Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011 - the Beer Bar Band Top 10s

2011 has been a very good year, a very full year…probably the best year of my life. The personal milestones were massive: celebrating our first year of marriage, buying our first home and running our first half-marathon.

Twenty Eleven was also a very beery year. Foremost was the excellent shock and awe of the first Good Beer Week, as well as many other beer events like The Local Taphouse’s Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS), plus countless new brewers and beers advancing the cause of the craft and enjoyment of good beer.

Here is a quick wrap of my Top 10s from 2011, Beer Bar Band style...


I have enjoyed far too many beers from across the world this year, hence the task of quickly compiling a top 10 from all beers would require much more brain power than I'm willing to offer whilst on holidays. Therefore, I have limited this list to beers from the Australasia region that were unique to or new in 2011:

  1. “Empress” Imperial Mocha Porter by Holgate Brewhouse – brewed for GABS, bottled in 750ml bottles and sold for $65 and poured on tap at Holgate, Beer Deluxe and into growlers from Slowbeer…we had it all because it was just so good! A huge beer, full thick and silky coffee chocolate…it was everything you wanted it to be.
  2. “Tall Poppy” India Red Ale by 8 Wired – I have loved everything produced by 8Wired and it is hard to leave out the Batch 18, iStout and Sultan from this list, but the Tall Poppy was the most original beers I had all year.
  3. “Rex Attitude” by Yeastie Boys – the most crowd dividing beer from this year and I loved it. This golden ale brewed with 100% peated malt offended many with it’s extreme smokey-to-burnt-rubber-bands aroma. I revelled in the aroma that you can smell from 100 feet away and found this beer to be a very enjoyable and even sessional golden ale.
  4. “Thorny Goat” Cross Breed Black IPA by Mountain Goat and Thornbridge (collaboration) – Australia’s first international craft brewing collaboration. It needed a few weeks after release to really develop its fullness and when it did Thorny Goat was a beautiful bold India Black Ale, trumping many of the style that were brewed in Australia this year.
  5. “Karma Citra” Black IPA by Feral Brewing – another new beer produced for GABS and another India Black Ale that sat with the best of the best in the style this year, scoring bonus points by showcasing the Citra hop in excellent fashion.
  6. “India Saison” by Nogne O and Bridge Road Brewery (collaboration) – another international collaboration and another showcase of hops, featuring new Australian hops in Danish brewing. This beer also makes the list because it was an excellent beer, but more importantly a unique brew with big character.
  7. Cask-conditioned Imperial Stout on handpump by Red Hill Brewery – one of my favourite local betters got even better this year, thanks to the Red Hill Brewery’s decision to install a traditional English handpump beer engine at their café bar and cask condition their popular winter seasonal especially for the handpump, including dry hopping
  8. “Hop Zombie” by Epic – an absolutely massive yet still very drinkable hop bomb of an ale
  9. “Ninaksi's Angel” Belgian Tripel by the Women of Beer – Abby ales are not easy to brew, so this characterful spice-filled Tripel  clearly showcased the talents of our local female brewers.
  10. Everything by Moon Dog Craft Brewery – crazy, inventive, fun, honest, big ass craft brewing. Make up your own mind about their beers, but each one will no doubt be a truly new and unique drinking experience.

An honourable mention also goes to Mountain Goat Brewery for bringing back their “Bigfoot” stout this year! The beefed up Surefoot Stout, which has been missing from the market for several years, was just awesome this winter.


Once the name of rapidly publishing this post...this list is limited to new bars that have opened this year of bars that I visited for the first time this year.

  1. Oscar’s Alehouse, Belgrave – my new local, where good people, really good beer and great conversation really collide with the bonus of live music wrapped up in a very relaxed vibe.
  2. The Wheaty, Thebarton Adelaide (first visit) – as I blogged last week…I think The Wheaty is Australia’s best pub. 
  3. Penny Blue, Melbourne city (first visit) – a hidden gem chock full of character and good beer. 
  4. Temple Bar and Brasserie, East Brunswick (new) – the next big little thing, modern beer and food focused bar where social interaction is the centrepiece. 
  5. The Courthouse, North Melbourne (first visit) – brilliant food and brilliant beer, bringing modern gastro-pub fine dining in line with the flavour profiles of craft beer. 
  6. Atticus Finch, East Brunswick (first visit) - awesome beer garden (complete with hop vines!), very East Brunswick, good prices, great staff...but best of all...their beer events (such as Beer School) and themed meals and beer flights.
  7. 8. 9. & 10. Scratch Bar, Milton & Bitter Suite, New Farm & Kerbside Lounge, Fortitude Valley in Brisbane (all new) – I have no been to either of these bars yet, but will very soon. They are on this list because I love what these bars are doing for craft beer in Brisbane. Every report back from visitors to this bar and every status update these bars make on social media get a big LIKE from me in agreeance. 
Oscar's Ale House (...full blog post coming soon!)


Albums release in 2011

  1. Vacation by Big Scary
  2. Rewiggled: A Tribute to the Wiggles by Various
  3. United in Isolation by Papa vs Pretty
  4. This Modern Glitch by The Wombats
  5. Little Hell by City & Color
  6. Prisoner by The Jezabels
  7. Only Sparrows by Josh Pyke
  8. The King is Dead by The Decemberists
  9. Kosciusko by Jebediah
  10. Maricahi el Bronx II by The Bronx
Very honourable mentions to Busby Marou (self titled) and So Forever by Husky.

Gigs of 2011

It was a quiet year on the gigging front for us this year, because so much else we happening (read: saving for and buying a house). We only made it to 10ish gigs, so here are the main 10 in order...

