Sunday, December 26, 2010

Seasonal news

Hope everyone's having a relaxing time with some decent brews.

I haven't pushed the enveloped regarding funny beers, although I foisted a Trois Pistoles upon an appreciative bunch of blokes at a party.  Went down quite well; no match for their Crowns and Stellas :-)

I finished off my "traditional" hefe last night. Still some "summer" hefe to go, although I detect a slight souring that, although not unpleasant, may increase over the next week or so. It needs to be finished shortly.

Package beers picked up for the season included White Rabbit White Ale, and Gage Roads Sleeping Giant. The former is a wit style, with an interesting pawpaw undertone that suits the summer months. The latter is an IPA. Although having prominant IPA characteristics, seems a little awkward and lacking integration.

Anyhow, some further Lion Nathan reading:

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/beer-bottle-exploded-in-my-face-surf-coach-20101225-197fw.html

Not surprising at all, yeah ?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A couple of sour Belgians

'Twas a warm Saturday last.  Although the offer was very tempting, I declined my family's invitation to join them on the roller coasters of Luna Park. There were other things on the agenda.....

Learn How to Make Great-Tasting BeerAfter dropping them off, I went for a bit of a stroll up the hill towards North Sydney. Dropped into Dave's for a quick 5kg of pale malt and Pride of Ringwood pellets. No need for cara/crystal malt anymore, as I think the DIY approach has great merit (see recent post).  I'm thinking about an Aussie Pale, warm-fermented & fruity.

From Dave's, continued north along Miller Street, and soon found myself at Cammeray's greatest attraction (I know this all sounds rather serendipitous, but, yes, it was planned).  On warm days, the Epoque Belgian Beer Cafe opens its bifolds onto the street, giving the patron a good view of the passing trade, and a good lungfull of bus fart.

Beer and Breweries in Belgium: Stella Artois, Leffe, Kriek, Beer in Belgium, Lambic, Wheat Beer, Trappist Beer, Westvleteren BreweryBeing a warm day, and having worked up a bit of a sweat hauling my grain up the hill, I was in the mood for something crisp & refreshing. The beer that fits the bill (for those with the acquired taste) is gueuze. This for mine is the archetypal lambic beer, with a blend of old and new beers. It's not as mouth-puckeringly sour as some lambics (e.g. Cantillon), but still offers a real citrus bite, plus the wet hessian & dank funkiness that comes from the various microflora in these brews.  Outstandingly refreshing, as well as beguiling and complex. Timmermans was the brewer. I also recommend Lindemans Gueuze if you can get it.

Michael Jackson's Great Beers of Belgium, 6th EditionConfirming a mood for sour beers, I then had a crack at Bourgogne Des Flandres Brune. This is a Flemish "Oud Bruin" ale (again from Timmermans), of which the Liefmans Goudenband is probably the best known. Although sour, it has a fair whack of fancy Belgian malts, giving it rich flavours of preserved fruits, dates, caramel, licorice.

For mine this beer alone is worth the trip to a Belgian Beer Cafe. It's not universally well received (Beer Advocate community only gives it a C), however I think it sits aross several beer styles and is drinkable on any occasion.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lion Nathan - no reply

Oh well, a week's gone by and I have heard not a peep out of Lion Nathan regarding my objections to their trademark protection actions.

In the interim, I have been researching exactly what it would mean to boycott this company's products. According to the website http://lion-nathan.com.au/brands/ it is quite extensive, and not just for beer.

Australian brands: Tooheys, XXXX, Hahn, James Boag, West End, Emu, James Squire, Knappstein, Bare Cove, Southwark

NZ brands: Steinlager, Speight's, Mac's, Lion Red, Waikato, Canterbury

International brands: Heinken, Becks, Birra Moretti, Budweiser (US), Kirin, Amstel

Maybe I would probably miss the occasional visit to Squire's brewhouse on King Street wharf, although I haven't been there for many months. As for the rest of the brands, I can't say I regularly consume any of them, so no great dramas there.

But, in looking around the website, Lion Nathan has quite a portfolio of wine. I think this is where a boycott would hurt (me, that is, not Lion Nathan)

For example:

Croser, Petaluma, Pikes, Mitchelton, St Hallett, Tatachilla, Stonier, Bridgewater Mill, Henschke.... among others.

Quite a few of these have a representation in my cellar....... hmmmm

OK, Lion Nathan, I'll give you one more chance..... but after that I'll have to start commencing to think about considering the clarification of the prospect of proposing the discussion of further steps towards a tactical response to the existent issues pertaining the aforementioned actionable parameters.

I'm not going to drink your beer, though.  And Squires Brewhouses are off the agenda, henceforth.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lion Nathan - a tale of trademarks and hypocrisy

Another week, another trademark dispute involving Lion Nathan.

As reported in Fairfax press, a small brewer has been served notice from the lawyers at Lion Nathan, which has taken exception to Mr Michael Harvey's use of the phrase "Tosser's Extra Dry". http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/no-dry-humour-in-tossers-tugofwar-20101127-18bjq.html

Not content with objecting to the "Extra Dry", Lion Nathan has also objected to the phrase "Tosser's". Do they wish to confirm an association with the phrase ? I gotta say, the more they object, the more apparent this association becomes......

As stated in the article, the objection to "Tosser's" could easily be seen as revenge. Or bullying tactics.

Lion Nathan has also had success in protecting its "New" trademark, with the Trade Mark Office agreeing that a new brewery could not register as "New South Brewing Company". Not content with registering a commonly used English language adjective, Lion Nathan apparently also has the power to prevent anyone else in the brewing industry using said adjective. http://www.theshout.com.au/2010/09/27/article/Out-with-the-New-Lion-Nathan-wins-Trade-Mark-Stoush/RZHKGPWFVI

But it hasn't all gone their way lately. In May, it was reported the American company E&J Gallo Winery had a win in this country's High Court, over Lion Nathan's use of the word "Barefoot" in its Radler product. A Lion Nathan spokesperson whinged stated that "We are disappointed by yesterday's High Court ruling, which represents a substantial change to Australian trade mark law,”   (thanks to The Shout for that quote: http://www.theshout.com.au/2010/05/21/article/Lion-Nathan-stripped-in-Barefoot-battle/QALOKRVYTK.html) .

Lion Nathan could easily have learnt from the May experience when dealing with Tosser's and New South. Perhaps a little bit of empathy.

Not bloody likely. As Tosser's and New South have experienced, Lion Nathan has returned to the trademark courts with a vengeance.

And for what gain ? Your humble correspondent practices a life-long boycott of McDonalds, due to that company's obnoxious behaviour over the years.  Could I live without James Squires and Knappstein Reserve Lager ? On a principle such as this, yes.

As an aside, I have emailed Lion Nathan objecting to their stance against Mr Harvey. I'll keep you posted of any developments.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hefeweizen - the results

I finally have my two hefes on tap.
New " Hefeweizen Street " Drink / Drunk / Drunkard Street Sign Drinks
A quick recap: One was brewed purely with pale ale and wheat malts, with an ounce of Perle, aiming for a more refreshing summer wheat beer.

The other beer was brewed with less hops (half an ounce), but 500g of the grain (barley & wheat) were home-roasted.

How do they stack up ? I won't review them formally as that would be a little self-indulgent. However, it's fair to say that the aims have been attained (this is in spite of my earlier post where I was a bit discouraged.... always give the beer time in keg/bottle to settle and smooth out).



Hefe 1 (summer style - on the right): light and crisp. Touch tangy, with a nice bitterness at the back. More an American Wheat style than a hefe, but the clove is evident.

Hefe 2 (traditional hefe style - on the left): more rounded body, nice bread & biscuit nose and taste. More prominent clove character. (Note I reused the yeast from Hefe 1 for Hefe 2). Notice the darker colour.... and that was only a tenth of the grain, 60 minutes in the oven at 175C.

