Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Session #76: Compulsion

The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community, started by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer. On the first Friday of each month, beer bloggers write about a predetermined topic. Each month a different blog is chosen to host The Session, choose the topic, and post a roundup of all the responses received. For more info on The Session and the upcoming topics, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin’s archive page.


Absolutely cracking topic to delve into this Session with, because it's a derivative of a recent Session topic that generated a lot of conversation and seemed to be a common theme among plenty of beer bloggers, yet it's a subject that can be written about at length by itself.

It's probably the single biggest factor that keeps us beer tragics swiping the credit card and finding new places to stash beer in our ever-expanding cellars/boxes/corners of rooms etc.

The corners of the rooms aren't expanding, the space required is. If the corners of your rooms are in fact expanding I would recommend to stop reading this immediately and consult a builder.

Actually, I'd also recommend you stop reading if you're bored already because it certainly isn't going to be getting any better.

Ahem, anyway... back on topic.

Compulsion is the very thing that makes me so continuously passionate about all things related to good beer, whether that be buying multiples of a particular beer so I can see how it develops over time, picturing an ideal food/beer match, dreaming up recipes for the next batch or simply going in to a shop and just picking up what I know will be tasty, rewarding beers.

Does he use this photo in every post now?
Beer is situational. Depending on the activity that you may be partaking in, you get an idea in your minds eye about the exact beer that you want to drink to accompany it. And hey, if you don't have that particular style, or even the exact beer in the fridge or cellar, off you go to the bottle shop to pick up a bottle. Is that a new beer? Better pick that up as well. You may as well grab some other corkers as well.

This is a scenario that plays out constantly for me, resulting in an abundance of beer in my house.

Doesn't sound like much of a problem to have, but it's a weird little quirk that I (and many others...) have with buying beer.

New beers cause just as much anticipation, therefore a desire to buy, particularly when it's from a brewery that have a tendency to release unique beers. An example of this is Moon Dog. Whenever the Moon Dog lads release a beer I just have to get it. I struggle to guess what the taste profile is going to be, so I've got to get my hands on a bottle.

The Red Duck seasonals (I say seasonals... the Red Duck weeklies) have the same effect on me. I want them all.

Another element of compulsion is my homebrewing.

Days and weeks can spent dreaming up recipes for that ideal next home brew, then another few weeks getting it fermented out and carbonated.

Then after one taste of my first bottle of the new batch my head is full of ideas about how I'd change this beer the next time I brew it, or even ideas of new styles to try my hand at. All the while I still have 19L of this beer to get through.

I'm still a hoarder of my homebrew so I can taste them at various stages of age, so this contributes to the stockpile of beer that needs to be worked through.

I think compulsion and FOMO (fear of missing out) cross over in a major way. A new keg gets put on at Slowbeer. Alehouse Project have an unheard of tap takeover. Something ridiculous goes on the hand pump at Penny Blue.
Red Hill taps for some reason.

This is an experience that may not be repeated. Sign me up. How long will this be on for?

Soon after I have this thought I notice the Posse pack that's been delivered to my doorstep. For those who don't know, the Posse pack is a regularly delivered case of beer from Bridge Road Brewery that ensures that you get a good selection of Ben's beers to drink either four or six times a year.

With the amount of beer I buy I do not need to subscribe to this, and not only do I subscribe, I get the more frequent delivery.

Why do I do this? I really don't have a good reason except for the very subject of this post. I want to try all Ben's beers. I want that supply of India Saison. I love the fact that Ben brews two beers a year specifically for Posse pack members. I don't need the case every two months but I like it.

I love that fact that this great beer culture we're a part of compels us so strongly to want to try new things. It's a strong power that it has over me and I'm sure everyone who bothers to read this.

I love the fact that because of the amount and variance of beer that I have at home I can satisfy any beer related whim that may crop up. Craving for a Baltic Porter? No problems. Hop fix required? Get your hit quickly there buddy.

Most of all I love the fact that this compulsion crosses the paths of like minded people who are seeking the same thing as me. It's been said to death; beer people are good people.

Take GABS for example. There were dozens of excellent beers, but probably only a handful that were memorably outstanding for me. It didn't even matter though because the best part of GABS is the interaction with all the punters there that are drawn to good beer, whether it's your close group of friends, people just approaching the world of good beer or the vast array of beer geeks there, everyone is excited about the beer and that is what has brought them to the venue.

Compulsion is strong and it is good and I hope the day I lose it for good beer is a long, long way off.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Good Beer Week 2013: Hair Of The Dog Breakfast with BeerMenTV

How did we get to Friday morning already? Good Beer Week only just started!

In fact, I actually wrote this on Sunday so we're a good 48 hours closer to the bitter end of this great week.

