girl + beer … on location

Only in the South West could an attempt to catch up with a mate result in a day in a brewhouse. Mal is Head Brewer at Colonial Brewery in Margaret River and invited me to hang out in the brewery for the day whilst they brewed the next Limited Edition Colonial beer – a Baltic Porter. Due to release in late June/early July – start planning your South West getaway now!

girl+beer on location at Colonial Brewing, Margaret River

Friday 25th May 2012 …

Only in the South West could an attempt to catch up with a mate result in a day in a brewhouse …

I’ve spent many a happy conversation chatting with Mal, Head Brewer at Colonial Brewery at various beer events. At some of these events Colonial have been offering beautiful Western Australian oysters with their Kolsch and I’ve indulged in more than one (or five) at a time, shovelling them as elegantly as I could manage whilst standing up and juggling a beer.

Mal and I have been meaning to catch up over a pint for a while now so when I found myself with a Friday off I thought it would be a great opportunity. After all, who could refuse a Friday afternoon beer?! However my suggestion was nicely one-up-ed  by Mal’s invitation to spend a day at the brewhouse whilst they brewed the next limited release – a Baltic Porter. “Do you want to come and join in?”, he asked. I think my reply was “hell yes”.

I was excited … really excited. Mash in was scheduled for 8am and Mal gave me an open invitation to head over whenever. There seemed to be an understanding that 8am might be what I’d consider “violently early”. I really wanted to be there for the mash and my boyfriend pointed out that I’d be mad to miss it. I knew he was right so I set my alarm and dreamt a beery-sleep. It was still very dark outside when my alarm started making seriously unpleasant noises. It went off again after the factory determined “snooze” time was up and it was still dark and it was really cold and as you’ve probably guessed by now, I missed the mash in.

I arrived just after 9am after a quick read through my Oxford Companion to Beer to remind myself about Baltic Porters.

An English style, referring to strong Porter beers exported off to the Baltic countries such as Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Mal introduced me to his partner in brewing crime, Sorcha, and I proceeded to spend the day being either one of their shadows. I was encouraged to ask as many questions as I liked and, in most cases, needed because keeping up with brewer jargon in the wild is a little fast paced for this beer drinking gal. I’ve done a number of tours through breweries in my career – Matilda Bay, Gage Roads, Little Creatures, White Rabbit and Elmar’s in the Valley but it’s all surface stuff – here’s some equipment, here’s what is does, and so forth which is always great, don’t get me wrong, but compared to spending a whole day at a brewery … it’s the difference between listening to a CD and seeing the act live on stage.

The Colonial Baltic Porter will follow in the footsteps of earlier limited edition beers Keutebier and Mumme to continue the journey in old beer styles that have been a little neglected in recent times. Without concern for the latest trending styles or what Joe Bloggs is brewing down the road or on the other side of the Earth for that matter, Mal and Colonial are about beer styles that have captured their attention and, in turn, their desire to brew it for themselves. Colonial’s Limited Editions have gained significant momentum, flying out the door of the brewery, on show at sister venues The Royal and The Raffles and a few stray kegs making their way to like minded beer venues like Clancy’s Fish Pub Dunsborough and The Norfolk Hotel.

Having not brewed the Baltic Porter before the process was almost like baby sitting a small child, watching everything it was doing to make sure it was okay. It can’t be too hot or too cold or too thick and there was continuous testing. As the morning went on I had started to feel somewhat of a really incompetent stalker, following too closely behind poor Mal and Sorcha, so I volunteered to help with the testing. I was proud as punch as I stood in the brewery with a beaker of soon-to-be Baltic Porter in a small tub of ice water, swishing it around and watching the thermometer reach 20 degrees when it was ready for testing. I must have resembled some sort of mad Asian scientist, swishing a black liquid and smiling a slightly deranged smile. It’s a miracle I was invited back again or perhaps Mal was just being super polite.

The first step I got to see was the mash being transferred to the lauder tun. I peered in to see what was happening whilst the contents of the tank slowly rose as the pump worked diligently. That pump certainly had it’s work cut out for it with the Baltic Porter mash being a much thicker one than it had previously dealt with so we were on the look out for any signs of struggle. As the mash began recirculating Sorcha and I decided it looked a little like a cappuccino.

Now it was time for sparging. I used to think sparging was simply washing the mash with water from a thing that looked like an upside sprinkler. Whilst I’m not essentially wrong I did learn a lot more. Yes, it’s about washing the mash and basically making sure you’re getting the most good stuff that you can but it’s also a balancing act between too little, too much, too hot and too cold. There was more staring into the tank at this stage and without a functioning torch it was trickier but thankfully Sorcha had a back up – the iPhone Torch app. It was severely battery draining but turned out to be rather handy on this particular day. Oh and even now on reflection I still stand by my original thinking that the sparging bit looks like an upside down sprinkler.

Soon it was time for the almost-beer to move house again. This time from the lauter tun to the kettle, ready for the boil and the whirlpool. As it bubbled along I was once again struck by the intricacy of it all. Who’ve have thought beer was so sensitive? I mean I knew it was an art and I knew, in theory, that any number of factors could affect the final outcome but it’s really ANY number of factors, no matter how seemingly small. It’s crazy. As we watched the bubbles, monitoring what they were doing, Sorcha remarked it sounded like a babbling brook and from there we came up with the idea for a ‘Sounds of the Brewery’ relaxation tape. I think we were half serious; I’ll have to chat with her later to further develop the idea.

Now it was time for hops and so carefully measured doses of East Kent Goldings and Northern Brewer were thrown in for a nice hot bubbly swim in the kettle. I spent more time with my head in the tank and although I was blinking profusely as my contact lens’ struggled with the steam; I was also enjoying the aromas.

“Time for the messy part” I was told. Sorcha and Mal played around with the forklift and positioned a big white tub under the gaping mouth of the lauter tun. Then a slightly scary looking piece of machinery with spinny things was wheeled in. The process I am poorly describing is the removal of all the spent grain from the lauter tun, ready to be taken away and eaten by the local cattle or, sometimes, pigs. Apparently pigs go nuts for it. Those crazy, drunken pigs.

Mal started up the machine and it was damn loud. He declared himself to be a gentlemen as he handed me his ear muffs for my already slightly deteriorated ears. The spent grain overfilled two of these huge tubs, hitting home again just how much of a bigger style the Baltic Porter is going to be.

Time for the whirlpool. The whirlpool removes all the hop fragments and other bits and pieces that don’t belong by whirling it all up into one mass of stuff called the trub. We had to listen out for the gurgling noises and I remarked how it sounded like a bath tub being emptied. From here it was time to cool things down and the heat exchanger quickly went to work since yeast doesn’t really like to be boiled. Fair enough too.

The first Colonial Baltic Porter was now well on it’s way to completion! It was time to celebrate and unwind with a little more testing, this time of the tasting variety …

The limited release beers I’ve tried in recent memory have all been big, hoppy American styles and I’ve enjoyed them all but, as a category, pale ale is wider reaching than this and Colonial Pale Ale is a great reminder to this. Inspired by German ale styles the Colonial Pale Ale is an Altbier, a type of Pale Ale, that is beautiful with great biscuity malt, peppery spice and medium body. The background for Altbier evolves from older German ales, like the Keutebier style which was Colonial’s last limited release, with the name “alt” meaning “old” being a relative term to when lagers were gaining in popularity.

Next up we tasted the Kolsch and although by strict definition a true Kolsch is brewed in Cologne, Germany, there are a couple of great Australian breweries producing their own Kolsch style beers. I’ve enjoyed countless Colonial Kolsch pints and it’s always a sensational beer exhibiting great balance in spiciness, bitterness and hoppiness. I also love this style because it’s a great one to recommend to people who are tipping their toes in the water of craft brewing. When I was working at Five Bar we recommended it to a bunch of fellow hospitality folk and they drank us out of both the Sunner Kolsch, from Cologne, and 4 Pines Kolsch.

The final taster was the Colonial Porter, a fittingly dark number to end the day on with coffee and chocolate delivered with medium body.

I left Colonial with a massive smile on my face, as I normally do anyway, and a far better understanding of the beer making process. Mal and Sorcha were fantastic hosts, as well as Sarah in the bar for making me a great coffee and Adam in the kitchen for an epic fish burger for lunch. Be sure to look out for Colonial’s next Limited Edition – Baltic Porter – due to land in late June/early July. What a perfect excuse for a winter South West getaway, huh?

Colonial Brewing | Osmington Road, Margaret River
Open Daily 11am – 6pm

Mountain Goat + Mount Lawley

Don’t you just love Mountain Goat? I do. And don’t you just love it when you get the chance to meet a brewer?

Don’t you just love Mountain Goat? I do. And don’t you just love it when you get the chance to meet a brewer? … Brewers on tour !

Mountain Goat has been bringing us great beers since their Hightail Ale first hit Victorian shelves in 1997.

Dave from Mountain Goat will be dropping by Five Bar, Mount Lawley, to showcase some of their damn fine beer. The line up will include regulars such as Hightail Ale, Steam Ale and their new apple cider, 2 Steps. Also on the billing will be their latest Cross Breed, a collaborative brew with Mikkeller – Pepperberry Black IPA – and Rare Breed – a limited release Rye IPA. If you needed another reason to mark the event in your calendar there is something special appearing on tap.

One of the starts of the night – Cross Breed Black Pepperberry IPA

Just because they can, the boys in the Five Bar kitchen – Nelly & Mitch, will be serving up goat signature dishes to match the beers on offer.

Goat brewer + Goat beer + Goat food = I will see you there!

