Italiano Spectapular

My Antonia and the awesome tablecloth

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.

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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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Hottest 100 Beers

It’s hottest 100 time again, no not the Triple J hottest 100, but rather the Local Taphouse’s hottest 100 Aussie craft beers.
The beer geek Twitterverse has been all a flutter with ponderings of a top five and lamentations of the unfortunate beers which have to be left out.
Of course what will actually happen is the beer geeks out there will spread our votes across 200 very obscure, but brilliant beers and then a middle of the road, well distributed craft offering like Vale Ale(2010 winner), Little Creatures (2009 and 2008 winner) will end up dominating. People will whinge (as people do) but that is actually a reasonable snapshot of the industry, to be successful you need both good quality beer and distribution.
So this begs the question, what will happen this year? Firstly I don’t think Vale Ale will top it again, my tip is Feral’s Hop Hog for Number 1 (up from 4th last year) it has the right mix of being a brilliant beer, the darling of the beer geek set, but approachable enough to get good numbers of people drinking it.  Little Creatures and Fat Yak will be up there again thanks to their distribution.  Oh and I think it’s the year of the Pale Ale and IPA – look for about a quarter of the top 100 being highly hopped beers.
The bigger interest for me though will be down the bottom of the list. There are so made secondary stories, will beer geek darling beers like Bridge Road 500 Breakfast Lager make the grade? Did enough people actually find any of the Moondog beers for them to make an impact? Could Temple Brewing sneak something in, even though they were only open for about a week in 2011 (it’s not as weird as it sounds given the collective orgasmic bliss that dominated Twitter just after they opened) or will a beer from the  ‘most hated by beer wankers’ Thunder Road brewery make it in? (I doubt it).
As for me, well after a week or so of revisiting some of the better beers I had this year, here is what I voted for:
Feral’s Hop Hog – The best regularly available IPA made by an Australian brewery, hands down.
Mountain Goat’s DIPA – This was a revelation when we had it on tap at the Wheaty earlier this year; I just wish I could find it again somewhere. 
Holgate’s Temptress – Always a stunning beer to end a session with (I’ve tested this theory many a time now).
Murray’s Angry Man Brown Ale – I liked it so much I bought the T-Shirt, unfortunately like many of Murray’s beers it is near impossible to find in Melbourne Town.
Burleigh Brewing’s Black Giraffe – Of all the coffee infused beers that have been around this year, I think this is the stand-out.
So there we go, I think that is a well rounded top five, 2 IPA’s, a Chocolate Stout, a Brown Ale, and even a lager, albeit a coffee infused dark lager. And surprisingly for a Melbournian, only 2 Victorian brews (plus one from WA, one from NSW and one from QLD).
And apologies to a whole heap of beers that were on the cusp of the top five including Hargreaves Hill’s Topaz and Amarillo IPA, Red Hill’s Weizenbock, 2Brothers with both Chief and James Brown, Murray’s Heart of Darkness, 3 Raven’s Black, Lord Nelson’s Old Admiral, Mad Brewers Stout Noir, Bridge Rd’s Saison Noir and Steam Exchange’s Southerly Buster. So many great beers, so few spots in the top five.
Voting is open until the 25th – so head over here and vote.

Drink’ in the Sun 2011 – Mikkeller Tap Takeover

It’s a great moment when things just fall into place. Yesterday was Jordan’s birthday show we were looking for a place to have a few brews and celebrate.  Then along came the local taphouse with their Mikkeller Tap take-over, which promised 20 high quality beers from the Danish wunderkind brewers (and yes I know wunderkind in German not Danish).

This was a good start, The sun making a rare winter time appearance was a huge bonus, the fact that both myself and Jord could get the afternoon of work was even better. The news that my brother and sister in law would be joining us just topped of the afternoon.

Now I’m not going to give you a full review of all twenty beers. I’m sure someone will, going from my untapp’d feed it’s quite possible that almost every Melbourne based untapp’d user and beer blogger was in attendance. I will however give you an initial thought on them and maybe bit a few winners if you think you might make it over to The Taphouse in the next few days as there might still be some of these left.

Myself and Jord were sharing tasting paddles and were working in numerical order.

1) The American Dream – You can actually read a full review of this if you would like – it’s here

2) Vesterbro Pilsener – I’m told Vesterbro is a neighbourhood of Copenhagen (It means North Bridge).  I was told this by my Bro who lived in Copenhagen for a year so he would know. It’s a beautifully balanced beer, malty and silky in the mouth then a nice spicy hop character that lingers.

