Wednesday, 27 May 2015

GABS 2015 Part 2 - Saturday, Sunday and Shortlist!

Hey all, picking up where we left off in the last post, it's now Saturday morning and we're all slightly worse for wear. If you missed Part 1 of the GABS blog, Click Here

Day 2 - Saturday 23/5

After a second night out on the town, we weren't all quite as spry and eager as we were on Friday morning. After a session of blue powerade, we headed over to Hardware lane for a big old cafe breakfast to perk us up. Some carbs and grease later, we were back on the case, starting Container B!

Tony post-recover breakfast and powerade

Our pace was perhaps a little slower than in the first session, though this was mainly due to the humungous queues to get beers, being a Saturday and all. While we waited for each round of beers, we were entertained by the roaming band busting out some true classics

As you may be able to tell, ripping out some Careless Whisper here

As well as by people playing Giant Jenga while acrobats tried their absolute best to distract them, resulting in some pretty hilarious failures

They actually played Jenga like this later on 

We also needed a couple of breaks to get up and wander around, where I was reunited with my old buddy Milo

Apparently not in super drivable condition any more =(

But eventually we powered through Container B and reached the elusive 118th beer, Young Henrys' "Midnight In the Carpark of Good And Evil", a bizarre blend of a rum barrel-aged cherry Flanders ale, and a velvety chocolate Stout, resulting in a real 'sweet and sour' beer that was at once intriguing and confusing. 

Thanks Gator

Container B also turned up a number of highlights:

Personal Highlights from Container B:

62 - Kevin Hingston (Homebrewer) - Membrillo Hefeweizen
Subtlety is the first word that comes to mind with this beer. A delicious hoppy hefe base with juicy fruit flavours floating over the top make this an exceptional beer

64 - La Sirene Brewing - Bebe Rouge
My pick from the show, Bebe Rouge is somewhere between a tart red ale, and a glass of ribena if it were made from redcurrants. Amazing mix of sweet and sour flavours that have sent me on a sour beer kick for the last week. A Must Try

73 - Mismatch Brewing Co - Banoffee Pie Dessert Ale
Tony's favourite beer of the festival, and definitely my pick for best sweet beer, we have a super sweet brown ale layered with flavours of rich caramel and banana. If you're after a sweet beer, this is the one!

74 - Moa Brewing Company - Feijoa Sour
And over on the other end of the flavour spectrum, we have my favourite sour of the festival, Moa's Feijoa Lambic. It's not overly sour, rather extremely well balanced against the feioja's fruit notes and the barrelly notes that come through.

77 - Moon Dog - Spotted Dick with Custard
Moon Dog have always been one of my favourites, and they definitely didn't disappoint with this year's offering, I'd almost describe it as bread and butter pudding in a glass, with a mix of raisin, bready and custardy notes all swirling together to cover the 9% alcohol backbone

80 - Mountain Goat Brewery - Nightcap
Rounding up my favourites from Container B we have a Russian Imperial Stout from Mountain Goat. Super rich through the body, with robust, roasty black malt flavours complimented well by the rich burst of real coffee through the body. Hides it's strength (12.3%) very well!

Following the session, we were in need of a huge feed, and the All you can eat dumpling place we went to definitely didn't skimp on quantity, though the quality was... suspect at best. And there was a rogue dumpling on the roof. No comment

Spider dumpling, spider dumpling, does whatever a spider dumpling can

As I'm sure you can guess, we went out again, this time starting at Madame Brussels for some jugs/teapots of delicious cocktail, then headed out to Prahran for some Lucky Coq/Vodka Borscht and Tears action. Was home... at a time

Day 3 - Sunday 24/5

Final day of the festival and we were amped up! Having completed the 118 beer gauntlet, we were now free to wander around checking out the stalls, and re-sample any beers that were on the shortlist and in need of a re-taste

Silly hat day! And we forgot hats! Noooooo

Quite a few stalls had fairly unique setups, with my personal favourite being Panhead, they had a set of bike exhausts as their taps and an awesome beer petrol pump (sadly non-operational)

Trying my best to get beer to come out

The final shortlist came down to 5; 4 main contenders and a Wildcard:
5 - 8 Wired Brewing - Hippy Berliner (Wildcard)
18 - Big Shed Brewing - Golden Stout Time
64 - La Sirene Brewing - Bebe Rouge
73 - Mismatch Brewing Co - Banoffee Pie Dessert Ale
74 - Moa Brewing Company - Feijoa Sour

Final round: Sudden death

After extensive tasting, and a process of elimination, we came down to a final 2; 64 - Bebe Rouge and 73 - Banoffee Pie Dessert Ale. Tony backed the Banoffee, I was sold on Bebe Rouge, so we settled on a tie

Evidently one of us liked our beer more than the other...

