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.
June's pack had only 3 Victorian beers, which seems unusually low for the normally particularly state-riotic Carwyn Beer-Thusiast Pack. They were joined by two beers from Otherside, a Western Australian brewery I'd never heard of, as well as beers from the United States (Sierra Nevada, Scotland (BrewDog) & New Zealand (Liberty), although the latter is contract brewed at Hawkers.
Regular readers of the blog would be aware of how much I admire what Exit do. Their core range includes the almost compulsory Pale Ale/IPA combo, followed by an Amber, a Saison & this their Milk Stout. It's a phenomenal style that doesn't get anywhere near the love it deserves in this country. This is a truly excellent example to boot.
"I’m always happy to see more stouts in cans! This is a beer I enjoyed a few times during winter. It’s toasty, lightly roasty and quite creamy with some chilled out coffee and sweet milk chocolate notes. A really reliable beer if you want something dark and easy going."
Semi-recently Sierra Nevada change their Gose, Otra Vez, to include lime & agave at the expense of grapefruit & prickly pear. Quite why I'm not sure - the original was a great beer. I'm going to be honest; I'm not a fan of the switch. It's still a nice Gose, but it doesn't have this unique character that the prickly pear imparted. I'm also not sure if they've dialed back the tartness...
"The new Otra Vez switches out prickly pear and grapefruit for lime and agave, and the results are...inconclusive? It’s quite different for mine and I think it’ll come down to personal preference. I enjoyed the intriguing vegetal notes in the original, plus I feel like the tartness is scaled back here. On the flipside, this may work better as a gose; there’s a good whack of lime flavour, followed by the agave, which leans the beer as a whole towards a pleasant Margarita-style flavour area. I’d be keen on seeing more variations in the future."
Stomping Ground is the brewery from the team behind The Local Tap House. They have one of the best approaches to beer education in the country and this beer is, in my mind, the manifestation of that ethos. It's a Munich Helles Lager with nice floral and herbal notes - it's not too far from the realms of someone who doesn't like craft beer whilst still offering enough for seasoned craft beer drinkers.
"Clean, inoffensive. Not a heap needs to be said really. It has a bit of bready malt and gentle bitterness. They’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here - it’s a solid lager, one I’d happily drink again."
I also think that this is a seriously solid lager. It does everything you want in the style; it's particularly quaffable and has enough malt to keep hardened craft drinkers interested.
This was one of the first New Zealand beers to really grip me, when I tried it 6 or 7 years ago. It's so long since I first had it that it isn't on my Untappd! Liberty are having this contract brewed at Hawkers now, to ensure that this beer wows people the way it wowed me all those years ago!
"A staunch, pungent, punchy pale. Drippy, resinous fruit and a big enough body to stand up to it. Somehow it remains super drinkable too! Liberty make good stuff but I hadn’t gotten around to having this one until the Carwyn pack came along - the praise I’ve seen heaped on it definitely makes sense."
3 Ravens are known for pushing boundaries under Brendan's brewing stewardship; Moussey Juicy may have been a step too far. Billed as a New England Black IPA, or NEBIPA, It's hard to see the haze due to the colour of the beer and I don't really understand why they thought it necessary to take it to this point. In saying that, it was their GABS beer this year...
"The endless juicy variants have wrapped around to being endearing again, especially when they’re doing fun stuff like this. Unfortunately astringent on the back-end, this is very creamy and chocolate driven initially. The overall product is good fun, but probably not something I’d hurry back to. It’s certainly not at the same level of high concept execution as something like their more recent Salted Caramel Shake."
BrewDog are a brewery that seem to covet the spotlight, normally this is a result of their deliberate, outrageous behavior. This beer I feel may have unintentionally found the spotlight. The can artwork depicts the Rising Sun & Kamikaze pilots and was received very poorly in Japan and the majority of Asia. The beer itself is a Stout with Maple Syrup added.
"I wasn’t super keen on this. It might have been a bit of palate fatigue on the day, or just not being quite in the right mood, but it seemed instantly forgettable. Light in body for over 7% ABV, with this fairly subtle maple/smoke character that didn’t elevate it to any particular heights."
This didn't taste like a 7.5% Stout, the body is far too thin. As Dylan said the Maple Syrup flavour didn't come through anywhere near enough. I don't think they'll be re-brewing any time soon...
Otherside began their brewing life as a gypsy brewing operation based out of Fremantle in Western Australia. Things really kicked up a notch for the group of mates who met in the music industry with the opening of their brewery in Myaree in early 2018. Their "Harvest" beer is a Red Ale and is packed with fresh hops.
"A brewery I’d heard very little about from WA had two beers in this month’s pack - I enjoy when Carwyn get their hands on a couple of releases from an upstart brewery and pop them in a pack. This was definitely the better of the two in my eyes, pouring a wonderful orange/bright red with some nice piney hops and sturdy, but drinkable, malts."
The second beer from Otherside to be included in the June Beer-Thusiast Pack is their Session IPA; Festive. Festive was apparently their first release back in 2016. It comes in at only 23 IBU's, which I would suggest is not enough for a Session IPA. Only tasting will tell...
"Noz and I both picked up a fair bit of Pride hopping in here. Whether or not that’s actually the case, it’s not usually one of the more sought after flavours in a session ale. That grungy, ‘dirty’ bitterness certainly has a place, but I was hoping for something a touch fruitier. Still, I didn’t hate it. The overwhelming impression I had was “yep, this is a beer”."
"Yep, this is a beer." That's a fitting summation of this beer. I didn't get any of the supposed citrus, pine & stonefruit that was flagged.
Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!