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.