Friday, 20 December 2019

THE FALLEN

2019: The Year of Local

It's fair to say that 2019 has seen the craft beer movement continue it's rapid expansion worldwide. Victoria has had the second most breweries/beer brands launch in a year since the early days of the colony, with a staggering 26 breweries/beer brands producing their first beers this year. With 11 days left in the year & 3 breweries still potentially to open their doors before the year is out, we could break the record of 27 set in 2016.

Craft beer still makes up only approximately 7% of the Australian beer market & whilst this number is growing - it isn't growing fast enough to support all the existing breweries/brands as well as more than 20 new entrants to the market. Accordingly, there have been a few casualties as well as a few brands that I've removed from my initial list that I will outline briefly below (in alphabetical order).

Albatross Brewing Co was placed into administration in August with debts of over $400,000, they mostly produced contract brews under their De Havilland Brewing brand. Their site in Mordialloc has been taken over by Wolf of the Willows, who will open their own brewpub in early 2020. The brand I'm least confident on removing from my list is Bellarine Brewing Co. I haven't seen their beers around, there has been no social media action since 2016 & their website is down. I still see the odd Untappd check-in, but I'm assuming that it most be old stock.

Bells Brewing Co, not to be confused with Bells Beach Brewing based out of the same coastal town of Torquay, went out of business in March without much explanation - just a link to a GoFundMe. One of the stalwarts of the Victorian industry, Buckley's Beer, also went the way of the dodo with a cryptic message in March. That message indicated that there would be updates soon, however almost 9 months on they haven't eventuated.

Two breweries from my original list; Caltoria Brewing Company & Yellingbo Brewing Company, have both been removed from the list. That's because their respective owners, Lein Jenkins & Brad Merritt (formerly of Oscar's Alehouse), have joined forces to create Hard Road Brewing Company on the site that previously housed Caltoria.

Cheeky Peak Brewery is something of a misnomer in 2019. It's a large homebrew store based in Albury that hasn't produced finished beer since late-2017. They do still produce fresh wort kits, which I think is where some confusion comes from. Dolphin Brewery is another that I'm a little unsure of. They sell their beer predominantly at markets in Central Victoria & haven't been seen for a while & also aren't answering their phone. 10 years after starting I think they might be gone, however I'd be happy to be proved wrong!

Himmel/Himmel Hund Brewing haven't been heard from since announcing they were taking a break from brewing in October 2018. Given the length of time, I'd be surprised if it reappeared in its past guise. Little Smith Brewing Co are best known for their Pale Ale, Bastard Son, that could be found around Fitzroy. There hasn't been an Untappd check-in since May & only 15 for the year, whilst emails & Facebook messages go unanswered, which in this day & age would imply that they're no longer operating.

I've also knocked off Mount Duneed Brewing Co. which also used to go by Pettavel Road Brewing. It's the home brand of Mount Duneed Estate, who have currently ceased production indefinitely due to the cost of producing the beer. I mentioned the demise of Sweetwater Brewing Company earlier in the year, whilst True Brew was removed because it seems like more of a U-Brew-It style facility than a commercial brewing operation.

It'll be interesting to see how long this sort of growth is sustainable for. Their will be natural attrition in any industry & it seems like a number of these operations were not primarily motivated by financial considerations when making the decision to close or suspend their operations. Hopefully craft beer continues to grow & almost all of the breweries we have in Victoria at the end of 2019 can still be here at the end of 2020!

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

Thursday, 19 December 2019

CARWYN CANVENT 2019 (PART 2)

Carwyn Canvent (Part 2)



December got me - I've fallen way behind on writing, but thankfully not drinking! Carwyn Cellars is a name that every Australian Craft Beer lover should know. It's the preeminent bottle shops in the country. For their advent calendar, they've partnered with 24 Australian Craft Breweries to make an exclusive canned release for their "Canvent Calendar".