  1. The Drones at The Corner Hotel – a WOW gig for any Drones fan. Amazing setlist, amazing sound, powerful & energetic, but most of all…the Drones at the fucking Corner!
  2. Gareth Liddiard and Dan Kelly at the East Brunswick Club – brilliant & intense...a night to remember, a night of drunken yet sobering comedy and amazing songman ship combined with impressive musicanship.
  3. Papa vs Pretty at Northcote Social Club – had been meaning to see this young band for a long time and they did not disappoint. Fun and energetic, but most of all...shredding to the max that works so well in modern rock!
  4. Paul Dempsey at The Corner – seasoned performer Dempsey always puts on a solid show for an appreciative crowd, highlighted by his use of covers and the playing of several new Something For Kate tunes.
  5. Big Scary at East Brunswick Club – the mellow “Four Seasons” gig was pretty. The first proper headline tour for Big Scary, provided the highlights through the new tracks of Mix Tape, Purple and Gladiator that would end up on the Vacation album
  6. Josh Pyke and Jackson McLaren at The Grace Darling – returning to his roots with a stripped back, intimate solo acoustic gig yet Josh was still able to impress again by showing off a new edge with the use of a loop pedal.
  7. Busby Marou at Northcote Social Club – could any other band bring Rockhampton pub country rock to Northcote? I think not! A special mention for their live cover of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun which they carried over from their TripleJ Like a Version performance.
  8. The Jezabels at The Corner – New found popularity brought in a heavily hipster and young crowd of new fans, but the Jezabels showed that they could still adapt their big sound to a small band room after a year playing to big crowds on the festival circuit.
  9. Josh Pyke at The Corner – whilst I believe Josh at his best solo acoustic, he was definitely in his element with the full band at The Corner. Bringing his new album to the live crowd, the band jelled well through the well selected set-list.
  10. Expatriate at East Brunswick – look out for a blog on this gig soon…it was something of a dud gig, but still worth having on my list to make up the 10.

And that's it from me this year. Time to see out the year with a mini keg of 4 Degrees Pale Ale from Four Hearts Brewing.

See you in 2012! Cheers!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Beers - Beery Cheesemas to All (Christmas 2011)

Christmas is a time commonly used to indulge in the delicious, sweet excesses of food and drink...and it's no different at the Beer Bar Band home.

Last year we had fun with A Very Beery Christmas, in which each food element of our Christmas lunch was made with beer, around the centre-piece of a barbecue beer-can chicken. This year we indulged our new found love for fine cheese matched with excellent beer.

We gathered 12 awesome craft beers (12 beers of Christmas style) as well as 6 fine cheese from around Melbourne.

Celebrating our first Christmas in our first home, which we bought a few months back, the wife and I had a quiet little fun day with just the two of us. We made the most of our spacious deck with views across the green canopy of the Dandenong hills. It was a warm and sunny morning, then the afternoon turned into a stormy affair. Heavy rain, thunder and lightning flooded and damaged parts of Melbourne, but from our vantage point it simply resulted in a pleasant light and sound show.

During the calm before the storm, we set up a big Christmas lunch spread centred around the beers and cheeses.

 The Christmas menu on our kitchen pantry door.

Merely part 1 of our Christmas table spread.

With the beers naturally ordered from light-to-dark-to-heavy, we tried countless combinations of beer plus cheese plus various morsels of delicacy.

The wonderful cheeses were:
  • Quickes Traditional Oak Smoked Cheddar
  • Mauri Taleggio Cow's Washed Rind
  • Jindi Old Telegraph Road Fire Engine Red Washed Rind
  • Rouzaire Coulommier Double-Cream Brie
  • Cropwell Bishop Stilton
  • Tarago River Cheese Company Strzelecki Goat Blue

Our midday palates were first wet with the 2011 Posse Summer Ale for members of the Bridge Road Brewers Posse club. It has been an excellent beer for this mild summer and it's a fine starter for any beery session. An easy drinking, nicely spiced and well balanced witbier that matched very well with the soft cheeses.

Then we went sour and popped the cork on a benchmark lambic that is guaranteed to find favour with many forms of good cheese - the Guezue 100% Lambic Bio from Cantillon. This sessionable wild ale has just the right amout of sour tartness following the big aroma of a classic lambic.

Next we poured two red ales...always appropriate on any Christmas Day. First we had the Rogue Ales Santa's Private Reserve, a big malty American Amber Ale with a solid bitter hop hit. This beer had been sitting in my not-quite-a-cellar beer cellar for a year following a trip home from it may have suffered from a lack of freshness. Thankfully, it still stood up and worked well on a stormy yet warm Australian Christmas day.

Pouring the Rogue Santa's Private Reserve.

The second red ale was one of my top 3 beer highlights from this Christmas feast...the new Red Rackham by the adventurous Yeastie Boys. This accidental beer started out as a batch of the Yeastie's Hud-a-wa' Strong but they pitched the wrong yeast, a Belgian ale one. The result is a very tasty Belgian Red Ale with a full mouthfeel and excellent balance between malt, spice and bitterness. This complex brew ultimately tastes like a silky red ale, but has much more going on in it. Beautiful beer.

The hops came out in full force with the very Mikkeller in taste, Mikkeller Happy Lovin' Christmas Double IPA. Another quality and very easy drinking big beer from Mikkeller.

And then an extra special moment of Christmas Ale drinking was lined up next.

We had three vintages of the Red Hill Brewery Christmas Ale for a vertical tasting, plus a 3 year old Holgate Brewhouse Christmas Ale (which is sadly no longer brewed by Holgate).

The Red Hill Christmas Ales featured:
  • 2011: bottle - this year's release from a 6 pack that we bought whilst at the brewery a few weeks back
  • 2010: draught - last year's vintage in a growler, filled from the keg at Blackhearts & Sparrows in North Fitzroy
  • 2008: bottle - a special little Christmas gift from Red Hill Brewery owners, Dave & Karen Golding.

I love this Australian intrepretation of a Belgian Christmas ale. The current release was especially good when we drank it fresh at the Red Hill brewery on the first weekend of December. In this vertical, the 2008 vintage was by far the stand-out. The carbonation was still excellent and the rich, deep fruity flavour surrounded by spices had developed beautifully into a well-rounded semi-dark Belgian.

The vertical tasting definitely showcased the way this beer develops with age. The same beer was really quite different across the three vintages. My recommendation: sit on this beer for 3 years for maximum effect!

