Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Environmental Impact of Beer 2

Hi all and welcome to that mad time of the year called Christmas,

After nearly 2 years after the original post I did on this topic, I have found it is now the most viewed post I have done on this blog, and feel like revisiting it. As I have just finished my last day of work for the year, and as of the start of next year will become a permanent part-time member of Mountain Goat Brewery, I guess the question of social/environmental/etc conscious again comes to mind. I guess after over 3 years of being a casual worker, it has been easier for me to not focus on this much in terms of my work environment, as it sometimes changed on a daily basis. However, it has been something I am somewhat conscious of in general, through the original post on this subject. Also, I can remember the appreciation I had for a removalist company called Go Green I did some work with, who used vehicles that were fuelled by old cooking oil and negated their carbon emissions through their work practices.

Anyway, doing a round of research, I found this article, which I am happy to say is Australian based, and actually mentions Mountain Goat. As for point 1, after 4 months of filling kegs at Mountain Goat (actually filled 99 today), I would hazard a guess that on average a keg there is filled 12-15 times a year. This aspect is helped by the fact that probably 10 kegs a week go across the bar that is in the same building as the brewery. In terms of transportation then, it was actually just me with a trolley that moved about 10 kegs to the bar today. This then also connects to point 3...mind you, Goat now sends their beer across Australia and have started exporting to the U.S., and am unsure if this is being offset in any way. I guess the other thing with point 3, is that this is probably the point where I fall down the most in my own consumption of beer, as I am happy to try imported beers, and as I have found over the past few years, am very happy to travel to Ireland, the U.S, and a few countries in mainland Europe (as regular readers of this blog will already know) and try beers I find (and sometimes go to just have the beers I already enjoy in the place they come from) there.
I do also like the fact that Goat collect and use rainwater off their roof, use solar power, try and give as much of their used grain to farmers, have an organic beer (which became more important to me after reading Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring' this year), and saw the clause in my contract today about the 'ride to work' bonus (I wonder if I still get that for walking to work?).

Going backwards to point 2, I do remember being impressed when doing the Coopers Brewery tour and hearing about the co-generation plant. I am sure for the guide at least it was one less question I asked that was just about the beer itself. I have also heard that Anderson Valley Brewing Company has the tag of 'Solar powered beer', and Brooklyn Brewery is one of the greenest breweries in the world. When I did the Cascade Brewery tour earlier this year, was interested to see that they actually reuse the carbon dioxide naturally produced during fermentation to carbonate their soft drink line. I am sure there are many other examples out there, so please let me know if you find more.

Of course, I still brew my own beer to cover point 4 in the article, and am even happy to say we have moved on from bottles to kegs ourselves this year, not only meaning less effort in packaging beer for consumption, but now less chance of wasting bottles from accidental smashing, or exploding from some of our experiments in beer. I guess this is the only improvement we have made since I last posted on this subject.

I guess bringing this to mind at Christmas time is also poignant for me, as we see consumerism take over our lives at this time, and think more about the things we could have, rather than appreciating and retaining what we already have. For me, the environment is one of those things, and so will be enjoying 2 weeks of summer days on the family farm and our little garage on the block of land we had had by the beach for 30-odd years, and still done very little to change it from the days where school summer holidays were done in pitched tents on the block.
I hope this Christmas period you can also enjoy the simple things in life, and appreciate even the simple things in life have an impact on the world around us. As many of you seem to agree, it is something worth questioning, even in something like beer.

Merry Christmas (Ale) and a Happy Brew Year to you all,


PS: While I doubt it will happen where I am going, I'll let you know if I try any interesting beer experiences once I get back from my holiday.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

31st Birthday Beers @ Josie Bones

So after getting excited hearing about Josie Bones having chrissy beers available, I arrived right at opening to find they only had one available...yep, bit disappointing. Still, with such a range a beers on offer in general, this small set-back wasn't going to stop as tasting some good beer. Thanks to Mick, Nic, Joel, Mel, Stass, Jess, Mark, and Team Harrod for coming to share a few quiet beers with me.

