Little Creatures can be viewed as a bellwether, useful to gauge Lion’s attitudes to the craft beer market.
While its stable-mate, James Squire, seems to have evolved so each of its beers is positioned towards the lower margins of its style’s flavour range, Little Creatures’ brews have generally sat bang in the middle of the range of theirs.
Creatures’ signature Pale Ale and its newer IPA, and even its recent Brown Ale, have shown themselves to be almost style archetypes, highlighting all of the key elements of their styles, while maintaining essential balance and the pristine production values that big breweries pride themselves on. There are many very good, more extreme, versions of each style across the market, but Creatures manages to provide true-to-style flavour, with balance and quality, consistently.
Little Creatures foray into making a Saison as their next single batch was thus much anticipated at Australian Brews News as it’s a much loved style. The signature yeastiness of a Saison, which can cover the gamut of Belgian characters, is what makes it such a distinctive and delicious beer, characterful and interesting and rewarding on its own or when served with a huge array of foods. It’s a widely interpreted style, true, but pronounced and complex yeast characters, usually dominated by spicy phenols, are regarded as a hallmark.
So it was interesting to see Little Creatures’ Head Brewer, Russell Gosling, describe the Saison as “a clean, well-structured” beer. It’s certainly a good description for their own single batch funk and spice are the signature of classic Saisons. Having set themselves the challenge to brew “a faithful interpretation and produce a beer with real integrity, showcasing the style” they appear to have fallen short of the mark. Just try the archtypical Dupont and Australia’s best ((arguably, always arguably, readers)) Bridge Road’s Chevalier Saison to get a sense of classic Saison yeast character. These are largely absent in the Little Creatures version.
Creatures’ is a highly enjoyable and approachable beer – definitely “a clean, well-structured and beautifully aligned beer” – but, unusually for Creatures, it has produced a version where the style’s defining character is very muted.
This raises Lion’s recent release of a Belgian-style pale ale through Creature’s sibling brewery, White Rabbit. This was described as using a “classic Belgian yeast strain to give the beer an air of mystery while producing a beautiful balance of delicate fruit esters and subtle spicy notes.” Again, the beer was balanced but the style’s signature spicy notes were distinctly subtle.
Is this a bellweather showing an emerging house approach by Lion that seeks to mute the interesting and distinct yeast characters of such styles to ensure a ‘clean’ beer? Are they afraid of the funk? If so, one wonders why they selected these styles in the first place. Little Creatures made its name on being bold, its Pale Ale launcghing when hop character was relatively rare in domestic beers. Hopefully these recent releases are not a sign that Lion sees the way forward for Little Creatures and White Rabbit, and for the craft beer market, as being dependent on the unremarkable and anodyne.
As always, try it for yourself – individual results may vary, but this is one I’d recommend you piggy back with a style classic to compare. [MK]
Little Creatures releases new single batch following Trans-Tasman brewery challenge
6 November 2014 – Curiosity often gets the better of us at Little Creatures and we have once again succumbed to the lure of uncharted territory to test ourselves with a new style of beer. For the 14th edition of Single Batch, we took on a challenge unlike anything we’ve done before, to create our latest beer; a traditional Saison.
Our Single Batch beers could be ode to an old classic or something different altogether, but they are always a very limited release and available at just a few great beer loving venues and retailers around the country.
Evolving the Single Batch program, Little Creatures and our cousins at Emerson’s Brewery, Dunedin NZ, each dared each other to dive into uncharted waters to produce a new style of beer we’ve never made before, using unfamiliar techniques and ingredients.
As part of the challenge, we each sent a team across the Tasman to help make the beer, as well as to share learnings and develop both our skills and relationship with Emerson’s.
Emerson’s asked Little Creatures to brew an authentic Saison, with the challenge for our team to brew a faithful interpretation and produce a beer with real integrity, showcasing the style and resisting the urge to use lots of hops.
Little Creatures Head Brewer, Russell Gosling said: “A great Saison, one with real integrity of style, is most difficult to craft indeed: it is a clean, well-structured and beautifully aligned beer and, as such, is very unforgiving!
“There has been a Saison resurgence of late. The style entertains artisanship and culinary presence, which has inspired many brewers to explore the flexibility within the style and as a result, numerous interpretations are now commonplace.
“Although the style permits much creativity and new regional and indigenous influences are intentionally being established, the nature of this challenge lies in the core virtue of this style: practical beers made for simple enjoyment. So this is not about creating some wacky, new-fangled, eco-regional beer; but a simple beer that is not doctored to disguise the unforgiving nature of the style.”
The Little Creatures team succeeded in brewing a great tasting, traditional Saison, but the process wasn’t without its challenges. The experimental and one-off nature of the Single Batch program means unforseen issues can sometimes occur, which the team experienced as a result of a new yeast they hadn’t used before.
Russell said: “After intense testing of our next single batch Saison pint bottles, our expectations are that the C02 levels will exceed the amount that is suitable to our product packaging standards, at some unknown point in time. As a result, we won’t be releasing the brew in Pint bottles as planned, but on tap at all good craft beer venues around the country.”
To find out where you can try the Little Creatures Saison, head to littlecreatures.com.au/stockists.
For the full story on the Trans-Tasman challenge, see littlecreatures.com.au/news.
Serving temp: 8-12 C
Aroma: Grassy herbs come across slightly funky Belgian yeast and pale bready malts.
Taste: Very refreshing with bready Belgian yeasts, a little earthy/spicy and refined hop characters. A well-balanced beer with a surprisingly complex palate. Lively carbonated with a full rich complexity (fruit) on the palate and a smooth mouthfeel with a soft finish.
Pleasant earthy hops act as an enjoyable counterpart. The palate is substantial and round up front, finishing very dry and lightly fizzy.
About Little Creatures:
Little Creatures Brewing was born out of the love of great beer shared by a few good mates. In particular, it was a hop driven pale ale they tasted in the north west of the U.S that really captured their hearts and gave rise to this little brewery that began on the water’s edge in Fremantle.
After many trials and experimentations, our first beer, Little Creatures Pale Ale, was proudly presented to the Australian market just in time for the summer of 2001.
Throughout the years, Creatures have created a little family of beers that it brews today with the same enthusiasm and drive as the day it began.
The Creatures breweries in Fremantle and Geelong, and the Dining Hall in Fitzroy are open seven days for people to come and enjoy a pint and a bite to eat. Little Creatures beers are available at bottle shops and great beer loving venues across the country.