Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Twoks Irish Red Ale

Ha! Who would have thought, 2 years ago, when I did a review of a band, but wrote it as if I was reviewing them as a beer, that one day that band would ask us to brew a beer for them, and so give us an opportunity to make this imaginary brew a reality.

Still, this has just been what has happened on Monday, when at a 'listening party' for the Twoks latest album, Stass and I manned a keg of Twok Irish Red Ale to try and give the listeners more chance to experience depth and enjoyment than just through the ears. Ok, we backed off the alcohol, and because I probably went way too overboard with the description (What?! That is not like me at all, right?), we tried to develop a core that we felt we might be able to achieve for only our third all-grain brew. Still, I have to say, I think we pulled it off quite well. Using Carared malts to bring colour and the caramel character, galaxy hops in aroma and taste to add the citrus, and the Northdown hop for earthy bitterness came together quite well for anyone (like myself) that wants to engage with a beer on that level. However, for those that just wanted a beverage to enjoy while taking in the first listen of a new album, it is easy drinking and balanced enough just to sit in the background of their mind as well.

Mind you, I think I enjoyed a little too much of it, along with explaining it to anyone that came up and said it was a nice beer in their opinion. We managed to get through about 8-10 litres in a couple of hours which isn't too bad.

So I would call it a second success from our short all grain brewing history.

So here is to Bassteef Brewing!



Sydney Beer Weekend 2

18 months ago I made a trip up to Sydney to see a mate and check out the beer scene up there (here is the link to that post). This time I saw my brother and his wife, a different friend, and also an improving beer scene.

While it was sad to see Coogee After Dark is no longer trading, it was nice to see some other small bars picking up where they left off, even if they still may not be appreciated by the locals as much as they should. Case in point is Yulli's, a fairly small bar in Surry Hills, that was my first beer target for the trip. Walking in to be greeted by Carl with a casual vibe and a big bushy beard made me feel at ease this wasn't going to be a wanky Sydney bar, then this sense was upgraded to excitment to see Thirsty Crow on all 4 of their taps, and the Vanilla Milk Stout was one of them. Carl said as soon as he saw my reaction to the taps, he knew I wasn't from Sydney, as the beer snobs they tend to get only seem to comment "It that all you have?". Anyway, with that disappointing fact made, it was time to enjoy my first beers, and my first chance to taste some of the other beers Thirsty Crow come out with.

The 26-Fifty Summer Ale was quite refreshing to start with after doing a bit of a walk through the Surry Hills market for lunch. Felt a bit lighter on the palate compared to say a Goat Steam, but close to the Skipping Girl Summer Ale. The clean citrusy hop flavour was also quite enjoyable and had me thinking it is in between the Goat Steam and Stone and Wood Pacific, and very little bitterness to finish on. Very easy drinking as to be expected for the style, but that punch of citrus hop really keeps it flavourful as well.

Next was the American Pale, which was only slightly bolder in malt and hop character than the previous, which was a bit suprising for the style. The bitterness was not as much as I was expecting to get, but the balance seemed quite good, so a good starter for anyone looking to get introduced to this style before going into IPA's. I am not sure whether I was just quenching my thirst or just wanting to get to the Vanilla Milk Stout quicker, but it was not long til I was giving Carl the nod to bring the next beer to the table.

After my first taste of this beer nearly a year ago, there of course was a high anticipation coming into it. On this occasion I was first drawn to the slightly roasted/dusty character coming from the malt I did not think I had tasted in it previously, but then remembered to let it warm up, and then all of what I had enjoyed with it previously came back. I suppose the other thing I remembered was that I have just come off the back of brewing my own Milk Stout with vanilla in it, and probably boosted the sweetness for my own taste (and it seems, most other people that have tried it and enjoyed it), so was maybe expected that to be more in this as well. Speaking of other people, getting a glass of this for Hannah to try was funny as with a face that looked like she had just swallowed a lemon she said she had liked it, but I am still not sure.

From here it was a big step up to the Road 2 Ruin Imperial Stout, which I really noted the dark fruit character from the midpalate which helped mask a bit of the 10.2% alcohol going on in it. Still, like many of the beers on show, there is still a cleanness coming from the flavour so it doesn't become too overbearing on the palate, and a smooth but light texture to let it slide down the gullet nicely.