I think I'm hooked on home-roasting. It wasn't perfect by any means; I'd like to get more caramel than I did, but it was my first go and it will only improve.

Strong Beer Tasting

Nope, not a results post. In fact a request for suggestions. I have the following beers:

Malt Shovel Ten20 Commemorative Ale
Unibrou Trois Pistoles
Carlton Crown Ambassador 2010
Bridge Road B2 Bomber
Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (not pictured)

I've had the Ten20 for a while. My loyal reader(s) would recognise the Trois Pistoles and B2 Bomber from my last trip to Platinum Cellars. As for the Ambassador ? Well, let's just say we have a cozy relationship with our builder, who always seems grateful for incremental business (haven't seen the latest invoice, but if he's giving away $90 beers, I'm afraid to).

The Stout comes from my special Diageo contact. Not happy just to provide me with a single seven year-old stout (previous post http://aussiebeerblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/guinness-foreign-extra-stout.html), he's also managed to score the best part of a full case of the stuff, albeit a more recent vintage. Of course, I actually don't have my hands on any, but I'm assuming Darren is willing to contribute one or two to this tasting. I'd better invite him.....

Now, the challenge to my reader(s). What else in the "strong beer" category should be considered ? Other than ABV, there's little else in common across these beers. Mostly ales, one lager. Some Aussie, some from O/S. Belgian, Irish, Barley Wine styles. Maybe a strong wheat (aka Aventinus) ? A strong IPA (aka Icon) ?

Whadya reckon ?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout

Guinness: Celebrating 250 Remarkable YearsIt's good to have connections. My mate Darren has Diageo as a client, so tends to come up with the occasional item of interest.  In this case, as a result of a site move, a lot of curios and loose items seemed destined for the mini-skip.

As an incredibly noble gesture, Darren managed to save certain of these items from becoming landfill, including a few Guinness-branded objects.

Of greatest interest was a single bottle of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (7.5%). Now, I have managed to find this elusive beast only once before, at a single place in Sydney (Northmead Cellars). But this particular rescue-ee must have spent some time on a Diageo executive's cabinet, as its brewed date was 15/08/2003.  Yep folks, a seven year old stout.

And what did we think ?

The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the WorldSimply outstanding. On the nose it had picked up a touch of a sour note and a slight barnyard funkiness. Maybe some blue cheese and leather there too. Taste was amazing: no ashen astringency, but a slight pastrami or balsamic note. Chocolate cake.  Some late pecan pie or date pudding.

My previous Beeradvocate tasting notes included: black olive, balsamic, chocolate millkshake, blackened beef.  That was for a relatively young (<1 year) old example. So quite similar in profile, but with better integration, smoothness, and a touch of age.

An excellent beer to find, and an excellent beer to cellar.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Brew Day: hefeweizen with homemade toasted malt

The results of the my recent hefeweizen were mixed.
(see http://aussiebeerblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/hefe-brew-day.html).
Sweatshirt Black " Hefeweizen Is Health " Drinks X-LargeThe brew day went fairly well, and the plate chiller work superbly. However I think the resulting beer is too light in body, probably due to some oversparging and not enough boil time.

And an ounce of Perle seemed to create quite a bitter presence in the finished product, so will cut back on that in future.

So for today, I've got the remaining 2.5kg of Pale Malt and 2.5kg of Wheat Malt. But I've taken a tenth of each, mixed together, split into two, and toasted in a 175C oven.  The first went for an hour, and has come out nutty and darker than when it went in. The second got a soaking in hot water, then went in for a similar time. This produced some caramel, which seemed inclined to stick to the tray. Baking paper next time, I think.

German Wheat Beer (Classic Beer Style Series)Needed some quick repair on my mash tun (esky). The pipe through the outlet hole seems to not be sitting in the grommet as nicely as it used to, so as I was adding hot water pre-dough-in, I reckon most of it leaked out onto the ground. Quick trip to the hardware shop, and I picked up a long brass nipple, a couple of cistern outlet washers, and two brass nuts (all 15mm).  That settled it.

Mashed at lower temperature this time, doughing-in at 73.5, (opposed to 75.5).  Incremental batch sparging (8 litres hot water into the wort, lauter, then a 6 litre batch, and another). Brought the pre-boil volume to about 25 litres. Half ounce of hops, and an hour boil.

Spiegelau Beer Classics Wheat Glasses (Set of 2So, it's now in the fermenter, with yeast from the last batch. Should start up strongly, and with the current temperature in the low-mid 20's (C), should also kick off some good hefe aromatics.

I snuck in a quick taste, and there are distinct toasty, nutty flavours, over and above the wheat characteristics. This is reassuring, and possibly opens a new dimension in DIY brewing..... homemade crystal & toasted malts.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Endeavour Beverages Reserve Ales

I recently received another sample pack, this time from Endeavour Brewing, a newly formed beer marketing company based in Macquarie Centre, Sydney.

The beers on offer being:

2 x 2010 Endeavour Reserve Pale Ale
2 x 2010 Endeavour Reserve Amber Ale

Very attractive packaging, and fancy bottles. The media release states that these beers will develop of 2-3 years..... hmmm..... not so sure about that.

Darren dropped in for a quick taste, and we determined that these beers were, on the main, average. The claims for cellaring are dubious to say the least.

But, the gesture from the company is appreciated.

In the spirit of constructive criticism, I offered my thoughts back to them. They are as follows (no reply as yet):

Hi Ben,

Thanks for the tasting pack. I shared it with a beer loving mate, and we took down some notes.

In the spirit of providing frank and fearless advice, I wish to provide you with my feedback before I publish it on my blog.

Pale Ale
Looks good and has a wonderful fruity aroma, typical of its hop varieties. But it seems to go missing on the palate. And the mouthfeel seems quite dry and quick finish; for me it's not really that satisfying (but hey, I drink Russian Imperial Stout and Double IPAs, so maybe I'm desensitised !).

It seems to a have a foot in two camps: American pale ale fruitiness, and Dry/Blonde styles popular with Gen-Y. In this sense, it will be popular with this crowd, and maybe with the females, with the fruity perfume on the nose appealing, but the palate light, dry, crisp, and 'contemporary'.

If that's your target market, well done.

Amber Ale
Again, looks appealing. Aromas seem quite focused on chocolate & caramel. Touch resinous as you describe in your media release. I can't really pick up the distinctive Pride of Ringwood metallic/spicy profile, but the resin note is evident. Taste is again quite chocolaty, but seems a bit 2-dimensional. Perhaps you should throw in some English noble hops e.g. East Kent Goldings or Fuggles.... give it a third dimension and some interest.

I detect an attempt at appealing to the Gen-Y drinkers; give them a "different" style but not overburden their distraction-driven minds with complexity. So, give them chocolate, give them alcohol.... and give them a bottle that appears very sophisticated.

I seriously dispute your claims about aging these beers. The pale ale is too light on alcohol, and has no malt or hop structure to support change over time. The amber may take up some raisin/sherry notes as it ages.... but again at 5.2% doesn't have enough 'preservative' to see it into a second year. I'm happy to be proven wrong .......

Overall.... hats off to your packaging. Looks good, and assuming I'm correct regarding your target market, you're probably onto a winner. Price is a challenge, but not for the wanna-be-seen trainee stockbroker crowd. Just remember how fickle these guys are.... you'll be history in 3 months.

