Friday, December 31, 2010

Beers - A Very Beery Christmas wrap

I hope everyone had a wonderful ours was indeed delightful, full of delicious Australian craft beers.

All praise and love goes to my wife (our first Christmas together as a married couple!) who had the original thought some time back to create a Christmas Day menu focused around cooking with beer. And then...she did all the real work to research, prepare and cook the beery food.

Our Very Beery Christmas Lunch started with a Welsh Rarebit on beer bread. Inspired by the Red Hill Brewery rarebit with their masterstroke of including leek in the ingredients (thanks again for the recipe, Karen!), the beer used in the rarebit sauce was the 2 Brothers "Growler" Brown Ale.

Toasted under a grill on slices of wholemeal home-made beer bread, which used a full bottle of Bridge Road Brewers Beechworth Pale Ale in the dough mixture, the result was just excellent and enjoyed with Red Hill Brewery Bohemian Pilsner.

The main course of the day was a barbeque beer can chicken. A 2/3rd full can of Anderson Valley Brewing Company Poleeko Gold Pale Ale was placed inside a seasoned chicken and cooked on a closed bbq for a little under 2 hours. (Can not express my gratitude enough to Biero Bar for supplying the AVBC can!)

It was our first attempt at a beer can chicken, which we were initially concerned about due to the small size of our bbq. However, it worked beautifully in the end, with the help of the Bar-B-Chef Beer Can Chicken Roaster that we picked up at Barbeques Galore a few weeks back. A very helpful tool! I probably cooked the chicken a little too long overall, drying it out a little, but the result was still delicious...and I look forward to doing it again with an even better result.

Complimenting the chicken roast was my wife's sensational Scotch Ale Potatoes, which used the Red Hill Brewery Scotch Ale...

Balancing the meal was a Beet, Fennel, Rocket & Nut salad with a Blond Ale Vinaigrette. Half a cup of the Red Duck "Black Heart" Belgian Blond Strong Ale was used in the vinaigrette.

Finally, dessert was the Chris Badenoch inspired Beeramisu, using the forever awesome Holgate Brewhouse "Temptress" Chocolate Porter.

We thoroughly enjoyed dessert with the spectacular Red Hill Brewery Double Barrel Aged Christmas Ale (as well as the regular Christmas Ale), which formed my final 12beersofxmas blog that you can read here...!

Throughout the day we mainly drank the Red Hill Brewery Bohemian Pilsner, which suited the weather and food perfectly. However, we also enjoyed some Stone & Wood Pacific Ale and Holgate Big Reg. A great day all round.

Cheers and see you in 2011!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

12 Beers of Xmas - On the twelfth day of Christmas...

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...a Red Hill Brewery Double Barrel Oak Aged Christmas Ale...

My love for Victoria's Red Hill Brewery knows no end. Therefore, it is pure joy to end our beery Christmas with the sublime and super potent Double Barrel Aged Christmas Ale (2010 release)!

A brilliant clear amber-almost-red colour, with a bit fruity flavour, medium-to-low carbonation and a very low body, this is a marvellously dangerous sipper because it is so easy to drink yet super potent with its 10.1% ABV. The complexity of this brew is fantastic...and I definitely prefer it to the regular Red Hill Brewery Christmas Ale.

The brandy character from the barrel ageing is clearly present in all aspects of the beer...aroma, taste, body and...awesomeness. The finish is reasonably short...but the depth and complexity of this beautiful and well balanced Belgian Strong all is all you need after a day of Christmas drinking!

Oh yes, I believe that this beer is the PERFECT alternative to a Christmas evening whisky!

Beer Joy.

I will be cellaring our second bottle for drinking on Christmas Day 2011.


Red Hill Barrel Aged Christmas Ale with a Holgate Temptress BEERimisu dessert!!

Alt Christmas Song of the Day: "Christmas Night of the Living Dead" by MXPX

Friday, December 24, 2010

12 Beers of Xmas - On the eleventh day of Christmas....

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...a Bridge Road Brewers Chestnut Pilsner...

According to Wikipedia, "The Christmas Song" (aka "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire") was written during a blistering hot American summer by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells in an effort to "stay cool by thinking cool".

