O'Brien Pale Ale - bottleO’Brien Pale Ale
Australian flag - small 

Company info:
O’Brien Brewing Pty Ltd
Ascot Vale, VIC 


Bottle size sampled: 330 mL

Alcohol: 4.5%

Standard drinks: 1.3

Cap type: Non-twist

Label info:

There’s no descriptive information written on the label – which is fine by me. I think they are hoping that the words ‘naturally brewed’ and ‘gluten free beer’ is all we need to know – and particularly for the gluten intolerant, this is what they need to know.

What the label really means:


The Hell-Cat review starts here

Label: One word – LAME! It looks like a no-frills, home-brand type label. They’ve gone to no effort aside from using the same fonted ‘B’ as appears in the ‘Victoria Bitter’ brand (perhaps this is explained below in my tasting notes). It is definitely not attractive to the eye and I wouldn’t have been drawn to it if it weren’t for the ‘gluten free’ factor. You see, I realise there are gluten intolerant people in the world that probably love beer, so this tasting is for you guys. Sorry you get such a horrible label.

I give it a label rating of 1 out of 10.

AROMA: Wow! I certainly was not prepared for the amazing aroma that comes from this beer. There is a distinct honey smell that immediately makes me think of Crackenback’s Pale Ale. My expectations were set very high.

Taste: GLASS – For me this was very disappointing. There is an overpowering bitterness (perhaps this is O’Brien’s nod to Victoria Bitter) that is completely unexpected from a pale ale. My nostrils were being tantalised by smells of honey and sweetness while my tastebuds were bombarded with bitterness.
The other thing that really hit me was that this tasted extremely over-carbonated. One sip and I needed to burp. Not pretty.
I think the over-carbonation is evident in the photo of the beer in the glass. 

O'Brien Pale Ale - glass

I give it a beer from glass rating of 6 out of 10.

Taste: BOTTLE – Drinking this from the bottle meant there was no aroma to difuse the bitterness and I found it just a little too sharp to drink. 

I give it a taste from bottle rating of 5.5 out of 10.

A word from the wife: ‘Soft, melodic, fruity flavours…..like the merlot of beers…..not too heavy’.

She gave it a taste rating of 7 out of 10.

Accompanying food: I could imagine this beer accompanying a good pizza or pasta dish. Definitely tomato or cheese based dishes.

Best season to appreciate: Definitely a warmer season beer.

Time taken to finish bottle: 7 minutes. I really struggled over this beer to determine what was so wrong. Was I missing something? Why did the wife think melodic sweetness while I was being knocked in the teeth by bitterness. I agonised over every mouthful desperately wanting to showcase something good for the gluten intolerant. Sadly, I don’t feel this is it.

All-nighter beer? Not for me I’m afraid. I’d maybe be able to stomach 4 or so before wanting something a bit less harsh.

Other notes: I’d really like to hear responses from you guys, the readers. Have I missed something here? Is this beer worthwhile? Please let me know your thoughts.

After every beer tasting I do for this site, I visit the beer’s website to see how they market it and to get some background information. For the O’Brien Pale Ale they say  “It is a traditional 19th century Australian pale ale, brewed with the finest malted gluten-free grains”. Perhaps I haven’t tried enough 19th century recipes to know a good one when I taste one. Please, enlightened reader, convince me this is a beer worthy of another tasting.

NEXT WEEK: Cobra Premium Beer (our first international beer)

  1. BargeDave says:

    Thanks for this review – you’ve saved me the effort of discovering it’s terrible for myself.


    • BargeDave says:

      Uuugh. Despite my above comment, curiosity got the better of me. Suffice to say, Mason is right – this beer is one of the most undrinkable I’ve ever encountered. I generally like bitter/hoppy beers but this one is bitter without being balanced. As a home-brewer of hoppy brews, I’ve always found that hops in beer is like vegemite on bread. If you’re stacking on the vegemite, you need to use an interesting wholemeal bread or else some well-cooked toast, as vegemite heavily spread on white bread is just evil, no matter how much you like vegemite generally. Beer is the same. Bitter hops are great, as long as the malt profile of the beer is relatively complex and not just plain pale. That’s why beers like Little Creatures or Cascade First Harvest are decidedly darker than other pale ales. You need complex malt flavours to balance the bitterness of the hops. This beer was just ugly.


      • Mason Hell-Cat says:

        Haha I like the fact you felt compelled to try it for yourself. That’s exactly my aim with this site – get people to try the beer and compare notes.


  2. Blurty Farnsankle says:

    suspect suggested accompanying pizza should have a gluten-free base.

    sounds like a great beer to use in shandy.


  3. Franky says:

    Maybe you just don’t know how to pour a beer!


  4. mrred says:

    Love this blog I’ll be back when I have more time.


  5. Ben says:

    Mason – I had this beer on the roof top bar at the Zanzibar. As you probably know the Zanzibar doesn’t have any tap beers on the roof – so I had to settle for the O’Brien.

    I didn’t know at the time of drinking that it was gluten free beer (I was at least 4 to 5 beers in at this point) – if I had of know I probably would have chucked it over the edge of the building but that’s beside the point. I simply could not finish this beer (probably one of the few times I have been unable {consciously} to be able to finish a beer).

    I completely concur with your review but probably would have marked it even lower….complete rubbish


  6. Sniv Whettuce says:

    I’m allergic to gluten-free beer so I’ll have to sit on the sidelines for this review with the fat, wheezy boys and a note from matron.


  7. T-Mann says:

    I think you make a valid point that it should accompany tomato and cheese based dishes.

    Salty foods go hand in hand with bitters ones.

    Lets face it, VB is much more stomachable with meat heavy meals e.g. barbeques.

    Maybe it’s one of those beers that is meant to be consumed whilst eating and then moved away from, making the staple beer of the evening that little bit more enjoyable.

    This could explain the over carbonation. A beer flavoured soft drink maybe, or a beginner’s beer.

    Personally, I don’t believe in gluten free beer….

    Another one of your finest Mason!

    I’m looking forward to hearing about Cobra Premium.


  8. Eden (Fire-Lion) Bates says:

    Sneaky Mason. Very sneaky.


  9. Eden (Fire-Lion) Bates says:

    Not too sure if I would like this beer. It seems like the soda water of beers, all you can taste is gas and the beer taste hits you after the belch. The picture says it all. There should not be that much gas that far down the glass surely. I think I will stick to my Coopers of pale ale’s.


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