Tag Archives: Brendan Varis

Good Beer Week: do some chewin’ while you talk to those that do the brewin’

Think speed dating, but you all stay in your seats and when the bell is rung, a fairly prominent brewer(ish type) has to get up and move on along to the next table.

That is the concept behind The Local Taphouse’s ‘Brewers and Chewers’ event. Not that I know anything about speed dating, but one of my lovely table companions TJ was keen to clue us all in. Basically, we had a sit-down dinner and then a bell was rung and one of seven beery folks had a cloche brought to them and their plate, and they were whisked away.

As usual, the lucky punters had Prof Pilsner from Beer Blokes to assist with MC duties. Here he is introducing a very affable Soren of 8 Wired Brewing to the crowd.

This is going to be a difficult post to rein so bear with me: let’s start with the brewers and if applicable, their beers imbibed. The non-brewy folks had their own spot to sit in and stayed in said spot for duration of the evening. Downstairs of our beloved Local was cleared of its usual suspects (ie. the comfy green couch which eats my fat arse every time I sit in it) and it was converted into a rather swanky dinner hall for the evening. Little did I know that I had the great fortune to be seated next to Richard Watkins, head brewer of the Wig & Pen in Canberra.

Lovely, soft-spoken fellow, shown here listening to a question from a fellow diner. Coincidentally, Tris and I had started with an unstyled wild bacteria and yeasty number that was on its way to becoming a lambic but not quite (his words, not mine!) that is then aged for a year. This beery complement to our esteemed guest was called Bob’s Armpit, at 7% ABV. Incidentally, knock Canberra all you like (goodness knows our MC did!), the weather there is actually very stable and predictable and thus quite good for brewing. I cannot comment on its denizens, never having been…

Though many of you know the Wig & Pen has changed owners, Richard said he’ll still have a fair bit of involvement with the brewpub and definitely with beer. Phew.

Next up was our lovely launchess of the Barley’s Angels Melbourne chapter, the Beer Diva Kirrily Waldhorn. I didn’t get to chat to her much, but just enough to gush to her about her being the one starting me off on my beer-and-food journey. Sam from True South and Karen of Red Hill were also chatting to her at the other end of our table.

Third brewy suspect was Brad Rogers of Stone and Wood, wearing their eponymous “water hops malt & yeast” T-shirt (want!). Stone and Wood is up in Byron Bay, is about five acres and Brad said they like to keep it simple. His beery insight was that Galaxy hops can be variable whatsits. Given last event’s and post’s personal insult hurled at this here writer, I can assure you, this is the last time my ugly mug will ever appear in a blog post. I’m only sorry the beer being imbibed was not Brad’s (confession: it was most likely Sierra Nevada’s Kellerweis).

That damn bell, you keep ringing and robbing us of beery folks! Our fourth brewy person in the hotseat was the ever charming Soren Eriksen of 8 Wired Brewing from New Zealand, pictured at the beginning of the post. He divulged that due to shipping and lower excise costs within Australia, the brewery is selling almost more beer in Australia than in their home country! Happy to keep on appreciating, Soren!

It was Brendan Varis of Feral Brewing in Western Australia that got me writing down furiously – he’s been a great inspiration to a lot of Australian brewers and beer drinkers. Karen of Red Hill Brewery (yes, she owns a brewery, she is not a brewer, I’d best specify that) happily sited him in front of our table as what got them started. Brendan was insanely generous with his take on brewing: he said he loves Chinook as his ‘go to’ hop but that the 2011 Australian one wasn’t as fantastic as previous incarnations and that it took ten tanks (or twenty brews!) to actually discover this. He also showed fondness for Columbus and Horizon but was getting all cosy of late with the Sorachi and its lemony goodness but it was his discussion of terroir and whether or not it exists for beer that was truly scintillating. Is this something beer industry folks will be talking more about down the track…?

Though I’d got to listen to James Watt twice before the dinner, I still cannot fucking believe he sat next to me and talked to me personally for the next brewer stint. Oh. My. God. He apologised for coming off as condescending at Ale Stars and seemed to be operating on a cyborg-like amount of sleep since he’d arrived in Australia but look: speaking with him at the dinner is easily going to be the highlight of the week for me. James gave me four minutes to take a sip of his own glass of Hardcore IPA and come up with a poem for him. I did feel like we bonded because and pardon this profanity but I did refer to that fundamentalist organisation as ‘cunts’, or rather how they treated him (yes yes, I realise, not doing my fellow wymmins favours by using the word in a pejorative sense, but as a quick aside, in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, it’s slang for the female nether regions and not considered rude. So there).

Did he like it? As a poetaster, I’ll never really know but he took a photo and I caned it out in less than four minutes. If I’m lucky, it may end up on a beer bottle but these brewing rockstars, bet they say that to every sassy brunette they meet in a foreign town (I wish I’d suggested to James that Sassy Brunette might actually be an excellent name for a future BrewDog brew…).