But going back to Friday, there is really only one way to properly kick off the day and that's with the Hair Of The Dog Breakfast hosted by BeerMenTV.

It was cold outside waiting for the doors to open. Some would say it was the low temperatures combined with the persistent gusts of wind, others would say it was the inevitable crumbling of one's immune system after six days of valiant battle.

Sitting down there was an immediate moment of realisation of what we were up against. The beer list for the breakfast was displayed in each set place on the table. This is what we were dealing with;

  • BrewCult - Hop Zone IPA
  • Boneyard Brewing - Grapefruit IPA
  • Murray's Brewing - Punch and Judy's Ale
  • Bridge Road Brewing - Chevalier Dunkel Weizen
  • Doctors Orders Brewing - Morning After Pill
  • Moon Dog Brewing - Love Tap
  • Feral Brewing - Raging Flem
  • Riverside Brewing - Ring of Friar
  • The Old Brewery - Memorial Ale
  • Yeastie Boys - His Majesty's 2012
  • Mountain Goat - IPA

That's a pretty serious list of beers to contemplate at 10am on a Friday.

Chris Franklin, doing his thang. 

So what's a good way to assist with the mental process of working through these breakfast courses?

I imagine that you have all answered the same way in unison. With a rendition of the hit single 'Bloke' from the year 2000 performed by the surprising entertainment juggernaut that is Chris Franklin.

You'll be pleased to know that he seamlessly substituted 'VB' for 'craft beer' in that timeless verse.

Anyway, that's more than enough characters assigned to that particular section of proceedings.

The food prepared by the chef's at Beer Deluxe was first rate and created some pretty interesting matches with that ridiculous list of beers provided.

I already mentioned Raging Flem, right? Man that's good.

Where was I? Lost my train of thought.

You know how good that lineup of beer is, and you'll have to take my word on how good the food was, but what makes these events so enjoyable is the hosting duties of the gentlemen from BeerMenTV providing entertaining commentary to proceedings and fun games for the punters and brewers alike.

Ponytail-less Todd
The first promise made to us was that the perpetually ponytailed Todd would shed the hair tie and unleash the beast for all to admire and enjoy.

To make him feel more comfortable, wigs were provided to some punters to wear as a sign of solidarity and support. Hendo was one who donned the wig, and I must say that it's quite a striking look for him.

Hendo rocking the follicles
The result was fairly terrible and all was well when the hair tie was returned to it's natural position.

Food highlights were the cheese kransky wrapped in puff pastry served with house made chutney, which was outstanding with the Love Tap and the Raging Flem, but the clear winner of the day was the smoked trout with avocado mayonnaise, sumac, asparagus and garlic croutons.

This dish was brought out heaped on a serving dish and it looked like an obscene amount of food, but it was so damned delicious that we made extremely light work of it.

The next game on the agenda was for a group of punters to mix a clamato style beer cocktail for Todd to taste. The catch was that they were instructed to make them as vile and offensive as possible. The winner would be the one that concocted the most awful atrocity for Todd to sample.

One such punter was Matt Boustead from 7 Cent Brewery who seemed pretty happy with himself after he tasted his handy work, so surely his wouldn't be the worst of the lot.

Cheese kranksy. Hello. 
His was the worst. By far, judging from Todd's grief stricken face as he begrudgingly took a swig of that grey poison.

There were laughs all around though, so I don't know if that's reward enough for the suffering.

Special mention ought to go to Doc and and Riverside Brewing who created a beer specifically for this event. Doc produced an easy drinking spiced gruit style which went down magnificently well.  

The Riverside Ring of Friar was a chipotle brown ale that had a good whack of warming chilli, but the fact that these beers were created just for the breakfast was a wonderful gesture.

Again this is one of the highlight events of Good Beer Week and we hope to see the BeerMenTV boys return again for Good Beer Week 2014.

Cheers lads!

Extra large photo of some delicious smoked trout. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Good Beer Week 2013 #1 - From Beechworth to Bombay - India vs India

The use of Bombay wasn't offensive was it? I mean... Beechworth vs Mumbai doesn't quite... After all, I'm not looking to advocate any British imperial sentiment here... though now I think about it, without the British East India Company... we probably wouldn't have been gifted the India Pale Ale... so...


India vs India, the collaboration event between Bridge Rd Brewery and masters of Indian cuisine Horn Please, was the first event locked in for me upon my initial glance at the Good Beer Week program. Indian food matched with IPA's? Genius. And all this before I'd stepped foot in the restaurant. A subsequent reconnaissance mission, (albeit a boozy endeavor of a Sunday $20 All-You-Can-Eat) to Horn Please uncovered a gem of a restaurant with quality fare and a craft beer selection from both local and abroad that would leave most bars envious.

