A malty winter hug from five Adelaide breweries

Pass over the stouts, porters and dark ales this winter and snuggle up to something new, with five warming beer recommendations from reviewer John Krüger.

Jul 15, 2020, updated Jul 15, 2020

As we drift, seemingly aimlessly, through one of the most bizarre winters of our lives, we can at least rest assured that South Australian brewers are still making fresh, glorious beers to make our hearts and tastebuds sing.

In the spirit of the local industry’s unbridled creativity, let’s not lock ourselves into the same stout, dark ale and porter options that so often take over the beer fonts during winter.

There are also a number of other rich, satisfying beer styles out there, offering a malt-forward palate with a little more sweetness and a fuller mouthfeel – like amber ale, extra special bitter and red ales.

Below are five of Adelaide’s finest.

Fox Hat – Red Pelt Red IPA

This India red ale pours a deep reddish orange and smells of sweet fresh malt, resinous hops, a waft of alcohol and orange peel. It’s fairly thick in malt sweetness and mouthfeel, with an impressive amount of hop bitterness to back up the malt. It’s deep and chewy, like a meal in a glass. Wheat toast and orange marmalade. As the malt sweetness fades, the bitter citrus lingers.

At 7.8%abv from a 375ml can and a total of 88 Bitterness Units, this certainly isn’t a session beer, but instead a perfect, satisfying winter brew.

Brewer Jeff Wright recommends roast porchetta with a good selection of roasted winter vegetables. The beer cuts through the fatty pork and is strong enough to match the salty umami flavours.

Smiling Samoyed – Heart Breaker Red IPA

This easy-drinking Red IPA pours with a lingering head showing a slightly hazy mahogany beer beneath. It smells initially of some yeast, then toasty malts and fragrant hops. Bright carbonation gives this beer a great experience in the mouth. Bright, effervescent beer starts with a dry mouthfeel, then turns a very enjoyable sweet malty flavour as the hops start to fill the mouth and the nostrils. A second mouthful reveals more complex malts, toasty, nutty flavours that meld with the blend of citrus and spice from the hops. Lots going on, but all in harmony.

This 330ml bottle is super refreshing and a surprising 7.3%abv, as it’s such an easy drinker.

Try this beer with Moroccan cauliflower steaks. Heavy on the spice.

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Western Ridge Brewing – No Bitter Feelings Amber Ale

Pouring a very deep mahogany and on the darker end of the spectrum for an amber ale, this beer is absolutely delicious. It smells of roast malt and chocolate, deep dark toffee and freshly baked biscuits. The first sip is quite dry and refreshing, with dark chocolate and nutty, grainy flavours. While quite dark, it isn’t overwhelmed by dark malts and finishes with a hint of malt sweetness on the tongue. Each sip just gets better and better.

The label, featuring a flaming paper bag and the name “No Bitter Feelings…”, hints at a deeper story, maybe for another time. This beaut looking little 330ml stubbie from the Barossa is only 5.5%abv, and so there are no hot alcohol flavours often associated with stronger beers.

David “Hendo” Henderson from Western Ridge reckons a quality wood-fired meat-lovers’ pizza is the ultimate match for this impressive ale. Spicy pepperoni is a must.

Pikes Beer Co – Barrel Aged Quadrupel

This big beer has a golden mahogany colour with an almost fortified wine look to the viscosity. It smells of red wine, toffee and oak. A selection of Shiraz, Mourvèdre and Grenache barrels from the adjoining Pikes winery were used to age the Belgian-style Quadrupel and the resulting beer has subtle red wine aromas and complex flavours. The barrels have left a hint of vanilla, toast and a light vinous quality. In the mouth is a surprising hit of Chinotto, then an enjoyable lick of sweet fresh malt with quite low residual bitterness on the aftertaste.

At 10.7%abv in a 500ml bottle, this is a beer to share.

Brewer Alister Pike suggests a robust cheese course to complement the beer, favouring aged cheddar and blue cheeses.

The Suburban Brew – Flat 5 English Special Bitter

A beautiful-looking beer to decant from the 375ml can. It’s deep red with a creamy head. Smelling of light toast and toffee with hints of spicy hops, this English-style ale is an excellent interpretation. Lovely caramel malt, a rich but not overly sweet beer with developing flavours of spicy and woody hops. It’s a Ron Swanson of a beer – featuring notes of potpourri with cut timber, freshly shaved pencil, woody spices and fragrant pipe tobacco. Earthy and homely. I’d be tempted to buy two cans so I could fill a nonic pint glass and sip it while playing darts near an open fire. The bitterness lingers but it’s not overwhelming, just balancing the sweet malty caramel sweetness.

It’s 5.3%abv, so fairly easy to knock back a couple. The beer is already available at selected venues and will soon also be on pour at their new taproom, opening within a month or so.

As a food match, we suggest rare roast beef, gravy, fresh horseradish and Yorkshire puddings. The salty gravy goes so well with the sweet malt, almost like salted caramel.

John Krüger is an Adelaide-based photographer and home brewer with a passion for good beer. He’s on the Royal Adelaide Beer and Cider Awards committee as well as a beer judge with the awards.

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