Thursday, December 1, 2011

Coopers the Big Australian

Hi all, it's been a while.

I was happy to open the Sydney Morning Herald today, and see the following full-pager:

True brew.

As an Australian company,
we're responsible for more than brewing beer.

Sure, we're not the biggest player in the beer game
but now, surprisingly, we find ourselves the largest
Australian-owned national brewer.

This is not something we should celebrate.
On the contrary.
We understand how our colleagues may feel because
it was only a few years ago that we to were at risk
of being taken over by an overseas company.

Only our commitment to staying true blue and the
strength of our family ensured we remained
a family-owned, Australian brewery.

That's how we started in 1862 and after
nearly 150 years of quenching thirsts
of fellow Aussies, that's how we intend to stay.

Dr Tim Cooper AM           Mr Glenn Cooper AM

At the time SABMiller made its successful bid for Fosters, I did think it was a potent marketing opportunity for Coopers. What pleases me here is their restraint and dignity. The reference to "their colleagues" is a consideration to those who have no say in these boardroom decisions: the brewers, drivers, sales reps, marketers, storemen, admin staff etc. Those who run the brewery....

But.... it is a full, page 7 advertisement. Coopers still want us to know they are now the top Aussie dogs; let's see them leverage this to the betterment of the local industry and products. I paraphrase this as "stop reacting to Gen Y's demand for dry, low carb beers.... brew a saison, an IPA, a barley wine, a decent pilsener".

Good on 'em. Now get on with it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cooperian Dark Ale - The Results

As a preamble, kindly read the earlier post.

The results:

a) Pours a fairly haze-free, chocolaty/ruby brown. Garnet highlights. Head is a soft beige, holds well and leaves a decent lace (thankyou maltodextrin).
s) Peach and soft yeast fleshiness. Touch gluey.
t) Strong stonefruit, but tempered with an acetone-like heat. Keep the naked flames away.....
Has a strange seedy/vegetable note. Maybe celery (?)
m) Light to medium. Touch hollow in the middle.
d) Seems to have the awkwardness of Casacadians/Indian Blacks etc..... but not the quality..... Needs an addition of steeped dark malts to give more chocolate & mocha notes, and the hop additions may be better post-primary.
I'll save it for when Darren comes around :-)

Serving: On-tap

Well, I think this experiment was part success, part failure. A tin of Coopers Pale, a tin of Coopers Dark, and a kilo of Brewbooster.  My recent success with a Pale clone (using the Pale tin and the Brewbooster) could be put down to the use of full boil techniques (including wort chilling), and a stable, cool fermentation.

I didn't give this beer the same attention. It was a quick empty of the contents onto the yeast cake of the Pale, and topped up with tap water. The hop additions were thrown in at the end, but most of the aroma seems to have blown off during fermentation.

It's probably worth another go, but with the additional attention of the full boil. It is drinkable (just), and cheap to make. Not sure if Amarillo is the way to go with Coopers tins. Maybe some spare Pride of Ringwood might have aligned better....

Incidentally, an interesting variation has presented itself. My friend Glenn has given me an old port barrel, so I've filled it with this beer. My ambition is to have, in 12-18 months, a Rodenbach clone. 

You can stop laughing now...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Beer Porn

That got your interest, didn't it ? "Beer porn" is a rather questionable idiom that is used whenever one wants to show off their recent beer acquisitions. I've been guilty of it before, and here again.

Last Friday saw me drop into the Beer Cartel, growler in hand, and a mind for Father's Day. Geoff got the refilling underway, and I had a bit of a browse.

Certainly some interesting bottles here. I collected Meantime London Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Porter, Mikkeller 1000IBU, Viven Imperial IPA, and Mountain Goat's Seedy Goat Coffee IPA.

The growler contains a German-style Pilsener, from the Australian Brewery at Rouse Hill.
Anyway, these have all been consumed..... another splendid Father's Day spent in the garden with the extended family. My brothers Chris and Nick don't mind a quality beer, and Chris' father-in-law Bob spends way too much time at Platinum and Northmead cellars. This is good news for us, as he brought along some very interesting beers, including Greene King IPA, Hepworth Sussex Ale, Kozlak bock, 3 Monts, and the Little Creatures Dreadnought stout, which we never got to, sadly.

The Meantime was a little subdued.... maybe would be better on tap in a London pub. The Viven seemed strangely schizoid..... I'm not entirely sure that Imperial IPAs are meant to come from Belgian yeasts. The Mikkeller almost took the roof of my mouth off. Intense hop flavours and bitterness that just kept on going. It left the Viven on the starting line.......

And the Seedy Goat ? Coffee IPA ? Well, it was interesting. We couldn't detect any bona fide coffee flavour, but the overall impression was one of green vegetable. Capsicum, to be precise.
The beer in the growler was brewed by Neal Cameron, who was also the brewer behind Red Angus pilsener. To me the beers are similar, with a well-balanced malt profile, and a good dose of hops giving the spine needed for the style. The growler is a concept that is beginning to take off in NSW, with Murrays doing it at Bob's Farm (and hopefully Manly soon).
The surprise of the day was the Kozlak, from Poland. I tend to view Eastern European beers as being fairly straightforward, with an almost pedantic ahderence to style, but lacking the substance. The Kozlak offered a caramel, fruity malt flavour that was almost doppel. A great drop for an early spring afternoon.

I also had my own Coopers pale ale on tap, as the in-betweenie session beer. For a kit brew it's remarkably good. I put this down to the full boil I gave it, rather than my usual approach of tipping tins into hot water and filling up from the tap. I think the full wort boil is a "best practice", even when using the tins.
Thanks Nick, Chris & Bob. A good lineup, and a good afternoon. And thanks to Geoff at Beer Cartel.



Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cooperian Dark Ale

One of the many hybrid styles going round these days is Cascadian Dark Ale. Invented by the late Greg Noonan in the 90s', it's a variant of the IPA, adding some darker malts to the grain bill, but maintaining the hop profile of (American) IPAs.
Cascadia is in fact a region of the Pacific Northwest, taking in parts of Canada and the US, and home to the ubiquitous Cascade hop.

This got me thinking.... is there a quick and easy way of brewing a hoppy, dark beer from kit ?  I had a yeast cake left over from a (failed) all-grain batch, which was then reused for a Coopers pale ale kit (successful). So on it's third outing, the yeast should be raring to go, and up to the challenge of something a little unusual.

A quick trip to the supermarket, and I landed a tin of Coopers Pale Ale malt, a tin of Coopers Dark Ale malt, and a kilogram of brewbooster (a blend of dextrose, malt, and maltodextrin). Normally you only need one tin plus sugars to get to a 4.5-5% ale, but two tins plus the brewbooster should see me in at 7-8%. (Incidentally, I smashed my hydrometer doing a recent brew, so the original & final gravities, and ensuing ABV%, are anyone's guess.....)

