Thursday, December 13, 2012

Uncle Beef's Baby Beer (not made with real babies, or to be drunk by babies)


Congratulations to my brother and sister in law on the birth of their first baby, born on Tuesday (11th December, also my dad's birthday). Welcome to the world baby Thomas!

Seeing another package of potential has been given it's chance at life, and with it allowing me to become an uncle for the first time (about time I had something to celebrate after recounting the many things Stass has had over the years in my last post), I thought it appropriate to take a bottle of a beer Miro brought back from Germany for me into Goat to share with him and the crew. What makes it appropriate is the label has a picture of a baby sitting in a beer stein...Berliner Kindl Weisse.

Having kept it at the back of my fridge since Miro gave it to me, at least I had done all I could to make sure it was in the best nick for tasting, and even though I only had this beer on tap at Slowbeer a couple of weeks back, I have to say it tasted better from the bottle. Maybe it was the hot day that was made to feel even hotter after a day's work in the brewery, but for all that is going on in this beer, it is quite refreshing.

At only 3%, this could simply be a throw down beer, which would probably be the case for a beer with this little alcohol made in Australia. Still, even looking at the label, it seems this style has little respect even in Germany, as it is shown mostly blended with syrups, which for me would only ruin the refreshing character this beer has and put out of whack the balance of flavours already evident in the original version.

You can even smell the carbonation as the citrus zest pops in your nose, with enough sourness for the uninitiated to realise they are not drinking the standard beer this looks like in the glass. As soon at it hits your tongue, the spritzy wheat beer feel envelopes and a minerally lemon/lime character takes over the front palate, before the sourness/tartness feels like it hits quite strong on the midpalate (probably helped again by the carbonation) but then completely dissipates at the back leaving your tongue clean and fresh, ready for another sip. I actually had to stop myself drinking this too quickly, to make sure I let it warm up a bit. But really, apart from some additional wheat character coming to the front palate, this beer feels like it has more flavour when it is chilled and the carbonation is at its highest. I therefore rank it a bit similarly to the Faro, with a spritzy feel, fruity character, but offset with the tart/sourness, and like the low alcohol Faro, a beer that is loosing its footing in the world of beer as other styles dominate over it. Still, as always, am happy to have just had the chance to try this beer, and hope the sour wheat style continues just to keep the diversity beer has.

I don't know what you were doing at 12:12pm on the 12/12/2012, but I know I was kegging brew #2012 at Goat. No, I did not fill only 12 kegs, but at least 96 is a derivative of 12.

I suppose I should also mention that today is my birthday, and while I have to share it with my sister, at least I was born 5 minutes before her so I am not the youngest in the family...I guess that is taken by Thomas now he is two days old. As for today, it happens to be Goat's chrissy party, so don't have to work, and get to celebrate the day with my fellow Goaters. We even made sure the pub we will be celebrating at has a keg of our Skipping Girl Summer Ale, which is tasting pretty good this year. The Nelson Sauvin hop is a bit stronger than I remember it tasting last year, but the very late addition of Motueka hop really rounds it out nicely. At 4.6%, will be good at having a session of this arvo.

It is still funny to think that 2 years ago I had just made the decision to pursue a beer career, and so took the family into Goat to celebrate our 30th and dad's 60th, and looking over to the brewery wondered what it would be like working in there. Now a year after being a permanent member of the Goat family, I do know what it is like, and appreciate the opportunity I have had to find out.

Feels like a Phoenix 'Party Time' kind of day...



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stass Becomes an Old Salty Dad

It is interesting at times like this to think about how long this blog has gone for. This month brought up 3 years, and in that time Stass has become engaged, bought a house, got married and now had a kid. Maybe it says more about how little my own life has developed...but then this blog is not (suppose to be) about that...

Visiting the new family a few days after the birth, the hospital just happened to be close to Josie Bones, so after the obligatory holding of the baby, Stass and I made our way down for a few beers. Suprisingly, the pick of the celebratory session was a Williams Brothers Kelpie Seaweed Ale. Described as a dark ale with seaweed used in the mash, while it was cold, the smell and taste of the salt was quite high, but this did die off a bit as it warmed it. With this warmth, the dark malt character came through more to show off some decent chocolate notes. Still, while it was cold, the two aspects combined to bring a great salted chocolate flavour that pricked up both our ears. Apart from that there seemed to be a touch of smokiness, which I am not sure comes from any peat, or even maybe something from the grains being grown using a seaweed fertiliser (a lot of seaweed must wash up on the shores of Scotland). So even though it ended up a little one dimensional, to see this sort of flavour in a beer was itself an amazing thing to experience, and well worth trying for anyone that is also into salted caramel.

A week later, Stass and I met up at Josie Bones again, for another salty beer, and a beer that also reminded me of another taste experience. The 'Goseator' from Bayerisher Banhof is a bock (strong) version of a traditional Gose from Liepzig in Germany. With the water from the river Gose having a natural salty quality to it, the beers from this region took on this character. Another aspect of interest Stass and I found out about the style while we tasted this beer is that seeing it is not part of Bavaria, it was able to get around the German Beer Purity Law (Reinhietsgebot) to add things like coriander to the brew. While Stass was visiting this area of Germany earlier this year, I challenged his to find this style, which unfortunately, he found hard to do, which made it special for us to find this beer in Australia (Well done Josie Bones!!). Not only was it interesting to find this beer in Oz, but seeing it is twice the alcohol of a normal Gose and had been aged in Tequila barrels, it is incredible to even had the chance to taste it.

Like the Kelpie, while it was fresh off the tap, the cold really brought out the salt in the beer and spiked in the alcohol, but after about 10 mins the tequila and sourness came out in a more even balance, to the point where I thought I was having something similar to a Lick Sip and Suck (salt, tequila, lemon). In terms of taste profile though, it was more of a Sip Lick and Suck, with the tequila hitting first, then the salt, then sourness. Stass was also picking up in aspects like mint, while for me, as it warmed up more, the wheat, honey and oak took over from the Sip Lick and Suck, with only a touch of sourness remaining throughout the tasting. So, while there is a lot going on in this beer, at no point did it ever feel overwhelming, and there was always a sense of some sort of balance, apart from maybe the alcohol, which is understandable for this 'bock' version. I know Josie Bones has only got a 30ltr keg of this, but for anyone interested in salt beers, this is a must if they still have any left. I assume for the price and flavour, most people will be going for the 110ml tasting, and is good to see Josie Bones offering this size. I certainly didn't feel the need of having anymore than this to get the experience of the beer.

I guess having only ever tried a salt beer once before (tasted a Feral Jose the Gose about 18 months ago), it was great to finally find a few more of this style as the Australian craft beer scene continues to grow. Big thanks to Josie Bones, and big congrats to Stass and Jess, and they get use to parenthood...still, won't stop Stass and I doing a brew this weekend (got his priorities right there!).



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Twoks Irish Red Ale

Ha! Who would have thought, 2 years ago, when I did a review of a band, but wrote it as if I was reviewing them as a beer, that one day that band would ask us to brew a beer for them, and so give us an opportunity to make this imaginary brew a reality.

Still, this has just been what has happened on Monday, when at a 'listening party' for the Twoks latest album, Stass and I manned a keg of Twok Irish Red Ale to try and give the listeners more chance to experience depth and enjoyment than just through the ears. Ok, we backed off the alcohol, and because I probably went way too overboard with the description (What?! That is not like me at all, right?), we tried to develop a core that we felt we might be able to achieve for only our third all-grain brew. Still, I have to say, I think we pulled it off quite well. Using Carared malts to bring colour and the caramel character, galaxy hops in aroma and taste to add the citrus, and the Northdown hop for earthy bitterness came together quite well for anyone (like myself) that wants to engage with a beer on that level. However, for those that just wanted a beverage to enjoy while taking in the first listen of a new album, it is easy drinking and balanced enough just to sit in the background of their mind as well.

Mind you, I think I enjoyed a little too much of it, along with explaining it to anyone that came up and said it was a nice beer in their opinion. We managed to get through about 8-10 litres in a couple of hours which isn't too bad.

So I would call it a second success from our short all grain brewing history.

So here is to Bassteef Brewing!



Sydney Beer Weekend 2

18 months ago I made a trip up to Sydney to see a mate and check out the beer scene up there (here is the link to that post). This time I saw my brother and his wife, a different friend, and also an improving beer scene.

While it was sad to see Coogee After Dark is no longer trading, it was nice to see some other small bars picking up where they left off, even if they still may not be appreciated by the locals as much as they should. Case in point is Yulli's, a fairly small bar in Surry Hills, that was my first beer target for the trip. Walking in to be greeted by Carl with a casual vibe and a big bushy beard made me feel at ease this wasn't going to be a wanky Sydney bar, then this sense was upgraded to excitment to see Thirsty Crow on all 4 of their taps, and the Vanilla Milk Stout was one of them. Carl said as soon as he saw my reaction to the taps, he knew I wasn't from Sydney, as the beer snobs they tend to get only seem to comment "It that all you have?". Anyway, with that disappointing fact made, it was time to enjoy my first beers, and my first chance to taste some of the other beers Thirsty Crow come out with.

