On tasting: Bakery Hill The Blunderbuss, Hop Nation The Kalash Russian Imperial Stout Whisky Edition 2020
Beer and whisky have always gone hand in hand for the Oz Whisky Review team. From the early days of Whisky & Alement (the bar Brooke and Jules founded and I later worked at), bartenders who crammed into the place from three till five in the morning were always ordering whisky with a beer chaser. We’d finish our shifts in the same way – sit at the bar and swap stories about the night over our favourite beers and whiskies till the wee hours.
Brooke and Jules developed the boilermaker idea from there. They started offering curated lists featuring affordable, curious pairings of whisky and beer. It’s been commented upon since, that this simple idea, stemming from the old school ‘hauf an a hauf’, helped to champion a more relaxed way of enjoying whisky in Australia. By serving up single malts next to Australia’s most easy-going beverage, whisky became less intimidating, more accessible, more fun.
Bars, restaurants and producers then started thinking more creatively about the relationship between the two. Suddenly, whisky and beer pairing nights were cropping up all over the place, especially during Good Beer Week. Meanwhile, craft breweries and distilleries began trading casks to mature their beers and whiskies, upping the game even further. The exercise hinted at the best of both worlds: the sharing of knowledge, techniques and flavours, and because many of the high ABV beers were freakin’ massive, you’d always share them with friends, especially if you wanted to taste the whisky that fortified the ale.
The latest collaboration between Bakery Hill Distillery and Hop Nation Brewing Co., launched last week, encapsulates the best parts of this story. Andrew Baker, Bakery Hill’s chief operating officer, says the idea started at a Melbourne house party, with team members from Bakery Hill and Hop Nation bonding over a shared appreciation for each others’ products.
Hop Nation Brewing Co. – Oz Whisky Review
A loose plan to ‘do something together’ led to Bakery Hill gifting Hop Nation half-a-dozen whisky casks. The casks previously housed Bakery Hill’s peated single malt, and Hop Nation decided to use them to mature some of their annual barrel-aged Kalash Russian imperial stout. That beer was launched during Good Beer Week 2019, and its success prompted a further collaboration, where Bakery Hill whisky would be finished in casks that matured The Kalash, creating Bakery Hill The Blunderbuss.
This project seemed like the perfect thing to crack for the Oz Whisky Review team’s first proper catch-up post-lockdown. We loved the experience so much that we’ve now decided this will be the first of many ‘boilermaker reviews’. For these, we’ll sit down with Australian beers and whiskies that are connected in their making and taste and review them together (trying not to talk too much shite in the process).
For us, it’s one of the best ways to celebrate the relationship between the Australian whisky and brewing industries, and what a pair to start with.