BUZZY BREWS

The session buzz came on a bit too quickly when a mate surprised BILL WATT with a delicious but very high alcohol bevvy.

LIKE most Aussies of my generation, it took me a few years to realise that alcohol should be enjoyed in moderation rather than saturation. But, even now, I can be caught by surprise when the boozy buzz stings a little early in a session.

This was the case the other evening when me, my better half and another couple enjoyed dinner and a few drinks at our place. As per usual the ladies were to indulge in some quality sparkling wine while the gentlemen would sample a few craft beers.

So, with the pre-dinner cheese and nibblies in front of us, my mate insisted on starting the evening with a beer he had brought. "It's a Norwegian stout, recommended by the bottle shop around the corner." Sounded good to me.


BEER 1

Krecher's Slushcrusher Imperial Stout

Well, first thing I noticed about this beer was the amazing artwork on the can, which perhaps stopped me from actually reading the details on said container. Next was the beautiful dark colour of the pour with a very creamy head. Then the nose ... a promising rich coffee/chocolate aroma.

So, on to the important part ... the taste. Well, it was fabulous. Rich coffee flavours with more than a hint of vanilla. Quite complex fruitiness as well. Wow.

A couple more mouthfuls, though, and I was starting to get a bit of the boozy buzz you expect towards the end of the night. What is happening here?

Better check this can out. And there, in rather large figures (certainly not hidden) "11% ABV ALK VOL". Well, no wonder. A more detailed look and I realised we'd just knocked back 2.86 standard drinks in one tiny 330ml can!

But, I've got to say, the beer was worth the challenge of negotiating the rest of the evening on that boozy tightrope we all walk occasionally.

This was one of the highest alcohol beers I've tried but it didn't have that over-sweet taste of many a high alcohol tipple. In fact, it was a bloody pleasant rich, creamy and tasty stout.

BEER 2

Rocky Road Porter, Ekim Brewing Company

For beer number 2 of the evening, we went from the sublime to the ridiculous (in a sort of sickly sweet way). Now I love Rocky Road, but generally as a sticky chocolate-covered treat ... not a beer. But Ekim's (from Mt Kuringai in NSW) Rocky Road Porter had me recalibrating my understanding of the phrase "rocky road".

Forgive me for being a cynic, but I was pretty sceptical about the chances of a beer tasting anything like rocky road (my favourite rocky road, by the way, is the Darrel Lea version, yum).

My scepticism began to abate as I took a small whiff after pouring out a glass of beautifully black porter. Yep, I thought, there is a hint of sweet vanilla and chocolate there. But, it was the first taste of the beer that threw any doubt out of the window. A whack of cherry, raspberry flavour smacked me in the mouth. Then, after the first few mouthfuls, I decided this beer definitely had an aftertaste of ... you guessed it ... pink marshmallow, just like your favourite rocky road.

Now, would I consider downing three or four of these one after another - well, quite frankly the answer is "no" (partly because it comes in at a rather potent 6.5% alcohol rating). But, is it worthy of having a couple and sharing the beery love with fellow drinkers? Absolutely, yes! A pretty unique beer and a successful experiment. Congrats to the Ekim brewers.


BEER 3

Flight Path Pale Ale, Stockade Brew Company

I love this beer (especially as it only set me back $10 for a six pack from Liquorland). It is a lovely, crisp, fruity and not too hoppy pale ale, so is very drinkable. Best consumed after mowing the lawn on a hot summer day, it still did the trick on a coolish autumn Saturday evening watching A-League football on TV. It would also make a great session beer coming in at just 4.5% alcohol.

Stockade began brewing in the outer Sydney industrial/commercial hub of Smeaton Grange quite a while ago, but has now opted for supposedly swankier quarters in Marrickville (thus the Flight Path moniker for their pale ale). I loved it when the brewery was just around the corner, but am planning a visit to Marrickville soon, having been reminded how good their brew is during this session.


BEER 4

Hawke's Legend IPA, Hawke's Brewing Company

I haven't really loved most of Australia's Prime Ministers. In fact, many were piss poor (especially in recent decades), but I do have a soft spot for Labor Party legend Bob Hawke. He was far from perfect, but he did appear to love his fellow human travellers of all persuasions. He also loved beer, which inspired the birth of Hawke's Brewing Company and its convivial products.

I've given Hawke's Patio Ale and Hawke's Lager a few fridge runs at my place in the past and always enjoyed their light drinkable quality, so I was interested to give Hawke's Legend IPA a go.

And, this IPA didn't let us down. It packs a punch at 6.5% alcohol and is a fruity, malty, hoppy delight (I know, what am I even saying in that sentence?). The makers describe it as thus: "Delivering citrus and pine notes on the nose and palate, bursting with colour and character just like the legend himself". Can't really argue with that.


S another BringBeer session came to an end, topped off with a kicker of a rather large shot of Lagavulin 8 year old single malt whisky. The food had been brilliant, the company entertaining and the beer surprising and satisfying. And, despite that brutal start with our 11% surprise treat, it didn't get too messy at all. Cheers!

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