Thursday, September 29, 2011

Beer is like Rugby...???

OK, so have done 3 rounds of drinking during the Rugby World Cup, and after my last post, making tenuous links between the beer, the weather and the RWC game I was all engaging with at the time, I thought it a good idea this morning to try and piece together some other weird connections seeing I have a few hours before I am to start the days work at Mountain Goat.

So, it is not the first time I have tried to connect beer to other activities (eg, music), and guess it is easy choosing activities I like to drink beer while watching to then connect beer to in this's ok, I know how bad this makes me look and how badly I will do in the attempt...

I guess we can start with basics, ales and lagers, forwards and backs. If you like your fast paced drinking with crisp flavours, in terms of beer, this is probably lager-like. A fast, attacking backline needs quick, clean, crisp passing and kicking, and especially with a kicking game, you can get further down the field faster, and therefore drunk faster drinking that way. Lighter bodied individuals normally play in the backs, and lighter coloured beers generally tend to be of the lager variety. Personally, I like a good backline play to bring some fast moving excitement to a game of rugby, and sometimes I drink this way too while watching a game, but it is generally not how I like to appreciate a game or beer.
For me there is nothing like a good forward play with rolling scrum or maul, like a good ale rolls around on your tongue, smoothly and strongly edging its way downfield or over your palate ending with a most satisfying finish that tends to linger more on the mind and tongue. There is generally a bigger body (some may say 'stout') to ales and forwards. While I spent most of my own rugby playing days in the front row, I do have a soft spot for many Wallaby number 8's/locks (Willie O, Kefu, Palu and now a nicely aged Samo) - big, darkly coloured, softly spoken but making a big impact on the field, that relates a bit to my taste in beers - bold, craft brewed stouts.

Ok, looking now country to country, I could also find a few similarities between the national rugby team and national style of beer. Here is Australia, the general approach to rugby people appreciate is running rugby, and therefore suited (in my mind, as shown above) to lagers. Games dominated in the backline where a well timed pass or a very slight change in running line can get you a long way. It sort of makes me think a little like Thunder Road's Pale Lager, which while it's timing on the Aussie market could have been better (launching a lager in winter?), the different line it runs being a bit more of a dry pilsner (I reckon) means it can have a bit more of an impact and get this lager swilling nation onto craft beers. However, having this approach to rugby means we can lack a bit in body upfront, and can get easily dominated by more 'malt' driven UK beers/teams. For me an English Bitter/ESB describes the England team quite well. The forwards drive the ball over the midfield, and then a backs kicking game is used for position and points. For me an English Bitter has a big malty flavour up front, then a slight bittering hop kicks in from midpalate to 'clean' up. To be honest, generally it is not overly inspiring in rugby or beer, but it has tradition on their side, which England use very well behind the scenes in both aspects.
Turning to the USA, they are probably more matured in beer than rugby, but they do have a gold medal in Rugby at the 1920 and 1924 Olympics. I noticed in their game against the Wallabies a couple of weeks back our forwards dominated them quite easily at the set play, so the US seem to be less 'malt' based then us. Still, what they do have is enthusiasm, shown no more than in their 'Phil Smith' like captain Cleaver, who darts around the park like a mad man contesting over the ball at the breakdown. They may need a bit more structure and a bigger player base to make a more rounded team, but they are willing to go out there and be attacking with the ball. Therefore it is pretty easy to see them as an IPA/APA, big on attacking hops and alcohol to boot, they zing across your tongue but also linger in aftertaste to make them a beer and team to look out for and go back to when something new comes out of it.
So, to the Kiwis. One of the most dominating forces on the rugby field, and also increasingly in their craft beer. Very well balanced in both forwards and backs on the field, I would like to say the All Blacks are like a Black IPA or Double IPA. Big malt body to help carry the hops over the tongue but with enough clinicalness to make a clean, clear finish...well, unless the ABs choke and the fans are left with an overtly bitter aftertaste in their mouths.

I guess as a Wallabies supporter, while we could become like a Bock (strong lager) with a strong backline, I would like us to become like a Baltic Porter, still technically a lager but with a bit of malt body upfront. Maybe 2 Brothers Voodoo could be my beer mascot for the Wallabies? Still, if there was a beer nation I would like replicated in rugby, it would have to be Belgium. With a mix of big, bold, and traditional trappist/abbey ales, with fruity (maybe going a bit sour) lambics at the other end of the scale, it would make for an interesting rugby team. Bring on Belgium for Rugby World Cup 2015!!!!!

Well hope you had a bit of laugh like me during this, or worst case you think I have way over thought this...which I probably have.



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sinha Stout (8.8%)

Seeing a tropical type storm has just come over Melbourne (the first of the Spring), I thought an equally weird beer should go with it. I don't think of Sri Lanka when I think stout beers, but here is one, so I guess for this novel weather day, this novel beer fits in alright.