Since I was pitching two tins of malt extract, I was also doubling the hop bitterness. Tins are not renowned for their late-hop aroma, so any additional hops will come in handy to give some of the aromatics associated with IPAs.

Back at home, I scrounged some leftover Amarillo hop pellets, tipped it all together, and had a good fermentation underway within the hour. It's still been quite cool in the cellar, so hopefully a lot of the warmer-ferment, yeasty characteristics will take a back seat to the malt & hops.

After three weeks in the fermenter, I kegged the result today. First tastings are not too bad, with some interesting spicy notes, and a hint of alcohol warmth. And it's dark. It'll spend the next fortnight cold conditioning, and then get the carbonation treatment.

As for the name, well I thought "Cooperian" was appropriate, although the play on words relies on the coincidental naming of the Cascade hop variety and another Australian brewery.

My hopes are high; I'll get back to you in a fortnight.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Beer Review: Murray's Spartacus


Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Murray's Spartacus Imperial India Pale Ale 10% abv
A- / 4.2
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer is an absolute mind****.  Strong, rich, flavoursome, very, very moreish. I'm not sure if it's a one-off, but I have enjoyed it on-tap at Murray's in Manly, as well as in the bottle from their Port Stephens outlet.

a) 1 inch off-white, spongy head. Hazy marmalade amber in colour.

s) Pine resin aromas, passionfruit, caramel and licorice, almost barley-wine richness in the malt. Warms to melon and pineapple.

t) Rich flavour, honeycomb, caramel, brambly wild green vegetation and tropical fruits. Spicy, with alcohol warmth, and a prickly bitterness.

m) Silky smooth, if not slightly oily. Not at all heavy, nor cloying.

d) "Dangerously drinkable" says the label. I agree. Classy beer.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Wheatsheaf Hotel

It's a big claim when you read statements like "the best pub in Australia", as I did when doing some research on Adelaide pubs. You'd think there are too many diverse styles and locations, let alone individual tastes and preferences, to be able to confidently make such a comment.

But, you know, I reckon this pub comes pretty close.

Came straight to the Wheatsheaf Hotel from the airport. Taxi driver didn't have a clue, so thankfully the iphones were handy.  It's in a rather drab commercial area in Thebarton, just west of the city. But once inside, you get a cozy, warm and homey feeling. There's an open fire, and plenty of well-loved soft furnishings. Reminds me very much of the Royston in Richmond, Victoria, which has many parallels.

The beer, of course, is outstanding. There must have been at least half a dozen stouts on tap, including a chocolate stout from Lobethal, two varieties from Mountain Goat, and also a couple from Moo Brew. One of the Moo Brew stouts was pumped through a Randall, not filled with hops, but with Kopi Luwak beans, and appropriately named "Poo Moo". An amazing beer, like an affogato, and at $15, worth savouring slowly.  Took a while to get to sleep that night.....

Also tried a Rye IPA from the Feral brewery, which was an amazing hit of tropical fruit and bitterness.  Rye IPAs (or RyePAs as I've seen written) seem to be in vogue at the moment, having recently been a specialty beer at 4 Pines in Manly.

And managed a foreigner as well. A Mikkeller 10 IPA, all pineapple, pine resin, and caramel.

The bottled beer list is extensive, broad, and fascinating. In this regard, comparisons with the Local Taphouse were easy to make.

The staff are very friendly and very eager to advise. A great place to visit, and hopefully I'll be there again next week.  Best pub in Australia ? I don't think there is one, but there are several that make serious claims.  The Wheatsheaf is one of them.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sierra Nevada goes mainstream

Although this is a blog about Aussie beers etc., I have been known to deviate into the wider world, as occasion sees fit.
This is one of those occasions.


Happy days at Mona Vale
The legendary Sierra Nevada beers have been rare visitors to these shores. I picked one up many years ago at Leura, and had also seen them infrequently at other specialty beer shops.

At the time, these beers were brought in via 'the grey market'...the brewery had no intention of exporting to Australia, but a few savvy middlemen would buy in bulk, and do the exporting themselves. The problems with this are manifold: there is no oversight from the brewer's distributor of choice, the quality of the beer cannot be guaranteed, and the middlemen make a killing. i.e. you pay more for a risky product.

Hence the $7.95 I laid out for a stubby of Sierra Nevade Pale Ale ("SNPA") at Leura, many years ago. It was very good, mind you.

You may have seen international beers that have the little white sticker on the side. This sticker contains all the legal pulava required to sell beers in this country, as the original beer label does not comply. i.e. the brewer never intended the beer to land here. Whenever you see one of these, think twice, as there is no guarantee the beer made its way to you without some inordinate stress. Look for a "Best Before" date as well.

Recently, I was aware that several American brewers were starting to take the Antipodean market seriously, and had hear rumours to the effect of Sierra Nevada, Rogue, Anderson Valley et al. were on their way. Officially sanctioned, too.

So, it was with great joy to read this morning's local paper, and to see the Dan Murphy advert for Sierra Nevada beers:  the Pale Ale, the Kellerweis, and the Torpedo. And for very reasonable prices, too.

I have just returned from the Mona Vale store. Although there were plenty of six packs on display ($19.95, $19.95, $22.95 respectively), there was only one of each by the case. They had to go....

As I surveyed the scene (and took the picture of the shelf), another bloke came up and said "you here for this too...", before walking off with a six pack of Torpedo.  And the lady at the check-out said that a lot had already been sold.  I think there are more discerning beer lovers out there than one would realise.... Happy days indeed.




Saturday, July 16, 2011

Beer review: Coopers Vintage Ale 2011

A highlight of the beer lover's calendar is the annual release of Cooper's Vintage Ale. The first edition was way back in 1998, and subsequently released annually, except for a couple of years (2001, 2003, from memory).

Every edition is different. Some drink really nicely early on, some require a little bit of additional conditioning.

I think this is a nice beer, but will be significantly better in six months. Readers will recall my interest in observing how Cooper's Sparkling Ale changes over the course of six months: the wild, green hoppiness mellows into a balanced, fruity English Pale Ale.

I expect this Vintage Ale to behave similarly. And, of course, it will keep developing for years to come. The hop profile disappears pretty much, and the malt backbone begins to take on nuts and fruitcake. Later, this evolves into sherry-like flavours, a more desirable outcome of gradual oxidation.

