And we are off and racing for the first of Carwyn Cellars' Lazy Brewer Lunch Sessions, a casual but flavour packed way to take in the goodness that is Good Beer Week.
Each session commences at 1300, but there's no harm in arriving early for a chat with the ever affable Carwyn barstaff. In fact it's almost mandatory, as there is every chance to enjoy a pre-lunch gose or Lambic ale.
7 Cent's experimental Give 'Em The Clams black gose proved the perfect aperitif prior to the commencement of the session. As the name suggests this Leipziger gose saw clams added to the boill. The 7 Cent lads had fun with this one, as the idea was the evolution of a wee bit of Hair of the Dog Breakfast silliness during Good Beer Week 2013. This year's incarnation came out on the sour, spritzy side - with just a low tide of a salty undercurrent.
The session got underway at 1310, good for anyone arriving via Melbourne's notoriously temperamental railway system - no need to rush. Carwyn bartender Ben Duval and Birra del Borgo's Paolo Bertani were the MCs for the day.
Italian brewers Birra del Borgo are world renowned for taking traditional beer styles and tweaking them for the modern era. In recent times they have taken a more experimental turn, with their most notable beers including Rubaeus and My Antonia - the latter of which being a hoppy lager collaborative project alongside Delaware's Dogfish Head. It is worth noting Paolo Bertani and co. produce sone 10 beer varieties annually.
Nomad, meanwhile, has its roots in importing wine into Australia via ExperienceIt (who also import craft beers from the likes of Tuatara and more). Fast forward a few years and Nomad was formed as a collective initiative between Birra del Borgo and ExperienceIt. The rest as they say is history.
Straight off the plane, Paolo got straight to it. First up: Prunus, a sour cherry ale as delicate as it is decadent. Also delicate is the art of picking the right time to bottle and keg. According to Paolo, the aim is to ensure that there is enough sour character in Prunus without it being too aggressive.
Indeed, the third incarnation of Prunus is just that. Measured sourness and tartness, with balance and freshness being particularly noticeable. This is the sort of beer that demands its place at the table alongside seasonal summer food. Slight acidity permeates throughout with a subtle vinous, almost grappa-like finish.
Nomad's Wild Mongrel took centre stage for beer number two. First, grape must was added to what was originally a pale ale base before wild yeast strains were thrown in. Small wonder then Wild Mongrel is a complex beast of a beer. Few beers are anything like it, for it straddles a strange tightrope of flavour between pale ale and wine.
The third beer to be handed to the 20 or so guests was Caos. This equally but differently vinous beer is left in a state of beauty sleep for one year for bottle-conditioning, where it is twisted daily like Champagne bottles to bring forth the yeast to the top of the neck. The whole process takes two whole years. Demand currently sits at 10,000 bottles per year - with requests coming from as far afield as Japan. On the whole it's a damn near unreachable degree of output.
This version was a preview batch - brewed with Malvasia grapes. The end result is a boundary pushing, bittersweet ale with a surprising undercurrent of Moscato-like sweetness. Indeed this is another beer equally well suited to summery imbibing as well as dinnertime food matching.
Nomad's Cultural Exchange project, made alongside Jester King, closed out proceedings nicely. Using Long Trip Saison as its base, Cultural Exchange saw Tasmanian black pepper, locally roasted coffee, Manuka smoke, wattleseed and Jester King's own yeast strain thrown in. Barrel-aged for one year, the end result is to a behemoth of a beer as complex as a legal report. Smoke dominates the palate but the effect is offset by peppery and barnyard flavours. Some drinkers may find this one challenging, but the reward is totally worth the endeavour for those who love smoky beers.
Throughout the week lunch is provided by neighbouring eatery Them Bones. On this occasion the guys prepared Reuben sandwiches with potato crisps and popcorn panacotta for dessert. Certainly not amuse bouche portions, the toasted Rueben sandwich was a meaty delight worthy of the beers on hand. A nice surprise was found in the Caos pairing neatly with the panacotta - indeed a beer does not need to be sweeter than the pudding as is the case in food and wine matching.
A huge shout out and cheers must go to Birra del Borgo's Paolo Bertani and Carwyn Cellars for hosting this fantastic lunchtime shindig. Paolo provided insightful background to both brewers' beers and everyone was made to feel more than welcome.
Tomorrow's Lazy Brewer's Lunch features Mazen Hajjar from Hawker's beer. This is a must for anyone wanting to meet and chat to one of the most influential, personable and exuberant characters in Melbourne's brewing circles. This will prove the perfect opportunity to sample Hawkers' collab with Adelaide's Wheaty Brewing Corps: a Belgian Tripel infused with rosewater and chamomile, and did I mention lobster rolls will be on the menu? Don't miss this one!
If that unrelenting thing called work stands in between you and attending any one of these fantastic beery lunches, pop in any time for a sour beer during Good Beer Week. The Carwyn Cellars boys have lined up a smashing array of beers besides those covered. Head on over to the Facebook page to see a full list of beers limed up for your puckered-up pleasure.
Finally, a special shout out must go to an old friend of mine, Peter Simpson, for repairing the un-unified code. Your services may be needed again good sir as content is being copied and pasted from a variety of sources before publication.
Pictures to follow!