It really was a Good Beer Week….

The wonderful Thirsty Crow Vanilla Stout

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.

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Good Beer Week – Day 5. Goats, Tasmanians and the Tramway

Dark brews at The Tramway

Today was meant to be a relatively quiet day. I had planned to do not too much more than going to Goat and Goat at the Royal Mail Hotel, which is just down the road.We figured we would have couple of goaty beers, eat some spit roasted goat and be home tucked up in bed nice and early. Well plans changed as plans tend to in Good Beer Week.

It started when Andre and I decided to pop into the Courthouse for a few Tassie brews on our way to the Royal Mail. Regular readers will know I’ve been to the Courthouse twice already this week and with this visit I can now say I’ve successfully completed one of the Pint of Origin pubs. That is I’ve drank all the beers on offer which I wish to drink.

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Good Beer Week Day 4 – West Australian Brews

Dinner at the Great Northern

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.

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Good Beer Week Day 3 – A New South Wales and Tassie

To justify having a week off work to drink beer in various pubs I had to tell myself that I would use the mornings to do all of those annoying little jobs that you never get time to do. Yesterday being the first workday it was time for the first job – pulling out the kitchen pantry.

It’s long involved story, but the basics are there are some downpipes that run behind our pantry, they are leaking. The plumber can’t fix them because they are behind the built in pantry, but the plumber can’t take out the pantry to get to the pipes, because, well that’s not his job. That’s where I come in. As I have absolutely no handyman skills it took quite a lot longer than I expected to get the stupid pantry out, and that meant I was running behind for the rest of the day.

But fear not because I still managed to fit in more than enough beers and managed a little crawl between four different pubs/events despite the late start.

Logically I started at my home pub the Courthouse for another couple of Tasmanian brews. Both were breweries I’d not heard of, once again proving the whole purpose of Good Beer Week and in particular the Pint of Origin concept.

First up was Morrisons Brewery which is a brewery all of 6 months old based in Launceston. I partook in one of their three standard beers the Irish Red Ale. It was a nice gentle beer, not too carbonated and with a slight hop bitterness but not too much. A nice easy drinking brew for when you are having a few beers on a cold winters afternoon, which I imagine the get a lot of in Tassie. Schooner

GBW is fast turning into a new Melbourne-centric game where you have to time your dash from pub to pub to miss the 4 minute long downpours that have been happening all week. As the weather was turning outside it became porter time inside, in particular the Ironhouse Porter, from, you guessed it Iron House brewery which is located on the stunning east coast of Tasmania and opened 5 years ago. Their porter was easy drinking (for a porter) it had a nice roasted grain flavour and was a touch sweet, it has almost no carbonation and finished quite dry, if I was being critical I say it strayed a little bit on the thin side for this beer geek, but a good little sipper none the less – Schooner

Then it was off the Rainbow hotel in Carlton to meet my brother (via Little Creatures for a free pot of their GABS beer Little Rabbit, which I still thought was a strange beer, essentially an over-hopped Belgian which doesn’t really work for me). The Rainbow is the home of the NSW beers in the Pint of Origin and they have a few brews that have not been available in Melbourne town before.

There are a number of beers from ‘The Rocks; brewing company, which as I understand it is located at Hart’s pub which seems to be a favourite haunt of many of the Sydney beer people I know. I tried their Golden Ale, called The Governor which was again a nice sessionable brew, light in colour and moderately hopped (with fruit tones), there was something a little off with the smell, but otherwise a very pleasant drink. Schooner.

Their real standout beer though is the Celebration Belgian ale, which is very sweet, particularly at the start of the sip, but then that sweetness carries through and sits in your mouth and lingers after you have finished. A seriously good beer. Pint

After a quick dash over to Smith Street cellars for some free Moo Brew and Josie Bones food it was back to The Rainbow and one last beer – The 4 Pines ESB which again is a good solid beer, I found that the malt dominated the taste and I didn’t find it to be very bitter or hoppy at all. The purists will tell you it’s not to style, but what the hell I enjoyed it anyway – Pint

Good Beer Week Day 2 – A tale of Moondogs, Dinosaurs and some bits of wire.