It was $70-odd a slab at Dan Murphy. I'm planning on drinking a six-pack in the near term, one in half a year's time, one over the course of 12-24 months from now, and one over the long term.


Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Cooper's Extra Strong Vintage Ale English Strong Ale 7.5% abv
B- / 3.48  look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

a) Mostly bright copper; some particulate in suspension. Coarse, beige foamy head.
s) I get capsicum, lantana, banana, molasses & caramel. I also get a need for patience.
t) Banana bread & acetone. Licorice note. Archetypal "Coopers" flavour of pear flesh and yeast. Medium bitterness.
f) Smooth, slight heat.
o) This is a fractured beer at present; the weedy hop aroma will subside, and the bread & molasses notes evolve into a nuttier profile. Will review again in 6 months.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Pumphouse

The Pumphouse in Sydney has been around for a long time, in various guises and functions. I first became familiar with it in the 80s, where it vied with the Lord Nelson as the beer lover's venue of choice.

At the time, it produced a few ales in-house, including Bulls Head Best Bitter, Federation Ale, and the classic Thunderbolt strong ale....... I have done some very silly things after drinking 5 or so pints of Thunderbolt.....

The Pumphouse has reestablished itself among the top beer venues of Sydney. Good friend Barney & I dropped in there last night (as the first stop on a two-stop tour... more to come on that). I was excited by many things; a BrewDogs beer on tap (their 5am Saint, a hopped red ale), three house beers (including Thunderbolt), and a range of bottled beers that demands serious attention.

The guys behind the bar are falling over themselves to give you a tasting, and will talk the leg off the proverbial chair given half a chance.

The highlights for me were the 5am Saint, the full range of Murray's beers, including Angry Man, Shaun's Fault, and Spartacus, and also, at long last, some Sierra Nevada ales from California. There were other Americans there as well, such as Rogue etc., but I aimed straight for the Sierra Nevada Torpedo, and was not disappointed.

I think you'd need a good week to get through the beers on offer here. In the 80s and 90s, another Sydney venue, Jackson's on George, boasted of its range of beers, and awarded those who made their way through the range. This of course not only promoted irresponsible alcohol consumption, but irresponsible choice of beer.... you had to drink the rubbish as well the good stuff to get your gong.

I don't expect the Pumphouse would go down this path. Besides, the variety of beer available these days is wide and everchanging; people will keep coming back just to see what's new.

Life's too short to drink bad beer (to paraphrase the late Len Evans). I suggest, however, allocating a reasonable chunk of it to attending the Pumphouse. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Global Beer Consumption

Some interesting statistics can be found in Saturday's Fairfax business press. It's a map of the world showing 15 of the largest beer consuming nations in the world.

 
Litres per
head, 2009
Czech142.3
Ireland114.7
Germany109.1
Austria106.5
Venezuela88.2
Australia87.9
Spain81.9
US79.8
UK75.8
New Zealand72.7
Russia70.5
Brazil59
Mexico57.6
Japan46.9
China30.2


When multiplying out by population size, China is the biggest market in volume, consuming 23.8% of the world's beer production.... and that's with only 30 litres per head per annum.

Any crafty beer marketer would recognise the potential here. One hurdle, however, is the competition of fine wine and spirits. The fast-growing Chinese middle class is taking a keen interest in quality global commodities, and good liquor is up there as strong symbol of prosperity.

Beer's challenge is to rate up there alongside wine, whisky and brandy. This is a tough challenge; even in the established Western markets, beer is having a long and difficult fight in changing its image as the everyman's drink into a more premium offering.

Beyond China, the most interesting entry on the list is Venezuela. The brewing landscape is quite small in Venezuela, although it's a very popular and accessible drink. It's leading brand, Empresas Polar, commands 77% volume share (http://www.euromonitor.com/beer-in-venezuela/report), which at 68 litres per Venezuelan, is more than the total per capita beer consumption of Brazil.

No wonder that the country's president, Hugo Chavez, sees the Forbes Rich-Listed president of Empresas Polar, Lorenzo Mendoza, as a particular threat (http://www.mutineermagazine.com/blog/2010/06/chavez-delcares-economic-war-on-venezuelan-beer-tycoon/)

Friday, July 1, 2011

James Squire 150 Lashes

Thanks to Brews News for this heads up.

The James Squire range is about to be augmented, with One Fifty Lashes Pale Ale.

The quote from Chief Brewer, Tony Jones, goes:

“One Fifty Lashes is a refreshing Australian-style cloudy pale ale with restrained bitterness and a clean, smooth finish. It’s an easier-drinking beer than others in the James Squire range and a familiar style that Australian beer drinkers will recognise. The use of malted wheat also adds to its refreshing character delivering a beer with a fruity nose and hints of passionfruit, grapefruit and citrus,”

I'm all for the evolution of the Aussie pale ale. In this instance it may be more aligned with the "Pacific Ale" direction, as per the fruity descriptors above.

Also of interest is whether it's based upon some previous releases, such as the Brewhouse-only Governor King Pale Ale.   The Governor, however, had more honey and apple fruit notes, more in touch with the Cooper's pale ale genre than the Pacific Ale.

Released nationally on tap and in the bottle August 2011.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Coopers, and time..... Response from the brewery

Some time ago I emailed some questions to Cooper's about the aging of their beers. The original blog post is here.

After a bit of back-and-forth, I have received an email from Nick Sterenberg, Cooper's Operations Manager.

AussieBeerBlog: Your FAQ mentions that “The best after date was introduced to ensure that the minimum two weeks required for secondary fermentation has expired before the bottles are distributed for sale.” Does this specifically mean that the beer was brewed 14 days prior to the Best After Date ?

Nick Sterenberg: Best After Dates :- This information is provided on the package to ensure the customer is aware that the product has completed the natural conditioning secondary fermentation process in package and the product is not released for sale from the warehouse before this date. The course of the secondary fermentation is assessed by quality control checks and flavour evaluation prior to being released for sale and hence there is no specific defined interval for this part of our process.

ABB: I drink Sparkling Ale at a local club, where in the one sitting will get different best after dates (e.g. six months difference). I detect in the younger beers a more noticeable spicy, herbaceous attribute of the hops. The older beers seem to have this characteristic subdued, but have a more English pale ale malt profile. Is this what Coopers expects of the Sparkling Ale ? What is the maximum age you recommend before the ale would be considered (in all likelihood) ‘past it’ ?