After the success of last year there was only ever going to be one Advent Calendar I'd buy this year! Once again this year I'll be cataloging the contents of the Carwyn Canvent Advent Calendar. The Carwyn Canvent Calendar is going to get the full treatment - and with any luck you'll have updates every 5 days. In the interim, let me know what Advent Calendar you've got this year and your initial thoughts on it so far.

Day 6 - Frenchies Lola - Day 6 brought a beer I was really excited for! Frenchies have returned to the Canvent with another fruited Saison clocking in at 3.5%, following up their Oceanna (raspberries) from last year with Lola utilizing apricots. Regular readers would be aware how much I like apricot as a fruit addition in beers.

Just like last year I was a little disappointed in the Frenchies offering. The base Saison is nice and provides a good amount of barnyard/hay funk. There is only the tiniest hint of stone fruit, which probably indicates that they've never brewed with apricots before - as you need to use far more than you would with any other fruit!

Day 7 - Uraidla Primeval Slayer - Uraidla is a brewery that has come to my attention in the last couple of months. It's a brewpub that opened in the Adelaide Hills in June 2018 & have recently started canning. Everything I've had from them so far has been excellent - so my expectations of this Hazy Pale Ale & incredibly high!

Normally when my expectations are high, the beer fails to live up; not so with Uraidla's Primeval Slayer! There was so many different tropical fruit notes with mango very prominent. I also picked up some citrus towards the back end. I think what this beer has helped crystalize in my mind, something I've been thinking about for a while; that I prefer Hazy Pale's to Hazy IPA's! Uraidla, if you're listening, please please re brew this!

Day 8 - Ocho Cocoa Mauve - Ocho, fittingly, arrived on Day 8 this year. The crazy Tasmanian's have cranked out the most unique beer of the Canvent so far! Cocoa Mauve is billed as an English Dark Mild with cocoa, lavender & vanilla. I'm not sure how lavender is going to pair with the other flavours but I'm interested to find out!

My doubts were set aside after my first sip. The lavender manifests itself as this weird herbal/floral flavour, whilst the aroma is closer to what you'd expect when you think of lavender. It's definitely a unique taste, but it pairs well with the more familiar dark chocolate flavours. It's not a beer that people would drink more than one of however...

Day 9 - Molly Rose Baubles - One of my favourite things to happen in beer in 2019 is the launch of the Molly Rose brewery & the subsequent cavalcade of new beers from Nic & the team. Naturally they've gone with a Saison for their Canvent debut & have added a festive touch to it by adding red & green peppercorns.

As with every Molly Rose beer I've had - this knock it out of the park! This was a lovely base Saison, with a touch of sweet malt the main characteristic. There's some citrus hop character a bit of funk & a heap of pepper spice, without overpowering the relatively subtle characters of a 4.6% Saison. 


Day 10 - Little Bang Face Inverter - Little Bang's Face Inverter is going to round off this second installment of my Canvent wrap up. This beer became beer famous worldwide after a Facebook user posted a photo of a pH reading of this beer (a staggeringly low 2.95!), which was then picked up by Worst Beer Blog.

For those who don't understand pH readings, 2.95 is really really low! Stomach Acid is between 2-3.5! It was billed as a "Super Sour" & it lived up to its name! It was seriously tart! Beyond the sourness there was also some citrus characters, however it was hard to pickup much beyond the sourness! In saying that, I'd do it all again...

This next set of 5 beers was a little more hit & miss than the first batch. I think there were less beers that would be consistent sellers, with the exception of the Uraidla & possibly the Molly Rose. The other beers would be more novelty purchases, which I think makes them perfectly suited to the Canvent. Hopefully I'll manage to get the next post in this series up tomorrow & be somewhat closer to back on track...

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

Thursday, 5 December 2019

CARWYN CANVENT 2019 (PART 1)

Carwyn Canvent (Part 1)



Carwyn Cellars is a name that every Australian Craft Beer lover should know. It's the preeminent bottle shops in the country. For their advent calendar, they've partnered with 24 Australian Craft Breweries to make an exclusive canned release for their "Canvent Calendar".

