Another beautiful Canberra day, another spectacular craft beer (and cider) showcase! I arrived early to avoid the crowds; a lesson learnt from the Canberra Small Brewers Festival.
The venue (the courtyards at Mercure Canberra) filled up quickly and although quite picturesque was possibly a bit small for the hordes of beer-lovers who continued to arrive in a steady stream throughout the day. By the time I departed, the place was swarming and finding some shade quickly became the aim of the game.
Props though have to go to the event organisers for the extra large tasting cups. At an estimate I’d say they were about 125mL, or at least double the size of those provided at the abovementioned Small Brewers festival. I was on a fairly tight schedule so ended up pretty happy [read tipsy] by the end of my sampling experience, and there seemed to be a few people in the same boat. Even so, the crowd was well-behaved considering the close proximity to one another and the fact you practically had to shoulder charge your way through to the next stall.
I ended up sampling 13 beers total (sorry, no ciders) having commandeered 3 tokens from a mate who was driving, so I’ll just give a rundown of the highlights.
First up was Sydney Brewery’s Centennial Ale, a dark IPA, which incidentally they were releasing for the first time to the public. Not too shabby. Full flavour, very bitter and strong on the hops, and despite the dark amber colour and almost stout-like qualities it was still fairly light on the stomach. Of the beers I sampled, this would have to be my pick of the festival.
Now you’ll have to excuse my bias here; I was quite excited to see HopDog BeerWorks were again coming to Canberra. While I wasn’t initially a big fan, I’ve now got a taste for their super hoppy and flavoursome brews and I wasn’t disappointed. The award for most interesting beer has to go to their “2011 vintage” [read: one of their “retired” beers that they’re getting rid of] Secret Santa; a Belgian-style strong dark ale. The [not so] secret ingredient: gingerbread. It gave it a sweet, bready flavour, and while the ginger, nutmeg and other spices were fairly subtle it presented layers of complex and interesting flavours. I really must get down to their cellar door for some other seasonals!
Another standout and another Belgian-style ale was Mudgee Brewing Company’s ‘Nectar’. A dark, cloudy copper colour, it presented malty characters with strong citrus notes and a fizzy, bitter kick to the finish. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting but this one took me by surprise and overall was a good, well-rounded brew.
Initially I was a bit divided on Australian Brewery’s Smoked IPA, but for someone not too crash-hot on the smoked beers I actually didn’t mind it too much. Its aroma very closely resembled bacon which was simultaneously appealing yet disconcerting. I’ve had some pretty terrible ham-flavoured beers in my time but this one I think I’d even go as far to say I enjoyed. Also, worth mentioning here is the company’s slogan “Craft Beer from a Can” which aims to use minimum packaging for their product; I’m not sure I’m completely sold but I’ll let you be the judge.
Now, perhaps I’m being too generous but I can genuinely say that there weren’t any beers I sampled that were horrible. There were a few contenders for ‘mediocre beer of the festival’, but it was more a sign of them not matching the complexity of flavour and aroma of some of the festival’s other offerings rather than them being particularly ‘off’.
Apart from the abovementioned the following breweries also fronted up to showcase their wares but unfortunately I couldn’t sample from all of them:
Coopers Brewery, Little Creatures Brewery, Malt Shovel Brewery, Lord Nelson, MatildaBay, Matso’s Broome Brewery, Fusion Brewing, Stone & Wood, The Dalgety Brewing Company, Quiet Deeds, Tennents, Vale Ale, and Mountain Goat
And just in case there are any cider fans out there, here’s what you could’ve enjoyed:
Magners, Hills Cider, Bilpin Cider, Dcider, and Two Elk Cider.
Noticeably absent were Wig & Pen (again!) and Pinchgut who were originally on the exhibiting brewer’s list.
Overall, a good day, and if you missed it this year I’d highly recommend attending next year’s festival. My only regret is not being able to stay for the ‘Meet the Brewers’ session at the conclusion of the festival. Nevermind, hopefully I’ll see a lot of you again at GABS in a month’s time!