It’s like the 18th of December for the craft beer folk today. In one weeks time our Christmas arrives. We have done away with the pointless stuff, turkey and ham, presents and kids and kept the good bit, the beer.
That’s right it’s only four days until the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular (GABS to its friends). This is a showcase of 60 brand new, never before seen/brewed/maybe never to be brewed again beers, all available in one spot – The Royal Exhibition Building, just a shortish stagger from my house, and much more convenient than its previous home at The Local Taphouse in Balaclava.
A little bit like Christmas, the more I think about it the more I’m finding it all a little daunting. I’ve studied the list of all 60 beers, tried to narrow it down to the beers I REALLY had to try, the ‘I would be disappointed if I missed these’ beers. This was a complete failure. At the end of the session of me reading descriptions and making notes like “Wow’, ‘Sounds Awesome’ and ‘Not sure I’ll like it but sounds interesting’, I reduced the list from 60 to 58. And thinking about it again, I probably want to try those three beers I excluded as well, just in case my preconceived ideas are wrong. Post script: After some personal lobbying by Dr Order’s I’ve now included them back in my list so I’m back up to 59, he assures me that his White IPA is different to other White IPA’s I’ve tried and not liked)
I started to wonder if it was possible to taste all of them. A session at GABS is four and half hours, or 270 minutes. I fully expect there to be a lot of queuing to get in, get a beer, get more tokens, so I’m going to reduce that down to 200 minutes of drinking time. If I wanted to taste all 60 beers I would have to drink one every 3 minutes and 20 seconds. Not really enough time to savour and discuss the beer. I had a thought, perhaps I could go to two sessions; that would give me almost 7 minutes a beer, which seems more manageable.
Then there is the drunk concern. Each taster is 85ml of beer, there are 5 tasters in a paddle – or 425ml of beer – 1 and half pots for you Victorian kids. My theory is that I could drink 2 maybe 3 pots of beer an hour and remain reasonably stand-upable (vaguely important as I assume they don’t have chairs there) and remain in a state where I could appreciate good beer (far more important). So that gives you 40 samples in the 4.5 hours, still only two thirds of the beers available.
I needed a better strategy, what were the most important beers? I thought about just ranking the beers 1 to 60 and working through them that way, meaning if I hit the wall at least I would have had the best beers. But this isn’t how you should taste beer.
You should taste from lightest in malt/lowest bitterness through to heaviest in malt/bitterness so as to not overwhelm your palette. This normally isn’t a problem when you go to a brewery and you are working through five or six tasters, in fact you’ll normally be told what order to drink in by the dude behind the bar. It gets more complicated when you have multiple paddles, you have to think of how the paddles work together.
Here is how I’m tackling the problem. I started with this awesome document put together by Adrian Pua. I’ve then divided the beers into what I consider to be ‘Light’, think saisons, wheat beers and ambers and what I consider to be “Malt Driven” big sweet, malty beers like Belgian ales, porters, stouts, brown ales and barleywines. And finally ‘Hop Driven’ anything with IPA in the title.
Here is how I see it, using the beer number in the table (see if you can work out which 2 beers I’ve excluded):
I then ranked the beers within each category, I’m not going to share this, because, well you need to put on you big boy pants and decide for yourself.
I figure I can probably fit in four maybe five paddles into a session with relative ease and without reducing the whole exercise to just racking up numbers. Here is how I’m going to tackle it:
Paddle 1 – Beers 1 to 5 in the ‘light category’
Paddle 2 – Beers 1 to 5 in the ‘Malt’ category
Paddle 3 – Beers 6-10 in the ‘Malt’ category
At this point I’ll reassess. If I’m travelling well, I’ll insert a bonus paddle, if I’m are running out of time/stamina, then go straight to Paddle 4. I’ve inserted it here, because it’s easier to go from roasty/malt driven beers back to light rather than from hoppy to light. Notice we haven’t had any hop bombs yet.
Bonus Paddle – A mixture of all three categories (basically a top five from the leftovers and drink them light to malt to hop)
Paddle 4 – Beers 1-5 in the ‘Hops’ category.
After much deliberation (and some free tickets from The Age, thanks guys) I’ve decided to do two sessions so I’m going for the approach above for session one and then:
Paddle 1 – Beers 6 to 10 in the ‘light category’
Paddle 2 – Beers 11 to 15 in the ‘Malt’ category
Paddle 3 – Beers 16 & 17 in the ‘Malt’ category and beers 6,7,8 from the Hop category
Paddle 4 – Beers 9-13 from the ‘Hop’ category
Then revisit the stuff I really liked either in sample or big glass form.
I figure I can taste at least 45 of the beers on offer over the two sessions I should be there. The Friday and Saturday afternoons if you would like to catch up for a beer if you are there, or break into my house if you are a filthy dirty criminal.
Oh and then when I’m done with GABs there are still the seven days of Good Beer Week, going to be a fantastic time to be in Melbourne.