Tag Archives: beer tasting

an invite for a pint of cider

I’ve never felt comfortable with the decision to accept PR contact because, I don’t know why, it feels a little…dirty – but yes, I have done it (so before you slag me off, I am ‘tainted’, hehe). It feels like a bit of a slippery slope: once you start accepting freebies, at what point do you a) stop because free stuff is ace especially when you’re poor and b) does it impugn on the impartiality of your review of the product or the meal?

This feels like more of a concern in the food blogging world. Not so much for beer blogging: I know beer journalists (yep, journalists, not bloggers) that get free beer – how else are they supposed to review it and make a living? Reviewing and visiting breweries is a time-intensive exercise – and I only do it for fun. I imagine it’d be trickier for those in the biz.

Sadly, I’m not in that journo camp. When brewery owner Nick Strong actually contacted this here humblr blog via our contact form (like whut?! people use our contact form? awesome!) to offer us free Coldstream cider because we didn’t have many cider reviews on the blog, I replied and said that Tristan and I would be happy to visit but would pay our own way, sample the brewery’s wares and report accordingly. This occurred last Sunday.

brewery exterior

First things first. If you want to go to Coldstream Brewery for lunch, you’d best book. I’d erroneously made the mistake of assuming that it’d be perfectly okay for me and Tristan to just swan in sans booking as the owner was expecting us. Strike one Gem. The brewery was absolutely packed. So yes, if you visit, book. Plus, it’s just good manners. Shame on me.

beer pour

After finding an awkward table to sit at, two beer tasting paddles were ordered. Just the thing for frazzled nerves.

tasting selection

From bottom to top: the autumn porter, the chocolate winter ale, the pilsner, the naked ale and lastly the crushed apple cider. Unavailable on tap, as they were seasonal brews were the spring lager and the summer ale though we did pick up a bottle of the latter upon leaving.

We started with the pilsner, which is closest to their ‘draught’ ale. It is very clean, refreshing and sessionable. Next up the naked ale which I’m a fan of – again, very sessionable, flavoursome and well balanced. This is the kind of beer I’d want to buy a six-pack of if I were going round to visit a good mate.

Third in the sequence is the chocolate winter ale, ooh what scrumminess! Surprisingly bitter, or more so than expected but you can definitely taste the chocolate and its scent permeates the beer to the last drop. Do note that the bitterness is not at all unpleasant. Try this while it’s available, it’s lovely!

bottles on the windowsill

Our waitress informed us that this year’s version of the autumn porter was nicer than previous year’s. It was roasty, with burnt coffee notes, a smooth mouthfeel though quite carbonated. Perhaps a tad too thin for a porter? Personal preference, but I would have preferred perhaps less of the burnt notes.

Ah but what of the cider? Coldstream’s cider is made of red apples and no concentrate though the odd green apple sneaks in, cheeky whatsit. The one on tap was the crushed apple cider at 5% ABV (not to be confused with their regular cider) and it was gorgeously clean and clear, bubbly, not too dry or too sweet which made it freaking fantastic.

Now, onto the food. There’s an excellent selection of food but judging from the price of the mains ($25-35), massive. I wasn’t particularly hungry when we arrived so I opted for the caramelised onion, goat cheese and spinach tart with walnut, roquette and pomegranate molasses.

walnut and cheese tart

It was going to be obvious that I’d wallop said entrée above so to bulk that up a bit, I got a side of simple steamed vegetables. It did the trick, providing a substantial meal.

steamed vegetables

Tristan made his life nice and easy and opted for the ol’ faithful parma.

chicken parmigiana

Our Coldstream adventures didn’t end there – we ended up taking home a 750mL bottle of the summer ale (seasonal release), a regular stubby of the original cider (for ‘research’!) which stands at 7% ABV and seems more tart. You can definitely taste the alcoholic content in it and perhaps though I confess I’m sensitive to it, more of that cider sulphurousness was evident and so I prefer the crushed apple cider. We also bought a six-pack of the porter regular which went down a treat. Again, I liked this more than the autumn porter because I felt it had a thicker mouthfeel and just more depth of flavour.

Erm, I may not have any notes on the summer ale, but it was shared liberally between three of us and went down a treat during a True Blood watching marathon. ‘Nuff said.

Coldstream Brewery on Urbanspoon

Good Beer Week: when our sheepish friends came to visit

Full to the brim with good cheer, great beer and even better company (though sad at missing Yeastie Boy Stu’s breakdancing in quail blue trousers), it was time to jet off to the Kiwi SpecTAPular at the Local Taphouse.

