They were the darkest of times.

The VALE/EXP 001

Melbourne seems to be steadfastly holding onto winter even though I’m fully of the opinion that as it’s mid-August it’s about time the sun came out to play so I can go back up on to my balcony and sip a nice fruity pale ale. But it hasn’t and I haven’t, rather I’m left donning my possum wool scarf and gloves, taking refuge in warm pubs and bracing myself with high alcohol dark beers, like the two I’m going to tell you about today.

The first of these beers comes from an unexpected source, McLaren Vale Beer Company, of Vale Ale fame.  Now I had dismissed them as ‘producing little more than gateway craft beers’ and ‘more interested in fancy packaging than what was in it.’ But as they now have their own brewery (which I assume they can now afford as they made gateway craft beers that appealed to a wide range of people, and had a eye for design and marketing) they are experimenting a bit more.

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Penny Blue & Moondog

If you find yourself in the CBD of Melbourne, in fact pretty much right in the middle of the city, just near the GPO building and you are looking for a place to have a few drinks then you can do much worse than popping into Penny Blue for a beer or two.

Now you won’t have too much trouble finding something interesting to drink, it’s more likely that you will struggle to narrow down the choice to just one beer. More than once here I’ve entered into a decision daze where I’m left staring at the fridge or beer list unsure of what to choose.

I did manage to make some choices when I was there a couple of days ago. I started the journey with Moondog Black Lung II. The first sign that Penny Blue is a seriously good beer bar (apart from the three hand pumps sitting on the bar) was that I was asked if I would like my drink at room temperature rather than from the fridge.  Seriously when was the last time a bar asked you that when ordering a stout? Also as you can see from the photo they then pour it into a wine style glass and give you both the glass and the empty bottle to take back to your oversized couch.

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Brewery Visit – Tooborac Hotel & Brewery

We had spend the long weekend doing the stereotypical things that inner city living wankers do. That is escaping the hustle and bustle of the big city and to get some peace and quiet and fill our lungs country air.

Of course what this actually means to white inner city yuppies (remember when yuppies were a thing?) is that we sat at wineries sampling wine that I could buy on Errol street and eating food that I could buy of Errol street.

We did try to ‘get a little country’ and hiked up and hill, nee mountain, but that didn’t go so well for us city slickers as the track went through a field which contained big angry looking cows, and they didn’t take to well to our presence, I don’t really want to go into it but the incident started with some ill tempered moo-ing and ending with two cows chasing us down a hill, and high pitched screaming (not from me of course).  

 

A Evil evil cow - Like the one that chased me

 

 

It was all a little unnerving, murderous cows, and being forced to be a cheese eating wine poofter. To settle my nerves I managed to convince the girls (Jordan and the non beer drinking Brewer) that it was essential to stop into the pub to have some lunch and a beer to two.  What I didn’t tell them is that the pub I had in mind was the Tooborac Hotel which was just a little bit (by country terms) off the highway on our way home.

Now the learned folk amongst you might know that the full name of the Tooborac Hotel is actually the Tooborac Hotel and Brewery. Those with excellent memories may even remember the their appearance at the microbrewers showcase

They are a tiny little brewery, I’ve never seen them anywhere other than the showcase. I assume they don’t bottle their beers. So if you want to taste them you’ll have to head to the small country town of Tooborac.

I’m only assuming it was a small town, because we never really saw it. The hotel is on the highway with parking out the front, so it is literally pull of highway, walk into bar. It’s a nice little country pub, obviously historical, and as such it has a number of small rooms here and there, so we settled into the small dining room in front of a open fire and ordered up a Chicken Parma (which was nice enough but nothing spectacular).

The Tooborac Hotel & Brewery

But we are not here to talk parmas we are here for the beer. My understanding of the brewery was that they had but two beers, an amber ale and a pale ale, but it would appear that someone had been playing to some dark malts for winter and I also managed to find the stout and a porter on tap as well. But are the beers any good?

