”IT’S got a flowery nose, the upper palate is reminiscent of cut grass and there’s an overtone of biscuit that reminds drinkers summer is here.”
The latest wine snob’s dissection of a drop that would, in the past, have been summed up as ”goes well with fish”?
Nope, that’s a drinker discussing the latest craft beer, the new battleground for quaffers looking for something different and those who are finally admitting the schooner their dad drank might not be as good as they were raised to believe.
Around the world craft beers are booming, with micro-breweries multiplying to fill newly created niches. India pale ales are popping out of Enmore and American Lagers from Melbourne. And it’s only going to get bigger, the beer makers agree.
”If you look at where the craft beer market is in America, where they make up about 8 per cent of the market, then compare that to here where it’s about 2 per cent, we’ve got a bit of catching up to do,” said Richard Adamson of Young Henrys brewery in Newtown.
”And I think that will happen. People enjoy knowing the provenance of their foods, where it comes from and who’s making it and that’s extending into beers. Local brewers and local beers are something we always had, that went away for a while and are now coming back. There’s been a real turnaround in attitudes.”
Matt Donelan’s St Peters Brewery, of that suburb, is typical.
After 12 years of quietly taking on the big breweries, he now has six main beers in production, mostly sold in just three postcodes to keep their carbon footprint low and to make sure his locals get something different.
”There’s enough outlets in my little corner of the world to satisfy a small brewery like this so rather than take a scatter gun approach and lose control of the brand I went local.
”Firstly, you get a lot of support from the community and, secondly, it means all my logistics are a lot easier.”
Until recently, for example, all his beers were delivered in the back of his trusty Kingswood. Now he has a small truck but little else has changed.
He points out the irony that as the attraction of craft beers has risen, the larger brewers have jumped on board.
That probably has something to do with the fact a ”craft beer” can be sold at a premium price. A six-pack of Resch’s might cost you $15. Six stubbies of White Rabbit White Ale will set you back $20. In between is something like James Squire Nine Tales Amber Ale at $18. That’s a beer touted by its maker as a craft beer but ultimately owned by the Japanese multinational brewer Kirin.
”The term ‘craft beer’ is misunderstood and being overused,” Donelan said. ”You hear that and assume it’s a funky little brewery somewhere but that’s often not the case. I don’t have a problem with the beers they’re making, but to call it a craft beer is a bit of a furphy.”
But then there’s the upside of craft’s success: that traditional beers abandoned through the years can be revived by the big brewers who know there will now be a market for it.
Even the revered KB Lager in its iconic gold can, given up for dead by CUB last year, may see the light of day again. ”At the moment we have no plans to bring KB back on a large scale,” a CUB spokeswoman said. ”It is a great brand that we will continue to brew on special occasions.”
”Refreshing as a sea breeze,” the old KB posters boasted. And in the brewing world the wind has definitely changed.
Sydney Craft Beer Week starts today as part of Crave Sydney International Food Festival.
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