For quite a while the Gage Roads brewery in Western Australia has confused me.
On the one hand, they’re responsible for some rather ordinary mainstream beers like Wahoo and their ‘‘Gage Premium Lager’’ (Beer rule: avoid any beer that describes itself as ‘‘premium’’. It usually means ‘‘we used that word so we could charge you more for the beer’’).
On the other hand, they’re also responsible for some quite interesting beers like the robust Atomic Pale Ale and Sleeping Giant IPA. It just seemed to me they couldn’t figure out what they were – a brewer of mainstream beer or a brewer of good beer.
Now they’re also responsible for The Convict, a 7.2 per cent ‘‘strong Australia ale’’ brewed as a limited release for Australia Day later this month. And it was while drinking that beer that I finally figured out what they were doing. At least I think I figured them out. I could be completely wrong here – after all I was drinking a 7.2 per cent beer at the time.
See, they’re just making beer. While I’m here trying to put them into one category or another, they’re just making beer. Sometimes they make mainstream beer (presumably for the cash) and other times they make good beer (presumably for the karma, but I can’t say that for sure). They just make beer and let other people worry about stuff like how to ‘‘define’’ them.
There’s a certain honesty in their approach too. Both sorts of beer are sold under the ‘‘Gage Roads’’ name, so there’s none of that sneaky camouflaging the origin of the brewery that has got some beer geeks up in arms. They don’t have a ‘‘good beer’’ arm and a ‘‘mainstream beer’’ arm which they keep separate. They just chuck it all under same Gage Roads banner.
So, that revelation aside, let’s move onto The Convict. It comes in a 640ml bottle with a label that really stands out on the beer shelves at my local Dan Murphys (and if my local DMs has it I’d assume every single other one in the country does too).
There’s some label copy that starts with ‘‘Australian beer drinkers, you’ve been locked up by bland, watered-down lagers for too long’’. A bit disingenuous if you ask me, because you could argue that Gage Roads has at least one such lager in their portfolio. It goes on to list six malts and four hops – all grown in Australia apparently – that are used in the beer. For the malt geeks they are; ale, amber, wheat, Vienna, crystal and roast. I assume they’re all in there I’m not the bestest when it comes to malt detection.
The four hops are: stella, summer, topaz and that go-to hop known as galaxy. And I can certainly taste them, especially when they’re ramped up like they are here.
Those hops give strong toffee aroma which carries over to the flavour at the front end, before those malts (I can’t tell which ones, specifically) stick their noses in at the back end. All-up it’s a big, thick, rich, flavoursome beer, the sort of beer that I imagine when I hear the phrase ‘‘strong ale’’. Which brings me to that 7.2 per cent alcohol. Either I’m getting used to stronger beers or brewers are getting better at hiding alcohol but this certainly didn’t feel like a high alcohol beer. There was a bit of alcohol burn here and there but nothing that would make you go ‘‘hey, this beer must be packed with alcohol’’.
I’ve heard that this will be the first of a number of limited releases by the self-proclaimed ‘‘Fussy Bastards’’ at Gage Roads. If that’s true then I eagerly await their next release.
Would I buy it again?: Yep, in fact I was so confident it would be good that I bought two bottles of it. And will probably buy more soon.