Hops vs grapes: craft beer breweries in wine country
We are craft beer drinkers here at Beer Days. We don’t turn our moustached noses up at a good shiraz or a nice dry chardy, but generally speaking we are pretty loyal to the yeast and the hops.
What we have discovered, however, is that some of our favourite Aussie craft beers are coming out of serious wine producing country. And if proximity to grapes means beer this good, then we are more than happy partake.
The Collins brothers, who own Vale Brewing (formerly known as McLaren Vale Beer Company), acknowledge that purely by virtue of their location in the famous wine and fine food-producing region of McLaren Vale, the bar is set extremely high. The emphasis on creating world-class produce – whatever it is – in this region, is unrelenting and has a significant impact on their brewing decisions. Vale has even collaborated with fellow McLaren Vale-ites, Chapel Hill Winery, on a cider which uses apples exclusively from the region.
Vale took the craft beer world by storm back in 2008 with their original Vale Ale and occupied the top spot of the Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers poll in 2011. More outstanding brews followed and one of our favorites remains the the Vale IPA which is an absolute cracker. Starting with a generous frothy head, sticky lacing, and a buzzing effervescence, the IPA has a big passionfruit, grapefruit, citrus and piney hop aroma. Galaxy, Nelson, and Citra hops give it a bracing and lingering bitterness against a solid backdrop of pale and wheat malts. It’s one of our go-to IPAs to accompany a great meal – preferable a spicy curry.
The Hope Estate winery in the Hunter Valley have been producing estate grown Shiraz, Semillon, Chardonnay and Verdelho for many years but it was only in 2014 that the Hope Brewhouse under the direction of brewer Matt Hogan was launched. Just two years later, they won the Craft Beer Awards Champion Small Brewery. Matt came from a wine producing background but was quickly converted to beer brewing after a friend introduced him to home brewing. When Hope bought Murrays old brewery, owner Michael Hope tracked down Matt and the rest is a so far very short but very successful history.
We’ve been stoked to include the Hope Brewhouse XPA and Hunter Harvest IIPA in our beer boxes and, just like Vale, they boast some very sleek and classy label design. We love the black and silver cans – super sexy. The XPA has stacks of tropical fruit, citrus, toffee and malt flavours and makes for a really satisfying sessionable alternative to your average IPA. The IIPA is decidedly not sessionable! At 9.5% it is one to savor. Semillon and Verdelho juice from the estate have been added and their sweetness is gradually overtaken with some serious hop bitterness.
Otway Brewing – Prickly Moses
Otway Estate is a 28 acre estate on the Otway Ranges in Victoria. They began as a winery in 1997 and ten years later built a craft brewery on site and launched Prickly Moses Handcrafted Beers. Now the brewery is the primary industry for the estate with all that famous Otway rain being captured and used in the brewing of the beers. We are pretty big fans of the Prickly Moses beers and have featured the Otway Ale, the Red Ale, and the Otway Stout. If you forced us to choose a favorite it would have to be the Red Ale with its woody, earthy character and dry finish balancing out some strong malt flavours. We’ll be looking forward to a few of these come autumn.
So it turns out those grape growers sometimes know their way around hops and barley. Show offs. But if these beers are the result, then we’re prepared to raise a toast to their fancy pants wineries.
Pics courtesy of Vale Brewing, Hope Brewhouse and Prickly Moses.