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!

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