After the success of last year there was only ever going to be one Advent Calendar I'd buy this year! Once again this year I'll be cataloging the contents of the Carwyn Canvent Advent Calendar. The Carwyn Canvent Calendar is going to get the full treatment - and with any luck you'll have updates every 5 days. In the interim, let me know what Advent Calendar you've got this year and your initial thoughts on it so far.

Day 1 - Mr Banks/Range Keep the Change - One of the issues advent calendar producers face is the logistics that goes into their creation. They need to leave enough time from beers arriving to be packaged, dispatched & delivered to customers. This lead times means hop forward beers may be quite old by the time consumers receive them. Hence it makes sense that the finest Australian producers Mr Banks & Range are first up with a NEIPA.

This is a cracking way to start! It's exactly what you'd expect from the two best Hazy IPA producers in the country. There's no astringency, very little bitterness & a wonderfully creamy mouthfeel. It's entirely dry hopped with Citra & is one of the best expressions of Citra I've had. There's heaps of tropical fruit & citrus notes.

Day 2 - Mismatch Boston Sour - Day 2 saw a beer style far more suited to the rigours of advent calendar logistics. Mismatch have produced a Berliner Weiss mimicking my favourite cocktail, the whiskey sour. Apparently the name Boston Sour is another name for a whiskey sour with egg whites (which I see as the only acceptable way to serve one, but whatever...).

They've done a really good job of nailing the brief. It has got all the citrus notes that you'd expect, with orange peel the most prominent, whilst there is a good amount of vanilla/oak character. There's a good amount of whiskey flavour & the beer is refreshingly tart, but certainly not overpowering.

Day 3 - Quiet Deeds Open on December 3rd - Another hop forward beer arrived on Day 3. Quiet Deeds/Deeds Brewing are producing some seriously good IPA's at the moment. so it makes sense that their offering would come up early in the Canvent Calendar. Open on December 3rd was supposed to be a Hazy Double IPA, however do to a filtration issue "Hazy" had to be crossed out, by hand, on EVERY label...

It was brewed with Simcoe & Cashmere Cryo hops, Cashmere are one of these new hops that I'm not terribly familiar with. The beer was quite dry & had plenty of pine notes. It's a beer that I'm sure will polarize opinions but it's one that I really enjoyed as a bit of a throwback to IPA's of 5-6 years ago.

Day 4 - Bad Shepherd Smashable - I was really excited when I saw this come out of the Canvent Box. My love of IPL's is well known & it's a SMaSH to boot! Atlas is a cool new Australian malt coming out of NSW, whilst Sabro is one of the hot new hops! This is one of the first beers I've had with this hop, definitely the first single hop beer, but I'm really excited to see if I can pickup some of it's weirder descriptors!

The malt was quite light & laid a good platform for the hops to shine. Most of what I got initially was pine, but as the beer warmed slightly I began to pickup some of the coconut that this hop is famed for; I didn't get any of the mint however. The beer lived up to it's name - it was a very smashable beer!

Day 5 - Rocky Ridge Brown Bean Bear - Carwyn are probably the biggest pushers of Rocky Ridge beers on the East Coast. Their Canvent offering is a beer that could easily have made it to the last week in good condition; a 7% American Brown Ale with Coffee.

This beer went through phases throughout the course of drinking it. At times I thought it was really well balanced between sweetish malts & muted coffee notes, whilst at other time coffee & roast overpowered the malts a bit. I can't think of a beer that's oscillated quite as much as this one, as these thoughts interchanged throughout the course of drinking.

Five days in and I haven't had a bad beer yet, as expected! The pick of these 5 beers for me has been the Mr Banks/Range collaboration; Keep the Change. These guys have been consistently raising the bar for this style of beer, so I'm glad they were able to deliver to a wider audience. The other thing I'd like to note is the openness of Quiet Deeds in owning up to what happened with their beer; you can read their full blog post about it here. If you're doing the Canvent, or any other Advent Calendar for that matter, please let me know what you think of yours; gus.norris7@gmail.com or on our new Facebook page.

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