On the Hops
Liquor Barons Craft Beer Guide
We’ve finally done it and pulled together a bunch of local industry experts including beer judges, brewers, retailers and passionate beer connoisseurs to bring you the very best in craft beers, selected through a series of blind tastings each fortnight. These really are the very best, tastiest and most fresh crafties out there whittled down to our standout top 6.
Nail Brewing MVP Session Ale
Drinking mid-strength beer was once a matter of sacrificing mouthfeel and flavour for the benefits of lower alcohol. Thankfully, a host of Australian craft-brewers have sought to address that long-accepted compromise; none better than Perth’s own Nail Brewing and the award-winning MVP Session Ale. Yeast in suspension sees the beer pour a hazy gold, and adds body, while Galaxy hops deliver a well-rounded citrus and tropical fruit character – and a refreshing hit of bitterness. It’s all class for all afternoon; no wonder MVP picked up the ‘Best Reduced / Low Alcohol Beer’ trophy at the 2018 Australian International Beer Awards.
$4.50 can | $14.99 4pk
Boston Brewing Afterglose Raspberry Gose
Sour wheat beers are ideal thirst quenchers for our summer months, and this Great Southern (Denmark) brewery gets the German ‘Gose’ style so, so right. Boston’s Afterglose pours with a hazy pink blush and healthy effervescence, and offers a hit of fresh, almost sugar-sweet, raspberry on the nose. On the palate, though, that fruit sweetness is perfectly balanced by the style’s trademark lactic tartness, with the traditional prickle of added salt contributing to a splendidly dry finish. A high proportion of wheat malt is also traditional and apparent in this fine brew; a Gose that’s right at home in WA.
$5.99 can | $29.99 6pk
Black Brewing Pale Ale
Most Australian craft-brewers would regard an American-style Pale Ale as an essential part of their stable, and there’s good reason for that. Eighteen-plus years after Little Creatures first opened its doors, most of us can appreciate the classic style’s clean, fruity, hop-forward characters and superb drinkability – which is exactly what you’ll find in Black Brewing’s revamped Pale. The beer’s citrus and pine-needle aromatics immediately grab your attention, with malt support – including a touch of spice from rye malt – providing good balance across the palate. A moderate bitterness wraps up an ever-so-tidy and very approachable brew from this Margaret River mainstay.
$5.50 can | $18.99 4pk
Cheeky Monkey West Coast IPA
India Pale Ale includes a range of sub-styles, as the current flood of juicy, hazy, low-bitterness New England (NEIPA) variants makes apparent. The ‘West Coast’ version typically reins in its malt base to showcase the array of aromatics and flavours, and bitterness, that a ‘shedload’ of hops can bring to the table. They are solid brews, and Margaret River’s Cheeky Monkey have used a sizeable trio of American hop varieties – Cascade, Amarillo and Mosaic – to deliver bold citrus-and-tropical-fruit, orange-zest, and pine-needle characters, with that required whack of bitterness and a toasty malt backbone playing a supporting role. Cheeky and classy.
$5.99 can | $22.99 4pk
Otherside Harvest Red AlE
Otherside Brewing looks set for exponential growth in 2019, but it’s been the venture’s earlier, more methodical steps forward that have led to this point. Harvest Red Ale was the first beer in the brewery’s limited-release ‘Pilot Series’, and it didn’t take long for its distinctive, even nourishing, blend of melon-and-citrus hop characters and caramel malts – delivering raisin, plum and sweeter grainy notes – to find an audience. The Red was, and still is, a brew that’s both artisanal and approachable, and has become a reliable lynchpin in the Otherside core range; while the ‘Pilot Series’ continues to create what’s next.
$5.50 can | $18.99 4pk
Beer Farm IPL - India Pale Lager
Almost every year, the craft beer intelligentsia proclaims an imminent ‘craft lager’ boom that never seems to come. It’s understandable that recent converts – still haunted by the ghosts of a mass-produced past – might be resistant to such notions, but styles such as the IPL offer a way forward for the lager family. Beer Farm’s brewers have beautifully integrated the hopping schedule of an IPA with the clean, crisp, sparkling drinkability that only a bottom-fermenting yeast, and time, can produce. Vibrant citrus and stone fruit characters roll into subtle malt notes and a firm bitterness, making it a lager to love.
