Samuel Smith Old Brewery Pale Ale

Samuel Smith and his Pale Ale

So the Olympics is almost upon us and in celebration of this wonderful although awkwardly timed event, over the next three days I will bring you three appropriately English beers to imbibe whilst watching the athletes run, skull, swim, jump and generally speaking be all sporty like.

The first of these is Samuel Smith’s Pale Ale, which is a pale ale in the English sense, rather than the American sense. What’s the difference? Well it’s much like the countries themselves. English pale ales are more solid, dour, understated, less flashy, whereas American pale ales are big and brass and all things American.

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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off to sell shit beer to the masses and the hotdog and charcoal chicken sellers of the South Melbourne Market have been replaced by the up and coming designers, cupcake stalls and other purveyors of hipster chic in an area of the market which is now called So.Me.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

Brewery Visit – Forrest Brewing Company

Half finished beer and the Frog in a Pond - Brilliant.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but there was some discussion between myself and Jord on NYE about what our resolution(s) should be. Now where most people would have gone with lose weight/stop smoking/take an art class/see Paris, we went with a far more down to earth approach.
Visit more microbreweries. Well actually our first resolution was ‘visit every microbrewery in Victoria’, but then after I started naming them we realised that we would need to be permanently drunk for the next 12 months if we did that so we scaled it back to this; 12 microbreweries in 12 months (nominally one a month).
Where possible I’m planning to make these coincide with trips we are already going on (I’m looking at you Byron Bay Brewing, Moo Brew in Hobart and Mildura Brewery) and the first cab off the rank was no different.  
Now if you are stalking me, you’ll know that every year I go to Kennet River. Unfortunately Kennet River doesn’t have a brewery (although myself and Chris did discuss the possibly of opening one in one of our more unrealistic moments of the weekend) but just up the road from Kennet River is the world renowned beer mecca of Forrest. By up the road I mean about 50km away (that is close once you are in the country) and by world renowned beer mecca I mean place with a population of 170 people and one brewery.  
With said local population of just 170 people, one must assume that the vast majority of the customers are driving  in and out of this place (on some challenging roads) so it’s perhaps not surprising that the beer line-up is devoid of 9% IPA monsters and tends more towards the sessionable brews, including a non-beer wanker friendly mid strength.
The brewery is worth visiting though. It’s a cavernous old general store that has been converted, out one side in the glorious sun is a makeshift beer garden, in the main room is a series of long tables and down the back is a pair of comfy couches, a big open fire and a window looking into the brew room, and this is where we settled in.
We were nominally there for lunch, even though it was only three hours since we cooked up bacon and eggs on the barbie for breakfast. I have to say the size of the meals were daunting, but it was so good that it all got finished. Chris even described his steak sandwich as ‘nothing short of amazing’ and Chris is a man who knows a thing or two about dead cows. 
My highlight was actually dessert – Frog in a Pond. Is there any better dessert than the classic chocolate frog in jelly? I’m sure it was meant to be for kids but that wasn’t going to stop me, I even beer matched it to the Pale Ale (it didn’t really work, but what the hell). 
 But let’s get to the important bit, the beers. There are just four beers in the range and they are:
Silvertop: The absolute stand-out for me. It’s a seriously attractive beer, the striking feature is the fluffy white creamy head, which was not unlike the fluffy white clouds that we drove through as we crossed the Otways on the way to the brewery. This isn’t a game changer, rather it is a great solid summer quaffer. I liked it so much I bought a couple of 500ml bottles to take home with me.  Pint
Red Irish Ale:  The mid strength beer, and it tasted like one, which is to say it was a little thin in the body.  It was a good mid strength offering, refreshing, with a slight hint of resinous hops, not really one for me, but definitely one for the drivers – Schooner.
Oatmeal Stout: now this was the one that I’d had at the Microbrewers Showcase which is how I found out about Forrest Brewing. I wasn’t that impressed with it then and this ‘at the source’ tasting didn’t really help. It’s a weird beer, it has the flavours you would expect from a stout, roasted nutty flavours to be exact, but then it lacked body, particularly for an oatmeal stout (in which a silky full body should be signature). As I say I couldn’t really work this beer out, I wanted more, but maybe that’s just me. Schooner.
Pale Ale: Every brewery has a pale ale nowadays and this is a worthy contender, there is a good nose of hops, without any standout ‘oh that’s cascade hops or that’s galaxy’ character. It’s certainly at the entry level of pale ales, but it does enough to keep you satisfied, leaving a lingering bitterness in the cheeks. Pint.
So if you find yourself in the Otways, it’s worth making a detour (or a stop if you are heading to the Otway Fly as you are going to have to drive right past it) in Forrest and trying a couple of their brews, and take my advice, get the frog in the pond – best $2.50 you’ll ever spend.

