Beers for a Barossa winter

WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY

John Krüger

BEER REVIEWS

Beers for a Barossa Winter

During the cooler months our needs change. We don’t require refreshment as much as we desire nourishment. Just as a hearty stew warms us and makes us happy, a nourishing malty beer ticks all of the boxes on a cold Barossa night. 
Dark beers are also one of the best cooking ingredients for breads, stews, marinades, etc. so don’t just buy one, buy at least four. The local Barossa breweries make some exceptional malty beers and these four are impressive and have given me real enjoyment.

Barossa Valley Brewing

Chocolate Coffee Stout

At 7%abv this delightful stout will no doubt warm the cockles, but the addition of cocoa nibs and coffee takes it to another level. It’s black and rich but not too sweet. The bitterness is just firm enough to let the chocolate and coffee meld perfectly with the malty richness and sharp roast flavours.It smells strongly of cocoa and the coffee flavours build with each sip. A stout with exceptional balance and complexity. No wonder it’s been a gold medal winner. Although the chef at Barossa Valley Brewing tells me that she cooks brisket in the stout, which would be amazing, my ideal food match would have to be Tiramisu. It’s a double up on the coffee and chocolate flavours.

Greenock Brewers

Dark Ale

Held up to the light, this dark ale has a beautiful dark mahogany red colour and smells of roasted barley and a hint of sweet malt. On the tongue it still has quite a refreshing quality, not too heavy and a bright carbonation with a dry finish. It has just enough roast quality that it satisfies the winter cravings without being overly acrid and dark. At 4.7%abv this dark ale would be a great beer to sip on for hours. Great balance. My ideal food match would be a T-bone steak with some good charring. The meaty umami flavours washed down with a few pints of the dark ale would be the perfect lunch.

Rehn Bier

Imperial Porter

This beer should be proceeded by a warning pilot vehicle with orange flashing lights. It’s big! 8.5%abv of intensity. Brenton Rehn has made a big roasty porter and then aged it in port barrels. The resulting beer is thick, dark and boozy. On the nose is coffee, oak and port. It tastes rich, but not overly sweet with plenty of toasty dark malt, then on the finish is oak and a hint of sweet port. It has great balance and is almost a meal in itself. This may not be a session beer but would be a perfect after dinner treat. Buy a six-pack and put a few away if aged beers are your thing. This beer would pair perfectly with a good after dinner cheese board. Make sure there’s some salty blue and some of Maggie’s quince paste.

Western Ridge Brewing

The Manskirt with Wood

We don’t see too many Scotch ales in Australia. Which is a good and a bad thing. Some attempts at brewing Scotch ales result in cloyingly sweet beers or a mushy awkward concoction of sweet malt and yeast. Thankfully, David at Western Ridge has given a nod to his Scottish heritage with an exceptional 6.5%abv limited release oaked Scotch ale, and it’s an absolute pleasure to drink. Its rich red colour precedes aromas of oak, sweet malt and toffee with a delicate hint of smoke. In the mouth it’s surprisingly well balanced and has more toffee and oak flavour rather than a heavy sweet palate. There’s a hint of smoke, a hint of oak and everything is in the right place. It’s the beer version of a good Scotch whiskey. If this limited release is popular enough, I’m told it may get some label art and become one of Western Ridge’s regular beers.I’d match this beer with crème caramel or flame grilled lamb. You can play off the toffee character or the subtle smokey complexity.