There are some craft beer styles that defy their particular names. Barleywine for instance, has nothing to do, as its name suggests, with fermented grapes. Pumpkin beers are, well… that’s for another discussion. And if you knew that an Australian Sparkling Ale was in no way related to champagne, then you’re smarter than me – take no great reward in that.
Scarlet Lane Brewing Company (just outside of Indianapolis) has jumped straight out of the box with it’s newest seasonal release, Laughing Water Australian Sparkling Ale, and after folks become acquainted with this style, they may clamor for more. Having a unique identity, Laughing Water comes out at a perfect time of year.
Sparkling Ale – the key word being ale – is considered the classic beer style of Australia, a style not very well known in America and which also lends itself to some confusion. The style was first introduced in 1862 by Coopers Brewing as kind of a lighter pale ale and was Australia’s most popular style until lagers played the heavy and pushed them aside.
I talked with Scarlet Lane CEO Eilise Lane inside the brewery at their launching of Laughing Water, about the inspiration behind her new beer. She said she had been wanting to make a sparkling ale since she spent time in Australia, mixing in studies with beer visits.
She said, “I have this deep love of everything Australia.” She drew up the recipe about a year ago but it took some time to source the proper ingredients. Eilise added, “Finally, I’m head brewer again and so I said, ‘It’s Sparkling (smiles)!’”
Discussing those ingredients Eilise said, “I’m really impressed with this (Burton-type) yeast. It has a little pear, a little bit of apple – I just absolutely love this yeast.” Two row and pilsen malts provide a light bready and biscuity character which melds pleasantly with Australian Pride of Ringwood hops, keeping it truly authentic. “It leaves fresh and crisp”, she said, “And it really came out the way I wanted it to. I’m really happy about it.”
With the departure of a former brewer, Eilise returned to the duties of Head Brewer and her excitement and joy is barely containable, almost like she had been reunited with a long lost pet.
“I feel good, I feel like this is a really great time. It’s spring, I’m doing my brews, gettin’ in my groove. I’m excited to have people try our beer again!”
Nick Servies, Chief Brand Officer and co-founder of SLB, told me they wanted to do something different from what other breweries may be doing this time of year.
“If it works, we’ll continue to do it”, he said, as they try to narrow down their portfolio. “This one’s pretty good so we’re probably going to keep it around. It’s a perfect beer for Indiana – it’s light, it’s an easy drinker. For us, we’re always trying to find something a little bit different to do, either in the hop profile or just in the style of beer we want to do.”
Servies told me that sparkling ale was “an old-school style of beer that was native to Australia, kind of an original entrance into the beer side of things. For it to almost go extinct…the description of a sparkling ale doesn’t make sense because it’s almost perfect for what you want in a summer beer.”
The name, Laughing Water, comes from a book of the same name written in 1920 by Australian author, Ethel Turner. The beautifully colored label art that adorns the bottles it’s sold in depicts purple gremlins in sort of an old pagan, water dance ritual. Limited 22 oz. bottles are offered for sale as well as some on draft.
Spring in Indiana promises everything anew, but Laughing Water signals something else for Eilise Lane.
She says, “With me being head brewer now, it’s a really good time for me to come out with something personal again.” Admitting to some nervousness in introducing this beer after thinking about it for so long, she added, “It’s me 100% naked in front of the world. Something I’m really excited about but I’m not sure how everybody is going to take it.”
Drinking similar to a pilsner with having flavors that work together and don’t overpower each other, each sip urges another and makes me wish I had been introduced to this style long before. And don’t let that style name worry you. Go on and cozy up to this blind date of a beer-it’ll make you smile.
Scarlet Lane Brewing Co. is located in McCordsville, In.