The three Red Hill Christmas Ales were enjoyed slowly with blue cheese and a game of Trivial Pursuit.

As the storms rolled over the hills past us, we lazed on our deck, watching the rain and lightning. We excitedly cracked the bottle of Holgate Christmas Ale, it was the most anticipated beer of the day. It had been gifted to us by the Holgate brewery crew when we stayed at their Keatings Hotel for our first wedding anniversary back in August.

In contrast to the 2008 Red Hill Christmas Ale, the carbonation was very minimal in the Holgate Christmas Ale but that did not detract from the spectacular flavour of a dark fruity Christmas cake. One could quite easily mistake it for a fortified wine! The warming alcohol was fairly evident, making it an excellent sipper, enjoyed with more blue cheese and dark chocolate, plus splashes of storm. Brilliant. I didn't want to finish it because it was so good...and then it would be completely all gone, with no return.

My #1 beer of Christmas 2011...the 2008 Holgate Brewhouse Christmas Ale!

Whilst this beer has been replaced in the Holgate brewing schedule by my favourite Holgate beer, Beelzebub's Jewels (Paul Holgate has noted that their Christmas Ale was essentially a trial brew as they worked up to producing this barrel aged belgian quadrupel), I truly wish this Christmas Ale was still around every December because it is a damn fine beer to follow Christmas dessert.

Later in the day, when we somehow found some space in our super full stomachs for "dinner", we brought out the Quickes Smoked Cheddar, some smoked almonds, smoked turkey and opened the God Jul from Nøgne Ø. The uber smokey God Jul islay edition is one of my all-time favourite beers and until recently I had never tried this regular God Jul. That changed two weeks back when Josie Bones tweeted that they had the beer on tap (I have never come across this beer in draught form in Australia before!). By some awesome freak chance the wife and I were planning on being in the area that night for dinner, so we first stopped into Josie Bones for a glass each of the divine God Jul in draught form. The regular version of this strong dark Winter ale still displays a hint of the peaty smoke and provided a great start to our late light dinner on Christmas Day.

I love barely wines and I love smokey beers, so a barrel aged barely wine brewed with Islay peated malts was always going to be a winner in my mouth. It came in the form of the 11.5% BrewDog Three Floyds collaboration brew Bitch Please...

And yes, I enjoyed this beer immensely (...some things were a little hazy by this time of the day though). A very well crafted smokey barely wine with the right level of carbonation and mouthfeel that I expect from such a beer. I do indeed recall that it was a perfect match for the smoked cheddar

The final beer was the semi-palate cleansing sour of the delightful and slightly twisted Moon Dog Brewing Perverse Sexual Amalgam...need I say anymore, other than...more smoked cheddar!!

And so ends another excellent Christmas of beer (plus cheese!).

Every beer we drank across Christmas was simply excellent. The stand-outs for me, those WOW beers, were the Yeastie Boys Red Rackham, the 2008 Holgate Christmas Ale and the 2008 Red Hill Christmas Ale. How special...since 2008 was when I effectively started this craft beer journey of mine!

Maybe if I was a little sober to properly recall the 11th beer of the day, I'd probably be trying to find a way to make 3 out of 4 to include the BrewDog Three Floyds Bitch Please.

Nevertheless, each beer worked well in their own way, including as a Christmas brew and an accompaniment to fine cheese, smoked (cold) meats and various nibbles. All the beers offered a unique experience of craft beer and I am keen to drink more of them all again whenever I can.

We now excitedly look towards the new year as this journey continues through the incredible science and art of taste and texture...

...2011 was massive, but 2012 is already shaping up to be even beery bigger!

LOOK OUT mass-produced bland lagers...the people-driven train of good beer at the dining table and in our hands gathering steam and powering towards you to take beer drinkers in a new direction in 2012!

Find these. Drink them. Experience them. Cheers!

Wishing a merry Christmas and a safe, happy, deliciously experiential New Year to all!  CHEERS!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Beer - Victoria Pale Lager (more hyperbole but this time in the negative)

Warning: Don’t read on if you’re not interested in or do not appreciate some macro beer bashing.

Victoria Pale Lager...what the hell is the point of that?

I see no purpose for this beer other than marketing and therefore big-business money-making (which is never good for your average person trying to get the best out of life). Can anyone please prove otherwise?

As a beverage, you are better off drinking water becausea this pale lager is as bland as water and water is better for you.

As far as I can tell, Victoria Pale Lager is just the failed VB Raw repackaged. Raw was the previous “low-carb” attempt by Fosters to endear their Victoria Bitter (VB) brand to the ill-informed Pure Blonde/Hahn Super Dry/Boag's Classic Blonde drinking generation.

Packaging is what the new VB Pale Lager is ALL about. The media, marketing and "hype" around the release of this new beer seems to have only been focused on the fancy label-embossed bottle, manufactured by O-I.

Does this indicate that Carlton United Brewers (CUB) slash Fosters Group believes the shape and novelty embossing technology of this bottle alone is enough to sell it and convert regular VB drinkers? Has humanity lost all ability to pass judgement using any sense other than sight? (Also, arn't they just stealing their own market away from themselves by converting VB drinkers?!?).

According to business analysts, Australian beer sales are in heavy decline, expect in the craft beer sector...which is mostly likely due to the rapid increase in microbreweries and craft beer output over the last few years. There is more craft beer on the market then ever before, hence there are more sales of such products.
Nonetheless, CUB have attempted to counteract the decline in mass produced lagers by...creating another mass produced lager to compete with the declining rest.

Here's a snippet from an article that appeared in the Fairfax newspapers this week ('Wine soars as beer goes flat' by Rachel Browne 11/12/11):

"Carlton and United Brewery's head of insights, Tim Ovadia, said there were some strong growth areas. Sales of craft beers produced by microbreweries have grown 30 per cent year on year, while cider sales have increased 20 per cent year on year."

Firstly, I struggle to believe that "head of insights" (or even General Manager Consumer Insights at Fosters Group according to LinkedIn) is a real job. Secondly, they clearly have zero consumer insight if they are producing another in-decline low-carb lager when it is the craft beer sector that is on the rise. Why, Fosters, did you not channel the resources and effort that has been wasted on Vic Pale Lager into Matilda Bay?

