Zombie Frangelics

My brother is really quite a nice fella and I was reminded of this over the last week or so when I had a couple of brews that he played a hand in procuring for me.

The first was a beer which has a stupid amount of hype around it and I think it might be that hype which made me a little non plussed. It might have also been that I drank it at half time of the North vs West Coast final and was thus not in a happy mood.

Now I’m not saying that Epic’s Hop Zombie is not a great beer, because it bloody well is I’m just not sure it was the life changing, most amazing beer you’ll ever taste experience that everyone seemed to be telling me it was. Also if you haven’t already got a bottle in the cupboard, don’t bother trying to find one, they were all sold out in about three days. That’s what hype and limited supply does for you.

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Red Hill Diamond Jubilee British IPA

Red Hill

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.    

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A Touch of Dejavu

Every Melbourne beer mafia member worth his beard remembers Biero. This small bar in a quiet part of the CBD were blazing the craft  beer trail before the recent explosion of trail blazing being undertaken by every pub, bar, bottleshop, art gallery, roller derby, mothers group  and cafe with a liquor license and a six pack of Sierra Nevada.

A while ago Biero closed down, except of course it didn’t really close down,  well it did but more correctly Biero are re-opening ‘somewhere in Chinatown’ sometime in winter, but the bar itself is still there. I assume it has new owners and a new (equally dumb) name – DejaVu.

Confused? That’s understandable. All you need to know though is that DejaVu exists at Biero’s old location in Little Lonsdale street and most of what made Biero great is still there as well. It still has an awesome beer line-up and prices are still very reasonable (for craft beer). Okay it’s not wholly and solely about beer anymore, in fact the slogan is now ‘where lowest prices craft beer is just the beginning’ and whilst there I noted people drinking wine, and shock horror, cider.  The legendary/gimmicky beer vaults don’t appear to be getting used anymore and I think I spotted a Corona in the fridge, but the main thing for us beery folk the tap beer line-up is still solid and likely to surprise with a few hard to find gems. 

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America is without doubt the home of the IPA, well perhaps its adopted home after a birth in England (although don’t get me started about the misunderstanding of the birth of the IPA, if you want the real story check this out) .

America of course has put its own take on the IPA, like all things American it’s bigger and more aggressive than the old school English version. I believe the new age term for it is that they are hop forward, meaning they are dominated by the hops.

The two brews we look at today are reputed to be some of the best examples available in Australia. In truth THE best examples aren’t exported to Australia for two reasons; the brewers will claim that the beers cannot make it here at an acceptable quality level due to the length of shipping and the (generally unrefrigerated) distribution systems in Australia. I imagine the real reason is why bother exporting beer to a tiny market down under when you can sell your entire stock within about 100 miles of the brewery.

First up is the brand new to our shores Greenflash West Coast IPA which is very American in its approach, which means it’s quite aggressive and leaves a lingering bitterness in the cheeks, having said that it hides its high alcohol level (7.3%) nicely. There are two distinct experiences here, the sweetness which is evidenced in the body and the start of the sip, and then a fruity bitterness that comes along in the mid-sip to take that away.

If you like American IPAs (and I have to say increasingly I prefer the Australia/NZ gentler, more fruity style) then this one is a corker – Pint.

The second brew which is Bear Republic’s Racer 5 is a different approach to the same style. It really puts the ale back into Indian Pale Ale, it’s bottle conditioned and is thus hazy with yeast suspended in it and has far less carbonation that most IPAs doing the rounds. This makes it feel less aggressive than the Greenflash, with the maltiness of the body given more room to show itself which also results in the fruitiness of the hops seeming a little sweeter too. Another brilliant beer – Pint.

If you want to understand why hop heads are so passionate then you could do worse than trying these two brews from California.

Long Tube You Tube Clip: I wish they all could be Californian girls, beers.

Super Epic Beer

The Stunning Epic Armegeddon IPA

The naming of beers is a difficult matter, it isn’t just one of your holiday games. Nope hang on a sec, that’s the naming of cats not beers.  Beers really can’t be that hard to name. Either you fall into the Brewery /Style name pattern. i.e. Carlton Draught, Mountain Goat Steam Ale, Holgate Pilsener, or you go the really long, slightly obscure route. The Moondog Henry Ford’s Girthsome Fjord,  Moondog Cock-sockin’, Ball Knockin’ Chipotle Stout or Moon Dog Perverse Sexual amalgam. Do you see how cool and crazy those guys are?
There is of course another, little used approach. I’m going to call it the superlative approach (some might call in the Adam Hills joke approach).  This is where you give the beer the descriptor you would like the drinker to say after taking their first sip.
Today we review two beers that fall into this category. One that lives up to it and one that doesn’t.
First up is the Epic Armageddon IPA and this is a truly Epic beer. It’s pretty much everything you want an IPA to be. Firstly its ABV is 6.66% which is just cool. It looks amazing, with a copper golden colour and a nice head. The hops feel New Zealandy (that’s a thing now) with great tropical fruit tones; floral and a little grapey. The flavour is amazing. The hops are balanced with the malt backbone and there is interesting flavour all through the sip and aftertaste.