NS: Sparkling Ale:- The change in flavour that occurs in all beers as they mature is less evident in strongly flavoured, naturally conditioned ales like Sparkling Ale due to the masking effects of the beer flavour and the low levels of oxygen in package as a result of the yeast fermentation. The changes in the beer flavour profile that you describe are typically what would be expected as beer matures but the actual rate that this occurs at depends on the transport, storage and dispense conditions the beer encounters once it leaves the brewery. Individual consumers vary in their appreciation of these flavour changes across a wide spectrum so it is not possible to give you a generalised answer as to when the beer might be “past it”; there is too much variability in the possible handling of the product and individual flavour preferences to be definitive.

ABB: You also recommend that the Stout and Vintage ales will benefit from some aging. In the case of the latter, I have tried different vintages at different ages (including, recently a 1998 and 1999). There is of course great bottle variation, but the general experience (from those that have survived the trip) is of preserved fruit, sherry, nuttiness. Carbonation may have all but gone, or still remain in decent quantity. So there is quite a variation. Do you have a profile of how you expect the vintage ale to appear after 2 years, 5 years, etc ?

NS: Vintage Ale & Stout:- The above comments relating to the development of aged character in Sparkling Ale apply even more so to Vintage Ale and Stout. We do not have flavour profiles available for these products at the ages you request but have evaluated them in an informal manner from time to time and have not found any instances where the packages have lost carbonation. There is variability in the development of the different Vintage Ales over time because each year they are brewed to a unique recipe and this is not repeated; it’s part of their unique character. The preference for aged Stout over fresh Stout is again a matter of individual preference.

ABB: Other breweries have taken a leaf out of Cooper’s book by extolling their ales as being age-worthy. The newly minted Endeavour brands spring to mind. When I tasted these beers, I disagreed. There did not appear to be the body, the hops, the alcohol that one would assume would be necessary for a beer to be considered cellarable. What components of the beer does Cooper’s believe contributes to aging ? Is it the preservative qualities of the hops, the yeast, the alcohol ? Or is it having enough gravity to allow post-secondary fermentation to continue slowly over time ? Or a combination of these ?

NS: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery:- We also note that other brewers are following where we have led with varying amounts of success; as the pioneers in this area there is a common theme with all our Vintage Ales that you are obviously clearly aware off, they have a LOT of flavour! The development of this type of beer requires maintaining a careful balance between all of the contributors to final beer flavour; the selection of malt and hop types, brewing and fermentation temperature profiles (primary and secondary) and careful attention to best brewing practices throughout the extended production process. No individual characteristic should be predominant and the total intensity of flavour is much increased without the drinkability being impaired. We hope you enjoy the 2011 release which is imminent and we are already planning the 2012 edition which will be a celebration of Coopers 150th anniversary.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Beer Review: Holgate Hopinator

Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Holgate Hopinator   Double India Pale Ale 7.0%
B+ / 3.98  look: 3.5  smell: 4  taste: 4  feel: 4  overall: 4
Bottled on 1 March, 2011.

a) Pours a rich, russet/chestnut hue. Creamy offwhite head, very faint fine bead.

s) Big caramel hit first up, with resinous followup. Floral, honeycomb, savoury biscuit like vitawheat or bbq shapes (nice).

t) Pine resin is noticable, some licorice/molasses, toffee. Big flavour, hint of alcohol. Good assertive bitterness.

m) Lightly syrupy. Long, cloying back palate, good length.

d) A great autumnal beer. Rich & rewarding. Would limit it to two pints max, or 4 halves, which would be the ideal way to drink it.

Serving type: bottle

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Beer Cartel

Some while back I arranged a cross-link with www.beercartel.com.au. You can see it to the right =>

It was with some delight to recently learn of their acquisition of the Porter's outlet in Reserve Rd Artarmon (Sydney).

On the way home from work today, I dropped in to see what was happening. It's slightly hard to find, amongst the light industrial units of downtown Artarmon. But, even at this early stage, worth the effort of discovering.

Imagine my surprise to see a variety of esoterics, such as Burleigh Black Giraffe, Holgate Hopinator, Hunter Brewing beers, and Kooinda Pale. These are generally hard-to-find Aussie beers, and certainly unique to the north shore of Sydney.

Also, there were some single offerings from a range of significant international brands:  Nogne O, Mikkeler, Southern Tier, Anderson Valley.  And a Bourgogne des Flanders, one of my favourite tipples in the nearby Epoque Belgian Beer Cafe.

I had a quick chat with one of the principals, Geoff Huens, who graciously received my unannounced visit. It's their intention to grow this business into a leading retailer of Aussie micros, as well as top-notch internationals. They're in the process of creating more shelf-space, by relocating all that boring fermented grape stuff.....

And Geoff also mentioned Sierra Nevada, which I know will arouse at least two of my readers...

** EDIT ** And he also mentioned a growler service....... Now I'm aroused.... (please refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer_bottle#Growler before getting the wrong idea).

He showed me a recently arrived palette of Aussie micros. Don't ask me to name them all, but I saw Hargreaves Hill (recently reestablished after the Victorian fires), and Bootleg (from WA). The Beer Cartel club members get first dibs at these, but whatever's left is available to all.

Although still in ramp-up mode, I applaud the direction of the Beer Cartel, and look forward to following their progress.

The Beer Cartel (Porters) can be found at Unit 9 / 87 Reserve Rd Artarmon, NSW.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Franck Evers - Heineken Master Pourer

I recently received an invite to a lesson in the "perfectly poured Heineken", given by Franck Evers, their Global ambassador.

Unable to attend the sessions, which sounded like good fun, I took the opportunity to "interview" Mr Evers by email instead, via the PR company responsible for his visit.

I offered four questions, to which he responsed as follows:

AussieBeerBlog: Heineken is available in many formats: draught, DraughtKeg, bottle, cans. Do you vary the pouring approach depending on serving format?

Franck Evers: The Five Star Pour is a draught beer program, so the approach is applied mainly to draught beer in the on premise environment. However, well-served and presented beer is important no matter what format the beer comes in.

ABB: I have used the DraughtKeg for Heineken and Sagres beers. I believe it is a significant advancement on other 5L keg systems. What other beers in Heineken’s portfolio can I expect to see in the Draughtkeg, particularly in Australia ?

FE: The Heineken DraughtKeg technology differs significantly from that of other small ‘kegs’ you will see in the market. It is a fully pressurised draught system that ensures the beer stays fresh and carbonated for 30 days after opening. The Heineken DraughtKeg is a permanent [stock-keeping unit] in Australia and we recently trialled a short run of Sagres through our Dan Murphy’s stores, which sold very well. There are no immediate plans to import other brands from the Heineken portfolio at this stage, but we will continue to investigate opportunities.

ABB: The “Brewed under License” methodology has many advantages, such as freshness and the reduction in transport costs. However, it is a popular opinion in Australia that they are not to the same standard as the original. This is not just for Heineken, but other brands that are brewed under license in Australia. Does the local Heineken recipe undergo “continual improvement” to try and attain an identical match to the original, or has the recipe been locked down ?