Seeing there was at least one of the chrissy beers available, I thought I should start on it. Still, even this gave a fight not to be drunk as it wasn't pouring very well. Once James sorted it out and gave me the other half of my taster of it. The Nogne O God Juls is a really good example of a chrissy beer, but probably more of my slant with a bit more chocolate over the dark fruit flavours to go with the spice in it. Best of all, once it warmed up the chocolate flavour only increased.
Keeping with the spice and sweetness, I next moved onto the North Coast Brother Thelonious Belgian Abbey Ale, but this time with some caramel instead of chocolate. I remember trying a heap of North Coast beers while I was in the US a few years back, and all of them on tap had this incredible creaminess. Having this beer on tap just proved it was a one off at the brewery, and just annoyed me more when the barman at North Coast wasn't able to explain to me how all the beers came out so creamy.
Seeing I just wanted a quiet one I just had one more after that, and having recently been interested in trying the Moylan Hopsickle, I decided to try their Imperial Stout from the bottle. there was quite a range of flavours going on in this beer, especially while it was cold. There was a bit of a floury/dusty smoke in the sweet malt on the front of the tongue. This evens out on the midpalate before hops drive it home with a fair amount of bitterness on the back...well comparative to the style anyway. Definitely an American version of the style, also shown with the big 10% alcohol in it,and was feeling pretty tipsy once I had finished it. Luckily I picked up some food at this time, and seeing there was an ox tongue cooked in beer, hops and hickory, I gave that a go. Not as good at the black pudding I would normally go for. Growing up on deviled ham spread as a kid, there was a similar flavour and feel from the tongue meat, but was a bit disappointed not to get more of the flavours from what it had been cooked in. The imperial stout went alright with it, but Stass had a beer that went much better than mine with it...yep, a smoke beer.
This is the good thing with James and the staff in general at Josie Bones, you can go in there with no idea what to drink (well, they have to expect it with a beer menu as long as it is, to see people get confused over what to try), and you just give them a few words in flavour or even what you feel, and they manage to pick a good beer to fit your mood. I would call them beer psychologists in a way.
Anyway, Stass had managed to do this with James, and he had come back to him with a Brasserie Dieu du Ciel Charbonniere. While it is a smoke beer, it is definitely not as harsh as many others I have tried. in comparison, I would say the level of smoke is similar to the Aecht Schelenterla Rauchbier Weizen, but in a dark ale malt instead of wheat. Therefore the ham/meaty taste in it is not overbearing at all, and balances well with the sweetness in the malt. This is a good beer for anyone that has only tried a couple of smoke beers and is still finding an appreciation for the flavours in it.
Stass also got onto some Moondog beers. The Pumpkin Porter was on tap and has that density and full mouthfeel that I have become use to with this brewery, and with it a floury/dusty malt that also seems to be their style with darker beers. Of course, there is not much in terms of flavour when it come to the pumpkin part, but have to say, it help mellows out the dusty malt to make it a bit more easy to drink, and seems to thin it out a little on the tongue. No wonder this beer has become their staple...if a brewery like this could have a staple beer in their range.
Which brings us to the Moondog Skunkworks cognac barrel-aged IPA. The hops in this is pretty big when cold, especially in flavour. The aging must has settled out the hop bitterness to some degree (hey, there is still quite a bit of hop bitterness anyway). I'm not too sure what cognac tastes like, so can't really say how much of it comes through. As it warmed up the hops dropped off and a warming aspect came over the beer more, but not sure if that is from it, or just how these boys roll with alcohol in their beers.

Mick also tried a Saison from a brewery in Nowra, NSW. Luckily for them I can't remember the name of the brewer, as it wasn't a good example of a Saison. Firstly, the citrusy malt front was way too cloying and sweet for the style, and then there was this really weird orange juice chemical tang in aftertaste that just killed it completely.

After the Nogne O, Joel needed to step back from having too much flavour (it's ok, I don't get it either) and James again did the trick with a Brewdog Alice Porter. It kept some of the chocolate notes but with a baltic style, it much lighter on the tongue, perfect for 'lagerman' Joel.

The only other beer I recall from the night is Nicolette's Kristal Wheat beer from the oldest brewery in the world, and I remember it mostly because for the smallest person at the table, she had the biggest looking beer of all of us. Seeing she doesn't like the overbearing bubblegum that can come through in some German wheat beers, so going for this once meant the bubblegum was at a good level and the flavour is clearer and crisper than a Hefe (and maybe not as bloating either).

So, it was a nice relaxing day-after-birthday celebration with just a few good beers and mates...a bit different from last year. Luckily it was a quiet one, as the Goat chrissy party was on the day after, and that was not a quiet one...and had to work the next day after it. Still, The Grand's chocolate tart is amazing, along with the pork...and the gnocchi...which we had with the Brooklyn Brewery Local 1...which I am happy to say I had before the Corona someone thought would be really funny to buy a round of...and supposedly there was tequila in there as well. Anyway, I ended up with a Cooking with Beer book out of the kris kringle (the dessert beer recipes certainly got me excited) so looking forward to trying out more beer and food combos in the new year.



