Eurovision Preview – Ireland

Oh Ireland, a country famous for having people who love to sing and drink copious amount of beer, well Guinness really. As such I deem them to be perfect to round out the Eurovision preview posts.

Ireland are essentially the Melbourne Football Club of Eurovision, basically they used to be good (in fact they have won seven times) but they are currently on a 14 year losing streak and that ain’t going to change this year.

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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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What Mikkel did on his Aussie Holiday….

The Gyspy, and for those wondering the little glass has dried pineapple pieces in it.

Mikkel Borg Bjergso is a busy little fella, Beer Advocate lists 223 brews bearing the Mikkeller name.  For a brewery that opened in 2006 that’s a beer about every 8 days, aka a shedload of them.

Now the smart arses amongst you will note the error in the sentence above. There is no such thing as a Mikkeller Brewery. Mikkel goes from place to place brewing with other people’s stuff (mainly de Proef Brouwerij in Belguim), so essentially he’s like that shit friend everyone has who just turns up at your house, steals your food, sleeps on your couch and never really leaves. 

Because beer folk are a friendly lot though Mikkel is not considered a shit friend but rather a gypsy or phantom brewer (I prefer phantom brewer, because I can then imagine Mikkel wearing a purple lyrca suit and stripped undies on the outside, which is a nice change from the regular hipster garb that all Danish people seem to wear). And it’s not considered that he’s using your stuff, rather he is collaborating.

Mikkel popped down to Victoria back in March and whilst here managed to bang out a couple of collaboration brews with two of the mainstays of the craft beer scene in this here southern state, Mountain Goat and Bridge Road. Fast forward a couple of months and both brews are out and about in Melbourne stores and pubs so it seemed apt to try them both and review them together.

First up is the Mountain Goat effort going by the name of ‘The Gypsy and the Goat’ part of their Cross Breed range, which in turn is part of the Rare Breed range and it’s a Black Pepperberry IPA. Got all of that? I know it’s a little confusing.  What is not confusing is that this beer is fricken awesome.

It looks brilliant, jet black with a great solid head. The mouthfeel is dense, almost oily and it laces well down the glass as you work through the brew. The smell is citra hop pineapple tones mixed with roasted malt, quite similar to Feral’s Karma Citra. There is a slight spiciness in the nose and in the taste which I can only assume is the pepperberries, not really understanding what pepperberries actually taste like. I loved this, it was everything I like about a Black IPA with an oilier, silkier mouthfeel – Jug.

This brings us to our second brew, Bridge Road’s ‘The Dark Harvest’ which makes me feel like it should always be accompanied with a soundtrack comprising of the imperial march from Star Wars. This brew is a dark beer version of Bridge Road’s Harvest Ale, which uses fresh hops picked just up the road at major Victorian hop farms in Rostrevor. This variety is so new that it doesn’t even have a name yet.

The beer is jet black as well, the colour belies its drinkability though, this is refreshing, the body is thinner and less roasty than I was expecting (but not in a bad way) and the fruity hops, pineapple and orange, particularly in the nose made it feel strangely summery. As I worked through the beer I started to pick up piney resinous notes as well. It is a really interesting beer, not what I was expecting from the name and the look but I really enjoyed it, not quite as much as the Mountain Goat, but still worth picking up a bottle or two to try – Pint.

 

Long Bow YouTube Clip:  Darren Hanlon on his theories on Couch Surfing, Zombies and Swedish sayings about beer, fish and hatchets, which I think are all things going into the next Mikkeller collaboration brew.

Breakfast Beer and untappd milestones.

Let me stress from the outset I don’t normally drink at breakfast time. I’m aware that it is commonplace in some European countries, but so is an unnatural love of David Hasselhoff  and the wearing of leather shorts so they don’t always get it right.
This was a special occasion though. It was my birthday (and by birthday I actually mean the day before my birthday, the start of what I like to call ‘The Festivale de Leon’ a weekend long beer soaked celebration) and I was sitting on 499 unique beers on untappd and was keen to make my 500th a little bit special. I knew if I didn’t make time for a special beer that morning I was sure to encounter some new beers over the weekend.

