girl + festival [part 2]

A few days before the South West Craft Beer Festival I received an email from Carolina at Buzz Marketing, the team behind the event, to tell me I had been chosen to participate as a beer judge. Moi? A judge? It seemed a little strange since my only qualification is drinking. I have not studied brewing nor have I home brewed, I’ve just enjoyed drinking and recently done a little typing but hey, I was happy to run with it. It sounded like a good fun!

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A few days before the South West Craft Beer Festival I received an email from Carolina at Buzz Marketing, the team behind the event, to tell me I had been chosen to participate as a beer judge as part of the People’s Choice Award.

Moi? A judge? It seemed a little strange since my only “qualification” is drinking. I have not studied brewing nor have I home brewed, I’ve just enjoyed drinking and recently done a little typing but hey, I was happy to run with it. It sounded like a good fun!

The People’s Choice Award was designed to be a collaborative effort between votes cast by the people and four judges consisting of Brian Fitzgerald, President of the Western Australian Brewers Association; Vic Crossland, beer writer for The West Australian, Jeremy Sambrooks, freelance beer writer for The Crafty Pint, Australian Brews News, Beer and Brewer Magazine and Menu Magazine; and little ol’ me, blogger and occasional Crafty and Brews News contributor.

Voting was done with good old fashioned paper and pen with punters asked to submit their top five. A smiley friendly man in a green beer bottle suit, Scotty, ran around in the afternoon to encourage people to get their votes in.

Next year I’d like to see a smart phone app, or something similar, to make voting even easier. Having said that, Scotty was a great sight running around the festival!

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Whilst the votes were tallied the judges took the chance to sit and chat about beer, certainly not a shocking turn of events I’m sure. The Bootleg Brewery Bramling Cross had really impressed and we all agreed that Jeremy Good’s Cowaramup Pilsener was still sensational. There was a lot of beer to chose from and sadly all of us had a small list of beers we had not been able to get to in time, this is the first world problem of the craft beer judge.

For me, my top 5 was largely made up of new or limited release beers because they were the main ones I tried that day. With just a few hours and a self imposed restriction on booze intake, no-one wants a boozy judge, I skipped over beers like Old Coast Road Wheat, Bootleg Raging Bull, Eagle Bay Pale Ale, Colonial Kolsch and Cowaramup Pilsener because I knew they were great having drunk one or twelve in the past.  Instead I tried to get my hands on new stuff and so my top 5 looked something like this, and in no particular order –

  1. Eagle Bay Summer Ale
  2. Bootleg Brewery Bramling Cross
  3. Duckstein Ubekannt
  4. Bush Shack Brewery Old Saint Nick
  5. Cheeky Monkey Hagenbeck Belgian IPA

The People’s Choice Top Five looked like this –

  1. Colonial Kolsch
  2. Eagle Bay Kolsch
  3. Eagle Bay Pale Ale
  4. Old Coast Road Acres of Wheat
  5. Bush Shack Brewery Twisted Lemon Lager

We were given the people’s choice top five, scrambled so we didn’t know what had been voted number one, and discussed the list for a while. All judges highly rated the Colonial Kolsch brewed by Head Brewer Mal Secourable and when we found out it was the people’s number 1 it was clear that we had ourselves a winner!

I know Mal has worked hard to get the Kolsch to be as close to a true Cologne (German) Kolsch beer as possible, keeping a careful eye over each batch and the result is clear. Fresh citrus, soft bitterness and a delicate mouth feel, it’s always a pleasure to have whether you’re at the brewery, The Royal on the Waterfront in East Perth or The Print Hall in Perth City.

Congratulations to Mal, Sorcha, Rich, Sarah and the rest of the crew at Colonial – looking forward to seeing the trophy behind the bar!

… part two down, one more to go!

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Richard from Colonial Brewing accepting the People’s Choice Trophy for their Kolsch
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Me with Richard from Colonial Brewing

Fish n Chips + Beer

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It’s weeks like these when I’m away from home, up in the ‘big smoke’, when I really miss my daily beach trips.

I also miss my laptop, writing a blog post on a phone is relatively hard!

A couple of Fridays ago my partner and I took fish n chips down to the beach, the sun was setting and we could hear music and laughing from the nearby bar. Happy days!

It’s funny to think how many times you see Fish n Chips on a menu and it sets you back almost $30 just for one serve. Forget that, give me a mass of food for less than $20, a view like this and a bottle of delicious beer. On this occasion we had Little Creatures pints purchased from Cape Cellars in Busselton, they almost always have them on a great 2 for deal!

Now that’s how you finish the working week!

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girl + festival [part 1]

Recently the second annual South West Craft Beer Festival was held at 3 Oceans Winery in Margaret River. I went along on behalf of The Crafty Pint, you can read my article for Crafty here, so I was lucky enough to attend both days as a VIP.

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Recently the second annual South West Craft Beer Festival was held at 3 Oceans Winery in Margaret River. I went along on behalf of The Crafty Pint, you can read my article for Crafty here, so I was lucky enough to attend both days as a VIP.