Okay, so I am watching the play by play commentary of Romania vs Georgia in their Rugby World Cup match, and looks like an interesting game between the minnows at 12-6 (lots of kicking going on)

So, for the beer... It pours a browny black with a very brown head that dissipates pretty quickly. Does not appear to be much body to it from the pour, so not getting overly excited about what I am to put in my mouth. Hmm, actually getting a bit of chocolate on the nose with dark fruit and alcohol, which has pricked up my ears a bit. Okay, on the tongue there is a bit of depth to the malt, and a bit of body to it to, but the alcohol is a bit too high for the beer to handle. Mind you, the beer is a bit on the cool side so it could warm up a bit (sorry for this line of description, maybe just getting caught up in the play by play commentary I am reading while tasting this beer...which by the way, Georgia is starting to dominate having just made a try to push it out 19-6).
There is a slight bit of coffee coming into the beer as it warms, and the alcohol spike is reducing a bit (or maybe my tongue is just resetting itself to it), still, it the alcohol is becoming a bit drier at the back (Romania seem to be losing face as the game goes on).
I have just read the back of the bottle, and happy to say that many of the things I am tasting are actually stated as what is suppose to be in the beer. That doesn't happen often. Don't tell me this beer is starting to charm me a bit?
Well, apart from the slight alcohol sting and this bottle being slightly overcarbonated, I am enjoying the beer more than I thought I would, maybe as I am enjoying this storm (well, now I am out of it and it has settled down) more than I thought, and enjoying this game more than I thought.

Romania had the last chance with the ball and stuffed it, so the game finishes 25-9 to Georgia. The beer does not seem to improving with more time either. There also seems to be quite a bit of sediment on the bottom of the bottle as well. The alcohol is starting to take over in terms of taste, and after what feels like a long week at work already, it is affecting my consciousness as well. Luckily I am at the end of it now.

Well, I hope someone else out there reading this had had this beer before and can attest to the legitimateness of this beer I thought would be quite novel...ok, it was novel, but not in the way I thought it would be. Maybe they can let me know I am not in the right state of mind...well, I am off to feel drunk now.



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rugby World Cup and Beer: Round 3

Hmmm, unfortunately this round I didn't get to watch much rugby. Basically the only game I saw was the Wallabies vs USA, which was predictably one sided. Still, doesn't mean I wasn't drinking beer, so all is not lost.

However, I should start with last Tuesday when before going to watch the Pearl Jam doco at Hoyts, Jess and I went to the Royston to hoover a parma. This also meant I had to smash a pint of Mornington Penninsula Porter. This has probably been the best of this breweries beers that I have tasted. Unfortunately that was more out of the fact that I did not find it offensive. There was some decent sweetness true to the porter style, and just enough body to carry it through (also true to style), but apart from that there was nothing of interest. This could have been because it was going down so quick I could not really appreciate it and give it the time it needed. It only made the parma harder to eat as the beer filled my belly. Still made it to the cinema on time so that was all that mattered to me at the time.

On Friday was the Wallabies vs USA game, so seeing Channel 9 were not showing the game, I went over to Joel's again with the last 4 of the top 12 Critics choice beers from last year. Starting with the Bridge Road Saison, that same fruity factor was still there with the nice yeasty ester. Unfortunately, the same old story for me at the moment, as it seemed to be past its best age wise. There was a very slight sour edge to the fruit at the very back of the palate and the beer had just started to separate a bit in the mouth ruining the body a bit. Luckily I have had this one a few times, so know how good it is.
I hadn't tried the Matilda Bay Alpha Pale Ale (funny seems like my sort of beer...Ha!) but was surprised at how much malt sweetness was in it. It was pretty comparable to the Mountain Goat Hightail Ale I had after it, which has a good amount of amber malt sweetness, which may be more pronounced as the hops may have died off quite a bit in the 6 months it had been in my possession for. I was expecting a lot more hops in the Alpha as seems to be Matilda Bay's approach.
One interesting thing with the Hightail was that the carbonation seemed quite low, which I know is meant to be a bit with this beer, but was so low in this bottle the malt sweetness was a bit syrupy, which for me is not a bit deal, but for your average drinker may put them off a bit.
Ending on a Coopers Stout (now the biggest Australian owned brewery) while the wallabies ran riot over the US (we were even dominating in the scrum a lot...even though they made their only point in the game from a back of the scrum move. Still, the USA hooker was good enough to win the ball well, so they must have a generally weak scrum) was ok. I don't really like a yeasty quality in stouts, and so not sure if the bottle conditioning works so well in this case. Hmm, this is a beer I tend to be a bit up and down on. When I was first drinking this stuff, there was not much choice in Australian made stouts, and found it way too coffee for my liking. Still, as we know I not partial to coffee much, and this aspect would have helped is separate it self quite a bit from other beers on the aussie market. Now, with so much overseas and newly developed aussie stouts on the market, I just don't think it compares so well, and is definitely not one I go searching for.
As for the Wallabies performance, I find as a supporter, we are always wary after a loss to see if they have hit a bit of a slump again. While they won the game convincingly on the scoreboard, they did not really reach a clinical gameplay that I like to see when they are dominating. It just looked like they were at a practice game and throwing the ball around letting the backs get tries. I would have preferred to see more structure and focus as they will need it for the later games when they come into the quarter finals. Still, seeing we are going to have to wait til the very last game of the pool rounds to see how Italy and Ireland go against each other, it is a bit up in the air for us. We have already lost a bit of control of our own progression, and I think that is also the disappointing thing to see. At least it means we just play each game as it comes, but not sure if that is good or not for World Cup Rugby.
I guess with both beer and rugby, things are a bit in the air at the moment.

On Saturday, we had Jess' turkish inspired party at their place. Seeing I unfortunately have not been available to do any brewing with the boys for the past few weeks, I was interested to see how the new batch of Mulberry beer came out, and see how Stass was going with the coffee beer we are looking to do for the next round against Team Harrod. Unfortunately he made a mistake in cleanliness (How could you Stass!!!!????) and has had to start again on the coffee beer. Still, the approach I think is sound (don't think we have given up Team Harrod), so we have a really good chance to take this round out, if we can produce a beer from it. As for the Mulberry, a different brand of molasses was used that was a lot sweeter, so I found it had less body, almost no tartness to balance the sweetness, and the hops did not meld as well with it. At least we know which brand is better for it then for the next attempt. At the end of the night, we also had a taste of the young russian imperial stout. Hmm, 11.2% is pretty big, and the alcohol is pretty dominating. However, there seems to be some good body in the beer, and in the young stage, there is definitely some high noted flavours from the yeast coming through in the form of a dark bubblegum taste. The malt really needs to age a fair bit more to balance it out, but there seems to be some good potential in it. I am not sure though if we will hit the highs we had in our first batch, but will wait and see...
On Sunday I caught up with my brother who had some terrible news for me. No, nothing about his upcoming wedding, but about beer (of course). He and Nicolette had been out to Holgate the weekend before and upon getting their Temptress chocolate porter, had found it watery!!!!!!!!!!!! I paniced. What?! The ESB seemed to have become watery over the past 6-12 months, but now the Temptress? No, it can't be, they can't do this to us! Luckily the Temptress we had at the Napier Hotel did not show signs of this wateriness (only signs of bad pouring...too cold!) but now in wait to see if the next batch of this beer comes out as Mick said. It will be a sad day for me if that is to happen.
Later on, over a Ladro pizza, I tried out an Italian Wheat beer, a Le Baladin Isaac Belgian Witbier. Trying to pour it clean at first, there was not much nose and apart from some slight sweet malt, there was a slight herbal flavour coming from the midpalate, a little bit like a grassy hop, but not bitter, and not characteristic of any hop I have tasted before. It was pretty easy drinking as expected, and only when all the sediment was poured in (by the waitstaff, not me), did some wheaty bubblebum come though in aroma and taste. Cannot really see myself coming back to this one.
So after all that, not much rugby to speak of, but at least some beers of note. Last round of the pool matches approach, so soon all will be decided in who makes it, and who plays you for the finals. At least after this week the NRL and AFL with be over, so maybe Channel 9 can show more rugby knowing they will have aussie sports fans tuning in. Please Channel 9! Hmm, looks like another Rugby World Cup ruined by the coverage. Hope at least I have good beer and can actually watch the games at least.



Thursday, September 22, 2011

$12 Billion for Bad Beer????!!!!

I wasn't going to make anything of this, seeing I don't drink beers from Foster's regularly (unless I feel like putting myself through the pain of tasting it and then getting a hangover from being dehydrated from the chemicals in it...ahh, so much to hate), but have been interested to see it is in the process of being sold to overseas conglomerates that like to make money through beer.

I can't help but wonder, If they are willing to pay that much for a brand that predominately makes bad beer, I wonder what they would be willing to pay for a brewery that makes good beer. I know whether it makes good beer or not makes no difference in the matter (yes, that is enough to make my head spin anyway...silly humans), but what are they really getting for their money. A recognisable Aussie brand, a company with some power in the beer market here and overseas, or is it just a process of this massive corporation to take out its competitors? How that question is answered by SAB Miller, then brings up second stage questions, that depending of the influence Foster's has had on your life will mean different things for you. What will happen to the employees, will they keep the breweries they now own making the beer they do, how will the public react to whatever changes they may bring, what new opportunities or threats may come to the beer industry in Australia, etc, etc. I guess by the fact I am asking these questions just shows the influence Fosters has, whether I like it having that influence or not. Even though I don't (knowingly) drink Fosters beers, I know the influence they have on the market will bring change.

This, with the potential changes to the tax system in relation to alcohol in Australia, I hope will bring change for the better.
What is my idea of change for the better? As with most things with me, it is very simple...good beer, and better accessibility to it. However, I know it isn't that simple. Even just by wanting 'good beer', you have to ask what is good beer. It is going to be a bit different for all of us on a personal level, and as you may see in the 200 odd posts I have on here, I am still trying to define that for myself. I guess through the 5000 views to this blog, I guess there are others curious like myself in finding that answer.

For me then, the question from all this is, in the face of quite a bit of potential change in the beer and brewing industry, what sort of industry do we want for beer here in Australia?

Coming back to earth though, I have to accept that the reason this company has taken over Fosters is to gain the control it has over the industry, and they probably aren't planning to give it up.