SpecTAPulars normally mean there are twenty special beers on tap, a bell is rung once a keg is drained and there is an opportunity to taste all the beers on offer in paddles of five. Me, Tiff (fellow #beergirlrager), Tristan and bestie K had decided on our gameplan very early – we’d all buy paddles of all twenty beers and each have a sip of every beer.

After being spoilt rotten at the beermen.tv Hair of the Breakfast, it seemed like the logical and responsible thing to do.

If the idea of twenty beers to choose from seems very daunting, fear not! The Local always have a ‘passport’ to make your journey a good one – not only does it have a list of all the beers, but notes and general advice on beer tasting.

Kiwi SpecTAPular passport to goodness

Steve, the owner of The Local Taphouse, and I directly quote, was very heartened by the success of the day:

Of the 20 or so SpecTAPulars we’ve held across both Taphouses, there have been some big ones but the Kiwi SpecTAPular was the biggest yet in both venues.

Quite an achievement! I remember the last one I was able to attend, the Aussie SpecTAPular had punters lining up at the doors pre-hour of establishment’s open.

But onto the beers, eh? I suspect I might’ve had palate fatigue but my personal highlights were the second half of the beer listed in the passport – from Yeastie Boys’ Rex Attitude (which you guys already know I love from previous post at the breakfast) onwards.

There were oddities, like my palate preferring Renaissance Stonecutter in the bottle over it in the keg?! Sacrilege, I know. 8 Wired’s Hopwired couldn’t displease if it wore its dirtiest underwear – that was fab.

The Three Boys Oyster Stout and Mike’s Imperial Porter absolutely hit the spot for the weather (though it was nice and toasty inside the Local given the amount of punters).

One of the earlier beers sampled that I liked though advertised as hoppy, I preferred its maltier characteristics – the Moa Five Hop. Again, could be my palate crack talking.

Every one of these SpecTAPulars is an absolute treat to attend. The staff do a phenomenal job, the patrons are always so polite and you end up exchanging tasting notes with absolute strangers and on top of that, it’s a great way to sample beer from a specialised place – in this case New Zealand.

I didn’t see him at the Local in costume but co-owner Steve got into the sheepish spirit of things too.

Till next SpecTAPular…see you at the next one?

The Local Taphouse on Urbanspoon

Lad(ies) Love LL Cool Lambics

Some of the best classical music composers reuse their best material and not often due to lack of originality. Have you heard how repetitive works like Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ or Allegri’s ‘Miserere’ is?

And so I repeat a claim previously made, not due to any inkling of genius but because that is what this poetaster does best, and that is to recycle. Lambics taste like ladies. Some lambics/ladies taste better than others. Imagine my horror when my father, knowing I was excited to be back in the beery-foodie game said that I could bring back any beery leftovers to share. Shudder. No Dad, you can’t have my ladies and also, lambics are an acquired taste. Dad’s not a big beer drinker at all (he prefers wine) so my concern wasn’t prompted by snobbery but by my own first experience with sour beers.

Brouwerij Boon crate! thanks to Ben at Local Taphouse :)

Both Professor Pilsner and humble Ale Star Tsar Shandy still remember the scrunched-up face of distaste that was lambic virginal Gem. I said to Tris prior to this session that tasting lambics for the first time felt like someone forcibly holding me down and squeezing an entire lemon’s contents into my mouth, wrenched open.

Initially, it was not an experience I was particularly keen on replicating. It should be embarrassing (and they tease me mercilessly about it) but looking back, I’m actually pretty proud of how far my palate has come. Me and lambics are now truly friends. To continue with the overtly sexual conceit (fuck yeah lit nerdery), I can now hide my rude robbed-of-virginity face, though now everyone knows what my (beery…) orgasm face looks like.

Most of the folks at this evening were pretty well informed about sour beers, so this did allow Shandy to get into some more beer-nerd-tech aspects of lambic and its genesis. They are old, and according to our excruciating trivia questions, ‘lambic’ derives from Lembeek, assumed to have given this beer style its name. It also apparently means ‘lime creek’. It would have made my day if it actually meant ‘lemon’ creek given my predilection for the ladies (I can’t believe no one remembers this as slang for lesbian in primary school: showing my age, you say?).

