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.
March's lineup was packed full of new releases, along with a few classics. There was a wide mix of styles ranging from a small fruity sour all the way through to a smokey lager. The pack had 4 local Victoria beers & one each from New South Wales, Queensland, the U.S.A. & the first ever Beer-thusiast Pack beer from Germany.
Sun Cat is Moon Dog's latest attempt at a core range IPA - replacing the highly inconsistent Jukebox Hero. This beer has been rigorously tested, with multiple versions, at the Moon Dog brewery in Abbotsford. I haven't had an infected Moon Dog beer for a long time, so here's hoping this doesn't go the way of Jukebox Hero.
"This is aggressively hopped with Mosaic and Azacca. The bitterness is strong, but well tempered by the amount of fruit flavours coming from the hop combo. It’s a bloody good IPA and one of Moon Dog’s more consistent beers since its release. When fresh I’d never turn one of these down."
This beer was brand new when we got this in the Beer-Thusiast Pack. It tasted super fresh and was loaded so much fruit notes, particularly mango and pineapple, from the hops. I've subsequently had it a few times and been equally impressed every time. I would go as far to say that this is my favourite Australian IPA of the year!
The Brew Crew Series from Bad Shepherd have produced some pretty nice beers recently. The series allows the staff of the brewery to get involved in the formulation of a limited release beer. Number 5 in the series was saw Tracey, the "office guru"'s, turn roll around. She asked for a beer that didn't taste like a beer and hence a Pineapple Sour Ale came into existence.
"Very clean lacto tartness in here. Slightly vinous from the fruit, although it’s hard to pick out anything that’s definitely pineapple. I had a few of these during its release and enjoyed them more each time - I think a little bit of extra time helped them come into their own."
I've been relatively vocal over the years about my lack of love for Hargreaves Hill. It's not that they make bad beers, it's that I find their beers lack character, they're a bit same-same - with one or two exceptions. They've recently rebranded and introduced some new core range beers, including this Dortmunder-style Lager. This is an under-brewed style of lager characterized by biscuity malts and assertive bitterness.
"I’ve been really digging Hargreaves Hill new core range, so it was a shame to find this as the obvious weak link in the lineup. Good things first - it looks great. Wonderfully light golden, perfectly clear. It’s reasonably clean and smooth on the palate. Sadly there’s just nothing else going on here, apart from a mild cloying sweetness that built more as I went through the glass. Don’t think I’ll be going back to this any time soon."
This did very little for me as well. I will give them some credit that they had used some relatively bitter floral hops, however there just weren't enough (I don't think there could've been!) to balance out the overly sweet malts.
Ballistic is one of the wave of new breweries popping up in inner-Brisbane. Australian Psycho is one of their core range beers. It's an IPA brewed entirely with Australian hops, and although there is more than enough bitterness to make it not a NEIPA it has a reasonable haziness to it due to a liberal amount of dry-hopping.
"I remember enjoying this but am finding it hard to pick out anything that differentiates it from a heap of other good IPA's. It’s well balanced and certainly tasty, but does blend into the crowd a bit."
I thought it was a really impressive IPA, but understand where you're coming from Dylan. I got tropical fruit and citrus notes from the hops, as you'd expect from a beer only using Australian hops.
I thought including another Young Henrys beer in the Beer-thusiast Pack, so soon after their last awful offering in December was a strange choice to say the least. Somehow Young Henrys managed to team up with the Foo Fighters to produce a limited run of 60,000 cans to serve around the country on their Down Under Tour. The result is an Australian lager hopped with American hops.
"Do Young Henry’s just suck at making lagers? This is a shocker of a beer. I was actually somewhat looking forward to it - the description said ‘Azacca hopped lager’ not ‘sickly sweet and flat flavoured’. Found it hard to detect any traces of hops, rendering what it was hopped with moot. I’d expect better from macro brewers, let alone craft brewers, especially given how far local lagers have come in the last couple of years."
This was a genuinely appalling beer! The one thing I hold out hope for is that 50,000+ of these beers are picked up by Foo Fighters collectors and never consumed!
It's been a few years since the craze of adding citrus peel or juice to IPA's. One of the few to stick around, alongside BrewDog's Elvis Juice, is New Belgium's Citradelic. The beer has a heap of tangerine peel added to it, which really compliments the fruity hops used in the brew (Citra, Azacca, Mandarina Bavaria & Galaxy).
"One of the best citrus IPAs around when you factor in price and accessibility. The way they’ve used the tangerine seems to help the hop flavours stay intact for longer too - even the less fresh cans of this I’ve had have been good. You’d want to like tangerine as there’s a heap of it here, but it’s super well executed."
Hargreaves Hill/Sailors Grave The Bramble - Saison - 5.2%
I love everything Sailors Grave touch! This beer. brewed in collaboration with Hargreaves Hill, sounded really interesting & right up my alley. It's a farmhouse ale, to which each brewery has brought a product from their own region; Hargreaves Hill brought blackberries from the Yarra Valley whilst Sailors Grave took elderflowers that they'd foraged in East Gippsland.
"Full disclosure - I had this on tap at the brewery, leaving Angus to have the bottle. This may or may not lead to us rating it slightly differently! For my part, I found it hard to fault. You can see the Sailor’s Grave influence in how the elderflower/blackberry has been used - well integrated into the beer while still presenting as fresh and bright. Dry, funky, floral and crisp. I’d be stoked if I made a beer like this."
We definitely rated this beer very differently! I got next to no elderflower, normally a reasonably dominant flavour, and only light blackberry notes. I wonder if this was a bad bottle, or if the kegged version just held onto those flavours better than the bottled version.
Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier. The name has meaning to most beer afficianado's. In English it translates as the Orignal Schlenkerla Smoked Beer, and is known as the most famous smoked beer in the world. The brewery has been brewing a variety of smoked beers in the Franconian town of Bamberg since 1405!
"You’ve gotta give it a few sips to settle on the palate, but this is one of the world’s most acclaimed and famed smoked beers for a reason. The base marzen is rich and full bodied, leaving the waves and waves of meaty smoke to present fully without overwhelming the base beer. I think I prefer their helles for everyday drinking, but if you’re in the mood for a smoky beer this will hit the spot like nothing else."
Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!