Yes, Matilda Bay Brewing Company has also just been pumped up with the opening of their new brewery and bar in Port Melbourne, which will lead to Matilda Bay branded brewpubs opening across the country. However, their underrated and underresourced Bohemian Pilsner, Big Helga Munich Lager and Redback Wheat beers all make the need for Vic Pale Lager completely obsolete. They may not be the best craft beers around, but they are beers with flavour and character. More importantly, they are readily accessible to almost everyone through the nationwide distribution of Carlton United Brewers.

Maybe Fosters could throw at me some impressive (yet awfully cherry-picked) sales figures to show the infant success of Victoria Pale Lager. However, nothing can deny that such a poor taste and enjoyment experience from this beer can signify anything other than a soulless money-making product.

I give Vic Pale Lager another 6 months before it is discontinued for some typical corporate reasoning such as "we've decided to refocus on our core range that our customers are passionate about and blah blah blah..."

More so, I suspect this is inevitable due to the recent SABMiller takeover of Fosters. Vic Pale Lager will become a "victim" of the company's reshaping as an international faceless brand with flagship output of VB, Carlton Draught and Crown Lager. Fail.

Ok, these days I don't comment or pass judgement on a beer I have not tried.

Yes, my curiosity over the existence of this beer lead me to buy one on a recent weekend. We were staying at a beach-side holiday home and it was a sunny Saturday. Dinner was fish and chips on a deck with beer.

Surely any lager can be redeemed when consumed with fish'n'chips by the beach on a Summer's evening? But no, the Victoria Pale Lager was hardly worth finishing. Thankfully, we had a supply of the delicious Red Hill Brewery Bohemian Pilsner to wash away the bad beer. Now that vibrant Boh Pils is an excellent lager accompaniment for fish'n'chips!

The Victoria Pale Lager was flavourless and lacked any body or finish. It was simply...bland, boring and even something unbalanced. It was not crisp or refreshing. I cannot think of any reason for drinking it.

Vic Pale Lager now joins my list of worst "new" beers I have tasted since starting my beer journey, sitting alongside XXXX Summer Bright, Great Northern Lager, Dry Dock Premium Lager, Wahoo and Pacifico.

If these are your type of beer and your beer choice is generally limited to big chain outlets, then please at least consider drinking something Australian owned or from the craft beer industry, like Stone & Wood Lager, Coopers Clear or maybe even the Grand Ridge Brewery Draught.

As for me, I'll be heading back to our local Duncan’s for more Red Hill Bohemian Pilsner and some Epic Lager. Mmmm good soulful lagers!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bar - The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Thebarton S.A.

Tucked away in the suburb of Thebarton, a short & free tram ride from Adelaide's city centre, is The Wheatsheaf Hotel. Affectionately know as "The Wheaty", it is one of the best pubs in my book!

During a short visit to Adelaide back in June, Jenn & I spent one long (but far too short) Monday evening at The Wheaty and it was instant love. We wanted to pack the place up and take it back with us to Melbourne in our carry-on luggage! Great beer, awesome people, excellent vibes...this pub has it all.

Melbourne may be the bubbling craft-beer-culture capital of Oz by shear weight of beery venues, events and retail outlets, but this city has nothing like the The Wheaty. The much smaller Royston Hotel in Richmond could come close but is missing the live music, engaging staff and bohemian diversity fully embraced by The Wheatsheaf Hotel.

The Wheaty flies to the top of my favourite pub list for excelling in pretty much all the criteria on which I rate such a venue...

Firstly, the building is a classic Australian two-story pubic-house hotel structure that dates back to something like the 1860s. The current facade has clearly been around for decades, seemingly relatively untouched, and it gushes character. I love a pub that looks like a pub yet clearly has personality and isn't covered in macro beer advertising.

Secondly, the irreverent respect for good beer at The Wheaty warms my soul. The owners may be serious hop heads, but they are adventurous and open to all beer palates. It's true the The Wheaty is a recognised craft beer destination in a city that is still predominately void of beer choice other than mass produced products. Fortunately, the locals seem to be well on-board with The Wheaty's good beer offerings.

Their taps are dedicated to flavoursome South Australian and wider Australian craft beers, alongside highly regarded international brews, including a special place for anything from the Oregon based Rogue Ales. Their irreverence shines through with their use of a beer engine handpump. English real ale purists may be appalled with the types of beers they pour through this tap (like huge Imperial IPAs and Russian Imperial Stouts) but The Wheaty staff have also worked with Aussie microbreweries such as Moo Brew and Lobethal Bierhaus to provide cask conditioned ales specific for the handpump. Beside it sits the Glasshopper, a Randall Handle hop infuser that gets packed with anything the bar staff want to through at it, regardless of the type of beer.

During their "Font of Darkness Festival" in August they poured Moo Brew's Stout through The Glasshopper filled with Indonesian Kopi Luwak Weasel Coffee and called it "Poo Moo". winning!

On the night we were there, our drinks included:
  • Mike's India Pale Ale on handpump
  • Mountain Goat Hightail through the Glasshopper filled with Galaxy hops
  • Tuatara APA (first time I had tasted this beer, loved it so I had 2)
  • Synapse by Doctors Orders Brewing
  • Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black (first time I had tried this brew on tap and was oh OH SO GOOD!)
  • Chocolate Oatmeal Stout by Lobethal Bierhaus (mmm dessert)

Too often I see the Wheaty's twitter updates of their current tap line-ups and start looking online for cheap flights to Adelaide as they jealousy rises. They are they only venue in Australia to have tapped a keg of Mikkeller's Beer Geek Brunch...and I wasn't there! Sad, but massive respective to The Wheaty for tapping the beers they do.

