Sunday, March 18, 2012

St Pat's Day, 2012 - Guinness Man Goes Solo

Hi to all those fellow St Pats Day revelers. Unfortunately, probably unlike many others, I did not get drunk. It is always a bit harder to do so when there is no one around you know that will help you out if you get drunk, or get drunk with you.

I understand, after 13 years of celebrating this day, I am sure my mates are over drinking beer they don't like and/or have moved on with their lives and now have better things to do...yep, their problem really.

In any case, being old enough now to not want to get caught up in the masses of people just drinking to get drunk and pretend/overdo an irish ancestry, I get in early and try and find a real irish pub, and then hit other pubs with good stouts.

This year saw me trying to hit the Drunken Poet as I did last year, however was very disappointed to find it closed when I got there at 1pm. Just before my mind completely switched off with this impossible thought, I saw a sign in the window telling me to go to the Empty Jar instead. I took the signs advice. Many Melbournites will know this as the old Arthouse Hotel, which is now being converted into a larger version of the DP, by those that own the DP.

45 minutes after entering I left with two pints of Guinness under my belt and a silly hat on my head. Even after 13 years, the texture of that beer still astounds me, and while the flavour is not as good as the Guinness I had in Ireland 4 years ago, a DP/Empty Jar Guinness is still the best I get in Melbourne, and was great to get some before the crowd really started to come in. Drinking Guinness is now more of a nostalgic experience after this long, from my very first Guinness on St Pat's Day 1999, to my first 'real' Guinness on St Pat's Day 2008 in Galway, and so drinking these two to start the day brought back all the memories from St Pat's Days past, all those I have shared a Guinness with, and what my enjoyment of Guinness has allowed me to experience. I can still remember the best and worse Guinness I have ever had.

With the tradition out of the way, I could then go in search of other pubs serving good stout on this day, and so made my way to The Local Taphouse, which I had heard had Moo Brew Barrel-aged Imperial Stout 2010 on tap. While it may have taken me 45 mins to drink 2 pints of Guinness, it too me nearly one and a half hours to get through a pot of the Moo Brew. While everyone made the most of the 'grand' day in the outdoor area of the Local, I found a dark quiet corner to allow me to contemplate over this beer. It would have been funny if there was a time-lapse camera as I slowly sipped away at my beer quietly while people started filling in the space around me as the crowd increased in the pub. This beer just has the power to make time slow down for me, or maybe just for me to lose time while enjoying it. The dankish chocolate malt up front with dark fruitiness builds to a dark spirit on midpalate as the alcohol builds towards the back. However, in this beer, a wooded character comes through (and assuming it is aged in french oak) with a spiciness that comes across the back as the alcohol stays mellow and you are left relaxed and entranced. I actually had to get a glass of what while drinking this beer, as it coats your tongue so much. To be able to enjoy the beer for as long as possible, this water is needed so your tastebuds don't just die on your before you finish the beer. Still, even with water and time, I found I was not able to appreciate the beer as much with the last few sips...well, apart from the alcohol induced contentment it gave me.

Finally moving from my seat I made my way back towards home, and went past a heaving Bridie O'Reilly's on Chapel Street. I was very happy that I was not a part of it. I did however stop at the Royston to grab a pot of the Nogne O Det Kompromisslos Bryggeriet Imperial Stout and a Holgate Temptress. Ok, the Temptress is not a stout, but seeing porter is a style older than stout, has even more tradition than a St Pat's Guinness. Still, it managed to bite me in the arse as it didn't quite come up the scratch. The texture was still there and some chocolate flavour did come through, but what I thought was the chalkiness of it being too cold, over time and warmth I was shown that the beer seemed a bit old as it kept on being dusty throughout.
Luckily the Nogne O did not disappoint, with some similar character to the Moo Brew I had earlier. The chocolate malt was probably a bit bigger and brighter in this that the Moo, and none of the wooded character to go with the dark spirit midpalate. It was even a little watery at the back, leaving little aftertaste, which could make it a bit dangerous at 9%.