Therefore, considering we are heading for a warm Christmas Day here in Melbourne (for once!)...the Chestnut connection has some validity in my 12 Beers of Xmas posts...I think?!? Not that we will be roasting any over a fire...but here is a way to at least enjoy the Chestnut element via a Summer appropriate Australian craft beer - the Bridge Road Brewers Chestnut Pilsner - a beer that is definitely best enjoyed cold.

Originally released as a "Chestnut Lager" for an Autumn seasonal, this beer was sidelined due to the lagering time and space required, which was beyond the capacity of this microbrewery's extensive regular range.

However, this year Bridge Road Brewers received an $18,800 Grant from the Victorian Government through the "Food Industry for a Sustainable Tomorrow" Innovation Initiative, which aims to grow regional development by supporting innovative and enterprising agricultural projects. This allowed Ben Kraus and co at the Beechworth microbrewery to install 3 more 2.4 hectolitre tanks and another Brite tank, providing the capacity to brew a Chestnut beer all year round. With the some tweeking of the Lager recipe (more chestnuts, different yeast strain, altered salts and hops) the beer was relaunched this year as a Czech Pilsner.

The brewers add locally grown chestnuts to the mash, using chestnuts sourced from Victoria's Beechworth region, the home of Bridge Road Brewers. Further, the Galaxy hops used in the brew are also grown close by at the Rostrevor Hop Garden. Hence, it is very much a unique Australian beer.

(Apparently, there are only two other commercially available chestnut beers in the world – from Corsica and Italy.)

Pouring the Chestnut Pilsner into a tall glass, its colour is a cloudy straw-like yellow-brown, maybe somewhat browner than most Czech Pilsner, with a small white head that reduces quickly with little lacing.

The aroma is very much the classic Pilsner smell of citrusy hops (the recognisable Galaxy hops), some thin grassy pine and a little spice.

On first taste the nutty character is actually very evident and a great twist to drinking a Pilsner, but it passes quite quickly. I am not a fan of many Pilsners, but the underrated Chestnut flavour in this beer makes it a much more interesting and well rounded over the commonly sharp and thin characters of many Pilsners. Whilst this beer is readily open to be rated as a fairly pedestrian Pilsner on terms of taste and texture, the innovation of using chestnuts in this beer is a local masterstroke in the craft of making good beer.

The body is medium-to-light and carbonation is also medium, so the mouth feel is very good. Definitely an easy drinking beer.

Right here and now...this is a perfect example of the right time and place for a beer. I probably would not be so complimentary of this beer on an average day or in comparison to some of the highly regarded international Pilsners. However, on a warm and sunny Christmas Eve, with the temperature and weather appropriate Pilsner combined with the festive Christmas character of the Chestnut and the overall "Australianess" of the product, the Bridge Road Brewers Chestnut Pilsner fits perfectly!

Alt Christmas Song of the Day: "Spend Christmas Day With Me" by Darren Hanlon

12 Beers of Xmas - On the tenth day of Christmas....

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...a Moon Dog Gingerbread Imperial Brown Ale...

Moon Dog Craft Brewery in Abbotsford announced its arrival on the local craft beer scene with an impressive Imperial Pumpkin Stout, brewed especially for Biero Bar's "Fright Night" Halloween Party back in October.

Today, their second beer hit the Biero Bar taps...and it is a MONSTER! Brewed specifically for tonight's "Nightmare Before Christmas Party" event, this Christmas-themed brew - a Gingerbread Imperial Brown Ale - used 11ish kilos of home made gingerbread and possess a huge 12% ABV (give or take 0.7%)!

If memory serves me correct, Bar Manager at Biero - Ray Kent - baked 26 kilos of his grandma's special homemade gingerbread recipe for the 50L batch of this beer.

And wow...this makes 2 from 2 on the scoreboard of FREAKIN' AWESOME beers from Moon Dog Brewing!

Lush, deep dark brown in appearance with a small tan head, this beer looks...enticing! The robust aroma is sugary sweet with a clear hit of gingerbread and something a little malty choc-banana.

The taste provides a serious punch of gingerbread (it is indeed like having a mouthful of liquid gingerbread!), dominated by a big molasses hit and followed by some malty butter. To me, on first taste it was like drinking crushed up dark-liquor-chocolates in a beer! This beer has an excellent full body without being thick and the medium carbonation was perfectly suited.

