Big Beers

The Winter Solstice delivered a suitably cold day, at least around Crafty Towers as frost turned Melbourne's parklands a crispy white. So, to mark the passing of the shortest day of the year, we thought we'd cast our eyes in the direction of the bigger, darker beers that tend to make an appearance at this time of year.

Later in the week, we'll be running a guest Crafty Six in which contributor Graham Frizzell selects half a dozen local drops that keep him fuelled through winter. First up, however, here's an article that the site's founder originally wrote for James Halliday's Wine Companion Magazine this time last year. While a year has passed and one of the brewers featured has moved on to pastures new, the theories on what makes big beers special and the stories behind some of Australia's best remain as valid today as they were then.

What's more, the little known Mad Abbot Christmas Ale 2013, which we selected as one of five to try, has since gone on to win a trophy at the Australian International Beer Awards so it's added incentive to see if you can hunt down any remaining bottles.

In the article, we speak to:

  • John Stallwood, of Nail Brewing, about his Clout Stout, a beer he describes as "unique – something to share with someone and enjoy together."
  • Jon Seltin, then at Bright and now head brewer at Hawkers Beer, about his Stubborn Russian, currently being reinvented as a Tokyo-inspired 18 percenter by Ryan, his replacement from BrewDog.
    "Brewing big beers raises a huge number of technical problems," says Jon in the article. "You don’t want them to be flabby or overwhelmed by the high amount of alcohol. You want to pack in a lot of stuff, but not make it a cacophony of noise or a mess of solventy alcohol. It’s more about creating something elegant.”
  • And Warwick Little, of Little Brewing, who reckons: "There is an excitement around the place when you’re making something like the Christmas Ale."

We also suggest five crackers to try, the aforementioned Christmas Ale, Clout and Stubborn Russian plus Mornington Peninsula Brewery's Russian Imperial Stout and Hargreaves Hill's Phoenix Imperial Red Ale.

You can download the article as a PDF here.

The current edition of James Halliday's Wine Companion Magazine features an article highlighting ten locally brewed craft beers that may not be that well known or easy to find but are worth the effort. The beers chosen are from Homestead Brewery, Colonial Brewing, Lobethal Bierhaus, Little Brewing, La Sirene, Noisy Minor, Seven Sheds, BentSpoke Brewing, Doctor's Orders and Boatrocker.

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