GABS session one

The Sparse crowds at Fridays session

So after much waiting Good Beer week is upon us, or at least the great Australasian Beer Spectapular is upon us. I’m happy to report I was the first person through the door at 12 noon and throughout the afternoon managed to taste 26 different beers, partake in some excellent food from the Gumbo kitchen and even managed to catch up with a few friends here and there.

First things first, I’ll admit I fully expected GABS to be a nightmare of queuing and general shamble-ness, but it actually ran very smoothly, bars were quick and tokens were easy to get, which made for a generally relaxing afternoon, even if this was the least busy session, which I fully expect bodes well. Well done to the Local Taphouse guys.

But I guess what you want to know is what were the beery highlights. Well here they are;

Murray’s Bob’s Farmhouse Ale The first beer I tried (why I started at 9% beer is anyone’s guess. It was a fabulous beer, sweet and complex and agricultural and it perfectly hid the alcohol content, could drink this all day – Pint

Moondog Mr Mistoffelees although it led to much singing, and Jordan hates Cats (the musical, not the animal) this was a great beer. It smelt strange like you were under a fruit tree in late summer surrounded by rotting fruit, it was sour and sweet all at the same time, very nice. Pint

2Brothers Bloody Oak this was the first beer of the day to make me sit back and exclaim ‘Wow’. It smelt of sweet cherries and brown sugar, sweet and luxurious, and just brilliant. Jug.

Renaissance Stonecutter Oak nothing to do with Steve Guttenberg unfortunately, but still an outstanding beer, all the goodness of the regular stonecutter which I love but with added complexity, yet still drinkable and approachable, stunning -Jug.

Epic Zythos Seriously good IPA great hops tones, and very very refreshing. Jug

Yeastie Boys Gunnamatta I really liked this. The tea was there in the front of the sip and then the hops came through, although I have to say the tea took the edge off the hops making a very balanced brew. Pint.

So there it is,a top six. Shout out to Temple for their Smoked Weizen, the Lord Nelson Last Consignment, 4 Pines Beetroot Belgian and the Mornington Grouch which were all very good.

So all in all a good day had by all and I’m back tomorrow to try a few more brews. As a side note I caught up with a couple of not beery friends who would normally be drinking Peroni and they were loving the afternoon and the Boatrocker, so it would seem the event is converting people to craft beer, which is the main thing.

Time to give back my Beer Wanker Card

The Grand Cru - Now with Cheese

There are many things that you have to do if you are  a card carrying, beard wearing, certified, dyed in the wool beer wanker. You have to drink IPA’s on international IPA day, you must follow every brewery on twitter, you must at least contemplate attending every spectapular or animal VS beer dinner, or wine vs beer dinner, or Beers starting with the Letter S Vs Foods starting with the Letter R dinner (which I believe is hosted by Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch), but most of all you must like all big alcohol, highly hopped or spiced with weird shit beers. 
No one else will like these beers, but that is just how you prove that you are better than the ill informed barbaric mega swill guzzling masses.
So imagine my concern in the last week when I had two different designed purely for beer wanker beers and I didn’t really enjoy either of them. I’m shocked to my core, is it possible I’m not as big a wanker as I think I am? Is it possible that I’m only days away from reaching for a Pure Blonde, or stuffing a lemon wedge in a Corona?
The first of my taste failures was the most concerning. The beer is Murray’s Grand Cru, Murrays is a seriously good brewery, they produce some stunning beers. The Grand Cru is a Belgian Tripel, a recognised style and one which Beer wankers love, so I should like this right?
The problem, I didn’t really like it, I didn’t hate it either, maybe my hopes were too high, maybe it wasn’t suited to my drinking situation (Sunday afternoon, on a balcony when it was about 30 degrees C) but I didn’t get much from it, short of a lot of heat from the alcohol (this is a 8.8% beer) and some spicy, clove taste.
The question though is did this beer fail me, our did I fail this beer?  Schooner.
The second beer was always going to be challenging. In fact I’m not even sure that Red Duck’s Canute The Gruit is a beer, it doesn’t have hops, rather it is a ancient spiced ale, where the hops have been replaced by crazy shit like hawthorne berries and tumerics or some shit.
I was so scared of this beer. In fact that it had been sitting in my fridge for about 3 months as I tried to find the right occasion for this ale, but without a Deloren to take me back to about 1400 I don’t see how this was ever going to be appropriate ale. I opted for the old reliable cheese on the balcony on a balmy night. 
It poured nice enough, black as the ace of spades, with no head and almost no carbonation. So it looked good, but then you taste it and it all goes wrong. It’s hard to explain what this tastes like, imagine you got some Ribena, but somehow managed to take all of the sweetness out of it, then poured into a heap of burnt lemon juice. Sounds lovely doesn’t it? Well that is roughly what this tastes like. Add to all of this they it’s unfiltered so there is all this brown stuff floating in it and it’s ends up as a really unpleasant experience – Pot
Don’t get me wrong, I love that these beers exist, there have to be things are the edges of what beer can be and I do feel guilty about not liking them (well the Grand Cru, not really the Canute, that shit is just evil), but I guess you can’t like all of the beers all of the time, even if they are darlings on the vest and hat wearing crew.
Long Bow You-Tube clip: Speaking of vests and hats have you seen Shit bar tenders say…..

