Sunday, November 24, 2013

My First Tassie Beer Festival

Ok, this is not the first time I have delighting in beers while in Tassie, but is the first time I have gone down to Hobart and have just one venue to go to to enjoy an array of beers from Tassie, the 'Mainland' and other parts of the world. With my girlfriend Hannah having never been down to Tassie, cheap flights available, and a friend having just moved to Hobart, it was a moment where all signs pointed to us heading down last weekend. Actually, this time last week I was awake in our hotel room after 3 hours sleep and waiting for sunrise so I could go for a walk to the harbour to watch it, and this weekend I have had 4 hours sleep and waiting for the rugby test between Australia and Scotland to start. I must remember to try and get more sleep, but for now happy to just have time to get this post done.

So, arriving to Hobart last Saturday morning, we dropped off our bags and went for a walk around, seeing Hobart's Christmas parade (including a Star Wars section???!!!) and giving Hannah a quick look around the city and Salamanca markets. With my duties done there, I was then free to enjoy the beer festival down by the wharf, with beautiful weather making perfect conditions for drinking a few beers in the sun. With such summery weather, had to start on a Goat Summer Ale, Moon Dog Love Tap Double Lager and Two Birds Sunset Ale, before finally getting my first taste of Iron House Brewery. We ended up coming back here a few times seeing they had a great selection of wheat beers to satisfy Hannah's beer taste, and have to say, the Dunkel and Porter went down pretty well for me too.
Dropping off our birthday cards for Moo Brew's 8th birthday at their stall, I indulged in their latest Saison, and have to say, with each year they use that yeast strain, there is more flavour coming out of it.

At this point we realised their were free beer lectures going on in a back room, and seeing a beer and cheese event by none other than Chuck Hahn, we just had to go in and check that out. After being invited by Chuck after the event to do a brewery tour with him next time I am in Sydney (yes, I will hold him to it), I saw NZ's Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude available, and my beer nerd came out to try it again, and give Hannah a taste of this peaty smoked beer while having a chat to Mr Crafty Pint about his own beery adventures in Hobart. After that, I also saw the U.S. Rogue Dead Guy Ale on tap so gave that as taste as well (unfortunately I did not rinse my glass out after the Rex, so it came out pretty smokey too). Seeing an array of pies in a stall, we tried a couple of those (hmm, stout pie) and a stout ice cream (geez, there is more stout in the food than in kegs at this festival!!!)  before trying a Morrison's brew and then the Belgian and Strong Ale from a new Italian brewer that is just making inroad here in Australia.
I happily left the Corona stand for all the people dressed up as Mexicans (they were trying to raise money for Movember, but probably would have been able to give more if they just did not come to the festival and donated all the money to put across the beer stalls into the charity. Still, where is the fun in that?!). Realising I had just missed out on a lecture from Moo Brew's new head brewer Dave where there was a tasting of their seasonal brews (argh, barrel aged imperial stout!!!!), the 7.5% Strong Ale was going straight to my head, and that we were out of tickets, it was time to leave after 4 hours and have a nice lie down in the sun for 30 mins at the park across the road from the festival. Unfortunately, we did see one patron come out in quite a state and try to start a fight outside the festival (at 5pm...sheesh!) before more of a wander around town, my obligatory Cascade Export Stout at Montgomeries, and one more beer tasting at a new bar in Hobart I had not been to, then a different sort of tasting over dinner, this time 5 courses of Sake, which went down great against the ultra fresh produce we were getting in the meal. Having not really had that much Sake before, was great to be able to taste a different one with each course to realise the diversity in this beverage, with citrus, grassy, honey and brown sugar all being flavours I found outside the smooth alcohol I was getting from most of the sakes. A quick 10 ouncer at the New Sydney Hotel then on our way back to our hotel room and bed, probably while many were still making a big night of it after the festival.

After brekkie in Salamanca and one last walk around town, we hopped on the boat out to MONA to spend the day checking out the museum, and a beer and meal at the bar and having a flight of wine in the tasting room while jazz played on the sunny field...ahhh, so relaxing. Unfortunately talking to a few of the staff, I am still trying to get a hold of this years allocation of barrel aged imperial stout (seems they are finally listening to their own marketing team and not letting Bogans have any of their beer), but apart from that, we were just looking forward to our next visit down to Tassie as we took the bus from MONA to the airport.

Thanks to all the organisers, brewers and people that made and came along to the festival to keep the growth of good beer in Tassie going strong, and to Hannah, for coming with me to another beer festival, and making it look like she even enjoys attending them with me.



PS: In other beer news, I can happily say I have finally had the Two Birds Taco (lot of spice comes through while cold, while lemon/lime characters come out more as it warms up. Very sessionable!!!) at Slowbeer during the week, and was even able to enjoy it with my beer brother Stass. It has been too long between drinks buddy!!!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Adventures in Creme Brulee!!!

As mentioned in a previous post, a beer I have been searching for a while is the Southern Tier Creme Brulee. With a shipment coming through, I was 'lucky' enough to get one bottle after scouring a few bottle shops in Melbourne. I was also 'lucky' enough to get the dregs of the only keg I had ever found of this beer at Slowbeer a couple of weeks back, and apart from needing a spoon to get through the foam, and the extra bitterness that come from the end of a keg, the smell was amazing, and only made me want to proper try of the beer on tap.

Since then, the beer hunter in me went into overdrive...

I think my girlfriend saw the effect of me only 'getting the crumbs' of Creme Brulee and went searching in Sydney for me at a few bottle shops up there. Like Melbourne, they had sold out of their stock very quickly, but she was given some advice that ended up being 'close to home'. It seems my old stomping ground of Newcastle has quite a good selection of beers available at a bottlo called Warners at the Bay. I know I have been able to get a growler of Rogue's Double Chocolate Stout from there before, so looking on their site I found they had quite a bit of the Creme Brulee left. When going to order a bottle, I was surprised to find I could actually order a case of the stuff, so duly did so and had it sent to Hannah's place in Sydney, seeing I would be up there that weekend. It was a surreal and happy moment when the picture below was taken.

While I was up that weekend, we did not crack open a bottle, but we did visit some other beery places, like the Welcome Hotel in Balmain (where we got to chat with Mark from Riverside Brewing), the Little Guy in Glebe, and Young Henry's, the latter being set up similarly to Mountain Goat with a bar in the brewery, and great to see a tasting paddle available (mind you, with Oktoberfest activities on there, people were not drinking beer in vessels any smaller than a schooner). Hannah also found Wayward Brewing (they are actually using Riverside to brew through at the moment), and was able to try their Keller and IRA, while having a day by the beach on the Sunday. Yes, I am very lucky to have a girlfriend that 1) likes beer, and 2) indulges me in my love of beer.

Anyway, with my bottle collection of Creme Brulee sorted for the next few years, it was just the tap version that had so far stayed out of reach. Still, Eric from the Royston Hotel just across the road from Mountain Goat did begin teasing me with the knowledge he did have a keg of it sitting in his cellar. Initially I thought he would put it on while I was away in Sydney for a weekend with Hannah, but happily he put it on last Wednesday, and so was able to enjoy my first proper taste of this beer on tap. The aroma is so strong in vanilla that I can't help but think they have to be using an extract at the conditioning stage of the brewing process, and does definitely smell like the Cottee's caramel topping. At 9.5%, the alcohol is a bit higher than when I had this beer the very first time at Chapel Street Cellars over 2 years ago, and the boozy taste is very strong in this, along with that bitterness in roast and hop. I can really see that with age this beer with condition very nicely, and glad I now have enough of that to keep aging some from quite some time.

Having had it on Wednesday night, and being on the early shift at Goat that week, I was able to head back after work the next day for another round, this time with a bottle to do a taste off and a creme brulee dessert that happened to be on the menu at the Royston. As expected, the lesser ability for a bottle to purge oxygen from it before filling it with beer meant that the aroma was not so strong in the bottle as it was from the keg, keeping it smelling fresher and stronger. Comparing it to the creme brulee dessert, the big thing you notice is the inability for beer to replicate the custardy texture, but something I hope to do better at with my next homebrew version of it (along with reducing the bitterness).

Letting Stass know the beer was on at the Roy, he came around that arvo and we had one together, along with some creme brulee truffles I had picked up from Haigh's earlier in the week.

So, in the end, managed to have 3 tastes of the Creme Brulee on tap!!! Feeling very happy to have been able to find this beer and be able to experience it again after a 2 year battle to get it.



Tap and Tap

A while back my girlfriend Hannah came down to Melbourne for a tap dancing festival, and asked me if I would be interested in trying out a first time tappers class that was free to anyone that wanted to give it a go. Being the open minded kind of guy who does not mind embarrassing himself in such ways I said 'yes'.

Seeing the festival was happening somewhat near the Local Taphouse in St Kilda, I took the opportunity after dropping Hannah to her first class, to wander down for a parma and flight of beers to limber me up for a dance and help me come to terms with what I was about to do. This was helped by seeing quite a number of imperial stouts on tap (who doesn't like a bit of extra alcohol in their beer at such times?!).

Thinking starting straight on an imperial stout might be a bit much for noon, decided to get things rolling with the latest version of the Bridge Road Brewery B2 a lowly 8.2%. I think the malt character has come up a bit from previous years, and the funky yeast back has come down a little. For a beer that has so much going on it is still quite well balanced. Looking forward to trying out the bottle version in comparison with other vintages I have.

The imperial stouts available were the classic aussie Moo Brew, which actually came off quite subtle in comparison at 7.9% and with some time in the keg seeing it was last years batch. Still, time has given it a great smoothness, unfortunately something some of the others imperial stouts also had. It might have been the journey from the US and UK, but the Mission Brewery Dark Seas and Magic Rock Bearded Lady also had great texture to them, and was quite amaze to see a 10.5% stout come from the UK (well, apart from Brew Dog). Still, the one that blew me away was the local Victorian brewed Stubborn Russian from Bright Brewery, which has been barrel aged in whiskey barrels. However, I think the barrels may well have still been half full with whiskey still when they put the beer in their. The heat on the nose and palate was quite strong with the whiskey aspects, and unfortunately the beer was a little bit lost behind it.

