It has been a while since I’ve written a beer review. I did a pretty good job of stocking up for lockdown, but I wasn’t drinking anything particularly newsworthy (mostly Pilsner Urquell, Blockhouse, a woefully small amount of Grapefruit Blockhouse and a good range of beers from Afro Caribbean Brewing Co.)
But the booze ban is almost over, the online beer sales are pumping and as of Monday you will once again be able to fill your fridge with a few new brews alongside your favourites. Due to the illegality of transporting alcohol, I obviously haven’t been able to get my hands on anything new from around the country, but two unmarked cans did somehow make their way into my fridge this week. I mean, I assumed them to be soda water or carbonated apple juice. Turns out they contained two new beers from ACBC. No idea how they appeared in my fridge but I thought I would review them, since you can order them now from ACBC’s online store and pick up/get them delivered from Monday onwards.
There’s a nice lockdown theme to the duo. Up first, Agent Hillary (7.4% ABV), perhaps a world first – an international collab brew that took place over Zoom. In the South African corner, the team from ACBC; their overseas partner, Spike Buckowski from Terrapin Brewing Co. in the States. Spike was meant to join the team for a real-life collab this May, during his visit to Cape Town to speak at the Craft Brewers Powwow. But of course all of that was cancelled. The brew however, went ahead.
Among other things, Spike has a rather unhealthy obsession with rye, so it’s no surprise that rye makes an appearance in this IPA. I could tell you about the nose of this beer (stewed fruits, ripe, guava, hint of dank weed) or the fact that its boozy kick will warm you up on a winter’s afternoon. I could tell you that as it warms up, a subtle spice from the rye emerges. Or that the lingering bitterness will be a welcome finish for IBU-hunters. But all you really need to know is that it is a beer that is new, a beer that is definitely worth ordering and most importantly of all, a beer that will be legal to buy and drink in less than 72 hours. Get some in your fridge.
To get the full story on the name, tune into Real Beer Revolution’s Friday Beers on YouTube today (May 29) at 4pm (if you’re reading this after the fact, you’ll be able to watch the chat whenever you like).
The second beer is the not no subtly named “Fu*k Rona Lockdown Brown (8% ABV)”, a hush-hush collaboration with Dissident Beer. The brown ale is an under-represented style in SA and I for one am happy to see one in my fridge, especially as the nights draw in and the weather crappens.
The beer was born out of necessity/what happens when lockdown comes and poops on your bonfire. The malt was crushed and ready to go for a batch of Dissident – the plan had been to brew the next day. And then: lockdown. Brewers were forbidden from brewing and the malt sat there getting stale. It would be noticeable in a pale ale, but 100kg of malt is rather a lot to just dump. So once the team felt comfortable getting back into the brewery, they set about cobbling together a recipe from the malts and hops on site. “It had to be a dark beer, but we didn’t want to do yet another stout,” says Dissident’s Shawn Duthie (yes, my husband). “So we thought, why not a brown ale? If it hadn’t have worked out, we wouldn’t have sold it, but I’m quite pleased with the end result.”
In truth, the beer doesn’t quite fit into any existing style guidelines for a brown ale – too high in ABV and too full bodied for a British brown ale; lacking the hop character for an American. What you have here is a brand new style: Lockdown Brown. You roll with the punches, use the ingredients at hand and see what happens. And you know what? It’s pretty damn good. Rich and full bodied, notes of chocolate, caramel with a sweetness up front and a bitter end. I find it pairs quite marvellously with that fine lockdown snack, half a loaf of toast slathered with Nutella.
What have you been drinking or brewing during lockdown? Tell us in the comments section below.