Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Way We Drink Vs The Way We Think

Firstly, apologies.
1) Sorry I have not been posting much on here over the past month, and discussing any new beers I could have been trying.
2) Sorry, but this post will not be discussing any new beers I could have been trying either.

To be honest I haven't been trying any new beers (apart from the really bad Mornington Peninsula Kolsh I had at the Royston last Sunday...therefore not worth discussing), and even worse, have not really been drinking at all. In the aussie summer where party season ensues, where we have just had New Years, and then Australia Day during the past week, I have not been enjoying it with and through beer much.

Now, the dreaded 'f' word, feeling. I realise I am a very lucky person, and one thing I feel lucky about when it comes to drinking is that when I am not feeling well within myself, instead of turning more towards drink, I actually turn away from it. I have probably brought up the 16th century philosopher Michel de Montaigne who discusses a little about how and why we drink. I don't drink beer so alcohol can deaden how I feel (there are much better sources of alcohol if you are looking for that), I prefer to have my feelings heightened and tastebuds stimulated through beer. This is where my interest in the versatility of beer and my own personal taste come from. When I am not feeling well, I also find my tastebuds are not so receptive, so why drink good beer?! It makes sense to me, but obviously this does not seem to be the case for many in this society, with alcoholism being a major problem in our world and it being tied to psychological problems and mental illness. Seeing a nation that still has VB and XXXX as the biggest selling beers, and even finding my own taste within craft brewing not represented well in some recent craft beer polls for Australia has annoyed me a bit.

Still, that is just beer. For a pretty docile kind of guy, I am finding myself getting easily annoyed with things in general, and probably annoying my friends and anyone around me in the process. Still, I guess one other good thing I feel lucky about is the way I deal with times like these. Unlike some that may get too caught up in their own world, I feel that drive to still be useful outside myself, and in the past couple of weeks been giving my time and blood to charity, things I like to do regularly anyway, but just become more poignant for me in times like these.

For me though, I feel the need for rest, to take the new tent I have from my birthday, find a quiet State Park near Melbourne, set it up, and just lie there for a week. At the moment I don't feel I have the time/energy to be doing what I really want, finding a job in the beer world. But, again returning to fortune, I am lucky that I still am feeling excited about beer. In a couple of weeks I will be hitting Purvis for a beer tasting of some immense beers, I have also set an overseas beer challenge trying to get access to a Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout, and Stass and I are looking to take a new step in our home brewing.

So like Michel de Montaigne said, we should always have the desire for a drink in our heads, I still have things I am looking forward to with beer, and am hoping in a couple of weeks things will change to give me the rest and energy to get on with the year I want for myself.

If you have read this and now feel disappointed, I did warn you and apologise in advance. And to my friends I have annoyed or felt I have not been engaging with them very well, I want to apologise for that too. Yeah, so normally I have a different outlet for this sort of writing, but thought for those 2 people that have been wondering why I haven't been updating this blog much, I should explain myself. Also, I may find out how many of my friends actually read this crap.

Maybe like you, I look forward to getting back to my usual drinking and describing ways.



Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Joel's Prague Beer Challenge

I did it not long ago setting a beer challenge for some mates in Berlin, and now another has been set and met by Joel, who happens to be in Prague at the moment. There was one beer that I had wanted to try while there, but unfortunately the cheese shop that it was in was closed, and so it kept mocking me through the window. But who is mocking who now, as after giving Joel the co-ordinates, he and Duff have found the cheese shop, and been able to purchase said beer and has just sent me their tasting notes.

So without further ado, here is the one beer I did not get to try while in Prague

It is the Cerna Hora Granat by the way...

Mission accomplished!

The texture of the beer is not heavy, but there is a good smooth body.

Unfortunately, we have to drink from the bottle, so I'm struggling to get a smell from it. Did pour some into a clear water bottle and the colour is like dark amber. Not black, quite dark, but with a deep, rich golden colour.

No real carbonation, although there is a bit of tang or sizzle early like you might experience from a carbonated beer, not alcoholic though, only 4.5%.

Duff said it feels more carbonated than you might expect from a dark beer, but like champagne bubbles.

A slight malty/ashy flavour on middle of toungue.

Half way through and it's still popping like rice bubbles.

Overall, very flat flavour arc. Unassuming. All up it's quite a mellow journey. Finishes with a little hint of a floral zest.

This is a very unassuming beer which doesn't have any real wow factor. It's certainly not unpleasant, but my toes aren't curling up.

Duff isn't a fan. I think the body is inconsistent with what you might expect from a dark beer and the well balanced flavours are all pleasant enough, but nothing stands out. The tingles on the tongue doesn't seem to fit right with the expected experience either.

All up a quite not unpleasant beer that has a somewhat unique character and flavour, but character and flavour that doesn't blow ones hair back.

PS. Will you shut that bloody bazouki up!

PPS. beer.

The PS is a reference to Monty Python's Cheese Shop Sketch, seeing the beer was found in a cheese shop.
Well done boys, and thank you for doing this for me. You have made it onto beerdakari with your insightful remarks (and there was much rejoicing...yes, more Monty Python)



Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Choc-Raspberry Stout Off!!!!