Fantastically, the 12ish% alcohol was no where to be seen in the flavour and texture of this beer! Even with the extremely high sweetness factor, a blind tasting could have you believing that this was merely a 6%-7% ABV beer. Although, the alcoholic effects of it are quickly evident. Two pots of the Moon Dog Gingerbread Imperial Brown Ale...and that was all I needed, as it was quite clear that I was well sauced from sipping down this amazingly unique beer. Nonetheless, two pots of this is all you need to be fully satisfied.

With a long lingering finish...overall it was just brilliant in an almost wrong kind of way. A true gingerbread experience and a brilliant dessert beer for Christmas!

I have never been more beer-nerdy excited about the arrival of a new local brewery. After several chats with Moon Dog's Josh Uljans, Jake Uljans and Karl van Buuren it is fantastically clear that they are some switched-on blokes with a seriously cheeky twist and a deliciously irreverent brewing philosophy.

With their obsession for big beers, you can expect the Moon Dog team to seriously mess things up (in the best way possible!) with some out-there, challenging beers...once they begin full time production in early 2011.

Just check out their tag line - "quality beer from Abbotsford..." - which I'd say refers to the fact that the only other beers coming out of Abbotsford are the (quality-less) Carlton and United Breweries (CUB) beers.

WELL DONE MOON have brewed us another quality WOW beer that will be the talk the town for many Christmases to come!

Another brilliant beer night at Biero Bar. Unfortunately it had to end too soon for I have to get up early and work on Christmas Eve.

...haha...thanks Ray...boneheader!

Alt Christmas Song of the Day: "Mr Hankey The Christmas Poo" from South Park

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

12 Beers of Xmas - On the ninth day of Christmas....

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...a Beard and Brau "Golden Paw" Pale Ale...

Established in 2008 by Chris Herring and Tanya Harlow, South Australia's Beard and Brau microbrewery has two regular offerings, which starting hitting Victorian retails shelves last year. Along with this Golden Paw, there is also the "Red Tail" Amber Ale, which I had a little while back and found perfectly drinkable but a bit uninspiring. They also have some seasonal specials (both of which I am yet to drink) - the "Black Snout" Milk Stout (retails in 750ml bottles) and "Bon Chiens" Farmhouse Ale.

Along with the usual microbrewery/craft beer weasel words of "all natural" and "handcrafted" for their beers, Beard and Brau describes the Golden Paw as a 'Steam Ale, American Pale Ale fermented with Lager yeast at Ale temperatures', which I believe many will classify as a "California Common" style...similar to that of the Mountain Goat Steam Ale (...I think?).

I also note that it seems the Beard and Brau labels have changed at some I'm not sure if this bottle that I have tonight is from an old or new batch. I suspect old...because I think their labels now look like that which you see on the bottle images on their website. Therefore, I hope it is not too old.

The Golden Paw has a cloudy golden-brown appearance and pours from the bottle with a huge bubbly head, which provides plenty of fluffy slippery lacing.

The aroma is grassy with a fairly strong pineapple hit, maybe some mango and peach type fruits too.

The flavour is big but not as balanced as hoped (as I suspect it as mellowed too much through age...not being the freshest of bottles). Full of tropical fruits, some hoppy bitterness and something a bit yeasty. It is one of those beers that improves its drinkability the more you have of it.

The carbonation is high and probably a bit too much. The finish is dry with an ok length and bitterness.

Overall, the Golden Paw is a promising beer that does not quite get there for me. Maybe I'm making unfair comparisons to the more refreshing and cleansing Mountain Goat Steam Ale...but this Steam Ale from Beard and Brau is at least worth trying...because it may work for you! I will revisit it because I'd like to try it on tap some time, on a hot day.

There days left until Christmas(!)...and the beers are about to get uber exciting. I may not get a 12 Beers of Xmas post up in time for tomorrow because I will be at the Biero Bar "Night Before Christmas" party, which will feature an 11% abv Imperial Gingerbread Brown Ale from Moon Bog Brewery...yikes!  Also on tap will be Southern Tier Double IPA, Renaissance MPA and Craftman’s Chocolate Stout, Timmerman’s Kriek and the Holgate Temptress Chocolate Porter. As an added bonus, after 11pm all pints will be just $5...!! Yes, it is going to be brilliant! Hope to see you there!

