Saturday, July 2, 2011

Beer - Birthday Brews - Revisiting Favourites

On Thursday I completed 31 years of life...and began my 32nd. That must mean it's a good time to enjoy some extra special beers!

So yes, for my 31st birthday I opened my mini beer cellar, which I began a year ago, and revisited some of my favourite beers.

Bringing in the next year of life on Wednesday night, the wife and I drank my saved bottle of Bridge Road Brewers B2 Bomber Belgian black IPA (which I blogged my love for last year).

Not surprisingly, the beer poured with a massive frothy head. It was no gusher, but the yeast must have still been working away for sometime, continuing the production of carbon dioxide. All that did, however, was slow down the process of pouring the beer. It still possessed a beautiful solid dark black appearance with a generous tan head.

With just under a year of age behind it, the B2 Bomber still tastes fantastic and drinks beautifully. Naturally, the hop character has mellowed and softened a bunch, but the rich and complex flavour was still in good form. A flavoursome combination of dark roasted malts, coffee, chocolate and dark fruits in a well balanced, warming package. I really love this beer!

Towards the bottom of the bottle, there was a small edge of a sour funk, indicating that the yeast may soon turn this beer a bit. So if you are sitting on a bottle of B2 Bomber, I recommend drinking it soon, unless you have a decent and controlled cellar set up.

In good news for lovers of this one-off anniversary ale from Bridge Road Brewers, Ben Kraus plans to brew and release a "revamped" version of B2 Bomber later this year! Awesome.

For my birthday present, the wife surprised me with a very special bounty of international craft beers that I have never tasted before...

Mikkeller Black Hole Barrel Aged (Peat), Mikkeller George! Barrel Aged (Bourbon Edition) and BrewDog Abstrakt AB:05 (bottle 3437 of 3600)!

These are extremely exciting beers for me. I have tried other versions of each - Mikkeller Black Hole Barrel Aged (Red Wine - Pinot) on one awesome night of big stouts at Biero Bar; had my first taste of Mikkeller George! in January this year and was blown away by the coffee kick; and BrewDog Abstrakt AB:04, which was enjoyed with the ABWG over dinner at Josie Bones. Each other those beers have been serious "WOW" beers for me and sit comfortably in my list of top 20 beers I have ever tasted. Hence, Jenn's above birthday present to me is something very special ...she's an awesome wife!

Birthday night, Thursday, we had a quite little birthday dinner at The Courthouse Hotel in North Melbourne. Dining from the bar menu and drinking excellent craft beers from tap, it was exactly my type of preferred dining experience. I wish I could visit The Courthouse more is just so satifying to see many people drinking, discussing and enjoying a diverse range of beers.

Over dinner we enjoyed:
  • the new McLaren Vale Beer Co Vale IPA - good easy drinking, but I'm not sure about the hop profile. The hop aroma was a little musty dirty, with a very flat bitterness and soft taste. I want more punch from an IPA. Although, I must say that this IPA worked wonderfully as a match for the beautifully soft Gorgonzola croquettes entree that we started the night with!
  • Mountain Goat Oaky Porter - a bubble & squeak brew using left over incredients that hint at the inclusion of elements from the Thorny Goat Black IPA and Surefoot Stout. We had previously enjoyed this beer in draught growler form from Slowbeer, but enjoyed more on tap, possibly due to the better dispensing system as well as some improvement from an extra 2 weeks age behind it
  • Hargreaves Hill ESB - Jenn drank this with her baked ricotta gnocchi, confit duck, spinach, olives
  • Bridge Road Beer Chevalier Biere de Garde - I had with my Porterhouse steak, mash, rocket & red wine sauce. I love Biere de Garde so I always go for it when on tap, but it was a bit of a match-fail for my steak. There was much yeasty banana coming through the Biere de Gard and less of the usual lovely dark fruits. In hindsight, the Mountain Goat Oaky Porter or Hargreaves Hill Stout would have been a more appropriate match for my steak. Nonetheless, the meal was thoroughly enjoyable.