So, all in all, this is 'pie in the sky' stuff, and I have been talking crap in the hope there could bring something better to the industry, which is why I wasn't going to put anything up here. Still, I guess with this hope, the only ones hurt are those that have wasted their time reading this, but that some of you have the same hope as me, and are also curious to see if this situation could get us closer to it...good beer.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Rugby World Cup and Beer: Round 2

So, two weeks into it now, and happy to say that overall the games have been pretty interesting to watch, with not as many walk-overs as I was expecting to start seeing by now, while the same can not be said for the beers I have been having through it.

Things at Mountain Goat have been stepping up a bit with more regular work starting to come from them which has got me pretty excited, and started engaging me a bit more in it. Have been learning kegging, and apart from a few near misses (one in which I nearly burnt myself with hot water when I didn't turn off the pump being used for the hot liquor tank before attempting to change over the hoses) and 2 long days, it has been great to start getting more involved, and getting my 'day-to-day' casual worker brain into something more involved. We will see how many more mistakes I make in this process, and hope I don't hurt myself or anyone else in the process. Still, it was a little poignant for me when I was given my own set of brewing gloves on Wednesday, and after a long day it only took one Bigfoot Stout before I hit the wall. I also had my first taste of the Rye IPA when we attempted to keg it. I quite liked the full mouthfeel and the sweetness the rye brings to the beer even if the carbonation was a bit low, both of which diminished a bit for me when we finally kegged it on Thursday. Still, will be interesting to try again this week.

Anyway, onto the rugby...The first game I managed to see was New Zealand vs Japan, and left with 20 mins to play it was looking predictable where the game was going. Still, Japan managed an intercept try. The other things that had me leaving that pub early was the unpleasing selection of beers available. getting on a Montieth's Golden Ale just didn't cut it for me. The was some slight malt sweetness, but generally fairly bland. Luckily though, before heading to the game, I was able to celebrate my latest beer anniversary of it being a year since making it to Berlin and hanging out with some aussies there by having some Weihenstephaner beers at the Purvis tasting. The new Festbeir (in time for Oktoberfest) had the characteristic sweetness and slightly higher alcohol, but still did not enjoy it as much as the Hofbrau Oktoberfest beer I have had previously and there was a slight bitterness at the end that while it certainly something I have tasted before in the style, I don't really appreciate. It is almost like a carbonation bitterness and slight dryness as well right at the back of the palate. The Kristal was also fairly sweet but being use to the german wheat beers, just doesn't have the roundness the Hefeweissbier has, and the classic yeast character does not come through as much either. Of course the Dunkel is much more to my liking, but think the Erdinger is one I enjoyed more (or maybe I am just being nostalgic) when I was over in Germany. Could just be that I had the Erdinger on tap, whereas this is out of the bottle. Still, for me the Korbinian is my fav from this brewery with it's luscious caramel that helped inspire us to brew our Hickory Stickory Bock. Combine the Korbinian with another classic German beer in the Rauchbier style, and that is about it. I look forward to being at Stassy's this weekend to finally get some more of this (if there is some left).
After leaving the game at the pub and heading back past Purvis, I shared a New Zealand 'Mash Up', that supposedly is a collaboration of 44 of its breweries to create an IPA. The term 'too many cooks spoil the broth' came to mind when all I could taste was bitterness and nothing else. As it warmed up and as my tastebuds got over the bitterness, some sweet, slight citrus malt did start to come through but not enough for me to enjoy it. Damian also did not find it as enjoyable as the first time he had had it.

