Friday, February 18, 2011

Beer & Bar - ...and that was a GREAT Australian Beer SpecTAPular!

As I noted in previous posts, last Saturday I attended the Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS) at The Local Taphouse in St Kilda. I am happy to report back that GABS lived up to the hype and proved a true celebration of Australian craft beer...and good beer in general! Furthermore, the celebration rightfully extended to the brewers, as well as those in the beer business who are bringing craft beer to our locals.

My wife (thanks for the photos, Jenn!) and I arrived soon after the doors opened at midday, just missing the queue of around 60 people who lined-up prior to midday in anticipation of an opening rush. We found ourselves a cosy front corner and settled in for a joyous day of social beer. Despite the doors only being open for about 15 minutes, pretty much all the table space had gone! It was the first sign of how popular this beer event was going to be.

We settled down with tasting paddles and slowly worked our way through the list of 19 beers, 5 beers at a time.

Around 12:40pm, the Local Taphouse was already reaching capacity. Therefore, the entries were slowed by the door staff, which created a fairly serious queue along the street, as thirsty punters waited more than 30 minutes for their turn to get inside. From our front window space we watched as many familiar faces from the Australian beer community waited patiently to enter.

We cheekily teased brewers, bar staff, beer reps from the likes of Thunder Road, Biero Bar, Mountain Goat, Purvis Beer, Northdown Craft Beer and many more, as they filed past us whilst we joyfully consumed our tasters.

Occasionally a participating brewer would show up, sometimes barely "gifts", and receive a relatively speedy entry (after a quick verification via the Taphouse top brass)...such as Simon Walkenhorst of Hargraves Hill who arrived with two bottles of their very limited release Phoenix (Imperial Red Ale).

Here is me providing the Moon Dog Craft Brewing guys with some tempting reading as they wait in line for GABS...

The tasters were a good way to get some exposure to every beer available, but they really left you short in appreciating the beer. Many of the beers I tried just did not perform well as a taster, but when I tried them in a full glass, it was a very different story.

I think I passed judgment too early on some of the beers that appeared at the start of the list, because I only drank them by taster.

Beers I loved all the way through, and the stand-outs for the day according to most people I spoke to, where the: Holgate Brewhouse Empress (Imperial Mocha Porter), Feral Brewing Karma Citra (Black IPA) and Two Hills (Red Hill Brewery and Hargreaves Hill Brewer) Maibock. Each of these beers possessed everything I seek in a good beer: balance, complexity & depth, length, drinkability...but ultimately, just a big hit of interesting!

The Holgate Empress! We enjoyed...several!

Other beers that I very much enjoyed (especially when tasted in 310ml glasses) were: Bridge Road Brewers Big Red Rocket (Barrel Aged Imperial Irish Red Ale), 4 Pines Wee Heavy, Stone & Wood Red Relief, Jamieson Lemon Myrtle IPA, Murray's Imperious, True South Cherry Bomb (Porter) and the Last Drop Original Fass Bier (Kellerbier).

In all honestly, there was not a single bad beer being poured at GABS. Some beers were a little unbalanced and some I enjoyed much more than others. However, every beer was wonderfully flavoursome and unique, very unique. GABS also helped show how beer can really be a personal thing, as drinkers favoured different beers from all across the spectrum. Flavour was the winner!

Without being prescribed as a required element for brewing a beer for GABS, the character of "Australia" was indeed present in each beer.

The atmosphere of the event was very friendly and happy. The Local Taphouse staff handled the event superbly, dealing with a big crowd of all types, from beer-nerds through to curious newbies to the world of craft beer.

Clearly limited space was an issue, but this is likely to be remedied in future with plans to hold the event as an off-site festival, possibly at the Royal Melbourne Exhibition Centre. (I just hope they provide plenty of table and seat space, because to handle and drink from tasting need a table or bench.)

Most of all, GABS was a showcase for the enjoyment of good beer with no ramifications of violent or anti-social behaviour.

