Fremantle is considered by many to be the birthplace of the modern craft beer movement in Australia as the original home to Matilda Bay (via the Sail and Anchor Pub) and of course of Australia’s most popular craft brewery, Little Creatures. Please note that I have no proof of the popularity of Little Creature so if you are one of those nit pickers don’t make a comment that you think blah blah brewery is more popular, or indeed that Little Creatures ownership means that they are no longer a craft brewery.
So whilst everyone else was at the Victorian Microbrewers Showcase at Fed Square last Thursday I managed to busy myself with a couple of other beery treats. My night started at my go-to place to meet people before doing anything.
That place is Penny Blue, tucked behind the GPO building, or as I like to think about it near the vortex of the Bourke Street, Swanston Street and Collins Street trams, which means easy for everyone to get to. If you haven’t been to Penny Blue then do yourself a favour and get down there (although not when I’m there as I don’t like crowds) as they have a great selection of (mainly bottled) brews.
If you find yourself in the CBD of Melbourne, in fact pretty much right in the middle of the city, just near the GPO building and you are looking for a place to have a few drinks then you can do much worse than popping into Penny Blue for a beer or two.
Now you won’t have too much trouble finding something interesting to drink, it’s more likely that you will struggle to narrow down the choice to just one beer. More than once here I’ve entered into a decision daze where I’m left staring at the fridge or beer list unsure of what to choose.
I did manage to make some choices when I was there a couple of days ago. I started the journey with Moondog Black Lung II. The first sign that Penny Blue is a seriously good beer bar (apart from the three hand pumps sitting on the bar) was that I was asked if I would like my drink at room temperature rather than from the fridge. Seriously when was the last time a bar asked you that when ordering a stout? Also as you can see from the photo they then pour it into a wine style glass and give you both the glass and the empty bottle to take back to your oversized couch.
Spectapular is now a word that is in the vocabulary of even those who have only just dipped their toes in the frothy water of the craft beer pond. The Spectapular that they are familiar with was the giant four day long festival held at the Royal Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne.
This weekend it was Spectapular time again, but instead of the giant beast it was back to the roots of these events with the Local Taphouse in Melbourne which was decked out in checked tablecloths and the kegs filled with special Italian brews.
So Good Beer Week is over for another year and I’m now currently in my detox phase which I imagine might last a good while. Many have called this the ‘coming of age’ of the Australian beer scene and you won’t hear any disagreement from me. I can only imagine how big next year’s event is likely to be.
I understand you haven’t heard from me for a while, the last daily report was last Wednesday. But fear not I didn’t end up in a gutter somewhere, the truth was Thursday was a very quiet day, as I was not feeling the best I did a couple of beers at the Rainbow and that was about it. I can tell you however that the Thirsty Crow Vanilla Stout that I had was absolutely stunning. It poured jet black with little head, smelled of vanilla and tasted of the same. It was the perfect dessert beer, in fact it made me instantly want to go out and find some churros and chocolate dipping sauce to drink it with. Well actually, realizing I wasn’t going to top it I just went home, but still a Jug worthy beer.
When a plumber starts swearing you know you are not going to have the best of days. This is how yesterday started for me. Those playing along at home will know that on Monday I ripped out a pantry so that the plumber could look at a leaky downpipe. It turns out that the leaky downpipe is not a leaky downpipe at all but rather a rusted through metal roof and what seemed like a simple fix will now drag on for a few more days whilst everyone considers how to fix it.
On a related note I now need someone to build me a new pantry, if anyone knows of a handyman/cabinet maker/joinery person who doesn’t mind doing smallish jobs, drop me a line on the email address over there on the left.
With Mr Mistoffles still rolling through my brain for the about the 18th straight hour (both Moondog and Andrew Lloyd Webber have a lot to answer for) I wandered back up to the Royal Exhibition Buildings Good Beer Week Day 1 – GABS & Some brief Tassie Actionfor my second session of the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular. It became immediately apparent that this was not going to be the same as Friday afternoon’s session, there were a lot more people and long queues pretty much from the outset.
In fact there were waits of up to 45 minutes for beer (at about 2.15pm), but having said that, the actual bars were working quickly and the delays seemed to be caused more by the stupidity of the masses i.e. people tasting beers 1 to 5 and not getting out of the way of people trying to get to beer 20, or getting to the front of the queue and then deciding to pick their beers. I’ve learnt over the years that it doesn’t matter how good your systems are you can never engineer out the stupidity of man.
Surprisingly given the scarcity of table space, the queuing and the presence of alcohol and weapons in the forms of paddles, everyone was still in a excellent mood and I didn’t see any agro and inappropriate behavior over the 9 hours I was there. Proving once again that if people can be taught to appreciate beer for something more than a tool to drunkenness and are treated like adults they will act like decent humans beings.