 

Ninkasi’s Angel is a special beer brewed by the women of beer, Sam from True South, Jayne from Two Birds, Aine from Matilda Bay, Karen from Red Hill and Beth from Hargreaves Hill, with a little help from the Beer Diva and others and with all profits going to the McGrath foundation, proving that beer folk are a good lot.
But is the beer good? Short answer, yeah it’s bloody good. As you can see from the photo above we did a little breakfast with the Ninkasi as the star attraction. We wandered over to Errol Street to the new hip bakery which reminds me of Uprising (the bakery in the film Stranger than Fiction) only without the political overtones, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. With fresh fruit toast in hand, and with cheese and crackers at the ready, we ascended the stairs to the balcony and enjoyed our brew whilst looking over a foggy Melbourne town.
The beer itself was not as heavy as I was expecting. Being a Belgian Triple I was expecting a big sticky, punchy brew, but thankfully given that this was 9.30am this was actually smooth, refreshing, a little bit spicy and fruity with little of the boozy heat that I would expect, given this was 7.6%.
I really enjoyed this beer, it went perfectly with the little hipster breakfast we were having. In fact it was almost like liquid fruit toast, a deep golden colour, hints of fruit, spice and vanilla. It would be safe to say that I now consider this to be a perfect breakfast beer and the perfect beer for a special celebration, like getting 500 unique beers on untappd, which in case you were wondering took me just 379 days. I know this seems fast, but things like the Mikkeller tap takeover at the Local Taphouse, the Microbrewers’ Showcases and a trip to the USA last year really pushed it along, and a shout out to the Back of the Ferry guys for putting me onto untappd.  Oh and the beer deserves a Pint
Long Bow YouTube Clip: Maybe I could start some sort of Breakfast Club where we all get together and try wacky beers, hell I even have a theme song ready, failing that I could probably just go to this.

Black Heart and a History lesson.

Black Heart and a pile of work

Many years ago this blog (or at least a version of it) was started by myself and a little scrappy fella I used to work with. The concept was simple, each Friday at lunchtime we would wander down York Street to Swords at the South Melbourne Market and buy a beer, bring it back to work and hide it at the back of the fridge. A couple of hours later we would break out said beer, drink it together and discuss the merits or otherwise of the brew.
Many things have changed since then. The crappy rundown little building we worked in has been torn down and replaced with a giant modern soulless monolith. The little fella in question has pissed off to sell shit beer to the masses and the hotdog and charcoal chicken sellers of the South Melbourne Market have been replaced by the up and coming designers, cupcake stalls and other purveyors of hipster chic in an area of the market which is now called So.Me.
I’m fighting back against all of this though by kicking it old school. During Friday lunchtime I took Frewy down to the market and we contemplated the wall of beers at Swords. I selected the Black Heart Brewery Bohemian Pilsener and here I sit at my desk on a Friday afternoon sipping away.
Upon opening, I wondered if they had mislabelled the weizen for a second, it had bubblegum smells and even a hint of banana.  It looked nice, clear with tiny bubbles (did you know that the size of bubbles is generally related to the length of lagering) streaming through it all topped with a nice fluffy head.
It was a well constructed beer, nicely balanced, easy to drink, refreshing and a pretty good example of what many see as a simple style, even though I imagine it isn’t.  Pint
Okay so I wrote that almost two weeks ago, it’s now Friday again (morning this time) and last night I had the other Black Heart brew that I bought that day. It was the Black Heart Pale Ale which is/was a very nice beer, more of a malt than most pale ales out there, in fact there are these faint toffee tastes coming through (I assume this makes it more of an English Pale than an American Pale). Following the sweet malt is a robust but not overpowering hop bitterness that would suggest the use of cascade or perhaps amarillo hops.  This is a seriously good beer, well presented and certainly suitable for a sophisticated beer drinker like myself – Pint

Drinking in Crown

For nude fish photos see The Den's beer list

Crown Casino is not normally a place where you would find me, nor is it a place I would normally be recommending. In fact like most right thinking inner city beard wearing wannabe Communists I shall decry the Casino as the home of outer suburban bogans and a temple of Capitalist greed. I shall then ride my fixie to a farmers’ market.  