I promising 3 more posts will eventually be published by Boxing Day. Cheers!

Alt Christmas Song of the Day: "Father Christmas" by The Kinks

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

12 Beers of Xmas - On the eighth day of Christmas....

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...a Matso's Broome Brewery Smokey Bishop Dark Lager...

Matso's Broome Brewery is not a big name or prominent brewer here in Victoria, so my fellow locals are likely to only find their beers in specialty beer shops, such as Purvis Beer. However, they have a substantial operation and presence in Western Australia and their beers have won quite a number of awards since 2006.

The Matso's brewery seems to be very much tourism focused, which is perfectly understandable given that tourism drives the Broome economy. As a result, their beer range is fairly unusual, providing a "fun twist" for tourists, with a Mango Beer (Belgium Blonde), Chilli Beer (Wheat Beer), the "Sow's Ear" Vienna Lager and this Smokey Bishop Dark Lager. Obviously, their beers are also brewed for the tropical climate of the region.

The beer-nerd-word on Matso's at this end of the country is very...quiet. There does not seem to be too much praise for them from local craft beer enthusiast, but maybe that is just because their range does not really translate to our cooler and highly variable South-East Australian climate. (And maybe Matso's are just happy doing their thing, bouncing off the tourism they do not need to push over to this end of the market.)

I have previously experience their Ginger Beer and it was pretty disappointing, which dampened my enthusiasm to try more from Matso's.

However, feeling a little adventurous and/or complacent in the lead up to Christmas (as well as wanting to include something "different" in this 12 Beers of Xmas blog series), I thought it was about time I gave the Matso's beers an actual crack. Hence for today I have chosen the Smokey Bishop Dark Lager, an AIBA Gold Medal winner in 2006 (draught) and 2008 (bottled).

Poured into a small stein, the Smokey Bishop is a clear brown in appearance and has a generous off-white head that reduces relatively quickly.

The aroma provides nice roasted malt essance and tiny notes of bacon, but little else. On first taste this beer is more like an English Brown Ale than a Dark Lager, with biscuity roasted malt, coffee and some caramel sweetness.

The mouthfeel is soft and light and overall this is really well balanced for a lager. The finish is short and dry, but enough flavour lingers.

The Smokey Bishop is...not bad! It is very drinkable, but lacks complexity and length. I can see it providing some good drinking in the Tropics.

It is certainly worth considering as a gateway beer for non-craft-beer-drinker who are interested in trying an approachable lager alternative.

Alt Christmas Song of the day: "How To Make Gravy" by Paul Kelly

Clearly, there is no more appropriate Christmas song for today...

"Hello Dan, it's Joe here, I hope you're keeping well,
It's the 21st of December, now they're ringing the last bell,
If I get good behaviour, I'll be out of here by July,
Won't you kiss my kids on Christmas Day, please don't let 'em cry for me,
I guess the brothers are driving down from Queensland
And Stella's flying in from the coast
They say it's gonna be a hundred degrees, even more maybe,
But that won't stop the roast,
Who's gonna make the gravy now? I bet it won't taste the same!
Just add flour, salt, a little red wine and don't forget a dollop of tomato sauce for sweetness and that extra tang..."

Monday, December 20, 2010

12 Beers of Xmas - On the seventh day of Christmas....

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...a Lobethal Bierhaus "Red Truck" Porter...

After yesterday noting that I was only aware of four "Christmas" beers produced in Australia, today I discovered that there is actually a fifth Australian Christmas ale available. Fellow good beer lover and beer writer, Chris McNamara, drew my attention to the Lobethal Bierhaus Christmas Ale, a 6% ABV beer that has "cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice added so it's like Xmas cake in a glass". That is one beer I will be super keen to try next Christmas. (Melbournians can purchase the Lobethal Bierhaus Christmas Ale from SwordsSelect Wine&Beer Stores.)