The evening began for Dave and I at the Tramway Hotel with a couple of pre-dinner beverages as part of the South Australian offering for Good Beer Week's Pint of Origin series. Then the Horn Please feast was upon us. Ben Kraus, the brains and brews behind Bridge Road Brewery, was on hand to introduce the beers  that would accompany the culinary offerings from our hosts, explaining the ideas behind his Single Hop IPA series (in which we would be sampling the Summer, Stella and Galaxy versions) as well as the India Saison collaboration with Norwegian brewers, Nogne and the recently brewed Imperial IPA, Bling Bling. Bridge Road Beers are as solid as they come in this country. You always know what to expect, and generally, that's a bloody good beer, and this was evident in the beers sampled on the night.

I was keen to see how the dishes would match up with the beers and how they would interact, but each dish that appeared brought an explosion of flavours that I felt potentially out-muscled a lot of the hop characteristics, but as a result, each beer was a malty palate cleanser making way for further adventures in spice and herb. One thing I will say for Horn Please is that the food is spectacular, and their range of beers on offer makes for the perfect place for a night of great food and drink without spending a small fortune. Its kind of like the result of a drunken conversation... "wouldn't it be great if... you had... a curry shop, that.. also had a bar-worthy range... of good beer... and BLACK JACK!" ... okay... maybe without the black jack.

Anyway, the food! The meal opened with an Indian spin on nachos. topped with chickpea and herb and yoghurt salsa, then samosas, one of the most succulent tandoori chicken's I've ever tasted and a trio of curries, Lamb Madras, Butter Chicken and Goat Curry with rice and naan. The pain of overindulgence kicked in somewhere between the Samosa and the tandoori chicken, but at Horn Please, that part of your brain that would usually kick in to say "you should probably stop eating now, you're going to rupture something" switches off, lays back and guzzles vindaloo sauce... it then becomes a compulsion. To devour everything that reaches the table. It's just that good.

Indian style Nachos.

By the time desert arrived, a coconut homemade iced cream in stick format matched with the delightful Bling Bling DIPA, tears of both joy and pain were being wept at the table. There was no room left anywhere in my torso, yet both items managed to crawl their way in and nestle amongst the rest of what had been an amazing night of beer and culinary indulgence. If you haven't already been to Horn Please, I really can't recommend it enough, even just for the food alone. The two, well stocked beer fridges are just that delightful bonus and further evidence that beer and Indian food are the perfect duo for a great night of taste exploration. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Good Beer Week 2013

"There comes a time in one's life when all harvests of existence align so all the fruits of labour can be picked and enjoyed. These are the times when the heart is full of joy and the mind rests easy. Be true to your instinct and desire and you will be rewarded with harmony and pleasure."

That is a famous quote by a man that I haven't made up yet because I only just finished making up that quote.

But it's applicable to Good Beer Week, isn't it?

Of course it is, I made it up with that very intention.

Good Beer Week 2013 is upon us. It's here. It's finally here!

The culmination of an incredible amount of time and effort, crammed into 9 joyous days for the enjoyment the local (and not so local) public.

Where do you even start when you're talking about something as sensational as Good Beer Week? Well I'll keep this short and sweet. Here's a few thoughts about the week ahead and what I'll be doing;

What am I doing during the week?

Saturday the 18th.

Rhythm and Brews: Swinging by Trunk for some Honey APA and a little bit of pig on the spit before Ubering my way to the launch party.

Festival Hub Opening Party: Kicking off with a bang. The Terminus Hotel are hosting the launch party, and how awesome does it sound?

Sunday the 19th. 

Going Large: Goat IPAs, fried chicken with all the sides. Need I say more? If you're not going to this I have a few questions for you.

Monday the 20th. 

India v India: How good are Bridge Road's IPAs? How good is Horn Please? Put them together? An obvious choice for me.

Wednesday the 22nd.

Sourfest: After all these IPAs I'm attacking I'll need to cleanse the pallet with some sours. New and exclusive sours from Hendo's BrewCult and the 7 Cent lads. Hell yeah.

Abbey Collaby: Come on, one of the must-do events of the week. Matilda Bay and Moon Dog collaborate with the Goats for some good, old fashioned Abbotsford teamwork.

Friday the 24th. 

Hair Of The Dog Breakfast: BeerMenTV return to the mantle for the premiere breakfast event in town. Beer and breakfast? Heavenly match.

Hold on a second there, idiot. You've missed a couple of days!

Well spotted.

I plan on filling the weekdays sauntering around to the Pint Of Origin (PoO...)venues tasting the best of what the various states have to offer.

The weekend will heavily feature GABS. I haven't planned any of that yet. Not like some of these mechanical beasts that have structured the week down to a tee. I tip my hat to you guys. I'm not organised enough to execute that.

I'll probably hit up that giant 30cm burger with Rian at some stage.

