A new segment. Maybe.
3rd place - Murray's Craft Brewing Co "Angry Man" Brown Ale.
From what I understand this beer is relatively new to the market, despite having come out earlier, I think only on tap. If that makes sense (it doesn't; it's probably wrong).
It opens with a big, big hit of bitterness and hops. It makes you're thinking one of those weak, bitter brown ales that don't really play to their colour. But then malt appears on the midpalate and balances things off a little, until a really nice waft of milk chocolate comes through on the finish.
While this isn't a great or complicated beer, you can easily enjoy 3 or 4 bottles until the bitterness becomes a little too much.
2nd place - Mikkeller/Three Floyds "Oatgoop" Barley Wine.
I don't know if I've mentioned it on the blog before, but up until around 18 months ago I was a wine man. I definitely enjoyed a good beer (my favourites were the Belgians I'd had at the Belgian Beer Cafe), but it was so hard to find quality beer in a retail setting that I gave up. That all changed around nine months after I moved to Bellevue Hill in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs. Sitting on the main road of the suburb's small collection of neighbourhood shops is the local bottle-o, Platinum Liquor. I'd written it off as a mere neighbourhood bottle-o. But then I went inside... Little did I know that this shop has one of the best selections of beer in Sydney. Since that first visit, when I loaded up on a whole bunch of exceptional beers (picked out with the help of the amazingly knowledgeable staff) I've been hooked on beer, visiting regularly to top up supplies. And if the amazing beer wasn't enough, the staff often throw an interesting bottle of something I haven't tried before my way (in a non-threatening way). Today I got a bottle of this Mikkeller/Three Floyds barley wine collabo that had been sitting on the shelf for a while and has apparently escaped my attention.
The shelf time has helped this beer hugely. It's stunningly mellow for a barley wine. It starts slightly sweet but the sweetness and barleyness (what?) just keeps growing. By the end it's like a sweet porridge.
Carbonation is also mellow, making this beer stupidly easy to drink, which is stupidly dangerous considering it's 10.4% abv.
1st place - Coopers Best Extra Stout.
I'm a stout man. I won't deny it. The malty sweetness in dark beers hits my tastebuds in the best spots, meaning that if I find a decent enough stout I can drink far, far too many, unlike a lighter beer that tends to wear the palate our too quickly by only hitting the savoury senses.
Coopers Best Extra Stout is, in my opinion, easily Australia's best stout, in terms of consistency and ease of availability. There are some smaller producers that I think edge it out, but they don't have the reach or the consistency.
The taste doesn't really evolve much. It starts bitter, with a bit of cocoa. And that's how it ends. But the carbonation is at the perfect spot between lively and sessionable. And you get hints of greatness along the way. A bit of malt here, some nutmeg there.
It all adds up to make a delicious beer that is consistently good, well circulated, great value, on par with some of the best mass-produced stouts around and, for some reason, very Australian. And that's why it's my beer of the week.