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Thus Let Us Drink Beer – Five Barrel and Local Brewing

The Gong, i.e. Wollongong, is not merely noted for having been a haven for heavy industry, its port activity and the beauty of its physical settings based on occupying a narrow coastal plain between an almost continuous chain of surf beaches and the cliff line of the rainforest-covered Illawarra escarpment, but also for harbouring also one of the more reputable universities on terra australis, which adds layers of multiculturalism and vibrancy to the mix.

On the distilling and brewing front, things are not mushrooming like in other parts of Australia, however, every time I get a chance to sample liquid emissions from Wollongong, I am blown away by the quality of the outputs.

Five Barrel Brewing is no exception: Founded by Phil O’Shea and his father, the team has been expanded with the addition of brewer Brent Edwards, who previously channelled his alchemy at the helm of New Zealand’s Good George brewery.

With Five Barrel’s focus firmly set on sustainability first and foremost serving their community instead of having their eyes set on nationwide distribution, beer-wise the preference is centred around hop-forward brews, flanked by experimental, limited releases.

My first exposure to Five Barrel Brewing was via their Big Picture Hazy IPA.

Pale straw in appearance and clocking in at 6.8%, upon approach the nostrils are tickled by a lovely sweet smell, reminiscent of a summery cocktail with an intoxicating combination of grapefruit and orange zest.

The melange of ale malt, flaked oats and malted wheat results in juicy tropical flavours, tempered by the tart and tangy, flowery taste of grapefruit, which is backed by a delicate bitterness.

The medium-bodied Flipside Australian Hazy IPA continues on the tropical side of things with punchy passionfruit, juicy peach and tangy citrus nuances courtesy of Galaxy hops, further accentuated by sweet mandarin, zesty citrus peel and fresh pine needles flavours that Eclipse hops add to the mix.

On the Cold IPA front Five Barrel’s crisp, aptly named Frostbite lures one in with magnificent Ekuanot, Cascade and Idaho 7 hop aromas, resulting in a tropical burst with a flavour profile that combines a delicious sweetness with hints with spicy and floral highlights dancing against a clean assertive bitterness and a bold finish that makes one crave another sip.

As the name suggests, the Little Nipper Hazy IPA is a sessionable, velvety smooth NEIPA expression with an aroma that is that is a tropical combination comprised of hints of melon, pineapply, banana and coconutty derivates and subtle woody undertones.

Rounding things out is the darker shaded, reddish Navigator Red IPA, which with its punchy malty body combines the piney and resinous characteristics classic India Pale Ales are known for with a luscious toffee sweetness. Bookended by a pronounced bitterness, this little number leaves one lusting for another one.

Given the quality of what I have sampled and the attention to detail when it comes to both the artwork and presentation of the labels, which extends to the exquisite merchandise range, anyone with a weak spot for quality IPAs would be well advised to make an effort to get a hold of Five Barrel’s ( ) emissions soon than later.

Local Brewing Co

As Charles Dickens ever so eloquently quipped, it simmered down vices are sometimes only virtues carried to excess and while the jury is not out on his particular stance pertaining to the enjoyment of beer, I doubt that he would have been averse to turning a vice into a virtue the way Local Brewing Co does: The brewery’s operations are geared towards bringing about positive change, i.e. using beer as a social enterprise to help feed those in need.

While some of Stuttgart’s punk band Normahl’s lyrics culminated in the not entirely scientifically proven claim that seven beers equal a Schnitzel, Local Brewing decided to take a more wholesome path by teaming up with an organisation that rescues food from major supermarkets and passes it on to hungry families, i.e. Second Bite, thereby making sure that a part of their proceeds results in someone facing food insecurity securing a meal.

Having incarnated in 2020 with a core range prominently comprised of an Extra Pale Ale and an IPA, the later variant has somewhat become Local Brewing Co’s flagship expression with the focus firmly set on the piney, resinous, dank goodness that is West Coast variety.

Following 2021’s Strata WCIPA release, Local Brewing Co’s ( ) most recent West Coast IPA, i.e. Talus, not merely marries Simcoe and Amarillo hops but has them serve as the foundation on which Talus hops unveil their intense nuances: Orange in appearance, a melange of citrus, floral notes and oak wood results in a complex grape- & stone fruity, coconutty flavour profile.

Clocking in at 6.4% ABV, this little number proves to be a sessionable smasher and great companion to a dram of smoky Islay whisky as the crisp and piney finish reverberates with a well-calibrated bitterness that leaves on lusting for more.

I can only hope that Local Brewing is considering to take things to the next level in 2023 with a Double IPA…

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