On Saturday I was geared up for the Australia vs Ireland match, but listened to the last 10 mins of Romania vs Argentina on the Rugby World Cup site, then grabbed one of the last honey wheat beers from my homebrew stash to watch South Africa beat Fiji, where I was disappointed not to see Fiji do better in attack. Well, the honey wheat is pretty old now, so have definitely found it is best fresh. Grabbing the next 4 beers in my Critics Choice pack, I had to head back to Joel's to watch it live (as bloody Channel 9 won't show it live apart from on GEM down here...hmm, maybe I am deluded to think rugby union has any standing in Australia). It was frustrating to see Ireland slow up the ball in the Wallaby ruck and mall, but had a good enough forward pack and showed enough enthusiasm to get the ref on side, and the Wallabies just didn't step up to meet them. During a tight first half, the Knappstein Lager had actually gone down alright with enough sweetness and body up front to keep me interested, and with a slight wine wine finish, which is more of a note rather than being a dominating aspect to take away from the beer. The Hargreaves ESB was not doing much for me at all, still tasting more like an IPA than an English Bitter, with not much up front and even getting a sort of alkaliny bitterness at the back. As we got into the second half of the game, the White Rabbit Dark Ale was ok, but fairly bland (or maybe my attention was just too much on the game as Australia continued to struggle in showing any dominance or momentum to get things going). As I started seeing the game get away from the Wallabies, I was however comforted by on of my own favourites, the Holgate Temptress. In spite of the losing battle on the rugby field, my tastebuds were in joy of sweet vanilla and luscious chocolate, and have to say it is probably the best Temptress I have ever had out of the bottle. The carbonation was just right to keep the alkaline taste I normally get out of the bottle non-existant in this example. If only Australia had won, I may have even been able to enjoy this beer more, but when we did, I at least had this beer to keep me positive (the power of good beer people!!!!!).
Sunday then was spent getting into the dvd of "Wonders of the Universe" and had me thinking back to the posting I put up a few months ago trying to connect my own philosophy/approach to life in beer. I brought up in that post about the elements of beer and the elements of the world, and I guess in that way, expanding that through looking at all elements of the periodic table, and how they come from the life and death of stars has given me a bigger perspective on this, and engaged my curiosity a bit more. It is interesting that this expansion of my thoughts and curiosity come at a time when brewing is become a bigger part of my life and the thoughts of doing a brewing course come more to the fore in my mind. Having never had a great interest in chemistry before, I need something like this to help me start engaging in the topic, as it seems to be pretty important when getting into brewing and a course within it. I hope from this, it helps me to start engaging in this area, to keep a sense of 'natural development' in myself, as I find it hard learning with a 'means to an end' mentality, as this journey of beer shown in the last 2oo-odd posts in this blog attests to.
Anyway, after that 'moment', I had brunch with the gang for Joel's birthday. Still feeling the vibe of being in Germany a year ago, hanging out with some cool people that were encouraging me more to involve myself in beer (and missing Joel's birthday in the process), I took a bottle of Weihenstephaner/Sam Adams collaboration beer, Infinium. Over cake, we got into this beer, that for me had the sherberty sweet smell of a Faro of a JJ Prum Riesling, with some citrus, tropical fruit flavours up from before the alcohol really hit home towards the back of the palate. probably the alcohol was a bit too high for it, and I could sense a bit of age coming into the beer with some slight dusty malt and hint of sourness between the fruit and alcohol flavours. Apart from that it is a pretty well structured and flavourful beer, and one I savoured more than the others drinking it with me. The alcohol did really hit home on it, which helped slow me down, but with some lager 'sessionableness' to it, you could quite easily get pissed quickly on it at 10.5%. Luckily it costs too much to think about buying too many bottles of it.

Getting home from that and seeing the lovely day was continuing, I hit the park at the end of my street to keep reading my book on the Wallabies, when a strange occurance happened. Okay, 2 month ago with kicking the Guinness Gilbert (GG) at the park, in my attempt to put up a bomb, the ball was stuck in a palm tree. Our attempts to retrieve it failed and so thought out time with GG was over. However, as I sat in the park enjoying the book and the sun, a see a bloke walk through the park with a ball looking very similar to our beloved GG. Upon walking up and giving them a description of GG, it ended up being the same ball, and heard from the guy that he had climbed the same tree to get it down. He happily parted with GG after hearing my tale (I offered him money but he refused), and ended up hanging out with them for the arvo drinking a tsingtao around the bbq (one of the guys heads to China quite a bit and always brings case of this back with him. It's actually pretty good and the perfect summer sessionable beer with some good malt body and easy finish to keep you going back for more), and me bringing some Mountain Goat beers and our own Mulberry beer for them to try out. I guess it is just one of those stories, and again had me thinking of hanging out with new people back in Germany a year ago and spreading the word of beer with them.
Happily, I was able to present Joel with the ball I had originally given him after my trip to Ireland (yes, it was from the Guinness Brewery), and we sat and watched Canada put up a decent fight against France in the last game of the day.

So, has been quite a weekend, and back to Mountain Goat this morning to hopefully get the week off and running again. If you don't hear from me again, I have probably killed myself in some random rookie way at the brewery.



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rugby World Cup and Beer: Round 1

So another 4 years have rolled around and the Wallabies have much to atone for from the 2007 RWC. As some would say, when I am watching rugby I have 2 modes of drinking. One is the slow sipping away at a brew, and the other is knocking them back pretty quickly. There does not seem to be an in-between.

However, while the pool rounds are on, there is a better chance for me to be able to still enjoy a beer, but maybe just not focus on it as much.

For the opening ceremony/New Zealand vs Tonga match, I had some of the current batch of Mountain Goat Double Hightail, that I had only just bottled at the brewery the day before. Apart from it being slight over-carbonated (a few swills sorted it out pretty well though), the rich malt come through quite well in this amber ale. I also had another 'anniversary' of my beer trip to celebrate, so by the time New Zealand were on top of the game towards the end, I crack open a Rochefort 10 I took with me out to Beechworth the weekend before but did not drink. It had been a year since visiting Rochefort in Belgium, and walking around trying to find the abbey they brew the beer in, and a day where the only beer I had was the 10 at one of the bars in the town. Of course drinking it took me back to that day quite well, with the big malt and alcohol being quite distinctive, plus what seemed a little bit of dark bubblegum flavour trying to make its way through.

