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!!!