Saturday, May 29, 2010

Beer - Beer Breakfast & Beer Expo

Last Saturday, 22 May, was choc full of beeriffic beer-tasting-sensation, as I (somewhat foolishly) combined two excellent beer events in one day.

First, I headed to Beer DeLuxe for the BeermenTV "Hair of the Dog" Breakfast.

On arrival at Beer DeLuxe there was short wait outside in the cold, whilst the staff finalised last minute details, but once inside it was comfortably warm and we were severed a full glass of Mountain Goat Steam Ale to start the experience (a fine choice as Beer #1 at 10:00am). The venue was beautifully laid out with a number of massive long bench tables ready to serve 110 people breakfast. The room quickly filled to capacity and all in attendance seemed to be in very good spirits.

Todd, Mark and Damien were excellent hosts, with their light and fun commentaries, they kept the event moving and interesting. A placemat providing descriptions and tasting notes of all 8 beers that would be sampled during the event had been prepared for each patron, along with funky BeermenTV coasters. It was evident that significant effort had been put into this event.

During the introduction by Mark and Todd the food began arriving, along with the bottles of the local craft beers to match. All present had two tasting glasses available and shared a bottle of each of the beers between every three people (which seemed to end up closer to 1 bottle between every 1.5 people).

The Breakfast and Beer menu consisted of:
  1. Bright Brewery Razor Witbier with Crepes stuffed with Mandarin, Ricotta and Sultanas. (I have not been a fan of Witbiers and even actively avoided them in the last year.  However, being reintroduced to the style at this a "breakfast beer" and matched with the crepes, I was instantly a convert to the potential of witbiers, perfectly suited to this situation!)
  2. Murray's Whale Ale from Murray’s Brewing with a mini Spanish omelette, served with leek and prosciutto. (My first taste of Murray’s Whale Ale. This is a fantastic beer! I expect to be enjoying several Whale Ale sessions once the bottles hit Melbourne.)
  3. Bridge Road Brewers Hans Klopek's Hefe Weizen and Red Hill Brewery Wheat Beer with mild bratwurst, served on toasted rye bread and a fruit chutney. (Cound not split these two beautiful Hefeweizens...both so delicious.)
  4. Stone & Wood Stone Ale with tomato and caramalised onion Baked Lima Beans.
  5. White Rabbit Dark Ale with Sable Breton, served with crème fraiche and a fig molasses.
  6. Ending the meal with Holgate's Temptress chocolate porter matched with Belgian waffles dipped in thick chocolate sauce was simply divine.
The order the beers were presented in was faultless, following the traditional light-to-dark tasting method. More importantly though was that each beer tasted was indeed a highly suitable breakfast beer in their own right, especially thanks to their perfect food matching. Ultimately, I was most impressed by the concept of a Witbier for breakfast, simply because it was so unexpected for me. Congratulations to all the brewers involved.

If anything was at fault during the event, it was only the pace it moved at, causing a minor overload of beer and food, which may have somewhat diminished the "slow food/beer" experience required to fully appreciate the meal combinations on all levels.

However, with only an hour actually scheduled for the event (which ended up being two hours), the staff and BeermenTV boys did a remarkable job.

All praise to the wonderful Beer DeLuxe for hosting and supporting the event to the utmost of value and quality. For the $20 we paid, the beer and food supplied was top quality, very generous and the service was sensational.  I was impressed and very appreciative. THANK YOU!

For video highlights of the event, keep your eye on

Next it was onto the 2010 Beer & Brewer Expo.

At the point I should have gone for a walk, enjoyed the fresh and cool Melbourne air and consumed much water to recover my senses a little, after such unexpected large consumption of luscious beers. (Further compounded by the fact that I had just completed 3 completely dry weeks to keep my personal health and fitness in check!)

However, I pushed on straight to the expo, which was being staged metres away, along the River Terrace at Federation Square. Thankfully, I have enough memory and notes to report back on the following highlights of the afternoon, where not a bad beer was tasted!