3) Draft Bear – I’m assuming that this was named by/for a New Zealander. Why? Because when a Kiwi says beer it sounds like bear. This is a lot funnier when you are drunk.  The beer itself  was a little bit of a letdown, a touch thin in the body, but with great hop character (which let’s face it is what Mikkeller are known for)

4) Freiser – This was our first pause beer. As in you sip it, you pause for a second and then you say ‘Wow’. It smells like tokay or muscat, feels like syrup in the mouth and is just and outstanding beer. It’s big at 11% but it’s also brilliant.

5) Drink’in the Sun 11 – A light beer (2.4%) and a big come down after the Freiser.  It was gentle and very refreshing, and would be perfect for, well drinking in the Sun, which we were.

6) Vesterbro Wit – Andre and Cat had appeared by this point and they made their presence instantly felt. Cat gave the following description of this beer. ‘This tastes like a 14 year old girl who has been to the body shop and bought dewberry perfume.’ I liked a her blankly and she replied “If your ever nuzzled the neck of a 14 year old you would know what I’m talking about.’  Damn going to an all boys high school.

7) Exotic Punch – Like a stuff at parties that is designed to be easy to drink and get people drunk.

8. Thorst Bonanza – Also refreshing. It claimed to be highly hopped, but I wasn’t seeing it. Maybe I’d become immune, and they are all highly hopped beers. I’m sure if you had started here it would have knocked your socks off, but it was a little middle of the road by now.

9) A Pale Ale – It had a Danish O above the A, which was cool if nothing else. This was Jordan’s favourite of the US Style Pale Ales.

10) Jackie Brown – This is a beer I’d heard a lot about and was looking forward to, sitting as it was last in our second group of five beers. The table was mixed on whether this was better than the Freiser which we were now simply calling ‘The Dopplebock’ The girls thought this was better the boys preferred the Fresier. This was sweet and caramely at the front of the sip and then a lingering hoppiness. We decided that we could happily drink this all afternoon.

11) It’s Alive – Smells sweet like candied fruit and very well balanced. The tasting notes claimed there was a little bit of funk in there. I’d like to describe it as bit of horse stable.

12) 1000 IBU Light – The beer wankers of Melbourne have been twittering about this thing of late so I was keen to give it a try. I didn’t like it. It’s so bitter that it’s almost undrinkable.  Everyone reacted the same way, sip, screw up face, stick out tongue. Cat described it as smelling like a local hardware store, with a hint of glue and bad carpet. I did get more palatable after a few sips, but still not enjoyable. One strictly for those people who like a challenge.

13) 10 – named because it has 10 different hops in it. A very interesting beer, much more palatable than the previous beer, quite complex with a good body .

14) Koppi IPA – A really interesting beer. Infused with coffee, and nicely balanced. A great all day beer with a heap of complexity to keep you interested.

15) Texas Ranger – The round-house kick of the beer world. Jord described this as everything I like in life, Porter and BBQ in a glass.  It smelled of alcohol, a little like Brewdog’s Tokyo, but it tastes very different, smoky, in some sort of mystical way.

16) Vesterbro Kaffestout. We were starting to get serious now, Beer 16-20 just got more and more ridiculous. A 7.5% this was the lowest alcohol. This tasted like coffee ice cream. My notes simply say ‘Fucking awesome.’ Which seems to sum it up nicely.

17) Monk’s Exelier – This was a very sweet beer. Like an after dinner sipper. Andre described it as the beer version of Pedro Ximenez.

18) Simcoe – After all the sweetness the hops are back. Simcoe hops in fact, and it was good.

19) Big Worse – Sherry like again, it lacks the big fruit flavours of some of the earlier beers, but this makes it easier to drink. We described this sessional and a toned down desert beer. When then noticed it was 12% alcohol. Possibly the smoothest 12% beer you will ever taste.

20) Last but by no means least is the ‘Funny Asian character’ Black which was a 17.5% monster, strong, complex interesting, brilliant. I bit like me really.

So there it is 20 beers drunk in the afternoon on the roof a Local Taphouse. By this time it was getting cold, so we decided to move downstairs, to get some food and have a few more beers. Since we had previewed all the beer we went back for our best offs. Which were The Fresier, the Koppi IPA, Jackie Brown and the Vesterbro Kaffestout and to round out the top five Texas Ranger.

It was a great afternoon. I can’t say I loved every beer there, but there were some amazing brews and it certainly was a great example of the diversity of beer styles.

Oh and happy birthday Jordan.

And we had a long discussion about ‘Great Danish bands’ As you do, so I present to you this long bow Youtube Clip .

JaConfetti with Step Up – Great jumpsuits ladies.

