As the nights get colder and colder our minds wander to hearty nourishing comfort food. It’s similar with beers. Ideal winter beers are local and fresh of course, but also malt driven, with more body than thin summer lagers. Winter beers are rich and hearty, with lush colours and flavours. They’re like a malty warm hug. They tend to be filling and not so much of a session beer but a beer that is sipped and slowly enjoyed.
The five Barossa beers listed here all fit that winter criteria. They also all deserve to be decanted into a good beer glass, if not just to display the amazing colours, but also to enjoy the great head retention and enhanced aromas that these beer styles exhibit. They also deserve to be served a little warmer than usual. Instead of the usual 2-4C for crisp lagers, let these warm just a little, at least 8C to really enhance the malty characters and aromas.
The collective of brewers at Western Ridge in Nuriootpa bring a diverse range of styles and techniques to the brewery. Tim Hardy has created what at first sounds like quite a basic stout, without using extra flavours from things like coffee, molasses, chocolate or bourbon barrels, etc. Instead Tim’s created an all-malt, very good stout that’s right on the money.
Utilising Barossa Valley Craft malt as the base malt, it’s fermented fairly dry which lets the roast barley do the talking. That slightly charred, almost roast coffee flavour. A stout just isn’t a stout without it. At 6%Alc/Vol it’s not over the top, but still brings a warmth to the tongue and the tummy. If you haven’t found the right stout yet, this is probably the one you’ve been waiting for. It’s like a hug from Chewbacca.
For an ideal food match, David Henderson from Western Ridge suggests trying braised chilli beef. Slow cook the beef in some of the stout for an extra layer of flavour.
One of the most amazing looking beers around. Pour this impressive ale into a big glass and be amazed at the rich red colour and puffy lingering head. There’s a big sweet and complex malty aroma along with a hint of spicy hops.
In the mouth it’s rich and embracing, but not overly sweet, and with a nice hop presence and bitterness. It’s like a big hug from Santa. This beer lets the malt be the star but still maintains the perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness.
It finishes with a lingering hint of toffee. At 5.5%Alc/Vol it’s restrained enough to enjoy a few without being over the top.
Robyn Rehn from Rehn Bier suggests a mild Madras curry would be the ideal food match for this red ale. Anything too spicy would overwhelm the beer.
Hold on to your hats and hide the car keys. This is half a litre of 8%Alc/Vol or 2.8 standard drinks in one can. It’s a big thick boozy IPA that pours a deep mahogany colour.
Despite all of that malt and all those hops, it looks bright and clean through the layers of malt. It tastes rich and full. Layers of dark chocolate cake on top of candied citrus on top of honey biscuits. There’s a resinous woody and citrus peel wall of bitterness like a retaining wall, trying to hold up the sweet malt.
It’s a lovely fight of sweetness versus bitterness, with plenty of interesting flavours along the way. It’s like an arm wrestle with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This big beer is filling, so a food match could be something small, like a dish of chilli squid tentacles. Make sure it’s got plenty of spice to stand up to the huge flavours.
What’s an Indian Pale Ale doing here? Big bitter beers need malt sweetness to balance the hop bitterness, and sometimes you need a refreshing beer during winter without resorting to a crisp thin lager.
This IPA pours light and golden with a nice hop haze, and it’s a hint at what’s to come. Aroma wise, it’s big on green fresh cut pine, grapefruit zest and candied bitter orange. Tasting a little like a bite of dry white toast, followed by a blast of bitter fresh citrus, pine and a hint of camphor. After a few mouthfuls the malt sweetness and malt body builds and the bitter citrus turns into marmalade.
That’s when the warm malty embrace begins. It’s delicious. 6.5%Alc/Vol, so not really a session beer, but it is an explosively enjoyable treat though. It’s not for people with a narrow range of beer styles they like, but by goodness, if you like this style, jump on it. It’s like a wrestle with Simba the White Lion.
Brett from Ministry of Beer reckons his mate does a ripper Chilli Con Carne that would go pretty well with it. It’s got enough intensity to stand up to the IPA. A slice of Brie and a water cracker just isn’t going to cut it.
Pouring almost black with just a hint of dark mahogany light shining through, it maintains a light tan fluffy head persistently. Light aromas of nutty malt and some fruity yeast waft from the glass.
This dark ale isn’t as acrid and roasty as expected, which is a good thing for a dark ale. Instead it’s an enjoyable almost lightly fruity ale with hints of black malts persisting. The mouthfeel is very pleasant. It’s not too thick but still substantial. Finishing clean and fairly dry.
A good balance of body and only light sweetness in the middle. Halfway through the glass, the creamy head still persists and adds almost an Irish stout style texture.
At a reasonable 4.7%Alc/Vol it’s the kind of ale that’d be easy to open a few without getting too intoxicated or suffering from palate fatigue. It’s like a hug from your favourite grandmother.
Lisa and Chris from Greenock Brewers say they really enjoy the dark ale with a heart country beef stew. The ideal winter combination.