Tasting Notes: Australian Sparkling Ale

When tasting as opposed to merely drinking a beer I always go back to the question, “Does the beer taste like it is supposed to taste?”. This Australian Sparkling Ale is the first example of the style I have tasted, but drinking the beer it feels like it does. Australia in the 19th Century wasn’t too dissimilar to the American West. This is a beer I can imagine drinking out of the bottle in the sweltering heat of the Australian Outback.

The beer pours an orange-ish copper. The head is foamy and white with very good retention.  The clarity is brilliant when this bottle-conditioned beer is poured carefully.

Honey and melon esters are prominent in the aroma. Hop aroma is low and blends nicely with the esters. As the beer warms there are low notes of bread crust consistent with the high percentage of pilsner malt.

The mouthfeel is medium-low bodied, carbonation is medium to medium high, and the finish is balanced nicely. Any more corn sugar in the boil would have made the beer a bit harsh. The malt flavor in the beer is understated. There is some low caramel notes overplayed with a graham cracker flavor. Like a graham cracker with a little extra honey. The hop flavor is medium-low, but assertive and unique. I would describe the hop flavor as a mix of pine and spearmint.

The Pride of Ringwood hops are not like any American, British, European, or Southern Hemisphere hop that I have brewed with. It is an acquired taste to a degree, but a flavor I have learned to enjoy. The last hop addition in this beer was at 20 minutes left in the boil. I have seen clone recipes for Cooper’s Sparkling Ale, the preeminent example of this style, that call for hops at five minutes and flameout. It would be interesting to try someday, but I am skeptical how it would work.

This recipe is perfect based on the description on the website. This beer is “patterned after a descendant of Burton Ale”. After brewing and drinking the beer it reminds me of Bass Ale, but with the distinctive Pride of Ringwood hops. I suspect if I swapped out the Pride of Ringwood hops with an English hop like Goldings, the beer would be pretty close to a Bass clone.

It was an easy beer to brew and it is enjoyable to drink. Regrettably when I tried to review the kit on the Northern Brewer website it appears the kit is no longer available. The PDF of the instructions is still online. There is nothing to stop someone from buying the ingredients ala carte and brewing this up. I would encourage anyone looking to brew something easy or something different to give this a try.

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