Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Tuesday Tastings @ Forester’s Hall feat. 3 Ravens Brewing / Mash Brewing (16 Aug 2016)

What do goths and the coming together of water and grains have in common?  Quite a lot, as it happens, if you’re thinking Thornbury’s 3 Ravens and West Australia’s Mash Brewing.  Both breweries have carved out a strong reputation in their respective states and with their powers combined they plotting to take over the world.
3 Ravens’ head brewer Brendan Sullivan and compadré Murray Robertson (both also representing WA-based stablemates Mash Brewing) were on hand to host Forester’s Tuesday Tastings on 16 August 2016.  On the strength of the three beers presented to an eager crowd, the future is certainly looking very bright for both parties.

3 Ravens: Little Ravens – Dark Lager
Anyone who has been following 3 Ravens for any length of time surely knows of the brewery’s series one-offs: Little Ravens.  Joining 2015’s incredible oak aged imperial stout, Turkish Delight, the stunning Double IPA (released in early 2016) and the Australian Double IPA is a dunkel-style (dark),  lager.
Any thoughts of Little Ravens – Dark Lager being a pedestrian affair should be banished from your head now like an Olympic drug cheat from the Games (all of them – not just the Russians!)  This is a fantastic lager worthy of your attention – no matter how jaded you are with the bottom-fermented stuff.
Indeed, the secret’s in the yeast here.  3 Ravens opted to go for a full-fledged Bavarian yeast strain instead of the more ubiquitous, neutral US-borne options.  Those glorious little microbes were thrown into a concoction of Munich and crystal malts; hop varieties ranging from Saaz right through to the experimental, as yet unnamed, 035 hop.
The end result is a sterling New World take on the most traditional of German styles.  Pouring a dense nutty brown with an off-white head, Dark Lager certainly wouldn’t look out of place alongside dunkels from Weltenburger and Weihenstephaner.  Biscuity malt character wafts towards the nose, transposing immediately to the palate.  Although malt driven, Dark Lager’s flavour is complimented by subtle green grape and dark fruit characters.
It’s a real shame Dark Lager won’t be a year-round release.
Mash Brewing: Dry-Hopped Wizz Fizz
What originally began as a clever bit of banter in response to Feral’s Watermelon Warhead, Wizz Fizz has grown to become a firm fan favourite among West Australian and Melburnian drinkers alike.  What’s more, the precariously named, kettle soured Berliner-weisse is growing up.  Dry-hopping Wizz Fizz is only the beginning of what will be a long line of variations.  Expect citrus infused, bottle conditioned (with Brettanomyces) and barrel-aged reincarnations in the not too distant future.
The dry-hopped version is a step up from the original in that its overall presentation is a little more balanced.  Kettle hopped with Simcoe and dry-hopped with a range of tropical flavour-imbued varieties, the end result is a contrast between tart acidity and fruity nuance.
Wizz Fizz pours a yellow-hued golden colour with a firm white head, eventually dissipating to thin lacing.  The aroma almost overwhelms with its intensity but eventually settles to a delight of bright citrus and tropical fruit – only a little tartness comes through on the nose.  Acidity threatens to dominate the palate, but order is once again restored by way of hop driven tropical fruit character.
Not only do Mash and 3 Ravens wish to take Wizz Fizz into wilder territory, they also wish to explore wild ales at large.  Mash head brewer Charlie Hodgson began collaborating with 3 Ravens to expand the brewery’s horizons, while 3 Ravens has always held a keen interest with barrel-ageing (not least in the realm of sour beers).  Indeed, the latter will be producing a Flanders red while also rolling out its Wild Ravens series.
3 Ravens: The Druid (2016 vintage release)
The Druid has proven so popular among avid beer fans 3 Ravens made the decision to release it as an annual vintage, with the first ever batch being brewed by former head brewer Adrian McNulty (now the head honcho at Moon Dog).
This Belgian quad (quadrupel) style ale is made all the more beastly by taking its beauty rest in Pedro Ximenez (PX) and pinot noir barrels.  So rich, decadent and sweet is The Druid it could be paired with any number of wintry desserts, or indeed as dessert itself.  Pouring an alluring dark brown with a quickly dissipating lightly tanned head, this is one beer whose looks are sure to enchant.  On the nose a medley of date, plum, raisin, molasses and booze tantalises, before the decadence of boozy dark fruit casts spells upon the palate.  Vinous notes shine through too, but in this year’s incarnation the experience isn’t quite as overpowering.
A big thankyou and cheers must go out to 3 Ravens’ Brendan Sullivan, Murray Robertson (the latter of whom is a regular host of Tuesday Tastings) and the lovely team at Forester’s Music and Beer Hall for staging this most tasteful of evenings.

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