$5.50 can | $18.99 4pk
3 Bolt Pale Ale (4.5% Abv)
Balance is key when it comes to Pale Ale, and Green Beacon gets the malt-hops equilibrium just right with 3 Bolt. The beer’s aromatics introduce the synergy of grainy, bready malts and tropical-fruit hop characters (pine, passionfruit, mango), with those hops taking an American-style lead and pale malt providing essential support. The pair’s seamless routine continues onto the palate, before old-world bittering hops cut a moderate, slightly-spicy swathe across the dancefloor… er, tastebuds! Dodgy TV show analogies aside, this Brisbane-based crafty nails the brief and deserves high marks for pairing accomplished flavour and drinkability.
$4.99 can | $16.99 4pk
Red Ale (6% Abv)
Consider, for a moment, that the orange-red-copper glow of autumn leaves are a signal to start exploring the darker realms of the beer spectrum. You’ll arrive at Red Ales well before you approach Stout territory.This American-style local is an exceptional advocate for the scrumptious, ‘wholemeal loaf’ qualities of specialty malts. In this brew, it’s Carared and Munich malts that impart delicious toffee-caramel and toasty notes, with liberal doses of Citra hops, providing a counterpoint of moderate bitterness and citrusy aromatics. It’s beautifully balanced at 6% abv, and is Nail’s perfect intro to autumnal imbibing.
$4.99 can | $17.99 4pk
Hazelnut Brown Ale (5.9% Abv)
Victoria’s Bad Shepherd Brewing might be relative newcomers here in WA, but this fine Brown Ale suggests we roll out the ‘Welcome’ mat posthaste. Why? Just get a hit of the intoxicating hazelnut, vanilla and chocolate aromatics that rise from the glass - Wow! Indulge your tastebuds with more of those hazelnut, vanilla and chocolate characters; accompanied by earthy notes of Maris Otter malt and a spirited addition of Frangelico - Yum! Admire the beer’s mahogany hue, smooth mouthfeel and dry, clean finish, and grab another - Yes please!
$5.99 bottle | $19.99 4pk
Fat Tire Belgian White (5.2% Abv)
Pierre Celis resurrected the Belgian Wheat Beer, or Witbier, with Hoegaarden in the 1960’s, and New Belgium have absolutely nailed the style for 2019. The Colorado (US) collective sticks with tradition and crafts a cloudy pale-gold brew that truly zings; an addition of fresh Seville Orange peel teaming up with the lightly-creamy mouthfeel and lemony-citrus tang of raw wheat, oats and yeast. There’s malt sweetness supporting that fruitiness too. Coriander notes, yeast spice, and tartness, provide the style’s trademark dry, spicy, refreshing finish. Seamless, superb, and an impressive new spin for a Belgian classic.
$4.99 can | $16.99 4pk
DFA IPA (7.5% Abv)
‘DFA’ - ‘Demus Favorem Amori’ - a new name for an old favourite from one of New Zealand’s finest. Garage Project takes a chef-like approach to its beer recipes, and this India Pale Ale is infused with the South-East-Asian influences of mango, Vietnamese mint, lime and chilli. Centennial, Amarillo and Citra hops bring a classic citrus hit on the nose, but there’s no denying those aromatic hints of mint and lime; just as the mango joins a classic IPA palate, and firm bitterness reveals a dash of chilli heat. DFA - ‘we choose to stand for love’. Love. This. Beer.
$7.99 can | $26.99 4pk
XPA (4.9% Abv)
The ‘XPA’ - or ‘eXtra Pale Ale’ - is yet to be defined as a style, but generally denotes a beer that sits somewhere between a Pale Ale and an IPA. We’re talking more pronounced hop characters than a Pale, combined with lower bitterness and less alcohol of an IPA; and that’s certainly what Little Creatures have delivered with its latest release. Late additions of Galaxy, Mosaic and Citra hops - aka ‘dry hopping’ - imbue a simple malt base with elegant tropical-fruit, citrus and pine aromatics, adding the all-important ‘X’ factor to a clean, smart, subtly seductive and very approachable brew.