FE: Heineken’s recipe is unchanged since 1973 and there is no variation on this, regardless of brewing location. The ingredients used and the brewing process is exactly the same as that in Holland and a Master Brewer is employed at the local brewery full time to ensure each brew meets Heineken’s taste specifications. In addition, samples are sent on a regular basis for testing by our Dutch Master Brewer Panel, who have confirmed every month for the six years we have been locally brewing that they do not detect any difference in taste between Holland-brewed and locally-brewed Heineken. Any difference in taste detected by drinkers is likely because imported Heineken is generally older than locally-brewed product, because it takes 12 weeks to arrive by ship from Holland.

ABB: What has been the market response to the new Heineken bottle ?

FE: Our new K2 bottle has been filtering into the Australian market only since late April this year, but feedback from trade and consumers alike has been overwhelmingly positive. The tactility and grip of the bottle embossing as well as the slimmer body reaffirm Heineken’s quality and give the brand a more contemporary look.

Thanks to Franck for his replies, and to Rory O'Connor at Hill and Knowlton for coordinating this.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Beer Review: Ekim After Battle Pale Ale

An After Battle redux......

I reported on this excellent ale back in early April. As you may recall, I enjoyed this very much, but felt it was still a bit of a clumsy adolescent.

I emailed the brewer, Mike Jorgensen, about letting it cold-condition for a little bit. He said it wouldn't hurt, so, two months later, here we go. (Incidentally, I didn't keep some back.... very hard to do in my house... I just revisited Brookie cellars today and they still had some 1/4/11 batch in the fridge).

So........


Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Ekim After Battle Pale American Pale Ale 5.5%

A- / 4.18 look: 4 smell: 4 taste:4.5 feel: 3.5 drink: 4

This is my second attempt at reviewing Ekim After Battle Pale. My first attempt was 8 days after bottling (1 April 2011), and still seemed a bit unsettled. A bit more cold conditioning, and this review is of the same batch, 2 months later.

a) Reasonably clear, bright, light amber, with golden highlights. Pale beige, foamy head, which reduces to a thick slick after a couple of minutes. Reasonable bubbling.

s) Citrus notes were evident several inches away from the glass. Getting the nose closer, one gets tropical fruits such as guava, or passionfruit seed. Perhaps a faint hint of tobacco leaf, and a toasty note as it warms in the glass.

t) Excellent balance between the aroma notes, plus an additional cara/toffee component. Pineapple more noticable now, plus dried apricot, and bitterness is medium. Late aftertaste is of an English pale. I'd like to compare this with a Timothy Taylor Landlord.

m) Medium to light up front, a touch dextrinous mid-palate, but finished fairly abruptly.

o) The IPA is described as hybrid American-English. I would go as far as to the say the same for the Pale. The hops are definitely New World, but the malt profile and overall experience flahses me back to a pint glass somewhere in East Anglia.

For such a tiny op, Ekim beers are of excellent quality, and I recommend grabbing them when you can.

Serving type: bottle

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Beer Review: Mad Abbot Tripel


Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Mad Abbot Tripel Tripel 9.5%

B- / 3.45 look: 3.5 smell: 3.5 taste:3.5 feel: 3 drink: 3.5

Picked up at Carrington Cellars, Katoomba.

The label has "Cellar Release" overlaid, and best before DEC 2012.

Pours murky marmalade orange. Nice tight and dense white head, which I defile by pouring some yeast residue onto.

Strong bubblegum aromas, backed up by some faint banana. Touch musty. Warms to a waxy fruity perfume.

Banana flavour, and noticable alcohol, and perhaps some pungent spice like szechuan pepper or musk. A very late hint of dessert wine, maybe apricots or marmalade.

Slight astringency at the front, followed by some later dusty bitterness at back. Late after-feel that seems a bit rough.

I think it could actually use some time; I am more aware of the parts than the whole, so think it could settle and integrate some more.

Serving type: bottle

Monday, May 30, 2011

Glenn's Beer Tour of the Rhine and the Danube

Good friends Glenn and Mary Ellen are currently floating up the Rhine; life's tough for some. To help Glenn in his travel preparations, I offered him a list of recommended beer venues up the Rhine and down the Danube, from Amsterdam to Budapest.  Sadly, these recommendations are not from my personal experience (yet), but from BeerAdvocate ratings.

But, I charged him with letting me know how he goes.  So here are some extracts from his first two reports.

Hi Michael,
Can finally report that we went to one of your suggested venues, the Päffgen Obergärige Hausbrauerei in Cologne, as well as a second one being Brauhause Sunner im Walfisch.
In both cases, Kolsch was the expected drink to have. They assumed in both places that Mary Ellen would also be drinking, and therefore always poured two glasses ... luckily for me Mary Ellen is not a beer fancier and therefore I consumed all. The beer is always poured into a glass called a Stang but sometimes referred to as a Reagenzglas (test tube).

So, an enviable start to Glenn's beer journalistic career. Cologne, as most of you will know, is the home of Kölsch, traditionally served by abrupt barmen (Köbes) who will keep doing so until one covers their glass with a drink coaster.  Ask not for anything else, as you will be advised in no uncertain terms where to go.....

Another edition from Glenn, a week later....

Hi Michael,
Had some spare time in Bamberg and therefore had time to get a taste of the Rauchbier from the Schlenkerla brewery. We were warned prior to tasting (from our cruise director) that it might not be to some peoples taste .... I think some people were put off by the thought of drinking liquid bacon, but I only found that from the head of the beer, past that it was an acceptable old style German beer.
Our next step Nuremberg, where they arranged for a beer tasting on board the boat .... and the following styles were presented.

Bright beer - Hartmann Hell, Hartmann brewery Wurgau






Pilsner - Rossdorfer Pils, Sauer brewery Rossdorf


Dark lager - Krug Brau Lager bier, Krug brewery Brietenlesau






Wheat beer - Eber-Weisse, Sonnenbrau brewery Ebermannstadt





Last stop for now was Regensburg, where I had a quick stop at Gaststätte Spitalgarten which was a popular drinking hole of the current pope whilst he was a professor at the Regensburg University.
At that's it so far .... next stop is Passau and Salzberg.
Cheers from Germany, Glenn

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Italians at the leading edge

Recently, I was approached by a friendly gentleman in Italy if I was willing to try a new range of beers from that country. "Sure", I said, with my usual disclaimer of independence & impartiality etc. etc.