I started with the Stout which was really big, black as the ace of spades with a creamy brown head. It wasn’t polished, and felt like hearty brew that had been home brewed by someone who had been brewing for thirty or forty years (and had a beard, they always have beards, I like to think of all home brewers as looking like the late great Bill Hunter) It was full of roasted malts and had a big strong almost port like flavour all through the sip and not at all hoppy. It was like a liquid Malteser, nice but you would struggle to drink more than one. Pint

Whilst I was drinking the dark beers Jord was on the friendlier light beers, she was nice enough to share them with me/look away long enough for me to steal some. The Woodcutter Amber Ale was a gentle brew, again not that hoppy, but full of malt. It smelled like apples and even had a slight apple taste to it – not quite cider like (which as I understand it is a fault if found in beer) but just a hint of sweet apples. A refreshing brew but more suited to summer – Schooner

But for me it was back to the Porter – I was wondering if they poured the right thing when this turned up as it looked just like the stout. Taste wise it was a toned down version, slightly thinner in the mouth and a little bit more tangy rather than malty, although still not hoppy. Also pretty good – Pint.

Last but not least was the Stonemasons Pale Ale. This was interesting visually (if not spectacular taste wise) this had waves of bubbles moving through it, like schools of fish, or like someone had dropped a alta selzer in the bottle and it was creating localised columns of carbonation. These columns would move as you drunk the beer – it was odd – Schooner.

 So if you find yourself in the general area (Tooborac is sort of near Puckapunyal) it might be worth popping in to this pub if you are looking for something a bit more interesting that the usual Carlton Draught found in most country pubs.

Long Bow YouTube Clip: I’m think something is askew in Tooborac. Woodcutters and Stonemasons. Sounds like the evil Stonecutter might be involved. May explain why I was drinking pints….

Sinha Stout

Prologue  When I think of beers from the sub-continent, I don’t immediately think of stouts. I (perhaps wrongly) associate stouts with the cold climes of Europe, and specifically Ireland, Wales and England.

But you see Sinha Stout is not from those frosty parts. Rather it is from Sri Lanka, a country I would assume would be producing beers more like Singha (which is from nearby Thailand, and not to be confused with Sinha), Kingfisher (From India) or some other light tasting, but highly refreshing beer.

Any discussion of Sri Lankan beer centres around Sinha, more commonly the lager, but also the Stout, so I can only assume that it is the done thing in Sri Lanka to sit on the beach and crack open a stout at the end of the day.   

And what is good enough for them is good enough for me, although I will swap the beach for the couch.

Appearance:  Black with a thick brown head. This head does die quickly however.  

Smell:  From the smell you could tell it was high alcohol (about 8%). In fact the smell reminded me of ethanol (not that I go around sniffing ethanol)   

Taste:  There was next to no carbonation in this beer. I found it a little harsh. You could taste the alcohol in it both in the mouth and in the aftertaste. There was a bitterness to it, but I didn’t think it was from hops, it felt tarter than that.  

Packaging:  Sinha means Lion. So it should come as no surprise that there is a Lion on the label. A majestic beast, charging at you from a fire soaked black background. The gold frame and writing and makes this one of the classiest and most manly labels around  

In conclusion:  An interesting beer as it’s not exactly what I would expect from Sri Lanka, but I have to say overall I was a little disappointed. I found it a little too harsh for my liking.   

Ranking:  Let’s have a Schooner

Young’s Luxury Chocolate Double Stout

Prologue: It was a dark and stormy night. No, hang on. It was a dark and stormy day in Melbourne town, the type of day that has you running for a duffle coat, a nip of port and a nice sit down in front of the fire.

Unfortunately I was stuck in a building with all the cosiness of an operating theatre, and a colour scheme to match, but this wouldn’t stop me from embracing winter with a nice warming stout.

Stout of course has a high degree of difficulty, it could all go wrong very quickly, so with this in mind myself and MB headed to the local market and sought out the least threatening stout we could find. Young’s Luxury Double Chocolate Stout, It has both Luxury and Chocolate in the title so it’s got to be nice right?

Appearance: Looks like a Coke, which is helpful when drinking in an office, which we were, an office in South Melbourne with a no alcohol policy.

Flavour: Surprisingly enough, it tastes like chocolate, powdered chocolate in fact, and beer, which is a good combination one would think.

Packaging: 500ml bottles, which is a massive plus, because it’s a glass and a half, just like some other chocolate with a purple label.

Food Suggestions: It’s no secret that I’ve been searching for the perfect beer to have with waffles since a night at the Belgian Beer Café when I was told that it was socially acceptable to drink beer with waffles. This could indeed be that beer.

Possible Slogan: Chicks have Cadbury, Blokes have Stout

Scores: I’ll have a Pint Thanks