Tuesday, 25 April 2017


The Beer-thusiast Pack: March

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 5 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!). I think it's fair to say that we've settled on this format for the time being. As usual feedback is always welcome via the usual channels.

This pack was a little different, with 4 duplicates and 4 singles making up the 12 beers. Both Dylan and I had sampled quite a few of these previously. The standouts for me in this pack were the Hobart Brewing Co. Xtra Pale Ale, a brewery I haven't had a beer from previously, and the BrewDog Ace of Equinox, their beers are always good. I've also heard positive things about the 3 Ravens, whilst the pack will also give the Sierra Nevada Sidecar a chance to redeem itself about a pretty inauspicious first tasting.

3 Ravens Thornbury Lager - Lager - 4.9%

3 Ravens have really gone up in my estimations over the last year or so. It's based on a traditional German Pilsner, but utilizes a range of Australian hops (Ella, Summer and the experimental HP-035) and malts in combination with a Bavarian lager yeast. It's a beer that I was really quite keen to try.

"Super smashable! There’s not a lot to say about it and I suspect this is what the brewers at 3 Ravens would have wanted. With that said, I did like how subtle the fruity/floral hops were while still being present. It’s very well crafted. There seems to be a big trend of suburb based beers going around at the moment and I’d put this up there with the better ones (Coburg Lager, Footscray Ale) rather than the not so good ones (which I’ll refrain from naming)."

I was really impressed with this lager. Lager's are widely derided by the Australian craft beer community but I feel that this one could change that. It's wonderfully well rounded and incredibly easy to drink. I'm sure I'll be drinking more of these in due course.

Colonial Small Ale - Mid Strength - 3.5%

The Small Ale from Colonial is a beer that I've become quite familiar with since trying it for the first time as part of the Hottest 100 Beers last year. Packaged in those wonderful cans where the whole top comes off, the beer is something of a hybrid of styles. What is certain however is that it's a damn tasty little beer!

"Nailing down the style of this beer is tough and Colonial themselves seem loath to call it anything in particular. It has been made as a scaled back IPA though so I’d put it in the session bracket of that particular style if pushed. Onto more important notes, this is a beer that has really grown on me. I first had it early last year while over in Perth, attracted by the eye catching design and ring pull cans (which I still really, really like). It impressed me then and has become a staple ever since, packing a lot of flavour into a mid-strength beer. It has a good whack of bitterness but is still light enough to easily drink all day."

Sierra Nevada Sidecar Orange - American Pale Ale - 5.3%

As I mentioned earlier I was pretty disappointed when I tried this beer a couple of weeks ago. Sierra Nevada very rarely miss, however this was a pretty boring Pale Ale with a hint of citrus, which is clearly orange from the label. It was a touch better than I recalled, but it was still lacking in flavour and was a bit boring.

"When I heard Sierra Nevada were making an orange pale ale I was excited — I love a fruity pale and they obviously know how to make a standard pale bloody well! It’s brewed with Mandarina hops (as well as more standard US ale hops) and orange peel to give it the orange elements they wanted to bring out. Sadly, I just found this to be a super bland beer. Wanting to give SN the benefit of the doubt I’ve had it a few times but I can’t imagine purchasing another after this one from the Carwyn pack. There’s orange on the nose but it’s super light in the actual pale, which just feels like a pared back version of their standard pale. It might work as a gateway beer for those looking to get into hoppy beers with fruit additions but to be honest there’s a lot of better options in that department too. A real disappointment."

Mornington Sorachi - Kölsch - 5.2%

I've been a fan of this beer since it's first release as a limited edition run in 2012 (I think it was 2012 at least!). Back then it was called Sorachi Kölsch, and I even reviewed it in full!With this beer now being available at Dans now, in very reasonably priced 4-packs, I'm going to be drinking a lot more of these!

"This is a good kind of “grab a few cans and head to the park/beach” style beer. It’s fairly light and compact, goes down very easily. There’s obviously a fair bit of Sorachi (probably unsurprisingly!) in here, with the trademark lemony characteristics showing themselves well. Lightly tangy and crisp on the finish. Not a game changer but I have no real issues with it, does what it sets out to do well!"