No tickets required for this event

Where: Five Bar | 560 Beaufort Street, Mt Lawley
When: Wednesday 13th June 2012
Time: 6.00pm

Nøgne Ø + International Beer Shop

International Beer Shop + Kjetil Jikiun, Head Brewer of Nøgne Ø + 4 great Nøgne Ø beers = a happy beer girl

Kjetil Jikiun from Nøgne ø + Me
Nøgne ø … the brewery from Norway that refuses to compromise, committed to taste, committed to craft beer

This is the first sentence you see on the Nøgne Ø website. I like it’s simplicity and directness. There’s no messing around here – it’s not sunshine and lollipops it’s just damn fine beer. Their beers, from the ones I have experienced so far, certainly seem to reflect these elements too. If you have time, read through the story behind Nøgne Ø. It is an interesting read because it feels like a real story from a human being instead of a marketing spiel, edited and changed to a more romantic version of events. You could almost be sitting beside Kjetil Jikiun (Founder, Head Brewer, Owner and All Round Nice Guy) enjoying a beer and listening to the history of the brewery unfold on the bar table. As a side note, he is described in the website as “the bearded giant”. Since it was pretty close to the first thing I thought when I met him, I thought that was worth mentioning.

The International Beer Shop played hosted to Kjetil Jikiun on Monday night for a Nøgne Ø Tasting and Tap Takeover, an hour of beer talk and sampling of four of their beers. With almost 20 beers in year round production and countless other special, seasonal and collaboration brews it was a delight to taste a nice cross section of their different offerings.

  • India Saison
  • Brown Ale
  • Kollaborator
  • #500 Imperial IPA
I wanted to take photos but it proved rather tricky. I had tasting notes in one hand and beer in the other and I didn’t fancy drawing attention to myself as I tried juggling them. For those who know me, hand/eye coordination doesn’t spring to mind as one of my strong points. You’ll just have to head down to The International Beer Shop (or even shop online!) and grab them to see and try for yourselves. In the mean time, perhaps I can tempt you further with a brief run down on how beautiful these beers are.
India Saison – in collaboration with Victorian brewery Bridge Road Brewers
I first had this a few months ago and recycled the bottle for flowers I was given. Trying it the second time around I was struck by how spicy it was, I didn’t remember that from the first time! It is balanced out very nicely with tropical notes from fresh Australian hops and cheekily weighs in at 7.5% ABV.
Brown Ale – one of their regulars
The carbonation was bigger than I had expected and was a pleasant surprise, giving a delightfully light and playful mouth feel. Putting my nose in the glass reminded me of opening a fresh bag of coffee beans. Spicy and malty and delicious.
#500 Imperial IPA – another of their regulars
Imperial IPA. There’s something great about this style, taking a IPA – a bigger version of Pale Ales – and then just making it bigger again which is great for my already beaten up taste buds. As the name suggests, it’s a celebratory brew, made to signify the 500th batch of ale. It’s nothing short of slap-you-in-the-face big, heaving with hops and bitterness. With the recent explosion of New Zealand hops around, other hops heads might recognise the Nelson Sauvin hop notes in there with very unsubtle fruit thanks to the dry hopping.
Nogne O Kollaborator – in collaboration with Ægir, a fellow Norwegian craft brewer.
It’s a DoppelBock, doppel = strong and bock = lager so the style becomes simple math. Rich, boozy with lots of dark fruits. It’s got great thick texture and just begs to be sipped on whilst reading a good book in winter. Or, in the case of my boyfriend and I last night, devoured in gulps with rich blue cheese and exclaiming how great the two go together!
Kjetil Jikiun at International Beer Shop
This is what happens when I visit the International Beer Shop

Little Creatures + White Rabbit

Little Rabbit – a collaboration brew between sister breweries Little Creatures and White Rabbit made especially for the Good Beer Week Great Australasian Beer Spectapular (GABS)

Coming Together …
White Rabbit and Little Creatures

Obviously Little Creatures + White Rabbit = Little Rabbit. It couldn’t have been any other name. There’s something about the words ‘White Creature’ that feel a little politically incorrect.

Whilst enviously reading through the Good Beer Week events I clicked to see what Little Creatures were going to be up to. Being a former Little Creature myself, I like keeping up with what they are doing. I used to spend my days driving around listening to Rage Against the Machine and  selling the almighty Pale Ale to bottle shops and bars. Despite a few years passing by I am fortunate enough to still know a few friendly faces at Little Creatures. As such, when I spotted a collaborative beer between Little Creatures and White Rabbit brewed especially for the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular (GABS) at Good Beer Week it caused me to pick up the phone. One email and a phone call later I learnt that a few kegs would be making their way back to Fremantle after Melbourne’s Good Beer Week. Availability outside the brewery was very uncertain, after all we are literally talking about just a handful of kegs, so I decided the only thing to do was to drive up to Fremantle and get it from the source.

Early days at White Rabbit Brewery
Healesville, Victoria
The Back Story: The White Rabbit Brewery in Healesville is brought to you by the same people as Little Creatures so perhaps it was only inevitable that a collaborative brew would hop-up (pun-tastic, I know. I’m sorry, please keep reading). White Rabbit beers, their White Ale and Dark Ale, are driven by yeast and open vat fermentation and letting the yeast be free (to a degree). Little Creatures is driven by hops and a naked flying baby. 

