Hunter craft beer brewers set high standard for light and mid-strength beers

By , 17/12/2018 16:21

Loving a challenge: Scott Hayward, head brewer at Lovedale Brewery. Picture: Daniel HonanBack in the rather ill-defined ‘day’ – let’s say 15-20 years ago – to knock the top off a bottle of light beer at a backyard barbecue was thought by some to be a bit of a social faux pas. This was partly because to drink meant to get drunk, and mostly because lighter alcohol beers tended to taste terrible.
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“I think, in the past, light beers and mid strength beers were often just watered down versions of a large brewery’s standard mainstream beer,” says Foghorn’s inner-city brewmeisterShawn Sherlock. “Certainly, that’s the way they tasted.”

But, impermanence is the way, and things change. Nowadays, the mantra is everything in moderation – including moderation – and in the brewing and beer universe moderation is both a challenge and a fashion.

“The growth in the craft beer market has exposed a lot of people to a lot of different flavours and styles of beer … leading them away from the more mainstream beers,” says Lovedale Brewery’s head brewerScott Hayward. “This opens up opportunities for brewers to produce a flavoursome lower ABV [alcohol by volume]beer that is not the traditional watery, thin and tasteless light beers of old.”

It’s true. Hayward’s tone downed the soused-up spirit with a malt forward creation, named the Sydney Session Lager. At a mild 3.8 per cent, it’s full on flavour.

“Alcohol is one of the most important ingredients found in a beer,” explains Hunter Beer Co.’s, Keith Grice. “It contributes mouthfeel and flavour, adding fullness to the body of a beer … Alcohol also tends to combine with the more delicate aromatic compounds in the liquid, making them more volatile and adding a greater perception and depth of flavour when you drink it. Reduce it, and you run the risk of getting the beer out of balance.”

Kicking it up: Shawn Sherlock is the creator of Foghorn’s Better Than James Brown Ale that comes in at 3.2 per cent alcohol.

Grice and co. have recently concocted a crisp and golden-hued brew called Hunter Mid. Weighing inat 3.5 per cent, it has the scent of fresh honey spread on white bread.

Achieving flavour, balance and drinkability at lower levels of alcohol is a challenge.

“Some of the most challenging brews we do at Foghorn are our lighter style beers,” says Shawn Sherlock. “The trick is understanding what your ingredients can give you and how altering the balance between them can impact on the overall body and flavour of a brew.”

Foghorn brewer Shawn Sherlock

Don’t believe him? Get down with a pint of Foghorn’s Better Than James Brown Ale (3.2 per cent). It’s one of the nicest brown ales on the pour anywhere in the country.

“Beer is always a delicate balance between malt, hops, mouthfeel and carbonation,” Murray’s brewer, Sean Costigan explains.Murray’s have been composing alittle amber ale named Punch & Judy for years. Finely tuned at 3.9 per cent, between the caramel nuttiness and the bright hops, this local brew has seen many a beer lover through a lazy afternoon.

While moderate ABV beers might be hard for our brewers to get right, they’re easy enough for you and I to drink all night long.

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