'Shock' tactics bearing fruit

Brewers don't usually talk about ''bottle shock'' but winemaker-turned-brewer Andy Stewart reckons it's the same for beer as wine.

''It happens every year - the malt character doesn't start to drive the palate until about eight weeks after bottling,'' says Stewart, who operates Endeavour Beverages.

''You see it with sparkling wine, where the production of [carbon dioxide] dulls everything initially but then the integrated flavours and the fruit comes through.

''I honestly think you've got to give beer some time to develop in the bottle. I prefer ale to have a minimum of six to eight weeks after bottling.''

Which is spot on for the release of the company's 2012 Endeavour Reserve Amber Ale and Pale Ale.

''We've tricked [Pale Ale] up a bit this year - it's the same malt bill but we boosted the alcohol to 5 per cent to help balance the hops and give it more body,'' he says. ''We've added summer hops for the amber.''

Stewart credits the hops with promoting ''apricots and fruit cake'' characters in the finished beer.

''We've got a third brand coming out in [late October] which is Growers' Ale,'' he says. ''Basically, it's the younger brother of our Pale Ale and will be our first venture into kegs. We've had a bit of interest from restaurants wanting to put our beer on tap but we didn't want to jeopardise our other bottled beers. We've produced 50 kegs and some 12-packs and it will be a bit of a test market for us.''

Meanwhile, Moo Brew's annual vintage Imperial Stout has been rolled out with a difference this year - it is more widely available. Previously, the barrel-aged stout has been sold through Moo Brew's cellar door in Tasmania and by direct ordering; now it's available in Sydney from Aria, Bottle-O Lambton, Oak Barrel, Warners at the Bay, Harts Pub, the Local Taphouse and the Albion Hotel.

Big breweries are a bit like governments - they don't usually like to admit they got things wrong. Without actually saying ''sorry'', Carlton & United Breweries chief executive Ari Mervis has announced - by way of full-page newspaper ads - that Victoria Bitter will be restored to its original recipe and alcoholic strength.

In 2007, VB was trimmed from 4.9 per cent alcohol by volume to 4.8 per cent and, two years later, further pruned to 4.6 per cent - an expedient measure to avoid a price increase due to the periodic increase in beer excise. It seemed short-sighted at the time and has obviously had a negative effect on the brand's sales.

''It's no secret that sales have continued to decline,'' Victoria Bitter general manager Richard Oppy says. ''And we've done extensive research into reasons for people leaving the brand. Our passionate drinkers have told us we've stuffed around with their brand and that the taste has changed. Regardless of the … finances involved [in repackaging], we believe it's the way to go.''

According to Oppy, the full-strength, original-recipe version of Victoria Bitter will be phased in over mid-to-late October.

Tasting notes

ENDEAVOUR 2012 RESERVE AMBER ALE (5.2 per cent)

Amber-brown. Aroma: caramel, mocha and dark stone-fruit notes. Palate: sweet toffee shards, suggestion of chocolate malted milk in mid-palate; finishes soft and smooth, with a gentle, roasty aftertaste. Overall: velvety, delicately complex.

ENDEAVOUR 2012 RESERVE PALE ALE (5 per cent)

Medium gold, fine haze. Aroma: hints of honeycomb, spice and tropical fruit salad. Palate: juicy malt initially, well-integrated tropical fruit/melon notes emerge and are rounded off by a medium bitterness. Overall: highly drinkable Aussie pale ale.

MOO BREW IMPERIAL STOUT (8.5 per cent)

Inky black; creamy dark beige foam. Aroma: perky coffee, blueberry, raisin toast, dark cocoa notes. Palate: initially, a wave of dark, tarry treacle and burnt toast/charcoal notes, underpinned by an intense blueberry/blackcurrant character; all wrapped up in a syrupy/unctuous texture. Overall: robust, tarry, formidable.

The story 'Shock' tactics bearing fruit first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop