What classes a beer as being in the ‘luxury’ category?
When Crown Ambassador was first released in 2008, we pioneered a new luxury style of beer never before seen or tasted in Australia. It uses three integral elements uncommon in brewing: fresh hand picked Galaxy hops, a unique barrel ageing process and a long maturation time which make it different from many others. From start to end – the brewing of a luxury beer such as Ambassador is hand-crafted. There is no set recipe or formula.
How does the brewing process differ to other beers? Could you run us through the process?
Crown Ambassador begins with Crown’s signature ingredients; the finest malted barley, highest quality yeast and fresh hops – not many beers in Australia use fresh hops. These hops produce rich aromatic characters and also stabilise the beer, increasing its smooth texture and longevity. The beer is cooled and matured following fermentation, which allows the complex flavours to develop further, creating its taste. This year we used the same Dargaud et Jaegle French Oak barrels as last year – the blend of the barrel aged and tank aged brew is a technique borrowed from the wine industry and has varied slightly with every vintage. Finally, the brew undergoes a secondary fermentation with live yeast, ensuring each bottle is truly unique. Each vintage of Crown Ambassador has different nuances and it’s something that we’re really proud of. We didn’t use any brand new oak barrels this year so the flavour will be smooth and have a more subtle oak character that will taste more vanilla than last years.
Can you tell us more about beer cellaring?
There aren’t many beers in Australia that are designed to be cellared but when Crown Ambassador is cellared correctly, at or below 15 degrees, it encourages the complex flavours to further evolve while the alcohol strength of 9.6% will protect the beer. Crown Ambassador undergoes two fermentation processes, the second of which promotes both the greater flavour development and long-term cellaring.
How would you advise drinkers best enjoy a Crown Ambassador?
Crown Ambassador isn’t like a regular beer, it has a much more intense flavour and is really suited to beer connoisseurs. It’s best matched to premium cuts of smoked, grilled or barbecued meats and it is also suited for rich desserts, dried fruit and vintage cheese. I would also advise that it is drunk at 10-12 degrees as it’s harder to appreciate the malty rich flavours when the temperature is too cold. Crown Ambassador can be cellared for up to ten years and the other unique thing about it is that it will develop and change with age. I tasted 2009 again the other day and it has a rich, toffee, caramel flavour which has developed over time. If you can get a couple – drink one now and cellar the other for a couple years!
What is coming up next for Crown?
Almost as soon as we release one we are planning for the next! We’ll pick the fresh galaxy hops in Rostrevor, Myrtleford again in March – they are terrific there and allow us to choose a couple of hop bines on which the hops look really ripe and plump. For Crown Lager, we are in the process of selecting our barley growers for next year – the Crown Lager specifications means only the best barley farmers are chosen to have their barley go into Crown Lager so we’re excited to see the best of next year’s barley harvest.