Beer expert and craftypint.com author James Smith guides us through the long dark winter with five chill-shaking brews
So, it's cold. What are you going to do about it? Cry like a baby until October, or warm yourself from the inside with some classy winter brews? Like the weather and the moods of those who need to toughen up, beers tend to get darker at this time of year – richer, roastier, stronger and with lashings of chocolate, coffee, molasses and Christmas spices. Here's a few of Aussie's finest, all of which should be available in Melbourne's better bottle shops.
4 Pines Stout
Just named Best Stout at the 2012 Australian International Beer Awards in the category in which most golds were awarded (in other words, competition was tough). The perfect blend of sweet and roasty make it a dark beer you can go back to again and again. One of the owners of the Manly brewery suffers from surfer's ear so you know it's proper Aussie to boot.
Who'd have thought a dark beer made with Dutch cocoa and vanilla bean would prove so popular? Loved by critics and drinkers alike – so much so the brewer ran out of it last week. Never fear, another 10,000 litres of this perfect dessert beer is conditioning in the tanks as you read this!
Red Hill Imperial Stout
Last year, heaps of Aussie breweries released Imperial Stouts. A clear sign that tastes are changing. This winter, expect even more of a style that's big and bold in every way (sip and savour, don't quaff these beauties) including three from NSW brewer Murray's alone. Red Hill's has been around for years and is their most popular seasonal - with good reason: namely, it's effin' delicious and can be cellared for years too.
Stone & Wood Stone Beer
This is an annual winter release from the Byron Bay brewers that sees them add white hot volcanic stones from Fiji to the brew. This year's version isn't out for a few weeks and has been brewed to a new recipe and is much stronger (eight per cent) than the previous three. However, I added some of the malt and pushed three buttons during the brew so there's your stone cold guarantee of quality right there.
Temple Midnight IPA
Black as the ace of spades to look at yet with next to none of the roasty, choccy, coffee aromas or flavours you'd expect. As good a version of the black IPA style as has been brewed in Oz, this achieves the goal of looking the opposite of what it is with panache, comes in suitably sexy packaging, and is fit to burst with enough hops to keep even the most ardent of lupulin lovers happy until the mercury rises again.