I gathered up two friends to come along for an adventure to Fremantle. We arrived at Little Creatures and head straight for the Brewhouse Bar (not the main hall), where you can taste beer and purchase some to take home with you, along with plenty-o-merchandise. It also gave me a chance to show off a little knowledge and point out where the bunnies are having sex on all White Rabbit branding (bottles, tshirts, packaging, it’s always there!).

Artwork is just one thing you’ll find at the Brewhouse Bar

We had a taste, chatted to the great Brewhouse Bar staff and glanced over the spec sheet. A taste was quickly followed by a pint. We sat in the sunshine, admiring the red Little Creatures bicycles and the assorted herbs and veggies growing in the surrounds.

The beautiful sunny day let Little Rabbit show off her appearance, light golden clarity and fluffy white head. The brew holds true to it’s White Rabbit father with Belgian yeast shining through, dry and a bit spicy. It’s Little Creatures mother imparts a little orange citrus and glimpses of passionfruit from her hops. The bitterness is long lasting and crisp, weighting in at about 37 IBU if my memory of the spec sheet that was at the bar serves me correctly.

Get down to Little Creatures and try this out, I have no idea if it will come around ever again but I know the batch I had won’t be around for long. They had already drained one keg when I was there and there was just two to go. Hop on in …

Check out the new Little Creatures website and if you want to stay up to date be sure to become a Hop Head!

Boogoop + Cheese

Boogoop is the fourth collaboration brew from Denmark “gypsy” brewer, Mikkeller, and Chicago artisanal brewery, Three Floyds. It follows in “goop” predecessors – Hvedegoop, Oatgoop and Ruggoop – and whilst its got a funny sounding name it’s also seriously good. Grab a chunk of your favourite blue cheese to match and enjoy!

Boogoop … funny name, awesome beer

Not only is Anthony Williams the front man for BEERTasters, a Perth outfit spreading the good beer word, but he’s also a good guy and as such dropped by on my last shift at Five Bar to give me a present. I love presents and I love beer so even better when the gift is beer! It was a bottle of the Mikkeller & Three Floyds collaboration brew, Boogoop. For some time it waited to be consumed, taking a prominent place on the bookshelf and being saved for the right occasion.

Boogoop is the fourth collaboration brew from Denmark “gypsy” brewer, Mikkeller, and Chicago artisanal brewery,  Three Floyds. It follows in “goop” predecessors – Hvedegoop, Oatgoop and Ruggoop – and whilst its got a funny sounding name it’s also seriously good.

The beer is a buckwheat wine-style ale which had me grabbing for my books to find out what exactly was buckwheat. First, it’s not a grain, it’s actually part of the herb family that’s Asian in origin; and secondly because buckwheat has grain-like qualities it’s another something for brewers to play with. From what I can gather Boogoop is using a certain amount of buckwheat in the mash (not sure how much but would love to know) and producing a barley wine styled ale. I am happy for anyone who’s more knowledgable on the topic to expand on this for me. At a throat-grabbing 10.4% abv and flavours that smack you around (but cuddle you after) it certainly felt like a barley wine style to me!

The special occasion my boyfriend and I waited for to enjoy the Boogoop ended up being any old weekday night when we really, really felt like a rich beer and some cheese. Of course it was going to have to be a suitably big and rich cheese so my boyfriend picked up a wedge of Blue Cow Blue Cheese.

We popped the bottle open and a gorgeous, hazy burnt caramel colour with a big white foam head filled the wine glass. I initially got a nose full of spices with plenty of IPA characteristics like grapefruit and floral notes and just a heck of a lot of hops. Ok, I thought to myself, smells like a spicy IPA. Wonder what it tastes like? I took a gulp and it’s certainly not a subtle beer and I’m certain it’s not supposed to be. Looking at the 3Floyds website subtle really isn’t their thing. Caramelised tones with warming alcohol and perhaps a hint of tropical fruits (passionfruit?), it’s rich and a little chewy which. When paired with blue cheese it made for a wonderful contrast in two different kinds of rich, the beer being the sort of sweet that is dark and sticks to the back of your mouth and the rich bitter and creamy blue cheese. Delightful! We also had a little camembert lying around and tried this with the beer too, resulting in another great matching of creamy sweet cheese and sticky sweet beer.

Cheese + Beer can be mind-blowingly, taste bud-dancing experience. Head to the shops, find a few different types of cheese and then hit your favourite craft beer bottleshop.

Here are a few links if you wanted some more cheese + beer reading …

And here is the menu for the beer + cheese event I co-hosted with Nick Bath from Blue Cow Cheese Co at Five Bar to support the 2011 Beaufort Street Festival:
Pilsner Urquell + Boerenkaas 15 Month Matured
Samuel Adams Lager + Montgomery’s Cheddar
Endeavour Pale Ale + Isle of Mull
St Peter’s Ruby Red + Blue Cow Swiss Gruyere
Coopers Vintage + Gutshofer Ziegenkase
Weihenstephaner Korbinian + Colombo Taleggio D.O.P
Mountain Goat Surefoot Stout + Mon Sire Cendre Royale

Home Food + Pale Ale

I do like my chilli and I like my American Pale Ales, good thing they are such good bed fellows! Beautifully floral flavours going head to head with a bit of heat and spices. Gotta love it. Who says eating at home is boring?!

image

Oh wonderful Pale Ale, let me count all the foods that go together so nicely with you!