After dinner we trammed back into the city and headed up to Biero Bar for more good beer action, which included the Prickly Moses Black Panther IPA and the Morning Peninsula Brewery Brown Ale, which was shining a beatufiul hue of red in the candle light...

Prickly Moses Black Panther

Mornington Peninsula Brown Ale

Sometime after 10pm the music was turned up too loud in the fairly empty Biero Bar, which kinda killed our chilled out mood as we lazed on the couches and enjoyed good beer. We took it as a cue to waddled down the road to Penny Blue bar. A little birdy had told me that the Holgate Brewhouse Temptress was pouring from the bar's handpump. So, even though Temptress was available at Biero Bar for $5/$10 for a pot/pint, the handpump enough incentive to make the short journey down to Elizabeth St (and only $8 for a goblet is pretty good!).

This was my first visit to Penny Blue...and I loved it! I feel sad that it has taken me so long to discover this characterful little bar, beautifully located in the heart of Melbourne. Whilst I have known about it for some time, I have just never made it there...and I've been missing out! Penny Blue only has one beer tap, but it is an old English handpump beer engine. If that does not take your fancy, the craft beer selection in the fridge behind the bar is excellent. The bar is cosy and relaxed. The staff are good, with one guy behind the bar impressing me with his explanations of three local craft beers when a customer asked if they had any good American Pale Ales to try.

There was some glassphemy when my 2nd order of Temptress was poured into a tall Trumer Pilsner glass. Totally the wrong glass for a chocolate porter! But oh well, such a minor that time of night I was just happy to still be drinking good beer in any form...

And so ended my birthday day, with the joys of handpumped Temptress. However, the birthday beering did not end there...!

Friday started with a hair-of-the-dog breakfast. Home-made bacon, egg & cheese muffins (so much better than McDonalds will ever make!) alongside a glass of the spectacular Nøgne Ø God July Islay Edition, thanks to the generous & hardworking crew of Innspire. Whilst visiting the Innspire warehouse back in January I mentioned that God July Islay was one of my favourite beer discoveries in 2010 and was used to mark my 30th birthday. In return the Innspire guys gifted me with this bottle to celebrate my next birthday with, and I did, over breakfast the morning after. Win!

This Porter-like American Strong Ale has been matured in Oak casks previously containing Islay malt whisky. Many drinkers struggle with the strong Islay character, but I love the rich woody smokey baconness. And we're all about big peat and Islay kick at the moment, especially after the crazy beautiful explosion of Yeastie Boys' Rex Attitude!

Finally, last night (Friday), Jenn and I returned to our "local" (microbrewery) the Mountain Goat Brewery...aka goatbeer. There we had pizza for dinner and drank Three Golden Goats, more Oaky Porter and 2011 Oaky Rapunzel!

Mountain Goat's Rapunzel is another beer that I have blogged undying love for in the past. This 2011 release is the best yet!

The massive and potent 2010 version of the Rapunzel Belgian Strong Blond Ale has been soften substantially, because it has been blended with a touch of Steam Ale after 15 months of ageing in Chardonnay barrels. It is now so much more drinkable and dangerously sessionable, even though two is enough to knock you out.

The appearance is still the same, cloudy golden-orange with a decent white head that leaves loads of sexy lacing. The huge Chardonnay aroma remains, along with notes of grapefruit, apple and some vinegar at the back.

Rapunzel's complex taste is also still big but now better balanced, full of citrus fruits like orange, green apple, vanilla and a slight sweetness.

The oak aging is very evident in the astringency and short dry finish. This version was also extra oaky because it had been run through the Randy filled with French Oak chips, adding some extra oaky funk to the taste. It hinted at elements of a good Lambic Gueuze. Really good stuff.

All it needed was some crusty bread and brie to match!

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