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Entries in 8/10 (245)



Bentspoke Brewing Co was established in Braddon, ACT in 2014 when Richard Watkins and his partner Tracy Margrain combined their love of bikes and brewing beer.

Richard has been one of the pioneers of the Australian brewing scene. He is best known for his 17 year stint as head brewer of Canberra’s renowned Wig & Pen brewpub which opened way back in 1994 before craft beer was cool.

Bentspoke’s Braddon brewpub is a must visit if you find yourself anywhere remotely near Canberra. In late 2015 Bentspoke set up a second site in Mitchell to establish a secondary brewery and canning line.

In November 2016 Bentspoke released their first canned beers using what are known as 360 lid cans. First used by US brewery Sly Fox Brewing Company in 2013, the entire lid pops out so you can drink directly from the can apparently eliminating the need for separate glassware.

Crankshaft is one of a Bentspoke’s flagship beers. In the GABS Hottest Aussie Craft Beers of 2016 Crankshaft leaped 80 places on the previous year to an impressive eight position.

I picked up a six pack of tinnies straight from the source at their Braddon brewpub. They describe it as similar to a West Coast IPA.  It’s hopped with Equinox, Simcoe, Citra, Mosaic and Centennial and its 5.8% ABV and a relatively mild 35 IBU.

Orangy/yellow with an off white head with plenty of hop oil bubbles. Bursting with citrus, pine, stonefruit and caramel malt aroma. Medium body and relatively low carbonation. Citrus, pine and stonefruit nicely balanced with a caramel malt backbone with a moderately biscuity aftertaste. There’s a bit of resin with a moderately bitter finish.

If you like a fruity hop driven ale check it out. It probably more similar to a hoppy pale ale or XPA than an IPA. Being 35 IBU is below the usual 40-70 IBU range for an American IPA. I’d probably like it better if there were a tad more carbonation, greater bitterness and a drier finish.

A beer you could easily quaff on a hot day. Get on ya bike and head down to Bentspoke.





Merchant Brewing Co is a gypsy brewing company based in Sydney's Inner West. Three mates, Josh, Dan and Glenn met in high school in Junee, NSW.

Ten years later they all ended up living in Sydney’s Inner West. In March 2015 they launched Merchant Brewing Co, an idea that began in the kitchen of 4 Merchant St.

They continue to hold down day jobs in three very different fields. Josh is a cancer biologist for the Children’s Medical Research Institute, while Dan is a manager at a training company and Glenn is disability case manager. They seem to have a fetish for sloths but I’m not sure why.

I received Hasselsloth as part of a Christmas advert calendar. The label has a disturbing image of what looks like a hybrid between David Hasselhoff, Michael Jackson and a sloth. It’s a West Coast style IPA hopped with NZ and US hops, I couldn’t seem to find which ones. It’s 7.2% ABV.

Opaque honey colour with a creamy white head rich with hop oils. Sweet caramel, grainy malt, fruity hops and booze aroma. Medium body and low carbonation.

The first thing I notice is the low carbonation and slick resinous mouthfeel. Starts with a fruity and citrus hop character, a smooth chewy malt creeps in as a slick resinous and bitter hop character cuts through the malt with a lasting bitterness. As it warms up a grainy malt aftertaste becomes more apparent.

It’s very malty for a West Coast IPA. I reckon it tastes more like a malty double IPA than a West Coast IPA.

If you enjoy a brew with a decent hop kick and a big malt chewiness check it out.





Akasha Brewing Freshwater Pale Ale. In late 2014 rumours were brewing (see what I did there?) that Dave Padden, co-founder and head brewer of Riverside Brewing in Parramatta, was leaving the company.

By Christmas this became a reality when he sold his stake in the business. The split arose with his business partner, Stephen Pan, due to a fundamental difference in the vision and culture of Riverside. He indicated he was taking a break and would return to the industry with a new venture.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of its predecessor, Akasha Brewing Co, reared its head in early 2015.

‘Akasha’ refers to the unknown ‘fifth element’ which unites with the other four elements of earth, water, air and fire to produce an entity greater than the sum of its parts.

Padden teamed up with his brother-in-law, Wesley “Twoguns” White, announcing the company would be based in Western Sydney with an initial focus on brewing hop-forward ales. Continuing with the elements theme, the brewery’s core range will each represent one of the elements. The debut release Freshwater Pale Ale will represent the ‘water’ element, Hopsmith IPA will represents ‘earth’ and two other core beers will represent the remaining two elements, air and fire.

So back to the beer. Freshwater is an American style pale ale hopped with Cascade. It’s a sessionable 5.2% ABV and 35 IBU.

Golden yellow colour, white creamy head rich with hop oil bubbles. Nice citrus and pine aroma. Medium body moderate to low carbonation. Clean, smooth and moderately resinous mouthfeel. Juicy citrus and pine hop flavour, slightly earthy grain flavour with a piney bitterness lingering. The clean hop flavour and bitterness has you coming back for more.