A case of Little Creatures Pale Ale made its way home with my boyfriend on Friday night so it has been a bit of a Pale Ale + Chilli-Fest at the house. It’s one of those classic matches, it comes up constantly in beer + food writings. I’ve done it in a number of events and it’s always been really well received. It’s the floral and the bitterness going up against the heat of the chilli and the balance of flavours in everything, food and beer. The bubbles kinda make way for more food flavours to come in, like rolling out a long welcome mat.

Here’s what has been cooking on the stove this weekend, simmering slowly and devoured in minutes!

Green Chicken & Potato Curry
Chicken Breast, cut into large pieces
Ruby Red Potato, diced
1/2 Red & 1/2 Green Capsicum, cut into strips
Button Mushrooms, sliced
1/2 Onion, finely diced
2 cloves Garlic, finely diced
Red and Green Chilli
4 big spoons of Green Curry Paste (despite the fact the jar only calls for 3)
Coconut Cream

Cook chicken, add rest and simmer for as long as it takes! I cheat and nuke the potato before throwing it in the curry to simmer. I threw in a tablespoon of plain flour too to really thicken up the sauce. Serve with Rice and a great American Pale Ale!

Chilli in a Toasted Turkish Bread Bowl with Capel Cheddar
Beef Mince
1 teaspoon Spiced Stout Chutney
2 cloves Garlic, finely diced
2 Chillies
Tomato Paste
Pasta Sauce
Button Mushrooms
1/2 Capsicum
Nandos Extra Hot Peri Peri Sauce
Paprika
Chilli Flakes
Shredded Capel Cheddar
Sour Cream
Fresh Turkish Bread Rolls

Throw everything into a big pan and let it simmer away happily. Pop your buns into the oven (*ahem*) and let them get all toasty and warm.

Cut into the bun, take its guts out and whack in the chilli! Garnish with cheese (yup, cheese garnish – nothing fancy here) and put its head back on. Oh and don’t forget the sour cream. Tasty and oh-so-winter food …

Me + Redback Original Wheat

There are so many great stories around beer and breweries and people but often the best are the ones that are personal, that mean something to you. Here’s my own story around me + Redback Original Wheat

Redback Original Wheat
A beer almost as old as me …

Define difference between beer and craft beer?

 

As someone who really, really likes beer and lives in Australia there is a certain amount of *tsk tsk* about liking anything associated with Matilda Bay Brewing (aka Carlton United) and Malt Shovel Brewing (aka Lion Nathan). Yes, they are the certainly the two big players in the world of beer but it doesn’t make them evil or villainous. Judging from their photo in the 2011 Beer Lovers Guide to Australia, the guys at Matilda Bay are nice, smiley and happy people who probably really like beer too. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting Dr Chuck Hahn a couple of times and he’s real nice too. Most importantly, just because they are the “big boys” doesn’t mean they make bad beer.

I have fond memories of Matilda Bay’s first born, Redback Original Wheat Beer. It reminds me of Saturdays spent with my parents in Fremantle. Dad always parked in the same car park near Myer despite the fact it meant we had to walk past the giant fake white pointer shark head that stuck out from one of the loading bays. I have yet to find anyone else who remembers this thing and I worry that my imagination is trying to scare me. Either way, I hated it. It scared the pants off me. I think Dad thought it was funny but thankfully Mum was a little kinder and would be sure to hold my hand as we went past. The rest of the Saturday would go pretty well – we’d shop around a bit, stop at Cully’s Tea Rooms for coffee and party pies and a good long stroll around the Fremantle Markets. We’d emerge from the markets to The Sail & Anchor and stop in so Dad could have a pint and I remember it was always Redback Original Wheat.

The artistic stylings of my boyfriend and I whilst drinking some single hop IPA at The Sail & Anchor

I’ve always loved wheat beers, from when I discovered Hoegaarden whilst working at The Belgian Beer Cafe Westende, and even now. The more I’ve journeyed through beer the further I’ve travelled away from Redback. However, one sunny day recently I made a quick decision to get a pint and get reacquainted with an old friend.

I am not even sure what prompted the thought in my head. I hadn’t walked past the beer taps. I knew the pub had it (since I had previously worked there) and perhaps I had walked past a table who were drinking it and it slipped into my subconscious. After all, they do have the branded glasses and they are rather striking in a sunny beer garden.

With the first sip it was banana! Someone had smushed a banana into my beer glass … and it tasted lovely with a little sweetness in there too. It’s by no means a heavy beer, very light on and so it easily falls into the refreshing category. This isn’t a bad characteristic either. There are hints of spice too but to be honest I was so happy sitting in the sun with friends that I didn’t focus solely on the beer and just happily gulped away.