Again, thanks for the taster, and best wishes,

Michael Vanderlaan

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Declining beer sales: the good news

Interesting read in Monday's Sydney Morning Herald:

http://www.smh.com.au/business/feeling-a-chill-as-beer-loses-pulling-power-20101011-16fzc.html

The opening sentence:

AUSTRALIAN drinkers have turned their backs on beer at an unprecedented rate, shunning both traditional brands and new hip labels, to post in August one of the biggest volume declines in recent history and threatening the earnings of Foster's, Lion Nathan and smaller players such as Coopers.

But..... a few paragraphs later:

Mr Bowley said these drivers included consumers dumping beers such as VB or Tooheys for imports and boutique beers.  ''Step-up brands and premium offerings typically have smaller bottle sizes [355ml and 330ml] than regular mainstream brands [375ml]. The recent acceleration in the shift from mainstream to premium will contribute to reduced consumption,'' he said.

Ostensibly a bad news article (it was, after all, published in the Business section). However, it's good for supporters of quality beer. Notwithstanding the implication that beer consumption is down due to bottle size, the shift from "mainstream to premium" is a positive sign. Note the "blame" is bottle size, not the cost thereof.

What also interests me is the writer's implication that "new hip labels" are different to premium brands. The former is on the decline with the macros, while the latter is increasing (relatively, I expect). It would be interesting to know what constitutes "new and hip", and what constitutes "premium".

A downside is the inclusion of Coopers in the list of decliners. I find this difficult to swallow, considering the amount of Coopers that's consumed these days at my local surf club.......

Perhaps we can correlate certain Coopers lines with the "new and hip"..... read Coopers Clear and Coopers 62 Pilsner. How would Coopers perform if they did not have these Gen-Y pleasers in their stable ?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Beer Review: De Molen Porter


Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
De Molen Porter
English Porter 5.8%

B+ / 3.95  look: 4 smell: 4 taste: 4 feel: 3.5 drink: 4

Picked up at Platinum Cellars, North Strathfield, Sydney.

Plain black-on-white label, giving me lots of information about the beer: original and final gravities, colour, bittering units, hops etc. Mentions that this is an "Original 1914 Recipe London-Style Porter", and that it will be good for 5 years.

Brewed February 11 2009. Bottled March 14 2009. Bottle number 090.

a) Tan, rocky head. Very dark brown with ruby highlights when the light passes through.
s) Rich caramel and chocolate. Hint of age, with some raisins and preservd fruit coming through.
t) Significant malty-complex flavour profile. A touch of ash, and what also appears to be a slight lactic sourness. Nicely balanced bitterness.
m) Fairly light body, with a touch of astringency.
d) The flavour is quite a talking point, and the slight sourness and dryness makes this very drinkable.

Serving type: bottle

Hefe Brew Day

A lovely still-ish day in northern Sydney, so a good time to kick off a brew. I haven't yet tried my plate chiller, so plenty of interest today.

I'm brewing a hefeweiss, as it's my wife's favourite (mine also). This is arguably the simplest recipe I've brewed to date:

2.5 kg Pale Malt
2.5 kg Wheat Malt
28g Perle (60 minutes)
Safbrew WB-06 wheat ale yeast

One thing I like about hefe is the mouthfeel and slight semblance of sweetness. Most recipes call for a touch of Munich for colour & biscuity/bready notes, or a little crystal/cara for some caramel sweetness. But this recipe will produce a pale beer, with some mechanical adjustments needed to get more mouthfeel and sweetness.

I normally mash my grains at 65-67C, which generates a higher proportion of fermentable wort than higher temperatures. Since I want some more body and sweetness (provided by more complex carbohydrates), I'll mash at 69C, which requires a strike temperature (today) of 75.5C. This results in a "thicker" beer, and not as much alcohol post-ferment.

So, I'm at that stage. 15 litres of hot water has been put into the mash tun, stirred to cool to strike temp, and the grain stirred in. I'm now sitting back, catching up on some blogging, and gaining inspiration by having a taste of the benchmark: Weihenstephaner.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Trip to Canberra

G'day all, long time no chat, mainly due to an inconvenience known as employment.

Just returned from a long weekend in Canberra, staying in a winery guesthouse just off the Barton Highway near Hall. Although a lot of wine was tasted and purchased, I always ensure a brewery visit or two when in Canberra

Firstly, on Friday got into my favourite place in the ACT - the Wig and Pen. Had a brief yarn with the brewer, Richard Watkins, learning a couple of interesting things. He has a Flemish Red ale underway, not unlike Rodenbach he says. Still needs another 6 months in wine barrels, but sounds fantastic.  He's pretty keen on the old Brettanomyces, so is also planning an Orval-style Belgian Ale.

Bock (Classic Beer Style Series ; 9)While chatting he scrounged me up a sample of the Russian Imperial Stout. Still this country's best example, in my opinion. Other than that, I feasted upon the W&P pale ale, the Brewer's IPA, Belgian Blonde wit, Bulldog Best Bitter, and the Aviator double bock, which is rich in fancy dark malts (I thought I picked up Special B, but Richard had already returned to work so I couldn't ask him). After these tasters I returned to the Pale Ale, which is fresh as a daisy and drinking so well.

Had a Ploughman's Lunch for $12.90, which was the perfect accompaniment for a pint of bitter.

Yesterday, paid my first visit to Zierholz Premium Brewery, located (as with many breweries) in the industrial part of town. Fyshwick has pretty much everything for the discerning gent, so a brewery is just what you need among the porn factory outlets and full-body massage parlours.

Beer Tips and AdviceThe place was jumping. Barely a table remained in the bistro, but the family managed to squeeze into a spot next to a familiar-looking bloke.... a barman from the Wig & Pen.
As with all good breweries, you can order a flight of the beer range, including the Schankbier (low alcohol), German Ale (kolsch), Pilsner, Hopmeister, Amber Ale (Alt bier), Porter, and Weizen.
Libby enjoyed the Weizen, as I did too. I think it was the stand out of the range. The kolsch was pretty good too. The food wasn't to shabby either, with a Weisswurst and sauerkraut just the thing to accompany the wheat beer.

I wouldn't say that Zierholz beer is outstanding; I would say , however, that it is of high quality, and very brewery-fresh.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Brewer's Feast

Well, a pretty good concept that needs a little bit of buff  and polish. At around 1pm the brewers themselves were saying it was pretty quiet, but I think as with most festivals will grow over time.

I understand that Hart's is contemplating a quarterly event. This is a good idea as long as the number of brewers is kept fairly low, and they don't aim for big crowds.

I enjoyed the Summer Ale from True South brewery, Punch and Judy mid strength ale from Murray's, and the 6.5% Imperial Pils from Pickled Monkeys.

The event was a little slow kicking off; the beer seemed to only arrive at 11am, and there was a mad rush to get everything hooked up. No matter, we went downstairs and ordered a couple of good beers over the bar, including the new single batch oatmeal stout from Little Creatures and White Rabbit white ale.

My only real gripe was that the brewers couldn't showcase all their beers at once, saying that they would switch kegs later in the day. I was intending to stay only three hours, so this was no good for me. It was a shame as I wanted to hook into the Otway Saison, True South Wee Jimmy, Murrays Grand Cru, and Hunter Cranky Pants IPA.  So, in future, they need either more taps, or less brewers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Brewer's Feast - Beer List

I've been a bit silent lately.... just got myself a new job which has been somewhat distracting..

Scott Morgan from Hart's Pub & Rocks Brewing has offered up the list of beers available at the festival.

http://beeradvocate.com/forum/read/2956145

I'll be making a bee-line to the Pickled Monkeys Imperial Pils and the True South offerings. Then a quick refresher course in Otway Estate beers.

