I’m never quite sure what calendar the Malt Shovel team are following when they release their Mad Brewers beers. Their ‘seasonal’ releases always seem to miss the season at which they are targeted. Last year their Orchard Ale hit the shelves in late January and the Noir Stout in late August.
Still, the James Squire branded seasonal releases from Malt Shovel seem to hit their calendar mark with beers such as Sundown Lager and last year’s Malt Runner coming out early in their seasons. So, it may be a production scheduling thing for the Mad Brewers releases, or it may just be that being a Japanese-owned company those wacky Mad Brewers run to the northern calendar. Either way, it’s a little odd that they are promoting this beer so heavily as a ‘summer barbeque beer’ so late after Australia Day when the best of the hot weather is behind us.
All the same this is one of the more adventurous of the Mad Brewers summer releases. While the apple and raspberry versions seemed to have been targeted at the portion of the market that makes a choice between pale lager and RTDs, this one is a much more challenging prospect. Last winter’s (spring?) Noir Stout was an interesting beer and, with its smoked malt, Scribbly Gum pushes even further with a definite hint of bushfire about it. We’re not in Schlenkerla territory, but the smoke is obvious enough to be a more challenging prospect for the light lager drinker and even the craftier drinker for whom this is their first toke of smoke.
It is a well made and balanced beer that provides plenty of flavour reward while not so much as to make the 640ml bottle too much of a solo challenge. In fact, you probably won’t want to take up the brewer’s suggestion of sharing it with a friend, usless you have two bottles.
It’s a shame that in a modern Australia the old-school wood burning barbeque is a long distant memory, and with it one of the once-defining smells of summer. Scribbly Gum Lager brings back that smell to what’s left of the summer of 2011 and does it in style.
It will be available on tap at James Squire Brewbars and Brewhouses and “selected bar accounts”, which I suspect is a euphemism for bars with a heavily weighted Lion Nathan contract. Only 2400 cases have been bottled. RRP $76.99 or $9.99 per bottle.