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Classic Beer of the Month July 2011: Little Creatures Pale Ale

Little Creatures Pale Ale, 5.2%

There’s a catchy track doing the round of UK radio station playlists at the moment. Performed by Michael Franti and Spearhead, it’s called ‘The Sound of Sunshine’ and it’s a shamelessly brazen attempt to make the most out of the few warming rays we get in Britain each summer.

Little Creatures Pale AleThe song kept playing around in my head when I started thinking about which beer to choose for July’s Classic Beer of the Month.

It kept telling me that I needed a beer equivalent, not so much the sound of sunshine as the taste of the same. And one beer sprang to mind ahead of many others that would also qualify.

It’s a relatively new beer, from a surprisingly young brewery, based in the land of sunshine, Australia. Little Creatures was only founded in 2000 and its flagship brew is testimony to the ever-expanding, fruity hop-accented influence of the American craft brewing movement.

The story begins with the founding of a pub and brewery in the Western Australia harbour city of Fremantle, near Perth. The premises were a disused boatyard that had found previous employment as a crocodile farm. Success was instant and growth rapid. By 2008, a new bigger brewery needed to be installed.

Hop Delight

Little Creatures Pale Ale is a hop delight, without ever being over intense or demanding. The key to its subtlety lies in the mellowness of the faintly nutty, supportive malt and in the skilful treatment of the hops.

American Cascade and Tasmanian Galaxy, varieties well known for their rich citrus and tropical fruit qualities, are deftly handled by the Little Creatures brewers. Their influence comes not from the copper boil (where pelletized bittering hops do the spadework) but after the boil is over.

The hops are placed inside the hop back, the vessel through which the hopped wort is strained on its way out of the copper. There juicy, sappy oils and resins generously soak out of the leaves and into the brew as it makes its way to the fermentation tank.

The result is a beer with a luscious fruit profile, bursting with spritzy grapefruit and other citrus flavours and given a little punch by tangy, peppery notes that are also derived from the hops.

Crucially, once fermented, those golden flavours are not abused by the packaging process. Instead of being crudely filtered and pasteurized, the beer is carefully bottle conditioned to ensure subtlety and freshness when it enters your glass.

Liquid sunshine, you might call it, ideal for a July day, even in the UK.

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