Readers will know that I am more than familiar with Murray's beers, but on this occasion there is a new one to try: Punch & Judy, a mid-strength ale which is ideally suited to today's session (http://www.murraysbrewingco.com.au/web2010/beersPage.php?21)

The Hunter Beer Co is a regular drop-in when up in the valley; the Cranky Pants IPA is a new one for me, so will give this a nudge today also.
Grandridge is there too; the three offerings will be familiar to those who frequent Dan Murphy's.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Harts Pub Brewer's Feast

Another beer festival for consideration. This one is in two week's time; I have commitments from 2 blokes already.


Again, let me know if you wish to meet up. I hope to be there earlier rather than later.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Paddy's Brewer's Market Festival

Just got handed this flyer by Dave (from eponymous homebrew store). I have it diarised, and assuming approval from the committee, hope to attend. Sydney-based blog followers are encouraged to let me know if you want to meet up.

Paddy's Brewer's Market Festival
Saturday 9th October From 12pm Free Entry
25 Micro Brewed Beers On Tap $3 Per Middy

Meet your local brewers including St Peter's Brewery, Badlands Brewery, Potters Brewery, Murray's Craft Brewing Co, The Happy Goblin Brewery, Lord Nelson Brewery, Mountain Ridge Brewery, The Rocks Brewing Co., 4 Pines Brewing, Black Duck Brewery and of course Paddy's Brewery!

There will be a couple of new breweries making an appearance so don't miss a great chance to try some truly awesome beers!

The only Beer Festival where the man who brewed the beer is the... man who is pouring the beer!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Platinum Cellars Beer Haul

SPOILER ALERT: If you are Bob or Chris, the contents of this post pertain to our Father's Day gathering; don't read on if you prefer to be surprised on Sunday.

Geez I love Platinum Cellars. Adam Bellamy, the owner and my host today, apologised for the current lack of range. I mean, if THAT'S what they call a lack of range, then I'd gladly suffer it over the FULL range of any other bottle shop in Sydney.

So, what to buy ? I have two not-necessarily-aligned motives: the first to find something I've never had before; the second to find something Bob & Chris have never had before.  But since they themselves have started frequenting Platinum, it's just getting harder on both fronts.

Today's haul:
  • Meantime IPA
  • Dupont La Biere de Beloeil
  • Chatoe Rogue Wet Hop Ale
  • Collesi Imper Ale
  • De Molen Porter
  • Cantillon "Lou Pepe" Gueuze 2006
  • Bridge Road Chevalier Saison
  • St Bernardus Abt 12
  • Trois Pistoles
  • Bridge Road B2 Bomber
  • Rogue Eugene City Brewery 200 Meter Ale
  • Nogne O #100
  • Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast Speyside Edition
Those I've had before
The Meantime IPA is a delightful drink. More caramelly than heavilly bitter, it is however very, very well balanced.
Chatoe Rogue Wet Hop. Drank this a couple of months back, before knowing that Chris had a Rogue tasting planned. So, this is to make up for that oversight.
Bridge Road Chevalier Saison. My 2008 notes on this are of an uncomplicated drink; yet I think it's worth revisiting.
St Bernardus Abt 12. One of the world's best beers, and often used as a debating example of why certain Trappistes are not the be-all-and-end-all. Haven't tasted this since 2006. Looking forward to it,
Trois Pistoles. Simply to stock up on Unibrou beers, who don't export to Australia anymore.

The Others
Dupont.... always try beers from Dupont
Collesi. A new Italian craft brewery with great reviews
Cantillon. The benchmark in sour beers. As with Dupont, always try the Cantillon.
Bridge Road B2 Bomber. Adam gave this to me as a 13th-to-the-dozen. Hard to say no.....
Eugene City. Something different, and from Rogue, so will be very interesting.
Nogne O. Well, one of the world's finest new wave brewers. I could have bought more, but chose instead to keep both kidneys.
De Molen: ditto
Mikkeler: ditto, although it was tempting to try the "Highland" aged version, as well as the "Speyside" aged version. Getting ridiculous here.

Reviews to come...

PS. Try to top that, Bob & Chris

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Beer Review: XXXX Summer Bright Lager


Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
XXXX Summer Bright Lager
American Adjunct Lager 4.2%
C- / 2.75   look: 2.5 smell: 2 taste: 3 feel: 2.5 drink: 4

Disclaimer: I received this beer as a gratuity from the brewer's marketing team.

Pours a pale straw yellow, not much bubbling. White rocky head that doesn't last long.

Innocuous aromas, macro sulfur. Some grain. Goes skunky in the glass pretty quickly. Therefore drink it from the bottle, not the glass.

Flavour is light and innoffensive. Neutral grain flavour that I find common across Asian lagers, Mexican beers, and Aussie "dry" styles. Slight green apple note. Doesn't have that cardboard character I tend to observe in other dry-style beers, so good for its class.

As expected, a very light mouthfeel, crisp finish. Almost like softdrink.

This beer will appeal to the wanna-be-seen crowd. Those who prefer more assertive flavours and mouthfeel should look elsewhere.

Serving type: bottle

Additional review notes, from Libby, Jono, Natalie:

Tasty, refreshing.... nice with a slice of lemon or lime perhaps.  Great beer to have with a curry, or on a hot summer's day. "I could drink this" say non-beer drinkers Libby & Natalie.

My initial blog entry for XXXX Summer Bright Lager is here http://aussiebeerblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/xxxx-summer-bright-lager.html

The New Kegerator

As Libby and I surveyed the bar area, we considered what we should do with a couple of bar fridges and empty space. After some deliberation, she advised that I "should" buy a kegerator.

Well, not one for arguing with my wife, I decided to do as I was told. For about $600 including freight (from Ballarat), found the following on the interweb-thingy:

http://www.pinnaclewholesalers.com.au/product/274/TWIN_TAP_BEER_KEGERATOR

After quick delivery and installation, here it is:

Dual-tap font, drip tray and railing. The column is not cooled; I think there are instances of people getting some sort of glycol circulation, but for the moment I'm happy to leave it as is. The temperature range is 2-8C, which also makes it a good fridge for lagering if needed.

The tap handles are screw-on, which allows changing. I have read about tap handles made out of blackboard; this is handy for any bar that changes what's on tap.

I've used paper wine bottle tags to identify the contents.

The fridge has room for a 50L brewery keg, which requires CO2 cylinder to sit outside the unit, feeding the gas through an inlet at the back. However, for the corny keg user, there is room for two 19L kegs plus a D-sized CO2 cylinder.

It's fairly easy to install, however it should be noted that one cannot easily find line clamps and crimping tools. My local Bunnigs doesn't have it; I think gas fitting supply outlets are needed. I made do with a few old clamps and an electrical wire stripper.

I currently have Dave's IPA and Double Coopers Ale on tap. It's just way too easy to get a beer these days.

Friday, August 27, 2010

XXXX Summer Bright Lager

Disclaimer: I received a 6 pack of XXXX Summer Bright Lager and some paraphenalia (hat, sunglasses, thongs), courtesy of the XXXX Summer Bright Lager team.

Was pleasantly surprised to be asked by "The XXXX Summer Bright Lager team" if I wanted a complimentary 6-pack of their latest brew. As I have not received any gift, gratuity or payment since starting blogging, I reckon it's about bloody time.

The Pack
According to the invitation, the beer was released last year in Queensland, and they're now making a foray south of the border. My colleague in Brisbane, Matt Kirkegaard has some things to say already about XXXX Summer Bright Lager, here: BeerMatt and here: Brews News.

A nice pack arrived yesterday, with some great Gen Y gear in it (white rimmed glasses, colourful baseball cap, and some oversized rubber thongs). But, it didn't look all that good on your Gen X correspondent, at least not in his wife's eyes. So I'll have to find some tattooed metrosexual to donate it all to..... any offers ?
The Gifts

I did advise the XXXX Summer Bright Lager team that I was not going to compromise my objectivity, in spite of their kind largesse.

