Eagle Bay Brewery

The Cocoa Stout and a hint of the view

When you tell people you are going on holiday to Margaret River they will immediately start banging on about wineries. As both you and I are enlightened (and possibly bearded) beery folk we know that the wineries are all well and good but what is really interesting is the breweries.

Before I took the Pet Shop Boy’s advice or alternatively the Village People’s advice and went west I did a little bit of research. Now I know, as I’m sure you know about the big boys of the WA craft brewing scene, names like Feral, Bootleg, Mash and Colonial, but after a quick trip around the interwebs I discovered that there were more than a few breweries that I’d never heard of.

One of these was Eagle Bay Brewing, in the town of, you guessed it Eagle Bay. I realised quickly that this was not far from where we were staying in a town called Dunsborough which by the way is home to two excellent bars, a Clancy’s Fish Pub and the Pourhouse, which I’m putting just behind the Wheaty as my favourite non-Victorian pub. Given its proximity it’s not surprising that we made it there on our first day in Margaret River.

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WA – Ironbark Brewery

Weird Oktoberfest people at Ironbark for Spring in the Valley

We of course arrived in middle of Spring in the Valley, a strange dress-up/piss-up type event where groups of young people move from brewery to brewery and proceed to ask stupid questions like ‘have you got anything that tastes like Corona?’ They all seemed harmless enough, although their presence did mean there wasn’t a spare seat in the rather large house so we were forced to stand at the bar for our tasting paddle.

Overall the brewery is making beer for the tourist market so there was nothing too special in the line-up for us beer geeks, but there were some highlights:

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Feral Moondogs.

Another brilliant label from Moondog

We have discussed Moondog before, they are those crazy guys from Abbotsford who produce weird beers with strange names but awesome labels. The latest beer of theirs is no different. It is a raspberry coffee beer (because that’s a thing apparently) and it’s called Symbiotic Solipsism, which if Wikipedia definitions are correct means a mutualistic relationship that may not exist outside of one’s own mind. Doesn’t make any sense? Don’t worry neither does the beer.
And that’s the basic problem, when you are pushing the boundaries of what has been done in beer-making (certainly in this country) you are going to alienate people and you are going to produce brews that some people are going to hate. This beer for me was one of those. It could probably be best described as tasting like you took the wet coffee grains at the bottom of a bodum pot, left them sitting on the bench for 4 days so they got a little mouldy and then mixed them with some very weak raspberry cordial.  Pot.
I’m all for experimenting and I’m all for breweries producing something different and a bit wacky, and as a card-carrying beer wanker it’s my duty to be amazed by everything Moondog do. But I’d like to see them produce a good quality standard IPA or Pale Ale, or dare I say it lager to prove that they can actually make good beer before they go out making dung infused, dry roasted, barrel aged, sour ales laced with star anise and the honeycomb sourced from East African hives populated entirely by cross dressing bi-sexual  bees named Terry. 
One brewery that has proven time and time again that they produce great quality beers is Feral and I assure you that the Karma Citra is no different. It’s a black IPA, although it pours brown rather than black. There are sweet citrus fruits on the nose that remind me of marmalade and even a fleeting hint of smoke.
And the taste is all there as well. It’s complex and exciting, hoppy without being aggressive. It’s got this great silky smooth body as well, with quite a bit of malt character, almost chocolately and just a hint of nuts. Even though it’s a big IPA and has plenty of hops you get the feeling that even a novice to the craft beer scene would love this one, very sessionable. If you had to be stranded on a desert island and you could only take one beer to drink for the rest of time, I think I might choose this on. Although maybe I could do a two for one deal and take some Hop Hog with me as well  – Jug.

Bootleg Oatmeal Stout

Prologue:  There is something big a happening over in Western Australia. I often hear about the two speed economy. The mining states such as WA going gangbusters and the rest of the country in the doldrums.

Well I’m here to tell you about the two speed micro beer economy. There are two clear stand-out states for me in the micro beer scene. Victoria and Western Australia (and if Murrays could just move south of the border I could pretty much ignore the rest of Australia) like the myopic Victorian I am.   

This site has well a truly examined the Victorian beer scene, but we have been a little light on the WA breweries.

We shouldn’t be because WA is where it’s at. From the big boys of the craft beer scene Little Creatures (based in Freo) and Matilda Bay (started in Freo but then moved to Melbourne), right through to the smaller players like Feral and our brewery of choice today – Bootleg Brewery.

Bootleg brewery is one of those places that beer wankers rabbit on about, and no one else cares about, which is normally a sign of a good brewery by the way.

Packaging:  Simple, classy good writing on a black background. It reminds me of a mug that my Aunty Lee gave me when I was about nine it said ‘Trainee Millionaire.’ in gold writing on the side. At the time being a millionaire was something to aspire to, of course now being a millionaire means that you can barely afford to buy a house in a ‘get stabbed to looking at people the wrong way’ badlands and if you are lucky a clapped out Nissan Pintara with dodgy brakes and a mysterious pool of water under the passenger seat.

Smell: Smells like liquorice.

Appearance: A solid black beer with a nice thick brown head.

Taste: Tastes like liquorice as well, along with some hints of roasted coffee, It’s not particularly carbonated, rather it is a full bodied syrup like ale. Not too sweet mind you. There no real distinctive hop characters (unless there is some wacky hop with liquorice flavours but that would seem unlikely) although the flavour does linger, and what a flavour, full rich, brilliant.  

In conclusion: This is a fantastic beer. A real dessert beer. It’s just brilliant and an amazing way to end an evening of drinking, or non drinking for that matter.

Ranking:  A Jug Please     

Made up reader’s question:  Rodney from Romsey asks: What the hell? Why is this called an oatmeal stout, I don’t want me no porridge.

Thanks for writing in Rod, and excellent use of the English language. Oatmeal stout, does indeed contain oats (but no more than 30%, although in practice liely to be much less). That’s right along with the malted barley you would normally find in beer you would also find oats in your oatmeal stout.

In fact there was a period in the end of the 19thwhere oatmeal stouts were the flavour of the day, promoted (as all things were then) as restorative and nourishing. In fact I have a sneaking suspicion that this were the term invalid stout comes from, but hey I could be wrong, I’m a bit young (about 60 years to young) to fully understand stouts.