Friday, 22 May 2015

Good Beer Week 2015: BrewDog Punk Party @ Forester's Hall (Fri 22 May)

There are two entities that have helped shape the craft beer landscape within their global and local scenes - BrewDog and Forester's Beer & Music Hall.  The two came together for what would turn out to be one of the highlight events of Melbourne, Victoria's Good Beer Week 2015 on Friday 22 May.  The titanic Scottish brewers sailed in, taking over 10 of the venue's taps.  And since beer and music go together like pancakes and syrup the Forester's boys booked in local bands Pleb, Pagan and Coffin Wolf to provide a glorious punk soundtrack to the night.  Suffice it to say that there was no way I was going to miss out on this embarrassment of riches.

The riches from BrewDog shipped in for the night included a significant number of rarities - many of which being beyond my wildest imaginings.  IPA is Dead: Simcoe, Restorative Beverage for Invalids and Convalescents: Imperial IPA, Abstrakt - AB:18 American Strong Ale, Alt Amber, Lumberjack Breakfast Stout and Shipwrecker Circus (a collaborative brew involving Colorado's Oskar Blues being among the highlights on offer for the occasion.  A BrewDog lineup is not complete without the brewery's iconic flagship ales: Punk IPA, Dead Pony Session IPA and 5AM Red Ale - all of which being responsible for converting many drinkers from the bland side into the enlightened realm that is craft beer since 2007.

BrewDog's brewing history is indeed a colourful and intriguing one.  Inspired by the new wave of American brewing and encouragement from legendary beer writer Michael Jackson, brewers James Watt and Martin Dickie set about brewing their beer on a pilot system for sale from the back of a van.  BrewDog found exorbitant success and expansion through their ingenious Equity for Punks scheme, however a critical shortage of hops nearly saw the operation grind to a sudden halt in 2009.  Fortunately for the craft beer world Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. struck a deal with BrewDog: in exchange for a sufficient amount of hops Sierra Nevada were sent a number of barrels from Scotland for its barrel-aging program.  Six years and an entertaining, if slightly American-cheesy, television series for the Esquire Network later; BrewDog has cemented its place among craft beer's biggest and brightest.

Beers really do not come much bigger than BrewDog's Lumberjack Breakfast Stout - the beer with which I started the night.  Folks, this is a beer that will change your life if not the world - brewed with oats, smoked malt, blueberries, maple syrup, coffee and even bacon (is there anything bacon can't do?) - it is indeed a lumberjack's breakfast in a glass.  As Forester's Hall began filling with eager BrewDog fans I settled in with my friends - some of whom had joined me from Perth for Good Beer Week.

With three punk bands performing in the Woody's Fine Liquor space upstairs, a healthy mix of beer and music fans helped create a bouyant and fun party atmosphere.  The vast majority of folks in, however, had arrived from GABS: The Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular.  Without knowing the set times I can only assume that Pagan were on-stage at this point - I will be in contact with Forester's soon to confirm who played and at what time (post will be edited to reflect this) - nevertheless the guys on stage were ripping into some seriously dark and dirty hardcore punk.  The beers and good vibes flowed as freely as unconstrained data waves.

In fact, the beer was flowing so freely that many of BrewDog's kegs ran out very early in the piece.  IPA is Dead: Simcoe, 5AM Red Ale, Alt Amber and Dead Pony ran dry quicker than you could say "punk's not dead!"  Thankfully the vast majority of the beers that had run dry are generally readily available in bottles - and while I was dying to sample the Simcoe - I had my focus firmly set on the seriously limited release stuff.  Immediately following the Lumberjack I got myself stuck into Restorative Beverage for Invalids and Convelescents - a hugely piny and spicy imperial IPA featuring a gloriously golden straw colour and dank aromatics.  Thereafter I found myself sinking with the big and bold Shipwrecker Circus whose rum, sherry and berry characters imparted a sense that the circus animals survived but none of their human slave-masters.  By midnight Pleb had hit the stage and in so doing turned up the BrewDog Punk Party up to 11 with a fun but in no way poppy punk sound.

Punk music and punk beer is truly a winning combination.  A massive thanks must go out to everyone involved in staging such a spectacular event.  It is easy to take for granted the amount of logistics and other planning; execution of such events - the potential for something going wrong (particularly delayed keg shipments) being huge - all in the name of spreading the good word of craft beer.  And with that, BrewDog and Forester's Beer & Music Hall are both well deserving of the utmost commendation.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Good Beer Week 2015: A Brief Guide for the Uninitiated

The epicentre of the beer world will shift to Melbourne between Saturday May 16 to Sunday May 24 as Good Beer Week 2015 takes place.  An astronomical number of venues across the city and regional Victoria are staging a swathe of events ranging from dark beer and even darker metal to the infamous Pint of Origin; The Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular three-day festival; food and beer matching is taken to the next level; brewers are flying in from every corner of the globe and it is all in the name of showcasing the delights of the world's most diverse and popular alcoholic beverage.  Suffice it to say that the week-long mega-festival has got the local brewing and hospitality scene excited as locals and visitors from all over get set to descend upon the city.