Life is a blur at the Royston

Now that I had finished with GABS it was onto Good Beer Week proper. the days started with a hearty brunch and then made a detour past Etihad stadium to watch what can only loosely be called a game of football. Not wanting to hear the ‘Sons of the West’ and wanting to forget about the game a quickly as possible as soon as the siren blew we made for the exit, jumped a tram and twenty or so minutes later we were out our first beery point of call for the day, the always underrated Mrs Parmas.

We were there for what I’m going to start calling the traditional Moonparma event. Last year it was Moondog’s Coconut and Pineapple beer matched with a Hawaiian parma. This year Moondog have gone a little more traditional with a smoked altbier, whilst Mrs Parma and her Chef’s have got more wacky, this year the crumbed chicken is topped with sauerkraut, bratwurst and smoked Chutney.

I’m here to tell you that the Moondog Kaiser Saute was fantastic, in my opinion it’s close to the best beer that Moondog have put out, it was sweet, almost caramel with a hint of smoke and some alcohol heat in the aftertaste, perfect for the freezing cold afternoon. Pint. The parma was even better, in fact it was so good it made us ponder why all parmas don’t come with sausages on the top. If you find yourself hungry at any point during Good Beer Week get down to Mrs Parmas, I assure you, you will not regret it.

We couldn’t stay however, after a second Moondog it was time to jump on another tram to travel across to New Zealand, which for this week has moved to the Royston in Richmond. Now you may remember that I claimed yesterday the NZ beer scene was more advanced than Australia’s so the line-up of NZ brews had a lot to live up to.

We started in safe territory with 8 Wired’s Haywire, which is a highly hopped wheat beer, and boy was it hopped. I fear for anyone picking this up thinking they were getting a nice gentle wheat beer, instead It’s more like an IPA with a slightly floury body. A great beer – Pint.

Next up was the Tautara Pale Ale, which was just a pretty run of the mill pale ale. I guess any other week of the year you would be happy with this beer, but this is good beer week I won’t settle for just a sessionable and enjoyable pale ale when there is so much else to try. Schooner. It did however start the biggest fight of the evening over what a Tautara was, Andre was claiming lizard I was claiming modern dinosaur. Pretty sure Andre was right, kind of.

Emerson’s Bookbinder is a beer I see in the bottleshop many a time but never buy because it doesn’t really look interesting enough. But it is GBW and time to try things so this was the next choice.  Safe to say not buying it all those times was the right choose. Both Andre and Jord claimed it had a stale like quality to it, and Andre went as far as calling it manky. I didn’t bother finishing it. Pot

We got back on track with an Epic Armageddon which is always an outstanding beer. Then it was time for dessert, the Royston’s amazing sticky date pudding which got wow’s from both our table and the table next to us. We coupled this with 8 Wired’s Tall Poppy which was a nice beer, but again not ground breaking, in fact it reminded me a lot of Mountain Goats Hightail ale (which is not a bad thing at all). It had a great caramel backbone, for some reason I thought it would be hoppier (for no other reason than poppy rhymes with hoppy, logic is not one of my strong points) A good little beer well matched to a sweet sticky dessert Pint.

We then finished off with the 8 Wired Big Smoke, which is an outstanding beer. The beers tonight were a little hit and miss, but we did get to try some new brews and had some great food along the way. A good afternoon/evening had by all.

Good Beer Week Day 1 – GABS & Some brief Tassie Action

Managed to rescue five glass from GABs

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.

A GABS drinking strategy

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:
Session 1:
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: 
Session 2:
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.

Good Beer Week at Mrs Parmas

It would be hard to spend any time in the beer fuelled blog world without hearing about Good Beer Week. That’s right down here in Melbourne Town we are nearing the end of a week long festival of craft brewing.

