Saturday, April 23, 2011

Land of Hope and Glory

Rule Britannia! I’ve always considered myself to be a bit of an Anglophile, indeed if I wasn’t Australian and couldn’t be Jamaican, Scottish, Belgian, Vladimir Putin or some kind of mutant samurai astrophysicist I’m pretty sure I’d pick English as my nationality. Some of my favourite people are English; Churchill, Sir David Attenborough (wow, you really know you’re somebody when spell check doesn’t flag your name), Corporal Jones, that guy who narrates the Antiques Roadshow, just to name but a few.

England is also one of the great brewing nations, the home of some of my favourite brews, not that the brainwashed masses of Australia know it, there is this pervasive myth that the Brits drink warm beer, as if the barman puts it in the microwave before serving. Sadly this means English Ales are often overlooked by many looking to try new beers, indeed I was well into German and Belgian beer long before those of the old country. Now, with today being St George’s day and the fact that my partner hasn’t sobered up enough yet to complete part 2 of “beers to get your girlfriend into beer”, I thought I’d concoct a list of some of my favourite brews from old Blighty that no self respecting lover of beer should miss...

Wells Bombardier:

There is nothing I like dislike about the above picture. The self appointed “Drink of England”, the Irish have Guinness, while the English have the Bombardier, or so the Well’s & Young marketing department would have you believe. I had a laugh the other day as I walked into the Acland St Cellars and saw a lone bottle of Bombardier, obviously misplaced on the shelf by some careless shopper, surrounded by the Wehrmacht’s finest; neatly ordered ranks of Weihenstephans, Paulaners and Shneider Weisses. With the Cross of St George emblazoned proudly on the label it reminded me of the title sequence in Dad’s Army. Stirring stuff. Anyhow I placed a few Sierra Nevada’s, and Stone & Woods alongside to help out. I also placed a Kronenbourg 1664 alongside but it immediately surrendered...Anyway this is a lovely and highly sessionable ale, a good introduction to what the English do best.

King Goblin: Wychwood’s Hobgoblin is a true classic and the beer which first got me into English Ales. While the Hobgoblin is a mischievous little scamp his bigger brother is a wyvern riding, battle axe wielding warlord, come to lay waste to your stupid hobbit village. A stunning coppery red topped by a rising off-white head it would not look out of place being served in some Middle Earth tavern, this is everything that makes the hobgoblin so enjoyable and then some. Also a great way of getting fantasy loving nerds into drinking good beer! It'll make you roll all 6s!!!

Samuel Smith Imperial Stout: A beer of impeccable pedigree, a list of English brews would not be complete without an entrant from the Old Tadcaster Brewery. This is an example of an imperial stout, like IPAs imperial stouts were brewed stronger to survive the rigours of long sea travel, in this case to the Russian courts of Catherine the Great. Despite what the attractive label suggests, this beer is not the same that the decadent members of the Russian Court would have drunk with caviar and peasants tears, but a resurrection of the style, first brewed in the 1986. As far as I’m concerned this is the supreme expression of Stout, everything that is good about this style of beer is present in the complex characteristics of this coal black beer. Have one of these with a fine cigar and some aged cheddar and sing praise.

Adnams Broadside: If you have ever wanted to try Christmas pudding in liquid form then the mighty broadside is for you. The label commemorates the battle of Sole Bay, which the English actually lost against the Dutch in 1672. At 6.3% this is a 72 gun, triple decker of a beer and pours with a tall white head every bit as majestic as the sails of the galleon depicted on the label. This is one of my favourite winter beers, the thought of a Broadside in my handsome Adnams glass keeps me warm as I walk the rain swept streets of a Melbourne winter’s evening. Adnams of Southwold are an excellent brewery with many worthy beers and were recently named 2011 Brewery of the Year by the UK’s good pub guide. In addition to their environmentally friendly brewing complex they also run 70 pubs which all serve cask conditioned ale and a percentage of annual sales go to the Adnams charity which supports the local area, they are essentially the Mother Teresa of UK brewing.

Fullers ESB: The ESB is a dapper sort of chap, the quintessential English gent. The only beer to win CAMRA’s best strong ale award on seven separate occasions and the progenitor of the extra special bitter style. 7 times!!! If you like beer and haven’t tried this yet then get cracking, no one is going to take you seriously until you do. Like the King Goblin, this is another incredibly aesthetically pleasing beer, a clear golden copper in the glass. The smooth, ginger, toffee, marmalade taste is utterly sublime, if I lived in the UK this would be my 6 pack of choice.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Good Beer Week

Good Beer Week will be upon us from the 16th of May - 22nd of May.

What part of this event title can you not love?
Certainly the “good beer” part of it is exciting, but what about the “week” component? Surely good beer should be a lifestyle rather than just a week! Well you’ve jumped the gun a little bit because it’s not quite like that. 
Good Beer Week is a magnificent initiative to promote the enjoyment of wonderful local craft beer in events that are specified to showcase the quality of local breweries and venues.
Venues all over Victoria are opening up during the week to host events ranging from brewery tastings, to offering food matching for beers or themed tastings. The exciting element of these extend beyond the events of the week itself as it will be a chance for the venues to trial events that could ultimately become regular events. See what I mean? 
Several of the events will span the entire week (so there are no excuses for you to miss any of them!) whereas the majority of the events are set dates (and ticketed, so if you want to partake you’d better act quickly!). 
I’d considered going through a selection of some of the more desirable events to attend, but as I am going through each one they all strike me as something not to be missed so instead I will simply post the link for you and you can check out the full calendar for yourself. 
So there you have it. You might find that this turns out to be a really important week for the Australian Craft Brew scene as I think we are crying out for more events such as these, and this week will provide the perfect stage for venues to host these events with the confidence that they will fill the seats, whilst providing them with the feedback that there is the interest in the events to hold them on a regular basis. 
To see this occurring more regularly we need to support it while we have the chance. 
I’ll see you all there. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Top Beers to get Your Girlfriend Drinking Beer Part 1

