Next time life hits us with its lemons let's not limit ourselves or our mate to self-talk like 'just deal with it.' Instead, let's share one of these beers and talk about how difficult and shitty things really are.
Origin – Polish Hill River, South Australia
ABV – 7.5%
Size – 375mL can
Style – Brown Ale
Home of the famous Penfolds Grange (or infamous for the former Premier of NSW!) South Australia was known for its wine-growing pedigree for well over a century. Though Coopers, Australia's most prominent family-owned brewer, calls Adelaide home, beer hardly gets a second glance. Fortunately, that's begun to rapidly change with craft brewers such as Barossa Valley Brewing, Swell, Little Bang, and Prancing Pony putting the state on the map for Australian hop heads and SA's bohemians alike. Unlike many of SA's new craft beer start-ups, the foundation stone for Pikes Beer Co. was first laid in 1886 by Henry Pike, who 8 years prior had set sail from Dorset, England, bound for Australia and the new life it offered.
Henry, a jack of all trades, worked as a carpenter and even tried his hand at undertaking before buying land in Oakland and opening a brewhouse. Sadly, after 87 years and several generations, the once-booming watering hole dried up, and the doors were closed. Jump forward a few decades, and fourth-generation Edgar Pike brought the family name back into the drinks business, forming Pike's Wines in 1984. It wasn't until 1996 that the lineage of beer was once again kick-started; first through the contract brewing of the Pikes brand by Edgar and his sons before finally, in 2014, re-establishing a brewery alongside the cellar door in the family's spiritual home of the Clare Valley. The brewing tradition was also restored first-hand, with Alister Pike taking the reins as master brewer.
Not surprisingly, from a traditional brewing family comes a beer with a heritage stretching back over 2 centuries. Though this American Brown is anything but classic, blurring the lines between a red IPA and a brown ale, with flickers of red malts laying a backdrop for the hops to punch through. Citrus aromas, largely grapefruit with a bit of orange, work alongside the rich toffee and a little caramel malt sweetness. The bitterness is there but not overpowering.
It's no Grange, and you're not likely to remember this bottle in 65 years any more than Barry O'Farrell remembered his '59, but it's genuinely a quality drop.