Thirdly, the various rooms/spaces throughout The Wheaty allow for, even encourage, a plethora of social abandon. Whether you just want to sit at the bar and drink beer; laze on a couch and read a book; play a few rounds of pool with mates or strangers; hold a meeting; form a club; get animated with colleagues; shoot the breeze in the beer garden; hold and event; play a gig or just stand and stare at the ceiling...The Wheaty has the space for all of it with uncluttered and characterful rooms.

The semi-covered rear courtyard provides a versatile bandroom, allowing live music and performances of all genres. Everyone in the courtyard can have an excellent view of the small corner stage from any position and the sound fills the space wonderfully. The atmosphere of the bandroom is cultured and relaxed with a splash of industrial...and seems just right for a party.

A wide range of groups and organisations gather at The Wheaty. Community and arts groups, knitting clubs, sporting groups including Roller Derby teams, beer-focus gatherings. The Wheaty is a truly welcoming pub.

Naturally, the owners and staff don't tolerate dickheads, but I suspect there are few occasions when dickheads dare to be a dickhead in The Wheaty.

The owners - Jade, Emily and Liz - are passionate publicans. On that Monday night back in June we spent a couple of hours chatting to the wonderfully upfront and accessible Jade Flavell about running The Wheaty. It was clear that the owners have found their true calling and made it happen.

Jade told us all about their history of taking over the pub, crafting it to their liking and the barriers and battles of making a great pub even better. It was sad but familiar to hear that at times they also battle the universal confusion of obtuse local and State laws, similar to the stories of friendly publicans from Melbourne.

There is no food at The Wheaty, other than delicious cheeses that are perfect for matching with the beers available. There is the intention to one day build a kitchen and serve some food. The planned kitchen is an eternal work-in-progress but will "definitely happen", according to Jade back in June. For now it's BYOFood, the staff are more than happy for you to order in. A pile of local take-out menus sit at the bar and those businesses are happy to and familiar with delivering to The Wheaty. We ordered pizza's, asked for delivery to "The Wheaty in the Blue room" and it was efficiently delivered to our hands 40mins later.

The Wheatshef Hotel's bar will satisfy any beer lover, yet what is more rewarding is that The Wheaty is a diverse venue that is far from just another craft beer bar... is a great pub that also has awesome beer!

To read more love for The Wheaty, check out the following online articles:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I'm coming back... Beer Bar Band style!

Yes...*cough*...the dust sure is building up around here at Beer Bar Band. But never fear, I'm on my way back! (like you care!)

It has been a massive couple of months in this BBB blogger's world. Firstly, the wife and I bought our first home then we ran our first half marathon. We have also judged a homebrew competition and enjoyed a bunch of excellent beer events, new beer releases and, of courses, great gigs.

Recent highlights also include...

The Festival of the Frothy celebrating The Crafty Pint's 1st Birthday:

A huge beer trivia party night in The Atrium at Federation Square was held in honour of The Crafty Pint website's first full year of sharing the good word about good beer in Australia. The crowd was packed with familiar beer-loving faces and the beers flowing from the Beer DeLuxe taps (exclusive to attendees of the event on the night) were spectacular, with very special mentions going to the Feral Brewing King Brown (Barrel-Aged Imperial Brown) and the Moon Dog Brewery Perverse Sexual Amalgam (black sour beer). Most of all, the simply awesome people of Holgate Brewhouse provided 30 bottles of their decedent 12.5% Beelzebub's Jewels, one for each table, to enjoy with a cake that had been baked using the same beer!

Our table of tweeting beer lovers, writers and home brewers (team name: "Feeling my pants!") finished around middle of the pack in the trivia stakes, but the social fun, solid organisation/coordination by Beer DeLuxe & staff and good beer was the winner all round.

For a video wrap of the night (spot me?) via The Post Project, click HERE.

GO TEAM "Feeling my pants!"
Team "Facial Hair of the Dog"
Funky Bunch Trivia Host, Tom Delmont aka Road Goat
Happy Birthday Mr Pint!

Another Fed Square Victorian Microbreweries Showcase:

After attending several Fed Square Microbreweries Showcases I thought I had seen it all. However, the 2 held this year have both thrown up plenty new and interesting options to explore. Hence, I am back to being an excited attendee every time his Showcase comes around. Tasting highlights from this week included the new Golden Ale from the new Two Birds Brewing, the Bridge Road Brewers & Nøgne Ø collaboration brew, an India Saison, Moon Dog's non-barrel-aged Black Lung smokey porter (can't wait for the business!). It was also great to meet Paul Mercurio, who was there for his book "Cooking with Beer", which the wife loves and has used to cook several delicious beer infused recipes with. Delicious!

For future events, check out:

The Drones "A Thousand Mistakes" tour gig at The Corner Hotel last Friday:

Yep, just another great gig by The Drones, with the added bonus of a fantastic set list of rarities, including the semi-epic "Luck in Odd Numbers" from Havila and "Sitting on the Edge of the Bed Cryin" from Wait Long By The River.

The sound was surprisingly excellent (for the sometimes patch Corner bandroom, depending on your position) and the energy was all there. Several broken strings slightly dampened the ending of some songs yet showed off the vigor that the band was playing with. I even drank a few stubbies of Melbourne Bitter during the gig...because The Drones and MB just go well at midnight.

The gig ended with a very RocKwiz moment, as support act Adalita joined The Drones on stage for a cover of Bob Dylan's "Oh Sister". Great stuff!


Yes, so much good beer continues to flow around Melbourne at the moment, primarily thanks to the huge rise in growler stations over the last 6 months. I have now made good use of draught beer fills from growler stations at Slowbeer, Blackhearts & Sparrows, The Local Bottleshop, Chapel St Cellars and Holgate Brewhouse. Still keen to make use of the Bridge Road Brewers growler station at McCoppins in Fitzroy.

I have also taken on a slightly bigger role at the back-end of Australian Brews News as a pseudo Assistant Editor (or is that "Assistant to the Editor") support role and am very excited about further expanding that area in future and my beer writing in general.

Oh, by the way, for beer loving podcast listeners out there...check out the Radio Brews News podcasts for some interesting local conversations about all things beer, hosted by Matt and Pete.

