The Six Pack of brewing success – Part 3 – Trial

The Casual Cravat

Welcome to part three of the Six Pack of Brewing Success. Now I know I promised that it would take six weeks to get through this series and that was seven weeks ago where only now are we at the half way mark, but in my defence, I drink quite a bit and I get distracted easily so you know, live with it.

Previously we have talked about what to make and how to brand it, now it’s time to move to the all important step of getting people to try the product.

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Beer and Reading - where it's at man...

Prologue:  Yeah so that isn’t a word. For once it’s not my poor spelling either, there is meant to be a random Q in the middle of that beer name. I assume it’s meant to be pronounced Prankster. I also assume the kids from North Coast Brewing (California, USA) have some reason for putting it there, but I can’t find said reason on the interwebs, and I’m not a fan of it. It feels all SMS 14 year old speak to me LOL, RFOL, IMHO.
Packaging: As much as I hate the name, I love the labelling. I enjoy the old world style that all of the North Coast Brewing beers have, The whale logo is cool, but more importantly here is the olde worlde tavern scene, which is absolutely appropriate for this old world Belgian Style Golden ale.

Close-up of the Label

Appearance:  It is a light golden colour. I expected a little more colour in there, it also has a white, slightly foamy, rocky head. 
Smell:  Belgian, which is to say dominated by yeasty, bready, slightly funky sweet fruity smells.  
Taste:  It is a sweet beer, again dominated by the yeast, with a touch of honey in there as well. It has a slight boozy punch in the aftertaste which makes this just a touch rougher than the generally smooth and luxurious Belgians it’s modelled on.
Having said this, the ABV of this beer is 7.6% and you would never know that from the taste, so suggesting it’s a little boozy might be a tad harsh. 
Suggested Reading: I’ve started a little tradition, if I’m tasting beers by myself I’ll go up to the balcony, take a beer and my copy of the Keith Deutsher book ‘The Breweries of Australia: A History’, which is an amazing book (although now a touch outdated, but I hear there is a updated version on the way) that tells the story of every brewery ever to exist in Australia. I open at a random page and read about breweries until I run out of beer.
In conclusion: Good, very very good. It’s not a Belgian classic, but it is bloody close to it.     
Ranking:  I’ll have a Pint

Moons and Dogs, a couple of birds and a skunk.

You may remember all the way back in the post about the 2birds launch I gave mention to another newish brewery Moondog, suggesting that if 2birds were playing it safe with a highly sessionable pale ale then Moondog were the other end of the spectrum, pushing the beer-stained  envelope. 

Today’s beer is the Moondog Brewery Skunkworks Cognac Barrel Aged Double IPA. Not a beer to be ordered in a loud nightclub, much easier to yell ‘Pot of Caaaarlton thanks’ over the din of the latest Lady Gaga ‘tune’ than Moondog’s Dr Seuss inspired moniker. 

I think it’s safe to say that Moondog are definitely producing beers aimed directly to the beer geek.  This is evidenced by the label, in an unusual move in beer circles it lists every ingredient, not just the standard malt, water, hops, yeast and time. Nope this one tells you the three different malt types, the six different hops and the type of yeast. It tells you a bunch of figures and abbreviations, most of which I didn’t understand, except IBU of 105 (warning to craft beer newbies, this figure of 105 means this is a big, challenging, very bitter IPA – approach with caution).

The beer pours a browny amber colour with a solid tea coloured head. The interesting thing was there were hops in my glass, clearly they are using fresh hops in the cognac barrels this is aged in, and then,

Bits of hops in my beer....

strangely these are not filtered out (or their quality control is just awful, as I can find any other reviews that mention this). I guess it proves how hoppy it is, but it was a little concerning having all this green mucky stuff sitting in the bottom of my glass. It also meant I couldn’t drink the last 30ml, which was a real shame.

The smell was interesting, a lot sweeter than I was expecting, there were a mixture of hops notes, including citrus, pine and very sweet marmalade and apricot tones.

The taste was also a lot sweeter than I was expecting. They obviously knew this was going to be very bitter so ramped up the malt bill to balance that out, but I actually think they have pushed it too far in the sweet direction. I was drinking this with Jord and we agreed that it tasted a more like a highly hopped Barley Wine rather than a traditional IPA. 

In fact this was like two beers in one, a big sweet malty beer in the sip, and then a big bitter hop bomb in the aftertaste. And that aftertaste does really linger, although it seemed to come in waves, bitterness, then sweetness, and then more bitterness, and this continues on for 30-40 seconds.

It’s a fascinating beer, a beer for real beer wankers, one to be considered and discussed and loved and hated. We discussed at length what rating to give it and eventually decided on a Pint

I really enjoyed this beer, but I’m not sure I could have drunk another one (at least not right away), and here in lies the rub from Moondog. Sure this is twice the price of 2Birds Golden Ale, but I happily drank five 2birds in a session, and you simply couldn’t do that with this, it would be one and then onto something a bit less challenging. At this stage 2birds looks like the safer business model.  This video about Moondog suggests even they know that:

 Are there enough beer wankers out there to support the crazy breweries like Moondog? I sure hope so, because I am excited to see what they are going to come up with next.

