Most Australian beer drinkers would be familiar with the James Squire beer range. ‘Craft’ in orientation, they offer a pathway from the world of mainstream and largely generic lagers and an introduction to the wider flavours offered by beer. They also tend to underwhelm beer drinkers for whom a beer’s complexity and provenance matter more than a spurious link to one of Australia’s first brewers.
Having the backing of a multinational parent company, Lion Nathan National Foods, the Malt Shovel Brewery has a comparatively easy access to market for beers such as its Pilsener, IPA and Porter. The company also has the ability to send its more popular beers, such as the Amber Ale and Golden Ale, to larger production facilities when demand outstrips the original Camperdown location. Making the move from the smaller brewery has tended to signal a loss of complexity in these beers.
Therefore, it is comforting to rediscover that the true craft of microbrewing still exists within the brand through some of the beers produced in the James Squire Brewhouses.
Melbourne’s Portland Hotel, found on the corner of Russell and Little Collins Streets, was the first pub to establish a James Squire Brewhouse back in 2001. The foundation beers at Portland were the Portland Pale Ale, Craic Irish Stout and the Highwayman Red Ale – all of which can still be found on tap at The Portland Hotel today.Additionally, over the last decade the in-house microbrewery has provided many seasonal small-batch offerings that have rotated through the bar’s taps and also picked up numerous awards. This year the hotel celebrates its 200th brew.
Dave Edney, head brewer for the Melbourne brewhouse, has used the milestone to indulge his love for highly aromatic, complex and full bodied American-style beers.
The aptly-named “Two Centurions” is an American-style India Pale Ale inspired by those being brewed in the United States’ north-west.
Dave notes in his blog, “while I still loved traditional [English] style of beers I shifted my brewing perspective to this highly aromatic and bitter style of beer. They can really assault the senses (in a good way!) and I really love drinking these punchy styles of beer.”
Two Centurions is brewed with Pale, Munich and dark crystal malts and Dave has also used four different hops to give a punchy bitterness that is highly aromatic.
For those who, like Dave, love an American IPA, having a Two Centurions over dinner in the rustic Brewers Lounge at Portland Hotel is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Poured into a pint glass, the Two Centurions is a clear golden-red colour, presenting only a medium-size head. However, the foam laced the glass beautifully as the pint was slowly emptied.
As promised, the aroma is big and complex, combining the biscuit essence from the malt, plenty of floral characters from the hops and some grapefruit and pine resinous notes. All of these elements faithfully continue deep into the robust taste, supported by a full body that has a slight creamy touch to it.
The beer’s finish is dry with a long lingering bitterness that is well balanced.
Whilst this beer may not knock your sandals off – if compared to some of the impressively big American IPAs currently marching across the country – it is true to style and a drinkably rich experience, standing out from the sometimes pedestrian James Squire ranks.
On finishing my first pint, I quickly sheathed my sword and ordered a second pint of the Two Centurions, which only seemed appropriate.
Homebrewers can read Dave Edney’s Homebrew Recipe for an American IPA on the James Squire Blog.
Australian Brews News is made possible through the generous support of: