I’m thinking that Monteith’s just doesn’t get it. Biggish brewers like Gage Road get it and even the Woolworths Brewery (aka Sail & Anchor) gets it. But Monteith’s? Nope.
What don’t they get? The idea that a special release beer is supposed to be…well…special. Gage Roads went a little special with their first limited release – a strong ale called The Convict and then followed it with something even more different in the form of a chocolate Belgian dubbel. Sail & Anchor shocked quite a few beer geeks by going big with their first limited release (by the way, “limited release” in this instance means “don’t rush, we made heaps of the stuff”). Their beer was Jack Tar, an imperial stout – a bold move and one which made them one of the few breweries in this country to crank one out (at least I think that’s accurate, though I’m happy to be corrected).
But Monteith’s? Well, they launched their Brewers Series this year, which is supposed to feature different beers, beers that are a bit special. And what have they released so far? Well, there was an IPA. Not a super hoppy IPA, or one with some weird ingredient or one that had been fermented with yeast they knocked off from a Trappist brewery. Nope, it was a standard English IPA. Nothing wrong with it but it was a beer that could easily have been part of their main range.
Next up was a ginger beer, which I liked, but again, it was just a ginger beer. And we have heaps of them to choose from. The most recent in the Brewers Series is a barrel-aged porter. Now that sounds like they’ve finally figured it out, doesn’t it? They’ve finally decided to do something special. In this case, that something special is to age the porter in American oak pinot noir barrels – not a bad choice at all.
But guess what? They still don’t get it. I read a comment on Untappd that asked if Monteith’s had used aluminum barrels to age the beer. I totally understand where that person is coming from because I can’t taste any hint of oak or pinot noir in this beer. It’s almost as though Monteith’s felt a lot of wine and oak flavour might scare off customers so they really, really dialled it down. Because, while it’s an okay beer, it feels like a porter that is directed at the second floor of the Craft Beer Fan building (and that’s a building with a lot of floors). That’s where people who have discovered craft beef but whose palates are still getting used to it hang out.
The beer leaves my with the question, if you don’t want oak or red wine flavours in your beer, then why the hell would you put it in wine barrels? For me, the description on the bottle’s label just doesn’t match up with what’s in the bottle.