Tag Archives: James Watt

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*

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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*.

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Good Beer Week: roadkill, lesbians and getting intimate with your beer and BrewDogger

I very literally renewed my membership (read: figuratively pulled money out of my nether regions) to Ale Stars for this session – for Good Beer Week, The Local Taphouse brought the one Beer Draw Card To Rule Them All: James Watt from BrewDog, a Scottish brewery that you’ve probably heard of in regards to their high alcohol content ales at the least even if you’re not of a beery persuasion.

Interestingly enough, I don’t remember it being packed to the gills and it being all-out chaos like when Feral’s head brewer Brendan Varis came down though don’t get me wrong – getting an actual seat was serious ‘gig’ strategising (ie. mad dash to a nook with a clear view). You know how these punk/Ke$ha gigs gets. At least, I only needed to listen, Tristan is the one who gets to take the pretty pictures and needs the good view. Ooh-er, maybe we’re at a classical gig then, eh?

James is very upfront about the fact that BrewDog is ‘beer for punks’. Him and Martin, the fellow with whom he started BrewDog in 2007 were homebrewing for four years and with a stroke of luck (and perhaps reputation), Michael Jackson sampled their wares and said, right boys, quit your jobs and start doing this for a living. They approached banks (though James tells that much better than I could ever put it into words), got secondhand equipment and whee, Operation Small Brewery is GO.

I will presume for a moment that most craft beer drinkers will be aware that at present the going is good in terms of education and general palate adventurousness, this is fairly recent. Traditional media is only just starting to feature beer as a topic of epicurean delight (ABWG pres James Smith could confirm this for you as some of his reportage is gaining more prominence), and this is understandable. As with all smaller things, the fanbase can be small and dedicated but how does that translate into, well, profitability? Stupid capitalism and having to eat.

So of course, when BrewDog began, times were Dickensian: it was difficult to get folks to try something that wasn’t made by a larger commercial company and thus, suitably punk, one can imagine having to eat cat food to get by, perhaps literally: in James’ case, taking up stints on a fish trawler.

Before we get onto the beer, some other interesting tidbits: James was initially attracted to craft beer after tasting Cantillon as well as trying the iconic Sierra Nevada pale ale. He also seems to think that the Germans are ‘pesky sausage munchers’ – don’t mention the war, eh?

First beer – the Punk IPA a ‘Post Modern Classic Pale Ale’, accounts for 50% of BrewDog’s sales, the first beer they ever made and is I believe PUNK TO THE CORE. Boiled for ninety minutes, hops are added at the start and end and then post-fermentation. To evil indeed! Don’t toast too loudly lest Mephistopheles hear you.

Before drinking (read: excitedly chugging, whoops) our beers, James asked us to treat our beers with more reverence and give it the greeting ritual a person deserves:

“Hello?” *sniffs* (Nelson Sauvin hops)

“How are you?” *sniffs, swirls* (good, but in want of spicy food, please)

I shan’t bore with the details, but I’ve enjoyed this brew (responsibly, oddly enough) more times than I can remember. Dare say, such times will indeed continue.

The second beer I believe I’ve had the pleasure of having on tap – either at Biero or a growler fill at Slowbeer: the Hardcore IPA, their ‘Explicit Imperial Ale’. This has more malt, hops, bitterness and grunt than the Punk (I’d go Hardcore over Punk anyday).

“Hello?” *sniffs* (Columbus, Centennial, Simcoe)

“How are you?” *sniffs, swirls* (again, I want spicy food please!)

Warm up your beers before tasting them, and to James’ exacting instructions, we did a fair bit of sniffing before taking the initial sip. He was fairly reluctant to admit which of his beery babies he preferred, but he did admit that the Hardcore was the one he drunk most of.

Normally, one would think the third beer reserved for the end of the night, but given these lads are uncharacteristic, we were hit with the Paradox Isle of Arran, a whisky cask aged imperial stout. Not quite as alcoholic as Tokyo, but getting there as a beer you’d share with a (lesbian) mate.

“Hello?” *sniffs* (Gallina appley, peary hoppiness)

“How are you?” *sniffs, swirls* (good, but hand over the 88% Venezuelan cacao, thanks. It’s nightcap time)

This was the beer that beery Jacko had that means we now get to drink BrewDog. Again, having had it before, was surprised that it was drier than when last sampled (at a previous Ale Star session no less). The casks are used to either age Islay or Speyside – am verging on slight preference for Islay due to the peatiness). Incidentally, our dear Shandy has spent a fair bit of time on the Isle of Arran which he says is ‘little Scotland’. Paradox is aged for twelve months in its casks and 10% of the brew is lost to what is apparently called the ‘angel share’.

I rather like that idea, despite my atheism. Just don’t tell Hitchens and we’re all good.

We finished on a red note, are these BrewDog lads trying to tell us they’re rampant commies? Most likely not: one of James’ killer anecdotes related to us how having to answer a questionnaire for a competition regarding the social and ethical responsibilities of the company being “I’m not fucking Mother Teresa” left them banned from some commercial trade European competitions. Oh yes, the beer: we finished with the 5AM Saint, their ‘Iconoclastic Amber Ale’. Unorthodox? Oh yes – though James said their modus operandi is to “offend, upset, alienate”. Another one of their quotes I suspect was Doctor Who-inspired: “the UK beer scene is sick, it needs a fucking doctor”.

The 5AM Saint, is doctorly in that it heals the palate after the ‘beating’ it just took (in the nicest way possible) from the Hardcore and the Paradox at a matronly 25 IBU. So not at all a good deal of bitterness and a fair whack of malt. It’s a great session beer, again, another I’ve drunk a fair bit of.

Of course things weren’t going to end there. Surprise! The IPA is Dead! Long live the IPA! Well, not quite but as a bonus, four new IPA Is Dead beers were handed out to all and sundry (one of which is on tap at the Taphouse, so get thee there to try it!). We got the Nelson Sauvin single hop IPA.

I think the gig punters rather enjoyed themselves, what say you? Having a BrewDog founder down was a bit like seeing a rockstar except I shan’t forget that he skilfully avoided the dog turd, um questions I had for him (and we were allowed general questions) about where the roadkill for the End of History was actually sourced and how he felt about bisexuals (I meant bisexual girls, but I figure given the lesbian pr0n they admitted to ‘viewing’ bi girls are cool).

Well, Radiohead are telling me in ‘Down Is The New Up’ to get myself a (non-alcoholic) drink, so I think I’ll take that advice, and then queue up my fave post-punk band The Fall. Mark E Smith, you’re old, but I’d still throw my panties at you and am sad I didn’t get to when you were last gigging in Melbourne-town.

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