The other surprising aspect of the beer journey was the parma I had with it. They have definitely stepped up from previous ones I have had there before. Speaking to one of the owners who was also having lunch at the time, I asked him if they had changed it as it tasted more like bacon than ham with a thickness and salty character to it, but he said they have started used a cured ham. Whatever it was it tasted great.

After that Taphouse lunch was well and truly ready to take on my first tap class While it was fairly frustrating, it was still good fun (especially with a few beers under the belt)...and no, I won't be putting up any pics of me trying out that sort of tap...



Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Beer Selection in Time

Above is probably the best beer selection I have ever had in my possession in any one time.

Starting from back left is the best homebrew I have ever made, a clone of the Southern Tier Creme Brulee, and next to it is the actual Creme Brulee. This in itself is probably one of the hardest beers I have ever been able to find, and only come into my possession in the past week. Therefore, it is probably the biggest influence in my putting this collection together in this photo.

Next is the original B2Bomber from Bridge Road, brewed to celebrate their 5 anniversary. I also have a bottle of the Mach 2 and 3 of this beer and hope to seen have a taste off between the three.

Neighbouring the B2Bomber is another original, the first and best vintage of the Holgate Empress I have ever tasted. With this as well, I have other years reincarnations, but yet to have reached the heady heights of this original.

Rogue Double Chocolate Stout was a Holy Grail beer, like the Creme, that stayed out of my grasp for so long until this year, so I am amazed to even have those two beers in my possession at the same time. I had only ever tried this beer once before I found this beer again, but that moment in Portland, Oregon stayed strong with me for so many years, and I guess still does in this beer.

The Brooklyn Black Ops is an enigma beer, which even though I have probably had more times than many others in this line up, am still amazed to find I have in my possession, and happy to have even had it recently in a beer tasting here.

LTM Porter Baltique 2010 was the best beer I tried in the first year of Good Beer Week back in 2010, and am lucky enough to have 3 vintages of this beer to do a vertical tasting of. Again though, this is the best incarnation of this beer I have ever tasted.

Ok, so two beers from the same brewery is probably not right, but the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout was a beer I searched for long before I was ever able to taste it, and it took a friend going to New York and bring back a bottle of this for me to be able to taste it for the first time. I think this beer with the Double Choc Stout epitomises my taste in beer.

The Rochefort 10 has been aging for 3 years in my closet (cellar), and is the same age as when I tried one in Antwerp while on my travels in Europe 3 years ago. I remember coming back and buying this bottle so I could try aging one for that amount of time, as it was my favourite beer experience from the trip.

The Boon Faro is a beer I found on the Europe trip, which until earlier this year, had never found in Australia, until a fateful trip to Grain and Grape. Much better than the Lindermanns Faro, and a dying style of beer that I appreciate as a subtle and balanced lambic.

The Liefmans Cuvee Brut is another great story from Europe, where I met one of the biggest influences in making my decision to follow beer as a career. Willy recommend this beer for me, and it still remains with me. Maybe not the best beer of the style, but a beer with a story that is very important to me.

While this is the Moo Brew 2009 Vintage Barrel Aged Imperial Stout (probably one of the lesser vintages from the brewery), it is as close to the 2008 that blew my mind those years ago that I can get, and the earliest vintage I own. Knowing this year is the last year this beer will be made by Moo Brew, it had to make an appearance in this line up. Apart from 2008, I have a bottle of each vintage since, and just waiting to get my hands on the latest and last vintage

In the same vein as the Black Choc Stout, the Dieu du Ciel Aphrodisiaque is another amazing beer that I have enjoyed in the past. While I probably don't appreciate it as much as the other choc stouts I have, it certainly deserves to be a part of this line up of impressive beers I have in my possession right now.

Lastly, another beer I have been aging, the Red Hill Imperial Stout from 2011 is one I have been holding onto to see if its potential improves over time.

The patience, luck, and effort that is shown through this selection is probably the most of any beers I have ever 'hunted' for. While I don't know how long these beers will last in my possession, I think whatever of these make it to the end of the year for my 33rd birthday, I think it will be time that I finally put them to bed, and enjoyed them for what I have put in to have them. I look forward to sharing them with friends, and remember the people and moments behind each beer, as no matter how long I hold onto them, they will only ever be a moment, an experience I have searched for in my life, and luckily found in my way through life.

Heres to them, and to me enjoying them.



Imperial Stout Tasting 2013

So, it is that time of the year again! In fact, it is a bit late seeing we are just out of Winter. However, with a cool breeze and overcast skies, along with a federal election and Wallabies game, there was enough foreboding signs to want us to keep indoors and do a bit of drinking. Unfortunately, this year I was also feeling under the weather after a long week at work and having come down with a bad cold.
Still, luckily this year I had a secret weapon to bring to the tasting to take the limelight off me and my zombie manner.
With my girlfriend down for the weekend, I made the most of Hannah's passion for cheese and abilities in the kitchen to find some flavours to compare and contrast the beers against. And can I say from the outset, she did an amazing job, and made it the best imperial stout tasting I have ever had. Paradoxically, through the cheeses and Guinness chocolate cake she organised for the event, it was these outshining the beers that made the tasting the best ever.

The Tarago Tiple Cream Brie was one of the softest cheese we had available, and even though it is quite soft and creamy to help coat the mouth to help wipe off the beer flavours, there was also quite a bit of sharpness to offset as well. There was still quite a bit of creamy sweetness that went with the malt sweetness that many of the imperial stouts had, but there was also a saltiness in the cheese that I found quite interesting. Combine that with the powdery rind and this chesse was actually quite good at contrasting the beer quite well more than I would have expected for the style.

Swiss Gruyere was really up my ally being quite sweet semi hard cheese. The sweetness does really dominate across most of the palate especially with a touch of honey up front, and while it is also said to be nutty, I am almost getting something that reminds me of a vegemite yeastiness to bring a bit of savory balance to the sweetness at the back of the chesse. I think this one was one of my favs for bringing a different sort of sweetness to the malt sweetness I was getting from the imperial stouts, but then also having the dark yeast character I actually get from many of the beers. Quite intriguing.

Sticking with Europe, the Dutch Gutshofer Ziegenkase was another semi hard cheese with just a slight bit more crumble and darkness to that of the previous, with a real mustiness to go with its sweetness. It tastes a bit stinkier than it smells, and not sure if it is from that, but some acidic character to make it quite different from the other cheeses. Against the imperial stouts, this was probably as strong a cheese as we needed to offset the beer, but there was still some good mouthcoating qualities in this cheese, if a little bit gritty as well in texture, to make it a good pairing cheese. Its almost comes across a bit smoky when tasting it against some of the stouts, just to bring another taste to the table. Probably don't dig it much by itself, but was good with the beer.

Back to sweet, semi hard cheeses, probably one of my favourites to have by itself with the Chebris, which had a much more even sweetness than the Gruyere, balanced of with some nuttiness and musk character to create a much more rounded taste just by itself. I don't much like the cardboardy rind, but with a slight caramel or toffee character coming from the cheese, this was probably my favourite cheese from the tasting.

Getting even sweeter is the Ford Farm English Cheddar which has a really creamy sweetness to it, but still a bit crumbly. Still, the sweetness is even a bit overbearing for me, especially as the cheese really covers you mouth in it, and has a density to make it hard to get off your tastebuds. Still, with the higher alcohol of the beers on hand, the thinning quality helped dispense of the creamy sweetness.

Then, of course with Hannah involved, there had to be a couple of blue cheeses. The Fourme D' Ambert was quite mild for a blue, with some good creamy gooey sweetness to offset the musky blue flavour in the mould. Obviously I found this one easier to take, and did not outdo the beers as much at the St Agur, which is one of Hannah's favourite blue cheeses. While the St Agur still has some balance between sweet and mould, the mould is definitely strong, with a sharper flavour than the muskiness of the blue in the Ambert. The St Agur is probably just too strong to be pairing against beers as generally I could still taste this cheese after having a couple of sips of beer. It was only the strongest of Imperial Stouts that came close to being at the same flavour level at the St Agur, while I found the Ambert to be a good contrast without being too bitey.

Another special guest was a return visit from Miro, who like last year brought a beer to share and even some cheeses. The Le Dauphin was easily the most creamy and gooey of all the cheeses on offer, much easier for those like myself not really use to cheese to contend with on our journey. While not big on flavour, being a texture based beer drinker, I really enjoyed filling a cracker with this and letting it simply coat my mouth in creaminess. Miro also brought along a vintage cheddar, which Stass and I had used previously to great effect in a previous imperial stout tasting. This one seemed a bit sharper than the one we had (think the previous on had been smoked as well to round it off a bit), but still went well with the beer, especially with the vegemite yeasty character I found in it.

Ok, finally for the beers themselves (best enjoyed while wearing silly hats of course).

Starting with a brewery everyone would know of, the Sierra Nervada Narwhal, it was a really well balanced beer to start on while the tastebuds were fresh. That classic licorice character that comes from the melding of dark malt and alcohol was instantly present for me, and was happy to have let it sit and age for 8 months if it allowed this balanced character come out.

Deciding to go with a bit of an american journey with the imperial stouts to start with, we continued onto the Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer. This one really brought out some smoothness in the beer. Again, I had been holding onto this beer for quite a while (actually, I had gotten it for my birthday 9 months before) and there was an interesting roundedness with it. Reading the bottle, I saw there was some smoked malts in their, and that the wood they had been smoked in was hickory (a flash back to my own Hickory Stickery Bock). It sort of had that wood aged quality without having had the age. It really helped bring a mellowness to the alcohol and was probably the best balanced imperial stout of the whole tasting, along with chocolate, coffee, just a touch of malt roast/smoke that helped keep back the alcohol heat in the beer. A very well made beer, and just makes me want to try more from Clown Shoes.

