It’s the weekend of the Jamie Oliver/Ministry of Food/The Good Guys event, and Jeri and I have just arrived in Brisbane courtesy of a very uncomfortable Virgin Australia flight. We settle into the very lovely Hilton Hotel Brisbane (thank you very much, The Good Guys) and decide to burn the rest of the afternoon strolling around downtown.
In search of some amber refreshments in the late summer Brisbane heat, we find ourselves darkening the doorstep of the Grand Central Hotel, tucked up under the Grand Central Station on Ann Street, and the place is jumping.
It seems as though a Friday evening cleansing ale is quite the tradition for Brisbane City workers, and with numerous QR and QR National buildings close by, 3 in 5 imbibers are Railroaders.
After finishing a round of Fat Yaks, I decide to bring back 2 pots of something completely different, just to do a taste test. It was then that Jeri had the brilliant idea to do a beer review. With that light-bulb moment on the table I head back to the bar to get another Fat Yak and a 4th, more mainstream and international, choice.
Lined up on the table are: Heineken, Kosciusko Pale Ale, Fat Yak Pale Ale and James Squires Nine Tails Amber Ale.
First up is the Heineken. The first thing I noticed was the head on the beer. The Heineken’s had all but disappeared. Raising the glass to my nose, I get a sweet floral note that is the best of the four. You could breath that in all day, and it would never get unpleasant. On a cold winter’s day, when the warmth of a long summer afternoon is just a distant memory, pour a “Heiney” into a tall glass and breath it in. It’s very reminiscent of a sweet summer breeze. Delivering a pleasant sweetness immediately on the palate, the Heineken also has a very mild creaminess that finishes with a moderate hit of bitterness across the back and sides of the tongue. For me, this is the easiest of these beers to drink, and probably the best for those days where the sweat is rolling off your brow and you just have to down a quick cold one to refresh yourself. Though milder than the other three, the mouth-feel and bitterness would mean this beer would hold up to a little spice. With a meal, I’d serve it up along side a tandoori chicken, or a nice heavy German bratwurst. Heineken is obviously the most available beer of the three, for most people, and I think it is one of the better mass produced beers on the market. I’ll give it 3.5 little piggies.
Next up was the Kosciusko Pale Ale. This one is probably the least available of the group, but was a nice change to the rest of the standards you see on tap. The head on the Kosi was light, but longer lasting than the Heineken. Peach and and citrus notes were delivered by the nose, and you get an immediate feeling that this is going to be a relatively light ale. The sweetness is a little more than the Heineken also, though not overly so, and the cream punch is somewhat of a surprise. This pale ale delivers the biggest mouth-feel of any I can remember. Heavy, but not overly sweet, it finishes with a clarity that carries almost no bitterness at all, and is almost a beer you can swap for a chardonnay in the food matching parlance. Definitely a good beer for a light bright pasta, say a pesto penne with a squeeze of lemon, or a nice feed of battered fish or crumbed calamari. I enjoyed it, but it is not a beer you could drink a lot of. It’s a good cool autumn beer for times when one or two will do. I give it 3 little piggies.
The Fat Yak is a beer I have been drinking for a while now. If I see one on tap, I’ll usually get it, but not because it is great. Mostly because it is better than most big brewery offerings, and it’s safe. It’s a beer I am comfortable with…like those old sneakers in the closet that you just can’t throw away, even though you replaced them years ago. The Yak held the best head of the four, with a full creamy top all the way to the last drop. The light floral aroma masks the medium bitter finish that is the punchiest of these beers. Though heavier than most beers, it lacks the chewiness of the other pale ale offering, the Kosi, and the Fat Yak can be enjoyed in a hurry. It really is a good all round beer, but can be a bit on the “tasty” side for many beer drinkers. I rate this up with the Heineken, though for different days and different reasons. Serve this with a big burger, or a meat lovers pizza. The Yak will also play well with a lighter red meat, like a lamb chop or duck breast. 3.5 piggies
The James Squire Nine Tails Amber Ale certainly has the longest name of this group. Rich caramel and chocolate notes on the nose are followed up by a hint of Shiraz on the palate and a moderate creamy mouth-feel. I love big and bold beers, and this is one. You will not drink a 6 pack of these, in fact you won’t drink more than 2, but they will be 2 that count. Drink this full flavoured ale like you would a rich full bodied red. Just the ticket on a cold winters eve with a fire in the hearth and an Osso Bucco on the dinner plate. 4 little piggies for this beer, but pick the right times to drink it. Summer in Brisbane is not that time.