The 26-Fifty Summer Ale was quite refreshing to start with after doing a bit of a walk through the Surry Hills market for lunch. Felt a bit lighter on the palate compared to say a Goat Steam, but close to the Skipping Girl Summer Ale. The clean citrusy hop flavour was also quite enjoyable and had me thinking it is in between the Goat Steam and Stone and Wood Pacific, and very little bitterness to finish on. Very easy drinking as to be expected for the style, but that punch of citrus hop really keeps it flavourful as well.

Next was the American Pale, which was only slightly bolder in malt and hop character than the previous, which was a bit suprising for the style. The bitterness was not as much as I was expecting to get, but the balance seemed quite good, so a good starter for anyone looking to get introduced to this style before going into IPA's. I am not sure whether I was just quenching my thirst or just wanting to get to the Vanilla Milk Stout quicker, but it was not long til I was giving Carl the nod to bring the next beer to the table.

After my first taste of this beer nearly a year ago, there of course was a high anticipation coming into it. On this occasion I was first drawn to the slightly roasted/dusty character coming from the malt I did not think I had tasted in it previously, but then remembered to let it warm up, and then all of what I had enjoyed with it previously came back. I suppose the other thing I remembered was that I have just come off the back of brewing my own Milk Stout with vanilla in it, and probably boosted the sweetness for my own taste (and it seems, most other people that have tried it and enjoyed it), so was maybe expected that to be more in this as well. Speaking of other people, getting a glass of this for Hannah to try was funny as with a face that looked like she had just swallowed a lemon she said she had liked it, but I am still not sure.

From here it was a big step up to the Road 2 Ruin Imperial Stout, which I really noted the dark fruit character from the midpalate which helped mask a bit of the 10.2% alcohol going on in it. Still, like many of the beers on show, there is still a cleanness coming from the flavour so it doesn't become too overbearing on the palate, and a smooth but light texture to let it slide down the gullet nicely.

Moving onto the Taphouse, which was showing a fair bit more patronage through the Sydney Craft Beer Week going on up there, we met up with my brother to keep the beer journey going. Of course getting a paddle for myself, finally was able to show Hannah a Bridge Road India Saison, while Mick started on a Budvar.
I started with the Coffee and Fig from Epic, which I have to say was fairly dominated by coffee, and like our own homebrew Coffee Nut, was not able to get much else from it. Their Portamarillo was much more my style with the light bodied brown malt with a nice soft smokiness the held well across the palate but did not leave you with a dry mouth in aftertaste, and definitely not the smoked ham character the Bamberg, or my own Hickory Stickory Bock, came out with.
This was closely followed with the Prickly Moses Tailpipe Imperial Brown that for me came off as a Nut Brown, but with a bit more sweet malt aroma, that had me holding onto this one til the end as my last sip from the paddle.
The 4 Pines Mexican Adobo Rudy was neither here nor there for me, as apart from the slight chilli heat, was not getting much else that was interesting me. Unfortunately I have to say I was also a bit disappointed in the Marin White Knuckle Double IPA. But that could be explained by the lack from freshness seeing it had travelled from the US. Sticking around for one more, I had to make up for the DIPA and go a Murray's Icon2IPA which fit the bill of a DIPA much better, especially seeing it is a more local beer.

After that Mick took over proceedings with dinner at his place, and with a pregnant wife, took the opportunity to crack open a few wines while he had people to drink with. Still, they did indulge my beeriness by bringing back a bottle of an Italian Stout (fermenting in a wine bottle just so he could keep some wine aspect to it) from their recent trip to Europe.

Seeing I was there for one night only, and had drunk a fair bit of alcohol on that night, wasn't til lunchtime before I was ready to re-engage with beer. After experiencing a small bar, and and old favourite, it was time to hit a Sydney pub and see if this was being affected by the influence of better beer coming into Sydney. I am happy to say, the response is in the affirmative. Ok, the Empire Hotel may have just been refurbished, so is a good time to make some changes to the drinks available, but on tap and in the bottle, there was enough there to keep me interested and find beers I thought might engage the taste of Hannah and her friends. Seeing Coopers have some dominance, not just with the Green, but also one of the Thomas Cooper's Selection beers on tap was a surprise, but then also seeing Two Birds Sunset, Balmain Pale, Murray's Whale was also a good sign of the changing scene for beer in Sydney. Ok, the Balmain didn't do a whole of a lot for me, but is still much better that the standard brews I was only expecting to see (I didn't trust Hannah when she said there were 'fancy beers' at this pub), and then happy again to see a different selection of beers in the bottle, including the Two Birds Golden and Hopworks Horns Up IPA (the former having some butterscotch character that I don't think is intended, and the latter being a bit over carbonated).

Anyway, thanks to Mick and Nic for hanging out for dinner and brekkie, and Hannah for willingly hanging out for all of my beer journey, and giving me some beer shampoo. I now have somewhat more anticipation as to a continued improvement on the beer scene in Sydney after this trip...still, nothing on Melbourne!



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Wheaty Goat Party: When Two Beer Worlds Collide

Firstly, Happy 15th Birthday Mountain Goat Brewery! After the first party at the GB a couple of weeks back, the tour for Cam and Dave finishes this Friday at Goat HQ. Still, when the opportunity came up last week to go to my favourite pub in Australia for the South Australian leg of the tour, I definitely took it.

It has been a great privilege to become one of the regular Goat herd over the last 15th of it's existence, and was nice to surprise the boys with my presence at the Wheaty when they arrived to start the party. Still, finding myself at the Wheaty while in Adelaide is not very surprising, as I seem to make my way  to the pub any day I am in that part of OZ. Still, it was nice to also surprise Jade to see me in there for this event. I suppose it was also a surprise for my sister to get a call from me the night before saying I was coming over for it, and good she was free to catch up over a few beers on the night, drive me around, and let me stay at her place (Thanks Cat!!!!)

So in my Wheaty shirt and Goat jacket, an hour after I arrived in Adelaide I stepped into the pub, and as always, found myself intrigued with the beers on tap. Getting a Doctors Orders Prescription Belgian Black IPA and trying my sis out on a smoke porter, we sat down and caught up over them before the Goat beers were unveiled and the Goat boys arrived to get the party started. I found the Prescription to be quite balanced even with all that was going on in it, and was happy to see my sis enjoyed her first taste of a smoke beer.

With the 7 Goat taps pouring, I was straight in for the Triple Hightail, and the Abbey Collabey Imperial Stout on the handpump (I personally had spent a day degassing the keg so it could be poured this way, so only seems appropriate I was there to 'ensure it's quality'). Just like I had a few months before at the Royston, the handpump Abbey was amazing, with the texture and temperature really opening up and melding the dark malt and slight candied sugar flavours on the front palate of the beer, while the mild sting of alcohol is reduced, creating a full but mellow profile overall that was a joy to sip on (compared to the Abbey Collabey that was also available through a normal tap). Letting the Triple Hightail warm up while tasting the Abbey, I also gave it regular bumps/swirls to knock out the cold and carbonation to try and replicate the handpump process on it. Of course, it is hard to remove such a sweet amber candied sugar flavour from it, but warming it seemed to turn the sweetness more into body than flavour, thickening the texture instead of stinging the tastebuds too heavily. I don't want to get caught up in styles, but it almost changes from an imperial amber to a barleywine (maybe I am thinking mulled barleywine?). The Fancy Pants (basically a Hightail with extra wheat and different hop profile) goes down really well, not just for me, but for the rest of the patrons, and was the first keg to blow (luckily the Wheaty have two kegs of this). The Black IPA also seemed popular and is a good beer to transfer from Winter to Summer with, but definitely not a slammer at 7.4%. The standard IPA was there for the less adventurous (and for the few that maybe wanted to drive home at the end of the night...I guess it was a school night after all), and finally the Hightail through the glasshopper (peach, apricot, cardamon and coconut). I didn't try the Hightail on the night, but after an extra day of steeping, the apricot and coconut was coming through strong for me when I tried it the next day.

Now, trying to get through these and the other set of taps is always a hard task, especially seeing half the Goat beers are 7.4% or above, and the Prescription was 7.6% in itself. The one criticism I have for the Wheaty is their lack of a kitchen, and unfortunately this remains. Cat and I ended up going across the road for a pizza (including an hour long wait...though this was helped with a Moo Brew Dark Ale). By the time we got back to the Wheaty, everyone was in high spirits and couldn't help by feel I had been left behind, so after taking a photo of the Wheaty Goats, took the opportunity to finish up for the night.

At least by doing this it meant I was feeling good for a bike ride around Adelaide to see the redevelopment of Adelaide Oval, visit Melbourne Street Cellars (one of the best beer selections in Adelaide I reckon) and East End Cellars, enjoy a Top Deck Iced Chocolate and Baileys Embrace from Cocolat, picked up more chocolates from Haighs (including the new Creme Brulee Truffle [reckon it would be better with milk choc than dark])...and then it was back to the Wheaty!!! Along with trying the Hightail, was happy to see the Triple Hightail and the Handpump Abbey Collabey was still available to keep enjoying. Knowing it was Friday, I knew the taps would be changing over soon, so tomorrow would be a good day to come back! Still, after my journeying through the day, meant I could try a local Woolshed Pale Ale (having a rep of using solar power, rain harvesting and being generally eco friendly does not make a beer any better. Somehow it even had a chemical sort of taste to it, reminding me of a Carlton Draught...bleh!) and an Oregon-based Bridgeport Kingpin (pretty cool red ale that has that classic west coast hop profile but with good balance with the caramel malt character) while making a potato bake.

