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Smoky beer, cocktail ale and a brew that tastes like tiramisu

Eat | Drink | Explore

Beer is not just about lager and hops-heavy brews. John Krüger reviews some of the more experimental South Australian offerings that could change your perception of beer – and dessert.

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Some people think of beer fans as nothing but generic lager swillers who have no thought for regionality, flavour diversity, freshness or corporate responsibility. However, most modern beer fans care a great deal about these issues and rarely drink generic Australian lagers.

They’re generally biased toward hop-heavy beers like American pale ales and India pale ales, but there’s also a wonderful array of stunning beers available that couldn’t be further from the simple Aussie lager, or the hop bombs at either end of the spectrum.

Big Shed Brewing Concern – Golden Stout Time Dessert Stout

An amazing example of local brewers making something a bit experimental and absolutely nailing it. Social media was going crazy about this stout and after tracking a bottle down I was gobsmacked. It has huge toffee aromas and some subtle spice – a rich, slightly sweet and very complex beer.

Lacking any of the astringent sharp burned flavours associated with some stouts, this is the closest thing you’ll get to the Golden Gaytime ice-cream.

It’s biscuits, honeycomb, vanilla, a hint of light roast coffee and loads of toffee in a bottle. The intense toffee is almost overwhelming yet perfumed and fresh. At 5.4% alcohol by volume (abv) in 330ml bottles, you may be tempted to have more than one after dinner.

Food match: Flourless chocolate cake, not too sweet so the stout’s sweetness can take control.

Lobethal Bierhaus – Creme Brulee Sweet Dessert Ale

Another dessert beer. Alistair Turnbull, the head Bierhaus brewer, has made a stunning version of a milk stout. Milk stouts include lactose to very slightly raise the sweetness but also give the beer extra body. This beer has a creamy sweet mouthfeel underneath the complex toffee, just like a real crème brûlée.

It’s another stout that’s far from the traditional stout style we’re used to. The colour is a dark reddish brown and behind the toffee and caramel aromas are real vanilla beans. The only thing missing is the satisfying “crack” as you break the toffee with a spoon, but the “fsst” of the crown seal makes up for it.

It’s a 6%abv beer packaged in 330ml bottles. Note – always inform your guests before surprising them with lactose-laden beer. Some may not have the stomach for it.

Food match: Riverland chocolate dipped candied orange slices to complete the dessert experience.

Tuatara – Tiramisu Oatmeal Stout

Based in New Zealand, Tuatara makes some damn fine beers. This one is a limited release that shows great restraint while using unusual ingredients.

It’s an oatmeal stout infused with freshly roasted coffee beans, Dominican Republic cacao nibs and real vanilla to re-create the classic dessert tiramisu as a beer. This isn’t so much a dessert beer like the previous beers; it’s finish is quite dry, which works perfectly with the bold coffee flavour. It still pours with a thick, light-tan head with subtle coffee and vanilla aromas.

It’s surprisingly smooth, showing very little alcohol for a higher-alcohol beer. The finish is a blend of dry coffee, some bitterness from a crossover of hops and coffee, complex cacao and warming vanilla alcohol. Let this one warm up in the glass to really release the vanilla and bring it all into balance. It’s 7%abv in 500ml bottles.

Food match: Tuckers Natural Lavosh, dried muscatels and blue cheese. Valerie Henbest from Say Cheese suggests Bleu d’Auvergne, a French cheese with a creamy texture, spicy aromas, and flavours of grasses and wild flowers. Replace the after-dinner coffee with the perfect beer and cheese course.

Mismatch – Negroni IPA

Originally brewed as a one-off for the 2016 GABS Festival (The Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular), this beer is different and wonderful. The Negroni is a cocktail often referred to as the beer lovers’ cocktail. As with beer, it balances bitterness against sweetness, while complex aromas of citrus and herbs take it to the next level.

The first striking thing about the beer is that it pours with a distinct orange colour. The aromas are classic Negroni, bitter orange and spice. Blindfolded, it’d be hard to tell the beer from the cocktail. This is due to top-quality Riverland orange oil, custom citrus spirit and Italian-style bitters made in conjunction with Adelaide Hills Distillery.

As head brewer Ewan Brewerton says: “Some people get it.”

Classic cocktails are making a comeback and other than the strong alcohol aroma which the gin would normally impart, this is a fresh fizzy Negroni in a 330ml bottle (7%abv). Maybe closer to an Americano, but it’s deliciously refreshing. Get in quick, as it’s a one off brew… so far.

Food match: San José Prosciutto and Coriole olives for the perfect South Australian take on an Italian classic.

Barossa Valley Brewing – I Can’t Believe it’s Not Bacon

Bacon makes everything better, but this beer actually uses smoked malt to impart a real smokiness. It pours with a deep tan colour and immediately releases a soft smoky aroma backed up with sweet malt and a hint of toffee.

It’s actually pretty well spot-on for a classic German Rauchbier; they’ve loved a bit of smoke in their beers for hundreds of years. It’d be easy to overdo the smoke but this beer shows suitable restraint with subtle malt sweetness and mild bitterness. 5.5%abv in 330ml cans.

Food match: Salty hand-cut chips cooked in duck fat. I’d also love to slow cook some chicken in this beer.

John Krüger is an Adelaide-based photographer and home brewer with a passion for good beer. He’s on the Royal Adelaide Beer and Cider Awards committee and also a beer judge with the awards. 

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