Prologue: The Queen has inspired a number of beers over the years and although the story behind some of this might be questionable, I’m looking at you Crown Lager, the story behind Red Hill’s latest brew is clear. It is inspired by the brewer’s recent trip to the mother country and released to coincide with old Queeny’s 60th anniversary of her coronation.
Packaging: Nicely English – A bigger than normal 500ml bottle, stout and old fashioned, nice hand-drawn label featuring the Union Jack, a crown and some diamonds. I should say it is a radical departure from the normal (quite restrained) Red Hill labels – I do like it though.
Appearance: It’s a deep orange colour with a dense head that suggests a strong malt backbone, which would be appropriate for a British style IPA.
When we last left this seemingly never ending series of posts we examined some of the better ways to get people to try your beers (I note that Moondog had a ‘showcase’ pack in stores last week, perhaps they have been reading the blog, would have thought they had better things to do, like changing the face of the Australian beer industry) but hell everyone loves free/cheap beer so how do you covert the trial into sales?
Now although this chapter is called – ‘Getting people to buy’ it could more correctly be called ‘distribution’. As with all the other areas we have looked at there are a lot of things to consider.
Melbourne seems to be steadfastly holding onto winter even though I’m fully of the opinion that as it’s mid-August it’s about time the sun came out to play so I can go back up on to my balcony and sip a nice fruity pale ale. But it hasn’t and I haven’t, rather I’m left donning my possum wool scarf and gloves, taking refuge in warm pubs and bracing myself with high alcohol dark beers, like the two I’m going to tell you about today.
The first of these beers comes from an unexpected source, McLaren Vale Beer Company, of Vale Ale fame. Now I had dismissed them as ‘producing little more than gateway craft beers’ and ‘more interested in fancy packaging than what was in it.’ But as they now have their own brewery (which I assume they can now afford as they made gateway craft beers that appealed to a wide range of people, and had a eye for design and marketing) they are experimenting a bit more.
James Squire may have been one of the pioneers of craft beer in Australia, but to many beer geeks they have fallen off the radar, accused of being too mainstream and not a real craft brewery. Craft beer folk love the vision of the lone (possibly mad) brewer toiling away in a hot brewhouse, concocting personalised, evolving recipes and then getting that beer as fresh as possible to their local market. Well I’m here to tell you this is exactly what James Squire do.
Okay not the standard James Squire range, those with a fancy back story of a convict, thief and general scallywag turned brewer named James Squire. As an aside here does anyone else think the new outdoor campaign makes James look a little bit like a weird hipster convict on his way to a gay nightclub or is it just me? The main range is pretty standard commercial fare, brewed in volume in Sydney, pasteurised and shipped around the country. Nothing wrong with that of course, but not the thing that floats the beer snobs’ boats.
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.
On Sunday I popped along to the launch of Mildura Week at Mrs Parma’s. Mildura Week sees a range of Mildura Brewery beers on tap, including the amazing Choc Hops which I can confirm is even better on tap than it is in the bottle. In fact I’m thinking of holding an Easter egg hunt next year where the Easter eggs are replaced with bottles of Choc Hops. Safe to say best idea I’ve had in a while.
Now I’m not going to tell you much about the Mildura beers because, well I’ve done that before, but I can tell you that Stefano (of Mildura Brewery/gondoliering/owning half of Mildura fame) has conjured up a special chicken parma for the occasion featuring pesto, marinated eggplant and cherry tomatoes and it is absolutely fantastic. If you get a chance this week get into Mrs Parma’s, for their best parma this side of the Good Beer Week smoked parma.
When selecting beer to celebrate the London Olympics this beer was obviously a monty. How can you go past something that mentions London in the title of the beer? Young’s are based in London so that explains the London part of the name but why is this beer special? Well the Head Brewer has this to say about the beer; “A wonderfully balanced, deep-golden strong bottled ale. The pinnacle of Young’s brewing. Saviour and Enjoy.”
Of course this isn’t true. The Young’s Double Chocolate Stout is clearly their best beer, even I could tell that back when I knew exactly two fifths of fuck-all about beer. Almost four years later and now I know exactly three fifths, so I’ve come a long way. Continue reading →