Buy six, get one free. Yes, just because we've exhausted the six Aussie states in our end of year roundup of the best new brews of 2014 doesn't mean we're done. Adrian Moran – publican, beer writer and podcaster from the nation's capital – has cast his mind back over the past 12 months to send us this selection of the finest drops to make their first appearance this year.
We here in the ACT may not have the lustre of calling ourselves a state, but we are renowned for our small but exciting fleet of craft breweries and particularly home brewers. The latest instalment of the Australian National Homebrewers Conference took place here in the ACT and had people from all corners of Australia and even overseas visiting our shores to drink, debate and revel in the growing of this unique and inspiring industry. Brewers from Russian River Brewery (California), BrewCult (Victoria), Feral Brewing (Western Australia) and Byron Bay Brewery (New South Wales) were joined by hundreds of homebrewers for this fantastic three-day craft beer sojourn. But, alas, beers on display for this conference were clearly not in the running for the best beers in the ACT.
For finding the best beers in the ACT, I enlisted the help of two other craft beer lovers: Josh Gill (Gilly) and the Thirsty Hop's very own Drew Sculthorpe.
The Wig & Pen Jerry's Lucky 13
The Canberra winter is a brittle and chilly one (at least by Australian standards) and we need a selection of beers to stand up to it. This beer is a collaboration between the currently-in-relocation-mode Wig & Pen and local cafe 2 before 10. This porter is packed full of roasted coffee and chocolate flavours and sits at a sessionable 5.3 percent ABV. This is the first brew by the "Wig's" assistant brewer Jeremy Michael and if it's a sign of things to come, Canberran's certainly have something to get excited about when the new Wig & Pen opens in February.
Wig & Pen Sequoia
Such an appropriately named beer for this red, hoppy IPA that perfectly aligns itself with the famous Californian and west coast trees. This drop rivals this year's best red ales, such as Queensland's Admiral Ackbar, Victoria's Killer Sprocket Rye IPA and Modus Operandi's Former Tenant. Rich maltiness is well coupled with typical piney and fruity US west coast hoppy flavours making for a perfectly well-rounded ale. Canberrans are well and truly getting withdrawal symptoms as they wait for the Wig & Pen to reopen their doors and have this beer available to the public once more.
Bentspoke Brewing Co Sprocket
Since talk first started of Wig & Pen brewer Richard Watkins leaving and opening a new venue in Canberra, the craft beer circles have murmured in excitement. The birth of Bentspoke happened with little fanfare, but nonetheless the establishment went through allegedly more than 2,000 litres of beer in just its opening weekend – and that was supposed to be a soft opening! Although Sprocket was not part of the original six brews they first unveiled, it is an extension of one of the originals, the Crankshaft. With typical American Pale Ale aromas of stone fruits and pineapple, it has a big citrus taste, helping to deceive some of its boisterous 6.7 percent ABV.
Bentspoke Brewing Co Frenzy
Made just in time for Canberra's second annual beer week, this beer has the quirkiness of Richard Watkins written all over it! The brewing aficionado and Canberra icon here has created a beer with a bright raspberry hue, sweet raspberry scent and a crisp, light mouthfeel; clearly perfect for the hot, dry Canberra summers. This was the 18th and final beer that Bentspoke put on tap and is probably their most unique and interesting drop to date.
Bentspoke Brewing Co Cluster 8
Although Richard Watkins' fame has been built on his outstanding reputation for stouts (his Russian Imperial Stouts are generally acknowledged as some of Australia's finest) [and, we'd have thought, his sours – Crafty], it seems that his IPAs have been the runaway success of his newest venture. The Cluster 8 is everything you'd expect from a big US west Coast style IPA, with Simcoe, Citra and Centennial hops mixed with the quintessential Australian hop, galaxy. At 65 IBUs and a massive 8.8 percent ABV, it has a rich, fruity nose with strong pine flavours and is not for the faint of heart.
Zierholz German Ale
Zierholz brewery has been open for nearly 10 years now, with its location in Canberra's industrial district of Fyshwick and a second venue at Canberra's University of Canberra. Their German Ale appears to be their most iconic brew, harking back to brewer Christoph's German roots to create a light, crisp tasting and sessionable ale with the use of European style New Zealand hops. At 4.3 percent ABV, this is an easy drinking Southern Hemisphere take on a classic European drop.
Adrian Moran is the bar manager at the Durham Castle Arms, runs a craft beer podcast and writes regularly for Canberra's City News. Look out for a feature on his podcast on The Crafty Pint in 2015.
You can access the other six Best New Brews lists starting with SA here.