Your BBB blogger in-between Matt and Pete aka Prof.

And now...

Next week we move into our new home. It will be a huge change but will also provide me with more time and space to commit to this blog...and more.

All my life I have lived in the inner Melbourne suburbs, where the beer/bar/bands scene is plentiful, vibrant and accessible. For the sake of affording a decent sized house, we are now moving out to the hills and the very outer Melbourne suburbs, where my styles of beer bar bands are less present. Thankfully, my new suburb actually has some good beer, a bar and bands...and a whole bundle of potential!

Yes, I suspect I will soon be reviewing and even "part of the furniture" at Oscar's Ale House, rocking out during countless gigs at Ruby's Lounge and buying plenty of good beer supplies from Olinda Cellars...maybe!

I will definitely miss living walking distance from my local beer bar band central of the past 4 years: Slowbeer (ok, only been open for a year, before that it was Dan Murphys), The Royston Hotel (*love*) and Mountain Goat Brewery (more Double Hightail please!)

And now starts my quiet campaign for a craft microbrewery with a cellar door or bar out in the Dandenongs...

...maybe something as exciting and fun as the good good men of Moon Dog Craft Brewery


Oh...and go follow:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bars & Beers - The AFL Grand Final deserves good beer

As I wrote about last year, the AFL Grand Final is an iconic event is sports-lovin' Melbourne. The vast majority of my home-town's population will have something more than a passing interest in the match this coming Saturday, which decides the Premiers of this year's professional Aussie Rules football season.

It is indeed a grand spectacle (despite the commonly awful and/or lame associated entertainment/functions/celebrations) and impels many to gather with friends and family for a lively Saturday afternoon of food, footy and frivolity. It is a day that demands good beer...for the sake of a good time!

Few gain a ticket to the actual match. Some desperate hopefuls were even lining up (camping) outside my local newsagency and ticket box-office as early as Saturday morning in hope of buying a rare AFL member tickets. The chance to watch the game in full live glory at the MCG on the big day, is far out of reach for the vast majority, afforded only to corporate specials and too many random high-fliers who go along for no other reason than it's the thing to do. blah. (Where's the fans?!?)

Then again, what's the point at being at the game when you can not enjoy good beer during the game? Most of the crowd at the MCG will have to suffer with the pungent roughness of Carlton Draught or the pointless blandness of Carlton Midstrength. Only the select few MCC Memember will be able to access some of the Matilda Bay range (not the good ones like Alpha Pale Ale or Dogbolter, but at least Big Helga and, in this case, Fat Yak).

Anyway...the next best thing, the regular thing for many of us, is to gather with a crowd of fellow footy fans and create your own awesome atmosphere at a pub or someone's backyard/lounge room.

Last year we spent Grand Final Day at Mrs Parmas, which had an excellent festive atmosphere (despite the audio problems early on followed by the shock result of a draw). You can't beat a room full of fans and a bar pouring pint after pint of flavoursome local microbrewed beer!

So, once again, if you are looking for a bar around Melbourne to watch the Grand Final match with an atmospheric bunch of randoms plus the bonus of excellent craft beer, here are a few options for this Saturday:

The Royston Hotel
12 River St, Richmond
Open from 12pm

What they say:
  • Full menu available, plus Meat Pies & Nachos.
  • $15 Jugs of selected craft beer - Mountain Goat, Little creatures, Stone & Wood.
  • Footy sweep on the day (winning margin, first goal kicker etc.)
  • To book: call (03) 9421 5000 or email

Mrs Parmas
19-25 Little Bourke St, Melbourne City
Open from 11am

Grand Final day at Mrs Parmas has become a popular tradition for many who want to be near the MCG but can't get inside. They turn most of their taps over to beers from Grand Ridge Brewery, which are available for "happy hour" prices.

What they say:
  • Sweeps for first goal, first point & winning team & margin.
  • Plus Grand Ridge Beers on tap at Happy Hour prices during the game
  • Bookings essential as seats are limited
  • To book: call (03)9639 2269

True South
298 Beach Road, Black Rock
Open from 1pm

What they say:
  • What: AFL Grand Final on the big screen (well, OK...55 inches anyway)
  • Where: Mawson’s Landing (upstairs at True South)
  • When: From 1pm on Saturday 1st October
  • Food: Our Tapas menu
  • Drink: Beer and cider, wine, soft drinks...even water
  • Admission: Free (no bookings for this event)
  • For more info, tel: 1300 878 360

    The Local Taphouse
    184 Carlisle Street, St Kilda East
    Open from 12pm

    What they say:
    • The AFL Grand Final is almost upon us and to celebrate, we're getting more screens. This year, you'll be able to see a screen from just about every corner of the venue. The now traditional BBQ will kick off as doors open at midday and we'll be showing the telecast from start to finish, although we might turn the volume down when The Loaf pumps out Bat outta Hell.
    • No bookings so get in early to secure your spot.
    • Oh, and there'll be beer. Really great beer.

    The Rainbow Hotel
    27 St David Street, Fitzroy
    Open from 12pm

    What they say:
    • Come on to the Rainbow for GF Day. We will have two big screens and offering free hot snacks at half time. Jimi Hocking and his Blues machine will be heating things up after the match. It's free entry and should be a cracker. We will be open from midday so get in early to grab a seat.

    Alternatively...if you are more inclined to just do your own thing - stay at home or visit a mate's place and fire up the BBQ - then treat yourself to fresh draught craft beer by filling up a growler or two! There's now a bundle of shops and breweries around Victoria that are offering growler fills. To find one near you, check out the list of Growler Filling Stations on The Crafty Pint website.

    Personally, this year I'll be taking this final option and staying home with a sweet stash of good beer, maybe with one/two/three of my four growlers filled with something special. I really care not for either of the teams playing in the Grand Final this year...and will only watch sparingly in hope to see Collingwood lose (oh, and I have a pile of packing to get done).

    First up, however, it's Brownlow Night tonight. Watching the often boring 3.5hour telecast of the Brownlow Medal count over a few drinks is also another tradition for many (...who knows why!).