After another hour and half to get through those two, I made my way home to finish off the other half of a potato bake I had made to line my stomach before heading out for this St Pat's beer journey. Potato and that is a good St Pat's Day, and also had a bottle of Guinness foreign extra stout so I could start and end the day on Guinness. I don't know if it has just been in my possession for a while, but there was a definite choc-caramel flavour on the front on the tongue, which diminished on midpalate as the alcohol rises in taste. However, as I went along, I found a somewhat strange aftertaste increase with each sip. There is quite a bitterness, but something else as well that I could not put my finger (or tastebuds) on.

So, another St Pat's Day done and dusted. Irish superstition may have made it unlucky for finding drinking buddies, I at least managed to entertain myself with some good beers and memories to engage with.


Guinness Man

PS: I should probably add that today is the first anniversary of my first day of work at Mountain Goat Brewery. While there was not many days work done for them in the first 6 months, I am happy to have now been a part-timer for over 3 months now, and my experience growing each day. Cheers Goat, hope you still want me around another year from now.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Microbrewery Showcase 15/3/12

Here we go again... This must be number 6 or 7 of these I have been to, and while there is still some new stuff coming through, and some old favourites, I thought I wouldn't get through all of my tickets this year...wrong!

Tasting all the beers below was not helped by the fact I gave blood just a couple of hours before the event, but I was helped by having a spare food voucher from last year, which meant I was able to soak up some alcohol with a couple of pies during the journey. All in all it balanced itself alright in the end, even though I was a little concerned to start with when I was given tasting ticket #13.

As always I took 5 mins to sit down with the booklet to pick out the beers I wanted to try, and a general order in which to try them by. I doesn't always end up that way, but gives a good structure to get through as many as possible early on when the crowd is a bit thinner. This also means sticking to lighter beers (flavour and alcohol) early on so your tastebuds are able to make it through the 20 beers...well around about 20.

I had some time before the event started so went into Beer Deluxe, only to find they had Doctors Orders Black Lung on tap. So even though I was trying to recover from intentional blood loss, I had to give it a go. It has a very similar roasted malt muddiness that I get a lot from Moon Dog beers that I have had previously, but with pilsner aspects to this beer, a lighter body and hop profile does allow it not to sit heavy on the tongue and does clean up at the back of the tongue and in aftertaste. I am not sure what the alcohol is in it but it does seem a bit high as it may help cut through the malt character as well. It could also have been a bad omen that my body was not ready to deal with alcohol yet, but seeing I held up ok for the rest of the day, I'll go with higher alcohol.

I felt like I should go for a walk to help burn it off, so after seeing Lenny Kravitz do soundcheck in Fed Square (yeah, bit random) I got in line to get the beer tasting going.