Hobart Xtra Tasmanian - American Pale Ale - 5.8%

Hobart Brewing Company was a brewery I've never had the pleasure of sampling. I was hoping to try some of their wares at Melbourne BeerFest, however they didn't show... I don't believe they have their own bottling line at this stage, although little information is easily available. This offering was bottled, and I assume brewed, at Hawkers.

"A very solid pale ale. Apparently the first bottled release from the brewery, it sits in that awkward territory where it’s hard to find fault with what it’s doing but at the same time is hard to strongly recommend due to the lack of standout attributes. Putting that aside I really enjoyed the bottle I had, with the hops more on the piney/citrus end of the spectrum than tropical fruits. Good strong bitterness comes from this, with the IBUs weighing in a fair bit higher than your everyday pale while still retaining overall balance."

BrewDog Ace of Equinox - Session IPA - 4.5%

Equinox is a hop that BrewDog have used in a single hop before. One of their IPA is Dead beers from 2014 was the experimental EXP 366; a hop that would later be renamed Equinox. If I'm being honest I didn't love that beer, however I did say I thought the hop would perform better in a lower ABV setting... And here we are!

"I’m a big fan of single hop releases, especially when it’s one I’m not particularly familiar with which is the case with Equinox. It clocks in at a surprisingly low 4.5%, with an obviously light malt base letting the hops shine, and shine they do. I got a lot of pine and citrus, mostly lime, as well as some pawpaw and mango undertones. It’s a really solid beer and a great hop choice for a single hop release."

BrewDog almost never disappoint! This was no exception as I thought this was the standout beer of the pack, one of the few areas Dylan and I disagreed in this pack. The malt base is light, but just solid enough to lay a foundation for the hops to do their thing. The citrus flavour is really interesting with lime dominant, but grapefruit also there. The beer is rounded out by really nice tropical fruit flavours as well as some interesting grassiness.

Rogue Yellow Snow IPA - American IPA - 6.6%

Yellow Snow is a beer that I know I've sampled before, albeit in my pre-Untappd days. I remembered it as an excellent IPA packed full of vibrant citrus and fruit flavours. What we tasted this time bore almost no similarities! The hops tasted stale and didn't mesh well with the malts. I'm not sure if it was a dud can, but I certainly won't be rushing back to it...

"Apparently past versions of this have been pretty spectacular. I’m not sure what went wrong with this one. Strangely sweet, stale and dusty malts give way to strong bitterness that seems to exist without any hop flavour. There’s no real balance and the individual elements don’t work well. I didn’t outright hate it but it was certainly the most underwhelming beer of the pack and not something I’d revisit unless I was assured it was back at the quality others have spoken of it being at in the past."

This was one of the worst beers I've had this year! Admittedly I curate the list of what I drink to avoid beers that I don't think will be up to it, but still... I was bitterly disappointed in this offering and would really hope to put this down to a canning issue/bad batch.

Old Wives Ales Pop's Passion Tart - Gose - 3.9%

This was always going to be a pretty special beer. Old Wives Ales teamed up with SMALT, a craft salt producer, to turn their wonderful Pop's Passion Tart Berliner Weiss that was brewed for their first birthday into a Gose. They've utilized "apple wood cold smoked salt flakes" in combination with the passionfruit pulp that made the Berliner Weiss so striking.

"Carwyn have a knack for throwing excellent sours into their packs and this is no exception! OWA have hooked up with cold smoked salt producer SMALT for this beer to give their gose a real point of difference. It works incredibly well, with the passionfruit up front melding with the tartness of the beer before giving way to light smoke and a dry, salty finish. It adds a real meaty, savoury note to what may otherwise be a fruit driven gose. I like it more every time I have it."

Apologies all for the delay in getting this post, and numerous others I've promised recently, up; I've been swamped by Financial Management as part of my MBA. I quite enjoyed the beers in this pack, although I'm not sure that there was a real "WOW" beer. The April pack has already been delivered to Beer O'Clock Australia HQ and Dylan and I have both consumed most of them - it should be a pretty interesting review, which I'll hopefully get up more expeditiously!

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

Saturday, 8 April 2017


Setting the Bar: Hawkers

Welcome to the first of hopefully many posts on a subject dear to my heart, the unsung heroes of the craft beer world; the core range. These are the beers that keep many of the breweries we love alive and allow them to create the seemingly endless array of new beers that hit bottle shop shelves every month.