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reflections on Another Year with Beer

I suppose it is good having my birthday at the end of the year as it means I can reflect on where I am in life in general while I think about the year that has been. The past few months have been busy so haven't had much personal reflection happening, but at least this blog has been a bit of a substitute over the year, to at least look at the growing connection beer has in my life. From a little dissolution at the start of the year, things improved in my personal experiences and thoughts, I found some contentment and started my series on Situational Drinking (1, 2, 3, 4).
In term of homebrewing, it has been great having Brad back in the brewing team and bring success in trialing a Mulberry beer that made a special appearance for me at my brothers wedding. However, I am still wary of my personal approach to homebrewing, and see I have much growth in this area to do if I am going to make it in brewing beer on a more serious level. Still it has been great brewing with these guys and going up against Team Harrod in our homebrewing contests to keep the fun aspect in it. As well as the Mulberry, it has been good to throw myself in the deep end trying the Hickory Stickory Bock, Stass with his Coffee Nut, and putting together another batch of Russian Imperial Stout. Unfortunately I had a casualty with the Milo beer, but hopefully will find another path for it in the future.
A year ago I well and truly celebrated my 30th birthday, including a big night with family and friends and Mountain Goat Brewery. For my birthday this year, it was nice to see that after having my first day of work there in March, it looks like I will become a permanent (part-time) member of staff, and wore my full Goat uniform for the first time, to celebrate birthday 31. While the 11 hours was a bit longer than I had hoped, I managed to pull myself together enough to go to the Royston by myself for a parma and try the Feral 'Raging Flem' Belgian IPA (pretty muddy looking with golden body. Get big hop smell and taste while cold, but an earthy funk takes over after 10 minutes of warming up, which also gives it a bit more body). A bit of a contrast to last year, but still visited Mountain Goat and Royston for it.

There have been some good beer events again this year, with beer launches and the usual Microbrewery Showcases, but by far the biggest was Good Beer Week, where I took the whole week off work to enjoy/recover throughout. I have heard it will be back next year, so that is definitely something to look forward to. Crafty's Festival of the Froth was also a highlight, especially seeing the team I was in won in the trivia.
In terms of my own journeys for beer, heading back to Hobart, trips to the Wheaty in Adelaide for Moo Brew and Rogue beers, and even heading North, to see how beer is growing in Sydney have been great to fit in earlier in the year, when I had time. As a faithful companion, the trip Stass and I took out to Beechworth was also special for me, and to finally hang out at Bridge Road Brewery.
I also managed to have a few beers during the Rugby World Cup (and probably went a bit too far trying to connect rugby to beer), and make sure there was beer not just at my brothers wedding, but also my cousin's. It was a good experience also this year to take a couple of my journeys with beer and turn them into entries into a beer writing comp, which while nothing came of, at least showed I should stick to just blog writing, and that any appreciation I try to give to others on beer should be done with a beer in our hands.

Speaking of which, I should probably talk about my favourite beers of this year. I don't normally do this, seeing I keep it very personal and is always hard to say what are my favourite beers. Still, after having done this for my European trip last year, this year I think I may be able to to do, so strap yourself in for a very biased list.

Yep, definitely a trend in the beers I like.

Well, I think that will do. Am pretty content with the year I've had, and what I have to look forward to in my 32nd year of life. Speaking of which, I'll be back on here soon for a beer tasting I am hoping to have at Josie Bones of Chrissy beers (tis the season), so even with only a couple of weeks left in 2011, may still be a highlight to come...

Cheers to more beers,


PS: As always, thanks to you for checking out the blog over the year, culminating in nearly 6000 views over the past couple of years, and now over 230 posts (which would make for a boring week if anyone was to read over all of them).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Few Friday Knock Offs

After another tiring week and not being able to have much of a weekend before it, I was well and truly ready to do very little at the end of it. However, after a crisis call during the week, I had to try and rework Goat to make it for another lawn-mowing Friday. At least with three of us, I found it good to smash through it pretty quickly, so I could still run an errand for my bro (while he is away on his honeymoon) and do some beer shopping with Stass after work.

Amazingly, feeling somewhat half awake after this and knowing Biero had a Vanilla Milk Stout on their taps, Stass got me into the city so we could check it out. Must have been funny seeing two guys in shirts with a landscaping logo on it in a concrete-filled city, and drinking a stout on a hot summer day, still it is a double contradiction I am happy to live with as the Thirsty Crow Jiminy Cricket Vanilla Milk Stout was well worth a try.