The next day started with a Dark Force Wheat Imperial Stout before heading back to the Wheaty. What a joy to finally find the Steam Exchange Truffles available, along with a Brewfist Fear Milk Chocolate Stout, and both on tap. The Fear was ok, but found it a bit cocoa powdery than chocolate, while the Truffles had an amazingly earthy sweetness that was well balanced in itself. This latter beer has been worth trying to find for the past few years in coming to the Wheaty, and fortunate to have finally been able to have it for the first time. I happily went back to it after sharing a Bamberg Mazen Rauchbier with Cat, which was a good step up in her newly found appreciation of smoke beers, and once more having a Triple Hightail and handpump Abbey Collabey. With that it was time to head to the airport.

The next day I headed out to Stass's to put on an Irish Red Ale that funnily enough will be used to help launch an album some friends have just finished. Seeing I was once challenged to write a review of them as I would a beer, am happy to see we have almost got what I described them as in the beer we made. I also have the Sydney Beer Week festival to go to this weekend to look forward to, the Microbrewery Showcase is happening again this week at Fed Square, and along with the final Goat party on Friday, going to open one of the few bottles of Creme Brulee I managed to wrangle from our first all grain brew to share with the Goaters...I may have to spread it pretty thin.

Cheers to the Wheaty Goats and my sis!!!!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Muso Retreat - The Stage is Set for the Creme Brulee Clone

I am very fortunate to have mates that are pretty good at making music, and hanging out with them while they show their 'art' has helped me find my own in the world of beer. Over the weekend I was able to give back a little when the boys invited me to come on a little retreat as they jammed and recorded some new songs they are working on.

Recently, Stass and I did our first ever all grain brew with our new bit if kit (which continually astounds us in its simplicity and ability) and went big by having to do a double mash to try and clone the Southern Tier Creme Brulee. Having tried to take time to mature the beer and carbonate it slowly, we took 16 litres of if with us, and set up one of the fridges as designated for the Creme and a Coffee Nut Ale that Stass also made for the weekend.

The boys set up the living room with the tools of their trade as the beer cooled, and once they were settled, we pulled off our first glasses of the Creme Brulee clone. Watching it settle reminded me of seeing a Guinness or Kilkenny being poured. The aroma showed the vanilla extract we added to the keg had melded well with the caramel malt. In smell or taste, I found it very hard to register the 8.2% alcohol we had managed to get from this first batch, and it didn't even thin out the lovely creamy(custardy?) texture of the beer. The bitterness I had tasted in it when we kegged it has settled out a little, but not enough for my own personal taste, but happy to say it did not take away from the beer much overall, and helped not too leave too much residual sweetness at the back. For our first all grain brew, I have to say it was an amazing success, and the rest of the boys agreed. I'm not ashamed to say a little tear formed in my eye on my first taste. It was a great moment, and glad to share it with Stass and the rest of the musos mates.

The first morning a few of us decided to instead of having a coffee with breakfast, we had a coffee beer. I have to say, not being a coffee drinker, the coffee flavour was way too strong and overpowered anything the nut brown base was trying to bring to the beer. However, by how strong some of the boys had their normal coffee, was not surprised when some of them said that it should have twice the amount of coffee in it. Still, even though the Coffee Nut was made especially for the retreat, it was pretty easy to see the Creme won as the more popular brew. This popularity was also helped by bringing along some cupcakes and hedgehog slice to try it with (the richness of the hedgehog probably comparing well with the beer).

Personally, I'd like to say how honoured I was to be able to hang out with those guys over the weekend,  and help supply them with some beers they could enjoy when they weren't busy creating music with each other. It was great to get out of the city and hang out by the beach in a lovely house (thanks to Stass's family for the awesome digs), reading a book, playing cards, walking on the beach and 'trying to cruze' as much as humanly possible.

So, with very little Creme Brulee clone left after the weekend, I hope there is still some when my shipment of the real Creme Brulee comes from the States to see how close we actually got to it. I guess it also means we will need to brew another batch and see if we can get it any better...

Thanks for the feedback on the beers boys, and good luck with the new tunes.



PS: Speaking of beer and musos, I should plug a good mate of mine that put himself through hell so I could enjoy my beer journey of Europe. I recently sent a video of myself for Jaimi to possibly use in his latest music clip 'Turn Me Around', and funnily enough he actually used some of it. So check it out and look for the Yeti looking bloke sitting on a toilet with a message written on a piece of toilet paper...yep, I'm all class.
PPS: Speaking of getting some coverage, I have just this minute seen a message from Stass that he took some of the Coffee Nut Ale to the cafe he got the coffee he used in the brew, and heard they liked it. It may not have been the winning beer on the weekend, but these guys dig it. So here is a pic of Stass with one of the guys from St Ali with a bottle of the Coffee Nut. Nice work buddy.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

2 Years On...

Long term readers of this blog (probably only me) will know that in 2010, just before I turned 30, I took a trip to Europe to explore Belgium and Germany (with quick jaunts into Czech Rep. and Netherlands) and the beer culture these countries are well known for.

Apart from my appreciation of Jaimi for his suffering throughout my beer journey, a chance meeting with a local from Brugge for an hour at a beer festival became a point of inspiration for me to keep this blog going (even if only for myself) and help me see a potential future for myself in the beer industry.

Therefore, on the second anniversary of our chance meeting, I again pull out the beer they recommended I try, to give it another go, and maybe see if my ability to taste it is getting any better.

Like I would a Faro, I made sure the Liefmans Cuvee Brut was chilled (finding about 6-8 degrees Celsius to be good to start on) to allow the beer to warm and change over the tongue. With a 'Cheers' to Willy, the cherry and dark fruit sweet aroma filled my nostrils and enticed my palate to enjoy the same up front. Letting the beer warm on my tongue, a similar but reduced spritziness than a Faro filled the midpalate and the fruit sweetness turned towards a slight sourness on the side of the tongue and rising at the back, but finishing quite cleanly to leave just some sour dryness at the back to make you want to go back for more...well, maybe that is just me.
To be honest, that I am even able to pick up on this profile just shows how clean and vibrant this beer is, so can truly appreciate the work Willy's son put into this beer.

Of course, nostalgia is going to play a large part in me enjoying this beer, so instead of subjecting whoever reads this, just going to allow myself to go with that nostalgia and sip away on this beer with my memories.

Hope you all have beer(s), or really, anything in life that allows you to do something similar.



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Imperial Stout Tasting 2012

So, a bunch of guys get together to drink beer. No, the beer is not there to support the pursuit of yelling at the TV over a footy match, or even the burning of meat on a bbq. This time, the beer is the focal point, and is drunk out of very small glasses. But I guess quantity is not so important when the beers you are tasting are up to 18%. Instead of yelling, the comparing of notes on the beers we are tasting, and discussions on such topics as the difference between nerds and geeks. Instead of non-descript 'meat' thrown on a barbie, some smoked meat and aged cheddar, with chips, potato bake, and cupcakes the closest to gut fillers to help us through. Help we would have needed more if we had gone through all the beers available.

But with most people driving, we only made it half way, which means I already have enough beers to do another imperial stout tasting...

Anyway, onto the beers for this years tasting. Trying to make sure there were beers different to what we had last year, am happy to say there was the chance to taste 2 we had last year thanks to Miro bringing these with him, and was surprised at the difference we found from them.

Still, from the beginning, this was a good opportunity to have a vertical tasting of the Moo Brew Barrel Aged Vintage Imperial Stout that my brother and I have been collecting over the past few years. Not having any of the 2008 that was the first (and nostalgically, the best) we ever tried, bottle number 1025 of the '09, '10 and new '11 vintages were drunk against each other.
As I remembered, the '09 was quite overcarbonated, not letting the texture and flavours of the beers to really get good surface contact on the tongue and giving a bit of a limestone/mineral flavour that I get from overcarbonated beers. Still, Stass picked up on some butterscotch which may be a sign of diacetyl. I could get a little caramel, but was mainly getting a sort of vinegar or balsamic sort of flavour, maybe showing this vintage had reached it's age limit.
The '10 was a much better example of this style with some dark fruit aromas and taste, showing a bit of the pinot noir barrels it had been aged in, but a bit of syrup in malt taste and texture to really let the flavour of the beer coat your tongue at a lower carbonation. There is also quite a bit of driness at the back. Unusually, was getting a little bit of a coconut aroma along with the fairly normal spirit smell that can come from these type of beers.
Even though it is the youngest of the beers, the '11 is the most mellow, and the thing I pick up on first. Being texture based in my personal taste, I really enjoy the creaminess that comes across the midpalate, before the driness of the '10 returns at the back, and really ramps up the heat of the alcohol in aftertaste. With some age, I could see this bitter driness mellowing out to improve the profile overall and work better with the front half of the beer. I look forward to trying this beer again over the next few years to see if my thoughts run true. Still,  think there was agreement from everyone that the '11 was the best of the vintages.

