Although Australia's best known beer is justly condemned by foreigners and locals alike, the lucky country offers some of the new world's finest beers. Regrettably, this organ A Good Beer Blog does not (yet) have an Australian correspondent, leaving the task up to this Singapore-based blogger. Most of the continent's finest brews never get farther than local microbreweries and bottleshops, but thankfully recently passed free-trade legislation has allowed more of Australia's ales and lagers to flow into this city state - never again question that free trade is a good thing.
For starters, Sydney's Malt Shovel Brewery produces some of Oz's finest brews. Two are available locally in Singapore, the James Squire Original Amber Ale and James Squire Pilsner. The first is pleasant amber with a wonderfully creamy head, smooth mouthfeel and nutty finish. The brewery's website describes it quite well:
The first brew from the Malt Shovel Brewery is an amber ale, branded James Squire in honour of Australia's first brewer, who first brewed beer in Sydney in 1794. This premium hand-crafted ale is a unique brew of three malts and three tasmanian hops added late to the kettle plus an original 125 year old, top fermenting ale yeast, creating an easy-drinking, deep copper-coloured ale with distinct richness, creamy head, and a slightly utty finish.The pilsner is equally impressive – particularly given the regrettable adoption of the term by middling international lagers. MSB makes a pilsen with a long-lasting creamy head:
Brewer tasting notes: A blend of pale, crystal and carapils malts produces a distinctive coppery colour, rich malt sweetness and persistent creamy head. The flavour is very ale-like with a lingering slightly nutty finish. Willamette hops are added late in the kettle boil for a refreshing citrus (almost grapefruit) hop character.
The key to the distinctive flavour of James Squire Original Pilsener is the use of quality ingredients. Using a much higher hopping level than most Australian lagers, it's brewed with Czech Saaz and New Zealand Belgian Saaz aroma hops to produce the pronounced floral spicy finish and wonderful herbaceous aroma. A blend of pale malt from Tamworth and Munich malt from Ballarat,with no sugar, produces the rich mellowness and rounded palate to balance the hoppy bitterness. The colour is a distinctive golden brilliance.MSB also make a glorious porter. It is not yet available here - but anyone making a visit to Australia should try it.
The Sunshine Coast Brewery is less impressive, judging from the samples of Noosa Premium Wheat Ale and Robinsons Chilli Beer. Lisa sampled the 'wheat' beer – which was clearer in color than most other wheat ales, and incredibly light. Had it not come in a clearly labeled beer bottle, I may have mistaken it for water. There's a slight musty scent and it finished with a very, very, slight hint of lemon. The website notes:
This is a delightfully light and crisp wheat based beer that is easy to drink and a favorite for both the gents and ladies. We use the top fermentation process to achieve a clean crisp and very refreshing Ale that may be served with a slice of lemon or lime.To which Lisa commented: "Uh huh, it needs a slice of lemon to give it some flavor." Still, she noted that it was inoffensive and easy to drink... "I could drink a dozen of these, it's like water."
It's more or less like making love in a canoe. Consider it a 'girl' beer. Others who have sampled this one have called it an Aussie Corona. The chilli beer was, to be charitable, marginally better – if only because it did have some flavor. It wasn't much of a flavor, just a hint of chilli with an acidic aftertaste. Bleah. Clearly not the best Oz has to offer.
More coming tomorrow...