After some dramas getting just getting to Southern Cross Station, we made it out to Woodend with time to check out the local market to find Mick a wig for the day before Harts pub (Holgate Brewery) opened. Of course we started the day with a beer paddle, trying all 8 of the beers on tap. As is tradition, our first taste of beer for the day was a sip of the Temptress, which while cold has some good qualities but nothing like it has when it gets warmer. Both the Pilsner and Mt Macedon Ale had much more flavour than I remember previously, especially with hop character, and found I actually enjoyed the Macedon more with a decent balance between malt and hop. Tim enjoyed the refreshing aspect of the White (Unfiltered Wheat) Beer, which was not over the top with the banana/bubblegum yeast character I am use to with this style of beer. If anything it was a little too flavourless, especially after having had the previous 2.
The sweet malt character of the Big Reg Marzen drew me in with its copper red colour and sweet caramel aroma and taste. The ESB was again contentious, as it still seems to be a watered down version of the original that I enjoyed so much. Actually, we heard from the staff that an original ESB had been available on the Friday before we arrived and run out that night (not surprisingly), still I just pulled out an old trick I learnt at Cascade Brewery and with a 3:1 ratio of the ESB with the Big Reg, found I could blend up what we thought was what the original ESB tasted like. With the UXB being an upgraded version of the ESB, the beer was too big to allow this blending to work for it, especially with the hop character, but like the ESB is still a bit thin on the tongue and need more malt character to balance it out better.
I also found myself a bit disappointed in the Road Trip, which had no where near the amount of hop character to taste like an American IPA. Ok, so I am naturally not a hop head, but still understand style enough to know this didn't fit the bill. The body was fine on it, but for some reason (old batch?) the hop flavour and bitterness just did not come through. After this, the Temptress (oh, it was on handpump too!!!) was at its best, and we lovingly sipped on this out in the sunshine...and then got two jugs of it to keep on enjoying it over lunch (I went the porterhouse with black pudding and the steak had a Temptress butter...hmmmm).
As we finished dinner I pulled out a bottle of the Empress (lucky I brought a bottle of it with me as they didn't have one at the brewery!) so for dessert we tasted this against its younger brother, the Temptress. The latter really loses a lot when drunk side by side with the Empress, which is just so much richer and deeper in flavour, and yet still has a amazing amount of balance between the chocolate and coffee, with 10% alcohol but retaining such good mouthfeel. Pure Quality! No wonder it is one of my favourite beers for this year. Of course, we pulled out Mick's wig while on the Empress, and I failed dismally to even try to improve on the Empress by blending some Temptress with it.
Feeling greatly content and buzzed we made it back to the train station. We left Woodend to head back into town, where we made our way to Beer Delux just as it was filling up with lots of Polish ladies (well, there may have been men but we weren't looking at them) with a Polish festival finishing at Fed Square.
Seeing the Korbinian on tap, I had to go that, whereas Mick went the Murrays Dark Knight and Stass hit the Dark Force. Joel brought things down just going a Stone and Wood Pacific Ale. Having had the others before, it was only the Dark Force that was something new. It had a lot of Extra Stout to it, almost to Russian Imperial, but the wheat character really lightened it up on palate to make it a bit easier drinking, so could be a good for those that find strong stouts a bit too cloying on the tongue. Of course, seeing I dig the Korbinian, a sweet cloying palate is not an issue for me.
Next round, I decided to try out the Monks Stout Dupont, and decided to step Mick up to the Rochefort 10, seeing he was a little disappointed with the Dark Knight. Joel I think stepped up to the Nogne Imperial Pilsner, which for me seemed to had a slight woodiness, and only way I could think of it was like some of the hop plant got in with the hops. Stass managed to find an even bigger beer than his previous with the collaboration beer Bitch Please, between 3 Floyds and Brew Dog. The sheer peatiness of it was enough, but at least the dark barley malt character was enough the heighten the palate a bit, even if it was a bit muddy with the peat...not to mention the alcohol. In someway it balances out alright overall, even if it is a bit over the top in many ways. That is probably the most impressive thing about it. My Monks Stout Dupont in contrast had very little malt sweetness, going more for a roasted character and not much else, and by that time, the 4.5% alcohol wasn't doing much for me either.
After that there was only one way I could see us going, and that involved a 750ml bottle of Chimay Blue. For most of us it was a step up, but not for Stass. While we were at Beer Delux, Brad and Seda stumbled in, and so happily had a couple of beers with us, and arm wrestled each other.
By this time, Mick and I had a parma craving, so we headed out to Richmond to hit a quiet Royston. I tried a Red Hill Temptation, which I found to be very flavourful for a Belgian ale, definitely one I would like to try again on a clean palate. Still, for the most part just enjoyed the classic parma that comes from that pubs kitchen, as we all reached that stage where we remembered we had work the next day.
Still, by the time the boys grabbed a cab and Stass and I made it back to my place, Stass wanted more beer, so pulled out a Brooklyn Brewery Local 1, which I have to say was pretty lackluster after the Temptation, especially as they are similar styled beers. Luckily by the point Stass was ready to call it a night before I had to go for the Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude to finally end any resemblance of taste buds we had left.
Anyway, safe to say work was not a very enjoyable prospect, or enjoyable in practice the next day. Well, I am happy to remember that much, so going to leave it at that. Thanks to Tim, Joel, Stass, Brad, Seda, and of course Mick for their involvement and input into the day...now we just have the wedding to get through in a week and a half.