It’s a bit like a repressed IPA trying to break free. No doubt the full hop fury will be released in future brews.

A solid debut brew and another welcome addition to the Sydney craft beer community.





Mountain Goat The Delmont. This beer pays homage to Tom Delmont, one of the Mountain Goat crew.

I had been looking for this beer for a while around the traps but couldn’t find it. I was at the Bendigo Craft Beer Festival 2014 and the beer name leapt out from the festival guide. I headed over to the Mountain Goat tent and the man himself was standing there.

I looked around and couldn’t see it, so I asked Tom if it was pouring, Unfortunately, it was not. I eventually tracked down this mysterious beer and once I did I started seeing it everywhere.

It’s a West Coast style IPA, 6.8% ABV and 65 IBU. On the malt front are NZ Gladfield Ale, Vienna and Redback malts which apparently deliver a semi dry palate. It was mash hopped with Cascade. Then Chinook, Centennial, Amarillo and Cascade were thrown into the kettle and whirlpool. Finally it was dry hopped with Simcoe and Amarillo.

Golden yellow, surprisingly crystal clear with a creamy, hoppy head. Dank pine aroma possibly from the Simcoe dry hopping. Medium body and moderate carbonation.

A clean, hop forward beer with the malt taking a backseat. Primarily dank pine and citrus with an underlying stonefruit and floral flavour. The hop flavours linger with a moderately bitter and resinous mouthfeel. As it warms up the bready malt flavours from the Vienna malt and the stonefruit from the Amarillo becomes more apparent.

This is highly approachable beer that reminds more of an American Pale Ale than an IPA.





Little Creatures Return of the Dread Domestic Extra Stout. I get quite irrational when it comes to stout (amongst many, many things - ed).

For a start, I grew up in Adelaide, Australia, so the first stout I tried was of course Coopers, and that – I’m not ashamed to admit – was in a 50/50 mix with Woodies lemonade and was known as a Portagaff.

This was an Adelaide institution – hell, there’s even an old ad with a song about it! “Coopers Stout and lemonade… mix ‘em up, you’ll be amazed. That’s a Portagaff you’ve made, with Coopers Stout and lemonade" (etc).

So naturally enough it’s the first stout I think of when it’s mentioned.

And people love to bag it.

“Yeah, it’s OK… I guess…” is about as close to a compliment a lot of beer drinkers have for it.

And they’re wrong. It’d bloody great, end of story.

But I’ve got to admit, very grudgingly, there are better stouts out there, particularly of late and particularly in Australia.

Some of the old heritage stouts are fantastic surprises if you can track them down (Sheaf and Abbotsford Inavlid for example) and some of the new releases from smaller brewers are complex little beauties (Nail's Oatmeal Stout for example, is a cracker).

And the latest to join that list would have to be Little Creatures new winter offering, The Return Of The Dread.

A Domestic Extra Stout by name, this is quite simply one of the most drinkable stouts this country has ever produced.

Based on one of the old Little Creatures Small Batch brews (remember them? Weren't they good!!) this has been tweaked to become Little Creatures first seasonal offering, using six specialty malts plus the Little Creatures regular pale malt plus the often underutilised Fuggles hops to produce a bucket load of flavour.

It pours beautifully with a great, aged-ivory head and beautiful smell of molasses/ANZAC biscuit and sits in the glass as black and impenetrable as the taxman’s heart.

First sip? There’s that familiar burned toast background, but it’s still sweet with an almost chocolatey licorice undertone.

The bitterness is there in the usual stout measures, but it’s far from overpowering, There’s a great mouthfeel – solid without being overly so – and it’s so smooth it’s hard not to pour it down.

You could easily sit down to a few of these.

I had planned on trying it as a Portagaff, but I gave the second stubbie I had to a mate who reported back: “Bloody hell! I could drink this all winter long!” and to be honest it was just too good to mix with anything.

Maybe I’ll keep the Coopers for that.

How good is The Dread? This weekend I’m off to the brewery in Geelong, a five hour round trip, just to grab a case.





Oskar Blues Brewery Dale's Pale Ale. I was drawn to this as I am a fan of the can.

Incidentally, Oskar Blues Brewery has can cred, because it was one of the first breweries to release craft beer in cans. They released Dale’s Pale Ale in cans way back in 2002. To date, they are one of the few craft breweries that solely use cans.

Despite being called a pale ale, it’s 6.5% ABV and 65 IBU, which is really starting to creep into IPA territory. It uses European malts, Northern Brewer for bittering, Cascade and Columbus for flavour and a post-boil addition of Centennial for aroma.

