Monday, August 30, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
I have just got back from my trip to Hobart with Mick and Joel. I think it went well with a number of memorable moments overall. However, I’ll just keep to the beer related stuff, which there is enough of anyway.
Before I start though, I want to say a big thank you to Benny and Burko for putting Joel and I up at their place, and being the one thing a person wants on a trip anywhere, a local.
We arrived to it absolutely pissing down in Hobart. Consequently, we were very happy, as this meant we could go to a pub, get cosy, and get drinking. The New Sydney was Ben and Burko’s preferred local, and it worked out well that they knew some of the staff and had a mate playing a couple of sets that night. After a number of Boag’s Draught under our belt at their place, the boys took us to this pub, where I was delighted to try the steak and Guinness pie (a bit dry, but with great flavours in the meat. Long stewing process I think) with a pint of Guinness, well poured. The pub has a number of good local beers in stock, so was able to try seven sheds, which while is hard to judge because of our becoming state at the time, but which seemed to be of decent quality. We also got onto Kilkenny before making idiots of ourselves singing along with their mate trying to do his covers gig. However, having hit his peak, Benny fell asleep at the bar and it was time for the night to end.
Burko and myself woke in pretty decent form the next day, but Joel and Benny had to nurse themselves though the day. However, with Benny have ‘difficulties’ at work and having to finish up early, I think he came out worse than Joel (yes, this photo is of Joel, so imagine Benny). I was back having a beer at about 1:30pm when we visited the last place Mick and I got pissed in Hobart, Montgomery’s. Last time we were there it was the only place we could find Cascade Export Stout (ok, so we were staying next door, so maybe we didn’t look for it much), which was the same beer we had at the Lake Sinclair pub at the end of our Overland hike. Seeing I have only seen this ‘export’ stout in Tassie (yeah, I never figured that one out either), decided I should have one back at the place we found it in Hobart. After the night before it went down a little barbed-wiry, but could still appreciate it as a decent stout, and remembered that drunken night 3 years ago at the same place, that included Guns N’ Roses lookalikes singing karaoke and Mick and I trying to teach the barmaid how to pour a Guinness.
After that we managed to get a car and drive around to the winey areas near Hobart. We found a decent Riesling at Pooley that had aspects of the JJ Prum Rieslings we liked. Okay enough about wine. We made our way back into town, but thought to stop off at Morilla Winery to see if we could find where the Moo Brew brewery was. Can I say honestly, being a simple bloke with a taste for beer, my initial thoughts of the estate were a little off-putting, as it seemed to be more about image than substance. I knew I liked Moo Brew beer, but seeing this made me apprehensive as to how good the tour would be. Anyway, with Mick and I a little unsure, but somehow Joel being more positive than he thought he would be about it (typical marketing wanker), we caught up again with Benny and Burko and hit a place called the Republic for a Kilkenny, a Boag’s Wizard Smith (not as good as I remember, but something different, which is good to see), a good steak sanga and an awesome chocolate pudding (that sauce was like sweet velvet!).The one thing that made it a classic Hobart night was seeing this band of older blokes get up on stage to start putting out some cover songs on electric drums and over-the-top vocals from the bass player. It was the only time we wished we were back in Melbourne as the Twoks had a gig that night we had to miss (what a contrast!). Hence, we left before the first song was over, and after the night before, we needed an early night anyway, so we would be ready for our 2 brewery tours on the nextday.
Before our first tour, we headed up to Mt Wellington for a quick drive to find it quite a nice day, but our view was still impeded by fog on top of the mountain. Coming down we made it to Cascade in time for the tour. Having been on a few brewery tours, there wasn’t much I found overly interesting (I even forgot to ask why they have both cascade stout and cascade export stout [I prefer the export, but probably only because of the story I have with it], and you can’t get the export outside of Tassie). Seeing it is the oldest continually operating brewery in Australia (yes, any potential legal challenges were unprovokedly dispelled by the tour guide) and in a nice location, it is more of a touristy thing, rather than a beer appreciators tour. Fair enough though. The beer tasting at the end started with me trying their non-alcoholic raspberry softdrink (not a good start), and subsequently adding it to each beer I tried to see what it may blend well with (cascade draught, not so well, but the sweetness blended better with the malt characteristics of the pale ale and stout [standard, not export]). Apart from the stout and first harvest, they all tasted very similar, but then that is standard commercial brewing…hmm, maybe not having had breakfast before the tour didn’t help my attitude of it, as it was a decent tour and informative enough. Still, much better was to come.
