Saturday, January 14, 2012

Where is our Summer Drinking Weather?

Hi to all you consumers of fermented vegetable drinks (mostly of the beer variety),

So we are about half way through Summer down in the southern hemisphere, and apart from a couple of days here and there, we have yet to really get any summer weather so far. While it may be a bit disappointing for us that enjoy a good Aussie summer (and the macro brewers that like to attach their swill to this season), it means I've been able to enjoy more of the beer styles I like to drink.

During the week I managed a visit to the Local Taphouse in St Kilda for my first tasting paddle for the new year, and while I could have gone a few of the Red Hill brews that have taken over the taps there at the moment, I decided to go more for the darker and bigger beers also available through their 20 taps, while trying out their parma.
I did start on Red Hill's Temptation though, and with it on tap, thought it a good way to introduce myself to it. There is a bit of citrus on the malt nose which helps meld it into some hop aroma, and this seems to correspond well into flavour. It is not a very intense beer in terms of flavour, which I would expect for at beer at 8%, so when the hops rise in intensity on the tongue, and the alcohol rises towards the back, the beers seems to separate a bit and adds a bit of a dry aftertaste. Some decent flavours going on, but just didn't meld all that well for me.
Getting onto New Zealand's 8 Wired Black Dwarf dry beaned coffee stout, I found that apart from the espresso aroma and a bit of astringency up front on the palate, it was a fairly straight forward stout, which at least clean up the tongue.

Trying something a bit different halfway through the paddle, a beer called 'Whatever you want me to be' from local brewer True South was definitely hard to describe and stylise. It has quite a fruity nose with a lot of cinnamon to go with it, which reminded me of hot cross buns and the Easter beer Murray's did last year. If anything, the fruit was a bit darker, and the cinnamon much bigger in this so called 'coffee and cassia bark infused ale'. Interestingly though, the beer has very little carbonation but has quite a light mouthfeel. The taste though I found hardest to describe. I could just say the smell came through in flavour, but there was definitely more going on with sweetness, bitterness and spice coming through in that order across the tongue, but none of it was offensive and melded ok together. However, I found it hard to pinpoint what sort of sweetness, etc was going on, but as it warmed, the sweetness did start overriding the other flavours.
Heading back to 8 Wired, their Big Smoke was next on the list, and a beer I had been meaning to try for a while. I found the mix of smoke and porter sweet aromas worked quite well, even if it is a little muddled. It doesn't quite have that smoked ham taste to it and to be honest, the porter overrides at the the front while the smoke comes through at the back, and it not very strong, only leaving a slight driness at the back.
I have to say, I had tried to keep with the summer season when I found Mountain Goat's Two Step Cider was available on tap, but finding the keg was dry, I was once again denied trying this brew from the brewer I work for but not yet even tasted. Therefore, I went to the opposite end of the scale, having a Murray's Wild Thing Imperial Stout, that has twice the alcohol the cider has. It has the classic malt, dark fruit and alcohol nose for the style, complemented in taste and with a good mouthfeel to let it cover the tongue before the alcohol cuts through towards the back. However, I found the alcohol cut through a bit too sharp, and so doesn't quite match overall.
Heading further along to Acland Street, and walking past the dour beach of St Kilda (not very inspiring as I try and steel myself for a big year going for a career in beer), I managed to drag a couple of friends into Acland Cellars. The salesman picked me as a beer nerd without me saying a word, and then proceeded to tell me that I would be bottling a beer next week at Mountain Goat, before we each picked a beer each to try. However, after putting them in the fridge at home, it was hard to know where to start between the Aecht Schlenterla Rauchbier Urbock, the Samuel Smith Imperial Stout, and the Ommegang Three Philosophers.
Over tacos, I thought the Rauchbier would be best to start on, as at least there was food to help cleanse the tongue. However, as soon as I opened the bottle, I realised the beer was very undercarbonated, even for the style. Of course very little head came from the pour, and completely diminished very quickly. Checking the use by, there is still 7 months left on it, but it sure didn't not taste fresh. While the level of flavour was even with the smoke and sweet still bringing the hammy sort of taste, it was not as intense as I remember it being, and not as flavourful as I remember having these types of beers in Bamberg. I also seemed to noticed a very slight sourness and maybe an added sense of dustiness over the normal smokeyness. Actually, I think I prefer the hickory smoke over the beech wood, but that is just through the Hickory Stickery Bock which probably has a lot more sweetness than the traditional smoke beers of Bamberg. I just wonder if the beech gives a bit more of a dusty smokeness than the hickory. In the end, the German that just tried her first Bamberg Rauchbier has been encouraged to try these style of beer when she heads back home.
After the slight disappointment of the Rauchbier, The Sam Smith had that really good English style Imperial Stout flavour. Actually, I was even getting a slight caramel with the chocolate malt flavour from this beers, and with a decent mouthfeel and at only 7%, it makes for a pretty drinkable imperial stout. With my limited and simple palate, I probably enjoyed this beer the most personally, even if the last one was much more impressive.
There were a few things that the 2010 Three Philosophers Quad had me interested in. Firstly, the connection of beer and philosophy has been something I looked at connecting in the past. Secondly, connecting a Belgian lambic with a Trappist style really triggered my interest seeing I really like both the Faro and Quadruple styles, even though (and because) they are on opposite ends of the scale for beers out of Belgium. Within the Quadruple style I was also interested to see they went with the blonde...but I will come back to that. I have to say the Kriek is integrated quite well into the beer with the sweet and sour going together alright. The lambic did bring a lightness and did sense a bit of separation between the styles because of it, but I guess going with a blonde would help make the malt less dense, allowing more of the cherry lambic to come through. Still, I found personally, I would have liked a darker malt quad to bring a darker fruit flavour to the cherry, but that is probably just my personal taste. Still, very flavourful with the belgian yeast as well to give it a Duvel with cherry lambic taste overall.

I don't know if I want to add this, but going to the 20-20 cricket game on Thursday night with the Melb Renegades vs Brisbane Heat I decided to pull out a beer my brother gave for me to try. My sister in law's husband has ancestry from Costa Rica, and somehow my brother ended up with an 'Imperial'. Sorry to end this post on a bad note, but apart from from decent mouthfeel, the only thing that is had over some of our own mainstream beers was a slightly less chemical tang.

Ok, that will do. I just hope we end up getting some better summer weather for Australia Day in a couple of weeks time. Then the Bright Ale clone Stass and I brewed will go down very well.


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