Having done the vertical tasting, it was time to go back to the beginning, presumably the closest to the original Russian Imperial Stout, with Courage's example. With differing appraisals on this beer before tasting it myself I was a little apprehensive. Still, happy to say it has a pleasant profile, with some caramel overtones in aroma, being quite smooth on the tongue, but also prominent in alcohol heat and back with some roastedness. A pretty good example, and impressive if this is close to the original recipe for the first of the style.

The St Ambroise we found had similar malt character to our own homebrew Imperial Stout, Very sweet with a viscous/tar look as it was poured. This one is burning my tongue a bit, even though the beer is only 9.2%. There is also a bitterness at the back which may not help me with this burning sensation.

De Molen's Rasputin is one of the beers we had last year, and was surprised that upon tasting it, could think of the differences between. This year's Rasputin happens to have been aged for 3 years, and have to say it has done it well if that is the only difference. Last year was a 250ml bottle, compared with the 750ml of this year. Maybe from this I definitely pick up on some carbonation differences, with this one being much smoother in texture than I recall from last year. This allows me to pick up a lot more from the beer, include caramel aroma, and with the unusual taste of a combination of medicinal and herbal notes that create a sort of fennel licorice for me. There is a rise in warmth from the midpalate from the alcohol that is very smooth and not spikey at all. There appears to be very little carbonation, but this does not need it, as the flavours and textures work really well and complex enough without heavy carbonation hiding it. While it is written on the bottle that it can be stored for up to 25 years, I am not sure how much better it would get after the 3 years it had been aged for.

Speaking of aged beers, finally, I was able to crack my 2008 Rogue XS Imperial Stout that I have been holding onto for so long, even though the ceramic bottle makes it one of the best looking packages I have ever seen for a beer. At 11% and 88 IBU, it certainly could have used the 4 years it has been in the bottle for. I personally liked the chocolate in aroma and up front flavour, along with some caramel leading the warming alcohol, with the bitterness helping to clean up the palate afterwards. This bitterness would be a bit too strong for me if the beer was younger, but at this age, it just gave me a great typical imperial stout, which was great to contracts against the unusual flavours I was getting from the Rasputin. Having these two together, along with just being able to taste a number of imperial stouts together, just showed that something that can be quite a simple style, can still have nuances and quirks to set them apart and get something different from each example.

With many of us starting to fatigue a bit, we decided to finish on the other beer Miro brought around (he also brought the Rasputin), and one we had last year, a Peche Mortel. The coffee infusion gives it an espresso driness, but with a good malt background to help fill out the palate so it doesn't overpower. The funny thing on this one was that early on, with the flavours so full, I could hardly taste any alcohol, but this changed as it warmed up.

Getting onto the cupcakes, I saw I had some leftover Rogue, and the comparison between the two was great. I have been able to continue enjoying this combo a couple more times since the weekend.

So another great tasting with the boys. Thanks to all that turned up to help be try out all those stouts. Looking forward to the next one, where I might be able to finally taste all the imperial stouts I have. At least they keep aging...



PS: speaking of imperial stouts, Stass and I put our first all grain brew on the day after the tasting, and happy to hear today she is fermenting along nicely.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Stepping Out and Up

A novel thing happened to me on Friday. For the first time I visited a brewery (that wasn't Goat) and it was for work.

The Goat crew got together for the train ride out to Woodend, where we arrived at Holgate brewery just in time to see their bottling system in action, and for us to help out. Was happy to see their Temptress chocolate porter was being bottled this day. Of course there we a few low fills from it so we could sample the product while we did a brewery tour with Paul. Like Goat they are starting to run out of room in their brewery, and are using the space as efficiently as possible, including the bottling area. Was great to see their system going and hope we can take something from it to improve our own bottling process at Goat.

I guess after finishing the bottling before lunch, it became a long afternoon of 'tasting' the vast array of beers they have available at the pub that is connected to the brewery. Seeing it had been November since my last visit to Holgate, there were many to try, including a gruit that I think had a good level of citrus and spice. The few gruits I have tried tend to be too big on the spice, but this one had a good balance. There was also the ESB and Temptress to taste from the handpump (the best way to have these beers), the latter I had with the pork belly I had for lunch (the sauce itself was amazing). Like the last visit there was a very special beer for us to try, but fortunately my taste buds were a little worn by the time it came around. The Dunkelweiss is a good change up for the brewery, with the yeast/wheat character coming across quite well, and the dark malt character working nicely as the days of winter retreat.

Ok, from here it gets a little hazy, and to say the least, it was an interesting train trip back to Melbourne. Still, big thanks to Paul and Nick from Holgate, and the staff from Hart's pub.

Having stepped out of Goat to visit and learn from another brewery, I guess it is appropriate that Stass and I have also stepped up in our own brewing, to learn and hopefully produce better beer.  So now instead of taking over the stovetop at the Stass residence to do our brewing, we can now do it all from our new Braumeister, to get us starting on all grain brewing. It's only taken about 5 years and me actually working in a brewery now to do it, but hopefully it means we are doing it the right way, and it can start making me better technically and open a new world for us in the beers we can brew. Still, it doesn't mean we will be losing our experimental edge, especially with the first all grain brew we do. Attempting a clone of Southern Tier's Creme Brulee Imperial Stout means we will need to do a double mash for the first full mash we ever do. Unfortunately, we are still having trouble just trying to get a bottle of the original to taste off, or in the case of Stass, to actually taste for the first time. So yeah, a big call to start on this type of beer, but then it is us, so to be expected. At least Stass won't know when I stuff it up. Luckily we are also going to start using some brewing software as well to help us along.

So here is to understanding beer better.



Monday, August 27, 2012

Beers in the Burbs

With the chill off Winter beginning to lift, got on the bike for the first time to enjoy a bit of sunshine and head out to Stass' for some beers and homebrew chat.

Apart from learning I need to do more cardio work (ok, I had figured that out before this), I took a Nogne O Sunturnbrew to see what we could learn from it.

Before this 11% beer we needed to 'warm up', and luckily our latest homebrew was ready for drinking. Just a partial mash of chocolate malt over a standard dark ale extract, but happy to say the malt really filled out the extract well with sweet and roasted characters and give a fuller body to the beer overall. A tasty, easy drinking brew perfect for the change of season. I think keeping the mash temp a bit lower really helped to give the malt a cleaner flavour, as some other mashes have caused some tannins to tain the beer. Still, Stass added a shot of coffee to my beer, which taste wise I didn't appreciate (unlike many others), but the way the heat from the coffee blew out the carbonation from the beer, but then it also seemed to capture that carbonation to make a really nice creamy head and good texture overall was interesting.

Still feeling like we needed an 'inbetween' beer, Stass pulled out a Moylan's dry Irish stout, where much of the smell and taste reminded me of the Goat Surefoot stout, but with a slighty drier finish, and not quite as much hop character as I get from Goat. Still found it a good blend of sweet malt up front and cleansing dryiness (rather than being too roasty) at the back, and a bit more going on texturally to help meld the two flavours on the midpalate, and bring some balance overall.

Alright, the Sunturnbrew. As expected it needed some time to breath for the smoke character to come out and the sherry/sweet dark fruit characters to come out in aroma and taste, but the biggest thing I was getting from this smoked barleywine was alcohol heat. I basically burnt the front of my tongue everytime I took a sip. Mind you, I made the mistake of getting a fair bit of sediment in mine, while Stass had a much better balanced example of the beer to slowly sip on. Still, this is a beer that needs 4-5 people to share anyway. The sherry port front led to a smokey middle and alcohol ramps up on the sides of the midpalate, and the heat holds through the back with just some return of the smoke to try and clean up the back and keep something in aftertaste. Still, the brain haze from the alcohol made for an almost trying end to the beer, and the smokey bbq chips we were trying to compare and contrast it with were not even getting a look in. Had to wait a little while before getting on the bike to make the trip back home. Still, a good set up for the Imperial Stout tasting I will be having in a couple of weeks.

On Saturday I also had a couple of beers at The Termi in Clifton Hill while watching the disappointing second Bledilsoe game. I had the Bridge Road B2 Bomber, and the last bottle of Sierra Nervada Porter. I can never remember if I personally prefer the Porter over the Stout, but with the game on, unfortunately I was not focusing on the beer. Still I have to say, for them to retain the balance they do on a beer I would classify as a very american style, just shows the quality these brewers do with all their beers. Light (texturally) but full (flavoured), sweet and bitter, just so technically proficient, they are a hard brewery to go past in any of their beers. Maybe that is why I can never remember if I like the Porter of Stout best. At least something came out of the trip to the Termi, and glad to have a found a pub showing the rugby that only have 5 kiwi supporters and a good selection of beers. Maybe I just need that seeing the rugby itself seems to be getting worse for the Wallabies.