After casting our votes and having some last beers/ciders/cheese platters, we realised it was time to run if we were ever going to make it to the airport for our flight home, so we headed out of the exhibition hall, and started on our way back home.

This is around the time we organised "the signal"

And like that, it was over. The plane ride home was short and uneventful, with the exit row seats proving to be worth every extra cent paid. We boarded the train, bid our farewells, and went our separate ways. Never to be seen again. until GABS Sydney this weekend.

Anyway, thanks for reading guys, hope you enjoyed, and now you have a nice little shortlist of beers to try this weekend!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

GABS 2015 Part 1 - Thursday, Friday and everything in between

Hey all, welcome to a special GABS edition of the blog, covering our trip to Melbourne, GABS, and everything else inbetween. This will be a long, rambling post so I'm just warning you all in advance!

It's that time of the year again!

The trip started on Thursday afternoon, with everyone training over to the Airport. A couple of drinks and some dinner later, were were aboard our 8:30 flight to Melbourne. A quick bag drop/check-in later, we were off to Whiskey and Alement to start our adventure proper with some drinks

Professional flash blocking there

After a few boilermakers and cocktails later, we had to make the first of many brief souvlaki stops at Stalactites

The face of TRUE happiness

Before heading out for a night of Shenanigans that stretched well into the early hours of the next morning...

Day 1 - Friday 22/5

After a late awakening directly attributable to the previous night's shenanigans, we woke up and had a delish brekky at Trunk Diner before walking on up to Carlton Gardens

Still the nicest building I've been to a festival in

The queue this year wasn't too bad, and they even had ticket sellers circulating around outside so you could prebuy tickets... We decided that 2 pages should be sufficient to start off

Just a couple of sneaky pages

Inside, we grabbed a table in a prime spot next to Container A, and began our quest to drink every festival beer from 1-118. We started off with 2 Brothers "Hazella", a hazelnut brown, which is extremely fitting in hindsight considering the sheer number of nut beers/brown and black beers that were on show this year

The first 5 of 118 to come... Spilt all over the table already

Everyone put in a solid effort for the first day, all bright eyed and bushy tailed in spite of our solid drinking effort the night before

World's most staged photo

After completing 1-30 (half of Container A), we decided it was time to have a wander around the festival and check out some of the other beers on offer. 

Garage Project was definitely a highlight, with all 6 of their beers on show nothing short of exquisite. Sea of Green fresh hop pilsener was my pick, narrowly edging out the Two Tap Flat White that had beer crema!

Paddle +1, no shame there

After a good feed courtesy of Meat Mother, we sat back down to continue our journey to the end of Container A

By this point we'd wised up and nicked a chux to protect our guides from the sea of beer on the table

We finished up on the James Squire Brewers 2050 - a fruity Schwarzbier that was nice, but not quite as interesting as I'd hoped. However there were plenty of great beers at the first container;

Personal Highlights from Container A:

5 - 8 Wired Brewing - Hippy Berliner
A delicious, fresh berlinerweiss with plenty of fruit and wine character, the big hit of hops in the middle really pushed it up to my shortlist

12 - Baird Sour Puss
A super fruity and fresh IPA with plenty of lemony flavour from both lemon peel and the hops, like a lemon warhead IPA

18 - Big Shed Brewing - Golden Stout Time
The first of many sweet stouts, but definitely in the top 2, this tasted like a Golden Gaytime in a glass with a whole lot of extra roast for good measure

23 - Blackhorse Brewhouse - Finger Lime Ale
A hoppy pale ale that's been loaded with finger limes, it was my favourite pale ale of the festival due to the sheet deliciousness of the zesty lime, blending with the really well balanced hop profile

30 - Burleigh Brewing Company - Peach Saison
A real easy-drinking fruit saison, the mix of real peach and 'peachy' hops created a super smooth, delicious fruit saison

We'll be coming back to a few of these on the shortlist later!

