Drawing inspiration from myriad brewing techniques the world over, there has never been so many styles brewed locally, nor have they been so readily available at your closest bottle-o. Pioneered by passionate amateurs, the craft beer industry has grown to become a force in its own right.
Unlike mass produced beer, craft brews are celebrated for being a bit weird; unusual flavours, funky scents and heady alcohol contents are all welcome. While there’s an ever-growing selection to choose from, here are a few of our favourite brews.
The boys behind Cavalier are the quintessential craft brewers: Andrew and Steve began brewing at uni because they couldn’t afford Carlton Draught. But, they soon discovered they were pretty damn good at it. With six beers on their current roster, it’s Cavalier’s Pale Ale that’s turning heads at the minute. An unashamedly fruity American-style pale with a grassy finish, it’s available in the bottleshop and, increasingly, on tap.
Murray’s in Port Stephens is one of the more established of the craft beer crew, which is probably because they’re consistently brewing good gear. Whale Ale is one of Murray’s classics, a wheat beer made from malted and unmalted wheat with clean citrus overtones. Perfect stuff for a summer’s day.
Despite evidence to the contrary, XXXX isn’t the only beer in Queensland. Burleigh Brewing on the the Gold Coast is doing some laudable, non-XXXX beers, including the ’70’s Style’ 28 Pale Ale. Done like the Americans like it, it’s hoppy and medium-bodied, with a notably fruity nose of lychee, apple and pear.
Hargreaves Hill is one of the great comebacks in Australian beer history: after losing the Yarra Valley brewery in the Black Saturday fires, the team bounced back bigger than ever. Choosing between HH’s impressive Hefeweizen and its Extra Special Bitter was extremely difficult, but the ESB edged in by a nose. A new world interpretation of a British bitter, it’s dry, malty and fragrant.
Along with a barrel-full of other blue ribbons, Feral Brewing Company picked up top spot in last year’s Australian Best Beers book for its charmingly-named India Pale Ale, Hop Hog. The Swan Valley brewer makes the IPA in the Pacific Northwestern style, with pine needle and citrus aromas and an aggressively bitter finish.
It might be a stretch to categorise Tasmania’s foremost bon vivant, David Walsh, as a craft brewer, but there’s an undeniable artfulness to his Moo Brew series. Made right next door to MONA, Walsh’s underground temple to sex and death, the man’s beers are just as uncompromising. The Pilsner is a personal favourite, done in the German style with grassy tones and an unmistakable bitterness.
If one brewery’s been causing a buzz, it’s Thunder Road. Sure, they make headlines by taking on Carton United for the right to use heritage beer brands. But the reason they’re so hot right now has nothing to do with spin; they just make bloody great beer. Their Full Steam Pale Lager is an unashamed play for the mainstream. With its citrus and honey scents and slight bitterness, it’s a surefire crowd-pleaser. But, if you want to sample any of Thunder Road’s beery masterpieces, you’ll be obliged to go to the pub – they’re only available on tap.
This brother and sister team from Victoria’s Otways is brewing some classy beer from their converted general store. Matt and Sharon Bradshaw’s Irish Red is among the best of their range, with spicy, earthy sweetness and malty flavours at a low 3.5 percent ABV.
Hickinbotham of Dromana, home of Hix Beer, is a really small brewery on the Morning Peninsula. They’re really into having a positive environmental impact, so you can be sure there’s nothing nasty in their beer. Their standout is their full-bodied Brown Ale, with caramel and toffee tones, and a distinct pine needle scent to the hops. It’s regularly ranked as among the best in the land by those in the know, too.
Inspired by his trips to Belgium, Boatrocker’s brewer Matt Houghton came up with the Misfit, a hoppy golden ale in the Belgian style. It’s unquestionably sweet – and, at 6 percent, strong – but that’s par for the course with Belgians. The Victorian brewer’s doing some solid work across all its beers, with great New World-stlye hoppy ales, a delicious Pilsner in the North German style and the Ramjet, an Imperial Stout aged in a whiskey barrel (whoah).