What does make me sad is that Matilda Bay Brewing no longer brew in it’s home town of Fremantle, having moved away to Melbourne some years ago. I was lucky enough to do a brewery tour through Matilda Bay in 2005 before it closed the doors. I remember two things – lots of copper and an occupational health and safety poster that had a close up of an eye with a nail in it. With such a rich history in Western Australia, being the first craft brewery (to the best of my knowledge) around, I found it sad to see her leave for the East Coast.

Call me sentimental but I’ve known this beer since I was a kid. And whilst it’s not my favourite beer in the world (and really, who could pick just one) and I don’t rant on about how sensational it is like I do with Mountain Goat, Feral or Sierra Nevada, it still has a place in my beer drinking world.

Redback Original Wheat

4.7% abv

Kristallweizen

A German style filtered weissbier (meaning “white beer”) brewed with malted wheat and barley using Saaz and Pride of Ringwood Hops.

Weissbier …

This beer style has had a rollercoaster ride over it’s long history, going from massive popularity in its early days until it’s brewing was outlawed by a Bavarian Duke. He wanted to be the only one who was brewing wheat beer and he and his family had his way for 200 years. Over this time demand for wheat beer steadily declined. With profitability down the family put the right to brew wheat beer up for grabs. Other people tried brewing wheat beer but sales continued to fall, no one wanted it, opting for Bavarian Lagers instead. However, one brewer who purchased the rights to brew weissbier persevered and eventually saw great success. For whatever reasons weissbier production in Germany went from 3% in the early 1950s to holding about 1/10 of the overall beer market in the country and continues to be an ever popular category, brewed all over the world.

Saturday Sunshine + Mt Lawley

Five Bar and The Brisbane Hotel – both in Mt Lawley and both former employers of mine and both amazing venues. Get acquainted or simply visit again and again like an old friend. Just be sure to get a beer whilst you’re there …

Beaufort Street, Mt Lawley
During Beaufort Street Festival 2011

Driving up to Perth inevitably results in visiting places with friends behind the bar, so it was not a surprise that my boyfriend and I found ourselves hanging out at Five Bar & The Brisbane Hotel on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Located along Beaufort Street in the always evolving suburb of Mt Lawley, it is the sort of strip you can spend a whole day exploring. Book shops, almost endless cafes, clothing, knickknacks stores, day spa, florists, furniture stores, and don’t forget the pubs, the bars and the places to eat. What’s best is that you could spent a fortune in a day or you could spend very little. I have had many happy days doing a delightfully cheap n’ cheerful feed at Taka’s before grabbing a pint at The Flying Scotsman then walking around Hyde Park on a nice sunny day.

We arrived at Five Bar just before lunch and as my most recent ex in terms of employers, where I was Assistant Manager, it’s always nice to drop back for a visit! We sat at the bar and watched as it slowly filled with hungry Saturday lunch people. We had gone straight for the Feral taps, sighting Barrel Fermented (Hop) Hog and Karma Citra (India Black Ale) on offer. It made sense for us to get one of each and share since we are both wildly in love with Feral Brewing.

This may be a good time to congratulate Brendan and his team on Feral Hop Hog taking out #1 spot in the 2011 The Critics’ Choice Australia’s Best Beers!

Five Bar is a bit unique in that although they are a James Squire Ambassador Venue, offering 5 James Squire Beers and their Orchard Crush Cider on tap, they are also able to offer 2 Feral beers from a second set of taps. This second set of taps is also set a little differently, both in appearance and function. They stand out as two old wooden barrels on the bar, it’s hard not to wander down and take a look (though the barrels don’t actually store any beer) and secondly, the temperature is set a fraction higher and the carbonation a fraction lower. This has been done with consultation from Brendan, Owner and Head Brewer at Feral, meaning his beers are served with a little less chill to enhance flavours and with a little less bubble which, I find, results in a smoother, fuller mouth feel. Five Bar tend to get a couple of kegs of this and that from Brendan so it always pays to look down the end of the bar and see what’s there. More often than not it’s something offered normally only at Feral Brewing and always something sensational.

The B.F.H (Barrel Fermented Hog) remains the American IPA style of Hop Hog but, as though been sent to a naughty corner, has spent time in new French oak. The result is some delightful vanilla flavours lingering on the front of your palate. Dominant American hops are still very much present and very much welcome!

Sometimes I think beer tastes better out of glasses with handles …

The Karma Citra, always a favourite of mine, is an India Black Ale, or Black IPA, or whatever you want to call the style. On it’s first appearance at the bar, I explained the style to people as a porter and an IPA who had a baby. It seemed to get the idea across in the most time efficient manner. Dark malts for chocolate overtones, and we’re talking proper dark chocolate here, the 70% and above cocoa stuff. It’s a wonder they even manage to get to your nostrils with all the big hop aromas going on but they manage nicely. Citra refers to the hop variety used, which was created in a cross breeding hop program in 1990 and so named for a heavy citrus characteristics it brings to the table. Tropical fruits tag along for the ride too. It’s jet black in appearance with a smooth tan head and then those fruity flavours jump out at you with hop bitterness and malts. Love.

