I’m more a wine than a beer drinker – but somewhere along the way I developed a taste for Guinness, which led me to explore other dark beers and realise that they too appealed.
Roasted barley and malt generally give dark beers their colour and coffee, chocolate and caramel flavours.
The most common dark beers are called porter or stout, stout originally being just stronger (therefore “stouter”) than porter – though these days the distinction is pretty murky. Not that long ago, Australian beer was mostly pale, nondescript mass-produced lager – OK for quenching a thirst on a hot summer’s day, but not much else.
Aussie brewing has come a long way in the past couple of decades, with craft breweries around the country turning out very interesting small-batch brews across all styles – well worth exploring, even if you consider yourself a wine drinker.
Here’s a round-up of some of my favourite Australian dark craft beers, perfect on their own or with a meal, especially during the cooler months.
This brewery on Sydney’s northern beaches is named for Manly’s famous Norfolk Pines.
Their Irish-style Stout, at a reasonable 5.1%, perhaps comes closest to Guinness in texture with its black creamy body and fawn head. Chocolate, coffee and caramel are all there on the palate, balanced by a nice bitterness.
Karma Citra India Black Ale
Feral Brewing Co
This family-run microbrewery, among the vineyards of Perth’s Swan Valley, produces some very different beers. Not least their 5.8% black IPA (Indian Pale Ale) with an intriguingly floral, citrus nose from the citra hops for which it’s named. Subtle fruitiness is there on the palate too.
Old Admiral Dark Ale
The Lord Nelson Brewery
Sydney’s oldest continually licenced hotel was established in 1841 in The Rocks; in 1986 they installed a microbrewery to produce English-style ales.
Their dark brown Old is a punchy 6.1% with a toasty nose, relatively light texture and great balance of caramel, bright floral notes and hoppy bitterness.
The Hotchkiss Six Domestic Stout
Little Creatures Brewing
From small beginnings in Fremantle, Little Creatures is now part of the giant Lion Nathan, yet has managed to retain its craft brewery ethos.
Their latest seasonal release features rich chocolatey caramel notes with a good hit of bitterness at the end, at an easy-to-drink 4.5%.
Ramjet Imperial Stout
Boatrocker Brewing Co
This thick imperial stout, from a family-run microbrewery in Melbourne, is aged for about 6-months in barrels from Victoria’s Starward whisky distillery, giving it a mouth-filling toasty flavour with hints of whisky. It’s like drinking a glass of chocolatey fruit cake and weighs in at a hefty 11.4%.
If you’d like to check out more craft beers, make a diary note for Sydney Craft Beer Week, October 21-30.
* Roberta Muir runs the Sydney Seafood School at the Sydney Fish Market and publishes the website Food Wine Travel, where she shares her favourite food, wine and travel discoveries. You can sign up here to receive her regular email of her top 5 favourite things.
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