It comes in a clear glass bottle, with thin plastic labelling. It looks as if it's directly competing with Sol.... whites and yellows and summer sun. Matt Kirkegaard does mention that it is targetted at the Corona drinker, so the packaging makes sense. Now, I don't generally like anything served in a clear bottle (some Brit Ales excepted), and I'm no fan of Mex Lager.... nor a fan of Low Carb lager.... so things aren't starting off too well.


The Beer
But.... it's actually not that bad. My wife even described it as "having flavour". I'll review it more formally in due course, but it's got some reasonable malt flavours, and some crisp fruitiness like green apple. Very light body of course, and dry finish, as per the style. At 4.2%, it's definitely for summer sessions.

XXXX Summer Bright Lager

An interesting curiosity is the inclusion of nutritional information on the bottle. I think this is the first time I've seen any such thing.

My formal review of XXXX Summer Bright Lager is here:
http://aussiebeerblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/beer-review-xxxx-summer-bright-lager.html



** EDIT 10 July 2011 **
I notice that there has been a lot of traffic to this post, particularly from India. I assume that this beer must now be available there. If you're reading this, and from India, feel free to post a comment.
Have you just seen this beer ? Have you tried it ? What are your thoughts ?
Cheers,
Mike





Thursday, August 26, 2010

Some progress on the Northern Beaches - Some......

In today's Manly Daily there is an eight page advertorial on the newly-renovated Collaroy Services Beach Club, now called "The Beach Club, Collaroy".

According to the advertisement, there are 18 beers on tap, and plenty more in the fridge.  I nearly fell off my kitchen stool. Draught deers include James Squires Pilsener, Porter, Sundowner and Matilda Bay Dogbolter, Fat Yak, and a 7% Mad Brewer Noir Stout. Little Creatures Bright Ale is on tap too, and among the bottled beers are Big Helga and Knappstein Reserve Lager.

Amazing selection for what used to be a Coopers-only kind of place (on top of the usual macro suspects).  So I dropped in, and sure enough, good beers for $5-$6 a schooner range for non-members. The club remains pretty much the way it was (I had to look hard to see what was renovated); the usual clique of smelly, hard-swearing racists, and a bistro that has never quite lived up to its potential.

Worth popping in for a slightly different beer range; I contemplated renewing my lapsed membership, but decided I wouldn't be there often enough to recoup my membership via discounted beers.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Double Coopers - The Result

Thanks to Hampers for reminding me to comment on this. And sorry for taking so long to read the comments.

As inferred in another recent post, I had a little secret I wanted to keep from my mates until a party last Sunday... I recently acquired a dual-font kegerator.

I have hooked up the Dave's IPA and the Double Coopers, and am particularly enjoying the latter. Some slight over-carbonation issues, but that's where a drip-tray comes in handy (included with the kegerator thankfully).

Dave's IPA has some nice malt backbone and bitterness. There is also a slight paperiness that I am worried might be oxidation at my end, but then again could be a hop character expressing itself. Not 100% sure.

As for the double Coopers, it has turned out very well. Definite Coopers Pale profile, maybe a touch more dextrinous body, and certainly a hint of alcohol. I recommend giving it a go.... 2 x tins of Coopers Pale Ale tins, 500g dry malt extract, and some healthy yeast. Cooler ferment, some time to settle, and onto the keg.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Beer Review: Little Creatures Single Batch Brown Ale


Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Little Creatures Single Batch Brown Ale
American Brown Ale 5.4%
B+ / 3.95 look: 4 smell: 4 taste: 4 feel: 3.5 drink: 4

Best By 18 Mar 11.


Pours a pale beige, rocky head, which lingers and leaves a nice lace. Very little bubbling. Haze-free copper/chestnut with olive green highlights. Looks good in my Squires half-pint glass.
Nose initially very American: tropical fruit, guava, grapefruit, some kiwi also. Warming to a gamey funkiness reminiscent of the marsupial enclosure at the zoo. This is not a bad thing; simply indicative of the spicy volatiles. Quite appealing in fact.
The flavour is a complex experience. Up front, the hop continues to work the tropical theme, adding some stonefruit and honeydew. Follows this up with some biscuit & bread, and some caramel. After this comes a good hit of fresh, late hops. Warms into spearmint notes. Quite a journey, and rounded up with a reasonable bitterness.
Gently smooth up front, but with a distinct sherbetty tongue tingle. Proceeds smoothly, with the late hop giving a mid-palate sharpness. Not unattractive, mind you. Seems to end a bit short, with the front palate still zinging but nothing much happening at the back.
A high-brow offering. Lots to discover and discuss. I would have liked a touch more dextrinous back palate, but beyond that is a decent ale, worthy of a few pints.
Serving type: bottle

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dee Why Hotel - A lost opportunity

After being a construction zone for several years, the Dee Why hotel reopened over the weekend. Thought it wise to take a look.
The term "beer barn" immediately springs to mind, although prefixed with "modern"..... A large, dark, multi-space cavern, with distinct areas for gaming, sports TV, dining, drinking, smoking.... Lots of hard surfaces - cement, wood, brass, mirrors.
But what about the beer ? You would think that in the modern age, with micro breweries popping up everywhere, that a new establishment would grasp the nettle and try something different. And what are the better beers of Dee Why hotel ? On tap, Coopers Pale Ale and James Squire Golden Ale. By bottle, Little Creatures Pale Ale.
The pub is almost identical to the Belrose Hotel and (in beer range), the Newport Arms. No wonder, as they are all members of the Bayfield stable.
And what a disappointment. It goes to show two things 1) the beer-barn culture is alive and well and 2) Sydney's Northern Beaches remains a barren wasteland for decent establishments serving decent beer.
Given the choice of spending a sunny Sunday afternoon sitting in a dark, noisy hall, drinking ubiquitous beers, listening to a three-piece try-hard garage band slaughtering Fleetwood Mac & Womack v Womack covers (hard to do, admittedly, but carried out with aplomb yesterday).... or sitting on a deck at home, sipping home brew and listening to one's own musical preference, I know what I would rather.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Back into All-Grain

Having just kegged & chilled my two extract beers (more on that in a week's time), my interest in all-grain brewing has rekindled.

I paid a quick visit to Dave's Home Brew, picking up some pale malt, some wheat, and some Munich. Uhmed and aahed about the hops, but settled on some Amarillo for an American influence. Also got some Corny keg disconnects... but more on that in a week.... I'm trying to keep a secret until next Sunday.

Anyway, played around with different recipes, hoping to scratch out two brews from my total grain & hop supply.

The first brew will be an American Pale Ale:

Grain
3.00kg Pale Malt (base grain)
1.00kg Munich Malt (for some colour and bready/biscuity flavours)
0.50kg Wheat Malt (mainly for head retention when serving)
0.45kg Cara Malt 30L (for some more colour, and caramel/toffee flavours)

Hops
28g Perle (8.2 IBU - 60 minutes)
14g Amarillo (8.6 IBU - 10 minutes..... not after too much hop flavour... looking for hoppy nose, malt palate upfront, and bitterness at the back)
28g Amarillo (flameout)

Yeast
Safale US-05

Copper Manifold
I use an esky for mash tun, with a copper pipe grid as the manifold for lautering the wort from the grain bed.

Sadly, I don't as yet have a devoted "hot liquor tank" aka boiler. I need to generate 15 litres of hot water using a 2 litre kettle. Painfully slow......

Mashing of the grains takes an hour (plus 25 minutes or so to add the water, and another 10 to cool it to "strike" temperature: 74C). Then it's the opening of a tap on the other side of the esky wall, and out pours, maybe, 5 litres of hot wort. The rest is still retained in the grain bed.

Mash to Boil Setup
So, need to sparge. There are many different approaches; I choose to simply boil another 8 litres of water and add to the grains, then drain off. And repeat this until I have 25 litres in the boiler.