I know a lot of people were unhappy with the festival organisation. There was a long line to get in, a line to buy tokens and more lines for beer. The South West Craft Beer Festival Facebook page reflected these frustrations and it was great to see the organisers jump in, acknowledge the problems and apologise, promising to address these issues next year. I’m sure we’ll see this great event just get better and better.

My partner and I had driven into 3 Oceans and upon seeing the line decided to kill some time at Cowaramup Brewing, a mere 10-15 minutes down the road. A walk through their hop bines and a middy later, we were back at the festival more than ready to get into the swing of things.

Beer and Hops at Cowaramup

First up we tried the Duckstein Wolf Pale Ale, an unfiltered American Pale Ale, that I really enjoyed though didn’t get the typical big grapefruit, pine needle characteristics that I was expecting. I got big aromas of cooked lemon and spices whilst the palate had a nice fruitiness and upfront bitterness. That’s the beer in the top picture if you want to see its hazy glory!

Next up was the latest seasonal from Michael Brookes at Bootleg Brewery, the Bramling Cross. It’s a twist on an extra special bitter using imported Chinese Blackcurrant tea in post fermentation and the English hop variety Bramling Cross, known for its blackcurrant characteristics. This beer completely blew me away with it’s subtle tartness and bitterness that was perfectly balanced with fresh blackcurrant fruit. Initially I tried the Bramling Cross at the start of December and since then this beer has really settled, all the flavours have balanced out and created a very unique and beautiful beer.

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Not to get all boring and talk about the weather but it was a freakin’ sensationally sunny day. So much so that it seemed improper not to stop by the Eagle Bay Brewing stall and have a glass of their Single Batch Summer Ale. Though it had only been a few weeks since we were introduced it was great to revisit such a tasty little number. Tropical fruits, fresh bitterness, citrus and pineapple. Gorgeous.

We pulled on our metaphorical lederhosen and walked back to see the guys at Duckstein Brewery where they were pouring something new. Assistant Manger, Patrick, presented us with their latest limited release, the Unbekannt. German for “unknown” it is a beer with no proper stylistic home. Head Brewer (or as Patrick says, “the hardest working brewer in WA”) Shannon Grigg has used Belgian yeast and German malts to create a complex and tasty ale with funk, toast, chocolate and red fruit all getting along nicely.

It was time for some food and though there was some delicious food being put out in the VIP room I wasn’t about to miss out on a Spicy Goat Balls Sub from my friend Mitch, aka Beersine.

Beersine

Back to the beers again and this time I stole a gulp of a friend’s honey pale ale from Brew 42. It was just enough to think “damn that was tasty, I gotta remember to visit them!” and add it to my long, long beery to-do-list.

I don’t think a beer festival in WA has gone by without me having a Colonial Kolsch and a freshly shucked oyster. It’s now a ritual and one I’m happy to continue until they stop serving me!

I reacquainted myself with the the Cheeky Monkey Hagenback Belgian IPA and had one of those moments when you realise your memory of a beer has barely done it’s justice. Good hits of citrus and tropical fruits, a little honey and a whack of bitterness.

In between trying to serve a long queue of thirsty drinkers Josh, Assistant Brewer at Bush Shack Brewery, managed to find a little of their Old Saint Nick Christmas Ale just before punters had run them dry. Thick and devilishly moreish with big red fruit characteristics I instantly wanted more. I added another brewery visit to Bush Shack to my list of things to do!

By this time it was getting late into the afternoon and there was the People’s Choice Award. Votes had to be counted from punters and the judges added their two cents too – somehow I ended up in that category but that’s all for Part 2 I think …

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Eagle Bay + Summer

For those unfamiliar with the Eagle Bay Single Batch range it’s a one off brew of about 1000 litres that changes whenever it runs out. Their latest is a Summer Ale and follows in the tasty footsteps of Romp Ferme Saison, Cacao Stout and American Brown Ale and it doesn’t disappoint.

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The crew at Eagle Bay Brewing are a very tempting bunch, take that as you will, but if you follow them on Twitter or are friends with them on Facebook you’ll know what I’m talking about. Eagle Bay Brewing send out a steady stream of gorgeous photos of sunshine, sunsets and pints that make you dream about being there …

Thankfully there isn’t much between my front door and Eagle Bay Brewery, distance wise it’s kinda the Perth equivalent of heading to Mandurah for the day. My partner and I picked a sun drenched Saturday afternoon to indulge in a late lunch and taste of their new Single Batch limited release beer – Summer Ale.