I'll head to a few free events too, it's going to be a wonderful week.

What do I want from Good Beer Week this time around?

I just want pure enjoyment. Isn't that what everyone wants in life? Oooh, that marries up really tidily with that quote at the beginning of this post that I made up.

I also want to meet all the punters. Not all of them. I want to put faces to names of people that I've tweeted to, heard about etcetera and so forth.

That's why I've gone through this utterly pointless process of telling you what I'll be doing over the week. If you're doing any of the same events that I am, then come and say hello to me. I'll be nice. I promise.

I know what you're thinking. If I don't know my PoO or GABS schedule then how do I expect you to synchronise any of your schedules with me?


Let me know when you're going and I'll see if any of it marries up with my schedule. I'll probably tweet my movements anyway. I don't even think you really care, to be honest.

Alright, well I'm bored now. I think it's time for a pre Good Beer Week beer anyway.

I'll see you suckers at the Terminus for the launch!

Classic Good Beer Week moment featuring James Smith as landlubbin' pirate with two idiots. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Cool Story Brew #1 - The Great London Beer Flood of 1814

It's been quite some time since I last put virtual ink to webpaper on this blog, not that I have been short of beer-spiration with the local craft beer scene continuing to flourish much in the same way that, say, Nickelback's credibility doesn't. However, I've felt the need to get back to what my original idea for my contribution to this page, the strange and bizarre of the beer world.

So with that, and the cobwebs that accompanied my laziness-induced hiatus now out of the way, I offer you the first in a series of strange and bizarre happenings from history, involving... well, beer obviously. (Terrible set up... this is what happens when you don't write for 15 months...) This is the bittersweet tale of a beer, free in both price and spirit, that finally got fed up with fermenting in a large vat and decided it wanted to see the world.... killing eight in the process, (though unofficial reports put the number anywhere upwards of 30.)

Meux's Horse Shoe Brewery

Like many of the mass beer manufacturers of the recent era, Meux's Brewery Co Ltd, the  beer-producing cash-cow (or possibly penny-oxen at the time?) of Sir Henry Meux, had made a small fortune buying out smaller breweries in the area and brewing ales on the grandest of scales. From its humble beginnings in 1764, it had risen to be one of London's main suppliers of porter,  and had amassed a large collection of local breweries under its wing.  One particular brewery under the control of the Meux empire was the Horse Shoe Brewery on Tottenham Court Rd. In 1785, construction began on the company's flagship brewing set-up, a series of massive barrels, the largest of which, designed to hold over 510,000 litres of their best selling porter, the Meux's Nut Brown Ale. So large was this tank, that it required 29 iron hoops to hold this monstrosity together (fabricated reports suggest this was much like what Mama Cass had in her later years),

The morning of 17th October 1814 began the same way most did in Georgian London, under a thick cloud of industrialisation. The people went about their business like the fodder of future Dickens novels that they were, or would be. The porter had been fermenting away for months in these giant vats at the old Horse Shoe brewery, which had started to show signs of distress and aging, and, as maintenance was expensive and money was good, had been generally unattended by repairing hands. At around 6pm, the iron hoops gave way with an ear-shattering eruption that was reportedly heard up to 5 miles away. The 510,000-odd litres of beer, glorious beer, crashed down to the brewery floor causing a domino effect in rupturing the other giant vats surrounding the largest. In all, nearly 1,470,000lt of beer (about... *sniff* 2,655,000 pints... *sniff*) smashed through the walls of the brewery and flooded out like a tsunami of porter into Tottenham Court Road and New Street, with waves as high as 15ft bearing down on anybody in it's path.

Somewhat creepy 19th century etching depicting the event. 

The area surrounding the brewery was filled with slum housing primarily for Irish immigrants, many of whom dwelled in the basements of the streets, and as the time of the accident was before most of the working men had arrived home from a long day manually turning the wheels of industry, all eight of those who were officially reported to have died were women and children. Adding further insult to injury and a smattering of irony, the wave of beer also destroyed the local Tavistock Arms, killing 14 year old barmaid Eleanor Cooper.  Although many rushed to the aide of the scores of people injured in the flood, many locals began gathering pots and pans, kettles and anything else that could house the beer and began transporting it back to their surviving dwellings. Reports in the local press at the time (after the page 3 girl revealing a bare ankle) told of the workers beginning to arrive home, then great jubilation erupting in the flooded streets as men began swilling the porter and generally 'ladding' about. In early 19th century London, a street full of free beer was something one wouldn't celebrate lightly.

The Great Beer Flood of London Recreation Society
during one of their daily re-enactments.

