Monday, October 24, 2011

Situational Drinking 3: Bushwalking

Ok, so maybe not a situation we find ourselves in that often, but there is a certain sense you get from these moments that bring a certain desire and reaction to the beers I have when on the trail.

I just came back from a weekend away on the Great Ocean Walk, just doing the last 40kms from Johanna Beach to Princetown Tavern (yes, I always helps to have a pub at the end of the journey). At the end of each day, with the sun going down over the bush/coastal scene, it seemed appropriate to have a great beer to go with it.

In the simplicity of trekking, the senses seem to become more sensitive as you become more in tune with your surroundings and yourself. There is also the sense of contentment at the end of each day knowing you have made it to your destination, set up shelter and nourished your body ready for rest. At this time there is only one thing that can improve it, a tasty and bodily numbing beer.

On the first night, having reached Ryans Den, set up camp and just finished dinner, we went to the lookout to watch the sun set with a Moylan's Hopsickle Imperial Ale. Having given this to Harriet for her birthday last week, it seemed appropriate to bring it out here where we could all share it together. Having only had this beer once before when I was pissed on Russian Imperial Stouts, I was interested to try it again on a fresh (and sensitive) tongue. There is a great amber malt sweetness on the nose, melded greatly with the American hop character. This corresponds well into the flavours, with a good amount of body in the beer to help it coat your tongue early with the sweet malt, with the hops rising from the midpalate, some bittering sting coming through towards the backpalate , but still with some residual sweetness to keep it just in check before as it lingers into aftertaste...For me, this is a classic structure of an IPA, and happy to find that in one of the most hoppiest beers I have ever had (hoppy, not bitter), this structure is upheld, to show off a balance overall. Okay, personally, after a few sips the hoppiness does become overbearing for someone of my palate, but the undeniable quality shown in this beer was expressed by all of us tasting it. At its alcohol content, and after a day of physical exertion, the buzz came quickly, and contentment even faster.

On the second day, as the trials became slightly more difficult to overcome within ourselves, but our bodies became more use to the constant effort of another 15km of walking, we were again rewarded with a lovely view over the beach at Devils Kitchen campsite. Again, as we prepared for rest, the sun appeared from behind the cloud 30 mins before it set, and so we could enjoy another beer as light left the day. This time we had a different beer to try. After the trials of trying to find this beer after having it during Good Beer Week, it seemed appropriate for me to bring this out after the efforts we had gone through for our final night on the trail. I doubt if Les Trios Mousquetaires Grand Cuvee Porter Baltique has been drunk in this setting much before, but for me, it was a perfect ending to the day. Save, I could have enjoyed many other beers in this state, but for me this beer had an added edge that makes it memorable for me.
The look of tar being poured out of the bottle is the first impression this beer gives as it filled my enamel mug. A lovely tight but fluffy off white head sat over the top even in this vessel that is less than perfect for pouring this beer into. There is almost like a creamy and dark malt/chocolate aroma that comes from the beer that instantly relaxed me and encouraged me to take my first sip. It is like a sweet dark cloud of malt has landed on my tongue, with a mix of coffee and chocolate to give it a mocha flavour. However, unlike many mocha porters I have had, the lager aspect of the beer allows it not to sit so heavily on the tongue, and for a dark beer, not heavy on the stomach either. This also then gives it a refreshing aspect perfect for having while doing a walk, and gives it a delicate quality and gives the beer nowhere to hide when it comes to a balance of flavours.

And this is my point. Even though we have two quite diverse beers, there are two things both have, quality and balance. Quality is one of those hard to describe terms, but something you know when you experience it. Both these beers have it, and I hope somewhere in what I have written above, this comes through. Balance can also be hard to describe as we are all sensitive to different aspects and flavours in beer. Words like 'evenness' and 'roundness' are probably terms I use when it comes to taste and texture when I think of balance, but then that only puts in a second tier of meaning that can make it even harder to bring general understanding. But let me say this, having been 18 months since I had last done a multi-day walk, the contentment I feel from doing a walk, after so many days being caught up with life in the city, it is nice to bring back some simplicity, bring back some sense of balance in life. For me, these beers show it by themselves and in diversity against the other.

I don't know if what I have said is going to make sense to anyone reading this, but I guess it is just another example of seeing the situation in the beer, which is the point to these series of situational drinking posts. I guess by now, anyone having read a few of my posts can see that I like the story behind the beers I drink, and trying to remember the beers I have had over the past couple of years with this blog, I am also remembering the story and situation I had that beer in, and how they may have 'coloured' the way I tasted it.

Anyway, like I was saying, we finished the walk at a pub where I enjoyed a country pub meal of a chicken parma. Though, with my initial thoughts on a drink, we quenched our thirsts with a Coopers Pale (which of course tasted good because of the situation) before I pulled out a round of Baileys to gives us something to contemplate our journey over...hey, sometimes something else fits the situation better than the beers that were available to us...mind you, a Southern Tier Creme Brulee would have done just as good.

Thanks to Brad, Seda, Stass, Jarrod and Harriet for organising and coming on this 'journey', and to the breweries that produced beers suitable for this situation.



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