So again well done to the Local Taphouse guys, this was an amazing event.
But you’re here for the beers so let’s look at some highlights:
Wig and Pen ‘This beer is not real craft.’ I’m told Richard Watkins the brewer wanted to swim against the tide and produce a nice palate cleanser to counteract all the big hop, big malt, multiple yeast strain beers. Well he achieved it, a nice little tart beer which isn’t mouth puckeringly so, it also has a hint of fruit in the tail – Jug.
Mountain Goat’s Top Paddock: We were asked to ‘guess that ingredient’ with this one, and I think the answer is Cassia Bark, mainly because this beer tastes like a lighter version of the New Holland which came out earlier this year brewed by Angus Williams at Red Duck. I liked that beer and I like this one too – Pint.,
Invercargill Red Hot Chocolate – This had a wonderful chocolate smoothness in the silky body then a lull of a second before the chilli comes through and kicks you in the head. Brilliant – Pint.
Tuatara Double Trouble – This is a brilliantly balanced beer, really sweet malt backbone and then some seriously big fruity hop flavours – Great Stuff – Jug.
And finally for those of you playing at home you’ll know that in my plans for the weekend I excluded a couple of beers that I thought I wasn’t interested in, one of them being the Doctor’s Orders White IPA. This led to the good doctor himself tweeting me to tell me to give it a chance because it was good. Well I’m happy to report I did, and it is. It had none of the lemony tartness I’d experienced in white IPAs before and was a good sessionable beer rather than a hop monster. Pint
So that is the wrap up from GABS, I managed to try 46 of the beers on offer and there weren’t too many I was disappointed by. The main thing I learnt, well confirmed really is that the New Zealand beer scene is outstanding. The event was awesome, but I now switch to Good Beer Week mode.
And where better to start GBW than my traditional home The Courthouse in North Melbourne, which this week is the Tasmanian Pint of Origin pub. We popped in for a super quick beer last night, picking up Seven Sheds Razzamatazz, which is a fantastic little beer, light and very fun. It’s like a raspberry sorbet in a glass, helped along by the fact that it’s not too sweet and has spritzy carbonation. This beer made both myself and Jord smile after the first sip and you can’t ask for too much more than that – Pint.
So after much waiting Good Beer week is upon us, or at least the great Australasian Beer Spectapular is upon us. I’m happy to report I was the first person through the door at 12 noon and throughout the afternoon managed to taste 26 different beers, partake in some excellent food from the Gumbo kitchen and even managed to catch up with a few friends here and there.
First things first, I’ll admit I fully expected GABS to be a nightmare of queuing and general shamble-ness, but it actually ran very smoothly, bars were quick and tokens were easy to get, which made for a generally relaxing afternoon, even if this was the least busy session, which I fully expect bodes well. Well done to the Local Taphouse guys.
But I guess what you want to know is what were the beery highlights. Well here they are;
Murray’s Bob’s Farmhouse Ale The first beer I tried (why I started at 9% beer is anyone’s guess. It was a fabulous beer, sweet and complex and agricultural and it perfectly hid the alcohol content, could drink this all day – Pint
Moondog Mr Mistoffelees although it led to much singing, and Jordan hates Cats (the musical, not the animal) this was a great beer. It smelt strange like you were under a fruit tree in late summer surrounded by rotting fruit, it was sour and sweet all at the same time, very nice. Pint
2Brothers Bloody Oak this was the first beer of the day to make me sit back and exclaim ‘Wow’. It smelt of sweet cherries and brown sugar, sweet and luxurious, and just brilliant. Jug.
Renaissance Stonecutter Oak nothing to do with Steve Guttenberg unfortunately, but still an outstanding beer, all the goodness of the regular stonecutter which I love but with added complexity, yet still drinkable and approachable, stunning -Jug.
Epic Zythos Seriously good IPA great hops tones, and very very refreshing. Jug
Yeastie Boys Gunnamatta I really liked this. The tea was there in the front of the sip and then the hops came through, although I have to say the tea took the edge off the hops making a very balanced brew. Pint.
So there it is,a top six. Shout out to Temple for their Smoked Weizen, the Lord Nelson Last Consignment, 4 Pines Beetroot Belgian and the Mornington Grouch which were all very good.
So all in all a good day had by all and I’m back tomorrow to try a few more brews. As a side note I caught up with a couple of not beery friends who would normally be drinking Peroni and they were loving the afternoon and the Boatrocker, so it would seem the event is converting people to craft beer, which is the main thing.