One of the memorable high points of last year’s Sydney Craft Beer Week was the four beers brewed by 4 Pines under the ‘Beer Mimics Food’ theme. While the reception of these foodie-inspired brews could be described as polarising, few would argue that all of them, from Adriano Zumbo’s coconut-passion dessert witbier to 4 Pines chef Rob de Paulo’s ‘Sunday Roast’ feast of a beer, were inspired and fascinating concoctions.
The good news for adventurous beer lovers everywhere is that 4 Pines is at it again – this time with two brews set to hit taps during Melbourne’s Good Beer Week. I sat down with 4 Pines’ chief brewer Chris Willcock to talk through the two new incarnations of the theme – Andrew McConnell’s “Signature Relish” ale and Tim Blackwell’s “Cherry Pie” beer.
“With Andrew’s beer, we tried to come up with something a bit symbolic of his style as a chef,” Willcock tells me.
“We eventually decided one thing that would be very exciting to approach would be something that mimics a famous relish that he produces at his restaurants.”
According to the 4 Pines release on the two beers, McConnell entered 4 Pines with the intention of trying to incorporate HP brown sauce into a beer. The signature relish ale was a compromise solution, Willcock explains, evolving the HP sauce germ into a flavour extravaganza that incorporates all types of goodies, from smoked malt to spices and prunes, and even an anchovy extract that McConnell made himself and shipped up to 4 Pines for use.
“I haven’t tasted it today but it literally changes every day,” Willcock says.
“The development of these beers is a little bit at a time. It’s adding flavours, needs a little bit of boost in this, or a bit of balance in that direction, so that’s Andrew’s delicate process that we’ve taken, and that’s why we’ve given ourselves plenty of time to do it.”
The second beer, created by co-host of Nova FM’s Melbourne drive slot Tim Blackwell, is a cherry pie-esque beer inspired by Blackwell’s love of cherries and other fruity flavours. Willcock insists, however, that the dessert inspiration is not a dominant aspect of the beer, and that the brewing team has gone to great lengths to make it both interesting and approachable.
“We didn’t want it to be a dessert beer,” says Willcock. “We wanted it to be a clean-flavoured lager with some spice and cherry flavour and sourness; a tiny bit of sweetness but nothing too cloying.”
The two projects – and their creators – are a diverse pair, and Willcock’s experience with both was rewarding. He says working with McConnell was amazing.
“The guy has so much knowledge and experience around flavours and ingredients. As brewers we kind of consider ourselves to have quite an expertise around malt and hops, but the breadth of knowledge he has across a whole range of spices, fruits, herbs and all types of fresh ingredients, is just incredible.”
His experience working with Blackwell was different, but he remains in an approbatory mood.
“Very fun guy to have up here,” he says. “Tim didn’t learn a lot about beer, but he was eager to jump in and learn the process. He was very hands-on and wanted to learn as much as he could as he went along.”
“The idea for Tim’s beer was just purely to have a bit of fun with it.”
The two beers are currently in the development tanks but will be ready for release during Melbourne’s Good Beer Week. The gala event to accompany the launch will take place at Andrew McConnell’s pub, the Builder’s Arms in Fitzroy.
“We wanted names that could symbolically represent that Melbourne culture,” Willcock tells me.
“So Andrew’s a Melbourne chef, and Tim’s a radio presenter based in Melbourne. The Builders Arms is one of Andrew’s pubs, and one of Tim’s favourite pubs in Melbourne. It’s going to be a lot of fun unveiling the beers that night, and giving everyone in Melbourne the opportunity to come along and try them.”
4 Pines beer shouldn’t be any stranger to any beer lover around Australia, with their recently expanded capacity taking their regular range further into Brisbane and Melbourne, as well as South and Western Australia. The opportunity to try some of their experimental one-off endeavours is, however, a rare one, and one that should be taken up by the adventurous beer-scene in Melbourne.
The good news is that the beers will not only be available in Melbourne, but will be simultaneously launched for Sydneysiders at the 4 Pines brewpub and in Brisbane at the Tippler’s Tap. All three venues will begin pouring on Wednesday 22 May, and no ticket or RSVP is required to attend.