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Thus Let Us Drink Beer - Rocky Ridge and La Sirène

With craft beer brewing booming and having become a veritable business model, it is not further wondrous that operations that started out independently eventually had to rely on outside investments to then have their DNA diluted and mainstreamed by the respective shareholders.


Named after the natural outcrop of ironstone that pervades their estate, Rocky Ridge Brewery is an example par excellence for the opposite, i.e. an independent, family-owned business that has organically grown from humble beginnings within the confines of a farmhouse to the thriving business that keeps pumping out innovative and envelope-pushing creations based on their credo that everything “they brew, they grow”, yet enhanced by cutting edge brewing technology and the brewery’s focus firmly set on sustainable and local practices.

While there are quite a few Australian craft beer breweries that manage to incorporate some of the aforementioned aspects into their operations, the way that Rock Ridge channels its alchemy by accomplishing to incorporate all of them is unrivalled. This might be one of the reasons why there is no shortage of willing collaborators, the joint ventures with which keep things interesting as it allows for Rocky Ridge to experiment with ingredients that they do not grow themselves.


The fact that Rocky Ridge has consistently pumped out quality brews since its inceptions four years ago, many of which sell out within days and are seldomly even making it to the shelves on the East coast of Australia only add to the appeal.


If I had to pinpoint a signature Rocky Ridge release, it would be the Ace IPA as it proudly features the uniquely florally complex citrus, grapefruit and citrus flavour profile of the Flinders hop variety from Western Australia’s South Western region.


Harbouring more than a mere weak spot for IPAs, sampling Rocky Ridge’s line-up of hopped out varieties proves to be sheer delight, take for example El Diablo which based on a melange of Mosaic, El Dorado and Citra hops is an example par excellence for a well-calibrated East Coast IPA flavour profile centred around ripe fruit notes.


The West Coast equivalent would be Magic Man, which I fancy quite a bit due to its pronounced Nelson Sauvin, Rakau and Strata bitter- and maltiness, which is juxtaposed by facets of fruity flavours and a bold, reverberating finish, making it an ideal companion for a boilermaker with a heavily peated Islay whisky.


An interesting Pilsner variant I have so far not had, is Rocky Ridge’s experiment with maturing their Pilsner in an ex-Cognac foeder vessel for two months. The result is even more nuanced than the sum of the individual ingredients would have you think, culminating in delicate vanilla and oaky highlights, which shine against a backdrop of the yeasty Pilsner characteristics.


However, my favourite Rocky Ridge so far must be Danny’s Home: With 12% ABV a veritable heavyweight in the realm of IIPAs that proves to be dangerously moreish with its idiosyncratic mix of stone fruity and refreshingly tarty nuances that dance on a stage of delightfully resinous hops, only to be rounded out by a lingering bitterness which culminates in a citrus and mango heavy counterpoint.


Lip-smackingly delicious in nature, what I have tasted form Rocky Ridge has assured that I won’t be able to make it past any of their future IPAs, especially when they enter IIPA territory.


La Sirène


We have covered La Sirène as part of this series before, however, the fact that the Victorian specialists in Farmhouse, Saisons and Wild Ales have not only not slowed down but accelerated their microbiologically brewing alchemy in pumping out a diverse array of exquisite new interpretations of their trademark style, warrants another dedicated instalment.


With the name being an obvious nod to the French speaking part of Southern Belgium and local practices in the realm of creating a distinct style of ales, La Sirène has refined its own unique formula with the common denominator between their creations being that each is immensely recognisable, not unlike regional wine varieties.


La Sirène’s portfolio and one-off limited releases are ever expanding without ever running danger of creating ales that are not merely highly enjoyable but thought-provoking in that one feels inspired by the characteristics imbued by La Sirène’s immediate environment, including but not limited to the barrels used, the strains of air-borne yeasts and bacteria.

Artisanal in every aspect and with sustainability being a priority, La Sirène’s signature move is that all of their hand-bottled ales have been fermented openly, to then age in barrels where not only more fermentation is spurned but where they are aged, before being further refined in Premium French oak barrels sourced from local Victorian wineries.


The fact that their wild ales are presented in Champagne bottles, which encourages the development of creamy mousse via a refermentation technique reminiscent of the Methode Champenoise, results in what has become yet another trademark of La Sirène, i.e. the creamy mousse that materializes as a crown on their poured emissions.


La Sirène’s attention to detail when it comes to packaging and elegant artwork rounds out the drinking experience of their nectar in the aesthetic department and it should not come as a surprise that not merely beer and ale lovers are falling prey to the alluring call of the siren, but also fine-dining restaurants in a bid to complement their culinary creations.


Recent favourites of La Sirène’s range include Biere de Cerise. An annual release in nature, this beauty is based on the Solera method, i.e. barrels that had the Barrel Aged Cherry Wild Ale doing its magic with whole Guigne D’Annonay and Marasca Cherries cherries are only ever partly emptied to then be topped up with fresh beer and fresh cherries. Fluctuating seasonal Victorian temperatures then help to extract the most out of each cherry.


Merely typing this evokes a Pavlovian response.


Yum.


Another favourite is La Sirène’s Chardonnay grape based collaboration with Bannockburn Vineyards in Geelong, i.e. Convergence 2021, which resulted in a wonderful hybrid between the winery’s trademark local microflora and La Sirène’s airborne culture. The result is an example par excellence in merging a wild ale with oaky Chardonnay characteristics.


With a name like Supernaturally things are bound to be interesting: Based on the abundance of fruit resulting from Victoria’s extensive lockdowns, La Sirène joined forces with local growers to handpick peaches and plums for the creation of two unique oak-aged wild ales, which could not be juicier and refreshingly acidic in nature.


Talking of acidity – if that is your jam you cannot go past La Sirène’s Cuvee De Bois: Based on a wild ale, fermented Victorian Chardonnay grapes are added, resulting in a well-calibrated mineral heavy wild ale ode to the beauty that is Chardonnay from the Geelong region.


Unfortunately I missed out with La Sirène’s collaboration with Starward Distillery but hope that they will revisit the project in the future.


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T • January 31, 2022

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