$3.99 bottle | $19.99 6pk
Double IPL (7.8% Abv)
First released for Beerfarm’s third birthday, this ‘Double’ take on the brewery’s India Pale Lager (IPL) was one of the best WA craft beers of 2018. Now it’s back for a limited time, again combining the relatively light body and clean, crisp finish of a strong lager with an amplified, Imperial IPA-ish hit of stone-fruit, citrus and even herbal hop characters. Malt is restrained but alcohol provides a touch of sweetness, while an addition of rye malt delivers a delicious spiciness that lingers beyond the beer’s firm bitterness; seriously smart brewing that’s both bold and refined. Welcome back!
Boston Brewing Co.
Shark Eye Stout (5.6%)
Another very approachable winter beer, this one coming from those quiet achievers at Boston Brewing - located just outside Denmark on WA’s south coast. At 5.6% abv, Shark Eye is a medium-bodied oatmeal stout that puts roasted barley front-and-centre; pouring jet black and boasting assertive espresso-coffee aromatics, with dark chocolate malt appearing in a supporting role and a hint of liquorice bite. Those cockle-warming characters continue onto the oatmeal-infused palate, accompanied by a vanillin note acquired from time in oak and a firm bitterness to balance all those malts. It’s just a damn good beer.
Fuzz Box (5.8%)
New Zealand’s Garage Project is no stranger to ‘next-level’ craft beer, so the exceptional merits of this fine brew shouldn’t come as a surprise. Even so, when a ‘Fuzzy Pale Ale’ leaves a solid field of New England IPA’s in its wake, it’s hard not to marvel at the Wellington brewery’s commitment to pushing boundaries and punchy flavours. Galaxy, Nelson and Mosaic hops deliver intoxicating tropical-fruit aromas and a mango-lime juice-bomb for the palate, with low bitterness giving all that hazy hop character a vibrancy and length that dazzles the tastebuds. This is the Fuzz Boss!
Mixed On the Hops #3 craft brew tasting pack $29.99
Pirate Life Brewing Co.
Black Ale (5.8% Abv)
The Black India Pale Ale style has been a craft-brewing contradiction from the start - a beer that’s both ‘Black’ and ‘Pale’?! Obviously not. Instead, these are brews that combine a solid foundation of dark malts with the serious hopping regimes of new-world IPA’s; a dynamic integration of aromas and flavours that Pirate Life has totally nailed with its Black Ale. Malty cocoa, caramel and chocolate is interwoven with hoppy citrus and resin on the nose, uniting to deliver notes of chocolate-orange, coffee-roast and toasty bitterness on the palate. A beer so smart it even sidesteps its own oxymorons.
Colonial Brewing Co.
Robust Porter (6.0%)
Colonial’s winter seasonal is an ideal gateway brew for the Porter novice, delivering its bounty of dark-and-roasted malts with smooth, beautifully-balanced aplomb. The beer pours a deep mahoganybrown and offers up the style’s trademark aromas of nuts, dark chocolate, caramel and coffee, along with a twist of tropical fruit from Australian-grown Ella hops. Those sweet malt characters roll onto the palate but are softened by the creamy presence of rolled oats, before classic old-world - Hallertau and Hersbrucker - hops deliver the vital counterpoint of bitterness and a hint of spice. Robust, refined and utterly approachable.
Maredsous Brunee (8.0%)
Belgium is truly the spiritual home of artisanal beer, with many of the country’s unique styles developed by monastic orders for sustenance and trading currency. Maredsous Abbey was one such Benedictine producer and its Brune, or Bruin (aka ‘Brown’), is a dark Abbey Ale that’s driven by malt and - as is the case with many Belgian brews - a particularly expressive yeast strain. Caramel and toffee are immediately apparent on the nose, with notes of chocolate, toast, rum and dark fruits (raisins, prunes, plums etc.) revealing a sublime complexity with every sip. Indeed, there may be higher powers at work here.
Clout Stout - VERY LIMITED RELEASE (12.3% Abv)
From its lengthy brewing process to its lavish 750ml bottle-in-a-box presentation, Nail’s Clout Stout is a VERY special beer. Almost 3000kg of malt deliver richness, sumptuous chocolate-and-coffee characters, and, like a good red wine, Clout will reward at least one year of ageing. It’s a perfect brew for celebrating and an Imperial Stout to celebrate.