Having tried the Porter Baltique from Les Trois Mousquetaires was interested to try more of the range on Friday at Purvis. While I was intrigued with them, I do have to say I was not overly impressed. I don't really remember what the Kellerbier was like, the Sticke Alt the meaty malt and a bit of Gose saltiness to make it taste a bit like mussels, the Maibock had a medicinal quality to go with the citrus and slight caramel malt I would expect from this style, and the Doppelbock was quite understated for what I normally enough from the style. I could not find any use by date or packaging date on the bottles, so not sure if maybe some of them had turned bad, as not sure if they were intended to taste the way they did. Maybe the Porter Baltique is their one good beer, even though I have found the latest batch to be not as good as the 2010 I really liked. Hmm, bit undecided about this brewer after that.

All for now.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ode to 'The Maz', w/ Ola Dubh 16 (8%)

Tis a sad but appreciative day...

About 16 years ago, I brought my first car, with my sister, so we could learn to drive and get ourselves to school in our senior high years. It was an '85 Mazda 323 that had only one previous owner and was in good nick. We shared that car til my sis moved, where it came solely into my 'care'. A manual choke, it became a car you had to know to just get it started, and an idling issue made it not good in city traffic. Still, if you trusted it and didn't push it too hard, the engine would just keep going and going (with thanks to my dad's regular servicing).

I remember it once carrying 6 people in it's hatchback body while I was at uni, and while it struggled a bit, it got us from A to B. It also got me and my sis to our first job in our late teens as egg collectors on a farm near our own family's farm. It barely survived a flood that went through where I was living while trying to do postgrad and teaching work, the water coming within an inch or two of the air intake.

Moving from Newcastle to Melbourne, I put faith in the then 20 year old Maz to get me down here, and can remember the shudder of disappointment it seemed to give when I turned it off after that journey. I tried not to do short trips in it, kept the oil and tyre pressure levels right, and when leaded petrol ceased to be available, had to get a additive to keep it going. It took me to camping trips and the long trips to the get to 'real' beaches that are far from Melbourne, these trips reminding me of the drives I use to do from Newy to the farm. In fact, it was on one trip to Wilson's Prom where I had my first accident in it, rear ending a ute because of dodgy drivers, some-what dodgy brakes and a rain soaked road. Thinking that was the end of the Maz there and then, I was surprised to see that apart from a broken headlight, there was only some warping to the radiator housing and it was running fine. It got us there and back, apart from some fuel problems (the fuel gauge had broken years before and had not judged the level of petrol correctly).

While I turned to riding a bike and public transport more in Melbourne, I still used it to transport my bbq to parties and weekends away, and get me to work during my years of causal labouring after leaving project management. Along with the smell of the chicken sheds permeating through the car as a teen, the other aroma I most remember is that of stale burnt meat from the used bbq being in it. However, when I started working regularly at Mountain Goat a year ago (a 5 minute walk away from home), my need for it steadily declined, and with less use, the Maz also declined. While I have previously asked friends to help me push the Maz to the mechanic for repairs, I feel now it has given me more than enough, and so today I say 'Farewell Maz'.

With one final push to get it to the tow truck, I went to the wreckers, where I hope it can be used to salvage other Maz's still going around, much as it had parts put into it to keep it going. Coming back from canceling the rego, I walked into Slowbeer to see Harviestoun's Ola Dubh 16 on the shelf. A beer with the translated name of 'black oil', that has been aged in 16 year old scotch whiskey casks, it seemed all too appropriate I try my first Ola Dubh today.

Ok, with the sentiment out of the way, let's get to the beer.

It does pour a bit 'oily' in the glass with very little head. It was hard to get much at all when it was first opened, so have let it breath quite a bit, which brings out more of the dark fruit and smokey whiskey aroma. There is some nice dark malt sweetness on the front (I assume from the base beer) before the smokey whiskey come through, followed by some slight heat of alcohol before the smokiness returns at the back and in aftertaste.

It doesn't taste like 8% to begin with but after a few sips, that warming alcohol sense does come back up from the belly, into the lungs and slight haze on the brain. The aging has really mellowed the alcohol quite well. If I had already had a few beers before trying this, I would probably have drunk it faster as it is that easy to drink.

I definitely was not enjoying this beer as much when I started tasting it soon after opening, so allowing it to breath is really beneficial. While it may have a fairly simple profile, with time it shows its depth and heartiness behind this smooth and easy drinking beer.

I'm not going to become sentimental again, so will leave it to what I have written to see any connections I may find between this beer and my old car. But here it to 'The Maz'.



Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dolphin Brewery Penguin Porter (5%)

Cold Wintery Day? Perfect for trying out a new chocolate porter!

Pouring out my first Dolphin Brewery beer, was surprised at how little carbonation was in it. I do enjoy these styles of beer to have quite a low level of carbonation, but to pour it from such a height just to get this little bit of head in the photo showed this was super low, and this comes across in texture. The beer sits a bit dead on the tongue. It is so close to flat that even I am a little concerned.

Smelling it though, this is a nice dark cocoa aroma once it is allowed to breath for a bit.  It comes off a bit essency to begin with in flavour, but then this separates to bring just a touch of licorice towards the back. With the cocoa, this licorice combines to bring a slight vanilla to it in aroma. It does come off a bit dusty and bitter in aftertaste which is not pleasant, and with the lackluster carbonation it does fill out the palate that well, but does have the flavour to be a decent chocolate porter. Still, looking at the description on the bottle, the bitter aftertaste is what the brewer is looking for, so maybe I just think it lingers a little too much and is a bit too dry for my personal taste.

The longer I let it breath, the more than licorice comes out, so I am actually a bit surprised the head is not better on the beer, but at least happy to see the beer fill out a bit flavour wise, so not as concerned now on the flat carbonation.

Well, have been nicely intrigued by my first Dolphin Brewery beer, so looking forward to trying out the remainder of their range.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Impromptu Monday Slowbeer Tasting

So, what should have been just one or two on a Monday, ended up being quite a few more, but you get that when a few brewers in a room together the is choc full of hundreds of different beers (as is the case with Slowbeer).

Thinking it was only going to be one or two, I went out hard early to try the new Murrays Farmhouse Imperial Stout. Having had their Heart is Darkness on tap at the Royston, the solid imperial stout  malt and alcohol character is similar, along with some of that belgian yeast character. Still, this beer just shows how a change in yeast (and probably not a big difference in the yeast) really does change a beer. The farmhouse yeast really drives a darker fruit aroma and flavour from the beer to step it up from the Heart of Darkness on the front and mid palate.

Keeping with the 'big' beer mode, decided to try the second attempt at Moon Dog's Black Lung. I actually liked the sweetness that came from the bourbon barrel aging the first one went through the help mellow and balance out the smokey character of the base beer. However, the peaty character the smoke attains from being aged in whiskey barrels this time is probably a beer I prefer, and know Stass will want to try this one with his dad

Craig pulled out an Sierra Nervada Bigfoot, which has a good basis with the coppery red malt and alcohol, but is really boosted with floral hop character in smell and taste. I probably found it dominated a bit too much personally, but I guess it is to be expected from an American brewer, even though Sierra are well know for holding balance in their beers. He also shared a Italian Dubbel which again had a good basis for a Belgian abbey beer, but found the spice in it dominated a bit more than I would like. Damn my traditionalism!

Mike started on a Midnight Sun Porter, where I found the smoke and spice in it came off a little strange for me and detracted from the beer a bit. He also tried an Amager Pop, that had a really good port character on the midpalate and had a bit of a barelywine feel to it, but there was some other smells and taste that did not interact well with it. It was like the beer was a bit old and with the cork, maybe it had oxidised as well seeing it was not laid down to keep the cork wet and protect the beer.

Seeing it was going down the path of just having big beers, thought I would step back a little and try a Rogue's Hazelnut Brown Ale, seeing Mike is looking to have another crack at this style. I was surprised at a slight sock smell, and the hazelnut came off a bit essencey, but does fell out the beer quite well, along with some added sweetness.

The boys also pulled out a Nogne O Imperial Stout which is almost subtle for the style, but think it is just so well rounded, almost like it has been aged for a quite a while. To end the night then It was a Coffee Stout which looked terrible with no head at all, and a very dusty body to it. We worked out it was out of date, which made sense for this, and that while the coffee character was ok, you could tell it had died.

Anyway, that was more than enough for a Monday night. Am very excited though as my allocation of Moo Brew's Barrel Aged Vintage Imperial Stout has just arrived from the brewery, and met up with the brewer of Dolphin Brewery at Dalesford to pick up a mixed case of beers from this Victorian brewery I had never heard of before a couple of months ago. Seems he just has a 100lt set up and just sells his beers at the local markets up that way. Still he has a decent range, so look out for tastings of those and the Moo Brew very soon...that reminds me, I have a Imperial Stout tasting to organise!!!



Monday, July 30, 2012

Choc Hops & Chicos!

Having found out that Mildura Brewery was taking over the taps at Mrs Parma's and that the Choc Hops was to be available in the line up, it was a must do. So after doing my bit for National Blood Donor Week, I took a stroll across the city to recover from the blood letting before hitting Mrs Parma's for a pot of the Choc Hops.  Having previously described this beer as tasting like chicos, I thought it appropriate to test my own thinking on this.

