They say…

Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
Writer of "Probably the best book about beer in London" - Londonist
"A necessity if you're a beer geek travelling to London town" - Beer Advocate
"A joy to read" - Roger Protz
"Very authoritative" - Tim Webb.
"One of the top beer writers in the UK" - Mark Dredge.
"A beer guru" - Popbitch.
Des de Moor


Carlton & United Sheaf Stout

ABV: 5.7%
Origin: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Tooth's (now Carlton United) Sheaf Stout apparently kept these strapping Aussie Rules players fit. Those were the days.

I discovered a plain looking 750ml bottle of this southern hemisphere classic, which I’ve never seen on sale in the UK, in the well stocked fridges of the excellent neighbourhood liquor store on the corner of 17th and Noe Streets on the edge of San Franciso’s Castro district, a short walk from our regular B&B. It prompted yet another breach of my self-imposed taboo on buying imports while travelling. The beer has been on my wants list since I read Michael Jackson and Roger Protz singing its praises in the late 1990s, as the leading surviving example of the British and Irish-inspired stouts that were once widespread in Australia before the ascendancy of industrial lager.

 It was originally a Sydney beer, from Tooth’s brewery, once one of Australia’s oldest companies, established in 1835 by an emigrant from Kent who adopted that county’s white horse symbol, Invicta, as his logo. Struggling by the early 1980s, the brewery fell into the hands of asset strippers and was sold off in 1983 to , who were themselves in the throes of being taken over by megabrewer Fosters, now a subsidiary of multinational SAB-Miller. In 2005 the Sydney site was closed, and the brewery has since been demolished and redeveloped as housing, though the gate with its Invicta trademark has been preserved. Sheaf Stout also remains as a niche brand, thanks in part to its longstanding cult following in the US, though its production has been relocated to the main brewery in Melbourne.

 Assuming that it’s still made to the same recipe reported by Jackson and Protz, the stout is warm fermented from pale and crystal barley malts, with unmalted roast barley and a hop bitterness of 35 IBU, though thanks to the roasted malt the flavour is sterner than this figure might suggest. It pours thick and near-black, with a thick dark beige head and a very striking, slightly estery, chocolate and vanilla aroma with notes of raisins and coffee. The rich chocolate palate is smooth and luxurious, with malt loaf, lightly burry hops, some unusual fruit notes and quite a bite of roast. Firm charred notes develop over chocolate and coffee flavours in an impressively long and quite salty finish, with a late tinge of banana.

“The name has now lost its teeth,” wrote Jackson in 1993, referring to Fosters’ removal of the Tooth brand from the label, “although the stout retains its bite.” I’m glad to confirm the continuing truth of that statement. The few rare traditional specialist brands like this that survive among the portfolios of multinationals lead a precarious existence: let’s hope that, like the white horse of Kent, Sheaf Stout remains unvanquished.

1 comment to Carlton & United Sheaf Stout

  • Julian

    Interesting review, I’ll have to keep an eye out for a bottle of that. I lived in Australia for several years and never saw it. btw I’d suggest those are not Aussie Rules, but rugby league players on the label. Specifically Sydney’s Easts in blue playing St George in white.

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