Ten years ago the famed beer critic, Michael Jackson made the observation that women are utterly ignored by the brewing industry and this rings as true today as it did then. For the big brewers the only place women come into the equation is how many can be fit, scantily clad and usually wet, into a commercial aimed solely at the lurid desires of men. Now I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy these sort of ads, usually a lot more than the beers they promote; but doesn’t it strike one as odd that this massive worldwide industry completely denies the existence of the fairer sex as consumer?

Recent articles on Crafty Pint about the very worthy worldwide efforts of the Barley’s Angels to attract more women to beer, and this piece in Beer Bar Band about the recent Women of Brewing dinner in Melbourne have gotten me to thinking. I’m no expert on the world of big business but it makes no sense for an industry to exclude half the population for no good reason other than the vague idea of what is socially acceptable for each gender to drink. This is where, like Hannibal at Trebia, the craft industry can completely outflank the enemy and utterly crush them, slaughtering every third male and selling the women and children into slavery. By the execution of mayors and government officials we shall create a vacuum, then we shall...what? I’m doing it again? Sorry, wrong blog. As I was saying, a massive adoption of beer by the sort of women who would otherwise prefer wine would strengthen the industry to no end.

Now I’ve met several ladies whose knowledge of beer matches that of my own, ask any of the girls at the local Taphouse about their favorites on the tap list and their knowledge will put you to shame. But the truth remains that beer, for the moment, is still seen as a masculine beverage and considering the stuff we’ve had to endure for most of this country’s recent history it is not hard to see why most women with a refined, mature palate prefer wine. But with the rise of craft beer this need no longer be the case, I will stand by my declaration that beer can stand toe to toe with wine in all respects and, to put it in no uncertain terms, fuck you if you disagree.

So, to aid in this I enlisted the help of my fiancé, Sarah as my test subject. Sarah is 24, likes white wine, cider and things with vodka in them. I subjected her to a battery of peer reviewed scientific tests and experiments, which means I ploughed her with gallons of alcohol and recorded the results. Hey, every cause must have its martyr... With this hard won information I have devised a list of several beers that I think would appeal to the tastes of the girl whose only real experience with beer comes from being vomited on by an overzealous suitor at a night club. Our aim as always is to educate, do not preach, simply try to teach and with these weapons in your arsenal even the pickiest of tastes will find something to enjoy and hopefully lead to a wider appreciation of beer in all its varied forms.

Stone & Wood Pacific Ale: Okay, I’m not affiliated with S&W in any way, I do not get paid or receive any form of benefit. I’m just saying, I enjoy what they do. There is a reason why this is the critics’ choice. Good taste is beyond gender, nuff said. This picture sums up my feelings about this beer:

Grand Ridge Natural Blonde: This is a stunning wheat beer from one of my favorite breweries. Crystal clear, this is one of the country’s finest wheat beers, with hints of citrus, coriander and bubblegum. Wheat beer is a good way to show the fair beer maiden that beer isn’t all about bitterness, the softer, more delicate flavors. A session is something best shared so pull out a sixer of these fellas out when you drinking partner happens to fall in the female demographic. As the Grand Ridge website suggests, an ideal companion to an alfresco lunch or a picnic in the sun.

Holgate Chocolate Temptress: I tend to avoid stereotyping but I must say I have noticed that women and chocolate are quite fond of one another. A general lack of understanding of dark beers in this country means that a girl whom dislikes light and crisp lager will flee from a something as dark as the Temptress like a vegan from a Yorkshire pudding wrapped in bacon. Remember though, there is a reason it is named the Temptress; very moreish and warming, it is dark as Guinness but tastes like a rich dessert. This is one to save for the romantic fireside chat...

Lindemans Lambics: Fruity Lambics are about as far from mass produced lager as you can get. Indeed most who bypass these colorful bottles for cartons of VB and Pure Blond wouldn’t even realize they are beer, but beer they are. These are not novelties but the result of a complex form of brewing mastery known as spontaneous fermentation, which from what I can gather here entails some form of bloody sacrifice to the Gaulish god of brewing Sucellus. They come in a range of flavors – Kriek (cherry), Cassis (blackcurrant), Framboise (raspberry) to name but a few. Redoak also makes a Framboise but I haven't yet tried it, judging by their other offerings though its quality is not in doubt. It is difficult to articulate just how awesome these beers are and are well worth trying no matter what your gender. It is beer like this that help further shift the uninitiated’s view of beer as just consisting of bland lagers.

I'll have the second half of the list up as soon as Sarah sobers up... Remember, binge drinking is bad unless it is done in the name of science, then it's all good! Seriously though, this issue with binge drinking is only going to go away with a better education and appreciation for alcohol. And outlaw shots. Shots are the tipping point where a good night goes off the rails and the next thing you know you wake up naked in the bush fighting with dogs. I have lost count how many times this has happened to me. Don't do shots, drink beer!