Friday, November 30, 2012

Find me at

I heard that it's totes vibin' over at WordPress, so I'm joining the cool kids where it's all at...or something like that. (Actually, I just prefer the authoring/editing backend that WordPress offers...)

Thank you to all who have followed this little lowly blog about beer and those bars and bands that help make beer extra good. But DON'T GO...just update your links!

I have now moved this blog over to the new site at:

Find me there and read my latest post about Stone & Wood Garden Ale!


Photo of blogger James drinking a Mountain Goat Triple Hightail at the brewery

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Perfect Beer World (The Session no.69)

The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community, started by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer. On the first Friday of each month, all participating bloggers write about a predetermined topic. Each month a different blog is chosen to host The Session, choose the topic, and post a roundup of all the responses received. For more info on The Session, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin's archive page.

This month's Session is hosted by Jorge Zarate of the blog Brew Beer And Drink It. His chosen topic: The Perfect Beer World.

"What is something you would like to see change...something that will take us closer to the Perfect Beer World? The topic is wide open, even if you think that what you want to change for the better is not important or ridiculous...share it! I have personally been looking into gruit ales, few beer drinkers pay attention to gruit or even 'real ales' and would love to see more micro-breweries include these on their menus..."

A great topic from Jorge for this month's Session, because it reflects one of the most common conversations that rises when craft beer lovers/nerds/snobs/drinkers gather. The context, tone and depth of discussion on this topic varies greatly, but it always comes back to the simple reality of how we all just want to have good more beer. To have good beer, however, we need a world that appreciates beer and world where good beer is readily accessible.

If beer is truly appreciated for its science and art, then beer will be crafted, brewed, packaged, transported/stored, sold and served correctly and respectfully, resulting in a perfectly poured and appropriate consumed refreshment or meal in a glass. Furthermore, that beer will have been created for the purpose of brewing good beer, instead of any market or business considerations.

Achieving such complete perfection, across the full life-cycle of beer, may essentially be impossible in today's capitalist and global economy.

Controlling every aspect of beer from grain to glass in beyond reasonable because it passes through far too many hands in the vast majority of cases. Whilst I'm fast learning the advantage of enjoying beer brewed locally and on a small scale, which mostly allows for much of the beer's life-cycle to stay somewhere in the vicinity of perfection, I am more of a mundane realist when it comes to what I can have.

What I can have, I believe, is the perfection of accessibility to good beer.

What we currently have here in Australia at the moment is very limited access (relatively) to craft beer and good beer. Bottleshops, pubs, bars, venues and restaurants and still dominated by a sad selection of samey, not-good beer. Taps, fridges and shelves remain overwhelmed by generic, bland, mass produced, adjunct-filled lagers that are industrially brewed with altered/extract base ingredients. The vast majority of time we are still faced a boring "choice" of macro-swill/shit beer/cat piss/may as well be water, even in this age of thriving craft and diverse beer of flavour.

Today, the majority of pubs I walk into still have a line up of beer taps that are 80-90 per cent generic lagers. The beers may have different brand names but they are all the same style and their appearance varies only in the slightest. Even worse, the selection is exactly the same all year round. Lager is fine in the heat of Summer, yet even in the stout and porter appropriate weather of Winter it is still all lager, lager, lager. The biggest selling point of "differentiation" tends to be Imported/Premium/Local beer. Blerg. It's still the same beer!

The common beer choice in this imperfect beer world...lager, lager, lager, (cider), lager...

The same continues in almost every bar, restaurant and bottleshop. It may be slowly changing, with craft beer growing along with some recognition for the available diversity of beer styles, but we are a very long way off perfection.

I drive 45km to and from work. On that drive I do not pass a bar, pub or bottleshop where I can get good beer. Melbourne may have a many great beer venues, small breweries and specialist beer shops, but they are still few and far between. Those hints of a future preferction are mostly "craft beer venues" and are currently the exception. On my hour long drive home from work I pass numerous pubs and hotels, none of which provide any options for a thirsty guy to choose from a selection delicious local ales.

In the perfect beer world I will be able to walk into any place that serves/sells beer and find a diverse selection of beers, diverse in style, maker and character. I'll be able to purchase a flavoursome and well crafted beer that suits the time, place and weather...anywhere!

The right beer in the right place at the right time...that beer world will be perfect.

A regional Queensland pub takes their first steps to a perfect beer world.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A quick Beer Bar Band Halloween

What? Halloween? What's that?

Yes, it's mostly a foreign concept here in Australia...but it's also an excuse to theme another day full of beers, bars and bands. And we can now, because Pumpkin beers are now available in Australia! (Read Jenn's blog post for more on that: Boo! Spooky Pumpkin Ale Scones)

So here is a beer, a bar and some bands with a Halloween feel for this dark night of pumpkins and lost souls...

