It’s another Slow Lane special this month. The Sydney maestros routinely release beers that are so good I struggle to contain all the gushing praise, and this time might be the hardest of the lot. This foursome is once again a diverse cast of styles ranging from classics to inventions, all dialled in with the usual Slow Lane exactitude.
Definitely Maybe is a beefy German lager labelled here as a Maibock but also known as a Helles Bock, depending on who you ask. In Germany, Maibocks are brewed in May as a spring seasonal featuring a much heavier ABV and accompanied bitterness. Theoretically, in Australia this is a beer you would brew in November but, in my opinion, at a warming 7 percent ABV, this is perfectly suited to a mild Aussie autumn.
Pouring a gorgeous light amber, Definitely Maybe starts with a sweet, raisin toast like aroma with a slight herbal noble hop note. On the palate it’s all bready soft bagels and pretzels with floral hops and an almost Belgian character shining through. The extra kick of bitterness helps even out the malt and lager sweetness and keeps this highly drinkable for a big beer.
Earlier this year, Slow Lane released a barrel- and Brett-fermented IPA with NZ hops that did an outstanding job of walking the fine line between being interesting and just a bit too much. Royal Talus is a beer in the same vein – treated differently but with no less expertise. Talus is getting a good showing throughout the beer world at the moment, but I’d wager there haven’t been many brave enough to showcase it in a barrel-aged IPA.
So how does Talus go with being cooped up in a barrel with a 7.5 percent ABV IPA for five months? Surprisingly well, it turns out! Instead of the all out tropical assault of fresh Talus, with barrel-aged Brett Talus the first big hit is an aroma of freshly cut green timber. The peach and passionfruit come along straight afterwards but the initial impression is unique and very fun. The palate is a complex mix of smooth coconut and vanilla backed up with a biting herbaceousness and moderate bitterness. Great stuff.
I was a bit skeptical at a brown sour ale labelled Bear Hug, I gotta say. There’s plenty of ways I could describe an oud bruin but warm and comforting wouldn’t usually be among them. Browns are typically sweeter and less vinous than Flanders reds, but they’re still generally sour and funky. Pouring like a glass of cola, Bear Hug is dark and effervescent with a quickly receding head. There’s even a touch of cherry cola on the nose accompanied by vanilla and pear esters. The first sip is a revelation! A fantastically smooth combination of dusty funk, sherry, oak and dark fruits. A mild acetic sourness lingers but overall the perceived tartness is quite low. The 16 months spent in oak has created a beautifully rounded and comforting beer 100 percent reminiscent of a warm cuddly embrace.
Now here’s a style you’re not going to come across every day... Stock ales were originally brewed in the UK from the first runnings of a mash and as a result were strong, sweet and generally needed a longer time to mature in casks. This might sound like a barleywine, but stock ales preceded barleywine by at least a century. The extra time spent in casks meant the beer would likely oxidise and the Brettanomyces claussenii present in these casks added a much desired complexity to the final beer. It was actually this Brett influence that gave a distinctive “English taste” to stock ales and made them perfect for blending and much desired throughout Europe.
Slow Lane’s Taking Stock comes in at a whopping 11.5 percent ABV and pours a stout like blackness with no head to speak of. The first whiff provides a heady mix of dried dark fruit, coffee and Port. This motif continues with dark chocolate, raisin bran cereal and golden syrup flavours as it warms in the glass. Despite the sweet and complex malt body, there’s little actual residual sweetness thanks to the work put in by the Brett culture, and the finish is remarkably dry. If I drink a better beer in the next six months, I’ll be surprised.
Published May 24, 2022 2022-05-24 00:00:00