So could the highs that punky James provided be topped? Last brewy-type Steve Grossman opening with an anecdote about how Sierra Nevada gave the film Get Him To The Greek an ample supply of their beer was a great conversation starter. When I watched it with Tristan, we’d spotted the bottles (and I laughed so much during the film I couldn’t sleep for its sheer hilarity) with much glee. Great to see that the thirty-one-year-old craft brewery got their product on a film rather than *insert your chosen commercial swill’s name here*


This post is a bit longer than intended so will publish a hopefully shorter post next up about the drinky-chewy aspect of the evening, which really does deserve only the brand of long-winded critique I can give it *wink*.

The Local Taphouse on Urbanspoon

not all feral creatures are bad


Due to the Australian International Beer Awards being on in Melbourne, the Local Taphouse managed to wrangle a super-special guest from WA for a super-special Ale Stars session. Brendan Varis, the head brewer of Feral Brewing Company based in Western Australia came to chat about his beer. As a result of his presence and focussing on the beer his brewery makes, the Local Taphouse was packed. Brendan was great to listen to – warm, engaging and clearly enthusiastic about what he does. It was interesting to learn that he speaks of Feral Brewing as a brew pub, that is they brew beer for their establishment primarily. Does that mean us outsiders get the ‘offcuts’? As if! In fact, Ale Stars got a special beer brewed – just for us.

In the month prior to this session, I got presented with my Ale Stars tankard and it was christened on this evening – with Bridge Road’s robust porter. If you look carefully, you can see my name on my tankard. Yes yes, small things… etc. I was a little impatient and should have let it warm a little to better taste the flavours. As you can see from my glass, I wasn’t exactly having trouble finishing it.


Onto the Ferals. The very first beer of the evening was the iWit 2.0 (props for the playful name) – an imperial witbier with pepper and ginger notes at 7.5% ABV. It is very sweet, uses the same yeast as Hoegaarden, more grain and a stronger wort and five times as much coriander and orange peel (these latter two are characteristic in witbier). Brendan said it’s their flagship beer – the customers love it and it pulls the awards. I’ve said it many times before – this style doesn’t have me leaping for joy, but this is very drinkable. I would absolutely order it again.

 ale stars

The second beer was the Dark Funk at 4.7% ABV. Bacteria is introduced (this is not a traditional technique in beermaking) to yeast to make it sour. It’s very much like a Belgian kriek but without the sweetness. The beer is housed in an oak barrel that previously housed white wine (chardonnay) and lactobacillus. The oak has a lovely aromatic of vanilla in it. This beer can take one to two years to be ready though it only spends ten months in the barrel. The barrels are sourced from the local winemakers, of which there are plenty in the region. Brendan stated that normally vintners are quite reluctant to acknowledge wild and/or wine yeasts. This was probably my least favourite of the Ferals tried this evening. My admitting that is probably going to get me booted out of the beer Stonecutters’ club for not being beer nerdy enough.

 ale stars

Brewed especially for us, the third offering was the Belgian IPA. It was suggested that the horde of beer-crazed Ale Stars come up with a good name. Beer Blokes’ Pete came up with the winning name – the Raging Flem. Building on his name and the fact that Mum had bronchitis at the time, I liked ‘Bronchitic Phlegm’ but yeah, that’s kind of gross on retrospection. Brendan describes this as strong, estery and phenolic. It is supposed to be cloudy at the beginning and is dry hopped. Purely American hops are used for this (I assume it’s called a Belgian IPA because it’s Belgian in style? you tell me and I’ll buy you a drink, haha). It’s supposed to get nice and clear in two weeks, as well as malty, yum. I found this hoppy yet sweet. It’s quite strong at 7.2% ABV. It was my favourite until…

 ale stars

…presented with the last offering for the evening – the Hop Hog, a high strength IPA and thus very hoppy. This is a very American influenced IPA. I have to say that at this point I’m having a lot of trouble deciphering my furiously scribbled notes but it looks like this is modelled on the East Coast IPA which has a strong malt presence (translation: it comes off as sweet and also bitter). This sort of beer, we were told, is best fresh, dry hopped and 5.8% ABV. I loved this because it reminded me of my beloved Fantapants, another Feral brew. I can’t really choose a fave between the Hop Hog and the Raging Flem – loved them both. I guess I could be cheeky and go for the one with the higher ABV… anyway, notes one can supposedly detect are pine needle, citrus and passionfruit. I was pretty chuffed because I could smell the passionfruit first off. Yeah, I still get really excited when I detect notes – scent-wise and taste-wise. I am lost without Shandy’s notes!

 ale stars

Are you bored yet? Sorry, I have to jot this stuff down for my personal learning and beery journey. However, you can also read Prof Pilsner’s report here as well as the Local Taphouse’s. I’ll try to get Ale Stars reports up closer to just after the event from now on, promise!