    The telecast is synonymous with drinking games. There are so many potential categories to score a *DRINK* on during the Brownlow. I may have a horror story or two to tell from previous years...involving shots of scotch whenever an Essendon player scored 3 votes in a round...

    No such silliness from me tonight though...need to be responsible so that I am sprightly for work tomorrow. Instead, we shall "enjoy" Brownlow viewing over a roast dinner and several Brown Ales, including the Holgate Brewhouse Nut Brown Ale (which we filled our Holgate growler with yesterday whilst at the brewery for lunch), Beer Here "Kama Citra" Brown Ale and the 2 Brothers JAMES Belgian BROWN (mmm dessert). Cheers!

    A pint of Holgate Nut Brown Ale

    Friday, September 2, 2011

    Beer - Father's Day - You may as well buy him plain socks

    Around here, the latest bus stop poster advertisements from liquor superstore Dan Murphy's suggest that you "Buy Dad what he really wants" for Father's Day...and displays a bottle and full glass of Coopers 62.


    Such a gift is bland, uninteresting and cheap in terms of both product and meaning/thought! Is that how you thank your dad? You may as well be a disappointing cliché and gift him some socks.

    Ok, so some people don't have the best relationship with the parentals, Yes, maybe grey socks or a stinky yellow liquid is appropriate.

    For those who wish to acknowledge and celebrate their father for the journey of life, how about you give Dad some local craft beer!

    The journey that one can discover in the diverse styles and characteristics of craft beer can be a nice analogy for the journey of life. (sorry, was that too wanky?)

    If your Dad enjoys the Cooper's 62 style, here are some suggestions of comparative craft beer drops that will help separated your gift giving prowess from the mundane masses whilst supporting small and worth Aussie businesses:

    These beers are not hard to find around Victoria these days. Several of them are stocked readily by the big beer warehouses (Dan Murphys, 1st Choice) as well as Vintage Cellars and Cellarbrations.

    Alternatively, just visit one of the bottle shops listed on The Crafty Pint's website at:

    Material gifts are good for some, but experiences live forever. The last time I tasted Coopers 62 it was experienceless, unlike every time I try a new craft beer.

    In today's flourishing market, there is always another beer worth trying! Does Dad know that yet...

    Wednesday, August 31, 2011

    Good Beer Week - Saturday - The Great Beer Debate

    Yikes...I'm awake again (...I think)! Unfortunately, I have been awfully time poor and brain power limited for the last 3 months, hence the lack of postings. Nonetheless, I remain determined to post about each Good Beer Week event that I attended during May...because it was just a marvelous celebration of Australian craft beer...and more!

    Working backwards through the week, I have already covered the Slowbeer Tasting and the BeermenTV Hair of the Dog breakfast. Now it's time to recall (...which is very difficult!) the festival's marquee event...the Great Beer Debate. This was the hardest event to write about...because the preceding 24 hours had consisted of the AIBA dinner, the BeermenTV breakfast and the Local Taphouse Kiwi I was fully drained and hardly sober. we go... 

    It was the event that started the Good Beer Week ball rolling. A public debate that would gather together passionate characters from the beer industry and see them verbally battle for the cause of good beer, over beer, in front of beer lovers and the beer curious.

    The original idea for a beer industry debate was born over a causal chat and a few beers between James Smith (The Crafty Pint), Barney Matthews (ex-Beer DeLuxe, now Murray's at Manly) and Miro Bellini (Beer Atlas). They shared a collective concern over an approaching void in Melbourne’s beer scene. Many luminaries from the global beer industry would soon be in Melbourne for the Australian International Beer Awards, yet the occasion lacked any exciting events that would allow these good beer champions to engage with the public of this craft beer flourishing town. The common desire to fill this void turned into a beery brainstorming session, in search of a new showcase for Melbourne's beer scene.

    "People like a bit of debate when it comes to beer. Whether it's just arguing over who makes the best, what is or isn't craft beer – even whose round it is next – beer and banter go hand in hand", noted the Great Beer Debate and Good Beer Week organiser James Smith on his website The Crafty Pint.

    Inspired by the Festival of the Frothy Trivia Night held at Melbourne's Ormond Hall in 2009, the same venue was chosen to stage this "Great Beer Debate", with the team from Beer DeLuxe coordinating the event. Using the lure of the Friday night AIBA dinner as a springboard, the debate was locked in for the following night.

    The plan to stage this Great Beer Debate soon spawned a week long calendar of beer focused events that would create the Good Beer Week festival. This debate would to be the jewel in the GBW crown.

    Several phone calls later the panel of debaters was settled, assembling six renowned figures of the local and international beer industry.

    One team would consist of AIBA Chairman and former Foster's Master Brewer, Peter Manders; Chief Brewer at Tasmania’s Moo Brew and well known stickler for brewing detail, Owen Johnston; and Ambassador for one the most influential breweries behind America's craft beer renaissance, Sierra Nevada's Steve Grossman.

    The opposing team brought together The Local Taphouse founder, Steve Jeffares (who attended the night dressed as a sheep, after a day of overseeing his Local Taphouse Kiwi SpecTAPular); True South Head Brewer, the energetic Sam Fuss; and Scottish brewing punk, BrewDog's James Watt.

    To further ensure the night would be a light-hearted affair, comedian Damian Callinan was hired to MC the proceedings. Seasoned beer dinner host Professor Pilsner (Pete Mitcham) was also engaged to work the floor with a roving mic, allowing mid-debate vox-pops with the notable beer industry folk in the audience. In addition, musical entertainment from local blues and rockabilly band, The Detonators, was lined up to play several sets throughout the night. Music-comedy duo, Elbow Skin, was also a last minute inclusion to bookend the event with their popular Good Beer Week anthem. Within weeks of forming the original idea, the event had a full program of industry and entertainment talent that promised the showcase that Smith, Matthews and Bellini had desired.

    When the night arrived the organisers, panelists and attendees were generally all weary but on a high following the success of the inaugural Good Beer Week. The debate would be the last major event of the festivities, so the atmosphere was one of celebration.