On Saturday I met up with some of the crew to be involved in Anna and Pete's wedding next month, and could only find the 'Dirty Swan' open in Richmond, so had a Fat Yak while watching Fiji dominating Namibia towards the end of the game. Not much to note on that beer (just better than the mainstream stuff), but moving to the Great Britain down the road, was happy to see the Little Creatures Dreadnaught on tap, so gave it a go while hearing some Pies supporters going off about their team winning their AFL game. While the Dreadnaught is 7.4%, it almost seems more in this beer, and close to what a Imperial Stout would be. Maybe it is just me, but too use to Little Creatures beers being light and fruity, and could not help but get a little bit of that from it which was a little strange. Don't get me wrong, it is a bold beer, and nice to see them come out with something like it (though, I think they had an Oatmeal Stout out recently as well), but with all that big malt and alcohol, the slight high notes contrasted with it. Walking back to Bridge Road for dinner, I walked back past the Dirty Swan and Town Hall Hotel, to see Argentina was ahead of England at half-time in their game, which got me a bit excited. Therefore, when Channel decided to show the game at 4am, I was up for it, only to be disappointed by the coverage and the usual terrible approach to rugby England had in it. Luckily I did not have a beer during it, or I probably wouldn't have liked it.

Later on that day though was the Wallabies first game against Italy, so made a potato bake, a mud cake with M&M's on it, and a selection of beers to enjoy. Seeing it was the anniversary of the Brugge Bier Festival, where I met Willy and tasted the Liefman's Cuvee Brut, I shared this with the gang that came over the watch the game. While there is quite a bit of tartness, there is enough sherberty sweetness to balance it out, and I found it going down quite easily while the wallabies had a harder time getting going in the first half of the game (which did take my attention away from the beer and reliving that lovely day in Brugge). Also tasting the top 4 of the 2010 Critics Choice for best Australian Beers, while the Stone & Wood Pacific, Little Creatures Pale, and Feral Hop Hog are all good examples of their style (the LC being a classic sessionable beer), the one that really stuck out was the Murray's Icon2 IPA. The hops and malt are very well integrated, even at this level of a double IPA, and was the best beer of the 4. Also, it was a great way to finish the game with the Wallabies really getting some momentum going.

The Critics Choice beers will now be a theme for the next 2 Wallabies games (Ireland, then USA), again, drinking them in the order in which they came in the list, while saving a big tasting for the game against Russia, which will be our last before the quarter finals start. I'll hopefully have some other good beer news to share before then as well...



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

ESB: Holgate vs Hargreaves

Just a quick one (unless I get on a rant),

I was just at the Royston with Stass and seeing the day was nice but a little cool, we both felt a Extra Special Bitter may be the way to go. Seeing they have 2 on tap at the moment, we thought we would try them both out against each other.

If you said to me a year ago I would enjoy the Hargreaves over the Holgate, I probably would strongly disagreed (to say it mildly), especially after the trip Mick and I went on last year out to the Holgate Brewery. For us, it was the best beer in the range overall, and having it available on the handpump had only improved my enjoyment of the beer. Still, in recent months I have found myself a little disappointed in it, with a watery body and taste up front, a little caramel malt on the midpalate and a fairly subdued finish. What was a nice staple of mine is now relegated as a 'once in a while' beer, just to see if it has improved to where I thought it was previously. Yet, for me, it just hasn't.

As for the Hargreaves, I remember trying it earlier this year, and being disappointed for probably the same reason I am disappointed in the Holgate ESB now. Tonight though, it seems to have changed, and they have really ramped up the bitterness in it. To be honest, it sort of reminded me more of an IPA than English Bitter, but then I may be relying too much on style, and in comparison with the 'watery' Holgate. But for me it is just funny that a brewery I have a great deal of regard and enjoy many Holgate beers, that I see just this one quite diminished. I was actually just having the Chocolate Porter just last night with Mick, Nicolette and Stew, and it still has that creamy body with luscious chocolate (in fact it seemed even more chocolately!), so I just don't understand why I have felt this change in the ESB. I know they have an upgraded version of the ESB in the UXB, which on the Holgate visit I found a bit extreme at either end of the scale.

So, not a great experience to have, to feel a beer has changed for the worse (in my opinion), but I guess that can happen in the brewing industry, for whatever reason...


Monday, September 5, 2011

(B)romantic Weekends: A European Beer Beechworth?


This time a year ago I was getting over (or was it only just getting started with) my Belgian Beer Weekend before exploring more of it and a few other places in Europe. For that weekend and more, I had a good mate in Jaimi tasting beers and recovering when he could along the way. A year later, and I am heading of trains and buses once again for a beer journey, but this time staying within the realms of Victoria heading out to Beechworth, the home of Bridge Road Brewery, a place I have wanted to visit since first trying their Robust Porter and its oak-aged version. Instead of Jaimi, it was Stass who I accompanied, as the winner of a contest during Good Beer Week. This entitled him to tasting, lunch, private brewery tour and a night's accommodation at the pub 10 metres away from the brewery, and I managed to tag along with all of it...