A Black IPA Battle Royale

Northcote is an unusual place. It is the current suburb du jour for the early thirties alternative set. If you are under 30 you probably live in Footscray, late 30’s, well you probably managed to buy a place in Collingwood or Fitzroy before it all got too expensive.

But Northcote is a sweet spot for beard wearing, bike riding, smith journal reading cool inner city types (even if it isn’t actually the inner city) full of awesome music venues, cool shops and most important for a Melbourne cool suburb, it has a tram line.

Why am I telling you this? And what does it have to do with beer? Well this is a story from last week when I was in Northcote (or maybe it was Thornbury, I ain’t that good with geography) and I had a good beer. 

Not that remarkable a story right. I went to some pub to see a band or a cool little shopfront bar and they had some nice beer, great story Leon.

Well don’t be such a smartarse, this story is interesting. Why? Because I wasn’t at a bar or a pub, or a restaurant, and I hadn’t wandered into a specialist bottle shop. Nope I was filling in on a friends Indoor Beach Volleyball  team, and there in the fridge in what I say be calling the tuckshop, was a full range of Kooinda beers.

That’s right, the craft beer revolution has reached in the Indoor Sports centres, at least in the craft beer loving hamlet of Northcote.

Picture it I’ve just spent a hard half hour on the sand, diving for balls, working up a sweat, we lose (they always seem to lose when I play). We are standing around afterwards brushing sand off our feet when Chris utters the best words in the English language ‘You want a beer?’

Here it is my chance to have a nice refreshing beer from the fridge. I select  Kooinda’s Black IPA (AKA The Full Nelson)

Now  this is not my usual tasting procedure. There was no glasses in the tuck shop, so I was drinking from the bottle for the first time in a long time (and all beer wankers know drinking beer from the bottle is as disrespectful to good beer and drinking wine from a goon bag tied to a hills hoist is to good wine) and I need a easy to drink refreshing beer.

And this beer is a long lone way from easy to drink. It’s big, punchy and suitable only for beer lovers. I can only assume it was a black brew as I never saw it outside of the bottle. It smelled great, fruity but resinous hop notes (I going to assume Nelson Sauvin Hops from the nickname of this brew).

I thought it was a full bodied beer – malty with some coffee tones coming through, but then ‘bang’ the hops hit and boy do they linger.

This was probably not the best beer if you are thirsty, tired and needing refreshment, It’s a little harsh for that. But it is a very interesting, and certainly pushing the boundaries.   

A rating, I’m going to say Pint, I did like it a lot, but I was looking on in envy as Jord and Chris sipped on their much more friendly Kooinda Valhallas, Oh well just like the volleyball game (which we lost 2 sets to 1) there is always next week.

Fast forward 24 hours and I’m back to my more usual pastime of sitting on my couch tasting beers from pristine glasses and taking notes with a pen and paper rather than simply in my mind.

The beer in the glass is another recently released Black IPA which is from Murray’s and is called Shawn’s Fault (after Shaun Sherlock brewer at Murrays). They fully admit that this isn’t a beer for everyone, and if you don’t like it, well it’s Shawn’s Fault. (get what they did there, classic) I would of course argue it’s your fault for not understanding what good beer tastes like.

I did like it, a lot. Now this was in a glass I could see that it was black with a big frothy tea coloured head. It smelled of fruity hops.  The taste was a lot more gentle than the Kooinda, it felt a little silkier in the mouth and quite bit smoother. There was still a big hoppy kick there, but it seemed to punch you in a friendly way.

Definitely Pint worthy.  If I had to buy one, I’d probably go with the Murrays (and that seems to be a sentence I type a lot later), but really they are both worth a go, so why not buy both and test them head to head, probably not after playing sport.

Made up Reader’s question. Bob from Berwick asks“Hey Leon, you certainly do sound sporty, I’m sure that was the best beach volleyball game since the one in Top Gun. Tell me what is a Black IPA?”

 Good question Bob, It is safe to say that I burned up the sand, no one looked better on a faux beach since John Stamos in Kokomo. But back to the beer.

A Black IPA is an Indian Pale Ale made with roasted grains, (And yes I understand something that is Black and Pale at the same time doesn’t make sense)  It’s also sometimes called an American Black Ale.  The concept is basically that you get big malty flavours (like a stout or porter) as well as big Hop flavours (like an IPA) it’s like a best of both worlds.

