Balter Brewing Company Alt Brown, 5.2 per cent ABV
It's media law that any yarn involving champion surfer Mick Fanning must reference the time he (kind of) punched a shark in South Africa. I've done that now, so let's move on to things the bloke's done since. Things like opening a cracking brewery a few months ago on the Gold Coast.
White Lightning co-owns Balter with fellow surfing legends Joel Parkinson, Josh Kerr and Bede Durbidge (owning a brewery has been a longtime dream for Durbidge). Trophy-winning brewer Scotty Hargrave (formerly of Stone and Wood and Byron Bay Brewing Company) has jumped on board to man the tanks.
Hargrave says he was initially skeptical about Balter. "I was only told they were 'well-known' people. I kind of groaned and thought 'yeah, great, here we go - someone with money or fame who reckons craft beer is cool and a golden goose right now'."
"After a few chats with the guys, I realised they were serious and had the drive to do it properly. They were also happy to admit they didn't know anything about brewing, but were keen to learn and wanted someone to show them the ropes."
Balter's first release was its XPA, an American-style pale ale more refreshing than a post-surf shower. The Alt Brown is second cab off the rank, with more wide releases planned. The brewery's Currumbin taproom is also open from Friday to Sunday with Hargrave's experimental beers on the pour.
Something of a cross between English brown and altbier - the copper-toned, cold-conditioned ale native to Dusseldorf that's usually malty, aromatic and easy to sink.
"When the Alt Brown has been in the tank or keg for a couple of weeks, its residual yeast tends to drop out," says Hargrave. "I use a fair bit of Munich malt and there's this real altbier character that comes through."
"However, as a brewer and beer judge, I couldn't put my hand on my heart and call it a full-on German altbier because it's just not bitter enough. If it had another 10 bitterness units then yeah, we could probably call it an altbier."
There's a rich, creamy chocolatey character to this English-German hybrid that's intensified by a spell in the can ("It's almost like liquid milk chocolate at times," Hargrave says). By all means drink straight from the tin, although you'll be rewarded with notes of nutty, toasty, caramel toffee by pouring the beer into a glass.
There's hops, yes, but they're off in the distance, meaning you have a balanced, sessionable ale suited to Australian summers. Kent Old Brown for the Point Break generation.
Where to find it
Harder to track down on tap than Balter's XPA, but there's a few kegs pouring in NSW and Queensland. The tinnies are easier to find on the east coast and Balter does a fine job keeping its stockist list up to date. You can also visit the brewery next time you're in Currumbin feeding lorikeets.
Goes best with
Fat snags, soft rolls and burnt onion; Jaws on a lazy Sunday night, particularly during Quint's Indianapolis speech; Jura comte and Jatz; campfires and old Kuta Lines jumpers; mid-90s copies of Tracks mag and mates.