However, since it was too late for me to acquire one this week, today's review is of the Lobethal Bierhaus "Red Truck" Porter, which I had already acquired and seemed rather timely for this Porter-appropriate weather that Melbourne is currently throwing at us. It is almost like a Northern Hemisphere Christmas here (...there has even been SNOW on the Victorian the middle of Summer!).

South Australia's Lobethal Bierhaus (Adelaide Hills Craft Brewing) was established in 2007 by former bankers, Phil Jones and Alistair Turnbull, who were seeking a lifestyle change with a move to the Adelaide region and a new career focusing on their keen interest in both wine and beer.

The brewery, with its adjoining cellar door and resturant, was previously a woollen mill. However, apparently the origin of the building has been traced back to another brewery - the Kleinschmidt Lobethal Brewery - which operated there from 1851 until the 1870s. Lobethal Bierhaus is definitely one of the breweries I am very keen to visit when we pop over to Adelaide mid-next year.

The Porter is something of an underrated style in Australia. There are a couple of excellent ones, such as the Bridge Road Brewers Robust Porter and Mornington Peninsula Brewery Porter, but many local versions tend to me rough, overcooked or just bland. Not so with Lothethal's 5.2% abv effort.

Richly dark with a slight brown hue and a generous tan head, the Lobethal Bierhaus "Red Truck" is a classic English Porter.

It has a very good nose of malt, cocoa, dark berries and some vanilla. The vanilla is there in the taste too, along with a healthy dose of cherry and plenty of well rounded dark malt that is not too roasted and hence this porter is soft and is not dry.

In the mouth Red Truck is silky smooth with a good solid body and deep texture yet medium-to-high carbonation. The finish is quite short. I only had one available, but probably could have drunk 3 of them.

Without being anything overly special, other than a well brewed and enjoyable dark ale, the Lobethal Bierhaus "Red Truck" surely fits right along side with the other top regular English Porters from Australian brewers.

Alt Christmas Song of the Day: "December Is For Cynics" by The Matches

Sunday, December 19, 2010

12 Beers of Xmas - On the sixth day of Christmas...

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...a Hunter Beer Co Christmas Beer...

I am aware of just four Australian breweries that produce and bottle a "Christmas" beer...and before tonight I had tired three of these: the Red Hill Brewery Christmas Ale, Redoak Christmas Cheer and the Holgate Brewhouse Christmas Ale (which has now been retired and replaced with Beelzebub's Jewels).

Tonight, I had the opportunity to taste the fourth member of Australia's Christmas beer establishment...the Hunter Beer Co Christmas Beer, thanks to the brilliant "Jolly Christmas Tasting" event at Slowbeer.

The Hunter Beer Company is a boutique microbrewery located at the Potter's Hotel, Brewery & Resort in the NSW Hunter Valley. Originally known simply as "Potters Brewery", but now brewing under the "Hunter Beer Co" label, they produce a number of small batch beers, all in 750ml bottles, with very few making it to the retail shelves in Melbourne. Their regular range consist of a Lager, Kolsch, Pale Ale, Wit Bier, Bock and a Ginger Beer. Hunter also produces a couple of seasonals, such as this Christmas ale.

Dark golden-brown in colour, the Hunter Christmas Beer is reasonably clear in appearance and possesses quite a decent white head for a "dark spiced Christmas ale" (as the bottle describes it). The head reduces very quickly, leaving a lovely looking beer that would sit nicely alongside your Christmas Day dessert.

The aroma is a slightly restrained chocolaty and spicy mix that alludes to a genuine quality brew.

The taste is beautifully dominated by chocolate, dark fruits and some spice that nicely rounds off the flavour. Despite the strong chocolate character, this beer is not thick or bitter, yet has an excellent length.

In the mouth it is not as rich or bold as most Belgian style Christmas ales. However, I found it to be an excellent Australian interpretation of the style.

The 8.4% is remarkably well balanced/hidden, yet overall the beer is comfortably warming. The actual warming effect comes quite late, making the beer plenty drinkable.

Even though I had fairly high expectations for Hunter Christmas was surprisingly good overall! (In perspective...the only beer I had previously drunk from this brewer was their Hunter Chocolate Porter, which won Champion Porter and a Gold Medal at the 2010 AIBA, but I was somewhat underwhelmed by the chocolate element and overall texture of it.)

