Alright, as for last night, of course I arrived there a bit early to say hi to the gang and take a pic of all the beers before the place was full of people. Jade from the Wheaty rocked up and so was able to say g'day to her before the tasting began.
So, there were 14 beers on show, and I decided just to run the gauntlet through Epic, Tuatara and 8 Wired as they were laid out on the table. I didn't take any notes as was talking to the brewers and people around me too much, so I'll try to recall what I can.
I really enjoyed chatting to the guys from Epic as I started the journey. The lager was really light in colour and body (through a pilsner malt I think), but the classic tail of hops that distinguishes these guys did come through. The Pale built up the malt a bit more, as did the Mayhem and Armageddon. While the hop character cleanses on the back but rises in aftertaste, it was good to see that they still maintain a balance in each individual beer, so the hops don't give a burn. Ok, so hops aren't my thing, so I guess that is what made me even more impressed to see I did not get offended in any way with these beers. The Portamarillo is definitely a bit of a change in structure after the 4 previous beers send you down a certain path with this brewery. The smoke is pretty good and brings more creamy texture to the beer when it hits your tongue. The smoke is enough to remind me of the 'liquified smoked ham' flavour of Bamberg beers from Germany.
However, for my personal taste, the Thornbridge Stout was my fave from here. Good dark malt and the use of new oak barrels from the U.S. brings a vanilla, but even more so, a coconut smell and taste that I really enjoyed. I guess these flavours act to sort of balance the malt, as a good hop would, but also the aging helps mellow this out too, along with any hops they used in it. The aspect of hops and freshness of beer was one thing I gained a lot from talking to them about the beers they do. While generally, they find after a month the top note of hops starts to go (probably from the use of dry-hopping they do with most of their beers), and by three the other hop flavours are diminishing, I think they said after 6, they seem to rise again before dying off. Maybe it is just with the variety and process they use their hops that brings them this, they haven't even figured out how or why it happens. I guess there is always a bit of luck involved, as they said the Pale had been in the bottle for 6 months and was tasting great.
Moving onto Tuatara, the Munich style Helles actually offended my nose a bit and with the lackluster flavour become a cleanser beer after what I had from Epic. The Ardennes, once I walked away from the crowd to focus on it did give some decent Belgium yeast and golden ale malt character, but was pretty thin in body, even for a beer within the belgian style. Then the APA had a big grassy hop nose and taste, reminding me much of the James Squire Sundowner, or to a lesser degree, a Fat Yak (sorry, did I just get too commercial in the beers I mention on this blog?).
Getting onto the 8 Wired, overall I noticed a subtle, if not thin, taste to the beer, but compensated with a sort of creamy texture which worked alright together, but a combo I don't notice much apart from maybe what you get get by putting some beers through a hand pump. The Hop Wired, Imperial Red Ale, Brown and Smoke all had the classic taste of each style, but all were pretty diminished. The creamy texture of the Big Smoke did impress me though to really spread that smoke flavour across your tongue, but was not be overpowering smoke taste. However, the big daddy of this brewer, and of all the tastings on the night was the iStout, which at 10% has some imperial qualities included some slight vinous notes I also got from the Baltic Porter I had the day before. the semi-subdued malt melding into the hops, which then rise, and cleanse with some alcohol at the end had me going back for more when I saw there was still some left in the bottle at the end of the tasting, and no one was looking.
So, was most impressed overall with Epic on the night, and now having done it, maybe have wanted to leave them last and maybe taste off their Thornbridge Stout with the iStout from 8 Wired.
Was also great talking to all sorts of people there (it is pretty easy when all you have to say is 'how good is free beer?' to get a conversation going). A couple of beer nerd regulars, two guys from Canada/NZ, who I had a very interesting conversation about a beer chocolate they are trying to make (actually, I have an interesting idea for them on this if I see them again), and talking all sorts of beer with a fellow homebrewer from Torquay. Apart from the beer nerds, these other guys did know much about Good Beer Week, so spread the word and got them interested in a few other events. Then as the Purvis boys were kicking us out of the place, Jade and I had another chat before she headed into town and I toddled off home, without having paid a cent for any of the beers I tried.
Cheers to free beer!