Following the day session, we decided we'd probably had enough GABS for one day, and needed to do something a bit different... So we went bar/brewery hopping!

First stop was the Little Creatures Dining Hall in Fitzroy, where the only photos I managed to take were of the ATM. It's inside a fridge. 

Surely not...
We were treated to a couple of rounds of free drinks courtesy of our sneaky Lion contacts, had a tasty dinner, then jumped into a squad of waiting Ubers to head to our second stop for the night, Mountain Goat Brewery

Definitely has a cool vibe from outside

Here, we got to try a whole bunch of special and one-off brews, including the Abbey Collabbey 5, and their AIBA Gold-medal winning Barrel Breed Barley Wine... super delicious

That photobomb tho

Next up, we had a nice brisk walk through the cold night over to the Moon Dog Brewery - half the group were convinced I was leading them down an alley to murder them - where we crashed down onto a set of sofas to work through a few weird and wonderful beers, including a peanut porter, a jammy dodger, and a Splice IPA that could almost be mistaken for the actual icecream!

The fact that this is the best photo I have from Moon Dog says a lot...

This culminated in us meeting up with our old mate Sammy B, then heading back into town to hit Rooftop and Toff, once again until the heinous hours of the morning...

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Winter Black Beer Roundup

So as I'm sure we're all aware after the past few week's weather, Winter seems to have come very early this year. And when it's icy outside, there's no better beer to drink than a big, hearty black beer to help keep you toasty and warm. So below is a roundup of a few of the best black beers I've had so far this year, and a look at Little Creatures' latest release!

First up, we have an absolute cracker of a beer that's been chilling in my cellar for a while now, Black Damnation III from Black Mes. Sitting at 13% ABV and being crazy dark, it was a perfect candidate for a bit of ageing, and the results haven't disappointed

Been in the cellar for a while, needed a dust off for the photo
Pouring into the glass an opaque black colour with minimal though thick head. Aroma is a mix of some vanilla/oaky notes, dark fruit, and some spiritesque heat. Oily on the palate, very rich dark malt and some real whisky flavours come through to help break up the heaviness of the body.

Really delicious and highly recommended for anyone who's a big imperial stout fan, or big into whisky.

Overall: 4.5/5

Next up, we have another monster stout, although this one has spent a little less time ageing (I'm too impatient). Bridge Road's One Thousand is a celebration of their 1000th brew, and is their first ever imperial stout. Judging from this, they should definitely make them more often!

Probably should have laid this one down for a bit
Straight away in the glass, it's jet black and has a very generous amount of frothy ten head. Aroma is mocha, real notes of coffee, chocolate and even some caramel, though this is all backed up by a healthy dose of earthy and grassy hops. Body is medium, surprising for such a big beer, and the flavours come on strong, again with mocha alongside a lot of roast, all on a silky smooth finish.

I kinda wish I'd waited to drink this, I think it would have aged very well, hoping to track down another and stick it in the cellar for a bit!

Overall: 5/5

Thirdly, have an an old favourite of mine, Rogue's Chocolate Stout. I've had this a couple of times, but I decided I wanted to try out a stout float after seeing Bitter Phew were running a stout float night. This just seemed like the perfect candidate, so I grabbed a bottle and went to work!

Lady on the bottle definitely not drinking stout...
The beer itself is just as good as always, real sweetness in the nose and flavour, strong cocoa and roasty notes backed by a bit of praline? and a firm but not too bitter backbone. 

Stout Float mmmm
Over a bit of vanilla bean gelato was where this beer really shone, the sweetness of the icecream really cut into the roast and backbone of the beer and left behind the sweeter cocoa/coffee flavours. Was almost tempted to warm up some of the beer and see if I could get it similar to an affogato!

Overall very tasty, and recommended that you try it as a stout float if you can track some down!

Beer: 4/5
Beer with Icecream: 4.5/5
And finally, we have a Peek at the latest from Little Creatures, The Return of the Dread Domestic Extra Stout. A re-release of the old Dreadnought, they've sized down to 330mL and kicked off a new "Seasonal Release" collection with a killer Stout!