Of course, the Meux Brewing Co Ltd was hauled before the courts, lawyers were involved, wigs were worn and those hammery things did hammery type duties. Eventually, the whole thing was deemed to be an "Act of God" which was odd, as he was not on the books of the brewery at the time, nor later tried for his actions. Although the whole ordeal did just about bankrupt the Meux company, who lost a modern day equivalent of close to 100 million dollars, but did succeed in becoming the first mass-producing beer manufacturer to flood the market with their product to the detriment of all who suffer it, a tradition that is lovingly carried on today.

Monday, March 11, 2013

High Country Hijinx – Bridge Road Brewery

For a while now Bridge Road has been one of my favourite Australian breweries, so the fact that I'd never been up to visit the brewery was a criminal act of the most heinous variety.

An unassuming location from it's facade, but inside it's humble entrance was an oasis.

Once you're within 30 meters of the entrance you can smell pizza. Wonderful, mouthwatering pizza. The aroma only intensifies as you get further inside. It's one of the best smelling places I've ever been to.

Second only to the Russian delicatessen on Koornang Road, but that's another blog altogether.

It's a long weekend, so the place was pretty much packed. Any seat would would do us. What's that over there? An empty four seater? Score!

Grabbed the first round of beverages and sat down, basking in the glory of enjoying some of the countries best beer in their intended environment.

We could stay here for hours.

After a few minutes we got asked to leave as we'd actually wandered into the seats that belonged to the cafe next door, and they weren't licensed so they did not want to see us in their seats at all.

Again, on a seat finding mission we were lucky enough to get a legitimate four seater almost straight away.
One of my favourite pale ales, the Beechworth Pale was tasting spectacularly brewery fresh, while the newest kid on the block, the WalDo saison was especially popular on the hot day.

On the table next to us was a group of scumbags that I would have ignored had it not been for this upcoming anecdote.

It was a hot day, and on the drinks menu was a cracking solution to hot day. A Robust Porter float with vanilla bean ice cream. The scumbags at the next table also got the porter floats when we got them.

“What the hell is this shit? That's terrible! What the hell man?!”

...were the comments coming from the loudest scumbag from the scumbag table. This piqued my curiosity of course as the tastes that I was getting was chocolate, coffee and ice cream. It was gorgeous. One of the better floats that I've had.

“It tastes like chocolate, coffee and ice cream or some shit man. That is shit.”

Another pearl of wisdom from the loud scumbag.

He was right though, that's exactly what it tasted like but it was awesome.

I was lucky enough to make eye contact with the loud scumbag as he was delivering his expert analysis of the beer and said “What's wrong with you?!”.

It got a laugh from his co-conspirators, but did not get me any closer to finding out what was wrong with him.
A home made pretzel was enjoyed (like, a lot) and all was well.

Beechworth is a gold rush town that's absolutely picturesque and the brewery integrates seamlessly with the historic appearance of the building and town.

Bridge Road Brewery has now been ticked off the list and all feels right with the world.

 I will certainly be back.

It's customary to take a photo of decals. It's actually enforced by law.

High Country Hijinx – Bright

It takes delicate planning to ensure that we can enjoy every element of this excursion, having to work out timings and travel routes for optimal high country enjoyment.

One situation that required such planning was the activity flow of Saturday night. We would go to Bright Brewery to enjoy some lovely ales in the mountains before we would navigate to Tani Eat & Drink for dinner, before returning to Bright Brewery for a nightcap. (Or a night-10 gallon hat, amirite?)

So it turns out that none of this planning was required because Tani Eat & Drink is about 100m down the road from the Bright Brewery.


Let's have a beer!

The new brewery/bar looks really good and offers a spacious environment to enjoy what the brewery has to offer, but for even more aesthetically pleasing environment, sitting out the back is where it's at.

From your table you look out on the mountain side, in all it's glory. Now that I think of it, I really should have taken a photo of it because a picture tells a thousand words and I'm sure as hell not going to write a thousand words describing a majestic mountain environment. You can probably even imagine what it would be like without the photo, so I won't go in to it any further.


So, we were here to rekindle the love for the sweetheart who charmed us all that time ago but then went MIA. The very same MIA, that it's name is. Strange.

Clearly there was going to be many a glass filled with Bright's MIA IPA, but since I haven't had the range in a really long time, I thought I'd paddle up and get this done.

The paddle was a great idea because it's $12 for six generous samples of their range.

Value and fun.

I'm sure you're dying to know what I think about everything, so I'll tell you. The Blowhard Pale was tasting excellent, and far better then I ever remember it being so I made a mental note to get a pint of that later on. The real star however, was the Bright Lager. Who am I? When did I become a lager swilling heathen? Well that's not a fair judgement, you should be ashamed of yourself.

The Bright Lager clean, dry, a little fruity and it goes down an absolute treat on a warm day, which it certainly is today.

As much as I liked the Blowhard I was alternating between MIA and the lager for the remainder of the evening.

