Aussie Wheat Ale, Mountain Goat, Richmond, Victoria, 4.2%, $19.99 per 6-pack
Mountain Goat's latest is a sure-footed experiment worth repeating. It pours a gentle gold, but wallops onto the palate with a surprisingly substantial body and a twist of hazy flavour despite its clear opacity. Hints of pear evoke the tang of a cider without ever overwhelming the clean, bitter finish. The mandarin notes are less pronounced, but prominent enough to offer complexity and depth without overstaying the welcome. With citrus so prominent among trendy styles, it's nice to see it take a back seat. The Aussie Wheat Ale is a balancing act, sure, but the best brews are. This is a session beer that doesn't put a foot wrong. Made with Australian wheat, there's an attention to detail here that's likely to establish it as an exemplar of the new style at its best.
A VERY SPECIAL BURRITO
Mezcal Burrito Fiestero Joven, Mezcal Burrito, Durango, Mexico, 42%, $97, (750mL)
The mezcal wave has crested here, but there's no bad time to meet tequila's suss cousin. This, from Mexico's Durango state, is a bright introduction. Feel free to nod at the bouncer as you walk past, and ignore the smell of smoke.
That smoke - there's not much of it. If you worry about that kind of thing, expect a floral sweetness with a quicksilver draw. The bottle art makes it fine for dinner parties, given the crimes routinely inflicted by cask wine. In Mexico you'd get it with chilli flakes and lime, or a cold beer. The distiller claims to replace the agave plants it uses tenfold, sustaining the community of El Mezquital. Salud!
NEW WORLD OF NO ALCOHOL
NON 1, sparkling non-alcohol wine alternative, Non Australia, Cheltenham, Victoria; 0.0%, 750ml
As the onslaught of non-alcoholic drinks continues to wash over Australia, this newcomer is seeking a niche that may appeal to wine drinkers or spritzer fans. This particular option (NON 1) features whole raspberries, a touch of chamomile, salt, sugar and verjus. It's very drinkable when chilled, and pretty flavoursome straight off the shelf. Plenty of tang, which hides any lingering sweetness. In fact, there's a touch of the Murray River salt on the tail. The appearance is a perfect rose, if you're looking to give that vibe. NON 3 features notes of toasted cinnamon and yuzu. NON 7 kicks in with stewed cherries and coffee as the top notes. All are made to match with food - NON 1 goes with cured meats and creamy desserts.
Anyone with an interest in beer knows low or alcohol-free brews are becoming big business. Thankfully the days of chugging down watery Light Ice or Hahn Light are behind us, with many craft brewers attempting to maintain taste without affecting your ability to drive. Since launching in 2016 in the UK, Big Drop Brewing Co. has specialised in low-alcohol beers, including their award-winning pale ale, stout and IPA. Big Drop has expanded its operations to Australia. For winter Big Drop has released their award-winning Woodcutter Brown Ale. It pours dark amber and produces a slight toasty aroma. Taste-wise, it fails to deliver the complexity of a full-strength brown ale. After beginning with a soft combination of caramel and toffee flavours you're quickly left with a thin body and mouthfeel. If you're looking for a low-alcohol option, the Woodcutter is better than most, but brown ale devotees will want something with more bite.
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