For the uninitiated visitor or even the well-seasoned Melburne local, a quick flick through the Good Beer Week programme might appear highly intensive at best and excruciatingly befuddling at worst.  How does one make sense of so much awesomeness packed into the one short week?  When time and possibly money are limited there is the very real risk of FOMO ("Fear Of Missing Out" - as the tabloids have dubbed the phenomenon) setting in.  And what of the very real risk of hangovers?  Fear not, beer geeks and beer geeks in the making!  Help is at hand.

Planning Ahead
First off, put that iPad down and take a few four-by-four-by-four breaths.  Yes, the Good Beer Week programme is so loaded it is undeniably overwhelming - even with events being divided into "streams" - but the solution is simple: your portable media device has come with an inbuilt notepad and calendar with good reason.  If using the notepad, jot down each day of the week; before returning to the programme to log the time, date and location of events that catch your eye.  Repeat as necessary.  Like any festival, clashes may be inevitable - however we are dealing with events that go on for several hours (rather than 90 minute sets) here and sometimes events run all day until late.  Major clashes are likely to pose a problem only if you are attending a major degustation or meet the brewer event.  Relax, time is more plentiful than you might think.

To maximise time even more, familiarise yourself with both Melbourne's public transport network and how it will get you to the venues you have shortlisted.  Most venues can be reached easily from the city centre via tram (particularly those along Smith Street which divides the beery neighbourhoods of Fitzroy and Collingwood) while a few are located a little further afield.  Perhaps the first thing you need to know is that the city's tram, train and bus networks are painfully slow.  Moreover, things get tricky after midnight - the city offers a Nightrider bus service however it is sketchy at best and highly unsafe as well.  Check the links below for websites and apps that will help you navigate the city and surrounds:

Public Transport Victoria Journey Planner
Network Maps 
tramTRACKER (iPhone / Android real-time tram tracking application)
Uber Taxis Melbourne

It is worth noting that if you really want to maximise time and money, catch a Uber taxi.  Melbourne Uber fares have recently been reduced by 15% and for short trips (from Federation Square to Forester's Beer and Music Hall for example) it beats the hell out of standing on a crammed tram for 20 minutes!  And let it be known that catching cabs best be the only time spent in a car if you have even a trace amount of alcohol in your system.

Doing It On The Cheap
Beer is so expensive in this country that it is practically a currency unto itself (as it once was).  Furthermore, degustations and other dinners range in the $70-200 price bracket which may appear disheartening to those on a shoestring budget.  In saying that, the best means by which to avoid overspending - as well as missing out - is to buy event tickets in advance.

It is also best to purchase myki (Melbourne's answer to London's Oyster) cards for multiple days.  7-day passes represent the best value.

The Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular is doubtless the very best way to optimise budget and even time (say if you are in Melbourne for only a few days as opposed to the full week).  With an incredible 300 beers being showcased - 120 of which have been brewed especially for the festival - and heaps of great local food (from Mr Claws lobster rolls to American-style barbequed meats courtesy of Meatmother) GABS provides a fantastic means by which to soak in a concentrated version of Good Beer Week.

The best value tickets include $20 worth of beer and food tokens, which can be had at $54.00 pre-sale or $63 on the door for single-ticket purchases.  Discounts are available through the awesome Beer Buddy Group buy.  Click here for tickets.

Entry to a large host of events is absolutely free and tasting paddles are of course a brilliant way to sample a wide variety of beer.  Your wallet and body will thank you.


The vast majority of bars and pubs across Melbourne provide free, readily available water at the bar.  For goodness sakes, it is not there for decoration.  Aside from taking it easy and not imbibing too much, drinking water throughout the night - not just a pint before crashing - is a far better hangover remedy than something so greasy it would make the Gulf oil spill resemble a sparkling picture of health.  Moreover, suffering through a hangover might mean missing out on a major event, hence one more very good reason to stave off alcohol's dehydrating diuretic effects.

