Another year underway, another quartet of Slow Lane specialties. The Botany maestros have served up another triple helping of German classics and a single Frankenstein’s monster of cobbled together insanity. Will Simplicity, Melody and Botany Weisse Peach fear and hate Rise Up for its grotesque appearance? Will Rise Up befriend a blind hermit only to be attacked by the hermit’s son and thus, scorned by beer society, go on a violent quest of revenge against its creator only to discover its lust for vengeance has resulted in misery? Let’s find out, shall we?!
The first of the two 5 percent ABV German lagers in this batch is a helles named Simplicity. Helles differentiates itself from its much more popular cousin Pils by a greater emphasis on malt character in the finished beer. It’s not necessarily sweeter, but you’ll usually find it’s a bit softer and more malt forward than other pale lagers.
Simplicity is unfiltered so it pours a naturally cloudy pale straw with a lovely white head and the aroma is as German as public nudity. With a grist of nothing but Weyermann Barke Pilsner malt, Simplicity presents with sweet, biscuity malt and noble hop spice with just a hint of ester on the nose. The malt flavour leans heavily into the salt cracker variety as opposed to being bready with only a low level bitterness and smooth clean finish. A prime example to demonstrate that simple beers are often the most exquisite.
The second Slow Lane German lager for 2022 is Melody, a straight up and down Vienna lager. I credit a simple Vienna lager brewed by 4 Hearts in Ipswich probably eight or nine years ago as my first realisation that Vienna lagers absolutely whip. Like any self respecting Vienna lager, Melody is 100 percent German Vienna malt, noble hop and German lager yeast. Pouring a gorgeous golden brown (never a frown) with a cumulus head, first impressions are of toasty pretzel and floral hops. This is a beautiful expression of the Vienna malt with a lean, toasted bread flavour at the forefront without any suggestion of caramel sweetness. There’s a medium-low hop bitterness to temper the malt and a long dreamy finish. Goddamn, what a beer!
The third beer here feels equally as simple as the first two, except its journey is substantially more complex. We’ve written previously about the three different fruited versions of Slow Lane’s traditionally brewed Berliner Weisse and the incredible amount of time and care that goes into creating one of their 3.5 percent ABV fruit sours. This time around we get peaches.
Botany Weisse Peach started as a no-boil lacto and kveik ferment before spending four months with an introduced Brett culture and seven weeks on ripe peaches. One could simply say this beer tastes like sour peaches and be done with it, but there really is a lot more going on if you feel inclined to find it. Initially the peaches come across more like lollies and sherbet than actual ripe fruit and, as it warms, there’s a smattering of what I though was basically pear skin but it’s much more pleasant than that sounds. For a beer that spent a not insignificant amount of time with some funky organisms, there really isn’t much of the dusty pineapple I was expecting, but the tartness is definitely more complex than the usual lacto sour.
That brings us inexorably to our protagonist, Rise Up. Towards the end of 2021, Slow Lane were one of a number of Australian breweries invited by NZ Hops and Carwyn Cellars to brew a special beer highlighting one of five NZ native varieties, So, of course, they did what was expected of them and took a bag of fresh Nelson Sauvin hops and brewed a crisp NZ pils, juicy pale ale, dank DIPA, barrel-fermented sour Brett IPA. Honestly.
Genuinely, it’s hard to know where to start with something like this. Souring and barrel-ageing are generally accepted as being overall detrimental to the hop profile of a beer so obviously it makes sense to do both of these things to showcase your love of a particular hop. Rise Up is a depraved amalgam of contradictory styles and brewing techniques and it brings me great pleasure to report that it is wildly delicious.
It starts with an intense pineapple and white peach aroma that melds seamlessly with a pronounced vanilla oak note. On the palate is a juicy marriage of grape and stonefruit, and I swear I found some background herbaceous fennel/aniseed. The bitterness has been muted but remains steadfast against the moderate acidity and mild soft malts. On my notes I’ve written: “refreshing but substantial” as if those two things are on the same spectrum but I stand by it.
Essentially, in this retelling of Mary Shelley’s fable, it turns out the monster is a top bloke, rightly beloved by all, with no need to endure a savage world of pain and suffering. As it is in heaven.
As an addendum to this, as clearly this beer review needs to be longer, I was part of the judging panel of the 27 beers brewed for the NZ Hops Great Brew Challenge. Rise Up came as close as you can to being named the judge's favourite, ultimately falling short as there were others that were clearer, more obvious expressions of the hop allocated to each brewer. But it was the beer we talked about most afterwards; an exceptional beer – Editor.
Published February 23, 2022 2022-02-23 00:00:00