Ok, it had been a while since I had tasted chicos, so the choc and vanilla/milk was a bit sweeter than I remember...or maybe I am just getting old. Unfortunately, the Choc Hops itself seems to have changed, as a higher carbonation was heightening the bitterness in the cocoa and not letting the vanilla in the beer to come through. Letting it warm up considerably to blow off the carbonation and bring out the sweetness, when it was left of the tongue for quite a while some of the sweetness did come back. Also, with that warmth, the aroma did come very close to the chicos, but that was a close as I could get. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed that they did not come out closer (not just because I have proved myself wrong). I still think that previously this beer did taste more like chicos as cannot remember that bitterness being in the beer before, or that level of carbonation. With chocolate beers being such a favourite style of mine, I thought I would have picked up any cocoa bitterness before.

Anyway, I got it wrong from this experiment, so should just accept that and enjoy the rest of the chicos and reminisce on their place in my childhood. While being nostalgic, I guess it appropriate that some old Nintendo 64 games came into my hands today, so have spent the afternoon reliving Mario Kart, Zelda and Lylat Wars to keep with the theme.

Here is to old skool at least.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tasting at Taphouse

Well, it had been a while since a trip to the Taphouse, but with the Twoks playing a gig in St Kilda and a friend down from Sydney, thought it a good opportunity to get in for another tasting paddle over dinner, and show Hannah that The St Kilda Taphouse is better than the Darlinghurst (she said it, not me).

There have been a few changes to the place since I was last there with a bigger kitchen allowing for an expanded menu, but glad to see it hasn't taken away anything from the beer that should dominate a place like this. With a recent Italian invasion of beers happening at the Taphouse, the tap list was full of them to try, so was happy to have someone else there to allow us to try 10 of them over two paddles.

The San Paolo Birrifico Robina is quite a light honey ale, which while showing a nice touch of depth is not overly syrupy and could not help but sense a little bit of artificialness. Still as the honey flavours changed a bit as it warmed, showed the honey is the real deal and just happened to be somewhat refreshing style for a honey beer.

Brewfist Fear is a beer I have been waiting to have for a while with some other milk stouts, but seeing it on tap knew I would be having a go of it. The chocolate is quite subtle up front and not helped by a slight thinness to the beer to make it a stout, but there is a bit of cocoa bittnerness at the back to keep it interesting, with the lactose filling out the mid palate.

Birra Del Borgo Keto Reporter is a Tobacco Porter which needed a bit of warmth to bring out the tobacco flavour, and sort of found it a little lacking as the porter base came through as the dominate flavour. I decent beer, but just a little underwhelming. Mind you, it could have just seemed underwhelming when having it against the NZ Mussel Inn's Smoking Swine which while had a big hit of smokey bacon as to be expected, and really dominated the palate, found there was a bit of a medicinal smell and flavour which took away from it.

My paddle ended on a Birricicio Shangri La, which is a pretty solid barleywine, with good malt character and alcohol meld with it. Wasn't picking up much of the spices that were suppose to be in it, but the hops were noticeable early on but was actually happy to see them die off as the beer warmed. Sorry to be such a traditionalist.

With a guide of fruit and bitterness for Hannah's paddle, started her on a Brewfist Jale ESB, which was a good starting point with some sweet caramel malt and classic english hops keeping true to style, if just a little lackluster, which was also true for the Brewfist/Beer Here Caterpillar Pale Ale, but at least a step up in bitterness for the journey we had for her.

Brewfist stepped up though in the Burocracy IPA, which had a really good balance of citrus flavour melding into a good level of bitterness, and with enough gravity in the body to smoothly roll across the tongue and really let the flavour fill the palate.

Stepping up in bitterness again, the Golden Bear Manly Impulse IPA really shows the New Zealanders are up to competing with the US for hoppy beers, with this piney resinous hop dominating, but think we reach the limit of Hannah's palate for a beginner.

Thinking a nice sweet, cirtusy and spicey Tripel would bring her back to earth, the Extraomnes was fairly dissapointing, even if it had the alcohol correct for the style. Wanting to get that spice that we missed out on in that beer, we ended up getting the Croche Di Malto Temporis, and it didn't disappoint. Same sort of evenness and balance as shown in the Burocracy, but with spice instead of hops, leaving a nice tingle on the tongue.

Thanks to Hannah for letting me take her on that journey and shove beer down her throat. I hope one day people will stop being polite and tell me they don't want to taste beer, instead of indulging me in the fantasy that everyone can find a beer they like, and don't mind tasting beers to find it.

Hmm, so unfortunately, I can see I am getting to a point where beer venues are getting so good I can't help but feel that each night I am at one venue, I am missing out on the beers available at another venue. Still, that thinking can be a slippery slope to go down, so just going to enjoy what beers I do get to try when I can, just as I enjoy finally putting a brew on with Stass today. So as I watch the opening ceremony of the London Olympics and look forward to the next 3 weeks of sport, I'll contemplate some of the beers I may be trying...Go Aussies!


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Update: Dogfish Head/Birra del Borgo - My Antonia

Having tried this from the bottle the night before, and remembering hearing it was on tap at my local, I headed into the Royston to have it with a fresh palate.

It poured with a really creamy head, already making it a good choice to try on tap. So creamy was the head that when I was tasting it, the foamy head was separating from the body of the beer in my mouth. Luckily the pilsner body has enough to it to sort of keep up, so a wateriness did not interfere with the texture from the head.

In terms of aroma, was getting citrusy hops and quite a bit of alcohol. The citrus also came across that went well with the slight caramel malt character, then the hops step up to become more resinous with a lot of bitterness to boot before the alcohol hits. As it warmed up the hop character did diminish a bit, reminding me more of how I remembered it from before, but between the bitterness and and alcohol, did feel a fair bit of burn on the tongue.

I was actually tasting a Moo Brew Stout during and after this beer. While the density of the malt character was good, just found it a little too roasty and bitter (mind you, could have been the Antonia sensitive to it) for my personal taste in stouts. Still, that didn't stop me going into Goat for a few more beers after that...


Friday, July 20, 2012

Good Beers with Good Men

Every now and then there are times when you get a chance to hang out with some people you met in your past, where you get to talk about those days and look back with 20-20 hindsight and see why and how you and others have changed. What better way to do this than with a few good beers...well, what situation can't be improved with a beer really.

Like last Thursday, Beer Deluxe was the venue, so with Z, Stroudy and Seb, we had a bit of a beer journey while discussing old times and new. Having heard good reports from some boys over the weekend on Southern Bay's Metal Head Robust Porter, decided to start on this. Not being a massive fan of the dry roasty dark malt character typical of this style, I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy it that much, but have to say I did enjoy it more than I expected. While there is definitely the roasted quality, there is a fuller body and sweetness with the dry to fill out the palate with a decent balance of flavour. The body helps it keep flavour across the palate too, but it is still subtle enough overall so that the typical beer drinker can easily enjoy it without the sense of it being overbearing in one, or many different flavours. Was a good one to start on actually as could easily focus on it whenever I had a chance between conversation, or just sippingly slip into the background when the conversation was key.

From here the boys let me direct the journey for us, and being excited seeing the Bridge Road B2 Bomber on tap, I wanted to taste this while the tastebuds were fresh enough to appreciate it. I dare say Ben has picked up some tips from collaborating with Mikkeller earlier in the year, and the malt character had some real Scandinavian qualities with it dense, which is a bit surprising to see, as many Black IPA's try to tame the dark malt so it mainly just adds colour. I have to say, it does diminish the other flavours, but not to their detriment, so I am personally happy to see someone has been bold enough to let the malt be what it is (OK, I was always going to say that). I think it sets up the palate for the contrast that is to come with the Belgian yeast and hops towards the back, which compliment each other nicely with the late zing of bitterness cleaning up the syrupy malt that dominates the front of the palate. Having had it on tap, look forward to seeing if the yeast picks up a bit more in the bottle to help balance of the flavours.

Moving on, and wanting to up the yeast character from the previous beer, I went back to the Unifikator to see how it had aged over the week. Honestly, the banana was really dominate, but seeing it is such a clean yeast quality, it doesn't take away from the beer, and still retains a good flavour profile. It is good to see there is a beer out there with a yeasty character that doesn't not need an acquired taste to appreciate it, as the boys dug it. For me, I really like the caramel and banana combination that was happening in this beer.

Letting Stroudy have a say on the last beer, he asked for a lighter styled beer (yeah, bit disappointing), so went with a pilsner...a 'cough' (imperial) pilsner. The collaboration of Dogfish Head and Birra del Borgo recommended by Mike has some good caramel malt character to continue the trend for the previous beer, but as I tend to get from imperial pilsners, the alcohol hits very early on the palate seeing there isn't anything dense enough in the other ingredients to balance it out. Not that is it a bad thing, just means it is a harder job for the brewer(s) to give a good profile. I wasn't getting a heap of hop character, but by then my tastebuds were probably dying off. Mind you, could have also bee the conversation. Still, the overarching flavour for me is the alcohol itself, which while didn't spike to heavily, was definitely very dominate in the profile.

With the boys needing to leave at that point, I decided to hit Mrs Parma's for a Bolognese Parma and a 2 Bothers Grizz then had to settle for an overcarbonated pint of Coopers Pale Ale while watching a great gig from the Twoks (can't have it all I guess).

