I’m a big fan of the Sunshine Coast. If I didn’t have economic constraints that necessitate my habitation of Brisbane (i.e. a job), I’d pack my bags, try and find a shack on the side of Montville and take up surfing. However, short of winning the lottery, I’m likely to stay put.
In the meantime, I do occasionally travel up and down the Bruce Highway for work. On my last trip to Maryborough, I spent thirty-five whole minutes tracking down Sunshine Coast craft beer on the way home. The Sunshine Coast Brewery Rye ESB has been sitting in my cellar from a previous trip, so it’s time it got an airing.
Firstly, the formalities:
A new take on the classic style of Extra Special Bitter. Made with a combination of Australian & German malts – including a healthy portion of rye, and hopped with NZ & US varieties. The start of a “New World ESB”.
The label contains a lot of information. The beer has 60 IBU, contains pale, rye, Munich and “specialty” malts and uses Nelson Sauvin (doesn’t everything these days?), Amarillo and Simcoe hops. That’s a solid start and I think there’s a lot to be said for rye’s inclusion in beer generally.
The Rye ESB is a striking dark ruby colour. The beer’s been filtered, so it’s quite clear. The head leaves noticeable lacing. This is a great beer for swirling in your glass. It smells of malty, smoky bitterness. Smells reminiscent of dark evenings in dank English pubs: pleasant, homely and welcoming. Although, from what I’ve been reading lately, service over there is terrible, so I may be putting an Australian spin on the concept.
And once it enters your mouth, the smoke promised drives up the nose, the bitterness ducks down into your throat and the maltiness lingers on the tongue. It’s a great combination of flavours. ESB is not an exceptionally exciting style on paper and yet, there’s a lot to think about in this beer. There’s the dry finish. There’s the hop trio, which won’t knock your socks off, but their strong bitterness plays a clever counterpoint to the smoke. There’s the fact that, unlike other examples, the Rye ESB’s smoke stays on the pleasant side of medicinal.
I also like the beer’s strangely small bubbles. Are the lads up at Sunny Coast trying to replicate a cask beer, despite the fact that it’s presumably been nowhere a wooden cask? I can’t imagine it was casked and then bottled but the touch – if intended – is appreciated.
The Rye ESB, like Temptress, is a beer that doesn’t age particularly well. I bought a four pack in May and am drinking the last bottle as I type in October. Some of the malt has been exchanged for water and the head in the photo is not replicated on this pour. I don’t say this to disparage but merely to encourage anyone reading this to drink as you go and never keep beer, no matter how special the occasion.
Overall, this is a beer I’d drink a lot of, if it were easier to find. It’s complicated enough to be interesting and simple enough to not stop you from downing a series in one sitting. Kudos Sunshine Coast Brewery, just another reason to be up there.
- Genre: Dark ale
- Regionality: Sunshine Coast, QLD
- Strength: 5.8%
- Rating: 2.5 / 3 taste + 1.5 / 2 ancillaries = 4 / 5
- Plus: Great mix of flavours
- Minus: It’s an hour’s plus drive to get more