Whereas once it was a brand of innocuous pale lager synonymous with carefree summers, today the name ‘Corona’ has taken on a much more portentous definition. And while the brand’s sun-laden image has no doubt been dimmed, craft beer in Australia has taken a much more existential hit, with some estimates that up to 50% of domestic craft concerns will stay shuttered for good.
In an industry that was already on wonky footings with chronic oversupply, this current crisis will likely prove a brutal reset. Yet amidst the torrent of tragic news, countless breweries are espousing the industry’s reputation for unorthodoxy and innovation, creating novel beers for extraordinary times.
Torquay, Victoria’s Blackman’s Brewery (blackmansbrewery.com.au) was, inadvertently, well-geared for the sudden lockdown, with its Same Day IPA series in production since 2019.
The biggest enemy to unpasteurised and hand-crafted beer is time: the longer it lingers on unrefrigerated pallets the quicker it deteriorates and, regrettably, a great deal of Australia’s craft beer bulk-stocked in major chain retailers are long past their prime when finally consumed.
The Same Day IPA is packaged fresh from the bright tank and shipped out directly to customers and retailers in Victoria the very same day. The lockdown has seen consumer-direct sales across the nation skyrocket, with weary brewers themselves often delivering stock door-to-door between shifts.
The paradoxically named Needs More Citra IPA (the latest in the Same Day IPA series) landed just as the lockdown came into effect, allowing beer acolytes in Victoria to continue to enjoy the freshest of brews within hours of canning.
Refusing to bow to austerity, this is one epic celebration of living – loaded with dewy Citra hops that almost steam out of the glass and all packing in at a heady 6.5% ABV. The beer sold out immediately and more is now in tank, so keep an eye out for an imminent re-release.
Breweries across the nation have reported unanimously on consumer behaviour during the crisis: value for money matters now more than ever before, and likely will for many months and years to come.
Fremantle-based Otherside Brewing Co (othersidebrewing.com.au) was quick to read the room after locking the doors of its two taprooms. It rushed out a packaged beer named Plan C Simple Ale: a bright and snappy 4% ABV session ale fashioned from 100% Australian ingredients with enough citrus-hinted hops to pique your interest, and priced at just $40 a carton.
While some breweries got busy fashioning new beers for a new world, Dainton Brewery (dainton.beer) in Victoria was enduring sleepless nights worrying over its many kegs now lying dormant in venues nationwide.
Out of this anxiety arose a novel idea: rescue the abandoned kegs and blend them together into two distinct new beers for can, Pandemic Punch (a flagrantly fruity New England IPA at 6.6% ABV) and Rye-Solation (an autumnal toasted rye blend with hints of malt biscuit and fruitcake at 5.8% ABV).
Taking it further, Busselton’s Rocky Ridge (rockyridgebrewing.com.au) in WA’s south-western wine country, collaborated with Australian homebrewers via the web to create the Wake Me Up Before You VoVo stout – a celebration of beer’s integral place as a social cohesive in Australian cultural life and a tip to their raison d’être: to be a positive change in the community.
Like its multifarious origins, this dessert-style stout is one complex elixir: a dreamy winter drop at 6% ABV with layers of bitter chocolate, ripe mulberries and an accent of toasted coconut – all crafted with wholly WA-grown ingredients, including Super Pride hops.
As taprooms and pubs across the national are slow to awaken from the shutdown, Australian brewers will no doubt keep up the fight with progressive beers that directly respond to unchartered times. Your support is, quite literally, vital. Drink well, drink local — and as per the health campaign, #dontdrinkalone.
*Disclaimer: the author has financial interests in Otherside Brewing Co.