The seeds of Four Hearts Brewing were sown during an overseas trip to Europe in the early 00’s. Founder Wade Curtis first got hold of Hoegaarden and Kwak, opening his eyes to the wider beer world. As amazing as it seems today, returning to Brisbane ten years ago meant coming back to a beer desert. Brewer’s Choice was a relative oasis, offering the opportunity to make flavoursome and interesting beers, albeit at home.
After picking up a couple of years’ experience brewing and taking some time to ponder whether south-east Queensland was really ready for new brewers, Four Hearts released their first beer in December 2008. Since then, Wade’s focus has been on Ipswich – Brisbane’s western, less affluent cousin – and catering to that market:
I grew up in Ipswich and now live in Peak Crossing so that’s why I have focused on Ipswich, I always wanted to work close to home. I also started to focus in low ABV beers because not many brewers are, and because lots of people in the suburbs drive to venues or to BBQ’s. I hate commercial light beer and the fact that it’s just a default choice for people that have to drive. I want to show people that low ABV doesn’t mean low taste.
Thanks to Wade for his contributions to this post but being a closet-beer-snob-cum-inner-suburban-elitist, I’ve actually steered away from some of the lower-ABV quintessential Four Hearts beers and headed up the scale to be closer to standard strength:
- American pale ale
- Refreshment: B
- Identity: D
- Taste: B
- Ancillaries: C
- SEQBeers Score: 70
I’ve had the bottled beer in three formats: in the tumbler glass, from the bottle itself and in the IPA glass. Hands down, the IPA glass is the way to serve it if you want to reward yourself for your purchase.
The tumbler pushes something out that reminds me of industrial lager but I can’t quite finger the precise problem. I think it’s something to do with the hop aroma. The bottle clamps down on this and is a mild improvement but the IPA glass opens up, interestingly, some sweet, bready malt flavours and aroma with a touch of molasses (for the record, the same thing happens with Coopers Pale Ale). Combined with a crisp, golden clarity and moderate carbonation and less head retention, this serves as a great bridge between the macro lagers that would dominate in Ipswich and the beers that we all enjoy.
With a slightly less than 5% ABV, pale ale style and light body, the Four Hearts Pale is pretty refreshing but understandably gets a low Identity score, although I tacked on a couple of points for the sexy black bottle.
- Refreshment: D
- Identity: C+
- Taste: B+
- Ancillaries: B
- SEQBeers Score: 62
Coal miner in this context refers to Ipswich’s past as a coal mining town and I guess the black beer – stout having its own working class history – is a suitable companion to mining black fossilised flora, so relatively good Identity points there.
Off the tap at NBCo, the Coal Miner’s Stout has a rich body, is massively malty and deceptively sweet. It sneaks in a smoky aroma with some slight toastiness but without a distinctive bitterness to it.
This is ironically dubbed the imperial version, coming in at a commanding 4.4%. Of the three beers I’ve chosen for this exercise, this is probably my favourite, although why I continually choose dark beers for SEQBeer scores is beyond me because they do not rate highly in the refreshment stakes (I do love a malty beer).
- American IPA
- Refreshment: B-
- Identity: D
- Taste: B
- Ancillaries: B
- SEQBeers Score: 66
I was a bit surprised when I picked this up. Rocking a full 6.8%, this is a proper IPA. Snagged at Brewski during Craft Beer Rising, the Four Hearts IPA offers a sweet caramel aroma and flavour with medium green hoppiness in the background. The IPA has a characteristic thick, oily body but still relatively refreshing for IPA and bang on-style for flavour profile.
Four Hearts offers a solid range of beers but none are actually brewed at a Four Hearts facility. Yes, a contract brewer but sufficiently well established to count for SEQBeers purposes. The Pale Ale, as is made very clear on the bottle label, was brewed and packaged at Brewpack in New South Wales. The other two came out of Bacchus Brewing in Capalaba (the draught version of Pale Ale still comes out of Bacchus, as it has since 2008).
The next step is obvious but Wade’s future plans are shrouded in secrecy. The search for a suitable location to set up a brewery or brewpub in Ipswich or the Scenic Rim is on. It would be a stretch to see it open before the end of this year (especially given Beard & Brau’s tussle with local authorities) but it certainly seems to be on the cards for 2015. A Four Hearts brewpub might just be worth a road trip out to Ipswich.