It seems my destiny to brew on windy days.... I needed to hook up a protective shield with a couple of plastic tables. Even still, I don't think I got the heat up that was needed.

At the end of the boil (60 minutes) I had 23 litres (should have lost more water than that), but an Original Gravity of 1052. This means I had a brewhouse effiiciency of 81%, which is, on the face of it, outstanding. I think there might be something wrong with my calculations. Efficiency is a measure of how much fermentable wort was successfully extracted from the grains. The higher the better, of course.

Then in with the immersion chiller (the copper coil in the photo).  This is really awkward; I am seriously considering a counterflow chiller instead of having to use this cumbersome, messy, and unreliable method.

From the boiler I then syphon the cooled wort into the sanitised fermentor. Again, another risky inefficiency which I have subsequently improved by installing a ball-valve tap into the side of the boiler. Then in with the yeast, and she's off !

Now to plan the second recipe.... I plan to reuse the yeast cake in the fermentor, hence obtain a strong, vigorous ferment. So I will need to do another mash on the day I rack the beer from primary to secondary.

Grain
2.00kg Pale Malt
0.50kg Wheat Malt
0.27kg Special B Malt
0.19kg Chocolate Malt
1.50kg some specialty dark sugar.... I need this to bump up the volume of the fermentale's bill... I have barely 3kg to begin with..... I could in theory do a small batch...... don't know yet.....

Hops
28g home-grown Tettnang...... (60 minutes) IBUs unknown....Used these as dry-hops in another brew some time back. Hop to eek out any bitterness that remains.
14g home-grown Tettnang.......(10 minutes)
14g home-grown Tettnang.......(dry-hop)
My grain bill suggests a dark, malty beer. I think holding back the hops a bit may be a good plan.

We'll see anyway.......

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Crown Ambassador Reserve 2010

The third release of this remarkable beer is underway.

Matt Kirkegaard has a good yarn about a recent tasting, involving some notable folk and a range of Riedel glasses.

http://www.brewsnews.com.au/2010/08/crown-ambassador-reserve/

I enjoyed his appreciation of a certain descriptive phrase.....  it may also be found here:

http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/16023/44038/?ba=vancurly

The 1st release was $52.  The third release is $90.  I guess some of this can be attributed to the inclusion of some oak barrel-aged 2009.

But also, the last couple of years have seen a significant increase in the demand and supply of international super-premium beers: Nøgne Ø, Mikkeller, De Molen, Rogue XS to name a few.

It would appear Fosters are attempting to ride this wave. 

As with previous years, I expect the beer will appear at Dan Murphy's. I'm not sure how quickly the 2010 will move at this price point.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Article: Boiling Your Brew - The Reasons Why

My tenth obligatory article for the Suite101 site is a no-brainer: the many reasons for boiling the wort.
Slightly ironic considering one of my recent home brews was boil-free....

Friday, July 30, 2010

New Bayfield's store at Dee Why

Libby and I checked out the new Dee Why Grand shopping centre yesterday.  In a visit made remarkable by the complete incompetence of the parking attendants, we found the new centre to be, well, like any old shopping centre, but with a lot of "soon to open" shop-fronts.  Yawn.

I was hoping to see how the new Dee Why Hotel stacked up, but it too looks a fair way off from pulling its first beer in anger. Maybe in a month or two, judging by the gaping black hole where I expected to find glitz, glamour, and (perhaps unreasonably) decent beer.

But, the latest addition to the Bayfield stable of bottle shops can be found in the 1st carpark. What I like about these guys is the ice bench located just behind the counters, full of single beer bottles which allow the thirsty tradie or traveller to quickly grab a cleanser without having to go to the fridge at the back. Nice idea.

The beer range was modest, to say the least. Big range of Aussie macros and low carbs, the usual imports & brewed-under-licence locals, and the occasional point of interest. If you're into Macs or Monteiths (this is Dee Why after all), then you'll be well rewarded.  Belgian ales are limited to Chimays and Duvels, and the token 500mL English Ale (Spitfire, for example) are evident. The range seems to be a complete subset of that in First Choice, suggesting the same importers/wholesalers.

I did see some Knappstein, and some Kosciuszko pale ale. But other than that, if you want a wider range but in the same theme, then the First Choice at Forestville would be preferable. If you want a more eclectic range, then go to Brookvale Cellars; their support of local brewers (Akuna, Four Pines, Happy Goblin) is commendable.

Bayfield do claim to match advertised competitors' prices (in Manly Daily only); this is good, because I don't think their wine prices are that competitive. So I recommend trawling the 'Daily before heading to Bayfield.

And their malt whiskey range ?  Very ordinary.... I'd go to Dan Murphy, First Choice, or Vintage Cellars before going to Bayfield.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rogues and Others

Enjoyed a quiet afternoon at my brother Chris' place, with a bit of beer tasting with him and his father-in-law Bob.
Luckily for Bob & I, Chris had recently visited Platinum Cellars at North Strathfield, and picked up a couple of Rogues. I threw in a couple of Jamieson Beast IPAs & Coopers Vintage; Bob contributed Paulaner Salvator, Matilda Bay Long Shot, and Happy Goblin Stout.



Just focusing on the Rogues for the moment:

Yellow Snow IPA
Caramel & candle perfume. Big, long bitterness, with pine needles & butterscotch. Bob reckoned it pushed his right eyeball into his frontal lobe.....

XS Imperial IPA
Interesting mix of hops, with Saaz, Cascade, Northwest Goldings. Citrus, apricot, muesli, biscuit, husk seed & complex malts. Rich, long, rewarding.

Double Dead Guy Ale
Husky, grainy, bird seed, touch fruity, perhaps cherry. I summarised it as "Iced Vovo", althought the others didn't pick this up. Honeycomb, vegemite toast.

All excellent.  Not cheap, of course. The "standard" range of Rogues such as Yellow Snow, Wet Hop Ale come in around $18. The premium bottles are upwards of $35. When shared with good, knowledgable company, the price is not an issue.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Back from a break

Well it's been a somewhat busy fortnight. My last posts saw me kegging a beer and planning a trip away, to Port Stephens and then to Melbourne.

Key points of note:
  1. Murray's Heart of Darkness from a growler, overlooking Shoal Bay on a cool, sun-dappled afternoon. Superb.  But not to be drunk all at once, particularly if your mate brings a growler of Icon IPA......
  2. Murray's Whale Ale, on tap at Maverick's at Nelson Bay. Good spot, good beer, for $5.50 a schooner.
  3. No frills beer brands being sold through chain bottle shops, from Australian contract brewers. One such beer is called "Rogue Lager".  I wonder if the Oregon crowd are aware of this.....
  4. Beer Deluxe in Federation Square is by far the most comprehensive beer bar in Australia. It's like a trip to Platinum Cellars, only a little bit dearer :-)
  5. Royston Hotel is, however, the best place for beer and atmosphere.  Reclining in velour 70s furniture, drinking Hargreaves Hill ESB via hand-pulled tap.... Bridge Road Bling IPA.... Mountain Goat Steam Ale.... forget the glamour and range of inner-city Melbourne.  This out-of-the-way bolt hole is well worth the tram fare (or the long and deviating walk from the 'G, as inadvertently happened to us).
  6. Mrs Parma's..... The waitress remembered me from 6 months ago.... amazing... I barely remember her.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Double Coopers in the keg

The vigorous home brew has settled down now, enough for me to run it into the keg for some secondary. It was truly the most violent home brew I've made due to, as mentioned previously, throwing a lot of fermentables onto an active yeast cake.

In trying to slow it down, I had the fermenter out in the cold night air. I think it dropped to about 8C the other night, but the beer just kept going.... amazing.

