It is the time of the year when everyone shores up their “best of” lists.
We did it on the podcast (although less of a list and more a discussion) and the biggest in the land, the Local Taphouse Hottest 100, has just opened for voting – with the final results to be announced on Australia day.
With more venues on board this year (up to 60 currently) and the massive rise in the popularity of good beer I think this could be the year that Hop Hog, Pacific Ale and LC Pale get knocked off their traditional one, two, three perch. Although I probably said that last year…
I don’t think I voted for either of them last year and I probably won’t this year. While I do agree they are great beers I don’t really remember drinking them in 2014 so if I did I didn’t have a big “oh wow” moment that stuck in my head.
To start this year’s list I have two beers that come to mind right away.
I am a big fan of Mountain Goat Hightail and this year I tried it on both handpump and nitro, as well as the usual draught and packaged, and every time was just a great experience. I firmly believe that the Hightail doesn’t get enough credit for being as good as it is – which is an absolute chameleon of a beer. One that I’ll happily drink after exercise on a hot day, or side by side with a winter roast. The addition of a handpump at the brewery brought out some interesting coffee malt flavours that I’d not picked up on before, while the nitro made it a rich creamy and insanely drinkable proposition.
In the first countdown in 2008 this beer polled at 3, then for 2009 at 4, and continued to slide to 13, 36 and 48, while last year it got a bump to 27. Whether or not that is indicative of it falling back into favour or just a dead cat bounce for an overlooked Australian classic, it’s hard to say but I will guarantee that it’ll be in my five this year.
My next lock is the Mash Brewing – Copy Cat IPA. When I reviewed it recently I did get a couple of comments regarding diacetyl (usually a result of bad fermentation and produces butterscotch, butter and oily slickness on the palate). Those that know me know that I can’t taste diacetyl (well not everyone who knows me, I’m sure my mum doesn’t care and my dentist probably has no clue) but I can recognise what it tastes like to my palate (sharp bitterness, dull, flat) and I didn’t pick that up at all on repeated purchases. My girlfriend is very sensitive to diacetyl and it was one of her favourites this year also. So going by our experience, this beer is without doubt in my top five of the year.
For the rest of my list, I’ve decided to consult untappd. While there is a divide of opinions on the usefulness and sensibility of gamifying beer, it is invaluable at this time of year to someone as nerdy as me.
I sorted my highest ratings and picked out Australian beers I’d rated 5 or 4 1/2 for 2014..
I had only one 5 that wasn’t Hightail, and it was La Sirene – Farmhouse Red. My comment: “This might be the best beer I’ve had all year. Praline can go jump in a lake”. Praline being their highly rated GABS championship beer from early this year.
So that one is in.
Now I’m left to choose from this list. My comments here are a stream of consciousness rather than edited thoughts… That’s right; raw, unadulterated, Luke.
Doctors Orders – Operation Paralysis & Iron Lung Elixir: I thought I didn’t like Operation Paralysis. I remember drinking it and it was big. Unsure if I can include this if it doesn’t have a solid memory attached. The second I made no comment in my untappd for. Note to self: Make better notes to self.
Two Birds – Taco: Unfortunately I ended up with a dud bottle not too long ago so I think I’ll scratch this one. It was superb fresh at the brewery a number of times so it’s tough to cut it, however I think I have to for that reason. I’m surprised I gave their NZ Hopped Pilsner only 4 also. That could have easily been in the conversation, as could their Bantam.
La Sirene – Wild Saison, Fleur Folie, & Saison: All of these were outstanding this year. Wild Saison might be on par with the Farmhouse Red. All deserve to be in the conversation but I’m unsure if I want to choose more than one beer from a brewery. Share the love and all that.
Temple – Scarlet Super: Yeah this was outstanding. Big, acetic sour, fruity and fragrant. My comment on this was “This is the best sour in Australia”. I firmly stand by that. I’ve had some homebrew that may come close but I believe this is head and shoulders above the others going round.
Kaiju – Where strides the behemoth: This massive black IPA was fantastic when I tried it at the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular, but it’s hard to put a beer into a top 5 when I didn’t try it outside of the crazy GABS atmosphere.
Edge Brewing – Polly’s Native Saison: This one caught me completely by surprise. It’s the house beer for North Melbourne wine bar “Clever Polly’s”. It has native basil and thyme added and was really something special. Dry, powdery complexity, a unique herb aroma that didn’t dominate the classic yeast profile or gentle lemon finish.
Modus Operandi – Silent Night: I remember this having porter in all the right places. Drinkable, roasty, everything that I want in the style. Nice and clean and at 5.6% it’s definitely the kind of beer that makes me happy.
After typing this I think Scarlet Super is undoubtedly in.
However, What’s annoying is that my last spot has to go to Polly’s Native Saison. Given the beer is only available at one bar in Melbourne and has only 3 untappd checkins I know there is no chance of it making the list (or even getting a single other vote probably). You have to be honest though and in this case, it definitely deserves the last spot.
Do I expect any of them to get in the top 10? Hightail and Copy Cat maybe. Farmhouse Red probably won’t poll, Scarlet Super… I don’t think so either. Polly’s Native Saison will definitely not (at time of writing it’s not actually listed however I’ve emailed and hopefully it gets added). But it is my list and let’s be honest, it is all in good fun. If anyone takes it too seriously then they have definitely lost.
My top 5 Australian beers of the year.
What are yours?