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Thus Let Us Drink Beer – Prancing Pony and Hawkers Brewing

If you have followed this series attentively, no matter where you roam on this earthround, you would be aware by now that the Adelaide Hills in Australia are a hotbed for fantastic libations. Prancing Pony is a brewery from that region, that I have been meaning to cover for the longest time as I have only heard the best things from beer aficionados about their hoppy emissions.

Starting out with home brews and an initial experimental period during which the name “Prancing Pony” became a thing, the brewery formally incarnated in 2012 and has since evolved to become one of the heavyweights on the firmament of Australian craft breweries with its focus firmly sent on the avoidance of gimmicks, filtration or usage of preservatives and instead focussing traditional recipes and exclusively using water, yeast, hops and malt.

While this could mean that the brews are lacklustre, it is where Prancing Pony shows its capabilities by incorporating non-traditional hops, malts not usually used and innovative approaches when it comes to how they channel their alchemy in terms of refining their brewing and fermentation techniques with their custom-built brewhouse.

Given that the common denominator of Prancing Pony’s range is the creation of lingering, immensely big flavours and the brewery being in control of all aspects of the process down to the bottling and kegging being done in-house, it does not come as a surprise that its brews are award decorated within as well as outside the confines of terra australis.

My first exposure to Prancing Pony was via their India Red Ale which is a thoroughbred in the most literal sense with its full-bodied malty backbone on which a melange of herbal and tropical hops dance to the beat of an amplified level of bitterness, i.e. 60 IBU. Clocking in at 7.9% ABV, it packs a veritable punch.

Now, when you think that after such an opening things must tame down a bit with their other releases, you are mistaken.

While Prancing Pony has a core range that caters that should be palatable to casual beer drinkers as well as the uninitiated, their limited special releases push the envelope in every regard and direction possible.

Case in point, the appropriately named Freakshow Experimental IPA.

What started out as a special concoction for the GABS beer festival, finally found its way into their portfolio.

Now, when we mention “experimental” in this context, we are not merely talking about the addition and highlighting of interesting flavours, but experimentation in the sense that it stretches the concept of what an IPA is usually defined as and deliberately traverses boundaries into other styles, e.g. upon first approach I thought it was a barley wine with the toffee and spicy hop aromas that tickled my nostrils.

A first sip had the top of my mouth think it was catapulted into the depths of a Belgian trappist monastery and halfway through the can, it was reminiscent of a rauchiges Teutonic Dunkelbier. Definitely an ale for the more advanced aficionado and a very rewarding one at that, even though it is definitely not sessionable with its monstrous double digit ABV.

I would have a hard time imagining that anyone with a weak spot for beer not being impressed with Prancing Pony and its brews and I cannot wait for their future emissions.

Hawkers is one those breweries that despite having been met with enthusiasm from the craft beer community pretty much ever since they commenced channelling their alchemy in brewing, it had somehow passed me by for the longest time.

With the name being an allusion to the humble beginnings in the realm of beer slinging with the founders roaming the streets of Sydney promoting 961 Beer from Beirut, Hawkers has grown to not only an accolade decorated heavyweight on the firmament of Australian craft brewers but also, ever expanding, to be one of the largest independent ones with its emissions also conquering markets in the old world, i.e. the UK.

2019 saw Hawkers engage in a rebranding exercise and in the same year they released their IPA with a new look, which I was sold on from the first sip as it proved to be an extremely sessionable tour de force when it comes to hops, yet was not as heavy and overwhelming in the malt department, where a lot of other breweries turn things up to eleven for novelty’s sake.

Based on a melange of a powerful quintet of North American hops, i.e. Nelson Sauvin, Citra, Simco, Mosaic and Centennial, the dank aromas emanating upon opening the can are something to behold, with piney hops and tropical highlights dominating the scene, artfully curbed by a resinous bite.

As a companion to a dram of Ardbeg Corrywreckan there is hardly something better I could wish for.

Hawkers’ Hazy IPA is one of the more recent additions to their range and while it is not necessarily my favourite IPA style, it would not be Hawkers if they did not infuse it with their idiosyncratic twist, which makes it a delight.

Hop-wise, the Hazy IPA sees a marriage of Antipodean ones, i.e. Galaxy hops from terra australis and Motueka from New Zealand, and Citra and Mosaic from the new world.

Well-calibrated, nuances of the hops shine through the dense tropical juice, which in equal measure is comprised of orange, lime, kiwi and mango with just the faintest hint of bitterness making an appearance.

West Coast IPAs are my favourites and in this department, Hawkers strikes twice: Their Alter Ego sees New Zealand hops entering the mix, adding an additional dimension that ticks all the boxes in terms of tropical fruitiness, yet also adds a welcome layer of bitterness. The borderline perfect drink to go with spicy Thai food.

Hawkers’ ( ) core West Coast IPA expression does not take any prisoners as it takes all of the aforementioned qualities to the next level. Clocking in at 7.2% ABV, emphasis is on the tried and tested combination of New Zealand and North American hops, resulting in an avalanche of citrus fruits which is counterpointed by a delicious wall of piney, resinous and hop heavy notes. The result is a lean and dangerously more-ish beast of a WCIPA, culminating in a dry and bitter crescendo.

I cannot wait to get to try Hawkers’ DIPA as well as their Imperial Stout Whiskey…


August 7, 2021

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