Recently, the Victorian Police Chief Commissioner has resparked the debate over alcohol fulled violence and the way it is destroying Melbourne (read: Victorians drowning in drink issues and We've lost our way) ... ((pfft! maybe around the dodgy strip-clubs in the CBD it is!)). Personally, I never seem to experience such issues when I am out enjoying craft beer at Melbourne's good beer venues. GABS continued that theme, as I did NOT witness a single violent action or anti-social incident all day. Besides one spilt bottle of Southern Tier Creme Brulee, I also did not witness any drunken mishaps inflicting any disturbance.

Everyone at GABS was friendly, respectful and understanding. Josie Bones beer manager (and Creme Brulee victim), James Greenfield, noted that this day was really the first time everyone at an Australia beer event were "drinking with their heads" they considered, dissected and enjoyed the brew they were consuming. Too right!

GABS was also well supported by the small booklet handed to everyone as they entered, which provided a full run down of each tap beer, but also some very useful and clear information about how to taste beers and drink smartly and responsibly.

Also very importantly, this event raised a valuable $8596 for the Premier's Disaster Relief Appeal in Queensland.

If there was one thing that did detract a little from this celebration of Australian craft was the choice of music being played throughout the venue early on, which was very much lacking some Australiana. When we arrived, some fairly harsh stand-up comedy was blaring loudly, which sullied the atmosphere somewhat with the aggressive tone. The audio was soon switched to random music...and as much as I love The Decemberists are several of the artists played, I wondered why no Australian music was played. With so much local bands and artists creating awesome Australian music that would have suited and complimented this event, I found the lack of local content to be a sad oversight.

This is a minor thing that only hit a chord with me because of my passion for the Australian music scene. Nonetheless, the day was complimented by good weather, good people and a well decorated venue that was covered in Aussie bits and pieces!

I'm sure there were plenty of other things that could have been "done better", but I believe The Local Taphouse can be commended for staging such an event in the space they have. Ultimately, I had a did so many others!

There are a number of other blog posts and articles covering GABS, which I recommend reading for more insight and perspectives:

All the beers that were on tap at the SpecTAPular are exclusive to The Local Taphouse this week. However, from this weekend, several of the beers will start appearing on tap at other good beer bars, as well as limited release bottles being produced for a select few. Therefore, if you missed GABS, keep your eye out at the usual beer bar suspects for your chance to try these amazing Australian beers. (I hear a key of Holgate Empress may be heading to Josie Bones...!)

Congratulations and thank you to The Local Taphouse and all brewers involved! See you next year...I can not wait! sexy, dark, delicious thing!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Beer & Bar - Local Taphouse GABS on Untappd

Following on from yesterday's blog post about this Saturday's Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS), The Local Taphouse has now announced that they have partnered with the creators of the iPhone/Adroid web-App, Untappd, to develop an Untappd badge specifically for this event.

Untappd have confirmed that all the beers and breweries available at GABS have been pre-loaded, ready for the event, so it should be a hassle-free task to search for and check in each beer as you drink it.

I have unfortunately experienced a number of Untappd haters across the twitter-sphere and broader online universe. They seem to disapprove of this FourSquare-based Social Networking Web-App for reasons such is simplistic/undescriptive and somehow unhelpful to the debate/fight for better beer.

Personally, I like the idea of Untappd as a memory device and social networking resource. I do not use Untappd to review beers or educate people about beer. I enjoy using Untappd as a record of the WHAT, WHERE and WHEN of my own beer journey.

Furthermore, I like to see what my friends are drinking, as sometimes it leads to a new beer discovery. Finally, Untappd can help spark (yes, only spark) conversation and engagement regarding those beers.

Feel free to follow me at:

If it is not your thing, that's fine...leave it be and indulge in whatever is your thing.

ALSO...more good GABS news just at hand...with 2 Brothers Brewery announcing that their new seasonal, "The Guvnor" (English Barley Wine, 11%-ish abv) will now be included on the GABS tap line-up! ROCK!

Read more about The Guvnor on The Crafty Pint at:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Beer & Bar - The Local Taphouse Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS)

Time for me to join the chorus and encourage everyone to come along to the Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular at The Local Taphouse in Melbourne or Sydney this Saturday!

