Brewers across the country have been busy experimenting with weird and wonderful flavours and techniques to invent a unique beer or cider that stands out from the crowd.
It can only mean one thing. The countdown to the annual GABS Beer, Cider and Food Festival has begun.
On June 1 lovers of beer and cider will flock to Sydney Showground to taste 170 unusual craft beers and ciders made specifically for the "Great Australasian Beer Spectapular". It will be Hope Brewery's first GABS festival and owner Michael Hope is excited. His Pokolbin brewery has come a long way since launching five years ago with brewer Matt Hogan at the helm
"At GABS there's a people's choice award. It's the punters' vote," Hope said. "The beer has to be unique and it must never have been released before. The festival encourages innovation, which I think is great."
Hogan is a winemaker by trade who became a qualified brewer. He employed techniques from both camps when making Hope Brewery's 2019 GABS beer, the FA-18 Rhino IIIIIPA.
"A couple of years ago we made a beer that was 11.1 per cent and we called it the F1-11 Jet Black, after the aircraft," Hope explained.
"When we were coming up with ideas for GABS we looked at the FA-18 Hornets flying over Newcastle and decided to make an 18 per cent beer. Matt brewed it up to 12 or 14 per cent and then threw in some wine yeast and some grape juice concentrate to get the alcohol up to 18 per cent.
"We're not expecting to sell this all over Australia but it's a bloody good beer. It doesn't taste 18 per cent - it's really balanced."
FogHorn Brewhouse head brewer Shawn Sherlock is a seasoned GABS campaigner and relishes the opportunity to have some fun with his recipes: "In my time I've sent barrel-aged Farmhouse Ales, smoked Imperial Stouts, Gin Botanical spiced Saisons - each year we try to do something we haven't done before."
FogHorn's 2019 GABS beer is, he says, a unique take on an emerging style - the Brut IPA.
"Brewers have been taking the popular IPA style and fermenting them with yeast pepped up with special additives that turbo-charge the fermentation process and consume more fermentable sugars than standard yeast alone, thus drying out the finish on the beers," he explained.
"Using these enzymes, brewers can get the ferment to a point where there is no residual malt sugar left in the beers. We thought it would be interesting to achieve this dryness of finish naturally, and rely on the yeast to do the work on its own."
So, he had an idea. Then came the fun part: bringing the idea to life.
"The old-school French Saison yeast we were able to source naturally dries beers out more than other yeasts. It is more like a wine yeast strain than most modern beer yeast strains. We then mashed our grain at a really low temperature to produce more easily fermentable malt sugars and added some cane sugar. The process worked a treat and dried the beer right out without the enzyme. It is a crazy, mixed-up beer but for what it's worth, I love it."