BEER - All Hallowed Ale by HopDog BeerWorks

Recently arrived on the shelves of Melbourne's craft beer retail, HopDog BeerWorks is producing some very tasty hybrid style beers with a twist that celebrate the craft of beer. Craft beer!

All Hallowed Ale is a Belgian Pumpkin Ale brewed with roasted pumpkin, specialty sugars and spices. It pours a golden-amber, providing a pumpkin appearance. The Belgian yeast dominates the aroma and flavour, but the pumpkin is also clearly there on the aroma. The pumpkin is a bit lost in the mouth though, as the Belgianness of cloves and a little banana plus bitterness take over. Good softer hits of spices and sweetness....but not enough pumpkin for me. I did not pick the 7.3% abv because it is very easy drinking.

My experience with pumpkin beers is very limited so far. Unfortunately the best one I have tasted is still about two weeks away from being available in bottles - the very pumpkin Artisan Pouseure spiced pumpkin ale from Moon Dog Brewing. We tasted this year's batch at last week's Fed Square Microbreweries Showcase and it was just exactly what we want from a pumpkin beer.

BAND - Aussie Halloween-ish songs

When I look for some spooky rockin' locals on my playlist...well, it's a bit of a stretch. Nonetheless, I head straight for a bite of girl punk from the last decade. Maybe more fluffy than dark, but all good grisly fun...have a listen...

Zombie Girl by The Spazzys

Dating The Undead by Sin City

There's plenty of appropriate songs from the locals guys Deadman by Expatriate and Dead Dog Standing by Ratcat, plus plenty of tracks from Grinspoon. Of course there is also plenty of Halloween style fuzz from the Aussie metal scene...but my own playlist lacks the short-fast-loud at the moment (and this post has been too hastily last-minute to mine that rich well).

BAR - The Tote Hotel, Collingwood.

The bar that died then returned to life!

At age 30, The Tote was shut down under the weight of bad government policy for live music venues. It was revived by several spirits who care deeply for the culture and sound of Melbourne's music. Read the story on Wikipedia or buy and watch the brilliant documentary, Persecution Blues: The Battle For The Tote.

Dark, hard rocking, sticky carpet (less sticky now though...since the original bandroom carpet was torn up at time of Tote death). Many Halloween appropriate bands have blown through the speakers of The Tote bandroom, Cobra room and front bar. An icon of Melbourne's live music scene and culture. Often scary...but thankfully there is Mountain Goat beer in the fridges. Rock on...forever.

Long live The Tote.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Beer - Brown Ale Day Beer Review: Big Brown Beaver

Today we have enjoyed many local brown ales for Brown Ale Day. It has been excellent drinking, proving the versatile variety of good brown ales from modern craft brewers. We have had typical Melbourne weather, four seasons in one day - sunny, warm, windy, cloudy, wet, cold, and more sun - and the brown ales have suited each weather situation so well. The brown ales have also matched beautifully with today's lunch, dinner and snacks. Brown ale win!

One of the best brown ales that I've tasted this year was the Big Brown Beaver from The Wig & Pen.

Richard Watkins, the brewer and heart & soul of Canberra's Wig & Pen, is a master brewer of the highest order. He is revered among the brewing community, an expert in science of cask conditioned real ales and the art of the Randall hop infuser.

We visited the Wig & Pen brewpub in April this year, on an Easter road-trip planned for for the specific purpose of drinking a Saturday night away at Wig & Pen. It was a brilliant night indeed. We were joined by Ian Morgan, the senior brewer from Holgate Brewhouse, and his brother-in-law, along with the best tasting paddle in Australia...

Now...tha'ts a generous tasting paddle of quality beer!

That night the Wig & Pen was also pouring a brown ale named Big Brown Beaver (Richard loves cheeky names for his beers!) through the NZ Hallertau hop filled Randall.

The brewer's tasting notes say of this 5.9% unfiltered brown ale: "Big Brown Beaver is a malt driven brown ale for the hop lover. Beaver has a strong malt flavour and leaves a satisfying bitterness on the back of the palate. As it is dry hopped through 'modus hoperandus' it has different aroma each week depending on the wims of the brewer, which creates an evolving and easily savourable ale."

It was a delightful drinking experience - full, balanced, long and complex. Caramel sweetness to start then a long hoppy finish of bitterness. This was one of those beers that could turn a non brown ale lover into a true brown ale believer!

When it comes to crafting beer, Richard Watkins is conventional yet punk. Brilliant browness.