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Five SA craft beers perfect for right now

Eat | Drink | Explore

Don’t think of autumn as the slippery slope into winter, think of it as the perfect time for refreshing sunny-day beers and nourishing cold-night beers. John Krüger shares five of his favourite new and not-so-new SA brews.

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Swell – North Shore IPA

This isn’t a new beer, but if you’ve missed it, you’re really missing out on a great local IPA. Right from cracking the 33ml can, this 6.5 per cent ABV West Coast-style IPA delivers the goods. It’s incredibly fragrant, releasing fresh pine, tropical fruits and citrus peel hop aromas. There’s also a deep brooding malt underneath.

A taste assures that this is the real deal. It’s malty chewy with the perfect blend of solid bitterness and big bold hop flavours. While it has a sweet malty body, it finishes slightly dry, making it hard to resist another one. If you haven’t tried any of the beers from McLaren Vale brewer Swell, this is your gateway beer. It’s a fresh and punchy India Pale Ale at its best.

Food match: Big-flavoured beers require flavoursome foods. Try this one with Middle Eastern spiced lamb with a yoghurt and walnut sauce.

Little Bang – Schwang!

Little Bang Brewing in Stepney is really firing on all cylinders lately. Maybe it has something to do with the newer, bigger brewery, but it’s hard not to be impressed with the quality and range of beers it’s making – and a new one that really impressed me is the tangerine sour called Schwang!

The thought of a 3 per cent ABV fruit sour beer didn’t initially appeal, but what a well-made beer it is. It’s not beer and citrus fruit – it’s more. The level of acidity is seamlessly integrated with the fruit, so it’s hard to tell where the fruit finishes and the beer begins.

Remember Tang, the drink fruit powder that Homer Simpson couldn’t get enough of? Well this is better than Tang, it’s Schwang! Embrace whatever warm weather we have left and enjoy it with this beer. It blew me away.

Ryan from Little Bang suggests enjoying this refreshingly light citrus beer in a sauna, but I’m thinking full retro: Simpson’s re-runs and a game of Mouse Trap while wearing Hypercolour T-shirts.

Food match: The light acidity would work well with a classic prawn cocktail. Heavy on the seafood sauce.

Vale Brewing – Tropic Ale

This new 4.2 per cent ABV ale from Vale Brewing is begging for a warm day in the sun. It punches out huge tropical fruit aromas from the late hopping. It’s so tropical, it reminds me of tropical mix fruit juice; you can almost smell the pineapple and guava leaping from the can. This is in conjunction with a light body that’s surprisingly lower on the bitterness units than expected (22 IBUs), so it’s super-refreshing and easy to drink.

The light body and fairly dry refreshing finish mean it works work well as a hoppy session beer without bogging down the palate with malt sweetness and high bitterness on the aftertaste.

Food match: Try this with Jamaican jerk pork. If you can’t be bothered looking for a recipe, try the dry spice mix from Chile Mojo. I blend it with fresh pineapple and a habanero for some extra kick.

Clare Valley Brewing Company – Mango Berliner Weisse

They say sour is the new hops, and there are certainly more sours on the market than I’ve ever seen before. Berliner Weisse is a soft sour and this one, like the Little Bang beer, melds seamlessly with the fruit component – in this case, mango. The resulting beer is bright and easy drinking at 3.8 per cent ABV.

The sourness isn’t overwhelming and the fruit component is light enough that it isn’t intense but builds little by little with each sip. If you love mango, you’ll love this beer. Die-hard sour beer lovers may want some more acidity but I think it is spot-on.

Food match: Try this fragrant and fruity sour with char-grilled chicken, plenty of fragrant herbs and a good punchy nam jim dressing.

Rehn Bier – Imperial Porter

This new beer from the Barossa could well replace a glass of port after dinner on a cold night. Brewer Brenton has made an impressive Imperial Porter and then aged it in oak Tawny barrels. The port-like aromas kick in as soon as the beer is poured.

It’s a thick, dark 8.5 per cent ABV porter with aromas of oak, a hint of liquorice and a finishing aroma of Barossa fortified Tawny. With all that malt and a hint of fortified wine, it isn’t overly heavy and sweet, with the oak adding a slightly dry feel with a small kick of fortified sweetness at the end.

This is big, complex, boozy and very satisfying. One 330ml bottle decanted into a big tulip glass completes a meal nicely.

Food match: Go for a cheese board with at least one salty blue and a good assortment of dried fruits. Some good Barossa smoky mettwurst would also be perfect.

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 as well as a beer judge with the awards.

 

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