The skies have turned grey in Melbourne town, its citizens have donned their winter uniform of black overcoats and woollen scarfs, and periodically the heavens open and dump buckets of rain on this fair city.
The marketing gurus at the macro breweries have spent millions of dollars telling us about ice cold beer and building some sort of symbiotic relationship between ice and beer. All this marketing claptrap may lead you to think when the grey clouds roll in that the beer drinker rolls up the carpet and heads home, or worse still moves to a nice glass of red wine or perhaps a port by the fire.
But this is not the case; us beer drinkers are a hardly lot and beer is a very versatile drink. I’m here to remind you that beer is just as well suited to days when the temperature doesn’t get out of the single digits as it is to when it doesn’t drop below thirty. You just need to adjust your choices.
In cold times like these a beer drinker’s mind turn to darker brews and today we are going to look at three of the better dark brews kicking around the bottleshops of Melbourne. First up is the aptly named Willie Warmer. Now the four year old in me wants to do little more than make dick jokes but I’ll try to resist this and give this beer the respect it deserves. The Willie that is being warmed is none other than famed beer writer Willie Simpson who along with Catherine Stark runs the Seven Sheds brewery down in Tasmania.
This beer is perfect for winter, it pours jet black with a dense tan coloured head. It has a beautiful soft silky body, full of delicate chocolate flavours and a hint of roasted malt. This is complimented with a complex nose which hints at cloves, aniseed and cherries. This is a surprisingly gentle brew and a perfect sipper to start or end our evening – Pint.
Batch 31 by New Zealand’s 8wired brewing could be described as many things, but gentle would not be one of them. This is a big beer in all senses of the word, brewed specifically for one of the biggest craft beer markets out there – the USA. The back story is that when Soren brewed the Batch 18 last year it was so popular that it ran out before our US counterparts got much of it, so they have fired up the extra large kettle this time and brewed a US sized batch (A side of fries and an plate of grits not included). Although this is clearly a bound for the US beer, if you spend some time in the better bottleshops of Melbourne, such as Blackheart and Sparrows (where I got mine) you should be able to find a bottle.
And you will not regret it. Drinking this beer is like drinking a cigar (in a good way), it’s smoky and woody, no doubt a product of the oak barrels it’s been aging in. It’s a very strong beer, with almost no carbonation to disguise the flavours. This is a definitive winter warmer, it sits in your chest the 11% alcohol warming you from the inside. A stunning beer, not for the faint hearted and probably best suited to sipping in front of a fire in a ski lodge whilst admiring the moose head on the wall and the bear skin rug beneath our feet – Pint.
The Willie Warmer and Bacth 31 are not your everyday beers, they will require a special trip to an independent, beer focused bottle shop and they will challenge you, which is great but sometimes you need a simple drinking beer, no analysing, no taking notes, a beer just for drinkin’ and enjoyin’.
And in winter I like to turn to Matilda Bay’s Dogbolter which through the might of CUB distribution is available in most bottleshops, good or bad. This is a mainstay of the craft beer scene and still a super solid beer and a great sessionable brew for the colder months. Being a dark lager it is more approachable than the standard wintery stouts and porters yet still has all the complexity to keep beer wankers interested. There is a hint of smoke from the roasted malts and strong coffee overtones all in an easy drinking package. A classic and still brilliant – Pint.