1) Bridge Road - Summer Single Hop - A good one to start on with it being pretty smashable and subtle. The light malt came off well with the hop layering well over the top, again very sutble to keep it balanced.
2) Forrest - Silvertop - Described to me as a kolsch style, and only has 4.1%. Is a bit pooey/sulphur on the nose with some light hop character to clean it up. Light in flavour on the tongue with crisp malt and hop, but still with a bit of body to it. Overall quite refreshing but the smell turned me off.
3) Cavalier Weizen - Not very cloudy, but does have a wheat smell that is quite strong in an artificial way with the banana and clove being very sweet. This corresponds into flavour but is too sweet for the style.
4) Red Duck K2 - Has a honey malt nose, but at 3.2%, is pretty light in taste and colour. Light malt base is good and keeps in line with the style I beers I get from this brewery.
5) Southern Bay - Sunrise Breakfast Beer - Outside the usual breakfast beers I have tried, as it is just a lighter easy to drink at breakfast time (mind you, I only just heard beer is not just for breakfast anymore). Sense a bit of malt on the nose behind the sulphur smell. Overall a pretty easy drinking light but malty beer. Even has residual sweet malt at the back of the tongue.
6) Hawthorn Witbier - slightly cloudy but with a very sweet smell that is something between fruit and sherbert. This come through in the flavour and there is a slight bubblegum at the back to remind you it is meant to be a wheat beer.
7) Matilda Bay - Itchy Green Pants (IGP) - Very sulphur in smell and taste. Not actually even sure what beer this is mean to be.
8) White Rabbit - Handpump beer - a combo of the dark and white ales in a belgium style pale ale. Is very warm out of the handpump, which doesn't work well with the wheat beer elements. Pretty easy drinking and a good introduction to belgium beers if you have never tried one before.
9) Bright - Hellfire Amber Ale - Good malt nose with hop overlay, which corresponds well into taste with some good bitterness at the back. Probably the best beer I have tasted from Bright.
10) Bridge Road - Celtic Red Ale - Having tried this on tap at the brewery 6 months ago, was interested to see how it tastes in the bottle. I have to say I do not enjoy it as much. Has a smokey malt nose, which made me think it was a little old. Some better malt character on the tongue but still has the smoke to it that tastes a bit off.
11) Red Duck - Bengal - After the disappointment of the last one I decided to go for a classic, one of my favourite IPAs. For me it just had the right balance of malt and hops, but know for the general punter or IPA lover, they would find the malt to be too much in it.
12) King Valley - Yowie Lager - Didn't see this one til it was too late in the night, but thought I would give it a go anyway. Has a sort of lemon smell which is crisp on the tongue, refreshing and with no sign of chemicals that we are so use to with lagers in Australia. This beer actually cleans up quite well at the back. Standard, but better than most aussie lagers.
13) Harcourt - Sightings American Pale Ale - Spotted this one when I was at King Valley so thought I'd give it a go. Hmm, my only comments are 'standard - I think' which I guess means my tastebuds were on their way out. There was only one way to fix that...get fresh.
14) Moon Dog - MacGuava - In their continuing run of wheat beers with fruit and mullet overtones (mullet as hair style, not the fish), this one has good fruity smell with some high noted sweetness in the nose and on the tongue, with just some slight yeast at the back. Very refreshing and perfect for where my tastebuds were at. Has a bit more in fruit and sweetness above the Melon Gibson, but the wheat base gives it a decent body base for the fruit in both beers to come through. Can't wait to try the Billy Ray Citrus.
15) Mornington Peninsula - Saison - Keeping with refreshing fruitiness, this one has an artificial sweet fruit nose, but with some good full fruit flavour and with only slight yeasty back. Quite sessionable.
16) Temple - Saison - I did actually go to try the ESB, but seems they ran out of, so just had another crack of the Saison, especially when Dave gave it to me without giving him a ticket. I would say it is a bit more real than the Mornington in smell, similar fruit profile and just a bit more yeast at the back.
17) Mildura - Choc Hops - Yep, it was time...As it was last year, the sweet chocolate/chicos smell and taste completely overwhelmed my tongue and I enjoyed it as much as I have previously. Good to find a favourite that is holding its flavour well.
18) Grand Ridge - Supershine - having ignited my sweet tooth I then had to continue with the caramel/toffee beer at a decent 11%. I ended up sharing this with the boys at Moon Dog, Mountain Goat, and the boys spruiking Good Beer Week.
19) Moon Dog - Henry Ford's Girthsome Fjord - What can I say. A Belgio-American Brown Ale. A good blend and balance of all the styles, with yeast, dark malt and IPA. Worth a try for anyone looking to step up in beer style blending.
20) Moon Dog - Cognac Barrel aged IPA - Having found my finishing beers at Moon Dog, there was no way I was moving as the crowd continued to crush around their stall. As I was talking to Josh's old boss with drinking this and my final beer (wait for it), I don't have any notes written down, but do enjoy the melding this beer has, as while the bitterness is still big, the barrel aging really integrates it well.
21) Moon Dog - Russian Imperial Stout. I actually got two of these, and shared one with the Goaters as well. 17.5% means champagne yeast has had to be used, yet it has still retained a good smoothness and body, even though the alcohol level could really water it out a lot. So, this was a sneaky beer that wasn't in the booklet and had to be in the know. I am happy I was in the know, and a great beer to end the night on.