Moving onto the Taphouse, which was showing a fair bit more patronage through the Sydney Craft Beer Week going on up there, we met up with my brother to keep the beer journey going. Of course getting a paddle for myself, finally was able to show Hannah a Bridge Road India Saison, while Mick started on a Budvar.
I started with the Coffee and Fig from Epic, which I have to say was fairly dominated by coffee, and like our own homebrew Coffee Nut, was not able to get much else from it. Their Portamarillo was much more my style with the light bodied brown malt with a nice soft smokiness the held well across the palate but did not leave you with a dry mouth in aftertaste, and definitely not the smoked ham character the Bamberg, or my own Hickory Stickory Bock, came out with.
This was closely followed with the Prickly Moses Tailpipe Imperial Brown that for me came off as a Nut Brown, but with a bit more sweet malt aroma, that had me holding onto this one til the end as my last sip from the paddle.
The 4 Pines Mexican Adobo Rudy was neither here nor there for me, as apart from the slight chilli heat, was not getting much else that was interesting me. Unfortunately I have to say I was also a bit disappointed in the Marin White Knuckle Double IPA. But that could be explained by the lack from freshness seeing it had travelled from the US. Sticking around for one more, I had to make up for the DIPA and go a Murray's Icon2IPA which fit the bill of a DIPA much better, especially seeing it is a more local beer.

After that Mick took over proceedings with dinner at his place, and with a pregnant wife, took the opportunity to crack open a few wines while he had people to drink with. Still, they did indulge my beeriness by bringing back a bottle of an Italian Stout (fermenting in a wine bottle just so he could keep some wine aspect to it) from their recent trip to Europe.

Seeing I was there for one night only, and had drunk a fair bit of alcohol on that night, wasn't til lunchtime before I was ready to re-engage with beer. After experiencing a small bar, and and old favourite, it was time to hit a Sydney pub and see if this was being affected by the influence of better beer coming into Sydney. I am happy to say, the response is in the affirmative. Ok, the Empire Hotel may have just been refurbished, so is a good time to make some changes to the drinks available, but on tap and in the bottle, there was enough there to keep me interested and find beers I thought might engage the taste of Hannah and her friends. Seeing Coopers have some dominance, not just with the Green, but also one of the Thomas Cooper's Selection beers on tap was a surprise, but then also seeing Two Birds Sunset, Balmain Pale, Murray's Whale was also a good sign of the changing scene for beer in Sydney. Ok, the Balmain didn't do a whole of a lot for me, but is still much better that the standard brews I was only expecting to see (I didn't trust Hannah when she said there were 'fancy beers' at this pub), and then happy again to see a different selection of beers in the bottle, including the Two Birds Golden and Hopworks Horns Up IPA (the former having some butterscotch character that I don't think is intended, and the latter being a bit over carbonated).

Anyway, thanks to Mick and Nic for hanging out for dinner and brekkie, and Hannah for willingly hanging out for all of my beer journey, and giving me some beer shampoo. I now have somewhat more anticipation as to a continued improvement on the beer scene in Sydney after this trip...still, nothing on Melbourne!



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Wheaty Goat Party: When Two Beer Worlds Collide

Firstly, Happy 15th Birthday Mountain Goat Brewery! After the first party at the GB a couple of weeks back, the tour for Cam and Dave finishes this Friday at Goat HQ. Still, when the opportunity came up last week to go to my favourite pub in Australia for the South Australian leg of the tour, I definitely took it.

It has been a great privilege to become one of the regular Goat herd over the last 15th of it's existence, and was nice to surprise the boys with my presence at the Wheaty when they arrived to start the party. Still, finding myself at the Wheaty while in Adelaide is not very surprising, as I seem to make my way  to the pub any day I am in that part of OZ. Still, it was nice to also surprise Jade to see me in there for this event. I suppose it was also a surprise for my sister to get a call from me the night before saying I was coming over for it, and good she was free to catch up over a few beers on the night, drive me around, and let me stay at her place (Thanks Cat!!!!)