It poured with a translucent-edged dark brown colour with a slight brown tinge in the creamy head as well. Couldn't get much aroma at the beginning, but some slight high noted sweetness from the vanilla. Upon tasting though, we both delighted in the sweet vanilla flavour, and what I get as an alkaliny powdered lactose just after it, but generally mixed in well to help meld the flavours together on the front and midpalate. Stass smashed his a bit too quickly, so when it really sweetened up with time and warmth, he had very little of it left to enjoy. For me it got to a stage where the vanilla sweetness started creeping up the inside of my cheeks. which of course I personally enjoyed. I was happy to find that the beer did not sit too heavy on the tongue or gut, which is interesting to find in a milk stout, but while I coats your tongue generously with each sip, the almost refined sweetness of the vanilla keeps it almost refreshing in a way. The brewer has done very well in doing this and blending the lactose and vanilla flavours in this beer. I'd like to understand the base beer behind it more, and how they were able to integrate these two additional flavours above it in this fashion. It had me wanting to go back to trying at another homebrew choc/vanilla stout, or bringing in some brown sugar to get some caramel...unfortunately I think there would be too much sweetness to even pick up the different flavours in something like that. With warmth the alkaline did diminish a bit as well, so the vanilla really took over the tastebuds.

Seeing this was Stass's first visit to Biero, he was excited to try a few other beers on the menu (and on my recommendation, the pork sandwich). Seeing we had been shopping for a few smokey/peaty beers, seeing a Mash Smokey Amber Ale, we had to give that a go. I would say it looked more golden and amber and was pretty clean (maybe I am use to have wheat based smoked beers). Unlike the Vanilla Milk Stout, we found this one was better cold, as the smoke is very much on the fringe in terms of aroma and taste. The level of smoke melded better with the malt while it was cold, and would be a great beer for anyone that has never had a smoke beer before as an introduction to the style. However, as expected, when it warmed up the sweetness of the malt really took over, and the smoke was left to be simply on the sides of the back palate to clean up the sweetness.
I did make sure to keep some of the Vanilla Milk Stout for after this, but had to hold off again when Stass eyed the Mikkeller 1000 IBU, which I was surprised he hadn't tried before. Seeing he was driving he just had a taster of it, but that was enough. I mean, they have tried to have some up-front sweetness to help bring some balance of flavour, but if anything it sets you up for a bigger fall when to bitterness kicks in just off the tip of your tongue. I was surprised that it didn't offend me as much as when I had tried it previously, but then previously I was halfway through a beer tasting, so I probably reacted a bit more to it in that situation. Still, the dry bitterness just sits and stays in aftertaste, and learnt quickly not to let it sit on your tongue for too long.

Trying to end on the last of the Vanilla Milk Stout just spun my tastebuds out of control as the massive sweetness up front still wasn't enough to remove the bitterness left from the 10000 IBU. At that I started to flake and so we left, so I could tipsily and tiredly get the tram home to crash and start relaxing for the weekend.

I look forward to doing very little this weekend, even in terms of tasting beer...I know, tough times...



Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Bro's Special Day...and How I Infiltrated it with Beer!

Congrats to Mick and Nic on getting married!

It was a couple of hectic days leading up to it trying to do what I could to help the day go smoothly for them. Mind you, with the bride and groom both being engineers, it was planned so well I was actually trying to find things to do to feel like I was being useful to them. This was sorted with me brewing a beer for the day. With the Mulberry not holding up very long after brewing, by the time we went to pick up the keg the day before the wedding, it had started to sour off a bit. Luckily the keg was not full and had some spare jars of it available to dilute in some warm water and add to the keg to fill it and bring back some sweetness to balance out the beer.

That afternoon we had the rehearsal and dropped off beer and wine (luckily the keg fitted in the fridge) at the venue, where after thinking I was just going to be a signing witness in the ceremony, I was to be standing next to Mick for much of the ceremony, give a short announcement before, and be 'chairman' of the ceremony (literally, I was in charge of moving the chairs behind the happy couple during the times they were standing or sitting down). Then, upon finding the matron of honour wished to make a speech at the reception, I was asked to do the same. What I needed was a few 'stouts' to 'steady' myself over dinner that night with the two families, so a Coopers Stout and Guinness did the trick at the Union Club Hotel in Fitzroy. Finding one of Mick's mates was drinking a Carlton Draught, I quickly ordered a Coopers Pale for him to try and counter the effects of all the chemicals he had just ingested, and was happy to see a few of the girls trying out Little Creatures Bright Ale.