But in all honesty at least one hangover is inevitable and equally as inevitable is the craving for something to take the edge off.  Check out the following places for what might cure what ails you:

Hair of the Dog Breakfast @ Beer DeLuxe
Fri 22 May - 9:30am-12noon
Cost:  $80
The Hair of the Dog Breakfast is essentially the afterparty following on from the AIBAs (Australian International Beer Awards).  As well as soothing one's head or making that dog even hairier still, there is the chance to meet and greet craft beer brewers at less than half the cost of admission to the AIBA event.
Tickets are still available.

Shop Ramen
329 Smith St  Fitzroy
Pho is well regarded for its legendary hangover curing properties and the legends are indeed true, however a certain degree of gumption is needed to get through all that meat and bone broth.  Enter Shop Ramen who kindly provide a much more easily chewed and therefore digestive alternative.  They even do smoothies - loaded with life-giving coconut milk.

Lentil As Anything - Breakfast @ The Abbotsford Convent
1 St. Heliers St  Abbotsford
Breakfast served between 9am-11:30am

Who doesn't love pancakes?  Or just-right poached free-range eggs sitting atop a bed of potato rosti and baby spinach?  As Lentils is meat-free you might be asking "where's the bacon?" but in all honesty your stomach will thank you later for going meat-free.  The coffee here is top notch and will have you feeling semi-human again in no time.  Lentil As Anything is a not-for-profit "pay what you feel" vegetarian restaurant but please give generously - these guys do some amazingly good things for the city's most disadvantaged people.

Curtin House 1st Floor
252 Swanston St  Melbourne City
Most may find that after a big night breakfast essentially means brunch.  And who says pork belly is not a breakfast item?  Come to Cookie for the amazing, hangover-curing mod-Thai and stay for even more craft beer action.  Cookie is a proud Good Beer Week venue and you might even meet Jeppe Jarnit Bjergsø while sampling Evil Twin beers.  Eight of Cookie's taps will be dedicated to pouring the mad Danish-born gypsy brewer's fine wares throughout the week.

All these tap takeovers and meet the brewer events may take their toll, even after weeks and months of built up excitement.  Remember to take it easy throughout the event - Good Beer Week is, after all, a marathon rather than a sprint.  With forward planning, a little bit of common sense, proper nourishment and plenty of water, there is no doubt that even the most budget conscious and time starved folks will take home a stack of memories that will be talked about for years to come.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

BrewDog: Jackhammer (IPA)

BrewDog: Jackhammer was one of the most talked about IPAs of 2014 and really it is nt hard to see why.  Put bluntly, this is an IPA by which all others may be judged.  Such is the incredibly well balanced but not at all delicate nature of Jackhammer, all room for rhetoric is completely constricted.  This is one beer that does just fine speaking for itself, thank you very much.

Jackhammer pours a delightful apricot-ochre with a slightly turbid appearance.  A pleasant, snowy white head forms, soon giving way to firm lacing.  Immediately the nose is hit aggressively with a burst of beautiful grapefruit-driven hop aroma that unfolds into a veritable fruit salad.  White peach, mandarine, mango and lemon peel aromatics all suggest a generous dry hopping.  Five hops went into the making of this IPA: Centennial, Columbus, Citra, Simcoe and Amarillo (with the latter three used in the dry-hopping phase) hence this beer truly deserves the title of "hop bomb."  It is worth noting that Jackhammer's aroma is not at all acute - instead it presents as being gentle but persuasive.  I could smell the beer from across the bar as it was poured for me.  Furthermore, Jackhammer's aroma has a certain underlying bready quality about it, thus suggesting a very well weighted malt bill.

Jackhammer's slightly caramel sweet malt backbone and refreshingly carbonated, medium bodied mouthfeel do well in leveraging the torrent of hop driven fruit flavours that wash over the palate like one's first ever dip into the Indian Ocean.  Fans of hop forward and fruity beers will feel right at home here.  Jackhammer's tropical fruit aromatics transcend directly to the palate in the form of dense peach and mango.  Upon licking my lips I could also taste lemon peel and pineapple that somehow sat comfortably between the sweet and the tart.  A hint of toffee shines through before the utterly divine hit of highly resinous pine strikes the back palate.

It is worth noting that for all these flavours the intensity is well weighted and balance remains throughout.  The hit of resinous pine does not linger to the point that it leaves one feeling as though the palate will ulcerate at any given moment - instead it makes its presence known and then retreats - like a summer storm over the foothills.  This is all quite remarkable considering that Jackhammer boasts an IBU of 100!  Moreover, there is very little suggestion of alcoholic heat, thus Jackhammer belies its relatively high ABV of 7.8%.  Indeed, this is a fairly polite brew considering its ramped up hoppiness - it does not scream and shout like a three-minute long punk-inspired thrash piece - instead it takes the more progressive route (think Metallica-era ...And Justice for All rather than Paul Baloff-era Exodus and you get the picture).