So in my Wheaty shirt and Goat jacket, an hour after I arrived in Adelaide I stepped into the pub, and as always, found myself intrigued with the beers on tap. Getting a Doctors Orders Prescription Belgian Black IPA and trying my sis out on a smoke porter, we sat down and caught up over them before the Goat beers were unveiled and the Goat boys arrived to get the party started. I found the Prescription to be quite balanced even with all that was going on in it, and was happy to see my sis enjoyed her first taste of a smoke beer.

With the 7 Goat taps pouring, I was straight in for the Triple Hightail, and the Abbey Collabey Imperial Stout on the handpump (I personally had spent a day degassing the keg so it could be poured this way, so only seems appropriate I was there to 'ensure it's quality'). Just like I had a few months before at the Royston, the handpump Abbey was amazing, with the texture and temperature really opening up and melding the dark malt and slight candied sugar flavours on the front palate of the beer, while the mild sting of alcohol is reduced, creating a full but mellow profile overall that was a joy to sip on (compared to the Abbey Collabey that was also available through a normal tap). Letting the Triple Hightail warm up while tasting the Abbey, I also gave it regular bumps/swirls to knock out the cold and carbonation to try and replicate the handpump process on it. Of course, it is hard to remove such a sweet amber candied sugar flavour from it, but warming it seemed to turn the sweetness more into body than flavour, thickening the texture instead of stinging the tastebuds too heavily. I don't want to get caught up in styles, but it almost changes from an imperial amber to a barleywine (maybe I am thinking mulled barleywine?). The Fancy Pants (basically a Hightail with extra wheat and different hop profile) goes down really well, not just for me, but for the rest of the patrons, and was the first keg to blow (luckily the Wheaty have two kegs of this). The Black IPA also seemed popular and is a good beer to transfer from Winter to Summer with, but definitely not a slammer at 7.4%. The standard IPA was there for the less adventurous (and for the few that maybe wanted to drive home at the end of the night...I guess it was a school night after all), and finally the Hightail through the glasshopper (peach, apricot, cardamon and coconut). I didn't try the Hightail on the night, but after an extra day of steeping, the apricot and coconut was coming through strong for me when I tried it the next day.

Now, trying to get through these and the other set of taps is always a hard task, especially seeing half the Goat beers are 7.4% or above, and the Prescription was 7.6% in itself. The one criticism I have for the Wheaty is their lack of a kitchen, and unfortunately this remains. Cat and I ended up going across the road for a pizza (including an hour long wait...though this was helped with a Moo Brew Dark Ale). By the time we got back to the Wheaty, everyone was in high spirits and couldn't help by feel I had been left behind, so after taking a photo of the Wheaty Goats, took the opportunity to finish up for the night.

At least by doing this it meant I was feeling good for a bike ride around Adelaide to see the redevelopment of Adelaide Oval, visit Melbourne Street Cellars (one of the best beer selections in Adelaide I reckon) and East End Cellars, enjoy a Top Deck Iced Chocolate and Baileys Embrace from Cocolat, picked up more chocolates from Haighs (including the new Creme Brulee Truffle [reckon it would be better with milk choc than dark])...and then it was back to the Wheaty!!! Along with trying the Hightail, was happy to see the Triple Hightail and the Handpump Abbey Collabey was still available to keep enjoying. Knowing it was Friday, I knew the taps would be changing over soon, so tomorrow would be a good day to come back! Still, after my journeying through the day, meant I could try a local Woolshed Pale Ale (having a rep of using solar power, rain harvesting and being generally eco friendly does not make a beer any better. Somehow it even had a chemical sort of taste to it, reminding me of a Carlton Draught...bleh!) and an Oregon-based Bridgeport Kingpin (pretty cool red ale that has that classic west coast hop profile but with good balance with the caramel malt character) while making a potato bake.

The next day started with a Dark Force Wheat Imperial Stout before heading back to the Wheaty. What a joy to finally find the Steam Exchange Truffles available, along with a Brewfist Fear Milk Chocolate Stout, and both on tap. The Fear was ok, but found it a bit cocoa powdery than chocolate, while the Truffles had an amazingly earthy sweetness that was well balanced in itself. This latter beer has been worth trying to find for the past few years in coming to the Wheaty, and fortunate to have finally been able to have it for the first time. I happily went back to it after sharing a Bamberg Mazen Rauchbier with Cat, which was a good step up in her newly found appreciation of smoke beers, and once more having a Triple Hightail and handpump Abbey Collabey. With that it was time to head to the airport.