My first sight on entering the Expo was the stand for an unfamiliar brewer – Thunder Road Brewery. After obtaining a free t-shirt from them after signing their mailing list, it was a little hard to obtain any real detail about their pending venue and product. However, I'm lead to believe that Thunder Road is being set up by Andrew Dunn, an ex-Matilda Bay brewer, in Brunswick. I'll be keeping an eye on its development and keen to visit the establishment once it opens.

I tired a few of the beers on offer from Blue Sky Brewery of Cairns, which I was particularly interested to learn more about because I plan to pop into their Brewery during my honeymoon later this year. Their Pilsner was quite good, fairly standard though, but very drinkable.

The Mountain Goat team never fail me with their small batch beers. Featuring at the Expo was Dunken, the delightfully malty Dunkelweisse with hints of chocolate and banana...beautiful.

My "international discovery" of the day came via the St-Ambroise range from McAuslan Brewing of Montréal, Canada. The St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout was fantastically flavoursome and smooth, with a very good oatmeal taste (something I has so far found rare in Oatmeal stouts). It was a perfect match for the cool windy Autumn's day.

I also attended two of the Expo's workshop sessions (Home Brewing Demonstration with Jamil Zainasheff and then Beer and Food Matching with Chris Badenoch). Unfortunately, the sessions did not quite meet my expectations, as I felt they were designed for the complete beer-novice, yet the small crowd that did attend seemed well beyond the novice level.. Therefore, those sessions were somewhat underwhelming and a little...boring, compared to the excitment around the Expo's stalls where the brewers spruiked their product with passion.

I suspected that the pick of the day would have been Kirrily Waldhorn's Beer and Food Matching session. However, I missed this one for the sake of lunch (a burger at Burger DeLuxe with a pot of the Jamieson APA).

As the 5pm closure rolled in, my final tasting of the day was the superbly rich Double Barrel Christmas Ale from Red Hill Brewery. At 10.5% abv, this final drink probably pushed me over the limit in terms of reasonable consciousness...and the rest of the day is just a blur (a happy blur though!).

Nonetheless, I was able to somehow safely navigate my way to the tram and then home, without breaking the 6-pack of Red Hill Hop Harvest that I had purchased on my way out of the Expo. Top day.

Finally, congratulations to all the medal winners at the Australian International Beer Awards. You can read all the results at:

Special mentions go to a couple of local Gold Medal winners and personal favourites on mine:
And also, the Red Hill Imperial Stout, which I am yet to drink, but with it’s pending 2010 seasonal release next week, I am definitely keen to enjoy several of this highly regarded local brew over winter.


Ready for breakfast, with the tasting-notes placemat.

To start, a glass of Moutain Goat Steam Ale.

Spanish omelette with Murray's Whale Ale (and yes...I'm tweeting...)

Hefeweizen battle! Far too close to call! Both brilliant.

The deliciously unique Stone and Wood Stone Ale was a perfect match for the Baked Lima Beans

A happy crowd enjoys a BeermenTV breakfast.

White Rabbit Dark Ale with Sable Breton...just yum!

...just heaven.

And some Expo snaps...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bar - Beer Deluxe, Melbourne City

Federation Square's Beer Deluxe truly is...deluxe! No false advertising here! It's just a shame that this bar is such an expensive place to drink (...but that is mostly understandable, I think).

The jewel and purpose of Beer Deluxe is clearly their extensive tap beer selection. With about 15 regularly rotated beer taps, pouring only craft and boutique beers, you are pretty much guarantied to find here not only the best in local craft beers, but also a new beer to try.

As is fairly common practice in specialist beer bars, the Beer Deluxe "beer bible" menu not only provides a full list of their available beers, categorised by beer-style and with brief tasting notes for each, but also provides a Glossary of beer terms and other beer facts. Plenty of thought has gone into the tasting notes, providing quite a sexy read for beer lovers!

Also a requirement for such a bar, the beers are all matched to the specific beer glassware appropriate for pouring and drinking the particular beer style, ehancing flavour and drinkability.