Not only is there good beer in gorgeous surroundings, but they have got toys. So if you're sick of talking to your boring friends there is the oft maligned escape of playing with some toys.

Highly controversial Jenga tactics.
Or if you have kids this would be handy. Yeah, it's probably intended for kids.

The result was a match of Jenga so rule-bendingly devious that I never want to see Jenga ever again.

Oh, special mention, the Fainters Dubbel was tasting really good too, but y'know, MIA.

Food time, and we began the arduous trek to Tani Eat & Drink that we could see from the brewery.

Seconds later, we arrive at Tani.

Good setting, great food.

$50 for the four course set menu. We don't mind what we get served, just bring us food four times and be done with it.

I really should have taken photos of the food. I suck at this.

Highlight course was the chicken with almonds, cauliflower, warrigal greens with a soy milk sauce.

I hate myself for thinking about it again because I want it again now. Even though it's 8:35am I would be all over that chicken.

It should also be noted that Myrtleford Butter is one of the best products to ever be conceived by humankind. I'm not sure if it's already a wonder of the world, but it can only be a matter of time.
MIA money shot. I even used an effect on the photo. 

Rather than return to the brewery we were swept up in some kind of festival that included guitars and classic rock.

I won't bore you with any more details.

Dave out.  

High Country Hijinx – ALL THE CHEESE

It's quite possible that along the way the car lost control and we plummeted to our grim deaths, because we found ourselves at the the Pearly Gates of heaven.

Locals call it the Milawa Cheese Factory.

Cheese tasting? Don't mind if I do. Don't mind if I do a lot.

I'm not going to bore you with my uneducated thoughts on each cheese that we had but it's safe to say that they were all divine.
Highlights for me were the Milawa Blue, a very mild gorgonzola and the Markwood five year old mature cheddar.

The Milawa Cheese Factory have some local brewed beers and of course, locally made wine. Enjoyed on the day was a large cheese platter and some local chardonnay.

Pro tip of the day is to pick up the special deal of the $5 Milawa Camembert wheel, which was tasting sensational.

Also available are a number of cured meats and artisanal breads.

Definitely worth stopping in if you're in the area.

There's no room in the post for more photos, so I figured I'd just tack on some more gratuitous cheese shots. 

High Country Hijinx – Taminick Cellars

First cab off the rank for our little jaunt was Taminick Cellars, slightly off the beaten path from Glenrowan and in a beautiful country surrounding.  

It's a gorgeous little building among the vines which is abuzz at the current stage due to it being the middle of the vintage season for the winemakers who also happen to be the beer makers.

There was a wine paired lunch in progress when we arrived, about 30 people enjoying what looked like some delicious meals and I kind of wished I was staying for the meal.

However, we were here for a purpose so we organised some tasters of the range that was on offer at the current stage.

The Lazy Dog Ale was tasting really refreshing with a good bitterness and the warm weather of the day made this a very popular choice of the day.

The Howling Pale was fantastic. Fresh and hoppy, this is he best that I've tasted it and this is likely due to being extremely fresh. A cracking pale ale that I'll be delighted to see it get some larger distribution once head brewer James gets his new 10HL brewery set up.

The star of the show was the Dead Dog Stout that was being poured through the hand pump. Delightfully smooth with the dominance of coffee roast asserting itself to created a smooth as silk stout. Not at all weather appropriate for this one, but this was not an issue for us because it was delicious.

Back to business, we're hittin' the road.

I think it's cheese time.

High Country Hijinx – Prologue

The trusty chariot that delivered and returned us safely

This is a story about adventure, mystery, travel, corporate espionage, and self discovery.

A young girl's strange erotic journey from Milan to Minsk.

Rochelle, Rochelle reference.

That's a reference to a movie that exists within a TV show. Pretty sharp.

Three young men*, three days, a lease car that requires some kilometres to be traveled and a world in the north country of Victoria that is rich with high quality food and some of the countries finest breweries.

*The three afremonetioned men aren't even that young really. In fact, the term 'men' is being used liberally to be honest. Three males. I'll refer to us as 'three males' from now on to avoid any challenges to facts.
Oh, some mountains. This photo isn't as good as I first thought.

Now that we've cleared that up, where does one begin?

I don't know, we'll figure it out as we go.

I'm writing this as we're driving, by the way, I don't want to you thinking that the above statement was an awfully fake flippancy, inserted in after I know the sequence of events that occured to create some sort of carefree image.

Ugh, this is a dreadful post so far.


Accompanying us as we hit the open road were Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Robert Plant, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page and a few others who proved very helpful in creating a road trip environment of cranking magnitude.

We're away. We're on the road. There will be more when we hit our first activity of note.

Dave out.  