BrewDog really are the masters of ramped up IPAs.  Nuff said.

Evil Twin: Ashtray Heart (Smoked Porter)

There is beer and then there is beer concocted by genius mad scientists who proudly boast having no fixed address (insofar as to the lab / brewing facility in which their creations are brought into being goes).  The genius mad scientist in question here is Evil Twin brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø - twin brother to Mikkel Borg Bjergsø of Mikkeller - who has come up trumps once more with a phenomenally good smoked porter, lovingly dubbed Ashtray Heart.  Given that Mr. Bjergsø will be in town for Melbourne's Good Beer Week festival in May 2015 I thought it highly appropriate that I should reacquaint myself with the results of his brewing experimentations.

White I am certain that Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø himself is no creature of pure malevolence, Ashtray Heart is one almighty beast of a smoked beer.  The end result of a laboratory experiment gone horribly right, Ashtray Heart pours a very dark brown - bordering on black - with a thin tan head that slowly dissipates to almost nothing.  Some smoked porters leave me wanting in the carbonation department - not so with this specimen.  Ashtray Heart's carbonation is low to medium but enough to ensure that the brew is refreshingly drinkable.

As the name strongly suggests, peaty smoke dominates the aroma, however there is an underlying waft of toffee and Bourbon booziness as well.  Giving the glass a gentle swirl and allowing the beer to warm slightly are recommended for full effect.  What follows through onto the palate delivers on the promises made - and then some!

Further to Ashtray Heart's immensely smoky flavour there are notes and nuances that range from an initial bitter entry (most noticeable when the beer is at its coldest temperature); slightly sweet toffee, caramel; coffee, cacao, mocha; charred woods and hints of Bourbon.  The Bourbon character is especially pronounced given the beer's booziness - Ashtray Heart quite deliberately does little to hide its relatively high ABV of 8.9%.  All considered, the boozy quality is superbly well weighted so as to compliment rather than dominate the experience.

Yes indeed, this is one masterfully created marvel of brewing science that delivered on everything its name promised.  One cannot help but ponder Ashtray Heart's malt bill and the methods used to create its immense smokiness.  I imagine that the ingredients and techniques employed herein shall forever remain the sort of closely guarded scientific secret that commands an exorbitant amount of hush money - such as what is really governing climate change (a small hint may or may not lay in the photo above).

Saturday, 21 March 2015

An Evening With... Yeastie Boys' Sam Possenniskie @ Bob's Bar (Perth) - 9 Jan 2015

Let me say right up front that Bob's Bar is an asset to the city of Perth.  Few pubs and bars across the city and its surrounds, including Fremantle, rival the dedication to craft beer of this awesome place.  Aptly named after Australia's famous beer guzzling Prime Minister Bob Hawke and sat atop Print Hall, Bob's Bar provides the perfect haven away from the "Carlton" and "Tooheys" pubs that in no way accommodate the city's growing number of craft beer drinkers.  Occasionally esteemed brewing guests and their wares make an appearance and on the evening of Friday 9 January 2015 Yeastie Boys' Sam Posseniskie popped in for a fly-in meet and greet.

Bob's Bar - The Venue

The setting could not be more perfect for enjoying a casual brew.  Bob's Bar is one of only a handful of rooftop bars in the Perth city centre and, frankly, is the only one that bears mentioning (the others being the epicentre of the Douchebag Apocalypse).  The West Australian newspaper logo can be seen flanking the left-hand side of the venue as one walks from the entrance to the wooden bar and to the right there is ample, well shaded seating for all.  The atmosphere is infinitely more casual than the venues situated downstairs.  Refreshingly, Bob's Bar has a Tshirt-and-jeans-friendly dress code.  Hence I could think of few better places at which to unwind with a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA.

 Did I mention the craft beer selection here is among the strongest in the city?  Bob's Bar's tap and bottled beer list is among Perth's most noteworthy.  You can expect to choose from a mostly local selection of tap beers (think breweries such as Colonial, Cheeky Monkey and Last Drop) with guests sometimes coming in from New Zealand breweries including Epic, Renaissance and Yeastie Boys.  American craft brews also make a welcome appearance.  The cocktail list is equally as strong with many ladies among the crowd opting for mixed drinks over craft beers.  Clearly this is not a wine lover's place as few appeared to be requesting it.  The accompanying snack menu leaned towards the American Mexican front where once upon a time Bob's Bar had gone in for more Asian inspired treats.  The nachos topped with a copious layering of guacamole are thoroughly recommended - a great match with your equally copiously hopped New Zealand IPA.

