It’s not uncommon for breweries to celebrate anniversaries with a new beer. Indeed, it’s not uncommon for them to celebrate with a party and a new beer, maybe even more than one party. For Cam and Dave, the founders of Mountain Goat, that wasn’t enough. For their 10th birthday, they’d brewed the Double Hightail – a double strength version of their flagship Hightail Ale – and toured Australia pouring it at their favourite beer bars.
When they turned 15 earlier this month, they decided to do something similar. Except this time it was with a Triple Hightail – think uber-rich and intensely fruity English strong ale – and with more stops along the way. The last of them gave them a chance to become beer missionaries: taking their beers by boat along the Adelaide River in the Northern Territory to Goat Island, a remote spot owned by idiosyncratic expat European Kai “Happy” Hansen and frequented by fishermen celebrating or commiserating after a day spent trying to pluck barramundi from the jaws of the river’s massive crocodile population.
The Crafty Pint was lucky enough to be invited along for the ride, a ride that featured a boat trip in the company of Cap'n Pat, a man raised in an Aboriginal community who gives some of the most insightful and knowledgeable tours of the region’s national parks. Along for the ride was a small Goat Army, which comprised a few faces from the brewery’s past: Chris and Penny, the owners of Richmond’s GB Hotel, who gave Cam and Dave their first tap; Nick, who had bottled their beers a decade ago before moving to Darwin with his wife Jo to write children’s books such as The Very Cranky Bear; and Nugget, a mate from Cam’s former life in the music biz.
Joining them on the island were Hot Dog, Kai’s “singing” dog, and his doggy girlfriend Dumb Blonde, plus an assortment of fishermen. Among them were Jules, who fell wholeheartedly for the charms of the Triple Hightail (despite the 35C temperatures and high humidity) and reckons it would be a hit in the Territory, and Nick, a welder who’d returned to the Top End after years in Melbourne and Adelaide and who had spent the morning fixing Kai’s Bobcat, before celebrating with some Steam Ale and a fish, then sleeping it off and starting again.
And then there were the crocs. Casey is a female who has given her name to Kai’s tiny bar and restaurant while there was also an unnamed male who was keen to make our acquaintance once the sun went down.
By that point, Kai had served up a mixture of food from the river and the depths of his freezer and it was time for Cam and Dave to give the most unlikely beer presentation of their lives, working through Steam Ale, Hightail, Before The Dawn Black IPA (surely the first of its kind to reach the Territory) and the Triple Hightail. They achieved surprisingly positive results, backing up one beer rep’s claim that the state is ripe for something other than XXXX Gold.
You can see their tasting notes below, or sit back and check out the short film shot by Colin Chee and produced by New McPherson that tells the story much better than we possibly could…
Goat Island Tasting Panel
Pat Chappell – Boat captain and non-beer drinker
“It’s got quite a relaxed feel – it slowly comes up on you. It’s always been the Gold, Green and Red up here [XXXX Gold, VB, Carlton], but this will appeal to very many tastes. When you drink it, it’s like a blast of flavours – a real winning flavour. It’s got body so it’s good swilling it, but the froth is there to keep it cold. It maybe very good for a late night in, when you sit around being mellow, telling people stories."
Before The Dawn
“This one comes on a lot quicker. My dad would like the bitterness; he would be fully into it. I don’t know much about older beers but this feels like going back in time.”
Julian – Goat Island regular
“I don’t mind this one. It’s got a fruity kind of flavour, like a melon or grape taste – red grapes that you’d make wine with. I’d buy it.”
“Not as fruity; more tart. Strips the mouth.”
Before The Dawn
“It feels heavy. Heaps of flavour and very dense. It’s very hopsy – Hopoate! I don’t think it’s a Northern Territory beer although it might go well in Alice Springs and further south. It’s really, really full flavoured.”
“This is the one that I really do like – even the colour of it. That’s what beer should look like. The flavour, the aftertaste – you could smash it straight off the ice. It’s got a lot going for it. It’s not about the alcohol content, it’s all to do with the flavour. It’s so smooth and creamy.”
So there you go: Triple Hightail is a hit in the Top End.
And here are a few shots we took on the trip to round things off. Happy Birthday Goats! Where are we going for sweet 16?