I have heard of the exploits of many of the Melbourne beer blogging mafia and looked on with envy. My problem has been that I have been sick all week, struck down with Man Flu. (a cold by any other name) This, combined with my absence from the country recently had limited my beery adventures.

But I summoned up all my strength and went on a (little) drinking trip last night. To do this I first had to go to work (which was a mistake, although on the plus side I’ve probably made a whole bunch of other people sick just in time for the weekend) and collect Jordan and Frewy.

Then it was off to Mrs Parmas for the Gidget goes Doggy, which is an exceeding  stupid name for an event, but it signaled the partnering of Moondog brewery and Mrs Parmas in a Hawaiian themed extravaganza.

Moondog had provided a very special beer for the occasion. The George Freeth Memorial Tropical Brown Ale. The first question everyone asks is who the god diggens is George Freeth? Well according to the interwebs he is thought to be the father of modern surfing, and that’s him Up there on the left.

The second question is what is the Tropical Brown ale?. Well Moondog claim it’s the closest thing to pina colada you will find in a beer. It a brown ale, meaning it’s malty, but with hints of Pineapple and Coconut in it. It sounds awesome I know. But does it live up to the claim? – Almost.

Now I should start this review by explaining that I had a terrible head cold and was doped up to within a inch of my life so couldn’t really taste anything, Jordan wasn’t much better (but was whining about it a lot less, because well she isn’t the giant sook that I am) so we are relying heavily on Frewy’s tasting skills for this review (thanks Frewy I owe you one)

The Moondog brew was a cloudy light brown colour, I inhaled deeply and could sense the pineapple scents. I was struggling to get much flavour at the front of sip, although Frewy claims crystal malts, and a slight roasted flavour. I did however pick up the pineapple flavours in the aftertaste (coming I suspect from the hops). None of us however could find the coconut. Overall it was a great beer though, really interesting, and perfectly suited to some sips on the beach (Although I think you can only get it an Mrs Parma’s so that might be hard) We all agreed it was Pint worthy.

Next up we tried Bright’s Topaz Harvest beer. This is a Marzen (ain’t they everywhere all of a sudden?) that uses the Topaz variety of hops. It is a golden colour with a wispy head, which sits around and laces down the glass with each sip. Strangely it smelt sweet. Investigations this morning say the hops give paw paw and passionfruit characters, so that would make some sense then. It is more Ale than Lager in its carbonation, which I liked, but Frewy thought was a shortcoming.  There was a nice malty, almost biscuit body, with a fruity hoppy aftertaste. A very drinkable beer.

There was much arguing over the rating for this one, with everything from a Pot to a Pint being mentioned. In the interests of harmony I’ll spilt the difference and give it a Schooner.

So if you get a chance get into some Good Beer Week action. If I make a remarkable recovery I might even make it to the Kiwi Spectapular a Local Taphouse tomorrow. You can check it all out at http://www.goodbeerweek.com

Rankings:

The George Freeth Memorial Tropical Brown Ale: I’ll have a pint thanks

Bright Topaz Harvest: Let’s have a Schooner

Six degrees of Norm: Where we prove that all beers can be linked back to Norm from Cheers in 6 easy steps:

  1. We enjoyed these beers are Mrs Parma’s at the top end of Little Bourke Street in the City.
  2. Anyone who went to uni in the city in the late 90’s will know that Mrs Parmas used to be a different bar.
  3. And that bar was called Cheers
  4. Which was a rip of bar in Cheers the TV show (it even had the same logo)
  5. Although it was actually a beer barn that was famous for ‘Toss the Boss’ nights
  6. So it was nowhere near as good as the Cheers that Norm drunk in

Long Bow Youtube Clip: I can’t explain the vision, but the song is Jewel Theives by The Lucksmiths, which has a nice surfer vibe to it and involves, well, thieving jewels, like Topaz. (See how clever that is?)