Matilda Bay Brewing Company
345ml 4.7% abv
In Big Helga, first launched on draught in October last year, Foster’s craft brewing arm has taken an interesting route. The Australian beer market is becoming increasingly fractured, with one very sizable chunk going the way of the ultra low-flavoured dry and low-carb beers and another section going the way of abundantly-flavoured craft and microbrewed beers. The traditional “mainstream” beer market is left slumping, trying to generate excitement and fight for market share by means of ever more elaborate advertising campaigns and gimmicks, or exotic but similar tasting imports.
Into this maelstrom, Matilda Bay has released a beer that, at 20 IBUs on an all-malt base, would seem too bitter and full-bodied for the average flavour-avoiding dry beer drinker, while the lack of an in-your-face hop aroma or eye-watering bitterness leaves the craft beer dilettante underwhelmed and looking elsewhere for excitement.
And it is a shame on both counts.
To say that Big Helga is a solid beer may seem to undersell it, though is hard to describe otherwise. It doesn’t pretend to reinvent any wheels; it’s not big, brassy and exciting. It’s not barrel-aged nor has it spent 6 months in the hull of a ferry conditioning. But nor is it just an average lager dressed up with some hollow hop tricks. It’s just a solid and enjoyable drinking beer.
Many of the the adjectives that should belong to it have been misappropriated to talk up much less deserving and less flavoursome beers. “Sessionable” but at the same time “satisfying” and “full-flavoured” for its type are three that should be reclaimed for this Matilda Bay offering. It is not spectacular in its malt character or obvious in its hop aromas, but there is a lot going on if you go looking. If you don’t, and even if you’re not into the whole over-analyse-and-suck-all-of-the-simple-pleasures-out-of-beer thing, there is still every chance you’ll reach the same conclusion: “I like it. I think I’ll have another”.
Big Helga in bottles can be found at Dan Murphy’s, Vintage Cellars, First Choice and other selected premium liquor stores. Big Helga RRP is $19.99 per six pack or $59.99 per case.
You’ll probably like this if: You can marvel at a butterfly without having to discuss the physics of flight or the metaphysics of beauty.