As drinking preferences change during winter, so does beer brewing and winemaking styles. We sat down with Wayward Brewing Co., Hop Nation Brewing Co., Yulli’s Brews and McLaren Vale’s Willunga 100 winery to chat about how chilly weather impacts what they make.
Timing is all-important in the brewing world, so makers have to consider what people will want before they want it and make sure their products are ready to go. Heavier beers and more full-bodied wines are what customers reach for on cold days, while lighter beers and wines are in favour when the mercury goes up!
“Seasonality is an important factor to consider in brewing and usually boils down to two things,” explains Wayward Brewing’s Creative Director, Faye White. “The first is what we enjoy drinking in the current weather, and the second is the ingredients we have access to.”
“Winter tends to be more about darker, stronger beers to warm the cockles. A lot of rich, complex styles seen in our small batch beers. English Dark Ales, Flanders Browns, and IPAs can usually be found gracing the taps in our taproom at this time.”
“Certainly plenty of stouts and darker beers at the beginning of winter,” Hop Nation’s Marketing and Communications Manager Delaney Mes agrees.
Wayward Brewing’s winter repertoire is very similar. “In winter we turn to delicious dark malts and boozier brews for our seasonals,” notes White. “Double Hazy IPA's, Porters and Stouts are usually on the line-up.”
The Winter line-up is a celebration of experimentation and creativity at Wayward. This year, Wayward will bring back their GABS Craft Beer and Cider Festival beer from last year - a Milk Stout made in collaboration with Toby’s Estate Coffee and Grumpy Donuts. It’s a hit that combines, “ all three of our ultimate winter comforts here at the brewery.”
Winter is also the time for Wayward’s Discovery Series release - an annual event that aims to be “a true expression of the brewer's art.” This year it’s called Balthazar. White says, “It follows the trend too - a rich imperial stout, aged in Jack Daniels barrels and weighing in at almost 10% abv.”
Winemakers Willunga 100 have a similar goal in their production - gravitating to grape varieties which yield a slightly heavier bodied wine. “We specialise in Grenache but what we have seen is a move into our slightly heavier bodied Shiraz Viognier and Cabernet Shiraz wines in the last few weeks,” says Zoe Mallen.
Another hit for Willunga is their Tempranillo, which has outsold the company’s popular staple Grenache on occasion during the early Winter days, according to Mallen. “I think it’s spice and savoury finish is just what you need on a cold winter evening. It pairs perfectly with a nice stew but personally a simply grilled burger from the Webber works well also.”
Former home brewer and co-founder of Yulli’s Brews, James Harvey, says their regular brewing schedule shifts from brewing lighter styles like Lager & Pale Ales to more bigger bodied, darker beers with higher ABV. “I, like most people, prefer something a bit heartier in the colder months and something light and easy in the warmer months.”
He also notes it has something to do with people slowing down when the temperature drops. “Throughout the colder months, our customers tend to have more time for each beer. Perhaps their hands are cold, or they're not as in need of a quencher, but regardless it makes for some fun brewing,” Harvey says.
Yulli’s customers know what to expect from their Winter brews. “We usually are asked by our customers when our Fat Nerd Vanilla Porter will be available right around the time we're brewing it, which hopefully indicates that we're all on the same page!”
Hop Nation’s Mes says their winter brewing regime revolves largely around customer preferences, but attracting those customers by using new and interesting ingredients is also a factor. “We wanted to play around with pastry stouts this year, so decided to release a series of three, where we could play with different ingredients (Coffee, Banana, Peanut Butter) but also give customers something a bit fun and different to try.”
Whilst we’re all snuggling under blankets with bowls of soup and a hefty beer, the brewers and winemakers of Australia are already getting ready for bright sunshine and beach weather. The Winter months are used to make what we’ll be drinking in Spring and Summer.
“Seasonality is an integral part of brewing in the craft beer climate today,” Harvey says. “There are so many talented brewers capable of brewing such a wide array of styles and flavours profiles, and the customer knows this! That's why for us, brewing as many seasonal/limited release brews as possible is something we aim for so as to keep our customers engaged with something they've never had before.”
It’s this kind of attention to detail and innovation that is grabbing and holding the public’s interest. Paying attention to the seasons and briskly revolving stock throughout the year is one of the reasons that craft beer is the only segment of the Australian beer market that’s in continuous growth. As long as the chilly weather sticks around, perhaps it’s time for a rich and smooth Nitro Porter like the Wayward Midnight Barley Cowboy or the selling-like-hotcakes Peanut Butter Pastry Stout from Hop Nation?
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