I'm trying some secondary fermetation in the keg; threw in 25 carbonation pellets. This is the same principle as priming bottles before capping. The target pressure will be for a lightly sparkling beer.... not too fizzy.

A quick taste of the beer was taken, of course. A distinct maltiness not unlike a Scottish ale, but backed up by the somewhat angular hops (Pride of Ringwood, no doubt).  I could taste alcohol too, so we definitely have a strong'un.  I'll give it a fortnight to prime & settle, by then it will hopefully be self-pressured enough for at least a couple of Real Ale pints.

Article: Noble Hop Varieties and Substitutes for Home Brewing

My latest contribution to Suite101 is a quick article on the noble hop varieties, and possible non-noble substitutes.

http://beer-brewing.suite101.com/article.cfm/noble-hop-varieties-and-substitutes-for-home-brewing

Planning for Melbourne Trip

Friday week sees Dennis, Darren & myself down to Melbourne for a weekend of beer & footy.

We're gonna watch "the Pies go the Saints at the G" whatever that means.

But more importantly, I have a few venues to explore, analyse, and relay back to my loyal reader. That'd be the writer, of course.

I arrive before the other guys, so will have a couple of hours in the city to kill. Methinks Beer Deluxe and/or Transport at Federation Square will be the best start. I've been to the latter (and to the outstanding restaurant "Taxi" upstairs) but only somewhat satisfied. Good range, but awkward atmosphere and variable service. The as-yet-untried Beer Deluxe is around on the Flinders St side, and seems to attract the occasional single-barrel edition from various micro breweries, so must have some cred.

Once the boys arrive, I might suggest a tram trip to Richmond; both the Royston Hotel and Mountain Goat brewery are located on River St, near the bridge. Mountain Goat does pizzas and beers (including brewery-only offerings) on Friday evenings, so looks like a good start to the weekend.

Saturday will inevitably be geared around "the G"; I might try and sway the boys south-bound after the game, to the original Local Taphouse in East St Kilda. If anything like its younger sibling in Darlinghurst, NSW, this place will be outstanding. (I do hear similar reports about the Royston).

But.... if we decide to head back into the city, there are some other good alternatives. Hungry men demand lots of food, and no better beer/food combination can be found than Mrs Parma's on Little Bourke Street. Plate-sized schnitzels, and local (Victorian) craft brews on tap. A great place; a recent long weekend had me there on three occasions.

Also good in Melbourne is Cookie, the unusual combination of Thai cafeteria and boutique beer bar. My first trip (Jan 09 from memory) was remarkable; subsequent visits have not come up to the first's standard, as is so often the case. But anywhere with a hardcover beer menu is worth taking your mates to.

Also, there are Squires brewhouse, Belgian beer cafe, and the European Bier cafe. The first two of these are not unique to Melbourne. The last of these appears to be the bastard child of the Belgian beer cafes and a Dan Murphy. Probably give it a miss.

Comments are welcome; I know there are also some excellent beer shops, but carry-on luggage, and limited time, will preclude visits.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Coopers Vintage tasting

On Sunday, Darren and I had an impromptu vertical tasting of Coopers Vintage.  I picked up a six-pack of the 2010 edition from Dan Murphy last week, and swapped one of the bottles for a 2009, still in stock. Darren, on the other hand, had some 1998 and 1999 bottles in the fridge.

I inadvertently left the 2009 at home, so we ended up tasting the youngest, and the two oldest vintages.

I was surprised, to say the least. In the past, I have always claimed the 1999 as the best release, holding up with enough malt to support the sherry notes that accrue over time. This one had smooth, bready notes, touch of sherry/rancio, a lemonade nose (?), and chocolate biscuit. Still going well after nearly 11 years.

However, Darren's 1998s were not too dissimilar. Perhaps paler in colour, more molasses on the nose. My memory of the 98 was of a thin drink, way past its best. But Darren has kept these in good condition, and the results spoke for themselves.

The youngster, 2010, is big, strong, hoppy.  Good now, for the hop character, but will lose this over time and acquire the characteristics of its older siblings.

Beer review: Barossa Valley Brewing Organic Ale

Acquired at Dan Murphy, Mona Vale for $13.99 4/pack.


Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Barossa Valley Brewing Organic Ale
English Pale Ale 5.0%
B / 3.65 look: 3 smell: 4 taste: 4 feel: 3 drink: 3.5
Pours a hazy dark honey, nice white head that fades fairly quickly. Smells floral, an almost mead-like aroma too, with a touch of spice. Flavours support the aroma, with an attractive late-hopping (an English noble, say, East Kent Goldings), and a decent bitterness at the back. Finishes a little bit short, maybe a touch soapy in mouthfeel. All up a good English Pale, and good for two or three pints.
Serving type: bottle

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Trip to The Rocks

Met up with Rowan last night at the Lord Nelson. An old stomping ground of ours, and always good to drop in and see what, if anything, has changed.

I got into town a few hours earlier, with some non-beer related activities on the agenda. Getting these out of the way was of high priority, so I could focus on the important things.

Started off at Harts Pub; Red Truck Lager, from True South Brewery, is a top-notch Märzen with a brilliant red/brown, good malty profile, and an assertive bitterness that (I think) is unusual for the style. A great find, nonetheless.

Also a good find at Harts was meeting up with a couple of American beer lovers. Dave and Mia from California had a couple of days in Australia, including Fremantle and Sydney. Harts was their first stop before moving on to the Aussie, the Lord, and then James Squire brewhouse, and staying in Manly, not too far from Four Pines. Nice meeting you guys, and hope you found some good beers in your travels.

Check out Dave's home brewing set up here: http://www.zymurgeeks.org/html/dave_bossie.html   .......drool..... You know a guy's serious when you see electric pumps and counterflow chillers..... nice one Dave.

Anyway, after Harts I dropped in to Jackson's on George.  This is where I had my beer epiphany, many years ago. A bottle of La Trappe Tripel, I believe it was.  Not much has changed in the pub; still an attractive wood & brass fit out, and a fair range of bottled beers (incl Konig Ludwig, Ichnusa, Maisel, Trumer, Maredsous among others). The draught beer range, however, leaves a lot to be desired. And no La Trappe, from what I could see.

For lunch, headed back up the hill to Heritage Belgian Beer Cafe for a bowl of chips & a glass of Leffe Blonde. Not much change out of $20 for that.

Then to the Australian, just to see what the current range looked like. They had something called Lifesaver on tap. "Where's that from" I asked.  "Dunno" came the reply.  Another bartender said "Barons".  I ordered a Little Creatures....

Just before meeting Rowan, I had a quick look into the Hero of Waterloo. This used to be the only place in Sydney where one could get a draught Bass or Newcastle Brown.... $6 a pint in 1993. The best thing today is James Squire Porter. Oh well....

And on to the Lord Nelson. The Three Sheets is drinking wonderfully well, with (from my view) an improved hop profile that lifts it significantly. And I have a higher regard now for the Quayle. Although BeerAdvocate calls it a Krystalweizen, I'd put it in the American Wheat category: less of the banana/clove but more of the wheatiness.  The Trafalgar is still an honest Aussie Sparkling Ale and a good alternative to Coopers (also available). The Victory seemed paler than I recall, although a very satisfying Bitter.  And the Old Admiral still kicks arse..... and a great accompaniment to the Ploughman's lunch.

One thing of interest:  The Lord Nelson has been bottling their Three Sheets and Old Admiral for a couple of years now.  As a part of it, they put together some artwork for the labelling that is very distinctive, with nautical yellow and red themes respectively.  They have extended this theme to the other beers.  Check this out: http://www.lordnelsonbrewery.com/brewery_ales.html. Does this mean they plan to bottle the others as well ?