Naturally, as this night was all about Yeastie Boys and Sam Possenniskie, several of this fantastic New Zealand "gypsy brewery's" beers were tapped.  As the glorious Perth evening drew in I found myself sampling the absolutely gorgeous Gunnamatta IPA (infused with Earl Grey Blue Leaf English tea), Pot Kettle Black ale, Digital IPA; His and Her Majesty Belgian style ales.

Yeastie Boys - The Beers

Pot Kettle Black ale

Is it a black IPA or a porter?  Never before has a beer been more indecisive and yet so happy to be so!  As the name suggests, you may call it what you will.  Pot Kettle Black sits alongside BrewDog Libertine black ale as being a hoppy take on dark beers while conversely straddling into black IPA territory.  Pot Kettle Black's hop character is a little too restrained to be considered a black IPA however this is not to say its hoppiness is understated.  But I digress, Yeastie Boys have created a fantastic brew whose aroma and taste centres around dark, roasty malts, chocolate spice, subtle sweetness and even a touch of lactic sweetness; all rounded off with a contrasting tropical fruit finish.

Writers note:  Yeastie Boys has recently updated the livery of its labels - Pot Kettle Black is now known as a "Pacific Porter."

Gunnamatta IPA

For me, Gunnamatta is surely the most impressive brew currently on offer from the Yeastie Boys stable.  Believe the hype, tea-infused IPAs are made of awesome.  Gunnamatta can proudly boast being the People's Choice winner at the 2012 Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS).  Frankly it is not hard to see why as this forward-thinking, Earl Grey tea-laden beer bounds forth with herbaceous, yeasty, citrus and tea aromas; a thoroughly engaging and lusciously smooth mouthfeel; flavours of citrus, bready malt; and of course tea on the finish.  Needless to say I went back for seconds and even thirds on this one whilst awaiting the arrival of Gunnamatta's creator.

"Sipping da def ale" with Sam Possenniskie (Yeastie Boys)

 Even with my eyesight it is possible to spot Sam Possenniskie a mile away.  Donning a pastel pale blue/turquoise T-shirt and apricot orange shorts, Yeastie Boys co-founder arrived on the scene at 7pm.

During the time spent chatting with the loquacious and amiable Possenniskie I learned a great deal about Yeastie Boys' recent activities and ambitions for the future.  Among the most exciting developments was a deal struck with the UK's Adnam's Brewery and the Wetherspoons pub chain for the supply of 50,000L of the once home brewed Gunnamatta IPA.  Possenneskie also made mention of Yeastie Boys' PledgeMe crowd-funding campaign that will see the brewery make its mark on the northern hemisphere beer scene through improved supply channels.  Further, I learned of the Yeastie Boys ethos as well as the trials and tribulations of "gypsy brewing" throughout the conversation.  Suffice to say it is a labour of love, but a fun and highly rewarding pursuit as well.

Conversation flowed as freely as the beer and it soon shifted to Digital IPA.  All you homebrewers out there will be keen to know that the recipe for Digital is completely open-source - the best bit is you can remix and tweak it to your heart's content, as though you were brewing's answer to A-Trak.

Alas, time went by as quickly as that between tunes in an A-Trak set - Possenniskie and his travelling posse could not stay long.  After all, this was a fly-in visit from South Africa to New Zealand via Perth.  As they were staying in Fremantle, the question was raised as to the best place to eat: the inevitable and obvious answer being Run Amuk Hotdogs Unleashed!

A special thanks must go out to Bob's Bar, Yeastie Boys, Sam Possenniskie and everyone involved in staging what was a fun and engaging meet and greet.  Yeastie Boys is without a doubt one of New Zealand and the world's most passionate, innovative, creative and colourful (not least because of the brewers' dress sense) breweries.  Take it from me, Gunnamatta IPA is among the best IPAs doing the rounds at the moment - you would be criminally remiss to overlook it while it is available.  Moreover, if you live in Perth and have never been to Bob's Bar in the past, get your clogs on and get on down!

Bob's Bar
Brookfield Place (Rooftop of Print Hall)
125 St. Georges Tce
Perth  WA  6000
Ph:  +61 8 6282 0077
Twitter:  @Bobs_Bar

Opening Hours
Mon-Sat:  12noon-12midnight
Sun:  12noon-10pm
Public Holidays:  Closed
Please note:  Closing times are subject to patronage.

As Brookfield Place is located on the St. Georges Terrace, it is relatively easy to find.  The easiest way to get here is via William Street.  Head South to the corner of William Street, cross to the Southern side of the Terrace and turn right.  Brookfield Place is located just after the set of pedestrian traffic lights (which may also be used).  If you walk by the Bank of China you have gone too far.

