EARTH’S HAPPIEST KINGDOM REVISITED
In a nod to the time of year, we trend lager-ish with this summer-weight survey of beeers to box you lightly around the ears.
All bottles are the regrettably now-conventional 330ml “cheater” stubby, unless it says otherwise.
HAWTHORN PILSNER (Hawthorn, Vic, 4.6% alc/vol)
Not too many ghosts jumping out of the flavour closet with these guys – they’re pretty reliable. They do a well-behaved and relatively sensible pale ale, and this is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a decent-quality European pilsener, only it’s from that part of Europe we call Hawthorn.
There’s a genial, non-intrusive amount of grainy flavour and then a whomp of hops to finish. It’s that last that the wine-writer types would say gives the added refreshing quality. The Alanis Morrissettery of that is that while this works in cooler weather if the beer is icy-cold (i.e. the temp actual beer drinkers would prefer any beer to be, regardless of the big bullpoo propaganda in huppty-tuppty beer joints and from “purists”), it’s that wide, flat, bitter, astringent type finish that is exactly what causes many conventional lager drinkers to find such beers insufficiently refreshing under the definitive killer Aussie test conditions. (i.e. in the backyard, barbie going, cricket on the radio, somewhere around 35-to-stupid degrees Celsius.)
This isn’t really a knock on this particular beer – just an observation re the style.
On the LLL “one better” scale, I’d give it 8 out of 11.
MONTEITH’S GOLDEN LAGER (NZ, 5%)
I consider this brewer kind of the Coopers of NZ. I have no idea whether they’d consider that a compliment, but it’s not intended as an insult. They make quality beers with some time and thought put in. Not all of them are great. Some are pretty darn good.
You’d think from the title of this one – presuming beers have titles – that they were going for something with a golden ale quality in a lager. I guess there’s something of that about it.
What it mostly is is a particularly cruisey lager with the ingredients all signing in for a howdy and pleased-to-meet-you but not in a way that chokes up the neck-wetting ability of the fluid, and it cruises out as easy as it cruised in, in terms of aftertaste (as opposed to the quality of bladder farewell), so there’s no hop-smashing surprises in the closing stanzas.
Might be a bit broad in the flavour-base for some committed Carlton Draught-garglers, but I have to say, I tend to doubt it. A very very drinkable full-strength lager. 8.5 out of 11.
GRAND RIDGE WHEAT BEER (Vic, 4.5%)
The maestros of Mirboo North run one of my favourite Vic breweries for craft-y product and I have to say, I probably like just about the entire roster better than this one.
This is not really their fault. Like many of us, I’m a chap limited by my prejudices and/or preferences. When it comes to wheat/wit/white beer, I don’t like the ones that taste like banana, I don’t like that Belgian style that has a vague flavouring of adulterated and slightly vinegary dishwashing liquid – the ones I like are the German ones that taste a bit lemonadey/shandy-ish. (Or any variation on the form, inc the hefeweizens, the cloudy ones, the clear ones – half-litre at a time, icy-cold, with or without lemon, hot day, and I’m there – sorry what were we up to, I was miles away.)
The Grand Ridge one is emphatically in the Belgian style, more one of those that tends to what I’d call a celery-ish flavour rather than the mouth and stomach-puckering more sour-ish version. It’s one of those ones where they “season” it with the coriander and the orange peel, and I guess we’re lucky it’s not traditional to also throw in turnips and someone’s discarded school blazer.
The result is truly NOT unpleasant. Actually, if you can get past the basic style – which may be a struggle for some of us – this has something most of the Belgian witbeer types don’t: a rather sly subdued honey quality which creeps around the back of the after-taste and makes this a much more enjoyable beer, and indeed just more of a beer, than it would be without it.
What it also is, without any qualification whatsoever, is a thirst-quencher.
From me, 8 out of 11, but that’s an achievement given it’s really not my preferred style at all. Those of you who drink the commonly available Hoegaarden variety should keep an eye out for this.
ENDEAVOUR 2012 GROWERS ALE (NSW, 4.2%)
I’ve had this a few times now and it’s impressed me each time. With this one, the hopsy bitterness is right through the brew, so it doesn’t just clobber you at the end, pilsener-style, and the barley-malt is more than generous enough to wear it. There are a couple of nifty tricks here – it’s doing a fair bit in the mouth vicinity, but doesn’t bother your throat too much about it, so it drinks just fine despite a noticeable amount of flavour; and the other half of the equation is that it manages more entertainment in the flavour area than a lot of other beers of significantly higher alkyhol content. Actually, for a 4.2%-er it’s pretty surprising.
Of the beers I hadn’t struck from this end of the planet, this is the best one I’ve found so far this spring/summer. Of course for hard-labouring beer-searchers like you and me, the quest is never over. 9 out of 11.