I think it's the opposite of pale

Weighing in at 7.2%, she's not as formidable as say, the Black Mes from earlier, but definitely punchier than the Rogue. Cocoa and some licquorice through the nose, backed by some slight spice from the hops. Body is velvety smooth, and plenty of roast, chocolate and coffee to go around. Almost like an iced coffee at times (Especially as it warms a bit). 

Definitely a great stout, and probably the most 'drinkable' of the four beers on show here as it's the only beer that when I finished it, I was keen for a second right away!

Overall: 4/5

Thanks for reading guys! Plenty happening in the next few weeks, running a beer tasting today on the new 4 Pines Pale Ale pack:

Probably won't write about this for a while though

Starting the new job tomorrow, then heading down to Melbourne for GABS on thursday, it's going to be beer beer and more beer for the next fortnight! Keep and eye out for GABS posts, if I feel up to it might do a bit of a liveblog!

Until next time!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Milo Heads North - 10th and 11th of April

Hey all, decided I should probably write a new post again, but instead of a beer review roundup, this week we have coverage of Milo the Kombi's trip from Ballina to Byron and everything in between.

Legitimately needs that many people pushing to get up a  gutter

On Wednesday last week, I got a call from Tim, one of our NSW craft ambassadors, asking if I wanted to do a gig on the weekend... In Ballina. Unperturbed by the distance, I was keen to go, so thursday was frantically spent organising flights and hotel bookings, which ended up being ready just in the nick of time!

On friday, I knocked off work at midday and headed over to the airport. A few mechanical delays later, I touched down at Ballina/Byron airport around 5pm. Greeting me at the gate was Marto (Wayne Martin), our rep for the Ballina area. We jumped into his ute and headed over to our first stop: Shaw's Bay Hotel

As we pulled into the Shawsy parking lot I saw a small crowd milling around, and once we got inside, I was introduced to Milo:

Up and running in all his glory

I quickly realised this was not my first time meeting Milo, having spotted him at the brewery in Geelong earlier this year:

Didn't have the sweet Jockey box back then though
Introductions aside, Marto introduced me to the 2-man crew who run the Shawsy, Marty and his dad Brendan. Marty joined Marto and I in spending the evening chatting to the punters and dispensing some tasty craft beer. In a pub that primarily sells New and Gold, craft can be a hard sell, but we managed to get plenty of people to give Creatures a go, and nobody left disappointed!

A little sampling never hurt anyone

The next morning, Tim flew into Ballina, and we both headed over to the Shawsy to ready Milo for the trip ahead. The heavens opened on us, and didn't really look likely to stop. But we persisted, and managed to get Milo up and running... Though he definitely put up a fight:

Once we got on the road, things didn't particularly improve. The windscreen wipers were worse than useless:

Not even doctored, this is literally all they did
And between the dodgy brakes, sticky gearbox and pelting rain, Tim spent about 80% of his time driving making this face:

And courtesy of Marto's photography, you can see we nearly rolled on the first corner we took:

That suspension though

But somehow, despite all odds, we made it to the Beach Hotel in Byron in one piece. The front driveway nearly took us out, but a push from some friendly locals got us up into the courtyard and we were ready to get set up:

A pretty snazzy setup if I do say so myself

From here, things rapidly improved. The weather went from 15 degrees and bucketing with rain, to 25 and lovely, and shortly afterwards local artist ! N I T S U A showed up to spraypaint an awesome mural:

And although Tim nearly got caught out with a big suss bag of green stuff:

I swear officer they're hops
We ended up having a killer day of sharing our beers and chatting to people about Little Creatures and Craft Beer! Plenty of pots were dispensed, the one-off shirts were a big hit, and we ended up having a killer afternoon

Tim's about to drink a tasty cup of hops
Overall, a great bit of fun, got to share our beers with plenty of people who probably wouldn't even give them a thought otherwise, and also got to talk beer with a number of people who are just as passionate about beer as I am!

Thanks for reading guys, tune in next time for a roundup for a few more weird and wonderful beers, and some leadup to GABS!

