Ironbark Hill Black Forest Stout

G’day guys. It’s Mitch, and despite this welcomed torrent of rain, I haven’t been washed into the river yet. I’m high, dry, enjoying this rain, talking about my favourite kind of beer – Stout. From a brewery in the wine making region of the Hunter Valley, where I was just two months ago now, funnily enough. Another great label that doesn’t appear on store shelves outside of their brewery.

There’s a lot of labels like this that exist in our country that go unseen and don’t get the attention and patronage they deserve. And it is a regret of mine that I don’t know more of them. The small labels of beer brewers and wine makers throughout the country put the love and attention to detail into their product that make these hidden gems of great drinks that others will sit up and take notice when you pull out of your fridge, that the big brands have lost touch with as their empire grew. I wanted the first month or two of the posts on this site to be specifically this; Independent Aussie labels that I can write about and bring into the limelight. But alas, every Google search seems to brings up the same old familiar labels. The first problem is I have to look up each terroir specifically, and attempt to anticipate who would produce (at this time in the site, I’m focusing on beer). So anyone who knows of a good labels that doesn’t make it to the national storefront, you know where to contact me!

Today’s beer, exists as an anomaly. In a terroir known nationally for it’s wine, and up until I was there I didn’t know had anything to do with ale; the Hunter Valley. One of the most well-known wine regions in the country, the northern New South Wales region growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and other popular Australian wine species under the bright sun, high humidity and high rainfall. Circulating a cool breeze from the Pacific Ocean against the New South Welsh mountains. The climatic attributions create a viticulture mirroring that of the Californian Napa Valley, or the Mediterranean. The grapes, growing ripe and healthy into fine domestic vin in this environment. But terroir is rarely a consideration as a contributing factor in the sum character of an ale. But in this case, we have the rare benefit of knowing where the ale originates from. And that the terroir will definitely have a positive effect on the characteristics of the beer.

On my trip last Christmas to the Hunter Valley, we stopped at the Ironbark Hill Brewery. A nice brewery on the same premises as the Ironbark Vineyard, the bar built in full view of the vineyard. Where too, directly to the right of the taps of the bar, you could see the floor of the brewery. A clean concrete room full of stainless steel fermenter vats, coopered oak barrels for ales and vins alike, and other envy-inspiring professional brewing equipment. We were in a world-class wine region so I was mostly looking forward to the vin, but I would have been lying if I said I didn’t enjoy starting with whiskey’s younger sister. They had a great number of beers there to choose from, I even think there was some sparkling wine or something to that affect there too. But I wanted to pace myself, knowing we’d be visiting wineries all day. So given the choice out of all of their beers out of their You Can Call Me Ale, Far Canal Lager, American Pale Ale, Wheatermelon, their Pilsner, their I.P.A., I chose their Black Forest Stout. And I loved it. And their Hazelnut Brown Ale too, loved that too. It’s all on Instagram somewhere. I have loved stout ever since I tried it. The roasted taste, giving the barley tastes of dark chocolate and roasted coffee. It’s great. And now that I know exactly what it is…I have a curiousity that I may have drank whiskey in the past that came from that same roasted barley. So let’s revisit this stout here now in the comfort of home. 

So the can is black as is the brew. Black everywhere except the underside, very eyecatching and very chic (correct me if I’ve used that word wrong, my idea of fashion is Mossy Oak). With an abstract purple zigzag design around the outside. Somewhere on the bottom right it says “Brewed with real cherries and dark chocolate. Brewed to harness the dry Irish stout style with a subtle back end reminiscent of a black forest cake”. After a hard day of work I zealously crack the can open with glee and inhale a sour and sweet nose. Clearly this is the product of those outside the box fruit infusions, but to the untrained nose it comes across as sickly. So don’t be put off (Later out of curiosity of the nose, I poured another can into a schooner just to see what it did oxidized, the nose was much crisper when allowed to breathe). But the taste, toasty, crunchy, earthy and bitter. I’d almost go as far as smoky (After talking to a few of the wineries in December, given the smoke from the bushfires in the area that is probably more than a coincidence). But also a lingering sweetness and nuttiness, I have no difficulty believing they brewed this with real cherries. A fruity-chocolaty sensation.

A great refreshing brew. Sweeter than other mainstream stouts, but without losing any of the bold character of those roasted tones. Like a dark roasted coffee had a kid with a lager. Definitely recommend this, or like I said that Hazelnut brown ale they make as well. But if I wrote about both next week’s post would struggle to reach two hundred words. Cheers

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