Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bar and Beer - Holgate Brewhouse / Keatings Hotel, Woodend

Over the recent Queen's Birthday long weekend, whilst staying with our friends from Daylesford, we headed back to my sentimental favourite Victorian microbrewery, Holgate Brewhouse in Woodend, for dinner and good great beer.

In recent times I have found that many craft beer drinkers have mixed feelings about the Holgate range. But, everyone to their own, Holgate's malt driven and creative range has always worked wonders for me (...except for the White Ale, which I've never been a fan of...but that's more a style-specific thing). Maybe I am a little biased, due to my sentimental connection with Holgate Brewhouse, which comes from the fact that their pub was my first real experience with microbrewed craft beers when I was starting my craft beer journey a couple of years back. Nonetheless, I believe my local craft beer experiences have provided me with a clear enough perspective on quality beers to not allow favouritism or hype significantly impact me.

In contrast to the current craft beer market that seems to be strongly favouring hoppy beers, the Holgate brews are definitely malt-centric and therefore often posses smooth caramel flavours and biscuit textures. However, you cannot deny the excellent craftsmanship and product quality of the initiative Holgate beers. Further, I think their Double India Pale Ale - Hopinator - is often under rated by the beer market.

I love the Holgate story, the passion and brewing philosophy of the brewers and their work to support the local industry and their regional town. Despite personally being very familiar with (and a regular drinker of) their regular range of beer for some time now...I'm still always very happy to return to the Keatings Hotel pub at any possible opportunity. However, there was extra incentive on this occasion with two new beers available on tap - the UXB and Brick Kiln Road Wheat Beer - plus the promise of a Randall hooked up to one of the taps.

We arrived at 6:30pm to a bustling pub and full restaurant. Clearly, the patrons were enjoying a lazy Sunday evening of excellent food and beer. Thankfully, we had pre-booked a table for four, which was ready for us on arrival, hence we were seated immediately and straight into ordering drinks.

First up for me was a pot of the new small batch from Holgate, the UXB, in a 285ml tall pot glass. The UXB (as in "unexploded bomb") is an Extra Strong English Bitter, using Holgate's AIBA Gold Medal winning ESB with 20% extra malt and hops and a 6% abv. The result is a wonderfully malty and complex ESB, full of flavour and very easy to drink.

Pouring a dark golden-brown with a beautiful creamy caramel head, which left plenty of lacing. As the appearance suggests, the UXB gave a rich malty and caramel aroma. In the mouth the UXB is silky smooth, medium bodied and very nicely balanced. The taste provides plenty of sweetness with good citrus hops notes.

An added bonus of the UXB was its perfect match with the goat curry, with green beans and potato, that I ordered for my main. The generous and flavoursome goat curry worked extremely well as restaurant beer food.

After drinking 2 pots of the UXB, I could have easily continued and put away several more, but I was keen to also try the randied Hopinator. Recent tweets by Holgate had alerted me to the presence their Randall, so I was very happy to find it in action during my visit (...although sad to have missed out on the randied Road Trip IPA!).

The Hopinator tap was being fed through a modest little Randall infuser, filled with Galaxy and Nelson Sauvin hops, providing an extra fresh and powerful hop hit for the already hoppy 7% abv Hopinator. Delicious!

Also poured into a tall 285ml pot glass, dark amber in colour, with an excellent frothy cream-coloured head, the randied Hopinator was surprisingly soft and easy to drink and well rounded in the mouth for such a strongly hoppy brew. It was a wonderful step up from the UXB, with quality pine notes and a long bitter finish. As with the UXB, as soon as I finished the first randied Hopinator I was immediately ready to enjoy another...and therefore I was quick to order and down a second.

My other-half drank a pot of the Brick Kiln Road Wheat Beer with her dinner. The tasting notes describe this new Holgate offering as an "unfiltered winter wheat beer", it provided the classic clove and banana aroma and taste of a Hefeweizen. From the small taste I had, it was very tasty and enjoyable, quite comparable in quality to the excellent Red Hill Wheat Beer.

To finish, we enjoyed a pot each of the luscious and award winning Temptress chocolate porter, which I have raved about many times before...and it never fails to please.

Overall, it was another top night at Holgate. The meal was simply delightful, with everyone very satisfied by their food and drinks.  The service was great and the atmosphere was perfect for a relaxed Sunday evening.

After bustling with activity when we arrived that evening, the pub and restaurant were surprisingly quiet when we headed off a little before 9pm.

Of course, on our way out I picked up some takeaway beers from the bar - a 6 pack of my favourite, Big Reg, and a mixed-6 of 2x Double Trouble, 2x Hopinator and 2x ESB.

Here are a few more snaps from our evening...

We dined in the main restaurant room out the back.

The front bar of Keatings Hotel...aka the Holgate Brewhouse.

Three mouth-watering taps - Hopinator (through a Randall), UXB and the Brick Kiln Road Wheat Beer.

The humble Holgate Brewhouse Randall (not as pretty as Mountain Goat's Randy).

Holgate's most widely distributed brews - Mt Macedon Ale and Pilsner - plus the brewery-only The Mild One (3.5% abv English ale)

Hand-pump taps for the Temptress and ESB - Gold Medal winners at the 2010 AIBA Awards.

Since we have a great time on each occasion that we visit Holgate, my fiance and I have made the mental note to stay there for our first wedding anniversary next year, utilising one of the Accommodation Packages on offer, so we can experience the full joy of a longer stay.  Although, hopefully I won't be waiting that long to revisit Holgate for another round of drinks! Cheers!

Finishing off with the always irresistible Temptress chocolate porter for dessert.


  1. Great post James. You've sold me. Also, goat curry? That's hella special!

    I'm all about the hops these but I really want to try their ESB. I'm finding I really dig that style.

    And how cute is their Randall, even though it's so small compared to Mountain Goat's?

    Oh sweet Temptress. Maybe I haven't drunk enough of it, but I've yet to get bored of it. Awesome choice for dessert!

  2. Thanks Gem. (hmmm...typed a reply earlier...but it seems to have sorry if you get this twice!)

    Yes, the goat curry was indeed delicious and so well suited to the Holgate beers! (However, it's the first time I ever recall having I don't have anything to really compare it to.)

    I'm much the same, very much have the taste for hops at the moment...but the smooth malt-driven Holgate brews really provide a unique taste and texture, separating them from the wealth of hoppy brews throughout the Aussie craft beer market. So it's great to have that added local dimension.

    Have you ever been out to Holgate? I just absolutely love that it is a true functioning microbrewery and a traditional pubs. I love pubs so much, but there are few "classic pubs" like Holgate left where you can sit at a bar and drink brilliant beer.

    Very true about the Randall, it's cute as. My other rather reckons she could recreate it using parts from a fish tank. haha.

  3. Holgate's Temptress was one of the oustanding beers for me on my AIBA trip in May. Along with Bridge Road Saison, LC Roger's Beer and Stone and Wood Draught. Mountain Goat Surefoot Stout, on tap at the brewery, was head and shoulders above everything else... an absolutely perfect showcase of every ingredient. I could have had ten pints!

    Thoughtful blog. Good work!

  4. definatley one of my fav hoppy beers, nice sweet malt musical character fills the mouth with a fantastic hop biterness. awsome