First up, and probably my favourite of the evening was the Cantillon Bruocsella Grand Cru, brewed in Nov 2005 and bottled in Nov 2008 — because I know some of the more…pedantic among us were concerned.

Cantillon Bruocsella Grand Cru

My photographer was off-duty (read: a disorganised whatsit) so I had to resort to the Smartphone of Evil™ for my photos. The light wasn’t great so yes, the using of flash sin was committed this evening, and committed often. However, I had previously enjoyed this beer so have a better photo of it on my Flickr account.

Revisiting this lambic was a remarkably different experience to my first trial of it at the Slowbeer Cantillon showcase: it was smooth, not at all that sour and wine-like, which was actually one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. The beer was kept in a sherry cask hence its less blonde colour and its vinous aromatics. Virtually no carbonation and no head.

For our second beer, we had the privilege of Scott, the main brewer of Bright Brewery introduce his ‘Pinky Framboise’. My beer briefing sheet is absolutely covered in notes about this beer: it’s made with raspberries from a farm local to the brewery and they’d experimented with making a similar one based on wild blackberries! Mmm, wild blackberries…takes me back to visiting my lovely uncle who lived in Hertfordshire and used to let us pick blackberries from his garden to eat. Ah British childhood memories!

Argh, the beer! It wasn’t that tart, with a hint of bitterness that I did not initially attribute to hops, but the hop bitterness become more evident when the beer warmed. The beer was made when raspberries were in season and the one we had on the evening was, by the brewer’s admission, still a little young. Gorgeously fragrant in the best way possible, I think this is a beer to ride cider’s coattails. I really wish it had’ve been the sour beer to break my sour beer virginity.

Scott of Bright Brewery introducing Pinky Framboise

Shandy gracefully stepping out of the limelight...for once

Back to hearing our fave beery Scot talk, the third beer on our list was Brouwerij Boon’s Oude Gueuze.

(image is not mine and comes from UC Davis ChemWiki site)

I added the above image to illustrate how one measures levels of acidity and alkaline/basic substances. Water (roughly) has a pH of 7.

The Oude Gueuze has a pH of 2. That, my friends, makes it a really fucking sour beer and oh boy was it felt! Easily the beer my palate struggled with the most. It was pretty ‘rude’ on the nose and extremely lively on the palate. Ale Stars folks had some great tasting notes for this one: dry concrete, wet cardboard (oxidation), pineapple, sherbet. Beautiful, cream-foam head. Apparently aged in two hundred year old wine barrels (and these dudes have making it since the sixteenth century). Reprazent.

Lastly, a nice bookend to my personal lambic journey — started with a Cantillon I’d had before and ended with another: the Iris. Again, before the sour beer pedants get up in my grill, first things first: Iris’ maturation year is 2007 and any matured in 2007 were bottled in 2009. It’s one of the few unblended lambics that uses fresh hops. Funny that this seemed such shock to the tastebuds (again, at Slowbeer’s Cantillon showcase) but seemed quite, well, natural at this stage. It has a white foamy cottonwool-like head, a very carbonated mouthfeel, with antiseptic and metallic notes – none of those notes being unpleasant. A tad bitter initially not seeming to be hop-driven, but like the Pinky Framboise, once it warms up the bitterness is more evidently hop-related. Still, it’s mouth-puckering but a solid, smooth flavoured sour beer.

Cantillon Iris

Though there are about one hundred different bacteria to be found in lambics, the three main suspects for making lambics the special whatsits that they are are Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus and acetic acid bacteria. Erm, don’t read the lacto’s Wiki page too thoroughly…it’s present in some rather yonic places, it would appear. So yes, ‘bad’ bacteria can yield some good things. Unrelated to beer, I learnt just before going to this Ale Stars that sometimes really, really bad bacteria can save lives. In other cases, it can cause mirth within the Australian craft beer community, particularly when an uninvited bacterium gatecrashes. I’m sure Corey Worthington wouldn’t have minded…

Incidentally, even repetitive music when performed consummately is still hair-on-back-of-neck amazing. The same goes with beer, and these beers too. While I’ve had the pleasure of having had both the Cantillons offered at this night before, repeat performances remind you why you fell in love with them in the first place, or give you a chance to have them grow on you. The lambic love groweth and this was reflected by fellow Ale Star members, though given the aceness of Ale Stars in general (no, not myself, I’m a miscreant lapsed member now), it’s not a jot surprising.

The Local Taphouse on Urbanspoon