Event: The Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular
Date and Time: Saturday February 12th – midday until midnight
Location: MELBOURNE: The Local Taphouse – 184 Carlisle Street, East St Kilda, VIC. SYDNEY: The Local Taphouse - 120 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst.
Cost: Gold coin (or more) donation, with all proceeds going to the Red Cross Queensland Flood Appeal.
More info: The Local Taphouse blog

Why is this event such a big deal, you ask?

Well, here are some reasons why I am excited about it...

  1. 19 never-before-seen beers have brewed specifically for the event by Australian independent microbreweries, all of which showcase the craft of good beer. This includes two first-time collaborations, with Red Hill Brewery & Hargreaves Hill Brewery combining under the name "Two Hills" to create a Maibock and South Australia's BrewBoys & Lobethal Bierhaus have brewed a Quince Ale together. Personally, I am most excited about the Holgate Imperial Mocha Porter and the Burleigh Brewing Fanny Gertrude’s Anzac Bickie Beer!
  2. Many brewers will be in attendance, presenting you with an intimate opportunity to connect with the people behind the beers you are drinking. Furthermore, the crowd will be filled with good beer folk such as writers, retailers, homebrewers and industry affiliates.
  3. This event is the inaugural occasion of what The Local Taphouse hopes to make an annual festival, with plans to expand the concept to a large scale nation-wide event to potentially rival similar international beer festivals, which we currently envy. Therefore, one day you may be able to tell your craft beer loving grandchildren that you were there at the beginning of GABS (...or does that just appeal to me?).

However, most of all the simply incredible tap line-up is a showcase of craft beer like we have never seen before in Australia and will surely provide at least one new delicious discovery for everyone.

One must note that there have been three withdrawals from the original announcement of participating breweries. The newly established Moon Dog and Thunder Road breweries, as well as WA's Mash Brewing, have all decided that the beers they had produced were not up to scratch for the event. Hence, they have made the tough call not to tap a possibly inferior product and withdrawn from the event.

Nonetheless, as I noted in my Brews News article, GABS promises to be no lesser of an event without the full line-up initially announced. With the Moon Dog, Thunder Road and Mash omissions, it simply makes the task for choosing and sampling the range of beers on offer the slightest bit easier:

  • Original Fassbier — Kellerbier matured on roasted oak chips (Last Drop, WA, 4.6%)
  • Cucumber Sandwich — Summer Ale (Mountain Goat, VIC, 4.2%)
  • kb — Kriek Berliner Weisse served through morello cherries (Wig & Pen, ACT, 4.3%)
  • Organic Blueberry Hefeweizen (Otway Estate, VIC, 5%)
  • Belgian Raspberry Wit (Kooinda, VIC, 5.5%)
  • Fanny Gertrude’s Anzac Bickie Beer — Oats, coconut & vanilla ale (Burleigh Brewing, QLD, 5%)
  • Red Relief (Stone & Wood, NSW, 4.7%)
  • Cherry Bomb — Cherry and coconut porter (True South, VIC, 5%)
  • Quince Ale (Lobethal and Brew Boys Collaboration, SA, 5.6%)
  • Zephyr — Double White Ale (Doctors Orders Brewing, NSW, 5.6%)
  • Chocolate Chilli Porter (Hunter, NSW, 5.8%)
  • 2 Hills Maibock (Collaboration between Hargreaves Hill and Red Hill Breweries, VIC, 6.8%)
  • Wee Heavy (4 Pines, 7.8%)
  • Rye IPA (Mash, WA)
  • The Secret Romance of Herman van Rompuy and Cherry Poppens - Belgian style Flanders red (Moondog, VIC, 7.3%)
  • Karma Citra — Black IPA showcasing the Citra hop (Feral, WA, 5.9%)
  • Lemon Myrtle IPA (Jamieson, VIC, 7%)
  • The Empress — Imperial Mocha Porter (Holgate, VIC, 10%)
  • Big Red Rocket — Imperial Red Ale (Bridge Road, VIC, 9%)
  • Imperious — Imperial Belgian Blond Ale (Murrays, NSW, 11%)
  • The Guvnor — English Barley Wine (2 Brothers, VIC 10.3%)

I will be at the Melbourne Taphouse, hopefully from midday so I don't miss out on anything. Hope to see you there...say hi if you see me! Cheers.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Beer - Meantime Coffee Porter update

In my last post, I mentioned that I was seeking clarification from Meantime Brewing Company on the status of their wonderful Coffee Porter, because all content about this beer has disappeared from their website.

