Boilermaker review: Bakery Hill The Blunderbuss, Hop Nation The Kalash ‘Whisky Edition’

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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.

 


Bakery Hill The Blunderbuss / Hop Nation The Kalash Russian Imperial Stout Whisky Edition 2020
  • The Stats
    • ABV: Whisky: 52% / Beer: 13.4%
    • Price Band: $ $ $ $ $
    • Style: Whisky: Single malt whisky / Beer: Barrel-aged Russian imperial stout
    • Production Story: Whisky: Distilled in 2013 at Bakery Hill Distillery from unpeated malt. Initially matured for six years in ex-Bourbon barrels before being finished in a cask that previously held Hop Nation Kalash 2019. Beer: Brewed at Hop Nation Brewing Co. and matured for 3-4 months in ex-Bakery Hill peated malt casks.
    • Location: Melbourne, VIC
    Nose
    First up, The Blunderbuss, and we found the classic Bakery Hill (BH) DNA transformed by the beer cask maturation. Dark roasted malt flavours and bitter chocolate from The Kalash cask, while the hallmark BH citrus and cereal was poking through underneath. On The Kalash – 'goddamn that's huge!' and 'boozy!'. But it opens up with time, and Jules got big vanilla, blueberry muffins and Old Gold Rum & Raisin with a shot of whisky on top (in our case, literally).
    Palate
    Time in glass really opens up The Blunderbuss, too. Solid integration between spirit and the beer cask, but Brooke found almost too much cask influence, while Jules and I thought it was just in check. Either way, amazing how quickly the stout has made its presence felt, adding mocha, roasted malts and marshmallows. A couple of sips into The Kalash and 'Straight to my head!'. A whiff of peat from the BH casks, very different to previous Kalash's matured in ex-Bourbon barrels. Espresso and vanilla milkshake from Brooke – 'It’s sort of an espresso drinker’s beer' – and Jules thought the BH cask amplified the roasted malts in the beer.
    Finish
    'Definitely need to share these between three or four people!' all agreed, heads fizzing.
    Comments
    So much fun. Tasting these together, you fully grasp the influence of each part of the process. Andrew Baker tells us the collaboration is likely to continue with future iterations, so it'll be fascinating to see what they come up with next (and how The Kalash develops in the cellar!).
Luke McCarthy
Luke McCarthy is the editor and publisher of Oz Whisky Review. A freelance writer and author, Luke's the chief judge of the Perth Royal Distilled Spirits Awards, a judge at the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards, and his book, The Australian Spirits Guide, the first to tackle the history and resurgence of the Australian spirits industry, was published in 2016 by Hardie Grant Books.