Tag Archives: Australian beer

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!

beer, breakfast, and three men drinking better beer

Beer Expo posters

(picture is of some promotional posters snapped at previous evening’s beer showcase as part of AIBA)

Beer and breakfast.

No, it does not sound like a marriage made in heaven.

However, I’m not a stranger to having beer in early part of the day. When I used to live in North Melbourne, I lived with an excellent homebrewer who had kegs and taps and everything. I was living the drunkard poetaster dream. One morning (8am or so), two of us woke up to discover that due to roadworks in the area we had no water.

We got water back at 3pm. Shall I let you connect the dots?

So no stranger to beer and breakfast, I went along to the ‘Hair of the Dog’ Breakfast at Beer Deluxe hosted by beermen.tv. I’m an avid hater of long, talky podcasts (though beermen.tv are really a ‘vodcast’ – that term doesn’t have much popularity though) but indebted to Todd of beermen.tv for kindly e-mailing some beer tasting notes my way (the term ‘mouthfeel’ is actually starting to creep in to my beer vocabulary and it feels goooood).

Being a little late, we were rushed through the door and sat down – it was a full house. Upon arrival, a glass of Mountain Goat’s organic steam ale, a beer I’ve enjoyed plenty of. Argue with me if you like, but this beer tastes markedly different on tap to what it’s like from the bottle and I prefer the latter. Don’t stone me yet though. Better yet, go and buy a 6-pack of it to drink, and then pay the Mountain Goat brewery in Richmond a visit and compare.

First course was already up as we rushed to our seats. Everything was too fast and furious for me to take notes on the dishes, so I’ve cheated and pinched a bit of info off James’ blog post whose blog you should all be reading anyway. I feel pretty guilty about this, so James, if you’re reading, I owe you a drink…or three *wink*.

Behold, crepes stuffed with ricotta, mandarin and sultanas. Scoffing these down was easy as piss. I haven’t had stuffed crepes for ages.

crepes stuffed with mandarin, ricotta and sultanas

This was matched with the Razor witbier by Bright Brewery. Like James, I too do not jump for joy for at witbiers but they’re a damn fine start for breakfast. Would definitely buy a 6-pack for some good old session beer drinking.

Bright Razor witbier

The second course was a slice of Spanish omelette with leek and prosciutto. I found this a bit dry and oily. Of course, that didn’t stop me from demolishing it.

Spanish omelette with leek and prosciutto

It was matched with Murray’s Whale Ale. There were jokes from beermen.tv fellow Mark that they chose this for its cute label, giggle. This is an American-style wheat beer, but it doesn’t have the characteristics of a traditional wheat beer that put me off. Quite a refreshing drop, and I would drink it again.

Murray's whale ale

For the third course of toasted rye bread topped with bratwurst and fruit chutney, we were given two beers in accompaniment. Pictured below with the course was Red Hill’s wheat beer (largely responsible for my palate deciding to give wheat beers another go). Apologies for the blurriness – the staff at Beer Deluxe were fantastically efficient! The second beer was Bridge Road’s Hans Klopek Hefeweizen. I wasn’t a big fan of the Bridge Road hefe the first time I tried it at a bar (at night, even). It seemed much nicer with food. My favourite breakfast beer and food match was this course and the Red Hill wheat beer, the beer being one of my least favourite beers from Red Hill Brewery, incidentally.

Red Hill wheat beer

Bridge Road Hans Kloper hefeweisen

Lost count of the courses and beers yet? We had started with beers with an ABV of 4.5% and slowly moving up the scale to 5% and this was in the space of about, ooh, thirty minutes? Work, kidneys and liver, work damn you!