Slightly opaque golden yellow colour, frothy head with large hop oil bubbles. Sweet malt and citrus hop aroma. Medium body with moderate to low carbonation. Smooth moderately resinous mouthfeel.

Starts with a sweet light caramel malt flavour leading into citrus and floral hop flavour. The hop flavours and resin linger with a moderately bitter finish. The relatively high ABV for the style makes it a little sweeter than other pale ales but the resiny hop goodness in the finish keeps it in check.

Good work dale.





Murray's Fred IPA. When I heard about this beer I thought it was going to be in the same vein as other Murray’s brews. All their beers, including the Angry Man Pale Ale, Big Wednesday IPA and Doghouse IPA, are hopped with Kiwi hops.

But this beer is different - it’s the first Murray’s beer to be brewed without Kiwi hops. It was hopped with a house blend of hops from the Pacific Northwest of the US. From what I can gather, pale malt is the only malt addition.

It’s a respectable 6% ABV and 75 IBU. Being unfiltered, it’s got a hazy and yeasty appearance. This was the last beer brewed under the helm of head brewer Shawn Sherlock who has moved onto starting his own brewpub in Newcastle.

Hazy, golden yellow colour with a creamy and hoppy head. Nice citrus and grapefruit aroma. Strong citrus, grapefruit and underlying pine hop flavour. Clean mouthfeel with a dry and firm bitter finish. One of my favourite Murray’s brews to date.

If you like a refreshing and bitter IPA check it out.





Blackdog Leader of the Pack IPA. I had heard good things about Blackdog so when I saw it on the shelves I thought I better check it out.

Blackdog Brewery is the brainchild of James Booth, a winemaker at Taminick Cellars located in Kelly country at Glenrowan, Victoria. After years of homebrewing he decided to dabble in commercial brewing in 2011.

Starting with a 70 litre setup, James took the plunge and started up a larger scale brewery in 2013 naming it Black Dog Brewery inspired by his pet dog.

Leader of the Pack is an American IPA. On the malt front is Maris Otter, Golden Promise, Munich, Vienna and Crystal malts. The hop bill is apparently tweaked a bit may include a range of hops including Citra, Chinook, Cascade, Galaxy, Warrior, Simcoe, Stella, Columbus, Centennial and Nelson Sauvin. I couldn’t find details of the IBU but it’s 6.2% ABV.

A reddy/amber colour, quite dark for an IPA. Fine, light brown head with a tinge of green and small bubbles of hop oils. Sweet, biscuity malt aroma. Medium body and moderate carbonation. Starts with a sweet and not overly biscuity malt flavour, leading into a strong citrus, pine and grapefruit hop flavour.

There’s a relatively strong lip smacking hop bitterness with a dry finish. As it warms up it starts to get a bit of a resinous mouthfeel. I bought a six pack and noticed some variations between bottles. Namely, some had a much more pronounced pine hop flavour than others.

This is a refreshing and flavour packed IPA. It has plenty of hop and malt flavour and is well balanced. Being well under 7% ABV it doesn’t have any bittersweet or boozy flavours that some other American IPAs have.

If this was beer was a dog it would be a Kelpie, trusty and reliable.





Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. This beer has been on my to-do list for a while. I’m a big fan of the Ballast Point Big Eye IPA and I have heard good things about this one.

It’s bang-on the typical stats for an American IPA, 7% ABV and 70 IBU. Strangely, I couldn’t find any info regarding malts or hops used in quick Google search. Sculpin fish have poisonous spikes on their fins and they look quite bad arse so I imagined this beer is going to pack some punch.

Golden yellow colour, slightly opaque, fine head with hop oils. Medium body, moderate carbonation with fine bubbles. Sweet caramel malt, pine and peach hop aroma. As it warms up it starts to get a tropical fruit aroma. Sweet caramel malt flavour upfront followed by a pine, mango and peach hop flavour with a dry finish. It also has a clean citrus, particularly lemon finish as it warms up.  It’s not your typical American IPA. It’s lighter, fruiter and more easy-drinking than I was expecting.

In terms of style it seems more like an American pale ale than a big, bold in your face American IPA.





Coronado Brewing Company Imperial India Pale Ale. I was attracted to this beer by the name, basically because beer has caused me to be an idiot several times (a bit more than several, actually). And I am grateful for my stupidity.

It pours a cloudy pale, which might be fine for an IPA, but I expected a bit darker. The aroma is tropical fruit with a resinous undercurrent. The taste is a bit of a reverse with the fruit struggling to penetrate the hop (five varieties; the big four Cs and Nugget) resin that coats the mouth. This is a very sensuous beer meant for savouring, but as there is no hint of the 8.5%ABV it disappears all too quickly. This could be a dangerous session ale.

There is a warning on the bottle that the fancy decoration contains Cadmium. Stick to what is inside and leave licking the bottle to a real idiot.