beer review

The tides they are a’changing

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If I were a crazy person I’d presume that the people at Sail & Anchor had the power to read my mind and that I should start stopping a tinfoil hat to protect my valuable thoughts.

But I’m not a crazy person – well not that crazy – so I don’t think anyone at Sail & Anchor was stealing my thoughts; just that we had the same idea at around the same time.

About a year ago I came up with a great way for a mainstream brewery to move into the craft beer market. They could keep their bog-standard core range but, every now and then, they could let their brewers go a bit off base and make something a bit weird and a bit different. And aimed squarely at beer geeks.

That’s more or less what Sail & Anchor have done. Owned by Woolworths, the Sail & Anchor range launched last year with a selection of four not-that-great beers. Which was okay – they weren’t made with me in mind. But some beer geeks were outraged, tagging it ‘‘faux craft’’.

Anyway, a few months later, the people at Sail & Anchor released Jack Tar, an imperial stout. Now this is a beer that was without question aimed at beer geeks. I mean, who else would drink an imperial stout. It was also pretty helpful that it was a good imperial stout.

Then the released an IPA, which was quite nice but not really ‘‘out there’’ in beer terms. Well, the third Sail & Anchor limited release is back into ‘‘out there’’ territory. It’s Changing Tides, an 11 per cent barleywine. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but there aren’t too many breweries in Australia pumping out a barleywine.

The beer comes in a metal case (which I hate, by the way. It’s totally unnecessary, wasteful excess packaging) with a descriptor that calls it a ‘‘barleywine ale’’. Some geeks will likely mock that as being inaccurate, but I assume the ‘‘ale’’ has been added so as adventurous newcomers don’t think a barleywine is an actual wine. I have no problem with anything that educates people about beer.

The bottle itself features one of those images that change when you turn it upside down. Hold it normally and it’s a picture of a guy who’s looking the worse for wear. Turn it upside down and it’s Santa Claus. Merry Christmas.

As for the quality of the beer itself, that’s a bit of a tricky one. The aroma reminded me a bit of jersey caramels, which is a fine thing for a beer to smell like. That’s not the tricky bit – the taste is.

Sometimes when I took a sip I found the beer – which pours slightly syrupy – too sweet upfront. Then I would take another sip and find that all was fine upfront. There is apparently a load of US hops in the beer as well but I couldn’t detect any of the promised citrus character, though there is an acceptable level of bitterness at the back.
I did like the warm flush the alcohol content brought to my face at the end of each sip – it was a welcome reminder of the beer’s high alcohol content.

I’ve heard the beer is priced at $20 in some stores. If you were going to try this beer – and I think you should (if only so that Sail & Anchor keep making these sorts of limited releases) – go get it from Dan Murphy’s. Last time I checked they were selling it for $15 a bottle.

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3 replies »

  1. Yep, I agree with you here, with what Sail & Anchor has done. Smart move. Their special releases make much more sense than the weak special releases from other macro producers, which mostly end up being boring “gateway craft” in large format packaging. Good to see S&A thinking about the actual beer.

    And it seems that Changing Tides is selling for $15 in all Woolworths outlets, including BWS, from what I’ve seen.

    Merry Christmas and thanks for a big year of blogging. Cheers.

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