Review #4 – Fat Yak Pale Ale

From the label: “This garage engineered beer is golden in colour and has sizable floral aroma. We added hops to the kettle early and late to balance the bitterness, while dry hopping late in the fermentation delivers some big citrus and fruity hop character. Drink it any time of the year.”

Matilda Bay Brewing Company, Fat Yak Pale Ale (APA) – 4.7% abv., (Dandenong, Vic., Australia). $15/6 x 345ml bottles.

I’m trying to like this one, I really am. I can only assume I managed to acquire a less than stellar batch (the quality of this one has apparently varied fairly widely over the last few years) but it’s not easy. The aroma has a slight citrus note but there’s something fighting it that’s a bit fruity and funky, passionfruit maybe or ripe banana. It looks fine though, the colour is a dark golden amber with a slight haze and a thinnish white head that clears to a filmy ring within a minute. The mouthfeel is crisp enough but pretty thin with moderate carbonation. The aroma oversells it and it’s a fairly flavourless brew. Very slightly on the hoppy side perhaps, though a malty sweetness does come out toward the bottom of the glass. It fades to a subtle dry and bitter finish. I can’t actually say it’s a poor beer, but I find myself wondering why I’m drinking it when I can find stuff that’s better, more interesting or cheaper and on occasion, in a glorious subset of happenstance, all three.

Some others who have tried this beer have gone on to claim that the tap version is far better than the bottle. That could very well be true but it doesn’t help me one bit. It’s like the sulky kid in the corner defending their favourite band by admitting the album sucks but they, like, really really rock it up live. Or there’s the argument that it’s a decent enough ‘gateway’ beer, different enough to lure punters away from the mainstream without being overly threatening, and there might be some validity to this if the Alpha (another, apparently superior, Pale Ale by Matilda Bay) is as good as they say but why encourage a market for watery, dumbed down versions of good beers? Who gains from this? It’s probably worthwhile to note at this point that Matilda Bay has been owned by the Fosters Group for something like twenty years now (thanks, Wikipedia!) and that the Dandenong operation only dates from 2005, 5 years after the original Matilda Bay brewers started up the LIttle Creatures brewery. I wish now I’d bought some of their stuff instead. I suspect there’s very little ‘garage’ about the Fat Yak at all, and something at the back of my mind tells me I’m not actually drinking something crafted with love and attention, but rather am participating in a labyrinthine market research project.

So…speaking of limp and watery versions of things that can actually be quite good here’s the Cat Empire (you know who they are, they had that really, really annoying song all those years ago). They’re still going, which I guess means there’s something out there for everyone. Someone’s going to enjoy drinking Fat Yak and listening to this stuff, and catching them on quality telly when they get the chance. Even if I find it vapid, disappointing and unnecessary. I know, I’m probably being a bit harsh on these guys. I’m sorry. Apparently they’re great live.

Verdict: Not actually bad, but disappointing. Seems a long way to ship it when there’s perfectly good Mac’s right next to it on the shelf. 49/100

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