The next day I headed out to Stass's to put on an Irish Red Ale that funnily enough will be used to help launch an album some friends have just finished. Seeing I was once challenged to write a review of them as I would a beer, am happy to see we have almost got what I described them as in the beer we made. I also have the Sydney Beer Week festival to go to this weekend to look forward to, the Microbrewery Showcase is happening again this week at Fed Square, and along with the final Goat party on Friday, going to open one of the few bottles of Creme Brulee I managed to wrangle from our first all grain brew to share with the Goaters...I may have to spread it pretty thin.

Cheers to the Wheaty Goats and my sis!!!!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Muso Retreat - The Stage is Set for the Creme Brulee Clone

I am very fortunate to have mates that are pretty good at making music, and hanging out with them while they show their 'art' has helped me find my own in the world of beer. Over the weekend I was able to give back a little when the boys invited me to come on a little retreat as they jammed and recorded some new songs they are working on.

Recently, Stass and I did our first ever all grain brew with our new bit if kit (which continually astounds us in its simplicity and ability) and went big by having to do a double mash to try and clone the Southern Tier Creme Brulee. Having tried to take time to mature the beer and carbonate it slowly, we took 16 litres of if with us, and set up one of the fridges as designated for the Creme and a Coffee Nut Ale that Stass also made for the weekend.

The boys set up the living room with the tools of their trade as the beer cooled, and once they were settled, we pulled off our first glasses of the Creme Brulee clone. Watching it settle reminded me of seeing a Guinness or Kilkenny being poured. The aroma showed the vanilla extract we added to the keg had melded well with the caramel malt. In smell or taste, I found it very hard to register the 8.2% alcohol we had managed to get from this first batch, and it didn't even thin out the lovely creamy(custardy?) texture of the beer. The bitterness I had tasted in it when we kegged it has settled out a little, but not enough for my own personal taste, but happy to say it did not take away from the beer much overall, and helped not too leave too much residual sweetness at the back. For our first all grain brew, I have to say it was an amazing success, and the rest of the boys agreed. I'm not ashamed to say a little tear formed in my eye on my first taste. It was a great moment, and glad to share it with Stass and the rest of the musos mates.

The first morning a few of us decided to instead of having a coffee with breakfast, we had a coffee beer. I have to say, not being a coffee drinker, the coffee flavour was way too strong and overpowered anything the nut brown base was trying to bring to the beer. However, by how strong some of the boys had their normal coffee, was not surprised when some of them said that it should have twice the amount of coffee in it. Still, even though the Coffee Nut was made especially for the retreat, it was pretty easy to see the Creme won as the more popular brew. This popularity was also helped by bringing along some cupcakes and hedgehog slice to try it with (the richness of the hedgehog probably comparing well with the beer).

Personally, I'd like to say how honoured I was to be able to hang out with those guys over the weekend,  and help supply them with some beers they could enjoy when they weren't busy creating music with each other. It was great to get out of the city and hang out by the beach in a lovely house (thanks to Stass's family for the awesome digs), reading a book, playing cards, walking on the beach and 'trying to cruze' as much as humanly possible.

So, with very little Creme Brulee clone left after the weekend, I hope there is still some when my shipment of the real Creme Brulee comes from the States to see how close we actually got to it. I guess it also means we will need to brew another batch and see if we can get it any better...

Thanks for the feedback on the beers boys, and good luck with the new tunes.



PS: Speaking of beer and musos, I should plug a good mate of mine that put himself through hell so I could enjoy my beer journey of Europe. I recently sent a video of myself for Jaimi to possibly use in his latest music clip 'Turn Me Around', and funnily enough he actually used some of it. So check it out and look for the Yeti looking bloke sitting on a toilet with a message written on a piece of toilet paper...yep, I'm all class.
PPS: Speaking of getting some coverage, I have just this minute seen a message from Stass that he took some of the Coffee Nut Ale to the cafe he got the coffee he used in the brew, and heard they liked it. It may not have been the winning beer on the weekend, but these guys dig it. So here is a pic of Stass with one of the guys from St Ali with a bottle of the Coffee Nut. Nice work buddy.