The beers in question are from the 32 Via dei birrai brewery. I checked the website out; no expense spared in its design, and the message is strong: We are modern, we are innovative, and we are environmentally conscious.  It also suggested "we are expensive".

A handy carry-case
32 Via dei Birrai represents a new language in the boundless scenario of the brewery sector. It resets and redefines the usual. It takes the habitual concept of “beer” into another dimension. It becomes design in the form of a bottle.


This is beer we're talking about, yeah ?


Anyway, a package of 6 beers arrived yesterday. Oh, as a note to any budding beer bloggers, be on your guard when overseas breweries send you some samples. I got slugged $35 AU import duty, just for DHL to get them through customs. 6 x 750mL of beer. Crikey, the stuff better be good.


Cardboard in technicolour
I am absolutely gob-smacked at the packaging and promotional material. I received a flattened box with colour-printed inserts, some circular pieces of cardboard, a hard-covered folding brochure, and a handy cardboard carry case.
What the company is encouraging is reuse & recycle. The box has pre-cut circles in its sides, which can be punched out and used as drink-coasters. Further, those of us who have nothing to say to each other can remain entertained by linking said drink-coasters together (see my hard efforts below).

Safe-sex corks
The bottle itself has three barriers to pass before one gets anywhere near the beer. A plastic wrap, aluminium bottle top, and a very, very fancy cork, or Guala seal, to be more precise. As suggested in another blog, it looks like the corks come with their own prophylactic devices. The brewery suggests that these corks be kept, collected, and even turned into key rings or somesuch. Nice idea; it would be a shame to throw them out.

As for the beer ? I received 6 bottles, 2 each of the Curmi (wheat ale, 5.8%), Audace (Belgian strong ale, 8.4%), and Oppale (Belgian style hopped beer, 5.5%).  There are 4 others in the range, a Scottish red, brown ale, amber ale, and honey beer. No bland Euro lagers here.

Drink-coaster creativity
Although I will review these more formally at a later date, my initial impressions were fairly positive. There is a nod to the original style, but with a modern twist. For instance the Oppale has Belgian yeastiness, but a hop assertiveness that is more American than Belgian. And the Audace gives all the indication of a Tripel, but warms into the maltiness of a German strong lager. Interesting, to say the least.

Thanks to Leopoldo for the samples. I'd be interested to learn how much they will cost in Australia, because there is no expense spared in the packaging and promotion of these beers.







Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cascade - The Brewer's Nose iPhone App

The first thing I did after accepting a new iPod Touch was to search for free beer apps. There are many available: some good, some so-so. Over time I will take a deeper look into the wonderful world of beer apps and let you know my findings.

One app with a distinctive Australian focus is The Brewer's Nose. As a Cascade-branded application, the user is in no doubt as to who the sponsor is, and the reason for a particular bias in content. But that's fair in today's virtual world: to receive something for free usually carries with it an obligation to receive some marketing materials as well.  I have no problem with that.

The particular appeal of this app is the convenience with which one can log beers tasted. As long as you have a camera (which my iPod doesn't), you can scan the bar code from the bottle, which in all likelihood will match one of the 600 beers on its growing database.

If you don't have a camera, you can still look up the beer via keyword search, and log it manually.  Both courses of action will allow your tasting notes to be entered, and then shared with other app users if you choose.

Every beer in the database has supporting information, including a short video on the style, and one on food matching - heavily Cascade branded of course, but useful nonetheless.

Other Cascade-specific functions include a map interface to finding Cascade beers, a loyalty reward program (soon to come), and a food-matching feature that defaults to a particular Cascade offering.

The only gripe I have with the app is the inability to change my reviews, including deleting mistaken entries. As such there are a couple of Anonymous entries out there with no content, due to me.

If you're a casual reviewer - and by this I mean not a beer-geek hung up on scoring look, aroma, taste, mouthfeel, drinkability - then this is the ideal tool for collecting your notes.

It's a good app, and the price is right. I recommend downloading it, and having a bit of fun the next time you crack a tinnie or knock a lid off.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

1st Anniversary, 100th Issue

Well, this my 100th post, and 363 days since my first post. That's about two posts a week, although during my employment hiatus, the rate was much higher, of course.

Thanks everyone for taking an interest, and particularly those who have posted comments and/or abused me later for my self-indulgence :-)

Thanks also to those who sent me samples and other gratuities for my consideration and comment. It was an unexpected benefit of blogging; I think my independence remains relatively intact, however.

Some interesting statistics.

  • Page views are growing at an average of 18% per month. Would be good if I got some pay-per-view revenue, yeah ?
     
  • The most popular entries to date are those pertaining newly released Australian macro beers.

    Specifically, XXXX Summer Bright Lager (comment blog, and review blog), which together amount to 9% of all page views.  Although only a recent entry, my review of Hahn White is following a similar pattern.

    While I would prefer the highest hits to be on the smaller, micro beers, and maybe my homebrewing ponderings, this indicates how much the beer-drinking public is still firmly anchored in the big brewing companies.

    But on the upside, it at least shows they're taking an interest in newly-released beers a little different to what they're used to.  And, ideally, while in the blog they might stroll around and learn that there's more to the eye (tongue) than what's available at the local boozer.
     
  • 57% of my audienced is Australian, 23% American, 5% Russian, 3% British.
    I even got 12 hits from Iran last month.  ‘as-salaamu ‘alaykum
     
  • Other than from Google, I get a good amount of traffic from The Bok and Roo Blog, and Slowbeer. Thanks for the support, guys.

With a sardonic nod to sitcoms where the writers run out of ideas, I might reflect on a couple of my favourite posts. Feel free to comment.


Thanks all, again.

I ain't done yet.... plenty more to come.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Heineken bottle to change

Although surprised to see the Portuguese offering on the doorstep, was doubly so when I received another package.

Courtesy of Heineken again, I received a perspex box, displaying a single bottle of Heineken lager, plus, wait for it, an iPod Touch (8GB version 4.2.1). I thought someone must have accidentally dropped theirs in the package, but no, turns out it's a gift. The public relations consultants Hill and Knowlton are responsible for this drive, as too the Sagres DraughtKeg campaign.  I was approached by one of their Account Executives for my details, as they wished to "send some product" my way. I had no idea what this entailed, and expected a couple of sample bottles and maybe some cheap merchandise.
So, in the last week,  from the Heineken group I have been the recipient of 5.33 litres of beer, a nice wooden box, a nice perspex box, an iPod Touch , and a couple of polite emails.

I feel somewhat obliged to pass some fair comment about the new bottle.  It's a sleek design, with clear plastic labelling as opposed to the traditional paper. It has embossed glass at the rear, making it arguably easier to hold on those slippery nights. Mind you, this is not ground-breaking: Cascade has been doing this for years.