Catering for all, there is also a fair selection of spirits and wine...for those who dare to visit Beer Deluxe for something other than beer.

I love that Beer Deluxe is shiny and has an inner-city classiness, yet very relaxed and welcoming. The plentiful wooden seats and tables over the split-level space provides a cosy interior. Outside there are large long benches and tables providing a pseudo-beer-garden, as well as more couches and sitting space down the side in Fed Square's The Atrium (which also supports a secondary bar and cafe).

Indoors the space is well lit, with soft music playing, allowing for easy conversation. This is a place to enjoy and discuss beer. Therefore, the respectful music level helps encourage that. However, their kitchen can get fairly noisy from time to time. The indoor room temperature is also just right, exemplified by the sweet cool relief I experienced walking into Beer Deluxe on a very warm and humid March afternoon (...or was that just the refreshing Stone & Wood Draught Ale?).

The Beer Deluxe atmosphere is certainly enjoyable. I really like the open design and space layout. Although, I've never been in Beer Deluxe when it has been crowded.

The bar staff at Beer Deluxe can be a little hit and miss. Sometimes you will be served by a true beer expert, who is a fountain of knowledge and skill, and will really open up your beer drinking experience. Other times, you may suffer the lacking of lesser staff (possibly new/casual staff...?) that may take too much time finding an answer to your simple question (like, "how much is this tap beer?") or just trying to cleanly pour your beer, but that's employment for you...I guess!

The part the hurts me the most about Beer Deluxe is unfortunately their high prices. For many this may not be an issue. For those like me wanting to enjoy true quality but are living on a tight budget to get by, it's a little disheartening. I think that I mostly understand why such a bar charges so much for their product - because they must pay a serious premium for being situated in such an excellent location, very close to the heart of Melbourne city, in addition to being within the Federation Square complex. Further, the bar is often pouring beers from local craft brewers that you are unlikely to find on tap anywhere else.

For example, during my March visit I had the super flavoursome and deliciously hoppy Murray’s Shawn’s Fault (India Dark Ale) from Murray's Brewing.

When you can afford it, it's a joy to consider which beer you will drink next at Beer Deluxe. And I'm sure there’s probably more to the story…however, when it costs $12 for 385ml of a very local small-batch but readily available craft beer (in this case, Mountain Goat's Rapunzel), this is a tiny bit beyond me.

Finally, Beer Deluxe also has a generous online presence, with their website, a Facebook page and you can follow them on Twitter. Hence, it is easy to "prepare" for a visit to Beer Deluxe, as well as keeping up-to-date with what's on offer over their bar. I am thankful to any business that puts time and effort into keeping their internet content active and current. I am always more inclined to use a business when they are communicating regularly with the world.

Where to start? A joyful choice at the Beer Deluxe bar.

Classy but cosy inside.

Murray's Shawn's Fault - richly hoppy, an impressive and unquie beer. Loved it.

Stone and Wood Draught Ale - more delightful hops, very light and refreshing.

Here's some dates and events for local beer loves to mark in their diaries!

I am definitely excited to be returning to Beer Deluxe this weekend...potentially a number of times throughout the weekend because they are currently pouring the Temple Bier de Miel and Moo Brew Imperial Stout...but primarily for the previously mentioned Hair Of The Dog Breakfast on Saturday morning, courtesy of BeermenTV.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Beer - Dolphin Brewery (Daylesford, Victoria)

Whilst staying with friends in Daylesford during March, we popped into the local Farmers Market on a fine and sunny Saturday morning, where I came across a stall for Dolphin Brewery.

The stall was a welcome sight, just when I thought that I knew of all my State's (commercial) brewers...and therefore was unlikely to come across any "new" Victoria craft breweries anymore...I was very pleased to rediscover that my journey is far from over.

Regrettably, I was not very chatty on the day and my attempts to locate more information about Dolphin Brewery online since have been fruitless. Therefore, I have little information to share about the brewer and his operation, other than that he mentioned their bottle-conditioned beers come from many many years of brewing experience.

