Brewers are increasingly using a dazzling array of ingredients and methods to broaden their scope. Yet, while chefs are rightly lauded for successful experimentation, brewers – still the new kids on the block in Australia's thriving drinking culture – who desire to do the same can be dismissed as novelty.
But if a brewer is taking an ingredient or idea then surely it's no more a novelty than Rene Redzepi bringing Australia's native ingredients into his Sydney pop-up? Give it time and I suspect the best of today's more adventurous brewers, here and overseas, will be held in a similar regard to the world's best chefs.
Tacos – Two Birds Taco
It doesn't contain actual tacos, but this beer conceived while eating tacos does contain flaked corn, lime and coriander and has won trophies here and overseas. Success has its downside: preparing the limes is a thankless task.
Seawater – Nomad Brewing Freshie
For their take on the rare German gose style, Nomad's brewers collected buckets of seawater from close to their Northern Beaches home, adding Tasmanian mountain pepper for good measure.
Darebin Parklands – La Sirene Wild Tripelle
The Melbourne parklands where I've held many a barbie provided the vital ingredient for La Sirene's first 100 per cent spontaneously fermented beer. The wild yeasts of the brewery's surrounds fermented this subtly complex, floral, citrusy ale, set to be the first of many such "wild" beers.
Honey – Thornbridge Bracia
There are local beers using honey but when I saw a shipment of this wonder from one of England's finest had landed it had to feature. Chestnut honey is a key element of this strong, dark ale that rates among the very best of the thousands of beers I've sampled.
Mussels and oysters – Two Metre Tall Salty Sea Stout
Tasmania's Two Metre Tall is garnering of a global reputation for its unique interpretations of farmhouse ales and ciders. Many fit the "love it or hate it" category, none more so than this, brewed with Bruny Island mussels and oysters plus seawater and seaweed.
Watermelons – Feral Brewing Watermelon Warhead
This beer is aged in wine barrels (usually Chardonnay) where souring bacteria lactobacillus is added. Swan Valley watermelon juice completes the picture in this sub-3 per center that's reigning Craft Beer Awards Champion Beer.
Lollies – Moon Dog Ogden Nash's Pash Rash
Lollies and beers don't always mix well, but Moon Dog's stout featuring 5800 painstakingly unwrapped Redskins was a delightfully bonkers and enjoyable take on the fruit stout.
Peated distilling malt – Bacchus Brewing Islay Reserve
Peated distilling malt is sometimes used in tiny amounts to add subtle characters to beer. Occasionally, they go the whole hog: Yeastie Boys (NZ) and Tasmania's Seven Sheds have created smoky beers with 100 per cent distilling malt. Brisbane's arch-experimenters Bacchus used nothing but the most intense peated malt then aged it inside former Octomore peated whisky barrels.
Native Australian ingredients – various from Edge Brewing Project
Like Two Metre Tall, whose cider / beer hybrid Snakebite opens Noma Australia's matched drinks list, Edge was asked to create a beer by sommelier Mads Kleppe. In part, it was because of his practice of using native ingredients in beers, which have included a zesty finger lime saison and a wattleseed stout.
Tea – Merchant Brewing Co Earl Pear
Using coffee in beer, particularly darker drops, is relatively commonplace. Tea has been making an appearance of late, with the Yeastie Boys using Earl Grey to fine effect in their superb Gunnamatta IPA and new Sydney brewing company Merchant using the same variety – and pears – in this quirky blonde ale.