After everything I actually felt pretty good as I left and managed to get home fine (even helping out a couple from my home region of the Hunter Valley in NSW to get to their hotel) and felt pretty good this morning.

I just had a visit to brewcraft to look at our next homebrew, and was happy to find they now stock sorghum syrup, which means I can now start making beer for my gluten intolerant cousins. This could become the first collaboration brew we do with Team Harrod.

Anyway, thanks again to the brewers and all those that helped, and continue to make the Mircobrewery Showcase work twice ever year. Was great to see Moon Dog finally make their first Showcase, and make a big impact with the crowd. Not only that, but I saw myself on the big screen while at the Showcase as things gear up for Good Beer Week. I guess working at Mountain Goat is an easy way to get known in the beer industry, even though I still enjoy being just one of the punters at events like these.



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Good Beer Week 2012 - A Framework is Formed

Hey gang,

After finding the program at the Goat bar after finishing work today, I have just used the last hour to sort out a basic schedule of my ideal plan for this event coming in May.

Saturday 12th - Beer Delux Brooklyn Degustation
Sunday - be good to check out Thunder Road and the Beer Trivia at The Local Taphouse
Monday - caught between the Great Britain's Home Brewer to Pro Brewer and the People's Pint launch at Temple
Tuesday - I think I'll need to revisit the beer and chocolate tasting at Saboro, that I turned up to late last year.
Wednesday - Of course, the Goat hosted collaboration, which I have heard may be a beer that is well and truly in my personal realm of beer appreciation, but would also like to go to the Taphouse for their extreme beer tasting.
Thursday - The Fox Hotel Scavenger Hunt looks pretty interesting, so will be looking to put together a team for that.
Friday - While the Fed Square Tasting Around the Globe looks good, would actually be interested in seeing how the Penny Blue Good Beer O'Clock goes.
Saturday - As with last year, would be good to go to the Slowbeer tasting before stumbling down the round to the GB for the closing party.
Not only that, but some all week events I'd like to do is visit Huxtaburger for a burger and Brooklyn beer, keep with the burger theme at Beer Delux, and revisit Mrs Parma's for another combo of their parma with a Moon Dog beer. But keeping with my fav beer and chocolate combos, going to Mamor Chocolates will be a definite.

Anyway, a decent mix of things available and hoping to make use of it over the week, along with trying to get in on the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular at the beginning of the week

Phew...again. Bring on Good Beer Week 2012.



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Smoke Beers Round the Campfire...

During the previous week a mate of mine had his 30th birthday, where we enjoyed a few mid-week Guinness at the Drunken Poet (all ready for St Pat's Day this weekend). We decided that with a long weekend coming up, we should use it to go camping to continue the celebrations.

We made our way down to Apollo Bay, and after our first attempt getting lost, we made it to the place we thought would be good for camping. However, seeing we were a bit late getting out there, a lot of families had already set up, and seeing this camp was going to be a bit boozy, we thought it best to move on. Being disappointed by the next try, we were on our way to another option with my eyes on the sun as it started getting low. Thinking we were lost, we stopped at an intersection and as we were turning around to go back to a clearing we had found near the road to just set up for the night, we spotted a small sign for the camping spot. Getting to the site, we again saw lots of families and not much space to set ourselves up with, but noticing the camping spilled out onto the other side of the field, we found a spot amongst the trees to quickly set up the tents before it got dark...Phew.

Seeing we got there late-ish, we just had a bbq and Coopers Pale Ale around the campfire. A good staple of mine it went down well as we talked crap and enjoyed see the stars and the moonlight through the trees, while being slightly annoyed by those getting too drunk on the other side of the field.