I somehow managed to not get a snap of our fifth beer – Stone and Wood’s Stone Beer. I’d tried this the night before at the AIBA beer tasting in the Atrium, Fed Square and not liked it much. On this occasion, it was so much better. The fourth course nosh was baked lima beans with tomato and caramelised onion. The servings of this were huge and enough for me to get seconds! I looooove beans and seems like not everyone on my table shared this love. Oh well, more for me!

baked lima beans with tomato and caramelised onion

Two beers to go with the last two courses which were desserty – first the Sable Breton, my favourite course. These were just scrumptious! I found that the Holgate chocolate Temptress (a beer I could jolly well marry) went better with this than with the last course of Belgian waffles drowned in chocolate sauce. The richness of the Holgate and the fig were heavenly. Technically, however, it was the White Rabbit dark ale that was served with these pastries. The White Rabbit dark ale is far more sessionable drinking than the Holgate which I love as an after-dinner beer. I’ve knocked down a few pints of the dark ale and have to confess…I’m a little over it – it was my least favourite beer at this event. Good thing White Rabbit have a newly released white ale!

Sable Breton with crème fraiche and a fig molasses

White Rabbit dark ale

Holgate Temptress chocolate porter

Everyone was a bit sozzled and full by the time the Belgian waffles in chocolate sauce came out. I still managed to force one down, hehe.

Belgian waffles with chocolate sauce

A fantastic event. We were amply guided through the beer and food with good humour by our lovely hosts Mark, Damien and Todd and I even got to meet Mark briefly which left me starstruck for the day! I think I would have liked the breakfast to be a bit more leisurely as we really were cramming down the food and beer pretty fast but that’s a minor issue – the staff at Beer Deluxe were flawless and our fellow diners were friendly and keen to share thoughts on the beer. It was twenty (yes, that’s all!) bucks well spent! I understand that the event was possible due to the extreme generosity of all brewers of the beers served and you could do no wrong to go out and get a 6-pack of any of these beers. I even got to chat to Tom from Mountain Goat and met James of Beer Bar Band for the first time – I swear this dude is my beer twin (we seem to love a lot of the same beers and have similar preferences).

So guys, when’s the next one?!

Beer Deluxe on Urbanspoon

a pithy guide to the Australian beer scene in zine form

Stubby Buddy vol. 1

Beer week continues! For your enjoyment today, we have a zine review on beer. It seems there’s a zine dedicated to just about everything!

As is usual whenever I’m browsing the Sticky Institute website, I start off by wanting to order one zine, and then leaving with seven or so in my online shopping cart. I was pretty gleeful when I saw a zine about beer and that it was selling for *one cent*. Mistakenly, I assumed it was going to be pretty bad but hey, who can complain at one cent, really?

Stubby Buddy is excellent, and the people who write it are articulate and clearly know what they’re on about. Their information is current and addresses issues in the beer industry that affect consumers right now. The first piece discusses the phenomenon of ‘low carb’ beer and cider and how commercial breweries are pushing these ‘products’ as the next big thing to snare the punters. Judging by this discussion, the zine was written just before summer 2009 got started.

The meat of the zine is devoted to beer reviews and there are plenty, mainly from various craft brewers around Australia, with a few international beer reviews peppered in between. Both Buzz and Bumble (the nicknames of our humble contributors) rate each beer out of five and state that anything with a three or above is “a fine and decent drop”. They also have a couple of cider reviews – hopefully they’ll have a few more next issue.

After the reviews, a brief history of Australian beer is given. I was quite surprised to learn that “at first beer wasn’t that popular. Rum was the preferred method of getting shitfaced.”, like in the West Indies (my father tells me that there rum is cheaper than beer so everyone drinks rum ‘back home’). This article had me giggling all the way through.

The column ‘Barfly’s Rant’ is spot on. Barfly goes on to list ten drinks that are overrated but are continually ordered by misinformed party animals. There are some pretty dodgy suspects on the list, and one item used to be an old fave of mine *winces*. It’s kind of cool, looking into the mind of a bartender and finding out what their bugbears are. If you ever read the zine and guess what my old fave is, I’ll buy you a beer.

Stubby Buddy can be purchased online or instore at Sticky Institute, city, Melbourne. I purchased volume 2 with this first one and will be keeping an eye out for future volumes as it’s of an excellent standard, and lots of fun. Stay tuned for a review of volume 2.