July 22, 2017
Tastings that offer a chance to sample hop-and-grain-based beverages are legion.
They tend to follow the same formula, leaving center stage to the brews and the alcohol.
In essence, Zoo Brew did neither reinvent the wheel nor deviate far from the tested and tried, yet what made it special was its location:
A shady waterfront spot in Taronga Zoo, with a breathtaking view across Sydney harbour, while giraffes nibble at tall branches and elephants frolic under the spray of their own trunks.
The festival featured a variety of local craft brews for the thirsty masses to taste from more than twenty-five local breweries and included admission to the Taronga Centre festival zone, a glass tasting cup, beer samples, and a discount on zoo entry tickets.
Brew-wise, highlights of the weekend included Canberra’s Bent Spoke Brewing Co.’s Crankshaft - a US-inspired "Orange" IPA, which pours a borderline fluorescent bold orange / rust colour with a bold choice of US hops that are lavished upon it: Initially Centennial, Citra, Cascade and Simcoe but evolving to switch out Cascade and bring in fellow Americans Equinox and Mosaic. The result are aromas and flavours that lean heavily towards the citrus, with a touch of resinous pine, all balanced by caramel malts. It wraps up with a quite delicious bitterness.
New Zealand’s Monteith’s Brewing Company convinced with the clarity of their malty Golden Lager: The aroma is quite light, which was a nice change from the myriad of heavier calibers that were on offer, yet it has a surprisingly malty finish.
Gold Coast’s Balter Brewing Company’s XPA might be pale but there is certainly nothing weak about it. Tropical and floral aromatics set off a fruity palette and finish with a refreshing bitterness that makes it the brew of choice for those who enjoy a fully-hopped beer that's still easy to drink.
Based in Melbourne, Two Birds Brewery is the first female owned Australian brewery and their amber ale Sunset is an ode to the red sunsets over the Indian Ocean in their hometown of Perth. Based on blend of nine malts, it produces complexity with a light, roasty finish showing pine, grapefruit and toffee-notes on the way down.
Apart from Byron Bay’s Stone and Wood Brewery’s Pacific Ale, its Lager, with its crisp all-malt Lager made in the German Helles (bright) style, is a subtle showcase of pale malt and noble hops.
It does not necessarily take you anywhere you've never been in terms of flavour, but you're definitely travelling in style. The all-malt base gives it a slightly fuller body than mainstream Lagers, but that does nothing to decrease the refreshment and instead dials up the satisfaction.
Local favourites Young Henrys represented and celebrated the Sydney suburb of Newtown in all its glory.
Its Hop Ale is big, bold and beautiful. Not stout-black, more dark red with crimson hues. Malty richness comes from a mélange of seven malts - Australian and American. Carafa gives it its dark colour, Crystal its red hue, Rye for spiciness and Munich for mouthfeel.
All balanced out with a distinctive resinous flavour from Aussie hops added at all stages of the brewing process.
Not necessarily for the mainstream palate but drinkable indeed.
Young Henrys is not known for shying away from collaborations – be it with special one off special brews for bands or more pressing matters like this time: They teamed up with Rewilding Australia – an organization seeking to support the Australian Government’’s Threatened Species Strategy by working with Rewilding Australia Network partners to improve the trajectory for Australia’s wildlife.
Rewilding Australia advocate a science-based approach to ecosystem restoration projects across Australia and link wildlife academic research with wildlife and landscape management practitioners to identify and implement practical rewilding projects. An example is Rewilding Australia’s own flagship project to reintroduce eastern quolls to mainland Australia.
Drinking for a good cause.
Lord Nelson Brewery are somewhat the elder statesmen of the Sydney craft beer scene.
They own both Sydney's oldest continually licensed hotel and Australia's longest running independent microbrewery.
Their Old Ale is full of rich malty flavours and pleasing alcohol warmth.
One of the personal favourite was Willie Smith’s with their cider range:
Their Organic Cider mixed the best of Tasmanian apples with inspiration from French full-bodies cider and unleashes a microcosm of complex flavours without relying too much on the sweet side.
The big oak body and smooth clean finish that lingers after their Bone Dry cider has touched your palate is reminiscent of the tart and sour notes of the unprocessed juice from the fruit of a small German tree variation known as Speierling (Sorbus domestica). A nice fruity change of with a bit of a kick to it.
Photos by KAVV