The entrance to Brookfield Place is marked by a board providing directions.  Ignore it.  Instead, continue South for a few paces until you see a lengthy walkway heading to the left.  Turn left here and keep going.  By this point you might be feeling a tad confused but keep going until you see what looks like a fancy bar.  You have found Print Hall.  From here, walk past the outside tables where people can be found drinking until you find a stairwell.  Bob's Bar is located up these stairs.  Alternatively there is a lift inside Print Hall (for those who are disabled or have the equally legitimate excuse of having recently climbed Jacob's Ladder).

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Glassware Godliness

Nobody in their right mind wants residual muck tainting their beer now, do they?  I sure as hell don't! 
Even the most miniscule amount of soap, lipstick (or chapstick) and/or grease can affect the beer within your chosen vessel at the molecular level; the first sign being visible bubbles clinging to the inside of the glass and, more crucially, lacking head retention.

We all know why carbonation is a vital element to beer.  Without it we don't get quite the same hit of aromatics, refreshment, nor the enlivened mouthfeel.  Moreover, the aesthetically pleasing appearance of a beer is not only tarnished but ruined altogether.  A clean glass is as important to a beer as the pour and the temperature at which it is served.

I will skip the thorny issue of select local pubs (and in some cases esteemed bars and restaurants) not cleaning their glasses properly and focus instead on enjoying beer in one's home.  Both the importance of serving beer into the most appropriate vessel and the pleasure of procuring a top notch glassware collection cannot be overstated, however there is little point in either when the glass is allowed to become filthy with all manner of foreign matter.

With that in mind, what are the best ways to go about cleaning one's beer glasses?

The guys at Mane Liquor (an independent craft beer focused bottleshop in Perth who carry the Spiegelau glassware range) suggest that regular rinsing, wiping and blasting with hot water is adequate, particularly during regular usage.  Wiping the outside is just as important as wiping the inside - fingerprints are nothing short of unsightly.  There might be times, particularly after a rather late night, whereupon beer is left in the glass which may call for the use of detergent.  As undesirable as this might be, leave the glass to sit for an hour or so (longer if need be) and rinse very thoroughly in hot water so as to remove as much detergent as possible.

Joel from another of Perth's favourite craft beer emporia in Cellarbrations at Carlisle says: "The purists would go nuts if they hear of anyone using detergent," however it could be said that a necessary evil may be called for.  Obviously prevention is better than cure!

Meanwhile, the folks at Melbourne's very own artisan glassware and bar accessory makers CRAFTD. offer the following sage advice: "We rinse the whole glass and wipe down the outside - to get a polished finish we use a glass polishing cloth (we got ours from David Jones).  This ensures the dust or impurities are removed from the glass - so the beer pours correctly and doesn't foam up.

"When finished and the glass needs cleaning, rinsing first is always ideal immediately after use, preventing bad odours or sticky residue.  Then we hand wash in clean, hot, soapy water with a non-abrasive cloth or otherwise gently with a scrubbing brush.  Any prints on the glass should not be scrubbed or they will most likely fade.  We have found that drip drying is best but if you have the luxury of neither time nor space, drying with a tea towel followed by the glass polishing cloth will restore your glass to perfect condition.

CRAFTD. went on to reiterate the point about the unsightliness of filthy dactilograms left behind on glassware: "Tip: Try not to leave fingerprints on the glass - we all have more oily hands than we might think!"

Finally, for the truly anal folk out there (such as myself) who are unfortunate enough to share their abode with others, it is worth drawing up and strictly enforcing a rule by which a nominated cloth (or similar) is used for the purpose of cleaning glassware only.  Ensure that it is kept in the cleanest place possible, for whatever grub is on it will end up on either side of the glass if it is allowed to live in a filthy corner of the kitchen.

So there you have it.  Clean glassware is as integral to the drinking experience as the perfect pour and the company you are drinking with.  Foodies will tell you that presentation is absolutely everything - it has to be said beverages are no different.  After all, there is nothing more aesthetically pleasing than a luminously golden Belgian blonde shimmering within an immaculately clean glass.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

An Evening With: Two Birds Brewing and Smoothbeard Mead @ Forester's Hall

Tuesday is a pointless day of the week, isn't it? It does not attract the same revulsion of its neighbour to the left, while the neighbour to the right gets a lot more action (if its nickname is anything to go by) and it is a lot less "Happy" than everyone's favourite.  Only the tireless and under appreciated servicepeople of the world have any reason to celebrate Tuesdays, for they often represent the weekend.  For the rest of us, however, Tuesdays are pointless no more.   We may now fill the void that forms a vertical line on the calendar with Tuesday Tastings at Forester's Beer and Music Hall.

