Strange brews are on the menu at Craft Beer Week, writes Willie Simpson.
Beers that taste like macarons and desserts, degustation dinners matched with craft beer and a collaborative white stout are some highlights of Sydney Craft Beer Week, which starts on Saturday.
Manly's 4 Pines Brewing has pushed the boat out for its Beer Mimics Food Showcase, enlisting the services of macaron whiz Adriano Zumbo and the team at Bronte cafe-restaurant Three Blue Ducks, along with 4 Pines resident chef Rob DePaulo, to create some unusual new brews.
''We were sitting around the table with the Sydney Craft Beer Week guys and tossing ideas around about what we could do,'' the general manager of 4 Pines, Jaron Mitchell, says. ''We wanted to do something a little bit different and [the showcase] evolved from that. Adriano Zumbo has a shop around the corner [from 4 Pines] and someone knew [chef] Darren Robertson from Three Blue Ducks.''
The guest brewers worked with the head brewer at 4 Pines, Andrew Tweddell, to create their own beer that imitates certain foods. The results will make their debut next Tuesday at the Manly venue, with the chefs serving their creations behind the bar. Robertson says he and fellow Blue Duck chefs Shannon Debreceny and Mark LaBrooy chose a porter because it has some ''natural chocolate flavours'' in the style.
Their Chocolate Seaweed Porter mimics one of their popular desserts, listed on the restaurant's menu as ''mandarin, chocolate and sea lettuce''. Chocolate pairs well with mandarin and also with salt, Robertson says.
''We used salted kelp, cocoa nibs, cocoa powder and loads of mandarin zest while we were brewing the beer,'' he says. ''And we've tasted it at various stages. We added more seaweed and mandarin [after fermentation] in a sort of giant tea bag to give it a boost.
''It was a bit scary when you're making 500 litres of the stuff and we really didn't want it to taste too salty.''
''I'm phenomenally amazed at how well it's been done,'' Mitchell says. ''You literally taste the chocolate, seaweed and mandarin throughout the porter.''
Zumbo will pour his Zumbo Charlotte Wit, a Belgian wit beer based on one of his flagship macarons, while DePaulo's Sunday Roast brew includes roasted pumpkin.
This is the second year for the Craft Beer Week celebrations, organised by online show Beermen.tv and events company Umbrella. The program has expanded greatly since last year's inaugural event.
Balmain's East Village Hotel is hosting several events, including a Craft Beer Trade Show on October 25 and Beer v Pig with Stone & Wood on Saturday. The venue will pour White Stout all week, the result of a collaboration between local brewers Young Henry's and Doctor's Orders. Young Henry's also has a free-entry open day at its Newtown brewery on Saturday.
Beer Cartel at Artarmon will stage a Japanese craft beer tasting on Sunday, while the Oak Barrel in the city has a Spiegelau Beer Glass event on October 26 - the $52 cost includes a set of Spiegelau glasses to keep.
Food and beer feature in many events during the week, including special degustation menus matched with beer at Redoak Boutique Beer Cafe and Harts Pub in the city, and Hive Bar at Erskineville. Murray's at Manly has a Hoptober Beer Dinner, and Three Blue Ducks hosts a Bridge Road Beer Dinner.
Malt Shovel Brewery has tours on October 23 and 25, with entry price including gourmet food matches and a taste of some rare barrel-aged beers on handpump.
While not strictly part of the official SCBW program, the Pumphouse at Darling Harbour is hosting an ''unauthorised tap takeover'' by St Peters and Pinchgut breweries on October 26. The three house beers, including the potent Thunderbolt - also brewed by Matt Donelan at St Peters - will be joined by nine others, including two on handpump.
A beetroot-laced brew from Pinchgut's Gerard Meares features among a handful of one-off beers, alongside regulars in St Peters Blonde and Cinnamon Girl, and Pinchgut Pilz and Dark Pilz.
Sydney Craft Beer Week runs October 20-28, see sydneycraftbeerweek.com.
US craft brewer Bridgeport's hop-driven range of beers is now available on these shores. Its Bridgeport IPA became the benchmark for home-grown US-style ales, hopped with local hop varieties such as cascade, centennial and chinook.
Bridgeport India Pale Ale (5.5per cent)
Hazy, medium gold. Aroma: hints of lime marmalade, grapefruit, lemon honey and toffee. Palate: snappy malt with dense honeycomb notes; honey and grapefruit notes intermingle as the resinous hop bitterness unfurls; lively, bitter finish.
Bridgeport Kingpin Double Red Ale (7.5percent)
Copper-amber; fine haze. Aroma: malt biscuit, spice, hint of gingerbread. Palate: chewy dark toffee and creme caramel upfront; deep, herbaceous hop bitterness arrives in mid-palate and sustains the finish in tandem with dark toffee/tannin notes.
Bridgeport Hop Czar Imperial IPA (7.5per cent)
Hazy, copper-gold. Aroma: toffee, peaches and cream, rich spice, grapefruit marmalade, resiny. Palate: toffee-edged malt gives way to a rollicking hop bitterness; the bitter finish kept nicely in check by the elevated alcohol and juicy malt characters.