Salted Caramel Ale
Shark Island Brewing Company, 6.8%
$9 a schooner
Reviewed by Matt Carr
BEER gets weird sometimes. Once you splash out past the shallows of pilsners and pale ales, you can sometimes wonder how you ended up among clashing flavours. Nowhere is that clearer than at GABS, where the esoteric can sometimes take centre stage. Chicken salt, souvlaki and more have been among the briefs brewed for the travelling craft beer festival in recent years. It's refreshing that Shark Island Brewing Company tackled the challenge with a delight, not an oddity. At 6.8%, it's a crisp and almost chewy flavour bomb. Leaning into malts for its strongest characters, an infusion of sea salt helps bring out toffee notes. Its splash of sweetness never cloys. Tapped recently at Newcastle's Grain Store, the beer is also pouring at Shark Island's Kirrawee brewery. It's a sweet treat worth seeking out.
Descent 22 Imperial Stout, BentSpoke Brewing Co
Canberra, ACT, 10%
Reviewed by Josh Leeson
IT'S that time of year again when acclaimed Canberra brewery BentSpoke delivers its celebratory birthday imperial stout. And doesn't the eight-year-old brewery have much to celebrate. In January, their Crankshaft IPA was voted the GABS Hottest 100 winner for a second consecutive year. Descent 22 Imperial Stout is a far more challenging beast. At three standard drinks per can, it's made for slow and delicate appreciation on a wintry evening. It's been aged for six months in foeder barrels and a portion of last year's batch was included for added complexity. Firstly you're greeted by strong and inviting smoke and toffee aromas. Despite its rich blackness, Descent 22 is relatively smooth, before offering sweet liquorice flavours and a thick and syrupy mouthfeel. Descent 22 is perfect for a stew or casserole, or even with a slice of chocolate birthday cake.
Little Giant 2021 Free Grenache
4 stars (out of 6)
Reviewed by John Lewis
TODAY'S focus is on two of three new-release "Natural" wines from the Fourth Wave wine group headed by Newcastle couple Frances and Nicholas Crampton. Natural wine is made with minimal chemical and technical intervention in growing grapes and vinification. In essence, they are a step beyond organic and biodynamic wines because they are made without adding or removing anything. This 14%-alcohol, ruby-hued grenache is natural, organic, biodynamic and certified sustainable and has gamey scents and spicy blackberry front-palate flavour. The middle shows rhubarb, herb, black pepper and toasty oak and a finish of ferric tannins. Drink now with lasagne and widely available with other Fourth Wave wines in bottle shops and on fourthwavewine.com.au
Reviewed by John Lewis
NEIL McGuigan once said that Natural or Orange wine, as it's often called, was "a grape-based alcoholic beverage, not really wine", and other critics complain that many Naturals are "murky, rustic and feral" flavoured potions. That's not so in the Little Giant grenache, the third wine in the release, the $28 wild yeast-fermented, vegan friendly, unfiltered and preservative-free Wild Folk 2021 Barossa Shiraz and this simple fruity fizz. Pet Nat stands for petillant naturel - French for naturally sparkling, and this one has 12.5% alcohol, brassy gold hues, mild effervescence and passionfruit aromas. The front palate shows ripe white peach flavour, the middle-palate apple, sherbet and lime zest and a slatey acid finish. Drink now with sushi.
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