Seeing we had just had a stout with some wooded character, we stepped it up with the Bourbon Barrel Aged Saint Bob's Imperial Stout from Vicino Brewing in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This one happened to be in a mixed case of beer we received at Goat for the boys helping in the beer judging/stewarding at this years AIBA Awards. Woah, it was pretty big. Not just with 11.5% alcohol, but with the bourbon smell that permeated massively from the bottle as soon as I opened it. This is not a beer of subtlety. Unfortunately it tasted like they had left half the bourbon in the barrel when they put the beer in with it. The alcohol was really hot, and with the bourbon smell, was just too overpowering. Still, at least it gave us a chance to see if it could handle the blue cheese in the selection, which surprisingly it could not. The best thing that could be said about the beer was that at least it had been aged to help meld the flavours a bit, but certainly was not well balanced.

Deciding it was only going to start getting messy from here after that beer, thought we had beer have the last beer our taste buds could really appreciate, so pulled out the beer Miro had brought with him. I have only tasted this beer a couple of times, and always left me pondering how it can be so smooth and just taste of quality, while still being quite different to many other high alcohol dark beers I have tried. The Brooklyn Black Ops is an 11.6% alcohol dark beer that does not have the heaviness of so many dark beers, but still retains good weight on the palate to contain the high alcohol in it. It is a bit of an enigma beer that made it the most talked about beer in the tasting, and not just because of its rarity. It was this beer where Miro's business understanding behind beer and my brewing understanding were both delved into to try and make sense of it. I remember trying this beer back in the second Good Beer Week with their Black Chocolate Stout with a dessert of blue cheese chocolate mousse. However, what I got wrong back then was not hops in the Black Ops, but the yeast. Using a second stage fermentation usual for brut biers, a champagne yeast boosts the alcohol while efficiently using the remaining sugars after a first stage ale yeast fermentation. This really dries out the beer and adds the champagne yeast character to the beer that makes it so different to many others. There is a great delicateness through the efficient nature of the beer, even though it is quite robust in the flavours in contains. This specific bottle also had the leverage of being from a 2009 vintage, and the extra time in the bottle had only improved the flavour. The sweet malt may be reduced, but the yeast and alcohol balance each other off quite well to retain the delicate balance in the beer. This is not your typical high alcohol dark beer, which makes it great to have in this sort of tasting.

Still, with my sickness making it harder for me to appreciate the beers, and the weariness of alcohol starting to hit the rest of us, it was time to finish on a clanger, a beer I tried a couple of years back and just found the alcohol way too strong. The Hargreaves Hill Russian Imperial Stout 2011 is a blockbuster at 12.3%, and when we had it when it was young for Stass' birthday a while back, the alcohol heat was just way too big, and burned the tongue to stop you from actually enjoying it. After a couple of years I thought it would be alright to come back too. Well, the alcohol has died off a bit, but only by bringing up a diacetyl character. So obviously, not a beer to have young, or to be aged, so we don't win either way. I am happy to see in later releases the alcohol has been reduced, so maybe they have learnt from this batch. Still, the alcohol stang pretty hard, and I wasn't able to go any further with the tasting.

It was also with the Brooklyn Black Ops that my favourite part of the tasting happened (well apart from when Hannah sat on my lap after it all), when Hannah pulled out her Guinness Chocolate cake. It was densely dark like a mud cake, but with a creamy icing that made it look like a Guinness in cake form (hmm, such a delicious thought...). However, there was ginger in the cake to lift it from its dense sweetness, and sour cream in the icing to offset its sweetness, so it was quite well balanced in flavour. Seeing the Black Ops came across quite dry, I thought the sweetness of the cake would make it a good pairing for the cake. Yes, yes it was!!!

With that, we come to the end of this years tasting. As usual I still have a dozen odd beers left over, so that means just one thing, we get to do this all over again next year, and the beers I have get to age for another year...Perfect!

Big thanks to everyone that made it this year, especially first timer Hannah who provided us with cheese, cake, and her lovely presence. It was easily the biggest year yet, with me running out of chairs. Still, seeing I was also running out of voice, it was good to have enough other people around to make up for me.



Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Brew Zealand Crawl: A Slice of (brewing) Heaven

So, the plan was to go to New Zealand and celebrate the 12th annual Beervana in Wellington. Just happens we took 2 weeks, and the scenic route from Auckland to get there.

Arriving in Auckland and meeting up with friends, I was able to experiment with my potato bake recipe by using 3 types of kumara (native sweet potato). While the yellow and orange was quite nice, the red has a certain type of texture or density that stood above the others, and so was searching for that from then on. While I was making it, Andrew and Fi had a bottle of Stoke's Oatmeal Stout for us, and with it my beer journey of New Zealand began.

The next day while exploring the city, I found the two pubs beside each other I remembered visiting the first time I visited Auckland to see Fi and Andrew. With a Flemish Stew available at the Occidental, I was able to relive my last overseas trip with it and a Leffe Bruin, as I had done 3 years ago in Brugge.

Having picked up our camper van that would (eventually) get us to Wellington, we stocked it up at the supermarket and was happy to see like in Europe, you could just pick up your alcohol while doing a shop, and pay decent prices for it. Was even happier to see that on one shelf, all the mainstream beers were just mixed up on it, looking like rejects all on their lonesome. Was good to see craft beers given the respect they deserve. 'Accidently' dropping one of the beers while we were filling the camper van, it just meant I had to drink the first of the 6 pack of Boundary Road Chocolate Moose.

The next beer experience came from the heart of Northland region, in the Bay of Islands visiting Russell, and the Duke of Marlborough. At this historical hotel, I encountered my first organic beer in New Zealand, and from then was searching for them for the rest of the trip. Founders Long Black is quite a nicely smooth black lager which had a good balance of coffee and chocolate notes, both that seemed to be boosted but evened with the organic nature of the beer.
That night, another organic beer was on the menu with the Fullers Honey Dew. However, this one was a bit more disappointing as was getting too much of the artificial sweetness I was hoping not to get from it being organic.
With Hannah enjoying hefeweizens, we found a german hefe at the supermarket and had it as we settled down after having had the camper van stuck in the sand at the beach. Luckily some surfers were able to help us out, so gave them a bottle of the Chocolate Moose and the Goat/Brooklyn Hopfenweizenbock as a thank you. Heading to dinner at the Funky Fish, the Monteith's Doppelbock stood out on the beer menu, and with some kumara wedges and kumara pie on the food menu, the sweet caramel malt of this beer really matched the flavour of the food.

Making it to Thames in the Coromandel, and a holiday park that looked straight out of the 1950's, after our usual cheese platter made up by Hannah, I roasted kumara and cooked some snags on the park bbq. Of course, I had to do it with beer in hand, and so my trusty Chocolate Moose had it best hit out of the whole 6-pack that night. There was more of a creamy texture to work well with the chocolate character, which itself did not seem as bitter, and the slight metallic back was diminished. I did burn the snags, but the kumara was awesome to make up for it.
Doing a few walks in this region, we were looking forward to moving onto the Bay of Plently, where we started seeing natural hot pools becoming more available in the holiday parks we were looking to stay at. With a bottle shop across the road from where we were stayed at one night, a tasting of Mac's Great White cloudy wheat beer against Blue Moon's Belgian Witbier was had over our cheese platter before relaxing in the thermal pools. I think I actually preferred the Mac over Blue Moon, as the latter seemed a bit lack lustre (maybe something lost in the transition from America to New Zealand) over the wheat and banana yeast characters in the Mac.

Getting to Rotorua the next night, a mini pub crawl of town was had starting at the Pig and Whistle. Trying out the Swine Lager was not optimum for the wintery conditions, but was remedied by a beef and Guinness pie (of course with a side of Guinness) before another stop at a local bottlo (we did get good touristy advice from the bottle shops we visited) before hitting Brew, Croucher Brewery's brewpub. The place was going off with a younger crowd in here for a Friday night, and quite a different atmosphere to most brewpubs I have been to. Actually it turned me off a bit, but with what looked like a decent range of beers on offer, the ability to get tasting paddles, and a quiet corner found at the back of the pub, we went through the entire range of beers on tap. Apart from a few of the beers, all seemed to be quite high in hop bitterness, and so finally I had the experience I was expecting to have in NZ, where every beer tasted like an IPA of some description, even if they weren't labeled as IPAs.

Halfway through the trip and with the Brumbies making it into the Super 15 Grand Final against the Chiefs, we made our way to Hamilton, for a night of beers, pies and footy!!!! An Erdinger and dark lager at Helm bar with the 10 other Brumbies supporters in Hamilton, we made our way to the ground, and I lost the first 10 mins of the game in line at the bar to get some Waikato Draught, which for a mainstream beer is not that bad actually. One of the better beers I've had at a sporting event. So in New Zealand, even the macro beers are good. Damn you NZ, you beat us in the rugby and with your beer!!!!

We made it to Taupo the next day, with the Merchant of Taupo our next bottlo to visit, where I found a good selection of beers in bottle, and even some taps of a local Lake Man Brewery, which was nicely even and clean in flavour, and subtle in hop as a nice change after Rotorua, with the salesman happy to give us tastings of that plus wines and ports. Needless to say, we left with articles of each, and some more cheese.

Next stop was the snow, so thought conditions were perfect for another bock to keep warm after a day of skiing. The Flensburger Winterbock, was actually not as full in flavour and texture as the Monteith's bock I'd had earlier in the trip, so was a little bit disappointed with that one. Another beer that came off a little watery was the Red Duck Porter that I had on the last night in the camper van.