After a Friday night of tasting our bacon-like Hickory Stickery Bock and putting on 30 litres of our second batch of imperial stout (yay!), we made it to Beechworth by lunch on Saturday, just in time to make use of the free tasting a pizza lunch.
Starting with the Hans Kopler Hefewiezen, we greatly enjoyed this german style beer that showed good levels of bubblegum over a refreshing body that was perfect to start on after 4 hours of traveling. We enjoyed it so much we went back for a full sized version after lunch.
While there is quite a slant to Europe in the range of beers available from Bridge Road overall, I was happy to see the attempt to bring in an Australia style to beer seeing it seems to something we are still struggling to find in the industry. However, I found I did not personally enjoy the Australian Ale, with a yeasty finish that reminded me of a Carlton Draught, but without the dehydrating chemical sensation from the mainstream example. It also had quite a dry flavour on the back, but did not entice me to have a session on it. I have said previously that my tastes will not equate well with the general aussie palate, and this just proves it. Still, if you are looking for a 'one step away from mainstream' beer for that stubborn mate or relative that sticks to only the mainstream beers, this is a good start. I was actually interested to see many of these going out the door as six packs, so it has definitely made an impact on the public.
The Pale Ale comes back to a british style with a decent malt body but with some somewhat strong hop character for a pale ale. Luckily, our pizzas arrived by this time, so it was a good beer to have with them.
Next, I was again happy to try for the first time the next beer, a Celtic Red Ale. With a toffee like malt and limited bitterness, this was really my style of beer. While it is quite sweet comparable to the rest of the range, there is a good mouthfeel to go with it, and the hops at the back cleanse so well I found myself wanting to go back to it quickly after each sip. Definitely a standout I will want to try in the bottle now, and for me it went well with the honeyed-lamb pizza.
I have tried the Robust Porter a number of times, and have to say, it tasted a lot more roasted coffee than I recall previously. I think I prefer this beer in the bottle, as it seems to reduce that roastedness to allow the sweet dark malt through more to balance it out more to my taste. Still, I did like the Oak aged version of this beer, with this process diminishing or melding to coffee better with the overall beer. Still, was slightly disappointed and goes to show, sometimes fresh isn't always best.
Finishing the tasting with the Bling IPA, the freshness aspect was shown again with the hop character in this beer being pretty big, and bigger than when I have had it previously. Okay, my tolerance for bitterness is not high, and while the malt is there to try and balance it out, but when even Stass is showing signs of this beer being at the upper level of his own tolerance, we were both happy to still have a few slices of pizza left the cleanse to tongue with each sip. We found it quite similar to Team Harrod's attempt at the IPA is our latest brewing contest with them.
Having tried the Hefeweizen again, we tasted the new Saison Noir which we heard was basically the robust porter but using the yeast of the Saison. It was really all over the place on first taste, with a smell that reminded me a bit like the earthy spice I get from out Wattle Seed beer (which I am happy to say has settled down quite a bit in the sourness we were getting from it early on). The flavour kept changing as well, as it was quite malt dusty while cold, but then as it warmed up the saison yeast was able to bring more fruitiness. By the end it was almost a dark fruit flavour, and much more enjoyable.

It was at this point Ben was available to take us for a private brewery tour. It was great to get behind the scenes to chat one on one with him, and compare bottling systems between his and Mountain Goat. It was interesting to see the industry from his perspectives, the good and bad of being situated in rural Victoria, and the relationship he has with other breweries...big and small.

After this we started getting into the Chevalier range, starting on the Biere De Garde. It had been a few Microbrewery Showcases since I had tried this beer, and was happy to say it reminded me of our Honey Wheat Beer we had made for another contest with Team Harrod. This beer has a fair bit more going on above sweet malt and bubblegum, with a long smooth body allowing fruitiness to come through and almost sweet honey end. The flavours all melded well which is typical of the style and I also enjoyed just seeing the dark colour to it, as I would have equated the taste to a lighter beer.

We ended the day at Bridge Road with the Hefe-Dunkel, a style I particularly enjoyed while over in Germany, with its great combination of both being refreshing but also having a depth of character that you could appreciate. For some reason this time the beer tasted a little old with a dusty malt character coming into it that I haven't tasted in their beer before, and did not end as pleasantly either. The banana and bubblegum were still there, but maybe a bit shorter than I recall, and the body was still good to carry the flavours along the palate. So it was only slightly diminished, but then that could come from just having had it from the bottle, as it may loss a little freshness compared to on tap.

After a quick lap of town, we came back to Transwells Commerical Hotel for a dinner and Stass brought over a large glass of Leffe Blonde. In all the places, I never thought I would find this standard Belgium beer here in Beechworth, and again just reiterated the number of European style beers we had over the day. Having seen a Creme Brulee on the specials board, dessert was a must, before Stass and I sat in front of the fire at the bar with a Robust Porter, and saw a local come in to order a Carlton Draught with a dash of Stone's Green Ginger Wine....hmmm...just got me thinking 'if you don't like the taste, don't buy it'...ah well.

After a well deserved night's rest I awoke, sat up in bed, looked out the window, and was happy to see I was looking directly at the brewery below. What a great way to start the day, looking forward to the prospect of tasting more of the beers just under my window. After some breakfast and a couple of games of pool at 10am (ah the joys of staying in a pub), we walked out of the pub and back the the brewery just as they opened, and remained in front of the fire by the bar for the next few hours.