I suspect that he (said brewer) hales from the UK and possibly has quite traditional British brewing values and techniques. I also believe the brewer and is partner are currently brewing out of their residence and availability seems to be pretty much exclusive to the Daylesford area. However, I may be completely wrong just guessing!

The Dolphin range currently consists of:
  • Amber Ale TKA (Traditional Kitchen Amber Ale)
  • Best Bitter Ale TEA (Traditional English-style Ale)
  • Pale Ale TQA (Traditional Quaffing Ale)
  • and a "still in the works" Shag (a spiced Euro Pale Ale)

On tasting their samples at the stall, I appreciated some very flavoursome and nicely balanced beers. Therefore, I took home a 6 pack of the Shag and a mixed-6 of the others.

Back home, as I drank the Dolphin beers down, they didn't quite hold up as well through the entire bottle, providing some rough edges and several flat notes. Further, after drinking the mixed 6 throughout the afternoon/evening/night, I woke up a little sore-in-the-head hungover the next day - something which tends to be very uncommon these days when drinking quality chemical-and-preservative-free craft beers. Nonetheless, they were all enjoyable and provided some good character.

My favourite of the range was the Best Bitter Ale...

The Best Bitter poured a very hazy pale amber colour, with a healthy 2cm white head that reduced fairly quickly to a nice little head of just a few millimetres with no lacing.

The aroma was very floral and hoppy, supported by an initial good hit of hops and a rich taste. With medium to high carbonation, the Best Bitter Ale was drinkable, crisp and clean, ending with a bitter finish. Essentially, it was pretty much a standard bitter and not really "boutique" or clearly unique in anyway. However, I believe the beer did improve the more I drank it.

With this weekend's Hair of the Dog beer breakfast event (thanks to BeermenTV) only days away, I must also make mention of the Shag.

The label reads "SHAG is a spiced honey ale with ginger: a pale golden ale infused with aromatic spices and Leatherwood honey."

Pouring into a glass with a cloudy-golden-straw colour, the Shag provided a very big white head with excellent retention. Described by the brewer as a "breakfast beer" and originally inspired by the Montieth's Summer Ale, it certainly has a unique aroma mix of honey, herbs, orange and maybe some coriander, also possibly a little "wine-like".

The taste is fairly dominated by the ginger, with some good hops and spices as well. The Leatherwood honey noted on the label isn't strong, but it is there in hints.

The Shag is light in the mouth with medium-to-high carbonation. It is fairly easy to drink, and could definitely work as a breakfast beer, but I was left a little underwhelmed and would not consider it for a sessional beer. Still, drinking this brew over a hot English breakfast could potentially be just right!

All in all, whilst maybe not quite in the league of Victoria's prominent microbreweries, I do like the Dolphin Brewery concept, packaging and drinkability...and regard them as one to watch.

I do know that Dolphin Brewery is looking to purchase a property somewhere around the Daylesford area to set up a brewery and bistro, which I will certainly be keen to visit once it is in action. I can imaging that these brews will go down well from a tap in a traditional English style pub.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Beer - Holgate Brewhouse Beelzebub's Jewels

I was extremely excited when I heard about the pending release of Beelzebub's Jewels from the Holgate Brewhouse team in Woodend, Victoria.

Holgate is a sentimental favourite brewer for me, simply because it was the first microbrewery that I actually visited. I instantly fell in-love with the deliciously sessional Big Reg (Vienna Lager) over dinner at their beautiful pub. Therefore, to hear that the Holgate brewers were releasing a very limited small batch of an extra strong Beligan ale, currently uncommon around the local microbrewery scene, my desire to try it was tenacious.