Still, better beers awaited once we arrived at Wellington the next day, starting with a stop at Mac's to see their cloudy wheat beer was just as good on tap as in the bottle. Then, to the enigma venue of craft beer in Wellington, the Malthouse. So many beers on tap in a place so small, it seemed unfathomable that they would be able to get through that much beer on tap in such a venue. Mind you, every time we went past the place, it was filled to bursting with patrons looking for their fix of craft beer. Along with the great tap selection, the bottle menu was also astounding, with brews like Samuel Adams Utopias and the Thomas Hardy Ale in the line up. However, containing myself to trying local beers, the Tatura Hefe and the Three Boys Coconut Milk Stout were happily experienced instead. The Tatura was not as cloudy as I would expect for the style, but the yeasty banana flavour was. The Three Boys was really intriguing, as the coconut seemed to somehow lift the sweetness of the milk stout, but also even it out nicely. I suppose you could say it tasted a bit like a Bounty in a beer.
Just down the road was the Tasting Room, which while not having an awesome array of beers (well, compared to the Malthouse...), did use the selection they had well with the food they had on offer. We both went with beer and food pairing specials, Hannah the schnitty with Erdinger, me a venison Wellington with Monteith's Barrel Aged Porter. It was one of the best meals from the trip, especially with the Whitaker's chocolate between the venison and pastry. It was like putting melt-in-your-mouth meat in a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate croissant. Actually, the beer was not big enough the compete against the meal, but the chocolate character of both meant they complemented well enough.

Spending most of the next day at Te Papa museum, and somehow restraining myself from purchasing a box of beer chocolates, we headed to the Fork and Brewer brewpub for a late lunch with a beer (the Stormchaser Dunkel was quite good), before realising as part of Choice Beer Week in Wellington, there was a beer launch that afternoon, so hung around the try the Dark Vader (Imperial Dark Ale). Spending the evening window shopping along Cuba Street, we splurged with dinner at Logan Brown (well, actually quite reasonable at the pre-theatre rate), that along with some great food, also had a decent selection of beer, much better than the established restaurants in Melbourne. After having had a few beers through the day, and seeing we were off to a play after dinner, I had the Wigram Czar Imperial Russian Stout.
Unfortunately after this meal I wasn't feeling great for the rest of the night, so was a little worried that I may not be is good shape for Beervana the next day. Still, with sheer stubbornness driving me on (along with a taxi driver), Hannah and I suited up in our respective 'got cheese?' and 'got beer?' shirts, and heading in to do a quick reccie and see what beers I should be looking to try.

To start on an interesting note, we went straight for the media brew bar where I had the Oddfellow Peppermint Stout and Hannah the Just Desserts. Mine was a bit subdued for what I had hoped for but still had a bit of choc mint character, but the pavlova flavours in the Just Desserts was awesome, and a great way to start the festival. Seeing the Mountain Goat team at this festival we pulled up for a taste of Mike's 3rd Nut (which we were happy as it ran out really quick). The sweet of peanut with a slight bittering of tahini nut really balanced each other out well over the good malt backbone of the brown ale style. A quick splash of Sam Adams Lager and and a Boundary Road Einstein Munich Lager and we were ready for the beer and cheese experience we had booked into when we bought the tickets for the festival.

While Keiran Haslett-Moore did have some troubles with his Kapiti Fondue to delay the start of the class, there was a great diversity of cheeses and beer to pair off. With difficulties in the fondue, we started on the pairing of the Sprig and Fern Doppelbock and a Meyer Vintage Gouda. Apart from a bit of a metallic in the caramel malt aroma, there was quite a bit of hop for what I would expect in this style of beer. Of course, the gouda was very sweet but also quite crumbly which is something I have not seen much with cheese (not that I know much about cheese), but the sweetness of the cheese really raised the caramel flavours of the Doppelbock, so overcame the hoppiness in the beer quite well.
Next was the Northend ESB (of which Kieran is affiliated with) with a Barry's Bay Wainui Special Vintage Cheddar. The ESB had a lovely rich caramel malt aroma but had a really resinous hop bitterness at the back to dominate the beer. The creamy front on the cheese (even though it was a bit dry on the edges) again went well with the malt character of the beer, but there was also a stinky or earthy character and a sort of saltiness that offset the resinous hop.
Now, for my favorite pairing of the event, the 8 Wired Grand Cru/Sultan with the Kapiti Ramara, a sour beer with a cheese the uses bacteria, not mould for it's flavour. The beer was very bretty in it's sourness, but helped with the cherry/raspberry fruitiness. The cheese was so creamy it coated your mouth perfectly for the beer. The cheese was not too stinky or sweaty, but really offset the sourness of the beer. This was definitely one of those beautiful matches where either by itself did not particularly appeal to me, but brought out something special from each when combined.
What was to be the last matching was the Emerson's JP 2013 Belgian Dark Ale and of course, a blue cheese in Barry's Bay Peninsula Blue. Of course this was Hannah's favourite, whereas I found the cheese just way too mouldy for my inexperienced cheese palate. While the stout is fermented with belgian yeast to really boost the flavour, even after rinsing out the cheese with the beer, the mould taste is still quite strong.
I was probably happy to have the fondue last to get over the blue cheese, so when it came out with an 8 Wired - Saeson, I was a little relieved. The Saeson had an interesting woody, almost white wine character that I found quite acidic, but did match well with the gooey sweetness of the fondue. Holding onto some of the Grand Cru and vintage cheddar to finish on my fav from the experience, I found the cheese also went well with the Saeson.

Anyway, after that session I could go back to just tasting beer, and as always, enjoyed myself immensely. However, grabbing my last beer for the festival, I must have accidently left my booklet with all my notes of the beers I tried behind, and now finding it hard to even remember which beers I tried. So will at least note which beers I think I had through the rest of the day...
Black Dog Brewery Pango Kuri
Emerson's Collaboration Milk Stout
Epic Epicurean Coffee & Fig Stout
Garage Project Ca Phe oa (on Nitro)
Harrington's Belgium Abbey Tripel
Kereru Moonless Stout
Liberty Darkest Days (Oatmeal Stout)
McCashin's/Stoke Arm Twister Imperial Stout
Mountain Goat Hopfenweizen and RIPA
Panhead Black Top Oat Stout
ParrotDog Otis
Tuatara Stout
Cashel and Sons Milk Stout (one of my favs. So creamy and full flavoured!!!)
Brew Moon Ole Mole
Invercargill Pitch Black Stout
Two Fingers Battering Ram-Doppel Alt
Feral Boris
Nail Clout Stout

Luckily there was a great selection of food also on offer so had a great pie at the Wakelin House and finished off our festival similar to how we started, with beer dessert. This time though, it was in the form of a beer brulee...perfect.

Getting back to our side of town after the festival, we visited Black Dog Brewery for a beer and then for our last meal of the trip, it was back to the Tasting Room, that had an amazing Turducken burger that helped fill the gap after all the beer. It was so good, Hannah has had a go at making her own turducken burgers when we got home (they were really good too).

So, a big thanks to Hannah, for allowing me to bring beer into our trip and for coming along to Beervana with me (even though it helped that she could eat cheese while I drank beer). It is really good to see that after our first trip away we are still talking and wanting to hang out more, so I hope it continues. Actually, I am sure it will, as she will be in Melbourne this weekend for my yearly Imperial Stout tasting. So look out for notes on that soon and the cheeses Hannah will be choosing.

Cheers NZ, you have some good beer, and some great scenic spot to drink beer by. I look forward to heading back to do the South Island next time


Monday, May 27, 2013

Good Beer Week 2013: A Wrap Up

It is 5am the morning after Good Beer Week (GBW) and with my beer t-shirts from the week still drying as the Winter closes in, I feel in quite a reflective mood after 9 days of good beer, and 300 posts on this blog on tales mostly about good beer. So, it is a good time to put down some thoughts.

Normally I would be going through every detail of GBW and writing in this blog everyday about the events I have been to and each beer I tried. Maybe it is because things are flat out at Goat supplying more and more beer to more and more people when I was not at beer events over the week, or I am feeling the desire to step back from that coal-face approach to the experience this week brings. Now with it all done and dusted for another year, I feel ready to overview it.

Firstly, can I congratulate the organisers for continuing to expand the concept and events of GBW, and still managing to somehow control all that is going on. The praise I have seen for this festival builds with it, and this must be very satisfying to those that got it off the ground 3 years ago. Who knows where they, the venues, the brewers and the punters will take it next year, but the culture of craft beer seems to be growing, and this sign is pleasing. Not really going to any event this year with a friend in tow(a little disappointing personally), I was left to do my usual thing and just talk to randoms I met at each event. Having actually started to brew for Mountain Goat has given me more cred with punters and other brewers alike, but my approach of just trying to encourage people to find good beer remains the same, an encouragement I am finding easier to engage as I meet more people open to the experience craft beer can bring them.
This was shown most at two events this year, GABS (Great Australian Beer Spectapular) and the Moo Brew/Matteos degustation. Chatting to one group of punters at GABS, it was actually nice to see like me they had a plan of beers they were looking to try, but then with my second paddle, hanging out with a couple of guys that were still trying to find their feet in beer, and asking me lots of questions about beer and the industry. The latter was also found at the Matteos degustation, where we were able to make something like wort by just using some hot water and a mix of grains. This simple sensory process personalised the experience of beer and brewing to those attending, of which I think most where there for the reputation of Matteos and not Moo Brew (I was the only one wearing a Moo Brew shirt). The introduction of craft beer into the higher class restaurants through the festival is another great sign for the industry, as foodies looking for great taste also start to find it in beer. One of my personal highlights from the week was the Moo Brew Belgo paired with a roast duck and rice noodle that contained smoked eggplant. Two parts of the dish (sweet and smoke) brought out very different aspects of the beer (yeast and citrus) individually, but then also the balance of these two parts in each together brought an amazing experience overall, one of those 'more than the sum of its parts' moments but still with great balance of each. I can relate it to the Brooklyn degustation I did last GBW with the dark choc and blue cheese mousse paired with the Black Choc Stout and Black Ops beers. Still, the dessert at this event was also great, especially with the late inclusion of Moo Brew's Barrel Aged Vintage Imperial Stout, which while has lost a bit of creaminess over the year is still holding up quite well, with the caramel roasted nut part of the dessert bringing out similar aspects of the beer.