Of interest is the commentary on the back stating The "A-YEAST" ensures every brew of Heineken has a consistent clean crisp taste, and is so precious it's been stored under guard in Holland since 1886. As others have commented (including BrewsNews), there must be some leniency here, as this yeast strain seems to have made its way to Australia. Yep, it's still a brewed-under-licence offering.

It's sleek, it's modern, it's trendy and fashionable. The short movie clip and pictures that came preloaded on the iPod are very trendy too. It says a lot about big brewing marketing strategy..... target the image-conscious young adult.

And what about the bottle content ? I'm leaving mine unopened as a bar curio, but have previously rated Heineken as  C+ / 3.15.  This is generous, as the overall average on the BeerAdvocate website for Heineken is C (from 1,189 reviews); my review is 11.7% above the average.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Beer Review: Cascade Blonde


Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Cascade Blonde Krystalweizen 4.8%
A- / 4.15 look: 4 smell: 4 taste: 4 feel: 3.5 drink: 5

I keep forgetting how good this beer is, particularly for the price.

Copped some grief from my wife when I bought a slab of bottles "I can't believe you bought some blonde rubbish... you're always going on about how crap it is". I had to remind her that not all blondes are the same (looking at her hair)... anyway....

Pours a stable, 1cm white fluffy head, pale golden yellow. Lovely fruity wheaty aromas, more akin to wit than weizen.

Flavours very wheat-driven, sweet grain & husk flavours. I think this probably aligns more with American Wheat in style, than Krystalweizen, as there are no banana/clove esters in this.  Creamy medium body, crisp finish, a good drink

Easily knocked back a six-pack last night., after which my hosts plied me with Crown & Boags.... no contest really. I give it full marks for drinkability, considering its value.

This is arguably one of the best value beers in the country.

Serving type: bottle

Uma cerveja por favor

As an unexpected but appreciated side-effect of beer blogging is the occasional approach from beer marketers.

Upon return from holidays, was surprised to find at the front door a small wooden crate, with "Product of Portugal" emblazened on the side. Thinking that I may have acquired a dozen of the world's best vintage ports, I eagerly opened the crate.

I was somewhat taken aback by its contents, followed quickly by an out-loud laugh.  You see, the holiday from which we returned took us to Hervey Bay in Queensland, where the best bottleshop to be found is a Dan Murphy. Among other items, I picked up a 5 litre DraughtKeg of Sagres Lager.

Australian Brews News has some pictures, and a similar story, here. It was the same item that sat amongst my new collection of crate straw.

Sagres is the dominant beer of Portugal. It is owned by Heineken and suits the warm climate quite well. It's a fairly non-descript Euro lager, but when Libby and I visited Portugal in 2001, it was my go-to thirst quencher and palate cleanser, and well enjoyed from the Algarve in the south, to Bragança in the north.

Heineken has been offering its ubiquitous Euro lager in the DraughtKeg system for a couple of years now. Evidently successful, other beers in the Heineken stable are making their way into the format. This system keeps the container air-tight, giving the beer some longevity after opening. "30 days" says the Sagres promo material, at a constant pressure of one bar.

The same cannot be said for other beers that are appearing in the 5 litre keg.  When at Dan Murphy, I had a choice of Heineken and Sagres in the DraughtKeg, or Franziskaner in the normal, pop-the-plug-in-and-go keg. Although the wheat beer would have been my preferred drink, there's no way I was going to go through 5 litres of hefe in a sitting, and didn't relish the thought of drinking flat, air-exposed beer the following day.

With Heineken having brewing interests all over the world, I hope the DraughtKeg system is used for more of their products. It's a good thing to have in fridge, allowing a couple of glasses a night for a week or so, or something to take to a party to share around.

As with other kegs, it is important that the DraughtKeg is well and truly chilled before opening; the blurb recommends 5 degress of less. Else the CO2 will escape too quickly, causing much froth & bubble.

As for my Portuguese abilities, all I could ever bring myself to ask was "one beer please".

A list of the stuff I have received free from brewers and marketers can be found by clicking the Disclaimers tab.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ekim's ales

A few months ago, I tasted and discussed Ekim's Viking IPA.

Last weekend, I picked up the latest release, After Battle Ale. This is an in-your-face pale ale, with a massive hit of late hops, and like its predecessor, a fine offering.

Ekim is the brewing vehicle of Mike Jorgensen, who enjoys expressing his Danish heritage through the beer's names and assertive characters. The beers are brewed in conjunction with the Happy Goblin brewery on Sydney's upper north shore, and like the Goblins, have varying alcohol levels with, as such, hand-written labels.

My 6-pack of After Battles was bottled on the 1st April; I was drinking it 8 days later. But I reckon you can drink beers too soon, and although I love this beer, think it could do with a couple more weeks in the fridge to smooth out and balance the beer.

I took the opportunity to email Mike about my thoughts. Unlike his larger brewing contemporaries, Mike had the decency to reply promptly, with warmth and consideration.

He suggests drinking both his ales within 3 months of bottling, as they have no preservatives. However, he also agrees that a couple of weeks "cold conditioning" won't hurt, although not essential.

Further, he advises that a third beer (an American brown ale) is in the barrel, but only available at Paddy's Hop Festival (April 30, 2011), and through Warner's at the Bay new growler filling station.

I picked up my Ekim ales (and Happy Goblins) from Brookvale Cellars in Sydney's Northern Beaches. A trip to Lake Macquarie looks on the cards, with a couple of empty growler bottles.

I recommend Ekim beers, and encourage supporting the little guys.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Beer Review: Hahn White

Yeah, yeah I know, I've currently got a Lion Nathan boycott going.  But as this august journal does provide a valuable community service, I occasionally need to set my petty principles aside and suffer for my esteemed readers.

This beer, Hahn White, is labelled as a Belgian-style white beer (i.e. "wit"), but also as low carbohydrate. Talk about hedging your bets. All brewers are conscious of the market's infatuation with low carb beers, so any move away from this attribute would spell disaster (to the marketers and accountants, at least).

But they're also conscious of the burgeoning craft brewing market, and in and effort to get ahead of the game, have managed to combine both a crafty element with the alleged slim(mer) wasteline.

How are they going to manage it ?  Wits are famous for their spice & citrus aromatics, the cloudy appearance, and nice, wheaty mouthfeel. So what do you think the Hahn brewers have sacrificed at the altars of low carb and mass market ? Let's see.....

Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Hahn White witbier 4.2%

D / 2.17 look: 3 smell: 3 taste: 1.5 feel: 1.5 overall: 3

An each-way bet from Lion Nathan... trying something new without scaring the low-carb market.

a) Clearish pale yellow/straw. White rocky head that lingers a little, light bubbling. Doesn't look like a wit... wheat haze has been well and truly filtered out of this one.

s) Big hit of coriander seed and citrus peel, ginger powder, some sulfur which, together, give the impression of a sandwich meat such as devon. No malt to discern.

t) Like home-made lemonade, maybe a hint of lime, falling away to a typical dry-style flavour like Toohey's Extra Dry. No hop or bitterness. All show on the nose, nothing to support on the palate.

m) Starts off spritzy, like soft drink, then disappears. Typical low-carb body.

d) Probably quite good on a hot day, when there's lttle else.

Perhaps this is a good entry point for the young & impressionable to discover the aromatics of the wit style.... after this they may head towards a real wit, and give this all-show-and-no-substance offering the flick.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A top tap night

Barney, Paul and I each got leave passes on Thursday night; time for a visit to the Local Taphouse at Darlinghurst.

As is my wont, I headed into town a little early and dropped into Harts. I selected a pint of Hans Klopek Hefe Weizen (5%, $11). If I may say so, it reminded me of my own offering with home-made crystal malt, although probably a little more professionally balanced.

After this, a half pint of Pickled Monkey Belgian Golden Ale (7.5%, $7.50/half). Pickled Monkey is a brewing collaboration that includes Harts' own Scott Morgan. He kicked off this brand at the first Harts Brewers Fest, dressed as an ape and offering Imperial Pilsner.

This Golden Ale is excellent. Quite a dry offering, lacking the cloying characters that so often accompany Belgian Ales, yet plenty of pronounced yeasty phenolics. I even got some pear which made me think fleetingly of Coopers Pale Ale.

I then headed down to Schwartz Brewery in the Macquarie Hotel, where I was due to meet the guys. On tap and on special is a St Pat's day offering, "Goodness" dry Irish stout. At $3.50 a schooner, this was great value in anyone's language. I'm not much of a stout drinker, yet found this to be very approachable. Not so approachable was the pilsner, which has an overt honey character that seems to disguise any hop aroma.

Then the reason for the trip.  A quick walk up the hill to the Local Taphouse, and into some very interesting stuff.  We tried (on tap):
(links are to BeerAdvocate reviews)

Needless to say, all were excellent beers, with the grapefruity sourness of the Saison cleansing the palate nicely at the end of the session.

By this time of night, I tend to lose interest in jotting things down; one's taste buds tend to be sub-optimal also. Barney took a few notes, so he may kindly offer them for consideration.

The highlight for me was "The Craig". It was served through a glass & stainless "Randall", which contains a pile of fresh hops through which the beer passes on its way to tap and glass. The beer was murky, the aroma intense, the flavour intense, and we all agreed that a half pint would have sufficed. An amazing offering, like a bowl of muesli mixed with potpourri.

Great beers, great place.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Best Sydney microbreweries ?

My good friend Barney points us towards a recent Fairfax article: Finding Sydney's best microbreweries.

For the click-averse, here's the list:
  • Redoak  (24%)
  • Lord Nelson  (50%)
  • Schwartz  (6%)
  • James Squire Brewhouse (8%)
  • Harts Pub (12%)
All up, a reasonable list. What interests me is the reader survey attached to this article: "Which do you think is Sydney's best microbrewery ?" The percentages are those shown above.

The Lord Nelson is arguably Sydney's most handsome pub; sandstone, wood & brass, local ales. But as a 'microbrewery', the Lord's ales have never quite met expectation. "Best pub" for sure.... "Best microbrewery" not likely.....

For Schwartz to lose to James Squire is merely an indication of the former's relative obscurity. Squires successfully showcases the range of Malt Shovel beers, plus a couple of other local niceties, but does not have the edge that Schwartz has.  If the 1,959 survey respondents had visited all establishments (which I'm sure they haven't), the results would be different.

Although glad to see Harts on the list, it's not technically a microbrewey. But as a bona fide, local-focused-and-committed pub, there is none better.

And Redoak ? Again, not technically an onsite microbrewery.  Yes, there may be a couple of conditioning tanks in situ, but you won't find a mash-tun for at least a mile.... and that will be at Schwartz.....

What the journalist fails to consider (and this may be a result of editorial bias) is the possibility of microbreweries in Sydney that exist OUTSIDE the CBD.

Consider 4 Pines at Manly, or Paddy's at Flemington, or the new Australian Brewery at Rouse Hill.

Probably worth an update tour in itself. Anyone interested ?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Australia's best pale ale ?

My previous post contained a qualifed statement about Alpha Pale Ale being Australia's best American Pale Ale. The qualification being that it is 'widely available'.

This got me thinking about the veracity of my claim. In my fridge at the moment is probably Australia's best American Pale Ale ("APA"). And I'm not really sure if it's all that scarce so as to not compare with Alpha's availability.

I'm talking about Stone & Wood's Pacific Ale (previously known as Draught Ale).  I picked it up at 1st Choice at Forestville NSW (aka Crown of the Hill).



OK, sorry, I've had this carton in the fridge for the last couple of months, and haven't quite gotten around to telling you about it. I've taken the photo, just not as yet supported it with formal commentary.

What sets this beer apart from the run-of-the-mill APA is the choice of hops. APAs are notable in their use of American hops, particularly the 3 C's (Cascade, Centennial, Chinook) and Amarillo. This beer however uses an Antipodean variety: Galaxy.  In fact it's been mooted that a 'Pacific Ale' style might be a bona fide style different to the APA...less citrus and more tropical notes. And different also to the 'Aussie Sparkling/Pale', which is considered to be a sub-branch of English Pale Ale  - think Coopers and all that I've waffled on about before.

(As an aside, also consider how the Knappstein Reserve Lager set itself apart from the crowd by using the NZ Nelson Sauvin hop to impart its distinctive fruitiness...... 'Pacific Lager' perhaps).

I think, therefore, I can still support my claim of Alpha being the best Aussie APA.  The Pacific Ale is the best, ahem, Pacific Pale Ale......

Stone & Wood Pacific Ale: outstanding late hop aromas, tropical fruits such as guava, & passionfruit (my Mum even detected frangipani). Refreshing and light body, 4.4% ABV.... top class warm-climate session ale.

I think it set me back $65-$70 (AUD) for the carton of 24.

ADDENDUM: Stone & Wood didn't figure in the Sydney Royal Beer Show results. Perhaps they didn't enter. I'll try to find out.....

ADDENDUM+1: Brewer was judge, hence no entry. Thanks Matt, again.

Aussie Beer Blog

Aussie Beer Blog