 Six degrees of Norm (where we prove all beers can be linked back to Norm from Cheers in six easy steps):

  1.  Moondog always makes me think of greeting card company Moonpig
  2. A Moonpig always makes me think about ‘Pigs in Space‘
  3. Which was a segment on The Muppet Show
  4. A segment which John Cleese starred for an episode
  5. And John Cleese also featured in an episode of Cheers as a marriage counsellor helping Diane Chambers.
  6. And Diane Chambers of course served beers to Norm.  

Kooinda Valhalla Golden Ale

Prologue:  A little while ago I told you a tale of some post sport drinks in Northcote where I worked my way through a big Black IPA whilst looking on jealously as Jord and Chris quaffed their friendly, easy to drink Golden Ales.

Over the weekend I thought it was about time for me to get a bit of that Golden Ale action so I picked up a six pack of Kooinda’s Valhalla Golden Ale.

As well as being a beer, Valhalla is the place that big strong viking warriors go when they die. Valhalla (or ‘hall of the slain’ if like me you can speak fluent ancient Norse) is basically a big hall, where some dude called Odin is chucking a party. It sounds like a reasonable party, there are some Germanic kings, a golden roof, a huge living tree in the middle of the hall, a stag (I assume this is where the term stag party came from) and a goat.

And I can only assume that that if the dead Viking warrior wandered through to the bathroom he would find that Odin has filled the bath with ice and shedloads for some  homebrew which he neighbour makes, he even convinced them to call it  Valhalla Golden Ale (Clearly in this version of the story Valhalla is located in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, next to Kooinda Brewery)  

Packaging: I’m still not a fan of the Kooinda logos/labels, although I do note they are getting all web 7.3 with the inclusion of a facebook page and twitter account. With all this embracing of technology by breweries it’s probably only a matter of time before someone makes Google beer

Appearance:  It’s dull golden colour, unfiltered, so a little hazy. It poured with solid one finger head, but then disappeared quickly, leaving was some reasonable lacing on the glass.

Taste:  There is nothing too challenging about this beer, It’s approachable, easy to drink. It is just so well balanced, a touch of sweetness at the front of the sip and this some hoppy bitterness coming through at the end, bringing with it some fruity tones, but nothing too overpowering.      

In conclusion: As I was drinking this I commented to Jord “This could be out summer drink.” That’s because this is just such a good simple, refreshing drink, meaning you would be happy to drink many of these, preferably in the sun. Think of it as the thinking person’s Sunday session beer.

Ranking:  I’ll have a Pint

6 Degrees of Norm (Where we prove all beers can be traced back to Norm from Cheers):  

  1. Valhalla is the name of this beer, it was also the subject of the movie ‘Valhalla Rising’
  2. Which starred awesomely named Mads Mikkelsen
  3. Who is also in ‘The Three Musketeers’ with Orlando Bloom
  4. Who was in ‘New York, I love you’, as was James Caan
  5. Who played Walter in the movie ‘Elf’, which they are turning into a Broadway show
  6. In this show the role of Santa will be played by George Wendt AKA Norm from Cheers.  

    Valhalla - looks to be a good house party.


James Squire Golden Ale

Prologue:  James Squire is another of those interesting cross over brewers. Not mainstream enough to be loved by the blue singlet, swirling beers from eskys brigade, but too mainstream to be embraced by the trilby wearing, sipping beers in a darkly lit gastro pub crew.

It sits somewhere in between, but when faced with a tap selection that is limited to the Lion Nathan conglomerate it becomes a more than worthy option.

We have spoken about the Sundowner Lager, but this time we ventured a little further up the tap selection to get the Golden Ale.

Packaging:  I’m writing this from the picture you can see above because mine came straight out of the tap into my pot glass. I like the James Squire font, it’s classy and looks just a little bit fancy, there is some writing on there, but god only knows what it says, and a picture of some wheat, which I believe to be the most picturesque of all      

Of course this is the old packaging, look out for the all new packaging which should be working it way into stores around now, and it comes with it’s own marketing story bullshit

Appearance: It lives up to its name – It is very golden, tending almost towards the honey end of the golden scale (if there is such a thing as a golden scale). It had a white head, which ended up turning a little wispy and left lacing throughout the drink.

Taste: There are some bitter flavours here, fruit, sweetness of honey, but all of the flavours are a little dumbed down. You get the feeling they could have produced something fantastic here, but then they dialled it down to appeal to the masses, which is a real shame.   

In conclusion:  If you are choosing between this and the real microbreweries or even the macro owned micros like Matilida Bay and Little Creatures/White Rabbit then I would forego this. But if you are faced with a rack of commercially orientated Lion Nathan, or even CUB or worse still Pale Euro Lager taps, then this is probably one of the best options.   

Ranking:  Let’s have a schooner