A different sort of crowd and degustation was had the night before at the Rainbow. Seeing it was a more beer orientated venue, the craft-beer-converted punters were out in force, along with a string of brewers that I managed to get on the same table as (Rockstar!!!!). Being able to sit down with Brad (Stone and Wood), Shawn (Murrays) and Craig (Thirsty Crow) was another personal highlight, and so there was a bit of banter going on about each other and the food and beer pairings of the night. Still, with 8 courses, it was quite overwhelming for the palate, and so I felt I was not able to enjoy the Vanilla Milk Stout as much as I would have liked by the time it came around for dessert. Therefore, I would like to see next year a cap on events like this, as the five courses at the Matteos degustation was a really good amount (and allowed me to even have one more at the Tramway Hotel around the corner before going home that night).

One concept I am enjoying more is the Pint of Origin, and was happy to experience NSW, ACT, SA, TAS and WA this year. With the growth of Victorian craft beer and internationals, I find it harder to find beers from other states here in Melbourne, so it is great to have venues focusing on this all week, to give you a chance to try a beer or two from a different region between event, or destinations on their own merit.
Speaking of different Australia regions (and also international craft beers), I had a very humbling experience at the start of GBW to actually be one of the brewers to do the collaboration brew between Mountain Goat and Brooklyn Brewery, with Tom Price joining me in the brewhouse to do the hoppy Weizenbock we are making together. Not only that, but having a few drinks at the Royston after the brew (ok, more than a few. Actually my biggest night of Good Beer Week was on the night before it started), I managed to score return flights to Adelaide the next day to make it to Good Beer Wheaty!!!!!! Amazing! My sis picked my up from the airport and went straight to the Wheaty to start the Brooklyn Tap Takeover. Then, at the end of the night not only did Tom come round with a bottle of Black Ops to share with people, we actually won a bottle of it in the raffle. Awesome! Managing a few hours sleep at my sis' it was back on the plane to get back to Melbs for the Goat Rockstar brews event with Mick Thomas' Eastern Brown Ale and Henry Wagon's Peanut Butter and Jelly beer, with them both getting up on stage to perform. To be honest, after the night before, I felt like a bit of a rockstar myself.

One other aspect I would like to point of from the week is the generally better quality beers available at this years GABS, with beers from Bridge Road's Honey IPA, to Moondog/Nogne O's Cherry Wheat Porter, and Prickly Moses Barrel Aged Imperial Stout fairing well (or maybe I am getting better at picking my beers at this event), but will still some interesting novelty beers (Bacchus Brewery White Choc Raspberry Pils and 4 Pines Dunkel Monkey) to create an interesting mix for people to try.

Being a part of the industry now, it was nice to also attend the AIBA Awards night for the first time (where I stumbled across a Samuel Adams Double Bock which was some malty, higher octane joy, along with some other random beers the Goaters were able to find randomly), and get some insights from the second day of the first CBIA conference. The info on lab analysis was great for where Goat is at and the beers styles talk was good to remind me of my own days trying to find my feet in beer (at least there were less beers in the market back then). I really enjoyed Eric Ottaway's talk on the use of a National Association for Australian craft beer, and only wish more of the topics he brought up were discussed at length with the panel at the end. I would have been interested to see what resource (malt, hops, brewers, equipment, etc) supply and demand issues are starting to come from the growth of craft beer in Australia, as this is how we keep the quality and diversity of beers and breweries going into the future (poignant I thought after the closure of Temple Brewery recently, that was trying to create its own little niche in the market, much like Moon Dog have done at the other end of the scale). Still, that could have just been the project manager in me coming out, and after the CBIA becomes more established a better idea of the issues and how they can be resolved will become more apparent.

Well, I think for now that is a good enough wrap up of my thoughts from the last 9 days, and am sure there will be more things pondered from this in the weeks to come. Again, well done to the organisers and all those involved. While I may have turned Good Beer Week into more of a Good Beer Life, it is nice to have an intense period where the experience is able to be heightened with the events on offer, to try more/different beers, and understand beer and it's industry better. Still, luckily I don't drink like I did this week all the time...



PS: Venues and beers from GBW 2013:
18/5 - Wheatsheaf Hotel - Loberthal 'Bruce', Dr Orders Iron Lung, Brooklyn Silver Anniversary Lager, Brooklyn Brown Ale, Brooklyn East India Brown Ale, Brooklyn Black Ops, Southern Tier 2x Stout
19/5 - Yarra Hotel - Mick Thomas Eastern Brown Ale, Henry Wagons Peanut Butter and Jelly beer, Brooklyn Lager.
21/5 - Deja Vu - Bacchus Brewery White Choc Pils, Bacchus Brewery Double Choc Stout. Courthouse Hotel - Wig & Pen Velvet Cream Stout. Gertrude Hotel Moo Brew Pale Ale. Rainbow Hotel - Illawarra Wit, Rock's Brewing Hangman Pale Ale, 4 Pines Amber Mosaic, Murray's Vesuvius Lager, Riverside Brewing '77' IPA, Stone and Wood Stone Beer, Six String Dark Red IPA, Thirsty Crow Vanilla Milk Stout, Chimay Blue.
22/5 - Mountain Goat Brewery - Abbey Collaby 3 (India Red Rye Rauch Rye-less Ale). Matteos - Moo Brew Pils, Moo Brew Pale Ale, Moo Brew Belgo, Moo Brew Harvest, Moo Brew Dark, Moo Brew Barrel Aged Vintage Imperial Stout 2011. Tramway Hotel - Steam Exchange Big H Milk Chocolate Stout.
23/5 - CBIA Conference - ESB, Murray's Dark Knight, Feral Smoked Porter. AIBA Awards - 4 Pines Hef, Samuel Adams Double Bock, Croucher Pils, Feral Brewery Feral White, Feral Brewery/Wig & Pen 'Pig Pen', Weltenburger Koster Asam Bock, Renaissance Brewery Stonecutter Scotch Ale, Nogne O #100, Nogne O #500, Tatura Double Trouble, Samuel Adams The Vixen, Three Boys Porter, 4 Pines Stout, Deschutes Black Butte 24th Anniversary Reserve. Beer Deluxe - Bright Brewery Pinky Framboise.
24/5 - Mountain Goat Brewery - Abbey Collaby 2 (Imperial Stout)
25/5 - GABS - Mike's Organic Brewery Udderlicious Milk Stout, Moon Dog/Nogne O 'Selvmordstokt', O'Brien Beer Black Lager, Prickly Moses Black Stallion, Renissance Enlightenment, 4 Pines Dunkel Monkey, Bacchus Brewery White Choc Raspberry Pils, Brewcult Acid Freaks, Bridge Road Honey IPA, Camden Town Altbier with French Hops, Colonial Brewing Gary the White (White Stout), Dr's Orders Intravenous Elixir (Barrel Aged Belgian Black IPA), Edge Brewing NZ Wheat. Section 8 - Parrotdog Flaxen Feather, Parrotdog Red IPA.
26/5 - Royston Hotel - Last Drop Hef, Bootleg Raging Bull Porter, Feral Razorback Barleywine, Nail Brewing Clout Stout.

PPS: Would also like to mention the lovely weekend I had in Manly the weekend before GBW with my girlfriend Hannah, who allowed me (and may have even enjoyed) visits to Murray's bar, 4 Pines and a Bavarian beer bar, along with much ice cream. With GBW over for another year, I can now put some more attention on her (which she may or may not be pleased about).

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Back on the Horse

Having actively stayed away from here since my last post, I apologise for the hiatus, but with Glandular Fever keeping me from drinking over the past month, working in a brewery was hard enough to deal with, let alone look at all the beer adventures I have been through on this blog.

Still, with my liver somewhat recovered, and abstinence making my heart grow fonder for a beer, I unshackled myself from my self discipline and for Stass' birthday got back into drinking good beer...and didn't it just taste awesome. Even having that very slight haze as I woke the next morning morning was a joy to relive. Still, there are the beers that brought on that haze that I wish to focus on now.

Of course coming off the back of a month without beer, and having bought this beer over the Easter break, it seemed fitting I start drinking again with Gage Roads Abstinence. While I have previously liked their Sleeping Giant IPA a bit, this is a real step up for the brewery. Ok, it may have been a month since a beer, and it may be of a Belgian Dubbel style with chocolate, but I really liked this beer. There was a chico lolly aroma of vanilla and chocolate that enticed me greatly, then the caramel malts/ candied sugar came through great in flavour. There was definitely more complexity going on than just these, but maybe after a month my abilities in tasting have probably been reduced, and these were the overarching aspects that came through that I was caught up in when tasting it. Beer is good, welcome back to my tastebuds!

The next two beers have also been ones I have been waiting to try out together since I was sick, so was excited to try both a bottle and tap version of Rogue Double Chocolate Stout. Unfortunately, the tap version had been sitting in a growler/bottle for 6 or so weeks, so was not at its best, but was great just to finally be able to try it. I did get a chance to taste this when it was a bit fresher when divvying up the beer from growler to bottle, and went well with a chocolate and banana cake Hannah made.

However, with age, a soy/vinegar like flavour and aroma was added, but the well rounded chocolate and reduced heat of alcohol could still be noticed compared to the bottle version. This is definitely a beer I can think of me falling for all those years ago that has helped drive me this far into beer.

Having gotten out all my pent up angst out of the way with these beers, it then became a bit of a big beer fest as we celebrated having the boys together for Stass's birthday and last drinks with Stew before he heads to Germany for a muso tour.