A potential mistake the night before a wedding was for my sis and I to head out to see a few bands, with the Twoks and Dancing Heals (a band I had been promising the drummer [previously of Dirty Pink Jeans/Roaring Years] I would come and see for a year) playing nearby. With a pint of Coopers Pale I felt old with the volume level being way too high, and a bit disappointed with Twoks only playing a 4 song set after the 'rockstar' late arrival of Xan. Still, managed to get to bed by midnight before Mick was around just after 8am to get on with sorting out things before the ceremony. Having picked up food, flowers, a few other bits and pieces, and giving Mick some time to relax and get changed, we arrived at the venue an hour before the ceremony to set up the courtyard for the post ceremony afternoon tea. I managed a quick taste of the mulberry as I set up the keg to find it at least fit for human consumption before realising there was only 30 mins before the ceremony was to start, so had to run to where my folks were staying to shower and change before running back to the chapel just as the bride was about the arrive. With the priest putting in my cuffs, my dad doing my tie, and mum pinning the flower to my jacket, I jogged down the aisle, made my announcement (which Mick had already done in my absence), and stood beside Mick just as the bridal procession began. Luckily the rest of the ceremony went smoothly, and was happy when it was done and I could just start pouring beer for the crowd. It was pouring pretty heady as seems to be from the tap we have for it, so was having to do two half pours for each pot.
Still, the addition of the fresh mulberry syrup not only countered the sourness well (actually, probably too much), but the additional sugars really added some body to the beer, that was tasting a bit too thin and watery before, and with the headiness gave it a wonderfully velvet texture on the tongue that I probably liked the most about the beer. Of course, in the setting of a wedding, everyone was being very nice and saying good things about the beer, and I do agree it was a very good refreshing brew and happy to see there was no residual sweetness to cloy the tongue, making it easy to go back to, sip after sip. The sourness/tartness came very late in the midpalate but created enough depth to give the brew some character. The closest I had to some critical feedback was from my aunty who said that it wasn't her sort of thing, but that it was still nice. Of the 20 litres I had, about half of it was gone in the hour and half we had after the ceremony. It was funny, not many people came up to try it while I was pouring out beers, but everytime I walked away to get something else for the table, I would find all the beers I had poured gone, followed by random people coming up to me to comment on the beer and ask a few questions (which I happily answered of course). Still, I managed to mingle a little bit before we had to pack up and head to the reception. Was happy to see Joel had been able to make it, so we had a taste of the beer together, he helped me pack up, and I gave him a Rogers as a roadie to get home on (trust it, I only had to open one beer bottle the whole day and I cut my finger while doing it).
Seeing I had to help pack up the courtyard, pack the hire car with any leftover beer and wine, drive it back to Mick's before I trammed it to the reception, I was also one of the last people to turn up at Matteo's to continue celebrating.

Of course, my brother had sorted out the wine at the venue for the reception, so only three beers were had over the whole evening by our whole party. I had one of them (LC Pale Ale) as I arrived, and it didn't last long as I started to unwind. Quickly getting a photo with the happy couple and chat to a few more people, we were directed to our tables, and from there I was on the special selection of wine Mick had sourced for us. I went with the Riesling with the mushroom ravioli, and the Pinto Noir with my beef main, but stayed away from the Chardonnay that was a bit too dry for my taste. Mind you, the dessert I had without any wine, as it didn't need it! I was enjoying the wine so much I was probably a little tipsy by the time I had to get up for my impromptu speech, which helped me get through it but probably made it a terrible speech. But like the beer, people were saying nice things anyway.

The next day, Mick dropped off the half filled keg, and seeing he didn't get to taste it on the day, we poured a few glasses for him and Stew to try...again, nice things said. Stass has come over to pick up the keg, so was using the time til he arrived to drink as much of it as I can, and seeing it is only 3%, I managed a couple of litres before he came over, to drink a bit more with me before he left with it. I would say it will deteriorate pretty quickly from here, so hopefully Stass gets on it to finish it soon.

Well, it was a good experience to be able to provide a beer for another wedding, and this time it was one of my own, and am happy to say it came off pretty well for me. I guess I need to thank my brother for trusting me to provide beer for everyone at the wedding, and to the bride's family, who we are still getting to know. So far, so good...