Hi all,

It is a great thing to experience something new in the world of beer, and have to say last night I had one of those moments when Stass and I had our taste off with Jarrod and Harriet for this little challenge.

It is one thing to taste off two similar styled beers, and even more interesting if you are tasting off your own attempt with commercially developed brews (eg, choc stouts). However, when you have a taste off and both teams of brewers are together, there is an amazing depth and understanding you can achieve, as each team knows what they have done to achieve what they have, and the nuances of difference in the tasting can be understood better from a process point of view. This was the experience I had last night, and while I was pretty tired (and had a few beers before), I am really excited with what came from it.

OK, it was meant to be a bit of a battle between us, but seeing the differences we saw in each brew, we have to say that we each did well making what we ended with. Stass and mine has come of age in the bottle, so the carbonation has died a bit to allow the texture through better, and the raspberry flavour is probably at its best before it starts to sour off and water the beer a bit. There is not much choc flavour to it until it starts to warm up a bit, and raspberry dominates the smell as well. As for Jarrod and Harriet's, the chocolate smell is quite strong cold and there is little head. The raspberry is quite subtle and needs warming before it come through. the body is quite light (they made a bigger batch with more water) and carbonation comes through in the mouth almost like a spritz, showing it is still a little young I guess. It needs a couple of weeks for carbonation to go through the beer, then will be interesting to see how it comes through after that.

So, it has been great to see the differences in these niche beers and to understand how they have come about through comparison of process. Funnily enough, both seem to be easy drinking enough to enjoy even in the warm temps we are having at the moment, but maybe a step towards summer beers should be looked at for the next batch. too bad it won't be ready for Australia Day. Still, Stass has so much home brew at his place, it could become a lucky dip event of beers we have brewed over the past 18 months (or so?).

Big Thanks to Harriet and Jarrod for going along with the challenge, and is great for Harriet to be able to say that the first beer she ever brewed turned out great, and was a choc raspberry stout. I don't think many people can say that.



Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Murray's Brewery Visit

While I have been out of range for the past couple of weeks, I did manage to get to a brewery yesterday in the Hunter Valley. In a break filled with Toohey's Old, Coopers and Guinness on New Years, it was nice to be able to try something new for me.

I found out near my family's holiday spot there is Murray's Brewery, in the sand hills south of Nelson bay on the way to Newcastle. Having been recently impressed with the Hunter Chrissy beer, I was interested to see what else is coming out of the Hunter.

I must say I haven't tried any of their beers before, which is sort of nice when you go to a brewery sometimes, as you can be open to what you are to try. I must say I was initially impressed with the beer trays I saw showing the number of beers that have come out of the brewery, which for me showed a good experimental approach, with seasonal and one off beers coming through. An open minded brewer is a great vibe to get before even trying a beer. Luckily, they had a beer tasting wheel, which while the tasting glasses were a bit big, is good to be able to have a taste of 6 of their beers without having to drink too much.

I didn't take any notes while doing it, but will try to recall what I can.

The Whale Ale was pretty standard with some hoppiness to it. To be honest, their is a general hoppiness style to the beers, so was a little concerned when i tasted this first up, and noticed it again with the Pilzner and the Nirvana. The Pils was a good attempt at this german style beer, and seems the hop is not quite the authentic hop, but the body and hop they have used is pretty close. The Nirvana had a bit of a dry hop flavour on the back in aftertaste, and so was probably my least favourite.
The Black Knight got me a bit excited, and have to say, i could not get much in terms of hops in it. Still, the coffee flavour was too much for me, and the dusty texture did not help either. A little dissapointed, but for a non-stout region, am happy at least to see people attempting it.
The Grand Cru was really where I got some interest from, and noticed on smell the bubblegum yeast that is a classic Belgian style beer. could also get the citrus which was nice and well balanced with the lighter body beer
What impressed me with the 2IPA was the creaminess of the beer, and the nice caramel malt up front. Until the dry hop finish came on, I was really enjoying the beer. Overall, there are great parts to this beer, but there is potential to possibly combine the flavours a bit more to create a better roundness to the beer. It also seemed quite cloudy, so would be intrigued to know more about this beer.

After going back into the bar, I tried the mid-strength punch and judy which again had the bubblegum and is good to see a midstrength beer with a bit of flavour to it. Still, the one that really got me was the punk monk, that had a great fruity flavour, some sweetish malt and again the bubblegum. This was my favourite from the tasting, and tried to buy a bottle, only to find I could only get it as a four-pack.

Anyway, I did buy a 5th edition Anniversary Ale and an Imperial Stout, which I am yet to try. Still, both can be aged for up to 5 years, so a bit of time up there will no do them any harm til I am next up that way. I was able to have a good talk with one of the staff as well, who was able to respond to all the silly questions I had. My respect for the head brewer increased as the staffie explained his approach to brewing and his willingness to get a recipe, and to have the common sense to know how it will taste, and how best to tinker with it to get something different from it.

Overall, the beers are quite clean with good flavour, and the brewery seems to have a good intent to produce such beers. they style with hops does not sit well with me personally, but am use to that by now. One beer I wish I had been able to try was the Heart of Darkness, and had also been told good things about Angry Man and Sparticus, so plenty seems to be going on here, and is great to see from a Hunter brewery. Hmmm, a brewery 10 mins from the beach. I like!