The order is a bit hazy, but there was definitely the Mikkeller Mexas Ranger; which had a good balance of dark maltiness with the chilli and spices, Brewdog Tokyo (bit too high is alcohol at 18.2%, but still an amazing mellowness), Sierra Nervada Narwhal (tasted a bit like water after the Tokyo, but nice clean imperial stout with maybe just a bit of driness to go with their style of brewing) and the North Coast Old Rasputin (bit more sweet and rounder against the Narwhal, but again wasn't going to stack up against the Tokyo). So managed ok for my first drink after a month, but apologies to my girlfriend for my nagging/lewd texts I was sending her through the session.

Also went for a couple of beers with Stew last night for his last night in Melbourne for a few months. Hit up the Royston after I finished work for a parma. Could tell I had not been in there for a while when I saw Rogue Hazelnut Brown Ale and Beer Here Ammestout on the taplist. I went the Brown, which while the nut character was quite good, found it a bit lacking compared the the bottle version I had of it...mind you, that was a while ago, nostalgia might have built up another beer for me. The coffee milk stout was really good, and wished I had gone with that one (may need to head back for another taste...), the coffee did not come off too bitter or dry which I sensed a bit in the bottle version, and there is a roundness to the coffee and malt that I don't get from the bottle version, almost like cold filtered coffee.

Anyway, is nice to be back on the horse, but hoping to take it a bit easy still. Am sure it is just eagerness from not being able to have had a beer for a month. Maybe my girlfriend in Sydney can understand this eagerness when we have a month apart...



PS: Nice to be back doing what Stass and I do best, choosing the next beer

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Slowbeer Unseasonal Tap Takeover

My local bottlo had the great idea (and great availability of kegs) to ask it's punters to choose 4 from a shortlist of big dark beers, that they would like to taste as we go from Summer to Autumn. Of course being a man who loves a good stout, it being close to St Pat's Day, and celebrating 2 years since my first ever days work at Mountain Goat Brewery, I went down there yesterday to try the beers that were chosen.

I was especially happy as 3 of the 4 beers were ones I voted for!

Collecting 4 tasters and setting them down in front of this Beerologist (This man is a Beerologist, so we can't show you his face), he was left to sip and ponder these beers and I now have his notes to pass onto you.

The Peche Mortel from Dieu du Ciel is a coffee stout, but on first whiff, I was getting more of a rich mocha porter about it, and this stayed as it warmed. I therefore quite like this beer with its complexity and depth of flavour, which melded well with the alcohol level in it to keep the profile quite even overall. I have to say, having had this beer from the bottle previously, there was not the richness of mocha I was getting in this beer. Still, it may be the sweet dark malts balanced out the coffee roastedness, or maybe the coffee was cold filtered.

Probably the one I was most looking forward to tasting was the Mikkeller Cocio Bajer, a chocolate stout that where lactose has also been used. It had a dusty dark brown colour, with very little head but specks of floating sediment sitting on top of the beer. Already I was getting flashbacks to a milk chocolate stout I had tried in my own homebrewing, and had come out looking similarly. The similarities continued, when the taste of chalky/alkaline really dominated across the palate, and the texture was quite watery. Unfortunately the one I was wanting to taste most was the most disappointing. Along with this was a coffee aroma and taste that was more than the Dieu du Ciel had, and the only time I had any chocolate in this beer was when it had been left to sit for quite a while.

Another beer I was highly anticipating was the Trios Mousquetaires Baltic Porter, a beer I have been collecting in bottles for the past few years (and happy to say I have 3 vintages of to do a vertical tasting of soon). Now this one did live to the hype I had for it. A dark beer fermented as a lager was both clean, but still had some great dark malt characters that ran evenly across the palate. This was helped with a light, but creamy texture. I guess in a way it has decreased complexity for a dark beer, but the simplicity of it with even profile, clear flavours and good texture are what I really like about this beer, maybe being such a simple man myself. To be honest, I think it is a bit of an extension of my days when the first beer I ever enjoyed was a Toohey's Old, and generally been interested in baltic porters since I found them.

Lastly, and probably the biggest overall, was the Mikkeller George. A classic Imperial Stout with big dark malt characters, a bit of caramel on midpalate and the alcohol starts to rise, and rise, a bit of heat with that alcohol, but still a nice cleansing finish (well for an imperial stout anyway). As it warmed up the alcohol heat died down a bit, and from the keg, texture held up quite well to help. I probably would have preferred to have tried this beer in one of it's barrel aged forms to help mellow it out a bit.

Overall, an interesting line up of dark beers at the end of Summer, and was great to have the opportunity to put my vote in for what I drink. Hopefully I have another chance to head back in for some of these beers again this week...if they last that long...



PS: Thanks to Hannah for the new beer t-shirts!!!!!
PPS: Very happy to see there was a bottle of Rogue Double Chocolate Stout still at Slowbeer, so took that off their hands as well!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Dream Becomes Reality...

So, 2 years ago, I wrote this post here, talking about a beer I had 2 years previously while in the United States. Somehow though, I got it a bit wrong, and what I thought was the Rogue Chocolate Stout, was actually a Rogue Double Chocolate Stout (I always wondered why it never tasted the same after the first try). Still, if anything, it has just allowed me to continue my search for this 'holy grail' of beer for an additional 2 years.

4 years ago, I took this photo of myself with some spoils from Rogue Brewery in Portland (at the time), thinking this was the beer I had tried with that warm chocolate truffle cake.

Today, I post this photo of me with that beer I had actually been looking for.

I'm not going to go on about what I have been through to get to this point (some of it is probably already documented on the blog), so just going to get on with righting a wrong, and learning the difference between the 'standard' Chocolate Stout and the Double.

So, while doing a brew with Stass on the weekend (actually, it was the Monday of a long weekend...not a bad way to spend it), I took 3 Rogue beers with me to try throughout the afternoon.

Starting with their Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale, realising not just in name, but also packaging, the potential for a novelty beer to be within this pink bottle. Ok, the colour does seem to have similarities to the German smoke beers (Rauchbier) I have seen, and even the glossy maple look can also be seen in presentation. Upon the first whiff, the maple is quite strong, and this aroma seems to only become stronger as the beer warms up, along with some slight notes of what I can only presume may be the cherrywood smoked malt. I am not sure if this sort of sweet smell is meant to arouse the doughnut factor in this beer, but for Stass and I, we were drawn more to pancakes than doughnuts with this, which may work better with the maple and bacon (Canadian Bacon pancakes!). The maple aroma does not come across as strong in flavour, but is definitely present upfront, and it sweetness is left as a residual lingering any minutes after swallowing. From the initial maple taste, this melds into the cherrywood smoke malts, then the beechwood smoked malts bring out more of the bacon aspect on the midpalate. I found it a bit difficult to the detect the difference between the beechwood and the hickory smoke, as I tend to get a bit more sweet bacon from hickory smoke, and was generally only sensing a drier bacon flavour, as if it had been salted. This also meant the apple sauce bacon supposedly also in the beer seemed to have negligible impact on the beer from my perspective. As the beer hit the back of the tongue the cherrywood smoked malts seemed to return, along with the maple, and so in aftertaste, the beer came closest to actually tasting a like doughnut maple bacon, but as I said, maybe more Canadian Bacon pancakes.
Overall, while the profile was interesting, there was not a good balance of flavours, so this beer remains a bit of a novelty.

Ok, with our tastebuds peaked, it was time to finally go where I had not gone before, and crack open a bottle of the Rogue Chocolate Stout with a bottle of the Rogue Double Chocolate Stout. Phew, was I really ready to have this long lived dream come true?

Cracking the standard Chocolate Stout, the smell of chocolate was quite strong, and even with at least a year of age under it's belt, I could not find any oxidation in aroma or taste. The chocolate malt character was quite good, and think cocoa has been used to build on this to emphasis the chocolate aroma and reduce the roasted character that I would expect from chocolate malt by itself. I believe the use of Dutch cocoa gives it a better 'real' chocolate aroma and flavour to beer, and therefore sense it's presence in this beer. There is definitely a lightness to the chocolate, or maybe I am just expecting more texture to go with the chocolate flavour. You may not hear this from me often, but I actually don't mind the use of hops they have used to pair back the chocolate from the end of midpalate and then clean it up completely in aftertaste. Just means you are willing to go back for more sooner...still, residual chocolate flavour would not be unwanted, but would simply make the beer one-dimensional...but then it is a chocolate stout...I'll stop arguing with myself.

So, for the big moment. As soon as I poured the Rogue Double Chocolate Stout into the glass, the thickness of the beer was already noticeable, and the brown head that is not so evident on the standard Chocolate Stout, and reminded me of the head that was on the beer I had at Pix those many years ago...yes, this was definitely the same beer. Aroma is quite light on in terms of chocolate, but honey sweetness is evident with the dark malts, and alcohol is very evident on the nose also. To be honest, it does not smell as chocolately at the standard Chocolate Stout, which had me very worried after all this time of waiting for this moment. Still, being a very texture based drinker, as soon as I put this beer in my mouth, the sensation I had that previous tasting came back, and not too ashamed to say some tears welled in my eyes a bit (only the second beer to do this to me). While this beer does not have the same chocolate taste as the standard, there is a richness to the beer that brings me the sensation of chocolate, which I think I actually enjoy more, and why it paired so well with the chocolate truffle cake I had with it previously. The cake brought flavour and the beer sensation. I realise now that is why that combo blew my mind back then. Still, I think the hero of the beer is really in the honey. Firstly, it thickens up the beer to give the lush texture a beer like this needs. Secondly, the brings the sweetness this beer needs to counteract the roasted bitterness that can come from using too much chocolate malts/cocoa. Lastly, it may have also been used to help get this beer to it's 9% alcohol, which I have to say, is quite hot in the beer. I know now I need to give this beer a bit of time to mellow out the alcohol heat and maybe allow more of the chocolate flavour to dominate the palate a bit more.

Still, a resounding success and contenting moment was had as Stass and I slowly sipped away at this beer in the shade of his backyard with the music set up and brew going on in the shed. One of those moments that will be tagged with this beer forever now for me. Not only that, but I have a growler of this beer waiting for me at Stass' dad's place when I am up that way next week, so there may well be some chocolate beer to be tasted for Easter this go with every Easter I have nowadays, and a chance to taste this beer two ways at the same time...Amazing!!!!