We left, intrigued by the Mash Up, a New Zealand collaborative brew reportedly by 44 NZ craft breweries but had a lunch appointment at The Brisbane.

One of my favourite city beer gardens that has been meticulously cared for since The Brisbane re-opened her doors in 2005. Perhaps it’s a bit on the cliche side but when you’re sitting there and the sun is shining through healthy green trees, it’s just a wonderful place to be! The Brisbane is another one of my former employers, a place I spent many happy years with, and it always makes me smile to come back and visit.

We sat in the back corner of the beer garden and I had decided to re-visit a beer I hadn’t had in quite some time, Redback Original Wheat (no lemon), and HELLO BANANA! I don’t remember tasting that much banana on it in the past. I was quite pleased and it had to be said, the beer looked sensational too. That distinctive shape, the red streak, the clarity and the sun, well, we were soon ordering another. Also, if you go to The Brisbane and don’t get the Homemade Sausage Rolls, you’ve done yourself a grave disservice and you should slap yourself on the wrist, write it down in your phone and make sure you order it next time.

A clear Redback branding win in the sunny Brisbane beer garden

All in all a rather successful afternoon in Mt Lawley and that only covered two spots!

You can visit Five Bar any day from 11am for tasty Feral beers on tap and be sure to ask the bar staff if there’s anything new in the fridges.

You can drop by The Brisbane any day too if you fancy indulging in Homemade Sausage Rolls with a pint in the beer garden.

James Squire + Lime Butter Pan Fried Local Snapper

One of my most successful home cooking matches to beer so far with James Squire Four Wives Pilsener plus a few words on James Squire branding and the birth of Pilsener. Oh and you can see what my beer + food of choice whilst writing this post.

Four Wives & Lime Buttered Local Snapper

My boyfriend came home last week with a case of James Squire Four Wives Pilsener. I do love coming home to him and if there’s beer involved, well, I’m hardly what you would call an unhappy woman.

James Squire is a brand I’m pretty familiar with as my former employer Five Bar is one of their Ambassador Venues, translating into me having done quite a few sessions of James Squire education. In turn it also meant, much to my delight, first dibs on their limited releases including the Mad Brewers range. I like James Squire beers, I’ve sat down happily to many a pint of Golden Ale (incidentally, the only James Squire beer to make it into the 2011 Critics’ Choice Australia’s Best Beers – they had 6 in 2010) and I have liked most of their marketing. I like the wood(ish) tap handles representing beer barrels, I like the James Squire signature but the latest, though by no means recent, branding efforts are a bit of a mixed bag. They have been outlined nicely by Matt on Australian Brew News back in April 2011 but just to highlight my favourite element of this re-branding, let’s look at the stories. I’ve fallen in love with stories around beer, it’s history and it’s heroes, I find them fascinating and completely endearing. However, really only half of the James Squire permanent range seem to have a decent story. Now, I’ll be the first (or at least the third) to admit I have a tendency to ramble. With that in mind I have been rather considerate and separated the following James Squire branding rant so you can easily skip ahead to the main part of this post. See? I’m a lovely girl.

So, Four Wives Pilsener? Yeah, the man was said to be popular with women and had a little more than just a bit on the side. I’ll buy that. Stow Away IPA? Yeah, he was on the all female boat to Australia instead of being squished in with other smelly, thieving men of questionable moral standing. I’m okay with that story too however please note we are a mere two stories into the infamous James Squire and it’s all been about what’s in his pants. Not what I would call revolutionary male thinking. Nine Tales Amber Ale? Ok, yes, he had a lot of tales to tell throughout his varied career from baker to copper and a few in between. Having said that, this name is largely dependent on the visual of distinguishing tales from tails. Take a moment to consider how much more of a magical story it be if James was reported to actually have nine tails. Then you’ve got 150 Lashes Pale Ale. I’ll even pay that too just for the sheer cheekiness of the story, stealing and then bribing out of half the punishment with ale. The remaining new names are a little less solid. The Chancer Golden Ale? Ahem … that’s cause he took a lot of *clearing throat cough* chances in his life. Jack of Spades Porter, from the press release, barely makes sense, aside from a vague gambling reference. I had been under the impression it was because ol’ Mr Squire was a Jack of all Trades – butcher, baker, candlestick maker (one of those isn’t right) and thus a little play on words. You can almost hear the marketing pitch in the Lion Nathan boardroom, the tone becoming stronger with each weakening correlation. And don’t forget about Sundown, because people would visit James’ tavern as the sun went down. Good thing they didn’t go when they were clinically depressed, I don’t know the marketability of a beer called ‘Life Sucks, I Hate Digging Holes’ Australian Lager.

