It's been a great few years for beer drinkers in Melbourne as there are more and more quality brewers on the scene, more choice from regional and interstate breweries and more importers tracking down rare brews.
For us here at Small Patch Wine Store, we have seen our customers embrace the shift towards beers in cans. On so many levels, this is a welcome change as the beer stays fresher longer, no sunlight gets in to dull the beer, they chill quicker and are environmentally friendly. Plus, we can cram more in the fridge, leaving space for more kinds of beer and more choice for the beer lover!
To start things off, let’s talk about the scientific-sounding ‘N.E.I.P.A.’. N.E.I.P.A., in normal speak, is New England Indian Pale Ale, getting its name from its origin in Vermont, in the New England region of the USA. Since then, it has exploded worldwide into one of the most popular beer styles. It's juicy, cloudy, hazy, loaded with tropical flavours reminiscent of mango, pineapple and oranges. A good 'typical' example is 'Juice Train' by Quiet Deeds, who are soon to open their brewery in Glen Iris. In this classical form it’s not very hoppy, but many Ozzie brewers can't resist giving it some extra bite. At the time of writing, Mornington Peninsula has three different versions out all at once and Hop Nation have created their own hopped-up version called 'Jedi Juice'.
Onto Sours/Gose Beers now, which are tart, refreshing and perfect for the hot summer season. The Gose style hails from ancient German sour wheat styles, which would add in salt water, often from the local river or sea. Sailors Grave Brewing from Orbost has a great 'gateway' version called 'Down She Gose' as well as numerous funkier/leftfield styles.
Saison (seasonal) style beers have no real boundaries, but mostly you are looking at dry and refreshing drinks with an alcohol content on the lower end. In my mind, I think it's the perfect picnic style; it pairs well with many foods and, most importantly, it’s a whole lot of fun! For a good benchmark (that's available in Australia) Saison Dupont from Belgium is a great option. Cloudy, spicy and aromatic with light fruit notes. Locally, La Sirene makes many fabulous differing versions including a Pale Ale, but their classic ‘Saison’ is hard to beat.
You can't talk beer in Australia without mentioning the Pale Ale. So, there you go, we’ve said it. Now let's move on to the more interesting Imperial Pale Ale version, which is essentially a turbo-charged Pale Ale. Everything is amped up, including the ABV, which often sits between 8-10% Some of our favourites are Kaiju, Aftermath, which is judiciously hopped, and from across the ditch, Garage Project's Los Lobos is a less hop-extreme example with more of an orange/citrus flavour.
Cider? It's a pretty bland landscape out there regarding Australian producers (with a few notable exceptions aside, such as Willie Smith, Red Sails, St Ronans, Gurneys, etc.) We've also noticed a shift away from cider towards fruit beers such as Kriek lambics. So, imagine a refreshingly tart cherry beer – a perfect fit for summer.
And on that fruity note, we’ll leave you to mull over our very best Melbourne selection. Cheers!
Small Patch Wine Store is located at 346 Burwood Road, Hawthorn.