Thanks to the ex-Goodman boys for being able to hang out for the first time in a few years, and letting me infiltrate/hopefully improve our interaction with beery goodness.



Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Wintery Week That Was...

So, this time last week I was recovering from a friends 30th birthday at Revolt in Kensington. Heading in earlier in the day to help set up, I saw two things that made me look forward to the party. 1) an old wheelchair that could take my weight so I could pull out onto the dancefloor, and 2) seeing the bar had 2 Brothers Growler brown ale and Weihenstephaner Hefe-Weissbier. Both went down well to start the night going while my tastebuds were ok. Unfortunately, I saw a Big Head beer also in the fridge, and not being sure what it was, decided to try this 'no carb' beer. Yeah, might take the approach of 'if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all' with this. Ending the night on some Coopers Pales, between them the the Hefe it is safe to say my guts continued fermenting the next day...Happy Birthday Mel! Add to that a nice beef and Guinness pie before the party at my first visit to the Quiet Man irish pub while in Kensington, which I am sure helped me keep going til 5:30am, and it made of a long but enjoyable day.

Needing a couple of days to recover, still managed to get back on a couple of beers on Tuesday for the Beer and Cupcake tasting.

Then on Wednesday was given the exciting news I would be doing my first brew at Mountain Goat the day after, and unfortunately used the excitment to sit and drink with a few people at the Goat bar a bit longer than I should of. Still, finding the Red Saison is tasting better than previously found, was great to taste a little of the ginger and chilli I had found interesting when I had kegged it some months ago. That with the Stout, Hip Hip Horray IPA and Coffee IPA through Randy on tap, I was too easy seduced to hang around, not to mention to company of some of the Goaters and staff from Beer Deluxe.

So was with little sleep that I started at 6am Thursday (incidentally, my grandpa's 91st birthday) to do my very first commercial brew in the Goat brewhouse. Was a great experience, and to do a Black IPA as my first ever brew, just made it more special for me. Thanks to Craig for basically holding my hand through it all, and happy to say the very small influence I may have had in the process did not create any problems with the brew. Looks like I may get another chance this coming week, again with another specialty brew, which will be awesome...I hope.

After that day at work I headed back to Beer Deluxe after having tried a couple of big beers there the week before, to meet up with Stass and a few mates of his. Joel also turned up and turned into a bit of a beer journey we are use to doing each time we visit. Unfortunately the Brew Dog Tokyo keg had blown, so started with a Holgate Temptress, which was not tasting great, but seeing that keg blew not long after I ordered mine, that could have something to do with it. There was also a 2011 and 2012 Moo Brew Stout to taste off against each other (the 2011 was not as smooth in flavour profile of course and bitterness being a little high for my taste in the style. The 2012 was definitely the resounding winner of the two with some dark fruit and licorice coming from the mellowing of the beer and a sense of more alcohol in it). Having taken on the challenge to convert another red wine/alcopop drinker into beer, got her onto a bottle of the Lindermanns Framboise, which was nearly sickly sweet (even for my palate), before trying to progress her palate with the Unifikator on tap (wow, the yeast flavour profile on this weizenbock beer really shows off the tradition of Weihenstephaner and the precision of Temple), but was a bit too 'beery' for her I think.
On the boys side of the journey, while falling asleep at the table, they still managed to get me to try the Heretic Shallow Grave (has a similar roasted malt quality to the Bridge Road Robust Porter), and then end on a Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout (have already written about this beer way too much on this blog) to progress the palate of the newer members of beer appreciators at the table.

Struggling through the next day at work (helped though by the excitement of The Naz brew being done...really really looking forward to seeing how this one goes) was not helped when my brother was delayed on his flight from Sydney to have dinner (Still, meant I had a chance to visit Josie Bones while on my way to try the Nogne O Imperial Stout on tap ([so even and smooth in its profile from chocolate to alcohol which does not burn too much]). After that it was all wine, with my brother engaging my recent interest in Chianti over Ladro pizza and at the Enoteca, to make for another late night with some alcohol involved.

Being knackered I thought yesterday I would hardly stay awake long enough to make my cousin's housewarming/birthday party, but after gifting them a home brew set up so they can make gluten free beer, then actually putting a brew on with them, tasting the latest Bridge Road/Nogne O India Saison (again, good match of fruit with hop bitterness and saison yeast/wheat really softening the bitterness nicely), Unifikator from the bottle (profile not as good as what I had on tap, but still worth tasting for the quality yeast in it), and the new Kooinda Milk Porter (starts off really nice with a chocolate milkshake taste, but flattens out as it crosses the palate...I guess appropriate for  a sweet porter), I somehow still found myself dancing in their living room at 3am this morning (uh oh!). When will I learn? This morning was spent spooning the fermenter from the floor of their living room to warm up the wort to make sure the yeast had activated and the fermenter seals were working, building up the strength to get home, and now doing some blog posts to keep me awake to make sure I sleep well tonight. Phew!

Seeing I have made it to 6pm, I dare say it will not be long til I hit the sack to see how I fare for the week to come.



Beer and Cupcake Tasting @ Slowbeer

Yes, this is a beer and cupcake tasting! As soon as I saw this event coming up I automatically put my name down and engaged my sweet tooth. On the night I found a little shelf in the packed store to make my own and watched as the first beer was poured, and was surreally excited to see the stands of Mister Nice Guy cupcakes sitting next to them. Sure, I have added a chocolate beer to a cake before, and beers with desserts are not a new thing, but for some reason, seeing this scene made me feel a little uncertain of what to expect, but that in itself shows the interesting and open thinking that can be had with beer.

So, with that thought running through my head, and the sound of Chris welcoming us in my ears, we came to the first combination.

Thorogood's Billy B's Golden Apple Beer uses a spontaneous fermentation process and malt extract in what is really a cider. While the extract does allow it to be classified as a beer, it also gives it a fuller mouthfeel/higher gravity than a usual cider. The spontaneous ferment of course brings with it a tartness to the apple flavour, and also get a pretty tingly spritz over the tongue, that comes off just a bit sherberty to remind me a little of a Faro style beer. Still, it cleans up ok at the back, so the tartness does not linger. The Apple Pie cupcake has a very sweet vanilla frosting, and the apple filling in the cinnamon smelling cake is sweeter than the apple flavour in the beer. Therefore, there is a good contrast between the cupcake and beer.

I actually hadn't had the Emersons Taieri George spicy ale before, and had me thinking Christmas ale with its cloudy dark brown body, cinnamon and nutmeg aroma. The nutmeg came across into flavour, along with a brown sugar or dark malt character, but is not dark or dense enough to make it into a Christmas ale style I think. In terms of texture, was sensing some over carbonation which also seemed to give it a bit of an alkaline smell. The Breakfast Club cupcake is cinnamon cake and frosting with raisins, but unfortunately came off a bit bland next to the cake. There is a nice creaminess to the cupcake, but the over-carbonation of the beer knocked this out a bit too much. I was also getting a hit of nutmeg as I swallowed the cupcake, which while matched the nutmeg in the beer, just found it a bit too dominate.

Now, for the pointy end that had me the most excited when I looked at getting into this event, especially when two of my favourite beers are coming at me.

The Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout is a beer I tried over a year ago, and have tasted a couple of times since. I basically just wrote 'Yep!' as a note to show it still has those qualities I loved the first time I sipped it. The Rocket Shot cupcake for me had a lot of mocha character which was great to get, but as soon as the beer hit your tongue after the cake, the flavour and alcohol just wiped your palate of any cake. Leaving some cake in my mouth to mingle with the beer worked to make the beer feel fuller and some of the chocolate of the cake did hold with the beer, but don't think it was enough to make it an equal contributing combination. Still, loved the process of finding this out.

Seeing I had just had that experience with an 11% beer, knew it would be even harder for the Berry Boom cupcake to bring much when paired with the 18% Brew Dog Tokyo. Having had the Tokyo on tap the previous week, was happy to see it was also on tap here. Seeing it hadn't been cellared for a year like the one I had at Beer Deluxe, I was still getting a 'porty' character while it was cold, but some of that sherry quality was coming through as it warmed up. The chocolate cupcake stuffed with blueberries again had the very sweet vanilla frosting from the Apple Pie cupcake. It was funny to find that the frosting actually absorbed the beer better than the cake, with the sweetness holding off the alcohol flavour a bit (just a bit). Having just a small sip of beer with a mouthful of cupcake really darkened up the blueberry in the cake to help it mix with the dark fruit character in the beer. The only problem with this approach to blending the two meant you were left with a lot of beer left after finishing the cake, which meant sitting around afterwards to chat to some of the people while you finished it. Was good to chat to a couple that were getting converted into beer from wine, and that he had been home brewing to keep exploring beer. Still, was so tired after all that was glad it was only a 10 minute walk home with the wintery night air to keep me awake til I could crash into bed.

Another great approach to beer tasting shown by Slowbeer that seemed to bring different people to what I would normally see at a Slowbeer tasting. Maybe I should be giving others a chance to try it out by not going myself...nah! Thanks to Chris, the Slowbeer team and Mister Nice Guy Cupcakes.