Sightings Pale Ale

Prologue:  Sightings is not a beer brand I’d heard off, so in some sort of thing that would drive marketeers crazy when I saw it at Slowbeer I had to have it.

For the record it’s made by the Harcourt Valley brewing company which another beer label backed by a winery, namely Harcourt Valley winery. I guess there are a lot of winemakers out there who think they can make beer.

Packaging:  I’ve stated before that winemakers make great beer labels (Moo Brew being the obvious example), they understand how to communicate quality. This is a study in classy greys and blacks. I first though the black thing was creepy monster fingers reaching across the label but on second look I think it’s a puma.

Why a puma? Well did you know that there are supposedly pumas roaming around in the near the Grampians (which is sort of near Harcourt), if you believe the story some American soldiers where keeping puma cubs as mascots during WWII, when the war ended they let the Pumas free in the bush.     

Appearance:  A cloudy amber colour, with significant yeast particles in it. It has a foamy uneven head which does maintain and lace.    

Smell:  This had essentially no smell, which is very concerning for an American Pale Ale (APA)

Taste:  The first reaction is not great, although it did grow on me. It felt like a reasonable homebrew, but not really up to commercial standards. The malt character was subdued, and there was something a little unpleasant about the hops, It was quite bitter, but there seemed to be no taste or aroma coming from the hops.    

In conclusion: It’s okay, it’s drinkable, but it’s not that enjoyable and I’m not sure I’d bother again given how many good APA’s are out there.     

Ranking:  Maybe just as a Pot.  

Six degrees of Norm: Where prove all beers can be linked back to Norm from Cheers (George Wendt)

  1. This beer is named for a sighting of a Puma
  2. Just like the 1980 movie ‘Pumaman’ (it must be good it get 2/10 on IMDB) which started Donald Pleasence.
  3. Who was also in the mini series ‘Masters of the Game’ with Maryam d’Abo
  4. Who in turn was in ‘Dorian Grey’ with Ben Chaplin.
  5. Who was in ‘The Thin Red Line’ with Woody Harrelson
  6. And Woody of course served beers to Norm in Cheers.

SA Week – Lobethal Bierhaus

I can’t think of the last time I went to a drive-thru bottleshop.  Growing up in the ‘burbs they were certainly part of my youth, but since then nothing.  Back in the day I had this mate who was about 18 months older than me and thus got his license nice and early. Better still he had an old Kingswood that he had inherited from his grandfather so it would be a common ritual to all climb into the back and stop at the drive-thru bottle-o on the way to party. Our theory was there were no ID checks in the drive-thru, old enough to drive, old enough to drink. Of course this was before my craft beer awakening so no doubt we were buying slabs of Strongbow and Two Dogs.

The Kingswood looked a lot like this one....

Fast forward almost 20 years and I’m crammed in the back of a rented Hyundai Getz, on the way to visit my mother when we spot a drive-thru. Lacking any real knowledge of bottleshops in Adelaide we gave it a go.

Peering out from the back seat (I couldn’t get out as I’d been blocked in by a Toyota Tarago driver buying a couple of slabs of VB) I’m scanning the fridge and coming up with little in the way of drinkable craft beers. This of course being the common problem of the drive-thru, very difficult to browse. My brother however could get out of the car so he spots a range of Lobethal Bierhaus beers. We buy the entire range and head back onto the road again.

Now the Lobethal Bierhaus is in Lobethal, which is just outside of the Germanic enclave of Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills. They are now in their fourth year of operation and actually have reasonable distribution around the trap; you can even get a couple of their brews in Uncle Dan’s. Unfortunately we never made it to the brewery itself as they were closed the day that we decided to embrace all things German and head for the Hills.

The Lobethal Line-up (Photo stolen from Craft Pint)

We started our journey into the world of Lobethal with the Pale Ale, which was a little disappointing actually; it was a tad thin and not very interesting. There is not a huge hoppy character for what is meant to be an American style Pale Ale. It’s pleasant enough to drink, but not a game changer – Schooner.

The Hefeweizen was a much nicer beer. It had banana flavours coming from the yeast on the nose and visually it lived up to the cloudy reputation of hefs. The banana was there again in the taste and it had a slightly hoppier character than many purists would prefer, but I liked that about it. It was very easy to drink and a good interpretation of the style – Pint. 

