5.2% US style Pale Ale
“I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere..
…I’ve been to Fremantle, Sail & Anchor, Stirling Hwy Nedlands,
Masthead at Sanctuary Cove, Cascade, Yatala, Port Melbourne, Dandenong and buggered off,
I’ve been everywhere.”
With unreserved apologies to Lucky Starr I introduce to you a beer that has caused more division in craft beer circles than … well, let’s not go there. Alpha Pale Ale, born 1999* at the Masthead Brewery on the Gold Coast and most recently reported to be looking for new lodgings come the New Year. Oh, and to be fair, the song refers more to the MB portfolio as a whole – Alpha, sadly, has never had quite enough friends to have been shifted around like it’s Mini Me, Fat Yak.
Alpha Pale Ale was first brewed at the Masthead Brewery on the Gold Coast (part of Sanctuary Cove resort) and, when CUB began to rationalise their operations (as they regularly do) it became part of the ‘Brewer’s Reserve Series’ and added to the Matilda Bay range.
And to the beer;
“Although based on traditional India Pale Ales, the Northwest style has its own unique character — one driven mostly by an assertive bitterness and a distinctive fruit and citrus aroma from the locally grown hops. Our version of this style has become an Australian classic, winning us many awards, not that we like to brag — well a little bit. We brew Alpha in the true North American Pale Ale style, using 100% pale malt with the addition of a small amount of dark crystal to add character and palate weight. Fermentation with specially selected ale yeast complements the style, adding another dimension to this big, complex beer. ”
The Australian’s yearly Top 20 compiled by Peter Lalor said back in 2011;
“Beer geeks will tell you Matilda Bay lost its soul when it was taken over last century, but the Alpha pale is proof that the brewery is still making some good beers. A traditional American pale, this is not too robust but full of flavour.”
James ‘The Crafty Pint’ Smith loves a bit of macho verbiage;
“A serial award-winner, this is the big boy of the Matilda Bay range, a highly-hopped take on the powerful Pale Ales developed in Northwest USA. Boasting pungent fruit and citrus aromas from the use of Cascade hops, a mouthful of pale malts and a powerful wallop of bitterness, it’s a great way to experience the taste of West Coast American without splashing out on the airfare.”
“… if you’re talking about flavour and taste then it’s gotta be Alpha Pale Ale. Piney, tropical fruits, pineapple and just a seriously tasty pale ale. I know my craft beer heart isn’t supposed to like Matilda Bay beers since they are one of the big brewers, the enemy, etc etc but this is a damn good drop.
The Critics’ Choice has found a place for Alpha Pale Ale in all four editions with a Top 10 placing twice. Last year’s release saw something of a backlash with a drop from #18 to #91 although, to be fair, White Rabbit and Cooper’s Sparkling suffered similar falls suggesting that the ‘experts’ are having trouble fitting all their favourites into the roster.
2011 #10; “Matilda Bay’s contribution to the craft beer scene over almost 30 years would alone earn it a spot in this list. That this beer is so good is a bonus.” [Pete Mitcham]
2012 #07; “The Alpha tag is derived from the Alpha acids which give hops – and therefore beer, its bitterness. It also denotes the dominant personality in a pack. Another appearance in the Top 100 indicates this consistently well-performed US style pale ale is the beer that others want to be”. [Me again]
2013 #18; “No surprises that Alpha makes any list of top beers. As solid a performer as they come, both critically and in beer competitions nationally. Powerfully aromatic and robustly bitter over a solid malt core, this is a classic and it’s a little intriguing that Alpha is not more widely consumed. [Matt Kirkegaard]
2014 #91”When the sophistry and debate around what craft beer are set aside for a few moments, quality such as this can be recognised for what it is. Alpha Pale Ale is the flagship for the SABMiller owned Matildas Bay line-up in more ways than one. …it is the rock of consistency in a sometimes changing line-up.” [Matt again]
In 2003 it won more awards than any other beer at the Australian International Beer Awards.
In 2013 Alpha took the top gong at the Australian International Beer Awards winning the Barrett Burston Malting Trophy for Champion Australian beer. This followed a Gold in 2012, losing the play-off to Feral Hop Hog and a Silver in 2011 (Hop Hog reigned again that year).
Fun Fact! Lucky Starr, who wrote “I’ve been everywhere” (which I piss-took everywhere in the opening paragraph) had his song ‘translated’ for the US and New Zealand versions. If you think the opening verse of the Aussie one is tough to sing, wrep yer lups eround thus one, eh bro!
“I’ve been to Kaparoa, Whangaroa, Akaroa, Motueka, Taramoa, Benmore, Pongaroa, Horoeka, Rimutaka, Te Karaka, Whangarei, Nuhaka, Waimahaka, Motuhora, Waikaka, Motunui, Hokonui, Papanui, Wainui, Matawai, Rongotai, Pikowai.”
[Beer] Fun Fact! When developing the beer that would become Fat Yak, the brew team, led by Brad Rogers, used the working title of ‘Little Alpha’.
* [Beer] Fun –Un-fact! The official Matilda Bay website claims that Alpha was ‘born in 1995’. That would be neat trick as Alpha was first brewed by a young brewer by the name of Mr Rogers. He was in Sydney in 1995 (I’m positive that Alpha was never brewed at the Kent Brewery) before spending time collecting volcanic rocks in Fiji to brew a Stein Beer some years later. He was appointed to the Masthead Brewery around 1998/9 and this is when Alpha was first brewed.