In short, as I said, I like all the beers from the Malt Shovel Brewery, especially the Mad Brewers releases. Also, I understand the desire to tell stories and create history around your beer, I’m just not totally sold on all of the James Squire stories.

Now that I’ve got that out of my system … let’s move on.

We had a few Four Wives Pilseners throughout the evening and my brain started to get hungry. I was concurring up ideas of a lemon or lime grilled white fillet of fish, swimming in creamy butter and garlic, lying on top of soft potato mash dotted with crunchy fresh spring onion … (wow, I really shouldn’t write when I am hungry) … so that’s what I did the following night.

Four Wives is a Bohemian style Pilsener so there’s a good whack of Saaz hops (GER) in there for lovely floral aromas. I believe it’s Munich and Pale Malts for the base, resulting in pleasant bready sweetness. But what surprised me, having not had this beer for a while, was the lemony citrus I was getting and that’s where the home cooking light bulb popped over my head.

A Brief History … Pilsner was brought to life by Josef Groll in 1842 in the town of Pilsen in what is now known as the Czech Republic. In what could be seen as a dramatic example of the power of consumers, the citizens of Pilsen, fed up with the poor and inconsistent nature of their beloved beer, sent an entire season of it down the drains, unfit for consumption. They then built a brand spanking new brewery and set about joining forces to brew better beer (and perhaps pinch an idea or two from the neighbouring Bavarians). Enter Josef and put the spotlight on Bohemian Saaz Hops and the unique soft Pilsen water (allowing for more flavours from hops and barley to shine through). Now you’ve got yourself the birth of Pilsner which, as you may have figured out by now, was named after the town, originally meaning “from Pilsen”. People caught on quickly to this great new style and similar beers quickly starting popping up all over Europe. It was another 17 years before “the original pilsner” (the brewery then becoming know as The Pilsner Urquell brewery) would be trademarked. Despite the name now thrown around like confetti, there are two true styles of Pilsner – German and Bohemian/Czech, both using Saaz hops. German Pilsners tend to be bigger in hop bitterness and possess earthy qualities whilst Czech Pilsners, such as Four Wives is styled on, tend to be darker in colour, a little more delicate, grassy and floral.

The result was a lime, garlic and butter pan fried local snapper sitting happily on a bed of ruby red potato mash with garlic dosed mushrooms and leeks on the side. There was some nice savoury sweetness through this dish to play happily with the malt in the Four Wives. Limey goodness went well with the zesty lemon I had picked up in the beer (and yes, that is a char-grilled piece of lime as part of my garnish in the photo) and the fish and mash as the bulk of the meal were delicate but still flavoursome enough to not dominate other elements of the dish. I was very pleased with this match up as far as home cooked meals and beer go if I do say so myself.

Inspired by Bill Granger’s “Bill’s Everyday Asian” Lime Butter Recipe

Lime Butter Pan Fried Local Snapper w/ Ruby Red Potato Mash and Garlic & Butter Mushrooms

  • 2 Limes
  • Snapper Fillets
  • Ruby Red Potatoes
  • Spring Onions
  • Garlic
  • Button Mushrooms
  • 1/2 Leek
  • Butter
Do up your lime butter first, using one of your limes, and set aside. I know Bill’s recipe only calls for a single tablespoon of lime juice but I wanted a pretty dominating lime flavour!
Pan fry your mushies and leeks in garlic and butter and be sure to have your potatoes boiling away. Get your big pan fired up and ready for the snapper. Throw it on, douse it in butter and garlic (if you’ve not noticed I do like butter and garlic) and randomly squeeze some fresh lime on the it from time to time.
Mash your spuds and mix in some freshly cut spring onions to finish them off.
Serve it all up and drizzle your lime butter on the top of everything!
The Quiet American & Ham and Cheese Toasties
Feeding my brain whilst I was writing this post

Nøgne Ø Tap Takeover + Meet the Brewer

The International Beer Shop aka That Magical Beery Wonderful Place will be hosting a Meet the Brewer & Tap Takeover on May 21st with Nøgne Ø head brewer, Kjetil Jikiun – mark it in your diaries folks!

The International Beer Shop, otherwise known to me as ‘that magical beery wonderful place’ will be playing host to Nøgne Ø head brewer, Kjetil Jikiun on Monday 21st May from 5.30-6.30pm. He will be pouring 4 of his beers fresh from the taps in this Tap Takeover and Meet the Brewer event.

And what’s better, this is a completely free event, all you need to do is rock up, bring your enthusiasm for beer and try not to drive (as there is no parking on the verge near the store). Free tastings will be on offer and of course your chance to chat with Kjetil Jikiu. You may want to bring your wallet too as growlers will be available and I’m sure you’ll find some beer that is in need a good home.

When: 21st May 2012, Monday

Time: 5.30-6.30pm

Where: 69 McCourt Street, West Leederville

Tickets: Not Required but please RSVP via their Facebook event page

Oh and if you haven’t got your fill of Nøgne Ø goodness, you can always head to the Sail & Anchor the following day! See the Beer + Events page for more information