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!