In terms of unique Australian craft beers...this is a beer worth tracking down and tasting during the Christmas season, matched with chocolate or a fruit-cake dessert.

I must also relay a huge THANK YOU to Slowbeer for another magnificent Tasting event. Yet again, tonight's Tasting provided access and insight to a fantastic range of themed beers within a well constructed session that catered to all levels of beer drinkers. CHEERS!

Alt Christmas song of the day: "Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End)" by The Darkness (youtube it!)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

12 Beers of Xmas - On the fifth day of Christmas...

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...a Holgate Brewhouse "Road Trip" American IPA...

Ahh sentimental favourite Victorian microbrewery, since it was the first craft brewery pub I ever visited (for beer) and discovered drinkably rich and tasty beers. I have since returned several times now and never leave disappointed.

When I first tried the Holgate Road Trip IPA, on tap at The Royston Hotel and then at the Fed Square Microbreweries Showcase back in October, it did not quite capture me as an amazing IPA on these occasions. However, today I drank it on tap at the Holgate Brewhouse in Woodend and just loved it! Unfortunately, I was the designated driver today (it is an hour drive from Melbourne city out to Woodend), so I limited myself to just the one pot of Road Trip, but it was a very rewarded pot.

Golden amber in colour and with a very small but frothy white head, the appearance is straight forward...but the taste and drinkability are the key. Its beautifully rich hoppy aroma continues into the the big and wonderfully rich taste, dominated by the Chinook, Centennial and Citra hops. The flavour also throws up some notes of pine and passionfruit. The typical malty and caramelly Holgate character is still present, providing the unique Holgate quality to this IPA.

Overall, it is very well balanced, with a very nice medium body, medium carbonation and a long bitter finish, there is plenty to explore in this beer.

Finally, a huge thank you to Jeff, Assistant Brewer at Holgate, who gave the wife and I, along with our fellow beer-loving bloggers from Eat Drink Stagger, a personal brewery tour today...and allowed me to add the hop pellets to the Pilsner brew!

Alt Christmas Song of the Day: "Yule Shoot Your Eye Out" by Fall Out Boy

12 Beers of Xmas - On the fourth day of Christmas....

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...a Mountain Goat Oak-aged Rapunzel (Belgian Strong Ale)...

Well...this post in my 12 Beers of Christmas series (which actually belongs to yesterday) was going to be about the new Summer small-batch from Mountain Goat, the "Goldilocks" Summer Ale, but it seems this beer is no more...with the few remaining kegs providing some carbonation problems, preventing it from being tapped at the Mountain Goat Brewery bar.

Thankfully, in its place last night at the Goat bar, they tapped one of my favourite beers from 2010 (Number 4 of 5 in my votes for the Local Taphouse Hottest 100) - the Mountain Goat Oaky Rapunzel (Barrel Aged Belgian Strong Ale)!

Since I have already blogged this beer, back when it was first released this year in March, I will not go into full detail about it now...but would love for you to revisit those posts:
After 8 months, Rapunzel is still very drinkable. Despite being a "sipper", this very big beer goes down very easily. However, the wine-like aroma and taste from the Chardonnay barrel-aging has probably over developed a little too much, as it now dominates and possesses a bit of a vinegary character. In a blind tasting, you may think that you are drinking a Semillon Sauv Blanc with a twist of pineapple!

The appearance is still beautiful - cloudy and golden - and the 8.5% alc/vol is amazingly well hidden.

Maybe this 2009 batch is just past its best days.  Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the two glasses of Oaky Rapunzel that I had...and probably would have drunk more, if I hadn't already consumed a pot and pint of "The Hoeff" Hefeweizen and a pot of the Steam Ale randied through Peaches and well as itching to pop across the road for a "dessert" pot of Holgate Temptress at The Royston Hotel! (Such a delicious night!)

Great crowd at the Mountain Goat Brewery last night. Surprisingly, it was not jammed packed as it can be on Fridays, but everyone seemed quite cheery and festive.

Unfortunately, the night started on a sour note (initially from the non-appearance of Golidlocks, which was soon redeemed in spades by the tapping of Rapunzel), due to a rare moment of really bad bar service. When my wife ordered the first round, one of the bar staff took the money for 2 pots of The Hoeff, pouring one glass (which a froffy explosion, causing it to take a super long time to serve) and then disappearing without serving the second glass, seemingly ignoring said wife as she waited paitiently at the bar for glass 2...??