After a meal (finally. I think 1:30pm is the latest I have ever had my first meal of the day, compounded by the beers at cascade) and an ‘intentionally’ slow cab ride out to Morilla, my big beer event was about to occur. We got out there well before the start of the tour, so Mick and Joel tried a few of the wines (Mick liked the Pinot Noir. The meaning of this to provide a great deal of beer enlightenment for me later on). Now, before I start this bit, I need to make it very clear to anyone who ever reads this, that my name is John Bogan, and that I also need to make it clear that the slogan for Moo Brew is ‘not suitable for bogans’(bit of aussie slang used in this case to say these beers are best drunk by those that like to taste beer, not just drink it to get drunk). Therefore, any thought that this place may not have a down to earth substance behind the marketing façade were quickly dispelled, as from when we entered the door and confirmed my booking, I was getting handshakes and knowing smiles from every member of staff. If there was ever a moment my name has done more for me, it was now. I am John Bogan, and I am proud of it (it was a ‘This is your time Arthur Pewty’ moment). So from the guy at the front desk, to the wine tasting room manager Daniel (who incidentally was the one who sent me a free moo brew shirt when I first called last year trying to get a hold of the vintage stout), to the tour guide/brewery assistant Dave, interrupting the tour to find me in the group, shake my hand and talk of the slogan (as always, developed when the boys were on the piss), and even the cute girl at the beer tasting bar asking ‘Mr Bogan, what would you like to drink?’, I was treated like a king (well, at least a jester).
As for the tour itself, I cannot think of many more contrasting brewery experiences than from this one to the one I had earlier in the day. These contrasts being;
1) 1) As soon as we were about to start the tour, we were asked to choose a beer that we could drink while we were doing the tour.
2) 2) The tour started on the veranda of the function building with great views over the Derwent
3) 3) As I stated before, the guy doing the tour was the actual brewer, so Dave could explain it all, and if you had a question he could answer it. Even if Dave couldn’t fully answer a question, the head brewer (Owen/ OJ) and the rest of the brewery staff were present.
4) 4) We were allowed to taste beers that were in the process of fermenting or maturation while in the brewhouse, and they even dropped out some of the yeast from the bottom of a vat so we could look at that.
5) 5) Somehow the tour took less time as they just got to the point of talking about beer after the short introduction.
6) 6)I did not even contemplate blending anything to the beers we had for tasting, and tastings were a full glass.
7) 7) The brewers hung around after the tour to serve us beer and discuss beer experiences further
8) 8) Unlike the so-called cascade limited release First Harvest that we could not get a free sample of after the tour (it cost $3.80 for a 175ml taste), we managed to get FREE, a full bottle of Vintage Stout EACH that is limited to 1515 bottles available to the public a year, which normally retails for $25 each, from the brewer’s own reserve. It was only the 4th time I had ever tasted this beer!!!!!
9) 9) See previous point. It deserves 2 mentions!!!!!!!
1010) Dave gave me his card to contact him, and also got a contact for someone who I can talk about seeing if I can purchase a Moo Brew jacket.
While we slowly sipped away at our vintage stouts and the brewers left, we were allowed to stay in the bar area, even when people were arriving for dinner. After everything we had experienced leading up to having this beer, I find it very difficult to even try and explain the sensations I was getting. But that was it, I couldn’t even describe the beer, all I could do was just experience and ‘feel’ it. At 8.5%, it will get you tipsy anyway, but this beer just gives you this amazingly mellow sensation, much better than just getting drunk. Joel, Mick and myself found ourselves discussing politics and even philosophical positions within, and while we were probably talking crap, I felt myself just respond clearly and naturally to each topic we discussed.
It took us over an hour to consume this one beer, and Joel couldn’t even finish his (Mick and I helped him out like good mates do). Even by the time we got back to Benny and Burko’s for a BBQ, the intensity of the stout made a carlton black taste like water. The whole experience of the tour and the tastings had me so excited, but then also mellowed, that I was falling sleep at the table while eating dinner. But the interesting thing came at 3am, when I woke up after only 4 hours sleep with thoughts of Moo Brew not letting me go back to sleep.
Apart from all the contrasts above coming to mind while in this sleepless state, the other thing that came clear to me was the paradoxical conclusion that a beer with a slogan ‘not suitable for bogans’ is actually the most suitable beer I have ever found for Mick and myself. Not since Rouge’s Chocolate Stout have we equally enjoyed a beer so much, and the Vintage Stout beats it for our level of enjoyment from it. The fact that Mick likes the Morilla Pinot Noir just confirms it more, as both our liking to stout beers, and his liking of Pinots comes together so well in this beer, as they age the stout for 9 months in the Morilla Pinto Noir oak barrels. If the Untamed Red Panda Ale is my beer description of the Twoks, the Moo Brew Vintage Stout is a beer of Mick and I. A beer not suitable for bogans, but encapsulates two Bogan’s.
