Craft beers are taking over Sydney. New badges on taps and bottles keep us keen with more beverage choices every day. The best way to find your best beers is of course to drink them. Lots of them. We took up the offer this month at the 2014 Australian Hotel Beer Festival. And we picked up some tips from some craft beer enthusiasts, who taught us it isn't only about taste. You gotta smell your beer first. Yeup, put your beer under your nose, before you drink it!
Now there were official judges of course, though using the above tips, and working our way around every stand, we picked our own best five local beers - which by chance just happened to coincide with some of the judges choices.
Riverside 77 IPA - Best Overall Beer
Seventy Seven is a big American styles IPA and the one that the Riverside boys most recommended when we were working our way through the Seventy Seven range. There are four different hops in the brew, it's unfiltered, bottled, starts big and finishes clean.
Illawarra Pumpkin Ale
This little sweet was the first taste of the day, and we kept coming back for more. Smashing Pumpkin from the Illawarra Brewing Co is an American Style Spiced Pumpkin Ale, brewed with an American pumpkin pie spice mix and aged on American oak. Cinnamon hits the nose but doesn't take over once you've got it in your mouth. This was love. Only on tap.
Wayward Sourpuss Raspberry Berliner Weisse
Big fat red lips on the tap, sweet raspberry with a tart finish. Great to beat the heat. "Sour beers rock!" Wayward Brewing Company touts on its Facebook page. We gotta agree.
The malts are there, but take a back seat to rich chocolate and roast coffee. It's kind of the mocha of local craft beers, dark and deep to loose your soul in, or to finish a session. And a bloody good dessert match with - you guessed it chocolate in all forms. Brewed in memory of the old Balmain Brewery of the 1980s, which was famous for its Bock at the time.
This Rocks beer is about as local as it gets. Geoff Sharer was known as ‘one of the Grandfathers of Australian Craft beer’ and operated and lived in the Australian Hotel in The Rocks in the 1990s where his famed ales (Lager and Bock) were the only beers on tap. We could get all technical on you, but basically, this handcrafted beauty is made purely: with water, barley, malt, hops, yeast and no sugars.