It’s Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers voting time again. The most magical time of the year, when Stone and Wood and Feral Brewing fight it out for the top spot. Then we all jump on social media and complain about the ones we disagree with.
I love it. In a subjective list, I’m all for people jumping in with reactions and opinions at the end of it. The fact that there are enough interesting beers to make a pretty stellar list that just gets better each year, and we then all have the ability to fire off half baked opinions at those we disagree with; is what makes modern beer great.
I’m not being facetious either. I really do enjoy it.
So without further ado, here are my top five for the year. Many others could’ve made it, and many did before being cut out by the memory of something else. I am happy with it though. Two IIPAs, one barreled IPA, a “lambic-style” and a fruit saison. Three of them keg only releases, one very limited and the final in reasonably wide distro.
Before reading this, go vote for your own, then come back and judge my selections. If you don’t know wtf I’m talking about, the link explains it all too.
Putting these together as I’ve chosen them for the same reasons. Both are big, lean, true West Coast influenced IIPAs and not just in name, but in execution. The malt is there for sweetness and booze (with the Pirate Life being a touch boozy at times) rather than adding too much to the overall flavour, which allows the hops a chance to shine.
The Temple version is big on pineapple and stone fruit flavours, while the Pirate Life is a little sweaty and oniony (right on that fine line between nasty and amazing, like a South East Asian market on a humid day) before opening up into pine and citrus.
Both are fresh, bold, vibrant and exciting IIPAs that are easily my favourite examples in Australia.
A still (uncarbonated) “lambic-style” beer, this was released in a very small batch around Melbourne. Barreled for two and a half years, this was equal to any still lambic I’ve tried before – admittedly I haven’t tried too many as there really just aren’t that many available, and even less in packaged form (I can only think of one regularly available and that is the Cantillon Grand Cru Bruocsella). Getting a local version that is executed so well is a real treat.
No carbonation, a cocktail of bacteria and yeast, and barrel treatment make this style a difficult one to nail but Boatrocker definitely did with this release.
In the past I’ve never really found BFH to click for me and I was never able to determine why. However, this year’s version had a lovely vanillian flavour from the barrel that was magic with the citrusy hops leading to an almost dessert-like mixture of orange and vanilla with a clean dry base of the beer itself. The base beer (Hop Hog) will probably win again this year, but this version added a completely new dimension that I couldn’t get enough of.
Botanique is a hard one to pin down as it changes seasonally while the tap labels are always just “Botanique”. The first I tried was pretty overbearing with rosewater and spices – which dominated the gentle saison base.
The spring release in 2015, however, was full of juicy orange flavours and a slight hint of sage that made it one of those beers you could enjoy on a hot day with little thought or sit at the bar alone and give a lot of thought.
La Sirene have put out a few limited releases in keg form this year but this one was head and shoulders above them all. A real treat.
What are yours?