The concept does what it says on the tin, only these tastings are totally free and on the odd occasion the showcased head brewer(s) may pop in for a talk.  Tuesday 10 February saw Wilson Hede, now heading up the team at Melburnian craft beer heavyweights Two Birds Brewing, showcase the latest additions to the brewery's lineup.   With a brand new West Coast style IPA and other delights to sample I thought that there was no time like the present to attend my first ever Tuesday Tasting.  As a special treat Angus of Smoothbeard Mead would be joining in to showcase their sparkling take on the up and coming honey based beverage.

A sizable crowd had gathered in earnest for the tasting's 6:30pm kick off.  Two Birds' Taco wheat ale was the first sample off the ranks and as the name suggests, this is truly a Mexican affair. We are not talking fizzy corn syrup and 2am burrito Mexican; but authentic spicy Mexican that had me hankering for lightly fried tripe.

Of the Taco Wilson Hede explained to his audience that this refreshing beer was fermented at an ale temperature.  Shootloads of coriander, amongst other ingredients fresh from the nearby Footscray market, were thrown in to give Taco its unique flavour and aroma.   Indeed Taco is a beer that would pair magnificently with summery, spicy food with its tremendous aromatics: lime and coriander notes singing in perfect harmony.  'Tis a shame that Taco could not sit among the Two Birds core range.

Wolf of the West IPA samples were handed around next.  The very name of this West Coast-style IPA fires up the imagination, however it can be easily broken down into its constituencies: Wilson Hede (reportedly) dons a wolf covered vest (relax - it's not fur); lupulus (humulus lupulus being Latin for hops) is the direct diminutive to lupus (Latin for wolf) and the "West" refers to both the geographical location of the brewery (Yarraville, western Melbourne) as well as the brew's distinct West Coast IPA style. As Wilson promised, Wolf of the West proved to be a very clean, crisp and flavourful IPA that is sure to be a hit during the remaining warmer weather ahead.

So called "session" IPAs are something of a contentious issue with me as many of them lack substance, nuance and, perhaps most crucially, balance.  Two Birds Bantam IPA samples quickly followed the Wolf of the West and just as quickly I felt as though this session IPA set itself from the pack by showing some restraint in its hop bitterness.   In so doing, its fruit forward notes are given permission to shine through.   Frankly the wee sample provided was enough to get my hooked.  Perhaps I am on my way to being turned around on the subject of session IPAs.

The good folks at Forester's had one final surprise in store: a taster of sparkling mead courtesy of South Australian meadery Smoothbeard.  I shall confess, shamelessly, that I am a mead virgin and know about as much about the subject as I do of quantum mechanics.  Nevertheless I went in with only the slightest sense of trepidation.

Sparkling mead is reportedly rubbished (at worst) by seasoned mead devotees (whose penchant is for the stronger stuff) however I myself fell firmly in love with the style by way of Smoothbeard's interpretation thereof.  On entry I was struck with floral sweetness that gave way to a refreshingly dry, bitter finish.  When and where this is on hand I need no longer resort to cider upon the sweet-tooth striking.  Moreover, while there is a certain sweetness to Smoothbeard's sparkling mead it is worth noting that it is brewed in the dry style.

Angus went into some depth in explaining how Smoothbeard Mead goes about brewing its sparkling: stating that honey is not the most nutritious source of sugar on which yeast feeds; hence to create Co2 Champagne yeast is used.  For optimal fermentation the temperature is reduced from 25°C to 16°C and wild honey is harvested from the meadery's home base in the Coonawarra (South Australia) wine region.  I found myself thoroughly engaged, intrigued and most importantly of all thirsty for more of what was once very aptly considered "nectar of the Gods."  The only thing missing from the experience was "Free Will Sacrifice" by Amon Amarth playing in the background, for mead is commonly associated with Viking culture.

Suffice it to say that this first Tuesday Tasting shall not be my last.  A huge thanks must go out to the Forester's Beer and Music Hall, Two Birds Brewing and Smoothbeard Mead for hosting the event.  Tuesdays never looked so good!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Deschutes: Chasin Freshies 2014 (Mosaic wet-hopped IPA)

Two Row Bar, Fitzroy (Melbourne)

Deschutes is among one of the Pacific North West's best and most respected brewers.  In Chasin' Freshies we have a delightful brew that was generously wet-hopped with the relatively obscure, very citrus-forward Mosaic variety.  The end result is an inglorious, bright and sumptuous IPA - one that is among the year's very best.

