4.5% Amber Ale
Seventeen years ago, on a pleasant sunny Melbourne day (it may have been overcast) (or even raining and miserable, I can’t remember) a legend was born. After a self-taught homebrewing apprenticeship, Dave Bonighton received a postcard from his mate, Cam Hines who was travelling North America. “I get it. Let’s open a brewery”.
And so, armed with 15 years of homebrew experience, a large amount of dedication and passion and collateral consisting of Dave’s EH Holden, three surfboards and two mountain bikes they went off to visit the bank.
Ten banks and ten rejections later, friends and family stepped in to raise the funds necessary to take the operation out of Dave’s backyard (to cheers from Mrs Bonighton) and into humble digs in inner Melbourne’s Richmond. Legendary Friday nights at the brewery gave birth to a Melbourne tradition that has grown, along with the brewery in its new, three-times-larger warehouse.
Hightail was the first Mountain Goat beer and appeared in the fridge at Richmond’s Great Britain Hotel in October 1997. As Dave describes it, while the Steam Ale is the company’s ‘horsepower beer’ keeping the till ticking, it is still this little hoppy amber which is the ‘Hero beer’.
And so, to the beer;
James Smith of The Crafty Pint found his first Aussie craft beers on a visit to the Goat Bar shortly after landing from the UK.
“The Goat classic. A full flavoured English style real ale, its deep amber in colour, packed to the hilt with malt flavour and topped off with an enticing floral hop aroma. It’s the beer that made their name all those years ago and, more than a decade later, a guaranteed gem whenever you spot the bright red goat head on the taps calling you to the bar. All draught Hightail comes from their Richmond HQ with packaged product now produced offsite at Independent Distillers.”
The Beer Diva, Kirrily Waldhorn on her website ‘Beerstyle’ puts the beer in an emotional context outside of taste and flavour;
“There are certain things in each of our lives that make us feel safe, the security in knowing that the earth is still spinning and all is in balance. Your mother’s hugs, walking through your front door, the warmth of a fire. I am also incredibly reassured by the Mountain Goat Hightail Ale. Life is out of kilter if the fridge is void of one of my favourite go-to beers. It’s by no means a safe beer, instead offering comfort, wrapping around you like a welcome cashmere blanket on a cool evening. Rich toffee aromatics, laced with delicate grassy hop characters, tied together with a wonderful earthiness on the palate, provide a caring reassurance.”
Always finding fans in The Local Taphouse Hottest 100 poll, Hightail has not dropped from the top 50 despite the prevalence of ‘latest-shiny-trend-beer’ to take spots from old favourites.
2008 – #3, 2009 – #4, 2010 – #13, 2011 – #36, 2012 – #14, 2013 – #27, 2014 – #48.
A consistent favourite among the critics, Hightail Ale has found a spot in every edition of The Critics’ Choice. Here are the numbers – (1) #11 (2) #9 (3) #15 (4) #61
“The original flagship Goat beer is…almost drinking age…[and] still among the best” Pia Poynton
“This is one amber worth stopping for.” Pete Mitcham
“An English ale with aspirations…over the years ‘sessional’ has been hijacked to describe beers that quench with the satisfaction of water. Hightail Ale reclaims the term…” Matt Kirkegaard.
To finish, I will quote the brewer himself who once described the beer to me as “a hybrid mongrel amber” owing to its rich and worthy malt backbone with the less-than-usual addition of a bright hoppy punch.
Fun Fact! Early party nights at the old brewery saw long queues for both the beers and the sole Porta-Loo on the footpath. When Brews News asked Dave about council objections to the regular shenanigans he explained; “Prof, we were never worried. The guys from Local Laws and Planning were always among the first in and the last out on brewery nights!”
beer style (Kirrily Waldhorn)
The Crafty Pint (James Smith)