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