Using Holgate's Double Trouble (Belgian style Abbey Ale) as the base, the new Beelzebub's Jewels is a 12.5% ABV hand-crafted, triple-fermented barleywine, which was aged in Pinot Noir barrels from a local winery. Only 200 bottles have been produced for this year's vintage and it is being sold in hand-labelled and hand-waxed 750ml champagne-style bottles. I acquired two for the price $53 each on the day of its release at the start of April. With my funds very limited, this price (the most I've ever paid for a beer) made this a very-special-occasion-beer, only to be opened on a noteworthy occasion.

Very-Special-Occasion #1 arrived rather quickly (at the end of April), as my girlfriend fiancé and I cracked bottle #1 to celebrate the official announcement of our engagement. (Bottle #2 will be drunk on Very-Special-Occasion #2 - our wedding.)

It took a little while to break through the wax to the bottle's lid, but that only helped increases the excitement of being able to drink this beer.

Pouring into small/short wine glasses helped highlight a delightful hue of ruby (hence the "jewel"?). Very rich in colour, but far from "dark" like a stout or Trappist beer, the clarity of this brew shone through like a gem. With a good thin caramel-tinged head, the appearance of the beer was nothing short of spectacular.

The aroma was expressive and very agreeable, dominated by malts, caramel and sweetness. Hints of the Pinot Noir was also evident.

The taste was bold and full or excellent character. Malt, fruit and caramel lead the flavour, supported by healthy tones of chocolate, spice, vanilla and something like raisins.

I found the alcohol to be very well balanced. It was noticeable, as you would expect for 12.5% abv, and definitely warming, but not at all overpowering or detracting from the elegant taste.

Expecting a full and heavy body, the result was actually quite the opposite.  The medium body and carbonation made this barleywine very easy to drink.

Wow, superb! Is there a better beer in Australia? Maybe...but I really do love this one and could drink plenty!

(I will declare that this is the first "barleywine" style beer that I have ever tasted. Therefore, I am not very well educated or experienced with the style. However, I now have also enjoyed the Flying Dog Horn Dog, as well as trying a couple of international Quadruples and abbey/trappist beers over the last few months.)

This beer is simply beautiful. Perfectly named, with the appearance of a jewel and the devilish punch that this beer packs (and not in a harsh way!), it is bold and full of character. You only need to drink a little to slip into an evident alcoholic high. I would almost consider it...angelic...

Beelzebub’s Jewels will be one of the featured beers available to sample at the at the upcoming BIG, BOLD BARREL AGED TASTING at Slowbeer on Wednesday 2nd June, which I highly recommend to any local beer lover!

Slowbeer's tasting notes for this beer can be found at:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bar – Wesley Anne, Northcote

250 High St, Northcote, VIC.
Open: Mon-Fri fom 4pm until late. Sat-Sun from 2pm until late.
Tel: 03 9482 1333

The Wesley Anne is a beautiful bar. The former "House of Assembly" church, which was built in 1854 (a mere 20 years after the European settlement of Melbourne), still retains plenty of its original aesthetic, providing a warm, old-world charm.

Stepping through the large, welcoming front entrance, you are immediately drawn to look up at the exposed brick and wooden rafters under a high corrugated iron roof.

The candlelight ambiance sets a relaxed tone and the interior makes you feel like you're in a rural town rather than suburban Melbourne.

A very large L-shaped bar dominates the front section, providing a tap and bottle beer selection that is very well suited to any keen beer drinker, as well as your casual drinker.

On tap I found Mountain Goat Steam Ale, Little Creatures Pale Ale, Coopers Green (Pale Ale), Guinness, Boags Draught and Pipsqueek Cider. The bottled selection is dominated by Montieths, James Squire and Coopers, as well as a number of random internationals. Also nice to see the local White Rabbit dark ale available there, but I'd struggle to pay $8 for it.

Oh...and with the often dingy-rock appeal of the Northcote music & arts scene, I have no problem seeing VB and Melbourne Bitter available as well. You've got to know your crowd! The wine list is also extensive for such a bar and there is also a full selection of the usual spirits.

Out the back you will find a spacious open-air beer garden, with a fire place and several large umbrella-covered tables. The brick floor and walls give the garden a somewhat "cosy" feel. It is actually exactly like the type of space I picture in my mind when I think "beer garden".