Of course like most Melbournians I also happen to find myself there from time to time and it can be a scary place for the craft beer loving folk. We are more at home ensconced in dark wood panelling, comfy chairs and ironic decorations. I care about you my readers however, so I have found not one but two bars that you can head to if you find yourself stuck in Crown and in need of a good quality beer.

First up is a bar called The Den. Now this walks the fine line that many a Melbourne bar walks. It is so cool that it is close to impossible to find. You won’t find a sign anywhere, it is underground, under The Atlantic restaurant. If you want to get in you’ll have to walk up to host’s desk at The Atlantic and ask for The Den, you will then follow the white line on the floor, through the restaurant and down a set of unmarked stairs.

This bar is incredibly pretentious, as I mentioned it is underground so there are the expected pipes, steel supports and alike, but there are also random fireplaces, red velvet chairs, a grand piano and random hostesses in gold miniskirts. This bar can best be summed up with a trip to the bathroom. It is completely black, black tiles, black toilet, dimmed lighting, but then there is one single small stainless shelf, sitting there in the cubicle, right at nose height. 

But you can forgive all this ridiculousness because they really do have a good beer list. It’s not huge, just fifteen beers in total, but really nicely put together. There is something for everyone, from the afore mentioned toilet goers with Peroni through to local craft fans with Lord Nelson, Bridge Road, 8 Wired and international beers both old school Germanys and Belgians and one single American beer. 

And if you were picking one single American brewery then Dogfish Head is a good place to start. A brewery so loved it has both a television show and a book (as well as a couple of pubs, a B&B, a range of soap and some spirits). It’s also not available in Australia so I’m not sure how this beer entered the country (or at least how it wasn’t shipped off to Malaysia for processing after it snuck past Lisa McCune and her buddies).

The beer in question is Dogfish Head’s Palo Santo Marron, a big (12%) American Brown ale that has been aged in Paraguayan Palo Santo wood barrels, well in fact aged in one huge, almost 40,000 litre (120,000 bottles) wooden barrel.

This beer smells unmistakably like Vegemite, more specifically like warmed Vegemite. The colour was Vegemite-like as well, admittedly it was dark in the underground cavern that is The Den, but this is certainly a dark ale, with a thin (but lacing) tea coloured head.

Being American I assumed this would be a big hoppy beer, but it simply is not. Rather it is the malt, the alcohol and the resins (from the wood one assumes) and some fruit tones that were driving the flavour. It’s a big chewy slow sipping beer, and you are left with a taste in your mouth that feels more bourbon that beer. 

This was a very good beer, not brilliant, and let’s face it probably not at its best after its unofficial journey to the arse end of the world/AKA Melbourne.  I’d have a Pint though.  We followed it with 8 Wired Big Smoke, and I have to say that the Big Smoke pipped it on the enjoyability stakes.

From The Den it was time to head home, but not before a slight detour to another bar with a fabled beer list. This is another one I would not have found myself, not because it’s hidden but just because I wouldn’t expect much from it.  I have to give a shout out to the Back of the Ferry boys for pointing me towards this one.  

There is no real pretension in this bar, in fact it really does undersell itself. For the passerby it looks like nothing more than a standard hotel lobby bar, filled with the usual jetlagged travellers and other people too scared/tired/unadventurous to leave the safe womb/prison-like atmosphere of the Crown entertainment complex.  Its purpose in Crown is best summed up by its name – The Waiting Room.

But again here is a stellar little beer list, again a mix of Australian and Overseas brews. For our Tipple this night we chose the Ruedrich’s Red Seal Ale, which was a red or amber ale all the way from California.

For an American brew it was quite gentle, with malts carrying the brew rather than the hops. It was a nice rich red amber colour, had almost no smell except a faint citrus tone. It is a beautifully balanced drink and a nice way to end the night if you are a little bit worse for wear (allegedly). Definitely Pint worthy.

Brewers Original Pure Malt Ale

Prologue:  It’s an unusual brewing company that devotes a good portion of its website to their cat, but Brewers is that sort of company. I don’t mean to disparage the cat, who appears to have mad skills in sleeping, eating and mice catching, but it’s not the communications strategy I would have gone with.