I have promptly received the following response from Meantime Director, Peter Haydon:

"Following our move (to Meantime's new brewery last year) decided to delist coffee. Not because we couldn’t replicate it, but because we needed to simplify our operations for a number of reasons and coffee’s volumes were such that it was the obvious candidate to go. However, should we get an export order that means we can brew a sufficient quantity and ship it out of the warehouse in one go then we shall produce it. It is a gold medal winner (World Beer Cup 2006), but I’m afraid tough decisions have to be made."

So good news! We may not see the Coffee Porter on the shelves as much now, but it will still be around as they brew it ad hoc according to demand. Furthermore, Innspire (who hold the import and distribution contract for Meantime in Australia) confirm that a new shipment is on the way. Excellent.

If you haven't tried this beer yet, give it a go (best on a cooler day or for dessert) and help raise the local demand so more Coffee Porter is brewed!

In related news, Meantime's founder and Head Brewer, Alastair Hook, was recently in Australia and made his way to The Local Taphouse Darlinghurst for a beer. You can read more on the Local Taphouse blog at:

Beer - Something Old and New... Plenty Good!

I have been something of a lazy blogger recently, enjoying so many amazing beers from around the world and not sharing them. Sorry!

Post-Christmas I sought to minimise spending on beer by sticking to local sessionable beers for warm weather drinking, which would not break my bank. Therefore, I saw out mid-Summer with a good filling from the likes of Stone & Wood Pacific Ale, Mountain Goat Hightail and Steam Ale, Holgate Mt Macedon Ale and Little Creatures Pale Ale.

More recently, I have rediscovered a serious craving for big and flavour-packed beers of the highest quality, which are generally more expensive to drink on a regular basis. Hence, to the detriment of my credit card, I have jumped back into my journey of beer discovery, exploring some of the big names in craft beers from around of world, many of which have been on my "to do" list for far too long.

Here are some indulgences that have impressed me most...

The Rogue Juniper Pale Ale is an excellent American Pale Ale regardless of the juniper character. Relatively mild overall, the Golding and Amarillo hops are the predominant character. Spicy elements compliment the soft juniper notes and caramel malts balance the beer with a well rounded mouthfeel. I could consume plenty of this Juniper Pale Ale and look forward to drinking it again.

The Tall Poppy India Red Ale is the latest impressive offering from Danish-born now New Zealand-based Søren Eriksen, under his own 8 Wired Brewing label. Søren is also an Assistant Brewer at Renaissance Brewing, where he brews the 8 Wired range under a contract arrangement. Every beer I have tasted so far from 8 Wired (HopWired IPA, Big Smoke Porter and ReWired Brown Ale) have all been fantastic.

The Tall Poppy is a cross between a Red Ale and an Indian Pale Ale, with a warming 7% abv. This beer is delightfully red, flavoursome and quite unique. Malt driven but with lovely citrus and pine aroma and then a big hoppy taste, this is the most interesting beer I have tasted in months! The very long finish will keep this beer in your mind for an extended period.

Twitter alerted me to the announcement of the RateBeer Best 2011 Awards, for which the popular beer rating website complies lists of the highest scoring beers across a number of categories and regions.

The 8 Wired HopWired IPA was listed as the Best Beer of Australia and New Zealand 2011, which I think is a deserved result. I love the HopWired and everyone I have spoken to who has tried the HopWired has shared the view that it is a fantastic beer.

In the categories by Style, I was intrigued by the description of the winner for Best Dark Lager, the Chatoe Rogue First Growth Dirtoir Black Lager. I quickly found the Dirtoir Black Lager in stock at Slowbeer and purchased it to try, along with an Amager Bryghus Black Nitro Black IPA, which I knew nothing of but decided to take a punt on due to my love for the Black IPA style.