Using yeast cake from previous brew

As mentioned a couple of days ago, I had the bright idea of pitching a couple of Coopers tins and DME into the remains of Dave's IPA.
After kegging the IPA, I thought it'd be good to reuse the yeast, and eke out whatever hop aroma remained in the pellet residue and hop bag. So, just tip in some more fermentables and off we go...
Coopers Pale Ale Complete Beer Ingredient Kit for Home BrewingAll good.... in theory.  What I didn't count on was the explosive activity of the yeast.  After a fermentation, the yeast count has increased exponentially.... and they're still very much active and raring to go.
So, coupling this with more malt than I probably should have used, it all frothed up and out the airlock. Messy.
The scary bit, however, was the airlock regularly becoming blocked with hop residue. This resulted in increased pressure in the fermenter.
A quick word of advice..... if the airlock has stopped bubbling, but fermentation is visibly underway, be very, very careful when taking the bung out. It's difficult cleaning green and brown gunk off the ceiling....

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Coopers Vintage 2010

Thanks to Matt at http://www.brewsnews.com.au/ for this.

Coopers has announced the forthcoming release of their (usually) annual Extra Strong Vintage Ale.

The release has been brought forward into winter "so it's available through the cold winter months".  Good idea.  I always look forward to the release of the Vintage Ale, but have recently felt somewhat disappointed. They do change recipe year on year, sometimes it's good, sometimes not so.  2007 and 2008 were my recent favourites, and the 1999 was still drinkable when I last had one 6 months ago.

2010 will be interesting. The hop variety Nelson Sauvin is one of several being used. This is what gives Knappstein Reserve Lager its unique fruit bowl flavour and aroma.  With a mid-orange hue, there'd also be a decent malt bill, which will be an interesting counterpoint to the fruity hops.  Although the malt varieties are not mentioned in the press release, you'd think there will be some cara/crystal, and maybe some Munich or Vienna to give it that colour.  So some toast & caramel to balance the fruit character & bitterness. I'm already thinking this is going to come out like an American double IPA.

I look forward to it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dave's IPA - in the keg

10 days after starting, I have put Dave's IPA in the keg.  The kegs I use are the 19L "corny" kegs, popular with home brewers. 

Cleaned them up with keg & line cleaner, then sanitised with iodophor.  It's good to do two kegs at once, if you can concoct a fluid-out-to-fluid-out tube, using two black keg connectors, and a short length of tubing.  This allows one to easily transfer cleaning and sanitising fluid from one keg to the other, under gentle CO2 pressure.  Two kegs cleaned for the price of one.... And I've kept the sanitising fluid in the second keg. Will need this keg in another week or two for a second batch I now have underway. More on that in a minute.

Glass carboys have their advantages for brewers, primarily ease of sanitation, and visibility. However, initial cleaning is often difficult, requiring a bent carboy brush and lots of elbow grease. Worse still is the post-primary transfer of beer from the carboy. The only realistic way is to use a syphon, which demands santised hands, a sanitised transfer hose (inside and out), and some good coordination in getting one end of the syphon hose into the beer, and the other to the bottom of the receiving vessel (in my case the corny keg).

As a precaution, I flush my keg with some CO2 before starting the transfer. CO2 is heavier than normal air, so ideally forms a raft at the bottom of the keg. So once the hose end drops down to the keg bottom, and beer starts gushing out, the hope is that most oxygen is sitting above the splash zone, so little oxidation will occur.

Once the beer is in the keg, the headspace is flushed three or so times also, hopefully banishing any O2 for good.

I snuck a little taste of the beer from the syphon tube once done.  A strong toffee note initially, and some papery/flowery hop notes. These need to settle and integrate.

As for the yeast and hop cake at the bottom of the carboy, I decided to take the easy option and reuse it. Bought two tins of Coopers Pale Ale, and 500g of dry malt. Whacked it straight in, and topped up with water. Aiming for a strong Aussie Ale, hopefully taking up any remaining hop characters from the residue and the hop bag (still in the carboy).  May toss in some additional pellets at secondary time, if aroma is needed.

What I forgot (from an earlier post) was the difficulty in getting cold liquid malt extract into a glass carboy. A big tip: always, always immerse the malt tins in hot water for at least 30 minutes before opening.

Oh the humanity.....

Dropped in for a regular range check-up at Dan Murphy yesterday. Although they tend to stagnate somewhat with their range, occasionally there's something new to try out.

Yesterday, I picked up a 4-pack of Barossa Valley Brewing Organic Ale ($13.99 / 4 pack), and the attractively named, and packaged, Cricketers Arms Lager ($15.99 / 6 pack). A quick taste of the former indicates a decent ale in the English style, and I'll review it properly at a later date.

But the latter ?  Well, I need to delve in cricketing folklore here.... bear with me.

3rd of January, 2003.  5th Ashes Test, Australia vs England. Last over of the day, and the country's Mr Nerves of Steel, captain Steve Waugh, requires 5 runs for his century.  Three balls are blocked, the next ball yields three runs, and so leaving him at the wrong end. But his loyal deputy and equally-legendary Adam Gilchrist, manages to turn over the strike for the last ball of the day.

A pugnacious, crouching cover drive sees the ball to the boundary. There it is ! A hundred on the last ball of the day.  As one, the crowd streams out of the ground, chanting "Steve Waugh, Steve Waugh, Steve Waugh", ad infinitum, et ad nauseum.

Where do we go to celebrate, chaps ?  Off to the appropriately-named Cricketers Arms on Fitzroy Street. A few more beers, a few more chants, a  few more gibes at the English supporters, and the rest fades to grey......

And what about this evocative new beer, Cricketers Arms Lager ?  Does it invoke in the mind names like Grace, Trumper, Lindwall, Miller ? Maybe a bucolic aroma of cut grass, leather & wood ? Will it take me back to that heady summer's evening at the eponymous (but unrelated) pub  ? (takes sip)

No.

Oh, and we lost that match anyway.....

(edit: review to come... don't hold your breath)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dave's IPA - One week on

Well, the krausen has sunk, and the airlock is bubbling at a rate of once every 15 seconds or so.  I'll move the beer to a secondary fermentation vessel soon. To save myself some cleaning, this usually means going straight to the keg, and letting it condition for a few days at room temperature, then for a fortnight or so in the fridge, prior to carbonation from CO2 cylinder. The only drawback here is the yeast sediment in the keg. If I use a true secondary vessel, then most yeast will be left behind when the beer is transfered to the keg. In saving on the cleaning, I lose a glass or two of beer to extreme cloudiness.....

I suppose if I get my timing spot on, the secondary fermentation could carbonate the keg directly aka Real Ale. So, I think I'll hold off on the cylinder carbonation and firstly test the pressue of the keg, to see what the secondary ferment generated.

I threw the dry hop bag into the glass carboy yesterday. I should have thought about this beforehand. The weave of the bag is so tight that it floats quite high on the beer. So how's the hop aroma going to get into the liquid, I wonder ? Hmmmm.... I should have punctured a hole in the bag before throwing it in.

So, I did a bit of undignified jabbing of the bag with the (sanitised) handle of my plastic spoon. This seems to have dented it somewhat, and it's sitting lower in the liquid now. There was a little bit of splashing, which is undesirable at this stage of the process, but hopefully the headspace of the carboy is mostly CO2, so I doubt much oxidation damage is likely to occur.  Not good, nonetheless.

Another thought.... the bag contains hop pellets, not flowers. The carboy already has pellet residue sitting at the bottom, so I could also have just ripped it open and tossed the pellets in as is. Plus (now I think about it) I have to somehow extricate the used bag from the carboy when done, which will be no simple task considering the thin neck of the carboy (and it's weight).

Live and learn......

Aussie Beer Blog

Aussie Beer Blog