Boatrocker Rarities @ Carwyn Cellars (Sat 21 May 2016 – Good Beer Week)
Does it get any better than this? Surely it does not!
What has been described as the best Good Beer Week ever saw the festival reach its sizzling climax with Boatrocker taking over Carwyn Cellars on the afternoon of Saturday 21 May 2016. Boatrocker Rarities and the Beers That Inspired Them: Even reading the name fills one with the sort of giddy excitement before setting foot into a stadium for a headline performance by a favourite band. Only this is indulgence of taste rather than sound.
Moreover, like several live acts, some of the beers being showcased on this day have not been seen in Australia in over four years – if at all. As the name suggested it wasn’t only Boatrocker’s own fantastic creations on show – each would be paired alongside a similar creation that helped inspire it. There was no secret it would have been easier rescuing a traveller from Brasilian captors than acquiring some of the kegs for this most special of events.
Joining Matt Houghton in providing insight into each beer was Carwyn Cellars’ very own Ben Duval – whose knowledge of beer is damn near unparalleled – and Phoenix Beers’ “Mr. Beer” Geoff Hanson. To paraphrase Oz Clarke: “A little bit of knowledge greatly increases the appreciation” – a statement especially true of such rare and unsurpassed offerings.
First up was the match-up of Boatrocker's Brambic and Cantillon's unblended 2015 Lambic (one year old I believe). Both sours are completely uncarbonated – a characteristic that allows woody notes to come to the fore. One is a New World modern take on the style (not spontaneously fermented), the other constituent part of a classic gueuze. Suffice it to say both are more rare than violet diamonds - but infinitely more satisfying. Matt Houghton went on to explain turbid mashing, a staggered increases in temperature throughout the boil is utilised in sour beer.
Equally as rare, Boatrocker's Framboise was showcased next. An amazing raspberry sour, Framboise was made from the Brambic base before being aged in French vanilla oak barrels. Truly Boatrocker's interpretation of the style is heaven in a glass. Balanced, measured and even a brew your "I can't stand the smell of beer" mother would love. On the nose it's gentle but somehow assertive with raspberry character dominating. The same could be said of the palate, though there is an underlying layer of funk - further accentuated by its lustrous mouthfeel. Moreover, Framboise is great with cheese -especially the French comte (made with raw cow's milk) on offer.
Cantillon’s Fou’ Foune took its place alongside Boatrocker Framboise – a beer that has not graced our shores in over four years. Promises made at boozy long lunches are all too rarely followed through – not so here. As Geoff Hanson explained, Cantillon were promised the best apricots in Belgium to make an apricot sour beer. Sure enough, 300kg arrived one fateful morning at the brewery’s doorstep. The rest as they say is history – tasty, tasty history. Fou’ Foune opens with an apricot-cream aroma with an underlying layer of funk, followed by luscious apricot-driven tartness and just the right amount of woody tannin. It too helped Jarlsberg’s more delicate flavours to shine – so too the charcuterie on offer at the table.
|Boatrocker's phenomenal Flanders Red ale|
Admittedly, Flanders Red is a style I'm not overly fond of. Or so I thought. Boatrocker's interpretation of the famously red Flemish red ale blew me and my mind eight ways from Sunday. Massive notes of cherry, raspberry, dark fruit and a lot more besides took my breath away. For company, it was matched up with Rodenbach Caractere Rouge, brewed with cherries, raspberries and cranberries. It is worth noting it's best to let this one sit over the palate for a brief moment to allow the nuances to shine through. But I daresay I find the overall character of Rodenbach beers to be a touch on the sweet side. Everyone's palate is different!
Then, the 60 or so punters were given permission to go head first into the big stuff. Two glorious qudrupel-stye ales: Boatrocker Sterk & Donker and De Struise XXX rye Bourbon barrel-aged Quad Reserva. Both were as immense as they were complex, with the former boasting huge notes of date and dark dried fruit; the latter a sumptuous, layered and engaging experience with toffee, honey and Bourbon notes singing in perfect harmony. I was thrilled to have sampled a Bourbon barrel-aged quadrupel, having never thought such a thing might so much as exist.
Finally, coffee infused Ramjet and Founders' KBS rounded out the show. Fresh coffee coursed through Ramjet like a speedboat to heaven while KBS' famously rotund complexity and intensity made it a hard choice between the two. Not that it was a competition. Indeed, Ramjet presented a "streamlined" flavour experience - direct flavour impact! KBS, meanwhile, is worthy of the hype. It’s not hard to see how it has helped inspire Matt Houghton and Boatrocker to conjure up the Ramjet concept.
A massive thanks must go to the Carwyn Cellars crew, Matt Houghton and Phoenix Beers' Geoff Hanson for staging this wonderful event. It's hard to comprehend just how difficult it was acquiring the beers on show, and how much behind the scenes effort went into it. But I'm sure the guys will know just how worthwhile it was. This is what life is all about - pure sensory indulgence at its utmost.
Good Beer Week 2016 may be over, however every week is a good beer week at Carwyn Cellars! If you have never been, do yourself a favour and get on down for what must be the most consistently awesome tap list going. Not only that, Carwyn Cellars is as steadfast dedicated to other beverages too - be it fine wine, whisky or artisanal spirits. There is always something interesting going on and the best part is the folks on either side of the bar are among the most welcoming and friendly in town. No matter if you are new to craft beer or artisanal spirits or a seasoned expert, there is something here for everyone.
Head on over to Carwyn's Facebook page, give them a like and stay in the loop for all things good beer and great times.
More interesting facts
* Boatrocker’s Framboise is made with Yarra Valley raspberries and fermentation is kick-started by the addition of young Lambic (3-6 months old)
* The name Lambic comes from the Lambeek region of Belgium. Much like Bourbon, Champagne or Pilsner, a Lambic must have come from that very region. (To that end the Lambic name – much like Bourbon – should be capitalised when referencing the beverage – in my humble opinion!)
* In beer, the terms Old and New World are open to interpretation, however strictly speaking the definition of “New World” means a regional style being interpreted and made elsewhere.
* Rodenbach beers are pasteurised.
* De Struise is a modern Belgian brewery based in what used to be a school.
* Founders’ KBS is based on the original Breakfast Stout recipe with chocolate coated coffee beans added to the brew. It is then aged in barrels at a constant temperature of 4º thus ensuring the best possible consistency.