Despite its pre-eminent position as the global industry pioneer, US craft beer has not previously enjoyed a significant presence or reputation in Australia. While many of Australia’s most popular craft ales have been unapologetic imitations of their US cousins – most notably the epoch-defining Little Creatures Pale Ale, which was originally modelled on California’s Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – Australia has remained a frustratingly parochial market for American brewers.
That all changed in late 2019 when Lion Nathan (owner of Little Creatures) purchased Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing (
newbelgium.com), producer of the North American cult classics Fat Tire Amber Ale and Voodoo Ranger IPA. Now Voodoo Ranger is finally available locally, brewed out of Lion’s Malt Shovel facility in Camperdown under the direction of New Belgium’s very own master brewer, Christian Holbrook.
While a relatively new addition to New Belgium’s portfolio, the Voodoo Ranger IPA is true to the garish and mouthy West Coast pedigree: laden with Mosaic and Amarillo hops (think a smouldering pine forest after summer rain) and just enough tropical fruit to freshen the nutty bitterness of the malt. And while clocking in at a whopping 6.8% ABV, this beer remains eminently drinkable – and a worthy introduction to the exciting US craft landscape. We can hopefully expect the rest of the Voodoo Ranger range (including the Imperial IPA, Juicy Haze and Dynamite IPA) to follow.
Voodoo Ranger may be brewed locally, but US imports are becoming more common in the temperature-controlled aisles of discerning bottle shops nationwide. It is not uncommon to stumble upon examples from some of America’s finest labels with perfectly cabalistic monikers to boot, such as Firestone Walker, Jester King, Toppling Goliath, Holy Mountain, Stillwater and Cloudburst (not to be mistaken with the Margaret River winery of the same name).
One of the more compelling US labels to recently make landfall in the antipodes is Evil Twin (
eviltwin.nyc), a US brewery founded by Danish son Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø. While Evil Twin’s cult reputation has been built upon its innovative and intrepid approach to brewing (the label’s 12% imperial IPA, aptly named Molotov Cocktail, will push most palates well beyond the brink), Jarnit-Bjergsø’s notoriety is hitched to that of his twin brother, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, founder of perhaps the world’s most revered beer label, Mikkeller.
Hardly a tale of brotherly love, this is a saga of fierce sibling rivalry that Borg Bjergsø once likened to the enduring – and often riotously entertaining – feud between Liam and Noel Gallagher of Oasis. While Mikkeller’s operations are largely centred in Europe, Evil Twin has focused on growing a sturdy and progressive presence in the US from its base in Queens, New York.
Much of Evil Twin’s product mines the pointy end of the alchemistic brewing spectrum, however, its unique, small-batch brews are in exceptionally high demand, especially its genre-contorting stouts. The opaque Aún Más Todo Jesús Imperial Double Stout lives up to its irreverent sobriquet, bringing together the brooding, charred malt and smoky allure of an imperial stout with cocoa nibs, cinnamon, coffee beans and dried chilli. Curiously the chilli masks much of the heat from the alcohol, leaving a beer that is deceptively pleasant on the palate.
Evil Twin’s Dry Aged Stouts (released at 60, 90 and 120 days) are even more approachable, employing aged malts that offer welcome barrel-oak smokiness to the otherwise rich, creamy oat profile of the brew. And the Imperial Biscotti Chili Hazelnut Break Stout doesn’t disappoint its toothsome promise, albeit clocking in at a less-than-innocent 11.5% ABV.
These are ideal drops for the enduring winter months.
After the US has led the pack for over two decades, it is time for Australians to finally taste what all the fuss is about.