Seeing it was still morning, we started the day with the Smokey Breakfast Lager (Brew 500) which I have to say I enjoyed more out of the bottle than on tap. I think the smoke just stays a bit too fresh in the keg and takes away from other flavours in it. Out of the bottle I could get more of a honey-like flavour from the maple syrup, and a better balance overall, which was helped by the oatmeal to give it the body it needed to coat your tongue nicely.
To finish off the session and the last beer for us to try, we grabbed the standard Saison. For me the fruitiness is a little subdued for what I would like in a Saison (as seen in the Saison Session I had previously, but was still a nice light-flavoured beer to finish on. Maybe if more could be coaxed out of the yeast to make more of the flavour, and then balance it with a good malt body, it would rival the older, traditional Belgian Saisons, but as a nice step for the general public to help them appreciate this style, I can understand why it came #9 in last year's Critic's Choice Awards of best beers in Australia.

With this and a pizza in us for lunch, it was just a matter of getting some merch (a very well made and warm hoddie for me), a quick stop at the local bakery, and the bus/train back to Melbourne to recover overnight for the week's work ahead.

A massive 'thanks' to Stass for allowing me to tag along and make it is great 'bromantic' weekend, and for Ben, Bridge Road Brewery, and Beechworth, for setting the mood for a relaxing beer filled journey back in a small country town that reminded me somewhat of where I grew up. Finally, I can tick that one off the list of breweries I have wanted to visit here in Australia, and was great to have that European slant to remind me of the good times I had a year ago in that part of the world.



Thursday, September 1, 2011

End of Winter Warmers/Wedding Bells Wednesday

I was all set to try out a new stout last night to help celebrate the end of winter, when I get a call from Stass saying he is 5 mins away and can we go out for a beer. Of course, answering in the affirmative, and having seen the Royston had just put on some great beers, we headed down there. There was only one font we needed, the one with both Holgate Temptress and Red Hill Imperial Stout on it. Two of my favourite winter beer, and a great way to end the winter on. The chocolate porter went down a dream as usual, and with me looking at the menu board, and seeing again the Milk Chocolate Creme Brulee, I would have loved to combine them similar to how I did the week before.
The warmth coming off the back of the imperial stout was also great, so could not think of two better aussie beers to be had together at this time of the year. This combo had Stass and I looking forward to putting on our second batch of russian imperial stout tomorrow, and had me rethinking the Milo beer I want to try again.
Then to get into the swing of spring, we headed across the road to Mountain Goat, only to find they had the Double IPA going through the hop infuser with (you guessed it) more cascade and galaxy hops in it. The hope flavours really come out quite well, and personally I am happy to have to bitterness not to be overbearing (mind you, I had just had a chocolate porter and imperial stout to dull the taste buds a bit). I think there is a bit of sweetness in it that helps keep the bitterness a bit diminished, so of course I liked it. Still, it is definitely big, and had me thinking of some of the hoppy beers I had in the US, Portland especially.

Actually, this reminds me of last Wednesday when I first tried the DIPA at Mountain Goat, and I suppose now I can tell the story from this day.
Having started at Mountain Goat at 6am to finish off the labelling of the Coffee IPA (which I hear has just made it to stores, and is best fresh, so get in a try it now!), I didn't stop til 1pm, when the last bottle went through. With the weather so good (it has been a long hard winter this year), instead of having a lie down I went to the park to enjoy the sun with a good book, and then headed back to Goat in t-shirt, shorts and thongs for the DIPA, Big Foot Stout and their latest Bubble and Squeak - Oaky Porter, with vanilla beans in the Randy. The vanilla came through pretty strong in the porter, but the beer is big enough the carry it, and melded together well. The Bigfoot is a nice upgrade to the Surefoot stout, so of course I really liked it. The alcohol is a little strong tasting, but expected at 7.3%. Funnily enough though, there is less of the alcohol flavour in the DIPA, even though it is 8.8%, but I guess with the amount of hops it has, this is understandable. The DIPA also has a good body on it, which I think helps carry the alcohol without stinging the tongue too much.
By now I was starting to feel a bit tired but knew I had dinner with my brother and his girlfriend planned. My brother being the wino, we tried a couple of these as I caught up with both of them. Then, as we sat down to have dinner, they told me they are going to get married at the end of the year. Of course this news woke me up, and we excitedly spoke about it for a number of hours. During which, we cracked open two Moo Brew Barrel Aged Vintage Stouts, an '09 and '10. After a number of disappointments with the '09, this one happened to be the best of this vintage we have ever had. The carbonation issue was not in this bottle, and to be honest, with it's additional year of aging, it came out better than the '10, with a deeper malt and better integration of flavours. Still, the '10 is still quite good, and think it may even be comparatively better after another year in the bottle. However, it was finally having a successful tasting of the '09 that really made the taste off, and having good conversation to enjoy it over. Seeing they were still waiting to tell more of the family before letting everyone know, I have had to hold off putting it up here until now...well, I hope it is now ok to put up here. But then knowing not many people look at this blog means it should be alright to put up here anyway.

So as we head into spring, and I prepare myself for a big weekend, today is the day I left for Belgium, and had 26 hours straight of travel to get there.

Cheers to my brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law, the continuing journey life brings in general, and the beers we have through it all.