Beer! It’s been part of the human experience since the dawn of civilisation – when man ceased to live as a nomadic hunter-gatherer and settled down to live off the land and cultivate grains. That was approximately 10,000 years ago!
Over the centuries, beer has meant many things to many people. In times of cheer it has been the ingredient of celebrations and in darker times the source of comfort and hope when all was thought lost.
It’s delicious, nutritious, refreshing, intoxicating, dependable and even portable! Surely there has been no better time to be a lover of beer – a connoisseur.
Yet, when it comes time to choosing a drink to mark a special occasion, beer is not something that immediately comes to mind. Instead, we almost always reach for the Champagne. If not the bubbles, then it’s a wine or spirit. But this festive season, why not surprise your family and friends with a beer to celebrate the occasion? As the brewing industry continues to explore new grounds, there’s a wealth of choice suited to many such events.
For Keith Grice – Head Brewer at award-winning Hunter Beer Company in Nulkaba in the Hunter Valley, it’s likely to be a beer where the brewer has ‘’gone the extra mile’’.
Perhaps chief among them is the Christmas Pudding Beer (8% alc.) – the 9th annual release of this beer and suitable for any festive occasion. The result is a dark ale brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, raisins, sultanas, apricot, prunes and figs with rich malt flavours and warming alcohol that has a touch of oak and a hint of whiskey. Christmas in a bottle!
For over ten years, and as the first microbrewery in the Hunter, the Hunter Beer Company has been brewing a unique range of handcrafted beers onsite at their premises in Nulkaba, with all beers brewed from 100% natural ingredients and no preservatives used.
Alongside their seasonal releases are a wide selection of multi-award-winning beers – from the bold American style Pale Ale, the dark German styled Bock, the ever- popular full-strength Hunter Lager - through to the refreshing Kolsch, the pale yet light flavoured Belgian Witbier and the deliciously crisp Ginger Beer.
“What you see in craft beer is a huge amount of personality and character. We’re not trying to appeal to a mass market. Instead, we are trying new things – new tastes, flavours and new ingredients. This shows through in the beer… and that’s why people are loving it,” says Keith.
In addition to the regular beers, currently on tap are several seasonal and recently released beers that are ideal for Summer and any festive occasion:
• Ginger & Citrus (4.5% alc.) - a great flavour combination that makes for a very refreshing summer drink that’s not very beer-like.
• The Simple IPA (6.5% alc.) - a light bodied beer with grapefruit, pine and stone fruit flavours - an uncomplicated beer and perfect for drinking in warmer weather.
• Summer Pale (4. 2% alc.) - a very light coloured and hazy beer. The hop character is spritzy on the nose, lemony citrus and tropical sweetness, dry mouthfeel with a little residual resin and just superb for the summer.
The Brewers are not idle over December and in January will be releasing a range of new seasonal beers to try:
• Helles Lager (4.5% alc.) - a light, refreshing, crisp German-style lager
• American Session Stout (4.2% alc.) – a lower alcohol, dark beer with roast and chocolate flavours with a lighter body alongside classic American hops that add citrus and pine. This beer promises to deliver a flavour explosion.
• Fine & Dandy Sour Candy (3.2% alc.) – a passionfruit infused tart flavoured beer that is easy drinking and refreshing and just perfect for those mid- January hot days and warm nights.
• Saison (6% alc.) – a farmhouse style of beer which was originally brewed to quench the thirst of hard-working farmers. The addition of fruit and spices adds a surprising vibrancy to the beer.
Visit the Hunter Beer Company's spacious 'beer bar' this December and see first-hand just how a micro-brewery functions, talk to the brewer and taste the wide selection of beers on tap.