Using the quiet of the morning to check out area and take photos of the nature around us, we put the field beside us to good use with cricket and frisbee, while trying to keep out of the way of kids on their little motorbikes. After immersing ourselves (as much as we could in this setting) with nature by the river, we set ourselves up for the evening and I sorted out the beer journey.
With the theme of smoke beers to go with the camp setting, we started in Canada with a Dieu du Ciel Carbonniere. I though this would be good especially with the potential some of us may not have tried this style of beer before, as I think this is a good beginner smoke beer. The sweet malt character keeps the smoked ham aspect back a bit.
Next off the block (block, wood, burning, smoke...get it?[ahh, almost a bad as the dad jokes coming out over the weekend]) was the Haandbryggeriet Norwegian Wood (wood eh?...and the bad jokes keep coming). Happily I found the extra layer of Juniper berries was a good step up, and found the lads enjoyed the added dimension to the beer. I found the smoke was sensed more in smell than taste, as the berries really overtook the smokiness on the palate, even thought I liked the combination.
Stepping up in flavour and tradition in this style, was the Aecht Schlenterla Fiche Doppelbock. Definitely a beer I wanted to try after our own attempt with the Hickory Stickery Bock. The doppelbock style sweetness was quite big in it, so of course I enjoyed it personally. The other really interesting aspect of this smoke beer is that instead of beech wood being used to smoke the malt, oak is used instead. I'm not sure if it diminishes the 'smokiness' of the beer, or if the doppelbock simply takes over the flavour on the front of the tongue, but the spiciness that comes towards the back I guess shows that they may have used french oak ('duh, the beer is made in Germany' I heard you say), and really added another dimension to the beer. I think we also senses a bit of saltiness in this beer to go with the spice on the back edges of the tongue.
Unfortunately, the upward trend did not continue with the 8 Wired The Big Smoke, which while I thought the roasted dark malt would work well with the smokiness, it did not seem to work out that way. The dark malt aspect came off a bit too astringent for me, with some bitterness at the back which overtook the smoke and left you with an ordinary taste in your mouth.

Alright, now for the big step up, and what I had really been looking forward to. Having both Yeastie Boys peated smoke beers available to try together was pretty cool for me. Having heard a bit of hype I was a little concerned I thought I would be polarised towards the group that don't appreciate these beers. With us with a sample of each beers at the same time meant we could really compare and contrast the two.
The original Rex Attitude was a real step up from the previous beers, as there was a real density or broadness to the smoke, and it reminded me of one of my favourite beers, the Mikkeller Black in Islay Wiskey barrels, so I latched onto it ok. I guess, the problem is that being use to having the dark base beer backing up the peatiness, the smoke came off a bit high noted and dry, even though it had a good body to carry it over the tongue. When tasting it against the xeRRex, the depth of the peaty smoke came off a whole lot better for me personally as it seemed better integrated, rich but balanced through the extra strength. However, these beers being what they are, there was a definite divide as to which one each of us enjoyed more. Those that may have been whiskey drinkers probably enjoyed the original than the imperial version of this beer. Still, a most impressive couple of beers could be agreed on by all.

Seeing we could not take the smoke any further than where it was, it was time to change tact and just bring on some big classic beer. Stass pulled out a Grand Ridge Supershine, which we have had a case of for a couple of years now. The beer has melded greatly over that time with some great butterscotch and toffee notes, which of course I personally loved. It seemed many of us were the same, and was a great beer to reset our tastebuds with (as much as was possible at this stage of the journey). To celebrate a year since Stass and I first tasted it, I took a bottle of Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout to share with the boys. Again, the dark chocolate flavour is so full and rich in this imperial stout, it just goes down a dream, and made our own home brew imperial stout taste worse than it really is. Still, it got us to where we wanted to end up, content.

After the first night, it was interesting after these beers there was a bit more thoughtful conversations had. Like the questioning that occurs when appreciating a good beer reflects itself back onto the drinker, and they start looking at themselves. Still, the alcohol fueled contentment that bring on this questioning and a hypnotic campfire, keeps the conversation relaxed and philosophical, and was great to have one of these with the birthday boy.

So, a big thanks to the boys for being my guinea pigs for another beer journey, and being open to the beers I had to show them. Of course, there is also a big Happy 30th Birthday to be given to Tim.



PS: The interesting thing about tasting smoke beers around a campfire, is that the next day, your clothes smell like the beers you were tasting the night before.