My perceptions may have been a little clouded by the knowledge that this beer has rated so highly, but I believe my experience with a number of Schwarzbiers in recent times helped me realise that this Chatoe Rogue is indeed in a class above them all.

The Amager Bryghus Black Nitro Black IPA proved a choice punt, because it is beautiful! The Black Nitro has big aroma and a lovely flavour mix of dark fruit like raisins, grapes, cocoa and more. Best of all, the hops still shine through and really balance this beer well, with complexity and length.

If you missed out on the Bridge Road Brewers B2 Bomber Black IPA last year, try this Black Nitro!

Back in December the wife and I were drinking at The Fox Hotel in Collingwood, where we were served a beer in a beautiful Meantime glass...just like these...

...and we coveted these glasses muchly! Last week, our covet became a reality, courtesy of craft beer importers and wholesalers, Innspire, who the wife and I had the pleasure of meeting whilst holidaying in Queensland over the New Year. (Check out this Beer Bureau blog write-up on Innspire's operation and spectacular showroom bar!)

Meantime has been a personal favourite brewery of mine since the start of my craft beer journey. The Meantime Coffee Porter was one of my earliest craft beer revelations and it still remains in my Top 10 favourite beers of all time. (I'm in the progress of clarifying with Meantime whether the Coffee Porter is still being brewed, as it seems to have dropped off their schedule since the move to their new brewery.)

I decided that we needed to christen our sexy Meantime glassware with an appropriate beer. With my love for the Coffee Porter but yet to taste their regular Porter, my decision was that the only choice could be a 750ml bottle of Meantime London Porter.

The London Porter is a 6.5% abv English Porter that looks, smells and tastes just like a classic Porter should! The roasted malt character is strong but beautifully balanced, complimented by caramel, coffee and chocolate, as well as some dark berries and a touch of something smokey. The mouthfeel is almost creamy and I would give it full marks for complexity and length. With a sweet, malty finish, this beer is delightfully satisfying despite disappearing far too quickly.

Last weekend I sought out a big hop hit to match with paella that my wife was cooking for dinner. I purchased two Imperial IPAs - the Southern Tier Unearthly and the Baird Suruga Bay Imperial IPA

I did not take notes when drinking them (as they were shared and enjoyed over dinner and board games), but I thoroughly enjoyed both and highly recommend them.

A number of Imperial IPAs that I have tried over the last year have suffered from being too syrupy and sticky. Neither or these beers posses that fault.

Finally, in my book a seasonal release from Murray's Craft Brewing is always worth hunting down for a taste. Therefore, on a recent weekend I found myself in Beer DeLuxe and forked out $11 (!) for Murray's Punk Monk. Murray's notes that this beer is "an invented style – a hybrid of a few Belgian styles and influenced by Saisons, Belgian Blond Ales, with a nod to Belgian Trippels, but true to Murray’s style, true to none of them as such!"

Brewing such a mish-mash successfully is no easy feat and ultimately quite risky in terms of economic viability, but that is how they do things at Murray's...and I love them for their passion for the craft of brewing.

Whilst I do not feel that Punk Monk is one of the best beers Murray's has produced, it is still a very enjoyable beer. Further, it is indeed remarkable that they have crafted such a good looking beer with a solid body and very generous flavour.

Both the soft aroma and crystal clear appearance are potentially misleading because you may be expecting a light and thin drink. However, the Punk Monk fills your mouth with flavour. My mind initially interpreted the style as a Beligan Hefeweizen Summer Ale. Pear, cloves, banana and sweet malt all come out in the taste. The mouthfeel is smooth but full, carbonation is medium and the 7.5% alcohol is very well hidden.

Some drinkers may be overwhelmed by the flavour mix and it does seem a little unbalanced. However, this is a punk beer brewed to make an impact, which Murray's has achieved, just maybe not in Gold Medal form.

I could easily drink several on a hot day...and I would call it sessionable. However, with 7.5% abv, you'll be knocked out after two or three! Look out for it in bottles soon...and enjoy!