Sunday, March 3, 2013

Another Sydney Beer Weekend

So, it is with a better state of mind that I come to this blog this time. It is funny though, after being depressed with the 4 years I have been searching for Rogues Double Chocolate Stout and still not being any closer, it was this week I found that Warners At The Bay in Newcastle has that exact beer on tap. Thanks to Stass's dad up there, we now have a growler of this long searched beer in his care until I am up there in a few weeks. Yes, it may not be in the best state by then, but after this long, I don't really care, and reports from Stass's family is that it tastes as good as I recall. Plus, I have heard a new distributor is bringing Rogues to Australia now, so I will have a chance to soon to maybe even get this beer in bottle form!!!!! Still after this long I have learnt not to get my hopes up, so until I taste it, and see the bottle in Slowbeer of Purvis, I will keep fighting to get it. Which reminds me, I need to go to the bottle shops near me to see if they will be/persuade them to getting it in.

Anyway, now onto this post, was happy to head back up to Sydney last weekend to hang out with Hannah and her friends at a wedding (only Boag's available unfortunately, but at least the groom looked and sounded like an Irish jockey to keep me entertained) and her and Rach's birthday drinks at the Taphouse in Darlinghurst. With Hannah's favourite beer (at the moment) being on tap (Sierra Nervada Kellerweiss), and a good selection of other beers to choose from, it was a good night of tasting and trying to find beer appropriate to the tastes of those around me. After a warming Bridge Road Robust Porter to warm me up from the chill of rain in the air (but mugginess inside), it was time to taste what beers on the list I had not had before.

Starting on something quite weird, the Doctor's Orders Cephalopod had the green of a usual Berliner Weisse, but with the addition of the ink, gives it a blue/grayish cloudiness which makes it look a bit like swamp water (ok, not an appealing look for your general beer drinker). So along with the tart finish that  is standard with the style, I could not help but feel like I was also tasting a bit of saltiness (maybe from the ink), to the point I could have been closer to drinking a Gose (another Northern German regional style of beer). Still, in the crowd, the look and taste did not generally go down well, with 'butt crack sweat' being one of the more memorable responses to the beer. I did however find it quite refreshing in its own way, and the ink also seemed to give the beer a bit more body, which with the slight salt had me thinking of the use of mussels in some stouts.

Next on the list was sort of keeping with the wheat beer start, but going back in time to it's ancestor, the Enkir, with this Birra del Borgo speciality grain ale. The haze gave it a yeasty taste towards the back, even maybe a bit husky, and looked a bit darker than normal wheat beers. I was interested to taste it had quite a bit of sweetness to it up front to go with the citrusy nose. The sweet with the husky flavours did not mix great in the balance of the beer, but made for something new to try in a beer. Was happy to see the hop character was diminished to allow this malt character to come through fully.

Getting a bit darker and into the Autumn beers we are just getting into in the southern hemisphere, the Beer Here Autumnie Fallout was a really good balanced beer. Being Scandinavian, the malt character was quite big, but evened with a cleansing hop finish to make it easy drinking...well compared to the rest of the range I was trying...making this a really good palate settler in the middle of the tasting.

Going back to Italian beers, the Opperbacco 10 e lode had sweetness to burn! Having used brown sugar in a few of my own beers, could pick up on this. The belgian aspect of the beer was a bit hard to find even at the back end of the palate, but is possible there was a bit of candied sugar to keep with the sweet theme. Of course, this became one of my favs of the night, but many others just found it too sweet.

Ending with a bang, a Scandinavian malt bang, the Fano Bryghus Evil Twin Soft Dookie had such a creamy texture too it, the 'cloud' metaphor came out, add that vanilla, and big malt of an imperial stout, this was an amazing beer to finish on, and definitely my sort of beer for the rain in Sydney.

I guess speaking of stouts, I also have to mention on was walk around Blackwattle Bay, I came across a Belgian Imperial Stout in a Glebe bottle shop, and just had to buy it (like the Hercule Stout, I don't often find stouts from Belgium). I did not get a chance to drink it this time, but am sure I will be writing up here about it when that chance come along.

After the night at the Taphouse, I also took the opportunity to visit the Union Hotel and see there good range of tap beer available. They even had the Doctor's Orders Cephalopod, so decided to try it again. It seemed a bit clouder this time, and talking to the barman, he said they had to keep rotating the keg to stop the ink sitting on the bottom. Seeing they also had two handpumps, Hannah and I shared a Murray's Punch and Judy, and a Young Henry's Vertigo. I liked the english style of the Punch and Judy on the Handpump, while Hannah enjoyed the kristalweizen for obvious reasons. Both great beers to have on handpump, and shows Australia may be getting closer to appreciating beers that are served this way.

Ah, a much better post, and now have good things again to look forward to in beer. Not to mention I jst had a full week in Mountain Goat's brewhouse, which apart from being tired and burning myself with steam and hot pipes, did not go as badly as I thought it would. So hopefully, even more things to look forward to in the career I have been slowly persistent in pursuing.



Thursday, February 21, 2013

Beer Buying Frustration!!!!

OK, I know I live in Australia, and I know I have beers from elsewhere in the world that I want to drink (I probably wouldn't have this blog if that wasn't the case).

There are definitely beers (eg, Rogue Double Chocolate Stout, Southern Tier Creme Brulee, Hercule Stout, Boon Faro, etc [sorry, I won't go on]) I am willing to pay to have shipped to Australia, and also others that I have never tried, but would like the opportunity to do so. With Rogue and ST, I have been in contact with the breweries, and from them been directed to a number of distributors in the U.S. While some of them say they freight beers worldwide, some will only do order big enough for bottle shops, etc. Others that 'may' do smaller orders, somehow never come through with the goods/keep delaying on me/keep asking me to change my order, or just not responding at all. As you can tell, I am getting pretty frustrated, as have been trying to get some of these beers for many years, and no distributor has been much help over that time. Normally on this blog, I would like to have a wide-thinking look at distribution of beer, bring up experiences I have had at Goat with sending our beer around Australia and the world, and look at the principles of it all.
However, at this moment, all I want to do is just buy a ticket to fly around the world again and hope that my luck will be better going to the actual breweries, even if it just means someone will actually take me seriously. I don't know if I am just an unusual case, and most other people can simply see a beer available through a website, order it, and have it delivered ('tis but a dream for me). I do not understand why this has been so difficult for me. I understand I am probably asking for seasonals/rarities, but if the beer is available, and they have the ability to send it to me, how can I not get it delivered.

Sorry, I will stop my rant, but if I can, I would like to ask anyone (if anyone actually reads this stuff) that knows of/has used a good distributor (mainly looking at the U.S., but really anyone who sources good beer, as I have yet to find any distributor outside Australia that can get beer to me) to let me know by commenting on this blog. Please, any help would be greatly appreciated.

I just want to buy beer, that others say they have, want to sell, and can get to me.

I don't like using this blog for things like this, as want to keep my documenting of beer as an open, thoughtful and positive experience, but after so many years of this, I have finally broken.

Hopefully after my weekend in Sydney, I can focus on the experience of tasting beer on this blog again,

Thanks in advance for any help anyone can give me on this.



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Josie Bones Saturday Sess w/ Christian Andersen

So, while I am recovering from some food poisoning and have the cricket on the in background, I have a chance to recount my weekend with beer. Thinking about beer and food may not be at the front of my mind at the moment (only holding down dry biscuits), but will try to push through to describe this journey.

Proving beer nerds can have girlfriends (I was not sure myself) I took Hannah to Josie Bones to meet up with Beer Here's Christian Andersen and 10 others for a lunch degustation.
To start, a new take on the aussie lager was on show, with the collaboration Beer Here has done with their Australian distributor Northdown, the Cool Hops. In terms of a lager, the colour is closest to a Brooklyn Brewery Lager, dark yellow with almost a touch of brown starting to get into it. I have to say it is one of the best lagers I have ever tried with good crystal malt character and some refreshing citrus/lemon qualities from the Summer hop. Christian detailed that all the ingredients were sourced from Australia, and happy to finally see someone is challenged the norm of the 'classic' aussie lager.  This hop character especially went well with the lemon aioli that accompanied the Gateaux Pimente, showing this beer would also go well with stir fries and asian food, even if my chilli-wuss-ness was exposed through the dish.

The first course had less delicacy to it, showing off the Josie Bones way with beef ribs with a marmalade sauce, and fries with a smokey but creamy dip. Ribs cooked perfectly with the meat falling off the bone and quite succulent. By itself it paired well with the marmalade sauce, but with the beer for this course, was probably one of my favourite matches for the lunch. Bridge Road's Bling IPA is one that for me is a good example of balance between hops and malt in this style of beer, and found it also had a place in Christian's heart as tasting similar to the first homebrew he ever tasted. It almost reminds me of an English ESB with caramel malt and fruity hops, which of course compared well with the sweet meat and fruity sauce of the dish. The sweet of the malt and smoke from the dip also compared well for the Rauchbier lover in me (well, our homebrew Hickory Stickery Bock did come to mind), but the smokey fries did help cleanse the palate a bit of the beer.

Already at this point I was helping the 4 ladies around me get through their beers, which was not displeasing me at all, all the more enjoyable for the next beer in the degustation. I was not the only one either, as Christian was also interested to find this beer on the Josie Bones menu and knew it had to be part of this degustation, even so he could have a chance to taste it.
Beer Here's Nordic Rye is a farmhouse ale but with the surprising use of rye that adds quite a bit of sweetness to the beer, but is then offset well with the spice/yeast of the farmhouse style. Having let this beer age 2 years helped even more to meld these two aspects of the beer, but with the rye dominating a little more from the time. Not only does the sweetness from the beer compare well with the gaminess of the Kangaroo Carpaccio, but texturally there was a similarity between the two that I found quite surprising, and enjoyable. For as big at the beer was, the Quinoa Salad completely cleaned up the palate, and helped give a bit of filling to help soak up the beers going down.

