March 18, 2013 by 250 Beers
I’m now approaching two and a half years since I saw the light. 30 months since I converted.
No, I’m not vegetarian and, no, I haven’t changed religion. My conversion was from long-time drinker of mass-produced, run-of-the-mill beer to craft beer. I prefer a bit more taste, a bit more love and a bit more something special to my beer these days¹.
By paying for a beer of the craft variety, it somehow feels that my dollar is going further. The liquid that pours is of a far higher standard in recent years and I no longer feel like I’m pumping cash into huge multi-national brewing organisations that, quite frankly, don’t really need my money.
The people in the craft beer industry are by far more passionate about their beer than those in commercial beer. Take my bizarre fleeting meeting with Dave ‘Mountain Goat’ Bonighton for example. He was happy enough to chew the fat with a couple of nobody’s. Would that have happened if I’d bumped into the CEO of Lion Nathan for example? No, I think not.
I recently spent a chunk of a lunch hour with Dan Rawlings – Queensland’s man-on-the-road for Holgate Brewhouse. If you’re looking for somebody with passion for craft beer then look no further than Dan. He emits the stuff by the barrel load. I get the impression that from the second Dan opens his eyes in the morning his mind is on craft beer. He drinks it, sleeps it, dreams it and sells it (and makes it too).
Dan and Holgate very kindly provided me with samples of their core beer range which consists of five year-round styles;
Road Trip – an American IPA
Mt Macedon – an American pale ale
ESB – an extra special bitter
Temptress – a chocolate porter
Pilsner – how apt because it’s a pilsner (which, as we all know, is a variety of lager)
Each core beer got my ‘loose review’ treatment…
Road Trip (5.8%) is a good IPA with a gentle fruity flavour dominated by grapefruit. There is a nice hop bitterness to this which I like. Nothing overpowering though – just enough of a hop-smack to make sure that you don’t forget the presence of the Centennial, Chinook and Citra hops. If you are the designated driver of a road trip then this is maybe best avoided. Mainly because it would a disaster if you spilled some. 3.5/5.0
Mt Macedon (4.5%). Wow. If you’re after a pale ale with nothing but long-lasting taste then this is for you. If you’re starting to venture out into craft beer and fancy siding up next to a pale ale that will set you on your way into the big wide world of craft beer then this is for you too. If you’re stuck for something to sit on all night at home during a movie or some sport then this is for you also.
It has everything you could ever dream of as far as a pale goes…crisp, refreshing, sessionable, lightly fruity and ever-so-slightly hoppy. Quite a unique beer in my opinion. My current ‘weapon of choice’. 5.0/5.0
ESB (5.0%) Extra Special Bitter. Is it extra special? Well, yeah it is as it happens! It’s another Holgate brew that you can easily drink all night long. It’s a very delicious, traditional and earthy bitter – the type you’ll find in an English pub in the middle of the Kent countryside. It drives a really deep maltiness into you and is complimented brilliantly by a subtle East Kent Goldings and Australian Galaxy hop zing. Special indeed 4.0/5.0
Temptress (6.0%). As with most chocolate porters I have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy one. More often than not, I’ll drink one fairly late in the evening. A good hour after my evening meal has been digested.
I used to be a sucker for eating dessert after a meal. These days my sweet-tooth that has been with me since childhood has evolved and now takes a fancy to chocolatey brews. The fridge that used to be heavily stocked with naughty, chocolatey treats has given way to chocolatey beers instead. And so, one evening I pulled this bottle out of the fridge and I was hooked on the first sip! There is a real complexity about this one. It overwhelmed my palate with a malty, smooth warmness with soft hints of vanilla and chocolate. I’ll be stocking up on this one as Winter approaches. 4.0/5.0
Pilsner (5.1%). Where I herald from, the market is flooded with European lagers and pilsners. Some are ok whilst some are utterly unbearable. It’s this over-exposure that has steered me away from the pilsner style over here in Australia. However, during the recent Queensland Summer, I’d been on the look-out for a good Australian-made pilsner. Something that could help ease the humidity with thirst-quenching ease. I came across the Holgate pils and wish I’d found it sooner. It’s very light tasting and a real pleasure. Another Holgate brew for any occasion but best sipped around the pool or on the back deck after a hard slog gardening 4.0/5.0
As well as the core range of beers, Holgate have a tidy list of special releases. To date, I’ve tried four of the seven listed on the Holgate website. The four that have made their way onto my beer list are:
Nut Brown Ale (5.3%) that, to a non-nut appreciating person (me), provides a brilliant and alternative rendition of an English ale. Released in 2009 to celebrate the brewery’s 10th birthday, grab one of these macadamia delights if you see one! 4.0/5.0
Double Trouble (8.0%) as the name suggests is a Belgian style Dubbel Abbey Ale. And, yes, after a few of these you’ll be in trouble. I loved this beer. It featured as part of my Christmas beer stash. It was the first time that a beer had bowled me over by smell alone. There are amazing tastes in this bottle including sweet raisin. 4.5/5.0
Hopinator is a double IPA and has recently been exposed to a recipe change which included more hops and a slightly higher alcohol content (was 7.0% now 7.5%). It has also been elevated from 330ml to 500ml status and as such boasts the new label design too. I had the older version over Christmas. Again, this is a very, very good beer. It got a 4.5/5.0 rating from me then and I haven’t changed my mind. Very bitter and dangerously sessionable!
I’d consumed these beers with the launch of Holgate’s 1,000th brew on the horizon. The Millennium Falcon is a 10% Imperial IPA (or Emperial IPA in keeping with the Star Wars theme). This beer was born to commemorate such a significant chapter in Holgate’s 14 year history. It was first launched in Melbourne and then Queensland saw a launch party at Archive, Brisbane which I sadly missed out on. Having seen some photographs from the event it looks as though many had made the effort to don fancy dress with Star Wars of course being the theme. If I had been able to make it, my increasing beer-belly girth could well have assisted a smooth transition into ‘Jabba the Gut’. Instead, I headed to a secondary, more subtle launch/tasting at Red Hill‘s Craft last week hosted by Dan Rawlings in his Chewbacca t-shirt.
Packed to the brim with Star Wars-esque hops – Falconers Flight, Galaxy and Millennium – this 500ml beer certainly packs a bitter punch. Get some before any lawsuits commence!
I rated this 4.5/5.0 and it only just missed out on a 5.0 as it’s a little bit too sweet in my opinion. I have another bottle cellared for a special occasion in the future which, if hung over afterwards, I’ll rename it Return of the Red-Eye.
If you’ve never tried a beer from Holgate do yourself a favour and treat your palate. The variety and sensational tastes as well as a consistent high standard that these beers provide will ensure that Holgate will be around for another 14 years to come.
¹This isn’t to say that occasionally I’ll be in a pub that sells nothing other than shit beer and my hands will be tied and I might (just might) have to drink a shit beer. I know it’s bad but it happens to all of us from time to time.