    The 130 strong audience filed in, receiving a complimentary glass of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on arrival. The crowd mingled randomly then took their place at the Ormond Hall's dining tables for dinner. The bar was pouring craft beers that had been the talk of the week - such as Wig & Pen, Feral Brewing, Thunder Road Brewing, BrewDog, Sierra Nevada, Stone & Wood, as well as the Good Beer Week collaboration brew.

    In the Green Room the debaters and entertainers enjoyed the "best rider ever", according to James Smith, which included beers from Sierra Nevada and BrewDog along with the 4 Pines Stout and recently bottled Murray’s Heart of Darkness Imperial Belgian Stout. "Normally it's Melbourne Bitter", exclaimed the delighted Elbow Skin duo.

    The event formally commenced with a live performance of the Elbow Skin Beer Song. MC Callinan then warmed up the crowd by leading an audience participation game to discover who was a real beer nerd. Adding to the laughs, James Smith's "The Crafty Pint" entered the stage dressed in Queen's Counsel court attire and grasping a gavel, taking his position at the adjudicators table.

    Next the panellists were brought on stage one by one and introduced through five questions from the MC, including:
    • "If you could only have one beer for the rest of your life, what would it be?" – Steve Crossman: "Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale"
    • "What would be your last beer?" – Peter Manders "Crown Lager"
    • "Which beer do you feed an Amazon tribe who have never tasted beer before"? – Steve Jeffares: "Stone & Wood Pacific Ale"
    • "What beer would Jesus drink?" – James Watt: “"actical Nuclear Penguin"
    • "What ingredient should never be in beer?"* – Sam Fuss: "KY Jelly"
    *Karl van Buuren of Moon Dog made note of every answer given for "What ingredient should never be in beer?" with the intention to brew a beer with all those items in it! haha...unlikely!

    The opening had been long and the audience was beered up, but it was finally time for the debating to begin. And the first topic: "Extreme beer's for assholes! Brewers should brew to style!"

    The Affirmative side of Manders, Johnston and Steve Grossman jumped into the debate with advocacy for beer styles as the cause for increased beer quality and consistency. They fought for the merits of the BJCP style guidelines improving brewer accountability to produce beers of a high standard that would be more enjoyable for all. An initially restrained debate was opened up by Owen Johnston with his flippant attack on the enjoyers of such beers, declaring "extreme beers are for extreme assholes!"

    For the Against team, Steve Jeffers noted that "extreme beers are responsible for getting people interested in craft beer". He drew heavily on the examples of beers produced by Murray's Craft Brewing Co, regaling the audience with the favour his Local Taphouse patrons find in the spectrum of Murray's extreme beers.

    Sam Fuss lived up to her cheeky reputation with a visual analogy of why extreme beers are better. Sam presented Tina and Gina to the audience, two blow-up dolls, one dressed conservatively and one dressed in only a bikini. Drawing on her recent trip to Brazil and comparing extreme beer to beach eye-candy, Sam asked “Doesn’t being a little bit risqué and eccentric make the beach a better place to beer”, receiving much applause in response.

    BrewDog's James Watt cemented a win for the Against team by declaring "beer is about having fun", highlighted by stories of BrewDog's endeavours to brew the highest ever ABV beer, resulting in the 55% End of History, which was done purely for fun.

    After an interval, more live music and beers, all returned to their place and the second, more serious, debate was launched: "United we stand, divided we fall - without working together Australia's microbreweries will be crushed".

    By this stage the arguments became somewhat hazy and loose as the two teams battled with a poignant topic for Australia's local industry whilst in a not-too-sober state.

    The Affirmative team used the success of international examples, such as CAMRA and America's Brewers Association, which have driven the promotion and protection of small and craft brewers’ interests, leading to tax relief and accountability for the craft of brewing.

    James Watt attempted to rebut with "CAMRA is EVIL". He supported the claim by noting how the campaign's strict Real Ale guidelines had been a roadblock to craft beer innovation in the United Kingdom. An amusingly incoherent Jeffares returned to the example of Murray's Craft Brewing as he sited the success of the fiercely independent Murray Howe. Sam Fuss highlighted the question of who would run such an organisation in Australia and when anyone would have the time to commit to it. However, lead by Sam's own admission that Australia's brewers did need to unite and work together, it was clear that the majority of the panel members along with the industry folk in the audience agreed.

    The debate pointed to the sense in propping up Australia's creatively flourishing yet commercially fledgling craft beer industry with a united representative organisation. It was a conclusive result. The topic win was awarded to the Affirmative team of Manders, Johnston and Grossman.

    The night was wound up by a beer soaked encore performance from Elbow Skin and more action from The Detonators, along with plenty of mingling and merrymaking between industry and the public in the bar.

    Through all the frivolity and beer, the underlying battle of the night for the audience was trying to determine whether they were watching a comedy debate or a serious industry debate. Can these two scenarios mix? Both topics have a strong and passionate presence within the local and international beer industry. Whilst arguments presented by each side were often genuine and thought provoking, the jocular pretence of the night detracted from the desire to take the arguments seriously. Time, or just the preference for everyone to simply say their own piece, also limited any proper rebuttal of the opponents’ arguments.

    The event may have also suffered from the scheduling, but that was simply a consequence of its own success in spawning Good Beer Week. Ultimately, the debate succeeded in providing an integrated beer event that the Melbourne beer scene demands.

    Mark Hibbard, who attended the event with his fellow homebrewers from the Bayside Brewers Club, told Beer Bar Band "it was a good opportunity for those not in the industry in-crowd to hear from the insiders. I thought Sam Fuss and Steve Crossman performed well. The first debate topic was of general interest whereas the second was more for the insiders. Overall as an event, I give it a tick."

    For me, it was a good but lethargic night. The best part was the mingling between the beer industry and everyone else that happened in the bar after the event. I just wish I was more...lucid (one too many Heart of Darkness for me, after enjoying two during breakfast and then scoring another during the debate...thanks Miro!)

    Planning is now in progress to stage bigger and better Great Beer Debate in 2012.