Eden in the Old Testament is paradise for the newly manufactured human race. Our beer test pilot BILL WATT finds his own paradise at Mittagong's Eden Brewery.
IT had been a hard day of toil on the pretty Moss Vale Golf Course in NSW's Southern Highlands. My drives, chips and putts had all gone astray, so much so that out of a trio of maturing amateur golfers I was languishing stone, motherless last. Question: How do I make this disappointment disappear? Answer: Drink beer!
So it was that after a quick clean-up and change of clothes at our temporary digs in Bowral I jumped into an Uber and headed for Mittagong's Eden Brewery ... accompanied by the two blokes who had just vanquished me on the fairways and greens of Moss Vale.
And, all the omens were right for a fun afternoon of beer and story-telling, as our Uber driver Paul launched into the first of a torrent of hilarious tales before we had even left the cul-de-sac. By the time we had reached our destination, all three of us were laughing ... even this miserable golfing loser.
And as the good lord said - or someone did anyway - when one door closes (that being the automatic doors of the high-end Hyundai Staria driven by Uber driver Paul) another opens. This particular door was the entrance to an understated beer-producing paradise - the Eden Brewery.
With outdoor and indoor drinking areas, an onsite food caravan called Boozy Burgers and, most importantly, a welcoming bar suddenly all memories of poor golf had disappeared. The critical question then arose: What are we going to drink?
Well, as a first time visitor to the Eden, that really wasn't a hard one to answer - let's try them all! And, it's not as daunting as you might think. They have 10 tipples on tap (9 beers and 1 hard lemonade) and you can try them all in two tasting paddles ($20 for each paddle of 5 sample-sized drinks). I was assured that each paddle is the equivalent of three standard drinks. So for three old enough and ugly enough blokes, six standard drinks in three hours wasn't a bridge too far.
Now, here comes the important part ... what were the beers like? And, here comes the answer ...
BEER 1: Birch Wit 5.5% alcohol
A great little opener. It is a traditional Belgian-style beer which was apparently the first brew one of the Eden beer makers had created - under the huge skies of Texas, USA.
Your three amateur beer pilots agreed the nose (smell) was sweet and honey like. The taste kept that honey-like vibe, which won me over despite a general aversion to wheat beers. Yep, it was pretty darned good.
BEER 2: Phoenix D. Kottbuster 5%
This drop resurrects a lost tradition from Kottbusse, Germany where honey, oats, molasses, wheat, barley and hops were used in beer production. It was basically commercially banned with the introduction of the German beer purity laws in 1516. Our thoughts were it had a slightly apricot nose. One of my golfing overlords suggested this delicious yet understated beer had "rock melon (cantaloupe) overtones". Try as hard as I might, I couldn't rule it out. It reminded me a little of Tasmania's classic Cascade Draught. The name is interesting, and possibly shows our hosts at Eden to be history nerds. It is named after a tree - the Judaean date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) - a 2000-year-old seed of which was successfully propagated after being found in the ruins of the ancient Israeli fortress of Masada.
BEER 3: Willow XPA 4.8%
This is the one beer your three beer pilots had tasted before - one night before to be exact - on tap at the Imperial Hotel in Bowral. Our verdict then was the same as at the brewery. The beer is a terrific summer thirst quencher for after a game of golf or cricket. It is very light with a definite lemonade nose and taste. In fact all three of us thought there was a shandy element to it. There was even some suggestion of a slightly pineapple aroma. It could be more of a young person's beer. Too clean, crisp and sophisticated maybe, for a trio of crusty hardheads.
BEER 4: Ponderosa IPA 5.5% alcohol
Apparently named after the ponderosa pines found along the west coast of the USA, we preferred to think it was named in honour of the best god-damned ranch in the Wild West, home to Ben Cartwright and family in the old time TV classic Bonanza. And, this beer is a ripper. Full of hoppy flavour and quite fruity but with the sharp edge of more bitter traditional beers. The nose is interesting too, with some tinned pineapple crossed with a subtle hint of Mr Sheen furniture polish (I can't believe I thought that, let alone wrote it for posterity. Forgive me beer gods). For what it's worth, I reckon it was the best beer of the session. And, a young tradie at the bar agreed!
BEER 5: Patina Oatmeal Stout 5.7%
One of the most interesting tasting experiences of the night. It is a rich-flavoured stout with a strong coffee aroma. One of our thirsty team described it as "tasting like a short black with crema on top". I reckon that's just about a perfect description, apart from the smoky undertones. The Eden website (edenbrewery.beer) says it is best enjoyed with "your grandfather's pipe in a Chesterfield chair" but I never met my grandfathers so that is a no-go. Maybe its best consumed on my Nick Scali lounge with a Tim Tam watching the footy in the middle of winter.
BEER 6: Driftwood Pilsner 5.7%
This beer is made with100 per cent organically grown barley. It has a pretty nondescript nose, in fact I was a bit worried for a moment that Covid may have finally grabbed me, such was the lack of aroma. But it made up for that with its pleasant hoppy flavour and a brown sugar sweetness.
BEER 7: Bons-I-IPA 1.5%
Now, this is one worth noting. It has only 1.5% alcohol but tastes like a genuine, full-throttled American IPA. I was gob-smacked (to use the technical term) when I saw its alcohol reading. It had a ripe melon nose with quite a full hoppy and edgy taste. As good as any low alcohol beers I have tried.
LEMONDADE 1: Hard Lemonade 3.3%
Didn't mind this. As one of the more cultured members of the crew of three said, it's like a sorbet between courses of fine French food. The nose is like a "moscato sweet wine" to quote our same cultural attache. I reckon it tasted a lot like lemon, lime and bitters. A definite option in the non-beer rack.
BEER 8: Joshua Tree Lager 4%
The maker's website describes this beer as a "clean, lightly grainy beer with a soft nuttiness". For me there was a dried apricot nose with a creamy honey flavour. Our cultural attache (see above) suggested it had a mead/honey wine hint to it. Whatever, another quite different and delicious drop.
Beer 9: Hazy Daisy NEIIPA 8%
Last but certainly not least, especially when you consider the high alcohol content, is this New England India pale ale. Described by the maker as "an 8% mango packed fruit bomb", Hazy Daisy has a rich fruity nose (tinned tomatoes was mentioned in dispatches) which translates into a stone fruit flavour (I guess mango, if you listen to the brewers). But, it still manages to get a traditional "beery bitter" undertone which isn't always the case with high alcohol beer. Another exceptional bevvy.
So, that was our afternoon at the brewery done. Our Uber arrives and it is Paul The Uber Driver again. Another 10 minute drive full of hilarity and we are back at our digs, ready to watch Thursday Night Footy.