I don’t mind a beer or three, and nor do a lot of the winemakers I have met. So much so that it’s not uncommon now days to see a winemakers name on the side of a bottle of beer. The Debortoli name is on the side of the William Bull beers. In fact their beers are so good that their Limited Release Pale Ale took out the top gong at the Royal Queensland Food and Wine show.
Interestingly a lot of winemakers have looked at this as a way to diverse their offerings at their cellar door. And we, the consumer, are the ones that are really seeing the benefits. These guys and girls that are so used to making flavours work for them with wine, are using the same techniques on beer. Aging beer in barrels that have had wine in them, French oak to give a touch of vanilla, that has previously had chardonnay, or by going outside of the wine arena and using American oak that has held bourbon or whisky prior.
With the cider market growing at a huge rate we’ll see more of these boutique breweries perhaps making all three drinks: wine, beer and cider.
Cider is an easy path for a winery to take. A lot of the machinery and infrastructure that is there can be used to make cider, tanks, barrels and presses for example.
Here’s a quick run around of some of the best:
Pikes actually have had a brewery connection since the late 19th century when Henry Pike created a brewery in the Adelaide Hills. Coopers helped to recreate their ale recipe back in 1996, and then in 2008 the team at pikes played with the recipe turning into a pilsner that is labelled as Pikes Oakbank Beer. It has the typical colour of a pilsner, with a fresh citrus and fruity smell about it. A good beer with a clean finish.
Knappstein Winery and Brewery
Way back in 1878 the Enterprise Brewery scored a deal to provide local miners a quality beer. Fast forward to 2006 when the brewing tradition was embraced yet again and an onsite micro brew system was built. What’s interesting of note here though is the way that the head brewer and the head winemaker worked so closely together to create a beer that reflects wine characters in style, structure and most importantly complexity. Crisp on the tongue with a touch of pine and fresh cut grass to it. The taste is closer to a pilsner than the Bavarian lager that it is with stone fruits and tropicals. A very interesting complex beer that keeps you coming back for more.
As mentioned De Bortoli Wines have their onsite brewery William Bull, named after an early pioneer of the area. These guys brew the Red Angus Pilsner, The Williams Organic Pale Ale and Williams Premium Lager as their three constant beers. Their Indian Pale Ale was brewed in such limited amounts that we are probably unlikely to see it here. The Williams Organic is a great beer. Brewed with Aussie hops and malts, it’s low on bitterness which means that the citrus and aromatics of the hops can really shine through. It’s a fantastic summer beer.
Port Stephens Winery.
These guys run the Murrays Craft Brew that has been right up there in a lot of people’s beer lists. The funny part about this place though is that the brewery was actually up and running before the winery was purchased. Back in 2006 the pub was opened, then in 2008 they purchased the Port Stephens Winery, this has allowed them a constant supply of oak barrels to use for their vintage ales. The 2010 Murrays Craft Brewing Co Anniversary Ale is one such beer, and is easier to find than the 2011 Ale. Half of the brew is aged for about 8mths in oak. Every year is different, aged in different barrels. Their core range is superb; their anniversary ales are just the icing on the cake.