I must say my somewhat recent delve into milk stouts did get me a bit excited when I saw the Beer Here Ammestout on the menu, as have a bottle of this that want to try with Stass sometime soon. Funnily enough, this coffee lactose stout did actually taste like iced coffee, and when asked what coffee he used, we thought it a bit of a joke when he replied with Nescafe Blend 43. Having spoken a bit about other coffee beers and the amounts/types of coffee used in them, it came as a surprise to here him reiterate that is was that coffee, added in at the whirlpool stage of the brew. Maybe having spruiked up the beer in my own mind, I was slightly disappointed in it, as it seemed a little bland for the mix of flavours this beer had the potential to be. Still, anyone wanting a beer that tastes like ice coffee, look no further...oh, and by the looks of the label on the bottle, it's good for breastfeeding mothers!
To go with the coffee milk stout was a kriek marshmellow slice, with Linderman's Kriek used in the marshmellow, jelly topping, and sauce. The cherry beer was probably most distinct in the marshmellow, with the flavour working well with the texture.

I guess the only way to move on from a cherry beer tasting marshmellow was to hit Beer Deluxe and try the Boon Framboise, which compared with the Linderman raspberry beer I have had previously it definitely tasted more like 'real' raspberry, and allowed to keep some body with less carbonation. I think this worked for Hannah, who is more of a wine person, but I am slowly finding her way in beer.

Anyway, starting to feel like I have talked to much about consumables on a day I feel like this, so going to sign off. Thanks to Christian and Josie Bones for the lunch, and Hannah for being open to the journey...which for her will undoubtably continue until she gets sick of me...maybe beer nerds should not have girlfriends...



Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Chrissy Wrap Up

Welcome to 2013 beer lovers/appreciators, drinkers, and the potential random people that have accidently stumbled across this page.

Just to keep the start of this year in a random way to keep those accidental viewers to the blog thinking they may have stumbled onto something interesting is to maybe connect me once more to a man I have brought up a couple of times in my discourses about beer (maybe I shouldn't have mentioned beer yet).

I guess bringing up a figure like Michel de Montaigne, a 16th Century French philosopher, is quite strange to bring up on a beer blog, but I guess that says a lot about my approach to beer. In this instance, after reading this article in The Age over the chrissy break, I realised I am probably trying to write this blog a bit in his way.
I don't get technical, I like to keep it a bit conversational and with that retain little structure. I guess it has become a bit of a mind dump, something I got use to doing through a thing called a reflective journal, back in the days I was trying do a uni course in Construction Management. Well, when I say I was trying, I actual did alright at it, and while the context of the course may not be in my day to day, I think in some way, Montainge's approach to writing continues on from where I was heading in my take from the Problem-based Learning (PBL). I mean, the aim of this blog is foggy even to me, but that I started it just to keep record on beers I drink. Still, looking back over the years, there are definite moments it has become much more than this. Seeing one of the most popular postings on this blog is on the environmental impact of beer, I guess some of you also see beer as more than just a source of alcohol that can have a great diversity in flavour, etc. I guess the openness I take towards beer to sense this diversity shows there is also a personal journey happening, one where reflections instead of answers are being sought. Anyway, even this writing doesn't really have a point, except maybe to say that because of this reflection, I don't see myself ever being able to be a good writer, as I will always keep this personal edge, making it less easily digestible to the general public. Still, I would like to take this opportunity to thank those that may have kept up their viewing of this blog, even if it makes no sense and doesn't help you in choosing a beer at the pub or bottlo.

I suppose the above means I have had a good break, with enough time to 'defrag' my brain to try and make sense of where I am heading in the year ahead. I hope you have had the same and have many things to look forward to in the new year.

Ok, will try to focus here now.

As the end of the year approach, as expected the Goat chrissy party went well, increased by the fact it was on the same day as my birthday. Say no more...

On the 21st December, I was lucky enough to be having a few beers at the Goat bar with a man that has both more knowledge and enthusiasm for beer than myself. Once the bar started getting too full, knowing that there was the Nogne O Sunturnbrew at the Royston across the road, we quickly made tracks over there while it was quiet there. It was almost fate that we happen to be drinking this beer on the day, seeing the latest batch was being brewed that very day, somewhere in Scandinavia. While brewed as a winter warmer, this smoked barleywine is quite divine on tap, with a better meld of sweet and smoke than I have found previously in the bottle. The dark malt/fruit character extends over the length of the palate better on tap, the balance out the smoke and gives some residual sugar to offset the alcohol heat. It did this so well, we actually had about 3 glasses of it, and were quite tipsy because of it. Still, even for a summers day, it tasted just too good. The smoke has just a touch of driness, which is better than going for the sweet smoked ham approach that I seem to get from many smoked beers. There is certainly enough sweetness from the barleywine base that it doesn't need anymore from the smoke, and helps keep some contrast in the profile.

Relying on my memory once more (not good seeing that was a reason I started this blog), the next major beer drinking event was Chrissy Day itself. After my brother infiltrated in with some wines (not such a bad thing when one of them was a Goldkapp J.J. Prum Riesling) over pudding I was able to crack a 4 year old bottle of Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper.
Having had a taste of this beer before, I was happy to see with age, the chocolate notes still hold very well, and probably broaden out over the palate a bit better. The alcohol heat has definitely mellowed in that time making it much easier to drink. There was still some dark fruit and cinnamon/spice notes in the beer, but comparing it to the chrissy cake, they were quite diminished. I would therefore say maybe 3 years is long enough to hold onto this beer before opening to keep some flavours, but still knock out enough of the alcohol heat.

Keeping my drinking to a minimum between chrissy and new year (though some nostalgic Tooheys Old's did go down while watching the Boxing Day Test with my grandpa), I did hit Murray's brewery once again, for my yearly tasting wheel (Whale Wheat Ale, Pilsner, Dark Knight Porter, Angry Man American Pale Ale, Belgian Grand Cru, 2Icon Double IPA), and this year even got to finally do a tour of the brewery, and be jealous of their bottling system. Maybe I am just use to Goat, but the size of the fermenters really brought back to me that how small batches can keep a brewery versatile, with their largest fermenter being the same size as the smallest one at Goat. Also saw they were trialling growing hops at the brewery, but with limited success.

Seeing my mum has finally accepted her boy is into beer, and that she had me for Kris Kringle this year, she got me some Murray's beers so I could keep drinking their beers for New Years. Was great being able to try a bottle of the Wild Thing Imperial Stout, that was actually tasting pretty good with a year or two at the back of the cupboard. The Heart of Darkness and Abyss Imperial Stouts were also enjoyable, but seeing they were fresher, they came of a bit hotter in alcohol. She also got me a couple of Anniversary Ale's that at 15% I knew needed some time to settle, but seeing had 2 could afford to have one now. I am not sure what Belgian yeast they are using in this and the Heart of Darkness, but it does not seem to be in balance with the beers they are using it for, with the yeast flavours not really coming through, and the alcohol heat again dominating. The Belgian Smoked Barleywine is no Sunturnbrew, but as I said, happy to give it time before I pass judgement on it completely. Though, I was having it after having had a few beers for dinner (which I will mention next), so hate to imagine how the people I was sharing it with were able to handle it.

Having one night in Newy before I came back to Melbourne, I caught up with a uni mate and we hit The Albion Hotel, so I could finally see that craft beer had made it to the town I felt like such an outsider in, for wanting more in my beer than it offered me as a uni student. Walking in was like walking into the Royston/Terminus Hotel, with 2 handpumps, 8 beers on tap, and not a sign of any macro brewer in any of them. I even had a little beer nerd moment seeing Rouge's Oatmeal Stout on one of the handpumps, and am sure I annoyed the bartender by asking many questions about it. In short, it had been carbonated with nitrogen, with a mix of 3% more nitrogen in the cask, and have to say, it tasted better than the specimen I had of this beer when I was actually in Portland those many years ago now. Texturally great, if a little paradoxical to get the watery taste from the oatmeal, but with a fuller texture. Seeing I am relying on memory again, I remember having a cool bacon maple ale with dinner (a great version of bangers of mash that again had me thinking of the Termi), before getting a taster of 4, which with the Oatmeal stout, consisted of smoked chilli (Adobo?) beer (thankfully the chilli was quite subdued), the Wicked Elf Porter (went great with the chocolate creme brulee I had for desert. I won't talk about that anymore, except to say I loved it...that is all, I promise), and a white stout which didn't do much for me, except spin my head a little tasting stout but seeing a pale beer.

Anyway, that about brings you up to speed in terms of beer. Hope you were all surprised and enjoyed what you had on offer for the chrissy/new year period.

It only took 5 days into the new year to get our first home brew on, which is our first all grain brew of a Bright Ale Clone from Little Creatures, which will becoming with us this weekend for the bucks weekend on the coast, along with the Coffee Nut Brown Ale and a case of Mountain Goat beers. About 45 litres of beer, hope it lasts! Still, the beer nerd in me came out at the homebrew shop when after over 2 years of searching, I found 4 bottles of Faro Boon sitting on their shelf. Finally, I can have a taste off between Boon and Lindermanns, so keep an eye out for that Faro face off soon. I was even able to go back to my extract brewing roots brewing a Gluten Free beer for my cousin in the homebrew kit I got them for their housewarming. Pete gave me taste of his previous GF beer (which has completely flabbergasted me. I could hardly pick out any ingredients he said were in it! Still his, Sierra Nervada Pale Clone has come off much better, and took a Goat IPA and Moylan's Hopsickle to continue his journey into hops. Seems I will be able to push him a bit further in that regard...

Anyway, think I'm starting to bore myself a bit with all this, so can't imagine how it must be for anyone else. My apologies and wishes of good luck in the new year,