How big are the Big Hop flavours? Well both of these beers weigh in at around 70 IBU’s (International Bitterness Units). Means nothing I know, so let’s give you some context.  Mainstream beers like Carlton Draught are at most 15 IBU’s.  A ‘big’ mainstream beer like Fat Yak is 25 IBU’s (almost twice as bitter as Carlton). So these beers are about four and half times the bitterness of Carlton.

Imagine how tough people who drink them must be.

Long Bow You Tube video:  Jord filmed us playing…….

Double Murray Love.

As you may have picked up by now the Beer blogging community spread far and wide across this large brown land. The premier beer blog in Sydney town is a tome entitled Back of the Ferry

Now all bloggers have their favourite brewers. Regular readers will know that I have a total man crush on boys from 2Brothers, who are the only brewery to ever get two jug ratings from me for their James Brown and Chief.

Now what 2Brother’s is to me Murray’s is to the BOTF crew. And imagine the excitement if your favourite brewery opened up in your home town (Any breweries looking to open in North Melbourne, I’m more than willing to be your ‘creepy guy who is always sitting at the bar, I mean doesn’t he have a job.’ You know every brewery/pub/bar needs one).

And Murray’s is a brewery that gives 2Brother’s a run for my affections. Today I’m going to tell you about two of their brews, one which will increase the social responsibility of this site no end, and a second which many would suggest aptly sums up my personality.

The first is Punch & Judy It is a mid strength beer (just 3.9% ABV), which in the mind of many a beer swilling yobbo means low taste. But this is a beer which aims to prove you don’t need alcohol for a good beer. And a good beer it is. Good but not great. It’s a nice amber colour with a foamy head which sticks around. It has a tropical fruit tones in the aroma coming from the hops and a medium body and some hoppy bitterness. It is a touch on the gassy side for my liking,  although that has more to do with the English bitter style than being low alcohol.

This is probably one of the best mid strength beers out there, but based on a selection of all beers, it’s just a good solid beer not a knock your socks off brilliant beer, which many people seem to think it is – Definitely Pint Worthy.

The second beer couldn’t be more different. It’s a 6.5% brown ale called Angry Man I fucking love everything about this beer, starting with the label. A kangaroo punching on with the a old school boxing dude, I like it so much I’m thinking of getting the natty t-shirts they make with it on it (I’m just waiting for my size to come back in stock, I mean who would have thought a larger sizes would sell out first when we are selling beer t-shirts.

There is something about wearing a T-shirt with Angry Man written on it appeals to me.

The beer also looks great – It pours brown with amber highlights, has a light creamy head which lingers nicely. Aromas of nutty chocolate are evident and there are caramel tones in the mid sip and then this fades away into more tart coffee tones and what I would describe as resiny hoppy bitterness which just stops the sweetness than anything else.

Nice big full flavour, interesting enough to keep you coming back again and again, and with enough bite to cut through. I’m a sucker for the brown ale as this table shows, and this is a very very good Brown Ale – I even think it’s Jug Worthy.

Murray’s Nirvana Pale Ale

Prologue: Nirvana is the central concept of many Indian religions. It is the state of being free of pain. It quite literally means blowing out. That is the blowing out the fires of greed, hatred and delusion. An admirable state to be in, and some would argue a very apt name for a beer. A good beer at the end of a hard day can move one closer to Nirvana.

One could just as easily argue that too many beers and we will move further and further from nirvana, as greed, angryness and general shitblokeness take over. So heed Tipples warnings, treat beer with the respect it deserves, It’s an art form not a way for you to pretend you are more liked than you are.

Sermon over guys, back to the beer. It’s made by Murrays – which is fast becoming a favourite of mine, and many others. I note that in the recent book ‘Australia’s best beers’  Murrays account for seven of the 100 top beers – more than any other brewery. Their highest rating was 4 for the Icon IPA, and although Nirvana Pale Ale was somewhere in the eighties it should be pretty good.

Packaging:  This appears to have had a change at some point the old one seems to have a cartoon of a Kangaroo on it, which is odd and a little rustic for my liking. The new one, shown above, is simple strong, easily recognisable which would be important for this their most mainstream of beers  and the yellow colouring suggests to me that this is going to be refreshing.    

Appearance: This poured with quite a large head that was slightly yellow rather than the more traditional pure white. The brew was a golden/darkish yellow and a little bit hazy.

Taste: It felt a little thin in the mouth. Citrusy, almost to the point of being tangy. I’m going to take a wild guess a say that there is a bucket load of cascade hops in there , which makes it reminiscent of the far more popular (but I think not as good) Little Creatures.

In conclusion:  This is a great beer, refreshing, interesting, but it did seem to have one problem, every time I put it down to have a bite of my food Jord would steal it to take a sip. So my advice to you is; Buy two, one for you and one for your girlfriend.

Ranking:  I’ll have a Pint

The (not so) long bow Youtube clip: You know I have to do it – It’s Nirvana with ‘Smells like Teen Spirit”