I reckon I'm about halfway through the range of craft beers in my local liquor store, and while there have been a few that I didn't like, most of them have been pretty good. Most of this current batch are very good, with only one failing to get at least 8 points from Andrew. I realised in setting up this post that I have never reported on price; typically I won't pay much more than A$4.00 for a 330ml bottle because most craft beers are around that price for that size bottle, so I don't need to.
1. Byron Bay Pale Lager by the Byron Bay Brewing Company, Byron Bay, NSW. 4.8% alcohol.
What they say: " A crisp, clean refreshing lager brewed with premium malt and hops. " Bit terse that. No hints of spice or citrus? I'm disappointed.
What I say: Light straw colour, small head, spritzig rather than fizzy, curious absence of any discernible taste. So it meets crisp and clean by not tasting of anything.
Andrew score: 6
2. Beez Neez Honey Wheat Beer by Matilda Bay Brewing Co, Melbourne, VIC. 4.7% alcohol.
What they say: " Beez Neez is brewed with a blend of pale malted wheat and barley with pure light amber honey added to the kettle. This light, golden coloured beer has a malty honeyed palate but is decidedly dry as the natural honey sugars have been fermented out. Let it warm slightly from ice cold to enjoy as the brewer intended. "
What I say: Full marks to Matilda Bay for writing an informative description without a trace of bullshit. I didn't warm it up, but it wasn't ice cold anyway - I'm doing all of this tasting straight from the fridge. Attractive dark straw colour (almost amber), largeish but short-lived head, small but sustained bubbles, noticeable malt and barley flavours, and, despite what the label says, there is a trace of honey sugars.
Andrew score: 10 (this is right up there with Cricketer's Arms, although very different).
3. James Squire The Chancer Golden Ale, by Malt Shovel Brewery, Camperdown, NSW. 4.5% alcohol.
What they say: " Brewed using toasted grains of wheat and barley with Amarillo hops for a tropical fruit aroma, Golden Ale is the ideal thirst-slaking beer. "
What I say: Light to mid-amber colour (no real gold), small but persistent head, small but sustained bubbles, foreground wheat and barley over hops, and no discernible fruit aromas despite what the label says. However, it certainly lives up to its 'thirst-slaking' reputation.
Andrew score: 8
4. James Squire Nine Tales Amber Ale by Malt Shovel Brewery, Camperdown, NSW. 5.0% alcohol.
What they say: " Hand crafted with Pale and Crystal Malts and distinctive hops for a long, slightly nutty finish, this Ale writes another page in the glorious and enigmatic life of James Squire. "
What I say: Relaxed the leash on the copywriter a bit there, didn't they. Red amber in colour, small and short-lived head, some (but not many bubbles), very long finish with caramel and nut. You could easily drink too much of this.
Andrew score: 9
5. James Squire Sun Down Australian Lager by Malt Shovel Brewery, Camperdown, NSW. 4.4% alcohol.
What they say: " This thirst quenching lager is perfect at sundown, or indeed at any time of the day. Brewed using a unique malt and hop blend, hints of citrus and freshly cut grass shine through. "
What I say: Yay! Hints of citrus. Yellow gold in colour, larger and persistent head, reasonable quantity of bubbles, long finish with, as they say, a hint of citrus. Can' say I detected any fresh cut grass though.
Andrew score: 8
6. James Boag's Pure Tasmanian Lager by James Boag and Son, Launceston, TAS. 4.5% alcohol.
What they say: " From the only place it's possible: water, barley, hops, yeast, only from the island. "
What I say: I smell a marketing manager in that description. Yellow-gold in colour, largeish but short-lived head, lots of bubbles of many sizes, short finish with pronounced caramel, and I was unable to detect any other highlights. Drink with caution, it goes down fast.
So there we are: 3 lagers, 2 ales and 1 beer. You know what? I can tell the difference between each of these drinks but I can't recognise a characteristic lager or ale style to those so-named. They're all just beer to me.