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,


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