I have to wonder whether some people’s opinion of whether Stone & Wood make ‘‘craft beer’’ changed this week.
If you missed it, the Byron Bay brewery is buying back the part of themselves they sold to Little World Beverages, the owner of Little Creatures back in 2009.
Since then, Little World was taken over by Lion and its that multinational from whom the Stone & Wood trio of Ross Jurisich, Jamie Cook and Brad Rogers will buy back that 20 per cent of themselves.
I assume this will make Stone & Wood wholly independent – and perhaps magically turn their product into ‘‘craft beer’’.
See, I recall earlier this year that the Australian beer industry was involved in a bit of a catfight as to what ‘‘craft beer’’ was. They ended up with two distinct bodies, both claiming to represent ‘‘craft beer’’, both with differing definitions of what that was.
Some of those on one side had problems with Stone & Wood being called craft beer because of that 20 per cent stake held by Lion. Weird – what their beers tasted like didn’t matter, it was all down to who owned shares.
Now, with those shares being bought back, I’d have to assume that Stone & Wood -without changing anything about their beers – can now safely be called ‘‘craft beer’’.
That whole what is craft beer argument seemed entirely pointless to me. As a consumer, I couldn’t care who owned the beer I was drinking, all I was interested in was how the beer tasted.
And Stone & Wood tasted pretty good. Especially their flagship beer, the Pacific Ale.
When I started out on my craft beer journey, that was a beer I loved because of its juicy tropical fruit flavours Later, when newbies asked me for a few craft beer recommendations, Pacific Ale was one I’d always mention because those flavours would give them an idea of the range of flavours possible in beer.
Like I’d experienced with Little Creatures Bright Ale, I’d expected my developing beer palate to go beyond the Pacific Ale, to find it wanting.
But that simply hasn’t happened. During the Meet the Brewer night at Harts for Sydney Craft Beer Week, Brad Rogers turned up and wanted to buy me a beer. I opted for a Pacific Ale, because I figure it’s rude to ask a brewer to buy you someone else’s beer.
I’d had quite a few beers by that point and my taste buds were somewhat dulled by that point, but the delicious, fresh fruity flavour of the Pacific Ale cut straight through.
I sat down last night and had a glass of the Pacific and found that it was as though it had developed along with my palate. The wonderful aromas of tropical fruit, particularly guava, are still there. But whereas before I recalled a strikingly fruity flavour, I now found an altogether more subtle and delicate fruitiness, one that teases the palate and slips away just as you notice it’s there.
It’s wonderful, refreshing and a great change from the fad for heavily hopped beers. As far as I’m concerned – this is definitely craft beer.