sours and hoppy beers over maltier offerings.

For the first time in a few years I'm going to have a co-reviewer on Beer O'Clock Australia. The plan is that we'll divide the duplicates at soccer soon after they arrive. We'll both drink them individually and record our thoughts, before getting together to share the single beers in the pack (and possibly a few more!).

This months pack saw our first discrepancy between the listed items and the packed items. We received two of the Little Bang India Red Ales instead of one, and none of the Little Bang Breakfast at Stepney. That error aside, we saw a lot of hops in this pack as well as some interesting new Victorian singles from Two Birds and Sailors Grave.

Stockade Chop Shop - American Pale Ale - 4.7%

I've said this many times recently, but Stockade make a number of really solid offerings that are true to style. Chop Shop is no exception, it's lovely earthy Pale Ale which is a bit different to a lot of others on the market. Plus it's got really nice label artwork.

"This is an intriguing little pale, with slightly more malt character and hops that lean towards the earthy and floral rather than big fruit/pine. It’s not everyday you have an Australian pale with Fuggles as one of the stars! It’s a nice pale at under 5% ABV, packing plenty of flavour in. Your mileage may vary in terms of how much it works for you but you’ve got to appreciate them trying something a bit different."

Fixation IPA - America IPA - 6.4%

I've been a massive fan of the eponymous IPA from Fixation Brewery since I had my first one in mid-2016. The brewery was founded by Melbourne beer identity Tom Delmont, with the sole purpose of producing IPA's and boy they can do that. The brewery is opening a brewpub in Collingwood next year, which is a venue that I may never leave!

"This is another really good IPA that I’m sure everyone has had more than a few of by now. When fresh it’s the easiest IPA around to recommend, with one foot in the slightly old school West Coast IPAs and one foot in the new world. It’s wonderfully balanced, firm and punchy with what is now a pretty classic IPA hop combo (Mosaic, Simcoe, Amarillo, Citra). It’s not as finely tuned to personal taste to be one of my favourites, but it remains objectively one of the best in Australia."

I would be one to argue that objective Dylan; it's definitely one of Australia's best IPA's, certainly the most consistent at least.

4 Pines In Season IPA - American IPA - 6.3%

Say what you will about 4 Pines and their ownership status, but they still produce damn good beer from time to time (particularly their Keller Door releases). This In Season IPA changes everytime they brew it depending on what hops are available, in a similar vein to the Luponic Distortion range from Firestone Walker.

"Number 5 is out now, which I suppose is evidence of us being a little behind on these Carwyn packs. Even if it was the tail end of number 4’s run I still found this very enjoyable, a great example of a sturdy IPA that doesn’t shy away from big hop character and bitterness. A bit of fruit, a bit of pine, all good stuff. I love the concept too."

Two Birds Spring Saison - Saison - 5.5%

I really like what Two Birds are doing with their seasonal releases; Saison fits the bill for Spring perfectly! Having had an earlier version of this beer previously, I'm glad that they've been tweaking it. It's still on the entry level side of Saison, but the bones are there. A bit more yeast character and this could be quite an impressive beer.

"I had this at the brewery a few months back now. I remember being thoroughly unimpressed, with little saison-wise present in terms of yeast and a dry finish. This one is still far from a traditional saison but a big step in that direction, with an intriguing herbal/citrusy hop mix and some sweet, yeasty funk. The sweetness was actually my least favourite thing about it - if it finished drier it’d be a very good beer. As it is it’s enjoyable enough, just don’t expect your usual saison."

BrewDog Pump Action Poet - American IPA - 7.5%

Pump Action Poet is one of the beers from the small-batch series produced by BrewDog. The small-batch series gives the brewers the chance to experiment and explore different techniques. This particular IPA had a heap of peaches and apricot added to it alongside the hops.

"Somehow this doesn’t have Mosaic in it! It’s somewhat of a testament to the wonderful flavours of that hop that it takes an actual addition of peaches and apricots to emulate the flavour of it alongside more regular IPA hops. That’s what BrewDog have done here, with the aforementioned fruit lifted up by Simcoe, Citra and Amarillo hops. It’s a tasty and supremely drinkable IPA, with the stonefruit lending it a certain juiciness along with waves of dried apricot flavour and zesty, yet fairly gentle, bitterness."

This beer was dangerously easy to drink considering the hefty 7.5% ABV. I had quite a few of these and was impressed at how long the stonefruit flavours hung around - much longer than if it was just hopped.

Little Bang Ira - India Red Ale - 6.0%

Little Bang is a brewery based in Stepney, Adelaide. They're probably best known for their Galactopus Barley Wine, which was phenomenal! This beer is billed as a mix between Red Ale and a pseudo-Scotch Ale. I assumed Ira simply stood for India Red Ale...

"Really enjoyable red. Big whack of hops with a lightish body that has notes of caramel and toffee. It all works well together and is definitely a beer I’d revisit in future."

Despite the interesting style description, I think this is a really well balanced India Red Ale - or Red IPA if you prefer. There was a bit more to the malt than many other examples, which could be where they are getting their "pseudo-Scotch Ale" bit from.

Sailors Grave Law of the Tongue - Oyster Stout - 5.8%

An Oyster Stout is exactly what is sounds like, a Stout brewed with Oysters. The history of the style is vague at best, with debate ranging from oysters initially being used as a finings agent to it being a myth that spawned the style. In any case, I'm quite interested to taste Sailors Grave's take on this style.

"It’s somewhat sacrilegious to say given how much of an old tradition it is but I always found oyster stouts to be quite a silly concept. Silly describes a lot of the more enjoyable (and less enjoyable for that matter) craft beer trends, but I’ve never had an oyster stout that made me go “yeah, I get why they do this”. There’s really light salinity here but to be honest it’s 95% a bog standard porter - nice and creamy mouthfeel, touch of smoke, but nothing else worth noting. Pretty enjoyable but falls a little short."

Due to my moving and foot operation we are a very long way behind on the reviewing front at Beer O'Clock Australia HQ. The review of October's Pack will hopefully be up by Christmas, with November and December to follow in the New Year. I'm completely u to date on emails, they were a good way to procrastinate whilst not doing that enormous Untappd Catchup, so keep them coming!

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!