Credit: Louise Lister
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It takes up to 2,700 litres of water to make a standard case of beer, not to mention the fertilisers and pesticides used in growing the raw ingredients, and the energy, packaging and transport for the production process. Makes it tempting to turn up to your next social gathering with your arms swinging...
But there are ways to reduce the environmental impact of your next round. Opt for independent craft beers rather than the mass-produced brews that come with a hefty carbon stain. Favour breweries closest to where you live, preferably working out of small factories that employ locals, keep running costs to a minimum and have energy-efficient practices. The grain growers supplying these breweries should be selected just as carefully, as they tend the soil where the ingredients are grown.
Of course, with all these factors considered, then there’s the all-important taste test. We put in the hard work to test a few of the best and most popular beers, as well as a few newbies.
Endeavour Growers Bright Ale
These are from Sydney brewers originally producing wine, so there’s a big emphasis on quality produce and processes. It’s a bright ale made from carefully selected all-Australian barley and hops. This very light, delicate brew has a slight lime taste. To read a longer review of the Endeavour Vintage Beers,
click here. $3.99 (330 ml) bottle, $33.99 case of 12, www.endeavourbeer.com
Two Metre Tall Derwent Aromatic Spelt Ale
This is known as a soured mash ale and is perhaps not to everyone’s taste. It is almost like a thick, fermented cider, and is designed to age in the bottle. It hails from the birthplace of the Australian hop industry, near the Derwent River in Tasmania, and the spelt grain is grown on the same farm where the beer is brewed. Sustainability is central to the organic growing philosophy – waste husks from brewing are fed to the cattle to produce ‘beer-fed’ beef. $11 (500 ml) bottle, www.2mt.com.au
Pikes Oakbank Sparkling Ale
The company’s namesake, Englishman Henry Pike, bottled his first beer in the Adelaide Hills in 1878 after arriving aboard the HMS Oakland. Reintroduced more than 130 years later, Oakbank beer is malty, and slightly more bitter and heavier than many modern sparkling ales. During our office taste test, words such as “wholesome” and “full-bodied” were bandied around, yet “it’s still light and spritzy, as though winged angels are dancing on your tongue” (we’d tested a few by then). However, it’s not brewed in Oakbank. $3.65 (330 ml) bottle, $68.99 case of 24, www.pikeswines.com.au/oakbank-beer
Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale
Here’s a beer to slowly savour, with a rich, smooth, honey taste. The Coopers brewery in Adelaide is powered by a co-generation plant located on-site, and waste heat is harnessed to produce steam used later in the brewing process. Water use is kept to a minimum – the water comes from a closely monitored underground aquifer that is desalinated by reverse osmosis. We reckon even those who aren’t SA locals could get green karma from any of the Coopers range. $4.99 (330 ml) bottle, $80.99 case of 24, www.coopers.com.au
Barossa Valley Organic Ale
From a valley more renowned for wine than beer comes one of the only big, bold, organic pale ales in the country. Although it costs a few quid, it’s worth every penny, not only because it’s organic. It has a delicious spicy flavour. $3.99 (330 ml) bottle, $70.99 case of 24, www.bvbeer.com.au
Mountain Goat Organic Steam Ale
This very aromatic ale is what we’d describe as a bit of a ladies’ beer, with its peachy, floral, musky tones. We’re big fans of the way Mountain Goat goes about it business – you can take a free tour of its eco-friendly brewery in Melbourne. $3.99 (330 ml) bottle, $70.99 case of 24, www.goatbeer.com.au
Cascade Pale Ale
Although this Tassie beer is less ‘craft’ than ‘premium’ beer, it comes from Australia’s oldest brewery, known for its eco-credentials. Don’t expect a typical pale ale – it’s more a traditional lager style, making it flavoursome yet very light, refreshing and easy to drink. $3.85 (330 ml) bottle, $44.99 case of 16, www.cascadebreweryco.com.au
Try these too: These eco-friendly beers also rate a special mention, but we didn't get to try them for this tasting: Stone & Wood (Byron Bay), Murray’s Whale Ale (Port Stephens), Young Henrys (Newtown, in Sydney) and Fat Yak Pale Ale (Port Melbourne).