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Session #73: Beer Audit

A fitting way to begin my regular (hopefully, really hopefully) contribution to The Session.

The beer cellar is a strange and beautiful beast and it's one that's particularly enjoyable, albeit impossible to tame.

I'm a good collector of beer. I've got good willpower to not drink something special that will benefit from some time to gather it's thoughts, though to be honest my cellar has a closing door so very often it's 'out of sight, out of mind'. And there I was, telling you how good my willpower was.

You saw through that, I know.

But in truth I definitely buy more beer than I drink, and this has resulted in a fairly substantial collection of ales that is just sitting there. Waiting. Glorifying themselves.

It's something that I've done deliberately. I thought the idea of squirrelling away some beers that were conducive to ageing would be something that I could do (given the aforementioned willpower that you didn't believe for a second...) and something that would be cool once I'd got something established.

I mean, who among you wouldn't want to be able to go to your stash at any given time and pull out a big barleywine or Belgian quad that has 3 years behind it?

I defy you to say you don't think that would be cool. Defy.

So for a little while I was buying beer with the express intention of targeting beers that would cellar well, and obviously this meant I was buying beer that I knew I wouldn't be drinking and given that a lot of them were a high ABV, I was handing over a lot of coin too.

I didn't mind this so much because I knew that my little project of padding out a cellar was getting some solid inclusions during this period.

It was an investment.*

Now here's where some of the questions arise.

What event is worthy of selecting a cellared beer to enjoy? How the hell can I enjoy a cellared beer in the summer months when everything is over 8% ABV and RIS and barleywines? Who will enjoy these beers with me, as most of them are large bottles? Why the hell do I do this?

Well these are all questions that have plagued me.

And then another phenomenon occurs. It occurs frequently actually.

It's Friday night and I decide I'll have a beer. It's been a tough week, I need something to quench my thirst. I need a pale ale, or an IPA, or a pilsner.

So I walk away from the 150+ beers that I have in my house and I go and buy more beer.

I walk away and I buy 'beer for drinking'.

The fact that I do this and use that term is a little bit mental. And I know that. I really do.

But I'm not going to stop. I like it.

There's also the issue of FOMO (fear of missing out).

If a new beer comes out I want it. If it seems like it will age well I want three. If it's limited release WHERE'S MY CREDIT CARD?

Even after all these negative elements go through my head rationally, I don't care.

It is awesome to be able to grab something that hasn't been available for two years, or grab that RIS that is three or four years old and is now tasting mind blowing.

A few times a year I'll go through them to see what I have, usually reshuffling because I've run out of room, but this is a pretty fun time to take stock of what I have. Sometimes I find beers that I forgot I picked up in the first place and this gives me some renewed enthusiasm for that beer, and I'm not ashamed to tell you that once I catalogued my cellar in an Excel spreadsheet.

It was quickly forgotten about because aside from it constantly having items come in a go out, it was utterly pointless and not useful at all.

If I could take back the thirty or so minutes it took me to compile that spreadsheet, I would.

Ultimately it's totally worth it for the very reason that I started it in the first place. I have a collection of amazing beers that are getting better, and at any given moment I can go and drink something that's really quite exceptional.

Vive la bier!

*This is obviously rich with irony. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Hottest 100

Christmas is gone.
New Years has passed. 

Easter is a long way off (unless you're in a supermarket and want easter eggs...).

We're already a couple of weeks into January which seems scary, but there's no need for concern. 

The Local Taphouse Hottest 100 is nearly upon us again and this is going to be the most exciting countdown yet, as it's been an extraordinary year in Australian beer and there has been more great releases from more breweries than ever before. 

I figured I would tap out a few words about some of the beers that have stood out to me this year. 

I'll mention my top five as it seems to be mandatory for these Hottest 100 posts, but I'd much rather just have a bit of a discussion about a larger group of beers that deserve to be at the pointy end of the countdown. 

Without further ado;

1. Red Duck - Hop Bach. 

Gorgeous, malty double IPA that tasted as luxurious as the description suggested. Big and bold, but with the balance of a Russian gymnast. (<-- the ones that actually represent Russia, not the cast off ones that represent all the other countries.)

2. La Sirene - Wild Saison.

Come on, don't even need to say anything here. The class of the saison but with that funk that don't quit. I'd love to see an even wilder version someday.

3. Moon Dog - Perverse Sexual Amalgam.

Black. Sour. Cherries. Funk. Layers. These five words have already made me want to go to the fridge and get another one. Just so good. 

4. Mornington Peninsula Brewery - Imperial IPA.

Every beer that comes out of this brewery is a belter and this is the king. It's what an imperial IPA should be and is already a perennial favourite among the beer geeks. 

5. Feral - Watermelon Warhead.

How often would people scramble to participating venues to drain kegs of a beer that is 2.9%? That's a testament to how enjoyable this beer is. It was still a resounding favourite during GABS when it was well below 2% ABV. Just a great beer. 