Brewers, believe it or not run by a guy called William Brewer. Now I can only assume that if your name is Billy Brewer and you have even a passing interest in the amber liquid you really should set up a brewery, I mean it’s in the stars and all that jazz.

So this little one man and a cat operation brews a beer I had never heard of and never seen until I walked into Parkhill Cellars in North Melbourne. It is a Pure Malt Ale, which is a good description of the what the beer is, but might not be too helpful in a world used to ordering Pale Ales, IPA’s and Amber ales.

Packaging: I like the label, It’s probably the logo font choice and the obvious connections in the Milwaukee Brewer’s baseball team but it gives a great classic American look, like a recipe that was developed back in the twenties (or maybe the 30’s given prohibition) and hasn’t changed since.  

Appearance: This beer is a nice honey colour with a dense creamy head.

Smell: It smells like sweet bread.  

Taste: Very nice, full in the body with a subtle hop character. There is a slight lingering aftertaste that feels malty rather than hoppy. There is nothing too fancy or complex going on here, rather it just a very nice sessionable beer, which is very easy to drink.  

In conclusion: Like a liquid malteser, but without the chocolate. I nice story behind the brewery plus a good quality products makes you feel good about drinking this beer.   

Ranking:  I’ll have a Pint Thanks,

Long Bow YouTube Clip: Look it’s cats that drink beer. (Can’t believe someone is wasting Chimay Blue on this flea bags)  

Kronenbourg 1664

Prologue: I was standing in my local Dan Murphy’s starring at a fridge with a range of beer that was par excellence trying to decide what to buy and sample for this here blog.

I reached for the Kronenbourg 1664 and proclaimed ‘Ohh French.’

At this moment my girlfriend reminded me of ‘The Panache incident”

Picture it. It is a May evening in the most stylish city in the world; Paris. The sun is low in the sky and we have sat down outside a restaurant for an a la carte meal. I’m looking over the menu for a aperiitif. Nothing is jumping out at moi. All there is the  usual malaise of mainstream European beers.

But then I see it, a nouveau beer; a Panache. When the waiter returns with confidence I ask for “Un Panache s’il vous plait”

The garcon with a certain savoir-faire responds “But sir, you realise this is a beer with lemonade in it.”

I pronounced “Je m’en fous.”

This was how I managed to have a Shandy in Paris.     

First impression: Gee it’s sunny up here on the balcony. I think I shall place my beer here on this ledge. I think in a homage to the ‘Back of the Ferry’ boys I’ll take a photo of it will the Melbourne skyline in the background. Also this will allow you dear readers to be jealous of my ‘fricken awesome view’ sniff.   

Appearance: This was a perfect looking clear lager, backlit as it was, It looked impossible beautiful, like in the commercials.   

Packaging:  I fricken love the bottle. It’s stylish. The neck only label placement is very nice. The 1664 in embossed into the glass – classy.

Taste: Crisp is the overwhelming description, it is a classical refreshing lager with a slight hoppy taste.  

Food suggestion: Lemonade perhaps.

Drinking Location: This would be perfect to drinking at a sailing regatta with a guy called Francoise and another called Jean Pierre.   

Random Wikipedia Fact:  Kronenbourg has been brewed since 1664, 1952 (the 1664 relates to when the brewery was opened, as the Hatt Brewery and it was in kronenbourg Strasbourg)

Possible Slogans: I’m torn between ‘The only likeable French’ and something involving Rene from Allo Allo and the picture of the Madonna with the big boobies. Or maybe “I am French, surely you want to drink me.”

Ranking:  I’ll have a Pint thanks   

6 degrees of Norm: Where we link every beer back to George Wendt (Norm from Cheers)

1.    Everyone’s favourite Frenchie is Audrey Tatou

2.    Who was in ‘The Very Long Engagement’ with Jodie Foster

3.    Who was in an episode of Frasier called ‘Moon Dance.’

4.    And Cliff from Cheers appeared in Frasier

5.    As did Diane from Cheers

6.    As did Norm from Cheers

Ranking:  I’ll have a Pint thanks