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.