The final in this trio of beers was the Bohemian Pilsener which had subtle non invasive carbonation. Visually it was a cloudy light yellow colour; it is a little strange to the taste, slightly metallic at the start and slightly bready at the end. It finishes dry, which is code for having almost no discernable hops character (keeping in mind that the style shouldn’t have much anyway). It’s okay but not brilliant – Schooner. 

I also had the red Truck Porter which I do remember as being pretty good and at the more coffee end of the porter scene, but It was late in the night so I have no notes and thus can’t review it. The pick of all their beers however was the Double IPA which I had at the Wheaty the night before.

Pigs Fly Pale Ale

Prologue:  This weekend was the type of weekend that required a young man to pretend it was summer. It was sunny (but not really that hot)

Now for me summer means two things. 1. Sitting on the balcony and 2. Drinking Pale Ales.

So this is what I did. I’d made a rare trip to suburbia yesterday, and during this trip I happened to pop into a dodgy little IGA supermarket to pick up the newspapers. (my exploration of the suburbs meant I wasn’t able to do my usual Sunny thing of walking to the local newsagent, which is staffed by a sausage dog).

As is my want in these situations I had a poke around their liquor section (I only looked a little bit desperate as it was 10.30am on a Sunday morning) and came upon a couple of things that I thought interesting. One of these beers was Pigs Fly Pale Ale.

So armed with newspapers and beers when I got home I climbed the many stairs up onto the balcony, read and drank, and reviewed.

Packaging: Now if you are thinking you’ve heard of this beer before, you might have. I reviewed their Pilsener about six or so weeks ago. This one has the same label design, that crafty little pig with his wings. This one has green writing rather than green. Maybe they are hoping for a ‘Coopers Red, Coopers Green.” type effect with people ordering a ‘Pigs Green.’

Appearance:  This had a big head as I poured it, it might have been a result of the rapid cooling I’d given this beer, taking from the car and dumping it into some ice water to get it cool enough to drink. It was a dark golden colour, quite clear with some energetic bubbles.

Smell:  It smells of basically nothing, which is never a good sign.

Taste:  It is okay. Not brilliant, Just okay. There is nothing about it that really stands out, but then again there is nothing about it to put you off either.  It’s the Phil Collins of beer, completely middle of the road. There is a little bit of body, but not heaps, there is some hoppy bitterness there, but only in a resiny and slightly metallic way.

In conclusion: It’s a reasonable beer. It’s the beer you would make if you were a microbrewery that was keen on making some sales and money (hopfully to fund more interesting beers), it’s not going to offend anyone. The mainstream kids won’t find anything to hate, and the craft beer kids will drink this before mainstream swill. The problem is if I was choosing between this and some of the great pale ales out there like Kooinda or Nirvana (Soon to be known as Angry Man Pale Ale) or even Fat Yak, I wouldn’t be going the Pigs Fly, and that might be a problem for them.

Ranking:  Let’s have a Schooner

St Ambroise Pale Ale

Prologue:  It is a boring day at rainbow house, I’m surrounded by empty desks due to a combination of holidays and sickness and there ain’t much going on. Outside it is grey and rainy and we are all a little flat as one of the stalwarts of the rainbow house (he’s been around since it was called the big green building) is leaving us.

That’s right the co-creator of Tipples is leaving the nest, moving on to sell macro beer to the masses. Of course just like his work ethic in this blog he is nowhere to be found this afternoon but as a little tribute to him I popped down to Swords at South Melbourne market at lunchtime and picked up a brew

This is a tribute because that’s how this site started. MB wanted learn more about beer so every Friday we would pop down to Swords and grab a new beer, then late on a Friday evening we would hide in a corner of the office and drink it.

So here I sit with a St Ambroise Pale Ale in hand and pretending to work.  

Packaging: Pretty standard stuff, the St Ambroise logo with the Griffen, but with a nice gold background. The choice of white writing on gold seems weird, but whatever man.

Appearance: More of a dark amber than a pale ale, with tiny little bubbles trailing through it and a thickish head which disappears quickly.    

Smell: It has a very strong smell, This is going to sound strange but it smells like burnt honey.    

Taste: A slight fizz to it, and some flavour in the front of the sip, and again overtones of honey. Very little hop character in the aftertaste though.  

In conclusion:  Not at all what I was expecting, it is sweeter, and more fully bodied that the American Pale Ales I’ve been living on of late, unfortunately it is also quite a bit crisper without much hop character, which I think lets it down slightly but not a bad beer, and very well suited to drinking on a cold afternoon in the office.

Ranking:  Let’s have a Schooner

Long bow You Tube Clip:  Because MB is as funny as Norm

And as smart as Cliff Clavin

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”