Vale Ale

Prologue  Vale Ale was not a beer I even vaguely gave a shit about until all hell broke loose in the Victorian Beer Wanker Mafia earlier this year after it took out the number one spot in the Local Taphouse’s Hottest 100.

Apparently this winning was a sin akin to ‘Pretty Fly (for a white guy) winning the 1998 Triple J’s hottest 100. There were cries of rigging, misrepresentation about the locality of the brewery, underhand tactics, the use of (shock horror) social marketing and bullying from the Macros.

Of course everyone just needed reminding that it’s only beer, and they all need to settle down, have a beer, and move on.”

Of course in the back of my mind I thought ‘I should try Vale Ale at some point.’ And there is was at the GB, on tap, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I think they might be ramping up distribution. I also noticed later in the weekend that it was on tap at the Leveson as well. 

 Packaging:  Again I was drinking it on tap so well, the pot glass looked good. The bottle is a study in minimalism. This is the circles that make a V, V for McLaren Vale or you could argue that the dots represent grapes, which makes some sense as McLaren Vale is more known for wine than beer. Either way it’s a very nice label that implies quality.

Appearance:  The beer was a deep golden amber colour, slightly cloudy, and with almost no head. There was only a little trail of bubbles in the middle of the beer.  

Smell:  Nice citrus overtones in the nose.

Taste:  It feels quite soft in the mouth, with a slight citrusy bitterness in the aftertaste. It reminds me a lot of Little Creatures Pale Ale – but this is smoother and more refined.    

In conclusion:  This is actually a good beer. Is it the best beer in Australia? No, it’s really not interesting enough for me to claim that title. But it is easy to drink, completely sessional and full of flavours, so I can see how people score it highly.  

Ranking:  I’ll have a Pint.     

Mountain Goat Skipping Girl and Mornington Sorachi Kolsch

So many beers, so little time. It’s time to start combining brews into super reviews.

But what do a beer named after a neon sign and a beer that sounds like it’s named after a Japanese magna character have to do with each other?

Nothing except me, and where I drank them.

Now as a self proclaimed beer wanker it is truly shameful that I hadn’t been to ‘The Local Taphouse’ before. Doubly shameful as I’m not immune to spending some time in Balaclava. Okay not anymore, but I did spend time in Balaclava, when it was still called Balclava, before it became a brand extension of St Kilda, and adopted the moniker of St Kilda East.

It was Balaclava when a couple of my friends lived there, and it was Balaclava when we used to wander up to the Inkerman to watch the footy and it was Balaclava to all the random junkies, drunks and ragsmuffins who made Carisle street home.

But now that it’s East St Kilda but it is still the obvious place to go to catch up with the former Balaclava residents. And if you are going to a pub in Balaclava the bar described as ‘The best beer bar in the land’ is a good place to start.

The Local Taphouse is a bar with nineteen beers and a cider on Tap. This is not one of your standard pubs that will have four or five taps of commercial lagers on tap and then sneak in a Mountain Goat or James Squire to seem cutting edge.

Nope this is a bar where the most mainstream beer is James Squire, offered as a safe haven for the overawed. The other 18 taps range from the European masters, favourite brews from craft breweries, all the way through to the special releases, which of course is where Skipping Girl and Sorachi come in.    

Skipping Girl is a summer ale, it’s quite floral and hoppy but with little aftertaste. Jordan was convinced it tasted like passiona, although I think it might have been the passionfruit notes that were tricking her. The beer had small little playful bubbles and a slight head. The taste was amazingly familiar to me, it tasted like something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it, I could even picture the bottle that it came in (it had a oval shaped white and green label) but I never did work it out.   

Meanwhile Sorachi Krolsch is a beer is worth drinking simply because it allows you to display your awesome beer wankerness, you get to bang on about the Sorachi Ace Hop, which was developed by Saporro and that this is the first beer in Australia to use it.

After you have amazed your ‘friends’ with this knowledge you will find that you are drinking quite a strange concoction (and probably alone), it’s almost a greeny yellow colour, with a bright white head. It’s not particularly bitter or highly carbonated, but it certainly is unusual, It reminded me of the Baron’s Lemon Myrtle.

So two very interesting beers, and a sign of the how vibrant the Victorian micro brewing scene is at the moment. But I have to say neither of them really knocked my socks off. I found both a little too complex to be a refreshing light summer drink. I’ve mentioned before my leanings towards wheaty and malty beers, and these two both strode a little too close to the fruity side of the spectrum for my personal taste.

Rankings:

Mountain Goat Skipping Girl: Let’s have a Schooner    

Mornington Sorachi Kolsch: Let’s have a Schooner