That's my top 5 out of the way, so now I feel better and more relaxed. I'm sure most of you didn't really care what I thought my top 5 was, but I'm much more interested in talking about some of the beers that would be on the fringe or may not have been thought about. 

It seems that a lot of the beer geeks out there have evolved in their selection criteria from including the "Wow!" beers they have tasted during the year and have gone with the reliable beers that they have enjoyed regularly all year. 

Some have applied rules such as only including one beer from any given brewery. 

All pretty good formulas. 

I'll share a couple of thoughts with you about how I think this years Hottest 100 may unfold.

Favourites for the top 10. 

Stone & Wood - Pacific Ale

Pretty much a lock for top two. Becoming synonymous with Australian beer and the first one I think of when I want a summer beer. 

Little Creatures - Pale Ale.

Despite the sell off I still think this will get a ton of votes as a solid pale ale that's available country wide. 

Feral - Hop Hog.

Say no more. 

Vale - IPA. 

The best beer to come out of this brewery, multiplied by their marketing focus equals votes. 

Kooinda - Black IPA. 

Gorgeous, roasty black IPA will surely breach the top 10. It did last year and more people will have tasted it after 12 more months. I don't know anyone who doesn't like this beer. 

Temple - Midnight IPA. 

Another black IPA but another belter. So close to being in my top 5, this will surely get plenty of votes. 

I think these will clog the top end of the list and deservedly so. I really think the Kooi BIPA and the Midnight will feature heavily in the votes. 

Even if you're a pure beer geek and you'd love the list to be filled with the awesome, avant garde beers that you've loved over the year, this is a popularity contest so it won't happen. I mean, face it, Ra #2 is not going to be on the list. 

Next predictions. The beers I think that will shoot up the list from last year. 


Cavalier  - Pale Ale. 

When the Cavalier Pale came in at number 72 last year I made the prediction then that this beer would feature a lot higher when this year's countdown and I stand by it. Brilliant pale ale that will sure get the love this year. 

Bridge Road Brewers - Beechworth Pale. 

Last year this came in at 65. What the hell!? How is that science? Surely this beer deserves to get in a lot higher than this. Even if the distribution is mainly in Victoria it's got to get in higher than 65. 

Mornington Peninsula - IPA.

It was around last year and it was good last year. It came in at 91. 12 months on, god knows how many pints of this beer have been poured and the reputation has only grown. Let me make a sweeping prediction. Top 40 perhaps?

Now which breweries do we think will feature the most? Breweries are releasing so many different beers these days, like Scott at Red Duck. 32 unique beers released or something? He's planning 50 for 2013? He didn't even feature in the 2012 list! Madness. 

Alright, here are the breweries that I think may get several mentions. 


Mornington Peninsula Brewery. 

A.G is missing something in his brewing arsenal. He doesn't know how to make a bad beer. Everything that comes out of that brewery is excellent and they could find themselves with several entries in the countdown.

Murray's Brewing Company.

A constant stream of quality from Bob's Farm. The series of stouts, Spartacus, Punk Monk, Icon. The list goes on. So much good beer. 

Temple Brewing Company.

If there is any Victorian bias at all then surely we'll see a few Temple beers on the list this year. Midnight will be there. Scarlet Sour should. Saison and Pale have tough competition but really deserve to be there. 

There's no real category for these next beers but they just deserve a special mention for being incredible beers in the year 2012. They probably all could have been in my top five but they all can't make it. Whittling down a list to 5 was nigh on impossible. 

Special mentions.

Doctor's Orders Brewing - Prescription 12.

So good. Time stopped from the first sip to the bottom of the pint. 

La Sirene - Saison. 

This would have been in the top 5 if it hadn't been for their Wild Saison. These guys clearly know the nuances of making farmhouse style beers. 

Mornington Peninsula Brewery - Russian Imperial Stout.

Chocolatey, roasty, bitter, balanced. Great beer. 

Moon Dog/Yeastie Boys - 7 P's. 

So many elements that you wouldn't necessarily put together, but oh my does it work. 

Red Hill - Hop Harvest.

Maybe I'm biased, but I had this at the brewery on the handpump on a wonderful afternoon and it was glorious. 

Mountain Goat/Mikkeller - Gypsy and the Goat.

Big black IPA, pepperberries ever present, this was a brilliant beer. 

Red Hill - Saison.

New offering from Red Hill this year was a beautiful version of this farmhouse style. 

Alright, I won't bore you any further. I can't wait for the countdown to see which of my predictions succeed or fail miserably, and see which new beers crack the list. 

Let's enjoy the day and celebrate the best year we've had in Australian beer. 

Signing off, comrades.