Define difference between beer and craft beer?
As someone who really, really likes beer and lives in Australia there is a certain amount of *tsk tsk* about liking anything associated with Matilda Bay Brewing (aka Carlton United) and Malt Shovel Brewing (aka Lion Nathan). Yes, they are the certainly the two big players in the world of beer but it doesn’t make them evil or villainous. Judging from their photo in the 2011 Beer Lovers Guide to Australia, the guys at Matilda Bay are nice, smiley and happy people who probably really like beer too. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting Dr Chuck Hahn a couple of times and he’s real nice too. Most importantly, just because they are the “big boys” doesn’t mean they make bad beer.
I have fond memories of Matilda Bay’s first born, Redback Original Wheat Beer. It reminds me of Saturdays spent with my parents in Fremantle. Dad always parked in the same car park near Myer despite the fact it meant we had to walk past the giant fake white pointer shark head that stuck out from one of the loading bays. I have yet to find anyone else who remembers this thing and I worry that my imagination is trying to scare me. Either way, I hated it. It scared the pants off me. I think Dad thought it was funny but thankfully Mum was a little kinder and would be sure to hold my hand as we went past. The rest of the Saturday would go pretty well – we’d shop around a bit, stop at Cully’s Tea Rooms for coffee and party pies and a good long stroll around the Fremantle Markets. We’d emerge from the markets to The Sail & Anchor and stop in so Dad could have a pint and I remember it was always Redback Original Wheat.
I’ve always loved wheat beers, from when I discovered Hoegaarden whilst working at The Belgian Beer Cafe Westende, and even now. The more I’ve journeyed through beer the further I’ve travelled away from Redback. However, one sunny day recently I made a quick decision to get a pint and get reacquainted with an old friend.
I am not even sure what prompted the thought in my head. I hadn’t walked past the beer taps. I knew the pub had it (since I had previously worked there) and perhaps I had walked past a table who were drinking it and it slipped into my subconscious. After all, they do have the branded glasses and they are rather striking in a sunny beer garden.
With the first sip it was banana! Someone had smushed a banana into my beer glass … and it tasted lovely with a little sweetness in there too. It’s by no means a heavy beer, very light on and so it easily falls into the refreshing category. This isn’t a bad characteristic either. There are hints of spice too but to be honest I was so happy sitting in the sun with friends that I didn’t focus solely on the beer and just happily gulped away.
What does make me sad is that Matilda Bay Brewing no longer brew in it’s home town of Fremantle, having moved away to Melbourne some years ago. I was lucky enough to do a brewery tour through Matilda Bay in 2005 before it closed the doors. I remember two things – lots of copper and an occupational health and safety poster that had a close up of an eye with a nail in it. With such a rich history in Western Australia, being the first craft brewery (to the best of my knowledge) around, I found it sad to see her leave for the East Coast.
Call me sentimental but I’ve known this beer since I was a kid. And whilst it’s not my favourite beer in the world (and really, who could pick just one) and I don’t rant on about how sensational it is like I do with Mountain Goat, Feral or Sierra Nevada, it still has a place in my beer drinking world.
Redback Original Wheat
A German style filtered weissbier (meaning “white beer”) brewed with malted wheat and barley using Saaz and Pride of Ringwood Hops.
This beer style has had a rollercoaster ride over it’s long history, going from massive popularity in its early days until it’s brewing was outlawed by a Bavarian Duke. He wanted to be the only one who was brewing wheat beer and he and his family had his way for 200 years. Over this time demand for wheat beer steadily declined. With profitability down the family put the right to brew wheat beer up for grabs. Other people tried brewing wheat beer but sales continued to fall, no one wanted it, opting for Bavarian Lagers instead. However, one brewer who purchased the rights to brew weissbier persevered and eventually saw great success. For whatever reasons weissbier production in Germany went from 3% in the early 1950s to holding about 1/10 of the overall beer market in the country and continues to be an ever popular category, brewed all over the world.