Thankfully, the beer goodness, quality music choice and general excellentness of Mountain Goat turned the night around quickly.

I also had an excellent chat to Mountain Goat Head Brewer, Jayne Lewis. I made my plea for the Rapunzel to be bottled in Rare Breed longnecks...and Jayne indicated that it may eventually happen. She noted that it won't work with the current formula, as the yeast strain they are using will not bottle condition, but she is very open to seeing Rapunzel bottled at some stage. Awesome!

Finally, if you are looking for something to do next Friday (Christmas Eve), I recommend getting down to the Mountain Goat Brewery, which will be open! There may even be another special Summer Ale on tap.

Alt Christmas Song of the Day: "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues (with Kirsty MacColl)

...I'm at least happy that that change from Goldilocks to Rapunzel hasn't affected the connection to "Fairytale" of New York!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

12 Beers of Xmas - On the third day of Christmas....

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...a Moo Brew Pale Ale...

Recently, I have been learning an important lesson in beer appreciation - never disregard a beer completely if you don't like it at first.

I am discovering how revisiting a beer is a worthwhile exercise, as your palate evolves and the brews vary. Beer produced by microbreweries will often change slightly from year to year (or batch to batch) as the brewers rework or improve their formulas and the breweries mature. Further, some bigger and more complex beers just need time to condition or mellow...and sometimes a beer will just suit different social circumstances, places or weather conditions.

Therefore, if you do not instantly enjoy a craft beer on your first taste, but can at least see it has some quality or potential (which you would really expect from any true craft microbrewery with passionate brewers), give it a another chance later. Come back to that beer next year or under different circumstances and see how it works for you with a second taste and more experience palate. This has been my experience over recent months, including with the Moo Brew Pale Ale.

When I first tried the Moo Brew Pale Ale (from the bottle) a while back, I did not think too much of it. However, that was early in my beer-discovery journey, before my beer palate had really developed and before I really knew beer.

Last month I tried this beer again, this time on tap and over dinner (Clifton Hill's Terminus Hotel, which has just been named the 3AW De Bortoli Pub of the Year 2010) and really enjoyed it, as a very drinkable and characterful pale ale.

The Moo Brew beers are brewed at a microbrewery on the Moorilla Estate Winery, near Hobart, Tasmania. In beery circles, Moo Brew is best known for the Vintage Releases of their Imperial Stout, which I am yet to have the pleasure of experiencing. However, I did have one of my best "beer moments" this year when I drank this year's batch of Moo Brew Imperial Stout on tap at Beer DeLuxe back in May.

This is an American Pale Ale in style, but is a little lighter in appearance and texture and not as hop heavy as the more popular or well known local craft APAs, such as the Little Creatures Pale Ale, Matilda Bay Alpha Pale Ale or the Kooinda Pale Ale.

From the bottle the Moo Brew Pale Ale is a light hazy yellow in appearance, with a fluffy white head.

The healthy aroma is floral and citrusy, showing off the classic hoppiness found in the local American Pale Ales.

The taste is a little bit of a hurdle for me, soft but dominated by an orange flavour that brings on bitterness a little too early. Also, overall it seems a little unbalanced in terms of flavours. Nonetheless, it is has a great medium body and is plenty drinkable, potentially even sessionable, even with a fairly short finish for an APA.

The biggest problem with the Moo Brew range of beers is their retail price. The 330ml bottles cost around $7 or more at most outlets that I have seen stocking them. Therefore, it may be best to find a Moo Brew on tap at a bar where it will generally be available for the regular tap beer price.

Alt Christmas Song of the Day: "Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight)" by The Ramones.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12 Beers of Xmas - On the second day of Christmas....

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...a Nøgne Ø Red Horizon (American Strong Ale)...

