Like it or not Dan Murphy’s (Uncy Dan to his friends) rules the Australian liquor retail scene. They are increasingly making a strong play in the craft beer arena as well, their website lists 102 ‘craft’ beers, not exactly Slowbeer territory but nothing to sneeze at.
They even sponsored the recent Great Australasian Beer Spectapular in Melbourne, cleverly building a database of beery folk for future marketing, they then preceded to send me emails about wine specials about 3 times a week until I got fed up and unsubscribed myself, but again they are trying – sort of.
The other interesting thing happening in there is the appearance of some American (and one English) craft beers, directly imported by WOW brands (better known as Woolworths, parent company to Uncy Dans). I’m reliably informed that WOW is importing directly from the brewers themselves (okay one brewer from Ballast Point, or at least someone pretending to be him on the internet), all stock is fresh, not close to use by and being dumped by the breweries which many thought might be the case and it is transported refrigerated in under 24 days from the US – basically everything beer geeks have be calling out for.
This is a sign of two things. Dan Murphy’s can see the opportunity in craft brews and of course the Aussie dollar is so strong against the Greenback that even with transportation costs and import duties this is still cost effective for Uncy Dan’s.
I’m sure there are plenty of people who will claim this is the impending death of the local bottleshop and I’m sure that there will be just as many people who claim this is the best thing to happen to beer retailing in Australia for a long time. We don’t have time to discuss that now though. The question for now is – is the beer any good? I found four US brews (sadly no Ballast point) in my local Dan’s and gave them a whirl.
Dundee India Pale Ale – It pours a coppery colour with a thin head that died quickly. Not a huge amount of carbonation, nor is it a particularly hoppy beer, particularly for an Indian Pale Ale. It’s probably no more bitter than a Little Creatures, but the hop tones are not fruity like a Little Creatures, rather they are a tad piney and aggressive but only for an instant at the start of the sip, then it actually ends quite dry. This beer is more of a slight step rather than a great stride towards craft beer enlightenment – Schooner
Wing Walker Pale Ale – a honey piney smell suggesting trademark US hops as well a strong malt backbone balancing it out, which is strange given it’s a light yellow colour. The thin head betrays its quality as well. This is a very drinkable pale ale and I have to say I enjoyed this quite a bit – Pint
Magic Hat Number 9 – This pours with a golden colour again with only slight carbonation, surprisingly sweet with a candied mandarin nose, really quite unusual and probably why it’s billed as ‘not quite a pale ale’. It’s like someone has poured mandarin or perhaps apricot syrup in the brew – refreshing sure, but odd. Might teach a few people that beer can taste different but I’m not sure it’ll do huge things for understanding beery flavours – Schooner
Red Trolley Ale by Karl Strauss – It’s red not surprisingly, with a beige head on pouring but this disappeared quicker than a deadbeat dad on alimony day. Clear as a bell, if indeed something can be both red and clear at the same time. Strong hints of toffee, very sweet with no notable hops characters, it ends very dry. It’s sort of a sweet session ale, super smooth and very drinkable and probably best suited to Winter – Pint