As craft beer lovers we can often be accused of having neophiliac tendencies. The constant search for new experiences and flavours, that I'm sure a number of you can relate to, at times comes between us and the wonderful beers that we know and love. This new segment on Beer O'Clock Australia will aim to showcase these beers that may otherwise slip by the wayside of seasoned craft beer drinkers' periphery.

First up I thought I'd take a look at the core range from Hawkers; a brewery that launched with a clear vision to produce a well balanced core range, with less of a focus on limited releases. The result is four of the best selling, most consistent craft beers in Victoria.
“We don’t want to be the cool brewery, we don’t want to be the hipster brewery, we don’t want to be about what’s cool and new. We just want to be about good beer.” - Mazen Hajjar, Co-founder of Hawkers Beer
While Hawkers may have begun to take steps towards being that "hipster brewery" Mazen didn't believe they'd become with the recent release of their seasonal IIPA, following on from the success of their various Imperial Stout and Barleywine releases last year, the primary focus of the brewery is still on the core range. Without further ado; let's review the four beers that make up the Hawkers core range; Pilsner, Saison, Pale Ale & IPA.

Hawkers Pilsner - German Pilsner - 5.0%

As many of you would know, I'm a big fan of a well constructed Pilsner. The Hawkers offering is just that; a classical take on a German Pilsner. It's brewed entirely with German noble hops and pilsner malt, something that translates to the flavour.

It's a wonderfully aromatic Pilsner with plenty of floral & herbal characteristics melding with the spiciness and grassiness that you'd expect from the style. The malts are crisp, yet somehow provide an almost silky mouthfeel reminiscent of the honey that the flavour carries. It's quite bitter for a Pilsner, apparently clocking in at 50 IBU's, and is wonderfully refreshing.

Hawkers Saison - Saison - 5.6%

Saison is a style of beer that should be more popular than it is in Australia. I'm pleased to find the style popping up more and more now; particularly in the core range of one of Australia's larger craft beer producers. The Saison was released about two month after the rest of the core range.

The Hawkers take is typically straight up and down the style guidelines. Lemon and orange peel are complimented by some light spice and funk, while there are plenty of fruit flavours and some sweetish malts. The beer finishes beautifully dry with just a hint of pepper and coriander. It's a lovely, easy drinking take on this classical Belgian style.

Hawkers Pale Ale - American Pale Ale - 5.2%

The Hawkers beer that I'm most familiar with is their Pale Ale. It's an American Pale Ale that I'm a massive fan of; we've had kegs at our Grand Final Day party the past two years! This beer has been hugely popular since it's release - taking out the People's Choice Best Beer at the Great Australian Beer Festival just two days after it was released!

It's a wonderful Pale Ale, very much in the American mode, which packs a serious hop punch for the style. The hops give distinct orange and floral flavours, while tropical fruits are also present. There is a nice biscuity malt base that gives the beer a lovely full body. I was genuinely surprised to see this beer slide down the Hottest 100 rankings last year, although it does lend support to my initial hypothesis that craft beer lovers prefer new tastes rather than excellent well known examples.

Hawkers IPA - American IPA - 6.5%

It seems like you're not a craft brewery any more if you don't have an IPA in your lineup. The Hawkers IPA is a very typical Australian interpretation on a American IPA. It's placed in the Hottest 100 in both years since it was first brewed and is a beer that I'm very familiar with!

As I recalled this IPA is beautifully balanced and exhibits all the flavours you'd expect; ranging from citrus and pine to tropical fruits. There's plenty of bitterness up front with just enough caramel and biscuity malts to provide some balance to the beer. I think it's a wonderfully sessionable IPA, and is more complex than most of the other offerings on the market.

All-in-all I think the Hawkers core range is very well curated. They've developed four quite different beers that are all lovely interpretations of the styles they purport to be. The one hole in this range for me is a maltier offering, with a Red Ale being the obvious candidate to fill this hole - both from a flavour point of view and a branding one (a red label would fit very nicely in among this lot!). I had hoped to include a comment from Hawkers on their range, however they have not responded at time of publication - if they do get in touch I'll be sure to amend this post!

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