Formally "Ruckers Bar Gallery", the Wesley Anne is definitely playing their part in helping along Northcote's now thriving live music scene, with quality cheap relaxed gigs in their bandroom.

The Wesley Anne bandroom is a classic case of "let's-make-this-a-bandroom" not done very well...which I actually love because it sets up a lazy lounge atmosphere where you will never find Bieber-esque hype amongst the crowd. However, it does make the flaws more evident.

(...oh no...did I just succumb to referencing...Bie...err...ok...moving on...)

The bandroom is filled with a messy arrangement of couches, benches, tables and chairs in varying shapes and sizes.

The sound system is clearly not the best, which is a shame. From my seat right in the centre of the room, the sound was unbalanced, with a constant hum-buzz and the occasional static A let down in such a pretty setting.

Although, such a poor sound system can help shine a light on true musical talent. If a band/artist can overcome issues created by equipment and rely on their skill to manually produce the sound they need (as was done by the band we saw on the night, The Holy Sea), then that is the mark of a quality band/artist.

Another sound problem was due to the open bandroom door, causing too much stereo music from the front bar to infiltrate the bandroom during the performances.

Thankfully, the completely "relaxed" nature of the venue and the gig seemed to counteract the sound problems to an extent.

The Wesley Anne patronage seemed to be very typical for the Northcote area (think arty-students, generally well or trendily dressed). And if I may mention...the uni-sex toilets provide some quality reading/entertainment courtesy of the graffiti.

I really like the Wesley Anne, definitely another Northcote gem. It has character and class, yet it's dingy enough to avoid pretension. It gives space and exposure to new/upcoming/varying music and the arts...just don't expect the most delightful of listening experiences. Thanks to their very low (often free) door prices, Wesley Anne is the kind of place you can go to discover new music and artists.

Finally, random little things tend to thrill me in places like this. In the Wesley Anne’s case it was their choice of glassweare for serving pots of beer. They use cute "mini-pint" glasses – a 285ml pot sized glass in the shape of a classic pub (British Imperial?) pint glass. Something different to the norm...and that charms me.

For some insight into eating at the Wesley Anne, head over to my fellow bloggers' review on Eat Drink Stagger.

Looking up at the Wesley Anne's roof.

2 pots of Mountain Goat Steam Ale from the Wesley Anne bar.

At the back of the main bar there are dining tables and booths.

Pots by candlelight.

The Wesley Anne's bandroom.

A true beer garden.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Beer Bar Band - May 2010

Yikes, deep into May already! Where have I been?

Despite the return of the cold weather, May is shaping up to be another brilliant month in Melbourne. Plenty of awesome little gigs continue to pop up, as well as the highlight event – the 2010 Beer & Brewers Expo (...I've got my ticket!).

Whilst I am personally dedicating the first half of this month to personal health and fitness (which should hopefully give me a good chance to catch up on posting a back log of reviews that I have been meaning to publish), the back half of the month will be a mini-explosion of beer-bar-band goodness.

Of note, other than the Beer Expo, I am excited about the Red Hill Brewery showcase at The Local Taphouse in St Kilda and ending the month of May with the Big Scary gig at the Northcote Social Club on Friday 28 May.

For those who can make it, I also recommend checking out the following gigs:

A special "event" mention also goes out to the BeermenTV's Hair Of The Dog Breakfast...Saturday 22 May (from 10:00am) at Beer DeLuxe, Federation Square in Melbourne city!

Over Easter, whilst drinking Mikeller's Beer Geek Breakfast…for breakfast (with hot-cross-buns)...I pondered what would actually make a great "Breakast beer". When I sent this thought out into the twitterverse, the guys at BeermenTV decided to put such a thought to the test! They took the genius initiative to set up a special Breakfast & Beer event during upcoming Beer & Brewer Expo.

To learn more and register for this very special breakfast, please head to:

I hope to see you there!