Wig & Pen Brewery/Tavern
Canberra may well claim to be the real ale capital of Australia on the strength of this single brew-pub, which sees more pints of hand-pumped ale pulled than any other joint in the land. From the well-balanced and quintessential session ale Bulldog Best Bitter, to the hop-tingling Brewer’s India Pale Ale and the citrusy US-style Pale Ale, there’s comfort and flavour aplenty. While hard-core real ale types queue up for their regular fix dispensed from the quartet of hand-pumps, there’s plenty more good beer to sample among the six regular and four seasonal taps on offer at this compact central city bar. Established in 1994, the Wig & Pen has proved to be one of the country’s most successful brew-pubs, developing a loyal following while knocking out just about every beer style you can think of under the watch of long-time brewer Richard Watkins. The 5-hectolitre microbrewery is shoehorned into a snug space where Watkins toils away to keep up with demand. What other pub could offer four different house-brewed stouts or wheat beers on tap at one time, or one-off brews like the mouth-puckering but stunning vermilion-hued Elderberry Weisse or the tarry annual Russian Imperial Stout? And then there’s the Hopinator – a seethrough device which Watkins fills with fresh hop flowers and pumps beer through to celebrate each new hop harvest. Despite such attention-grabbing brews, the Wig & Pen also delivers a surprisingly flavoursome lower-alcohol beer (Mister Natural), the well-balanced Kiandra Gold Pilsner (which is really an ale masquerading as a lager) and the delicately fruity Kamberra Kolsch which may well have been the first Australian craft-brewed kolsch.
Wig & Pen produces highly consistent and true-to-style hand-pumped real ales, a sound range of regular brews and oneoff seasonal brews that really push the flavour envelope.
Wig & Pen Pale Ale
Behind the Label
Few breweries have named any of their beers after well-known Aussie rock songs but Mister Natural is one that – rather appropriately – borrows from, admittedly, one of Mental As Anything’s lesser hits. How could I forget, after Wig & Pen brewer Richard Watkins once rang me on his mobile from a food and wine festival in Canberra while the Mentals were playing this very number. Funnily enough, this lower-alcohol draught beer has been the Wig & Pen’s most decorated brew at the Australian International Beer Awards over the years and has often carried off the mantle as Champion Reduced Alcohol Beer.
Canberra House Arcade, Alinga Street, Canberra 2601, (02) 6248 0171.comments powered by Disqus