Luckily for us, we still have 7 of these beers in our own reserve…
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Twok untamed red panda ale (8%)
I have about half a slab of this stuff at home at the moment, and have been getting into it quite a bit over the past 6-12 months, so is surprising I only just now get around to making my tasting notes on this beer.
General Impresions of the Beer Over Time
I always get a bit scared and excited when I experience a bold beer like this. While this isn’t a big beer, there is great depth in the combination and layering of ingredients, and really shows the potential that is possible. While this beer seems to have integrated well the flavours and worked hard at the process to create a beer structure capable of containing many flavours, I get scared as it is a fine line in using that potential to create a flavourful, but well balanced beer, or complete insanity where flavours spike too much. But when the former occurs, of course I get excited (ie the recent Mikkeller Black in peated whiskey barrels).
The first taste is a bit of a roller coaster as the caramel malt hits the tip of the tongue before nobel hops brings light fruity/citrusy flavours (ginger/pineapple/lime?) across the midpalate, but then builds as the stronger hops kick in layer upon layer to create an almost overpowering crescendo of flavour . While this, with some warming alcohol flavours do linger in aftertaste, there is a great cleansing finish to this beer that almost makes it easy drinking, and so it is not long before you are ready and wanting another sip. After the initial flavour journey, the beer settles a little in subsequent tastings to make it more easily enjoyable, as the malt flavour grows as the beer warms.
There is a solid, smooth texture in this beer that while the hops and alcohol do water down slightly, with the caramel malt flavour reminds me of a Kilkenny. The use of subtle hoping on the midpalate brings to mind a Holgate Extra Special Bitter, while the later hoping flavour I find hard to pin anything to compare against (I don’t have much experience with hops). Overall, the closest comparison is towards a Holgate ESB or a Bridge Road Bling IPA, as their hoppy but cleansing finish remind me of this beer. Bold, but well balanced, the flavour profile doesn’t spike but generally grows from malt sweet, to fruity, floral, then the intense/heightened earthy/woody flavour before the texture again helps slip it down the throat with a cleansing aftertaste. I could see this beer exporting well to Europe or the UK, the latter for being well known for English Bitters
So, while I do have this in the bottle, like most beers, it is better to experience it at the pub, so the specific tasting will be twoks on tap.
Tasting @ Yah Yah’s (8/8/10)
There is a nice tight foamy head that dissipates slightly but holds well after the pour, on top of a red-copper body that screams malt to me. There is an initial sweetness in smell coming from the malt, and some floral/fruity notes before the more powerful hops hit the nose. Possibly also a slight alcohol aroma, but is fleeting.
On first taste, the floral hops come through (flower) as it seems to take a while for the creamy malt body to settle (this can happen with a Kilkenny like beer from the tap, but is worth the wait), but this is ‘fixed’ in subsequent tasting as the malt stabilises. There is some ‘raging’ intensity through the middle then the mellowing begins (6/8 song). The finish was pleasantly spiked with the reminiscing of other beers (sweet).
One thing that can make or break a drinking experience is the environment you drink in. Yah Yah’s didn’t have great music on offer and the lighting had the potential to ‘skunk’ the beer, but luckily this beer is capable of working in many environments, with focusing the drinker on the journey within the beer. The beer seems to be resilient and flexible enough to work for multiple situations and people.
With hops generally masking alcohol flavours, this 45 minute session gets you pretty intoxicated without you noticing, as higher alcohol and easy drinking mix dangerously. While the malt creates a great structure to this beer to contain the potential overpowering hop flavours, it is the hops that stand out most in this beer, and push the boundary of taste in beer. The steady, layering of hops build flavour upon flavour, and the enigmatic quirkiness of it is intriguing. I am caught between chewy, chin stroking contemplation and easy-drinking refreshness. Even after many tastings, I am yet to figure it out, but will keep enjoying it even if I never do.
On a personal note, my favourite moments with this beer are when the beer is allowed time to warm on the tongue. The caramel comes through nicely and both alcohol and hops build delicately, leading to a dissipation to mellowness in me that I quite enjoy. I am also lucky enough to have had one of the brewers move in with me recently, and so looking forward to having closer contact with future brews that are offered by this team.
So, whether you are in Cuba, or on a Merry-Go-Round and feel like there is a Falling Sky on the Flower and Snails, and keep thinking ‘ah shit, Here Come the Sharks’, It Won’t End That Way as you can Fix It with a She’ll Be Right attitude and a Twoks Untamed Red Panda Ale, to get you back to feeling Luckier than Fish. No Matter What!
PS: In thinking of a label for this beer, this photo of red panda cutely attacking a camera would be appropriate.