PS: Nearly wasn't going to bring up this crude thought, but seeing I accidently got some frosting on my jeans from the Apple Pie cupcake, I can say I literally creamed my pants with the first tasting combination of the night.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Master Games Require Master Beers

Woohoo, a day off work!

Thinking I should make the most of it, thought a visit to the latest exhibit in ACMI at Fed Square would be good (wearing my 'classically trained' NES shirt). Unfortunately I forgot it is school holidays, so the place the teeming with kids running around Games Masters. Still, seeing those kids trying to play old school arcade games and learning all the other games available reminded me of my childhood playing games like 1942 at the Boatie corner store during summer and learning to play the NES and N64 (both of which I still have and play when the mood gets me). It was funny to be drawn to Sega Rally to try it for the first time, along with an ipad car game where you touched the screen to control the car. Had a go at my first 3D game (Child of Eden), and the Bond-esque Splinter Cell, along with the original Zelda. While there was no 1942/1943, I did find an equivalent that a kid was struggling to play. Leaving me his last life I managed to put on 2000 points (yep, still got it) before I gave it over to some other kids.

Once it got to midday and the next wave of kids came into the exhibit, I knew it was time to get out, and now ok to have my first beer of the day. Luckily Beer Deluxe is just next door. Having had a small sip of the Sierra Nervada Hoptimum from the bottle a couple of weeks back at work, I knew I wanted to try it on tap here. The body on it of course it a bit better and the malt character seems a little stronger to keep some balance to the bitterness. However, the added creaminess just makes it stick to your tongue a bit more, leaving more of a bitter aftertaste to linger for a while. I guess one drawback to this beer is the hop profile seems to spike and drop a few times over the palate, which I guess just shows how hard they have gone with the hops on this one. Still, the hop character is piney and resinous in flavour, so it isn't just straight bitterness like a Mikkeller 1000 IBU.

While I had probably had enough alcohol just in that one beer, I knew I would be hanging around for another when I spied the Brew Dog Tokyo on tap. Seeing it had been cellared for a year, I wanted to see how/if it mellowed a bit over that time. To reset my tastebuds, I had a taste of the Hargraves Stout (a bit too roasted for my personal taste, but a decent dry stout style beer) before getting onto the Tokyo. I have to say, I was getting a lot of sherry notes from it. I was feeling quite drunk after each sip, so I was sitting there for a while on it, just to make sure I could get up and walk away without falling over once I was done. The alcohol does not warm/burn as much with age, and when left to sit for a while between sips, I get a sort of fishy/mussel smell from it, but which disappears when you swirl it around a bit to pick up the malt again. I do remember after one sip taking a deep breath to see what aftertaste I could get off it, but the alcohol burn just made me cough. The texture is still as good as I recall from having it previously, and has definitely mellowed to bring out more of the sherry flavour. Not having had lunch though, it was actually a bit difficult getting up and getting a tram home.

Unfortunately, I stopped at Slowbeer and Purvis Beer on the way to get some more masterly beers in the collaboration brews India Saison (Bridge Road and Nogne O) and Unifikator (Temple and Weihenstephan). Don't worry, I didn't drink them then. In fact, I didn't have another drink all day, even though I caught up for dinner for my cousin's birthday. So, keep an eye out for those beers up here soon.



Sunday, July 1, 2012

Haandbryggeriet Akevitt Porter (8%)

Have heard a few people rave over this beer, so thought with today being cold and rainy, would be a perfect day to pull out this warming porter.

Pours pretty easy but with a fairly brown head that seems to hold thinly over the beer like lace long after the pour. The first smell I get is a velvety/creamy chocolate which if course pricks my ears (and nose). There is a bit of vanilla with it (maybe from the oak) and can somehow smell the warming alcohol in it's lushness. Already has the trademark of a special beer.

On the palate the creamy lushness holds, which I am surprised to see in a porter, but somehow it still slides down the throat pretty easy, which where the alcohol comes in to thin it out on the backpalate. There is just enough carbonation to tingle the tongue but not take away from the texture of the beer. As I pour the second half of this beer, I see the sediment at the bottom of the bottle and see it has been bottle conditioned, which I thing really works seeing there is both creaminess and tingle in the texture.

The first taste reminds me of a Moo Brew Vintage Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, but doesn't coat the tongue so heavily in malt and alcohol. I would probably call this beer an Imperial Porter in style. The smell does not fully correspond into flavour, but enough to go along with the journey of this beer. The alcohol probably hits a little to early and strong to take away a little of balance, but there is almost a lovely cleansing nuttiness/spice in aftertaste with the alcohol that with the thinning at the back leave the palate ready for another hit, apart from the slight warming alcohol in the throat. As it warms/get towards the bottom of the bottle, I am also getting more licorice notes, which makes me wonder if it would have been better to mix in the sediment through the beer to help balance out the flavour and give more up front. I am not sure how long the beer is aged in the oak barrels for, but mostly the flavours are subtle and even and melded well enough with the alcohol so it doesn't spike too much. But an 8% porter is pretty big, and almost too much for the tired state I find myself in before I even tasted the beer.

So, as I 'struggle' to get through this beer, I can understand why it has been given 3 years for it to be drunk by, and I have tasted it 14 months after bottling. I could actually see it balancing a bit better with a bit more time, with the malt character coming out a bit more.

Overall a pretty impressive beer that has aspects of imperial stout, but still the light sweetness of a usual porter. The smell and texture were probably what I was most intrigued and pleased to find in this beer. For anyone that has taken their beer journey to porters, this would be a great one to start stepping up into stout and imperial stouts, or those that find stouts and imperial stouts too 'heavy' on the tongue and in the belly.

This one get the Beefy thumbs up. If you find it, I recommend grabbing a bottle...if you can find it. Then if you can, keep it for a while, and give it the aussie 'Coopers roll' to mix up the sediment through the beer.



Moving On...

So I wake up this morning feeling a little tired, not really from beer consumption the night before, but from having just moved my cousin and her hubby into their first home yesterday. Yes, similar story to a post that inspired me in my series of 'situational drinking' posts, but at least this time we were moving down the stairs, and there are no stairs in their new place. Sitting down with some Matilda Bay Fat Yak's afterwards, the beer was going down well, as seems to happens at those times, so tasting it was not a priority. Still, it tasted good enough for it not to detract from enjoying a relax with the gang after the move.
I also took over my first home brew gluten-free beer to share with the troops. I think the agave pancake syrup I used has definitely given the beer a cidery taste but mixed with the general sweetness of syrup. Unfortunately the cider taste only enhances the slight tartness I get from using the sorghum malt, but then maybe it just helps meld the flavour profile towards it. Still, I am hoping to mask the sorghum a bit with my next attempt, so will see if blackstrap molasses does any better. Now Pete has a 'man cave', I will be spreading my homebrew message and getting him and Anna to start making their own gluten free beers, and hopefully getting them tasting better than what they can generally get out in the beer market.

While on the theme of moving, I had the pleasure on Friday night to see a man I have great respect for play his last game of rugby union in Australia. Stirling Mortlock has been an amazing personality for Australian rugby over my adult appreciation of the game. While I would have liked to have had a good beer to 'cheers' Stirling with, the only beers available are mid strength mainstream brews. I don't want to turn this into another 'beating-my-head-against-a-wall' rant over beers at sporting events, but will say Stirling had it right in this photo below just sticking to water at this venue (an endorsement for the thing that makes up around 97% of beer). I will say though it took me the whole game to actually finish the beer, and lucky the weather was cold so the beer didn't warm up enough so I could taste it over that time. At least my attention was on the game and not the beer, even if the game wasn't much more enjoyable to watch. Anyway, after the game, Joel and I hit the GB for a better beer (White Rabbit Dark Ale) to cheers Stirlo and the other boys retiring from the game, and congratulate Joel on getting through the semester of uni. Luckily also I'd had a Goat Hip Hip Horray IPA and a very coriander tasting Red Saision that was going through the hop infuser at the bar before the game.

I guess for myself I look at both these stories and am reminded that the physically orientated life I have lead for most of my life is only sustainable for a certain amount of time, and that is even if I don't seriously injure myself (touch wood). While I am not working as physically hard as I have when I was younger, I am still very conscious that at 31 my body is deteriorating. One day I may even get to the point where I won't be able to, or enjoy, drinking beer. A sad thought I know, but that is the potential we all have to deal with in life, whatever it is we enjoy doing. I guess being in the depths of winter doesn't help this thinking much, but have been making the most of the small moments where the sun does appear behind the clouds, streams light through the trees I walk past to warm me and think of Tahiti 80's 'Silently Walking'. I don't know if enjoying the simple/small things in life (I have actually just put a potato bake in the oven) makes it harder to make a change away from this physical orientation, or that having that orientation has brought me to question beer and want me to explore the wide world it presents, and take that questioning to life itself. Maybe just having found beer as an interest means I am turing more to my own mind in the natural progression we all have as we get older. I guess I am even lucky just to be able to think this way.

So, as you can see, a restful, simple day awaits me. Hopefully there will be a couple beers in there as this contemplation continues, but hopefully for you I won't be dumping anymore of this sort of thing if I write them up here. I see I may have let beer infiltrate my thinking too much, or just see beer can reflect any mood I have.