Due to my adventures in pharmaceutical idiocy, I found myself running late for the inaugural beer school at Atticus Finch a few weeks ago. I quite like the end of Lygon Street it’s in (that is, the East Brunswick end) – there’s an old musical society favourite haunt (the Comfortable Chair) and now that I’ve been to Atticus Finch, I like it even more.
Now note that this beer school is not really suitable for beer newbs. At least, I would feel thrown in the deep end. Case in point, the very first beer for tasting (which I missed but have had before) was the Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio(organic). Squeezed in kindly by one of the adorable waiters who took pity on my disorganised self, I found myself seated next to some wonderful beer bigwigs – Alex and Quentin of Australian Homebrewing Conference fame. Quentin caught me completely off guard when he asked me what sort of beers I like – it’s like being asked what your favourite book or musical artist is – very hard. On the fly, I said Holgate Temptress (if you’ve read my beer posts before you’ll know that one) and Feral Fantapants. I should have also included scotch ales.
I may have brashly admitted to Alex that lambics taste of ladies. Personally, I prefer kriek but I need to explore my lambic love much like my burgeoning bisexuality.
Back to the beer.
I was absolutely kicking myself for having missed the second offering – Bridge Road chestnut pilsner. A kind gent on my table (cheers Matt!) offered me a sip after official tasting had finished but our palates had quite the workout and alas, I could not detect the chestnut. You cannot understand my pain.
The first beer I did get to try was the Brewboys Charger Lager. I’m not mad keen on lagers and my tasting notes reflect this: ‘nice for a lager’. It probably didn’t help that I chugged down remnants from the bottle, rather than drinking from a glass. I wouldn’t go out of my way to drink it again but I’d purchase a 6-pack for a mate – the label is pretty snazzy and sort of blokey. Lagers! Cars! Retro font!
The first proper beer I got to have in an actual glass was the Belgian Brasserie Dupont Cervesia. My notes tell me it’s sweet and slightly hoppy as well as witbier-ish and a natural antiseptic (?!) which I believe is a characteristic of the style, not the actual beer. Neither myself nor the DSLR wanker can provide a picture sadly.
On our table, the Timothy Taylor Landlord pale ale was very well liked. I think it would be ridiculously sessionable. No, really, I want to slug down pints of it.
I liked the Timothy Taylor pale ale more than the St Peter’s Suffolk gold ale which was similar but had a cloying sweetness that was a little unpleasant. It was quite malty too, more so that the Timothy Taylor. Wasn’t a big fan at all.
We then concentrated on beer made by the brewers present – Holgate Brewhouse, Kooinda Brewery and Mountain Goat Brewery.
Starting off with a microbrewery based in Melbourne (hyperlocal to both of the EDS beer nerds), the Kooinda pale ale. It is an American-style pale ale with Australian Galaxy hops and US Cascade hops. It’s not too carbonated and more bitter than I recall (having had it before at an Ale Stars session). Though I couldn’t really pick out the toffee, caramel and resin characteristics, I enjoyed this way more this time around than previously. It seemed more…rounded. We were all very fortunate to have Travis, the head brewer take us through his baby.
Next local beer – not so hyperlocal to us being a Richmond-based brewery, the Mountain Goat IPA. I expected this to be as bitter and hoppy as fuck, but my notes indicated I found it very toffeeish and caramelly. This was on tap. Dave Bonington, co-founder of the brewery, also chatted to us a little.
The head brewer from Holgate Brewhouse Ian Morgan was our main guide for the evening, and not just through his brewery’s beer.
He introduced the Holgate Hopinator double IPA, an ESB style (!) beer that was malty, hoppy and still quite bitter. Reminded me a little of Red Hill’s Hop Harvest (also an ESB style beer). I found the hops in this to be quite floral but apparently they have mercine, pine and resin. This was probably my favourite out of all the ales. The brewer said that it’s excellent paired with venison or game. Must have again.
Remember the adorable waiter who took pity on my latecoming arse? He brought me a plate of nibblies which everyone had received earlier – bread, cheese and air-dried salami. I panicked for a bit when I thought I had to share it but he said, it was just for me.
Over the page of our beer school sheets, the first on the list was the Bridge Rd Chevalier Bière de Garde, which in French translates to ‘beer to keep’. Traditionally a farmhouse beer like Saison it provided sustenance for the peasants through the summer. If it weren’t for the class inequality schtick, I’d say being a peasant never sounded quite so idyllic.
Across the waters, we then tried out Unibroue Terrible ale from Canada. I had this recently at home (even drank it in a snifter!). Unibroue is not strictly Canadian anymore…they’re owned by Sapporo. It’s a very dark beer and quite alcoholic at 10.5% ABV. I have an awful photo of the bottle here.
Back to Australian beer, on tap the Holgate Double Trouble. Sweet and malty with brandy and whisky notes. My notes are beginning to make less sense at this stage but I think this is brewed in the style of a Belgian abbey ale, or at least uses similar yeast. Traditionally, Belgian Trappist monks use sugar to bring up the alcohol content and this beer is 8% ABV. I really enjoyed this.
Next up, a treat from Rogue Brewery from the US – their mocha porter. I’ve had this before and preferred it at home, but that’s probably because I drank it from a snifter and let it warm up a while. From this session, all I got was that it was bitter and roasty.
I’d also like to point out that another waiter was unnecessarily rude to me when I very politely (I promise!) asked that he provide our table with another stubby (375mL if not foreign with the Aussie lingo) of the Rogue. He informed me that he had served our table already and refused to bring out any more despite the fact not everyone had received their share. Alex came to my rescue, grabbed the adorable waiter and asked for me and he readily complied.
I do intend to return to Atticus Finch and have decided that if he reoffends similarly, I’ll lodge a formal complaint. By all means, treat me like shit if I’m not buying drinks at your bar but I paid for my fucking ticket so you give me my allotted beer!
No such problems with the Moo Brew Stout, on tap. A good dark coffee head with a slightly savoury taste. Perfect for the season.
The Young’s Double Chocolate Stout in a can was actually pretty disappointing. I swear it had a thinner mouthfeel than that in the bottle and seemed to have more coffee notes than chocolate. In the bottle, as soon as you open it, you are greeted with melty milk chocolate notes. Any beer nerds want to tell me it’s my imagination?
Last one! Sierra Nevada’s Big Foot Barley Wine. Most beer aficionados would know their pale ale sets the standard when it comes to the American-style pale ale. It was nice to finish off with a barleywine. My notes at this stage are not detailed – smells very roasty, was slightly bitter and had a hint of sweetness.
For $40, a plate of nibblies and whirlwind tour of sixteen serious beers can be yours at Atticus Finch. The crowd was fantastic and I can’t wait for the next one. If you love beer and know a little about it, you should check it out.