Epic with the Awesome Pizza

It’s pleasant, non-aggressive and very, very enjoyable.  I enjoyed it with Jordan on our balcony on a hot summer evening and it was very well suited to this. It went very nicely with a casual pizza and this is what this beer can do; it’s casual, approachable, relaxed and yet exciting, flavoursome and supremely interesting all at the same time. 
An Epic and Jug worthy beer.
The setting for the second beer was similar; it was hot, it was late afternoon and I found myself at Section 8, everyone’s favourite pop-up, hipster, packing crate container bar. There is something very Melbourne about Section 8. It’s grungy and hidden, although only in a way that they used to hide things five years ago, the hiding of cool bars has reached all new levels since then. Now you can regularly hear people say ‘I went to this bar last night, it doesn’t have a name, but you go down this alley way, past some bins, around a corner, go through the green door, then down some stairs, through a curtain, around another corner, past a row of sewing machines and then push on a metal door that you have to lift slightly before pushing it though.’
In fact I’m convinced that Section 8 can’t be cool anymore because it’s a bit old now, and

Super Bock or Okay Lager?

more importantly I was drinking there, and I am in no way cool and/or funky.
The important bit here though is that I had a beer and it was a ridiculously named Super Bock which is not a bock at all, but rather a lager all the way from Portugal. It is not Super either. But I guess, Okay Lager doesn’t have the same ring as Super Bock.  It’s not the worst beer out there, but hey it’s not the best either, it has a little more malt than your typical euro lager, and it’s this malt that drives the smell. There is no real hop character to speak of and it is really a standard run of the mill beer that clearly only gets imported so that the uneducated hipsters think they are drinking a premium euro brew. I would suggest the hipsters drinking long necks of Cooper’s Green were getting a much better deal though.  Schooner 
Long Bow You Tube Clip: And here is the Adam Hills joke that I’ve just stolen, I’d be concerned that he’d sue me, but he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Bang. See what I did there? Cause he only has one leg (well one and a half).

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.  

Coffee and Beer

I was listening to Brews News Radio last week and the professor likened the craft beer industry to coffee. I have no direct quote because I can’t be bothered listening to the whole hour again to find it but the concept was this….

15 years ago everyone was happy with a can of International Roast coffee, but nowadays if your workplace doesn’t have an espresso machine you are likely to riot.  Back in the 80’s if you told people that in the near future they would happily pay $4 for a coffee everyday they would call you crazy.

And there is something for everyone. Nescafe may still be in the cupboards and there are coffee snobs doing cupping sessions (which sounds pseudo sexual if you ask me), but there is also everything in between. Cafes are just as prevalent in suburban shopping malls as they are in city laneways filled with ironic milk crates.

Imagine if you will the beer scene in 15 years, there will still be the Carlton Draught at one end and the Brewdog Toyko 18.2 at the other, but in between is where the excitement is. Imagine being able to walk into any pub in any suburb and find good quality craft beer available, the same way you can get a decent cup of coffee almost anywhere now.

Why all this talk of java though? Well today we are tasting two coffee-infused beers. The first is Mountain Goat’s collaboration with coffee roasters Seven Seeds, the Seedy Goat IPA, which is part of the ‘Rare Breed’ range of limited edition brews. Now first thing you need to understand is it’s not meant to taste like coffee.

And it doesn’t, rather it tastes like a slightly strange IPA. The coffee is meant to be imparting bitterness but not really taste, meaning that it’s doing the job of some of the hops. It’s an interesting beer, amber with a wispy head, scents of tropical fruits and a definite and familiar hop aftertaste, but just before those hops is an unfamiliar, un-beer like tang.

It’s a good beer and an interesting study in what can be done, but Mountain Goat make better IPA’s, both their regular one and the Double IPA, and there are better Coffee IPA’s out there, namely Mikkeller’s Koppi IPA .  Still worth a Pint though.

