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!

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