Click here for a more complete album of photos

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Last month and a half in Beer - 13th of February to 25th of March

Hey all, been just shy of a month since my last blog post, and what a month it's been. First weekend, Melo was in town from over in the UK, so we had a bit of a Craft Beer Binge at the Union over in Newtown that's probably worthy of it's own blog post...

A veritable smorgasboard of amazing beer

The following weekend, I jetted down to Melbourne for a family birthday, but had to make a stop in at my favourite little craft brewery, Moon Dog, where they had a new, black summer ale in tap, as well as some of the coolest tap heads this side of the Pacific

I only wish every brewery had tapheads this cool

Where I also picked up one of the grooviest growlers I've ever seen, full of delicious Love Tap

Classy place for a photo
And more recently, Jen and I had a little getaway to Hawk's Nest on the far side of Port Stephens. This meant we had to pop into Murray's on our way home for a couple of sneaky beers, as well as a chat with the man himself!

And of course across all of these weeks, I've been making sure to try some of the latest and greatest craft beers, so without any more about my personal life, I've got a plethora of reviews lined up for this post.

Firstly, I have to get a plug in for the latest beer we've released at work, the Hop Thief 7. It's the latest variant in a long line of American Pale ales, where we change the hop and malt profile every ~6 months. In this latest variant, our feature hops are Galaxy and Mosiac, and the body is noticeably lighter than in the previous variant.

Where'd I get the matching glassware from? Secret I swear

Due to this lighter body, the hop high notes seem to come through much more readily, leading to a far fruitier flavour profile. This in turn has also made it easier to drink than the 6, which at times could be a bit heavy.

Definitely very palatable and worth tracking down to try, at this stage it should be available just about everywhere.

Overall: 3.5/5

Secondly, the latest from Moon Dog, a very experimental beer to say the least, we have the Bad Boy Bubbly - Barley Champagne 

Barley Champagne or Barely Champagne?
Clocking in at a whopping 13.1%, as soon as you pop the cap it's obvious this isn't a standard beer, or even a beer at all. Doesn't quite have the 'pop' that a champagne bottle does, but once you pour it you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd opened the wrong bottle

On the palate, it's somewhat of a cross between a semi-dry champagne and a fruity pale ale, though without the bitterness. Flavours of melon and citrus mix with a slight yeasty tinge to create an extremely unique "beer". 

Overall: 4.5/5

Next up, we have a remix of an old favourite, Mikkeller's "Wheat is the new Hops", but in it's barrel aged form:

I'm seriously overuse this glass don't I?
I've previously had the non Barrel-ages version and was a big fan, so I was glad to taste that this version is very similar, yet still different enough to warrant the effort of barrel aging.

Pours a clear golden colour with a good bit of off-white head. Nose is sorta funky, hint of brettanomyces and some subdued grassy notes. Flavour wise there's an immediate malt sweetness that fades into a slightly sour body, a little bit of citrus and plenty of acidity. Slight grape flavour is evident throughout from the chardonnay barrels too. Overall a very complex beer, maybe even too much so considering the existign complexity in the non barrel-aged version.

Overall: 4/5

Finally, we come to my favourite beer of the last 6 weeks, Shenanigans Brewing Co's Imperial Winston. Brewed as a celebration of their first anniversary, it's a massively hopped double IPA that's more fruity than bitter, and that's perfect for me.

I think I technically had this before the street release... don't tell anyone though
Right away when you open the bottle, there's tropical fruit aromas pouring out. Pours a slightly hazy golden orange with thick white head. Aroma is mainly tropical fruits, alongside some more piney notes and other fruits like peach. 

On the palate it's sweet but not cloying, with very real flavours of fruit to match the aroma coming through on every sip. Slight bitterness is evident but mostly overpowered, and there's no sign of alcohol in the flavour profile despite it being over 9%

Overall an amazing DIPA, especially when as fresh as this bottle was. If you're keen to try it, I'd recommend tracking one 

Overall: 5/5

Thanks for reading, and sorry I didn't manage to write anything for 6 weeks, life's been busy with... Watching the Cricket and... watching more cricket and rugby and... I'm just lazy

Tune in next time for some more beers and me getting Hyped up for GABS 2015, which I just bought tickets for!!