Chasin' Freshies pours a delightfully alluring, slightly turbid light orange with a thin head that does its level best to linger.  The nose is immediately struck by shimmering, bright fruit forward aromatics.  There is dried apricot, peach; pineapple and a slight malt-driven sweetness thus providing leverage.

Seriously, this is a veritable fruit salad of a beer but instead of a cream topping (gross), we have a pungent, piny and resinous hop kick that provides well weighted balance.  Said resinous hit is the second chair here rather than the limelight-hogging star of the show.  It makes its presence known during the encore rather than the full performance piece.

Between entry and finish a cascading wash of tropical fruit flavour delights the senses: dried apricot, peach, mango, tangerine, ever so slightly sweet pineapple and passionfruit shine through.  As the beer warms, peppery spice lingers thereby adding yet more complexity.

Somehow paradoxically Chasin' Freshies boasts a full-bodied but somehow refreshing mouthfeel, which may be attributed to the brew's medium carbonation.  Moreover, the lingering hit of resin coats the teeth leaving them feel rather dried and chalky.  It is much like drinking Coca Cola but with a helluva lot less guilt.

Those who enjoyed Sierra Nevada's Northern and Southern Hemisphere wet-hopped brews need to get on this post haste.  This is the sort of beer that commands both attention and many a return visit.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Garage Project: Hop Trial #2 (Single-Hopped Double IPA)

Bought from the Freo Doctor, Fremantle (Perth).

The premise behind Garage Project's Hop Trial series is simple: collaborate with New Zealand's foremost food and plant researcher; create a brand new hop variety (through unspecified methods), brew a beer showcasing it and have the public assess the end result.   En masse appraisal might see the hop become the next big thing in beer.  I would hazard a guess that this as yet unnamed hop variety will go a very long way indeed if the second incarnation in the series is anything to go by.

Being a single-hop IPA one simply cannot expect complexity but in saying that Hop Trial #2 is not altogether devoid of subtle nuances.  Aromas of cracked black pepper, pine and grapefruit juice hyperextend to the nose and in so doing tell of what is yet to follow.  The pepperiness of the aroma follows through onto the palate with the note taking on a broader dynamic.   Hop Trial #2 is supported by a bready backbone that balances while it contrasts.  Grapefruit and dried apricot notes poke their head through the mouse hole but retreat as they are overcome by the intensely dry spice and bitter finishing characters.

Hop Trial #2 is set to the backdrop of a beautiful and alluring ochre colour and a mouthfeel that is smooth with low to medium carbonation.

The overall impression that I have of this hop variety is that it is reminiscent of a New Zealand cousin: Kohatu, but with peppery nobs on.  I am also of the thinking it would do well in accentuating and lifting the flavours of more tropical fruit-forward hop varieties, such as Citra or Mosaic; thought it might be too dense to complement Centennial or other overly resinous hops.  Upon it being unleashed onto the beer drinking world, may I suggest that it be dubbed Kakara - the Maori word for spice.

To rate this beer after enjoying it, visit

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Feral Brewing: Kelis (Saison ale)

Draught only release, The Belgian Beer Cafe (Perth)

Bringing boys to the (farm)yard.

The premise and artwork behind Feral Brewing's Kelis saison says more of a history lesson in the style than it does of brainwashing, over formulated and all round terrible pop music. As it happened, the better a farmhouse's saison, the greater its chances of luring cheap labour. As one of the unemployed ~75% of legally blind folk out there, I for one would probably come running. Loose girls singing about milkshakes are indeed surplus to requirement.

First off, I am only now becoming accustomed to old and new world saisons, hence my appreciation (and understanding) thereof is in its infancy. To my knowledge the appearance of Kelis does not look like a typical modern saison; its carbonation does not erupt in leaps and bounds like so many others do, however it bears all the other hallmarks of the style. The mouthfeel also tells of something that is fuller bodied than is typical while Kelis' colour is of a lovely straw, golden hue.

Unlike its namesake, Kelis' aromatics sing in perfect harmony with ginger, coriander, subtle spice and a suggestion of oceanic brininess. In no way do these notes belie what follows, for this solid Feral brew bounds forth with plenty of ginger, coriander, za'atar (suggestive), lemon peel and brine. All of this rides a tropically warm malt wave. The aftertaste is big on lemon zest and peel while remaining somehow dry. Believe me when I say that this is a rather difficult beer to pin down.

On the whole Kelis is a delightfully refreshing beer; perfect for summer imbibing. Moreover, I could imagine fewer better beers to accompany fried; salty, battered and vinegary goodies (best enjoyed by the seaside).