The second beer is one that is 100% meant to taste like coffee; it’s Burleigh Brewing’s collaboration with coffee roasters Zarraffa’s Coffee, the Black Giraffe, part of their ‘Bit on the Side’ range of limited edition brews. It is a black lager, or Schwarzbier for you German speakers out there.

This poured black with a creamy crema coloured head. It smelled of coffee, not burnt coffee like you get with many stouts, but rather sweet latte coffee.  It’s also an unusual taste; coffee, then fruits, then coffee again and then it melts away to a lingering aftertaste more like a coffee liquer or possibly an iced coffee Big M.

This is a seriously good beer, all the complexity you would expect from a stout but as easy to drink and refreshing as a lager. A new favourite – Jug.  

Long Bow Youtube clip: It might be possible to get decent cup of coffee in Melbourne, but it’s a bit tougher in the Mallee.  ‘A Decent Cup of Coffee’ by Wedding Parties Anything (with one of the later line-ups).

Rise of the planet of the ‘ators

Last Saturday myself, Jordan, Andre and Cat were all set to go experience a gig by the funk machine that is Syl Johnson.  We first encountered Syl a couple of years ago on Valentine’s day at the Corner Hotel, in what I would describe as the gig of the year.  And by the way how cool is Jordan to allow us to go to a gig on Valentine’s day rather than some romantic dinner somewhere?

 Syl is a musical legend, and the funkiest man you will ever see. You have probably never heard of him, but I assure you he is well worth checking out if you get a chance.

Now you might have picked up the statement above – We were all set to see Syl on Saturday. The problem was Syl is not a young man, in fact he’s 75 years old, and whilst on stage in Brisbane last week he had a few health issues (if you consider a heart attack to be a few health issues). It’s okay he is all better now, but unfortunately he had to postpone the Melbourne gig to from last Saturday to this Saturday, problem is, none of us can make it this week. You should though if you get the chance, Hi-Fi bar – be there.

Anyway long story short, we were all free on Saturday night so the obvious thing to do was to head to The Courthouse in North Melbourne and have a few drinks in Syl’s honour. As a tribute to Mr Johnson I needed to select a beer that would be everything that Syl’s music is. Powerful, smooth, lush and just a touch of sweetness.

The obvious choice was 3 Raven’s Ravenator. This is one of 3 Raven’s seasonal releases. The Thornbury based brewers seem to specialise in European styles of beer, and this is no different being a bock. This brings us the name. You’ll note it finishes with an ‘ator. It is tradition in Germany (where bocks come from)  to name the beers in this fashion. Technically it would need to be a Doppelbock to get the ‘ator suffix but hey it’s close enough. If you are so dorky you would like to read more about the naming conventions of Bock beers you can here

The beer itself is seriously good stuff. It’s sweet and malty, with hints of caramel and a hint of smoke as well (Andre went so far as to suggest this tastes like the smoke coming of a honey soy sausage that had been slightly burnt on a BBQ) It’s a caramel brown colour with no head and little carbonation. It is a very nice beer and well worth seeking out – Pint

I enjoyed this beer so much that when I went back to the bar to get the next drink I figured I’d stick with the bocks, thus I sort out another ‘ator. This time the Holgate Hopinator . Now the learned amongst you will be saying the Hopinator is an IPA, or Double IPA or Imperial IPA or something. Not a Bock, so what is the ‘ator doing there? God knows, but Hopinator is a fricken awesome name so who cares.

The name clearly suggests that this is a hop monster, a little research tells me that this is continuously hopped, meaning hops are added all through the boil phase of the brewing, Hops react in different ways dependant on when you add them to the boil, so adding over the whole boil should create a complex, and tasty beer.

And this beer is certainly that. It’s a dark brown colour with a half cm creamy tea coloured head. Surprisingly little aroma, just a hint of melon and some pine. It was slightly funky taste at the start of the sip (although it might have just be shock after the sweetness of the 3 Ravens), and some sweet malt tones, but then has this lingering hop flavours, more herbal and spicy, than fruity, and with just a hint of resin. Not a Bock, but gee’s it’s a good beer – Pint  

The beer did a some of the work in softening the disappointment of not seeing Syl Johnson. Good to hear his heart is a okay as well, hopefully he’s got a few more Aussie tours left in him.

The not so Long Youtube clips: First up is Syl at some gig in Moscow (which seems to have been presented by Efes beer) which comes in at a very funky nine minutes for one song. And then Syl’s two biggest hits. ‘Is it because I’m black’ and  ‘Take me to the River’ complete with 1970’s pastel suit and naked torso, what a fantastic time for music, and fashion.