With their tag line of "Det Kompromissløse Brygger" (The Uncompromising Brewery), Norway's Nøgne Ø (old Danish for "Naked Isle") brew some truly incredible beers, especially for those beer nerds (like me) who love really big, very rich and flavoursome, often unusual beers. Every Nøgne Ø beer that I have tried has provided a wonderful and unique drinking experience. The God Jul Barrel Aged Islay Edition (Porter) in particular struck a strange but delightful chord with me, due to the super robust smokey twist of the Islay whisky barrel ageing. And then, the darkly rich and thick Imperial Stout was one of the top 5 beers I drank all year!

The "Horizon" series from Nøgne Ø - Dark, Red and Sweet - have a massive reputation as amazing, highly regarded beers that push the boundary (or...horizon?) of contemporary brewing without compromising.

Last month I had the absolute pleasure of tasting the Sweet Horizon (American Imperial Stout), thanks to the Beer Vaults at Biero Bar.

Today, I sampled both the Dark and Red Horizon, as well as the Sweet Horizon again, at Purvis Beer "Strange and Unusual" Tasting.

As the "red" seems to be more appropriate for my Christmas theme here...I thought I'd make it today's 12 Beers of Christmas review...

Nøgne Ø Red Horizon is brewed with a Japanese sake yeast and possesses a massive 17% ABV and 75 IBUs. A 250ml bottle costs about $19.50 locally.

According to the Nøgne Ø Co-Founder and Brewer, Kjetil Jikiun, "Red Horizon is technically a beer but as it is fermented with sake yeast, it has the aroma profile and fruitiness of a sake. We fermented it at low temperatures, as high quality sake is. That is the key to the delicate aromas."

Very red and clear in appearance, the aroma is actually quite alcoholic with some lemony citrus, spice and heaps of deep fruit.  The taste is big and rich, dominated by fruity sweetness (although clearly not as sweet as Sweet Horizon).

Low in carbonation but the fruitiness provides plenty of fizzy body so it is not too syrupy or heavy. Red Horizon is delicious, potent and surprisingly easy to drink.

Of course, a beer this big is hardly a beer...but it is well balanced and ultimately a fantastic drinking experience.

(And yes, I did buy a bottle at the end of the night to take home and savour in full.)

Alt Christmas Song of the Day: "I Wanna Rock You Hard This Christmas" by The Dan Band

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

12 Beers of Xmas - On the first day of Christmas....

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...a 2 Brothers "Gypsy" Pear Cider...

...ok...DON'T HURT ME! I do realise that this is NOT BEER...yes, sorry! But I really wanted an allusion to the Twelve Days of Christmas English Christmas carol and its Partridge in a Pear Tree.

Since I am not aware of any Pear or Partridge beers, I decided to start with a perry...and at least it is from a local microbrewery who are producing some generally marvelous and different craft beers.

Ultimately, I am all about supporting our local independent industry...and I just love a good bit of lameness (remember that Pear Tree?)!

2 Brothers Brewery was established by brothers, Andrew and David Ong, in 2007. Their pear cider was inspired by one they enjoyed in a London pub and was originally intended to be just a Summer seasonal. However, when Gypsy was released last December it really took off, finding much favour with a diverse audience drinkers.

Now available and popular (with both men and women) on tap at many Victorian pubs and bars, as well as in bottle through many bottleshops, Gypsy has very much contributed to the revival in cider beverages over the last 12 months, which has seen many beer outlets, especially the giant liquor retails such as Dan Murphys and 1st Choice, dedicate whole sections of their stores to cider products that were previously few and far between.

Brewed with combination of Bartlett and Packham pears, Andrew Ong has said that a secret yeast is a the key to this cider. "I am loath to tell anyone because it took a lot of time and effort to work out how to make a sweet perry properly. We stop the fermentation short to keep the fructose in, rather than adding anything to sweeten it up." (from Cider nous rules by Willie Simpson, The AGE 14/09/2010)

To drink...Gypsy is soft, sweet (but not overwhelmingly sweet for a cider) and dry. Despite the high carbonation, it is very easy to drink and with a short is ultimately refreshing.

I think this cider works much better on tap, in terms of drinkability. Some of the pear flavour seems to be lost in the bottled version. In a blind taste test it may almost be confused for a good fruity white wine.

If you are looking for a quality crisp and refreshing alternative to beer on a hot day, I recommend Gypsy...(even if only to support our local craft brewers!)

Alt Christmas Song of the Day: "Is This Christmas?" by The Wombats