For those unfamiliar with the Eagle Bay Single Batch range it is a one off brew of about 1000 litres and when it runs out they bring out something new. Generally it’s a brewery exclusive but if they do let it out to play they’ll tell you on their website. Their latest Single Batch Summer Ale, and first for 2013, follows in the tasty footsteps of Romp Ferme Saison, Cacao Stout and American Brown Ale and doesn’t disappoint. Eagle Bay Single Batch Grid The first whiff of Summer Ale was similar to that glorious moment when you stick your head in a bag full of hops and breathe in. As the beer warmed up the fresh hop aroma gave way to grapefruit, orange and honey. It’s a great example of an Australian pale ale with a good balance of citrus, tropical fruits and bitterness. Summer Ale before and after Eagle Bay Summer Ale uses Galaxy hops, a variety from Australia that was developed by Hop Products Australia in the mid-90s, which is the source of that great summery, tropical fruit and citrus deliciousness. You may already be familiar with Galaxy hops if you’re a fan of Stone & Wood Pacific Ale, a sensational beer by Ross and Brad who started Stone & Wood in Byron Bay in 2008. If you’ve got a spare minute there’s a great short blog post from Ross about their trip to Tasmania for the 2011 harvest of Galaxy hops which you’ll find here.

Getting back to Eagle Bay, since we had moved on to round two of Summer Ale it was time for some grub. I did my usual thing of trying to consume my body weight in food because it was so darn good and consequently rolled rather than walked out the doors a couple of hours later.

Lunch at Eagle Bay

Of course I just had to have cheese for no good reason other than I wanted it; living up wonderfully to my only child status. In my defense I needed something to accompany the third pint of Summer Ale – I think the correct term is “dangerously drinkable”.  Once we’d managed to heave ourselves from our chairs we made sure to take home a growler of Summer Ale to enjoy over the rest of the weekend. I have to say, based on each visit we’ve taken to Eagle Bay Brewing it’s always a brilliant way to spend a few hours.

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Picnic + Beer

One weekend afternoon my partner and I decided to take a late picnic lunch. After a bit of time on the phone to the Ferguson Valley tourist information office we picked our destination – Crooked Brook Forest

Our Beach

Aside from amazing craft breweries on my door step and beaches that are so beautiful I’ve recently been quoted as saying “wow, this is tropical island shit” there are also some great forests to explore .

One weekend afternoon my partner and I decided to take a late picnic lunch. After a bit of time on the phone to the Ferguson Valley tourist information office we picked our destination – Crooked Brook Forest. It’s a Jarrah and Marri tree forest just a short drive from Bunbury that matched perfectly with all our criteria …

a) a lovely picnic area

b) variety of walking trails and,

c) dog friendly

Crooked Brook Forest Polaroid Frame

Not only is Crooked Brook Forest dog friendly it’s everyone friendly, in fact it’s kinda their catch phrase: “a forest for all people”. There is a wheelchair accessible walking trail, which I’d imagine would be pretty unique, and the picnic and BBQ facilities are fantastic!

To prepare for the picnic I quickly made up some Caramelised Onion & Blue Cheese Tarts, packed a few bits and pieces from the fridge – namely cheese, marinated octopus and prosciutto and, of course, a beer – and we took off to Crooked Brook Forest.

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The beer we took along was Hook Norton Brewery Haymaker, an English Pale Ale that, if I’m honest, caught my attention due to its name. Clearly not named after a swinging punch to the head instead it seems to be an English farming thing, if the picture on the label is anything to go by. Softer than the American Pale Ales I’ve been having a long lasting love affair with, it’s a lovely little beer that reminded me that I really do like a good English pale ale. It was well balanced with light tropical fruits, a good dose of malt and a soft bitter finish. Whilst it might not have matched perfectly with the food it was certainly a great match for the occasion of a spontaneous picnic in the forest.
Picnic Framed

Blue Cheese + Grandfather

A couple of months ago I excitedly purchased a bottle of The Grandfather Barley Wine by Bootleg Brewery. The Grandfather is only bottled once a year, a mere 800 bottles, and it was happy fortune that I was at Bootleg just days after they bottled the 2012 edition.

Bootleg Barley Wine

A couple of months ago I excitedly purchased a bottle of The Grandfather Barley Wine by Bootleg Brewery. The Grandfather is only bottled once a year, a mere 800 bottles, and it was happy fortune that I was at Bootleg just days after they bottled the 2012 edition.

With great anticipation of opening the bottle my partner and I bought several types of blue cheese but somehow weeks went by without The Grandfather being opened. The timing never felt quite right; either we were too full from dinner or it was too late in the night. Weeks turned into months and we’d eaten, purchased and eaten our way through plenty of blue cheese that had been intended for The Grandfather.

Eventually we opened it – there was no special occasion, no birthday, no celebration, it was just because we both really felt like sitting down to a nice long beer and some cheese one Tuesday evening … and damn it was goooood.

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I must admit I cannot remember the intricate details of the 2011 release of The Grandfather. I remember enjoying it with homemade pizzas whilst we were at a friends place for dinner. I remember good company and plenty of laughs. Aroma and palate details do not stretch much beyond “this is awesome!”

So how about the 2012 release? Speaking with Head Brewer dude Michael Brooks back when I bought the beer, I got a little more information on The Grandfather. He ages the beer in ex-red wine barrels from his friends at Moss Brothers Winery. 2011 was aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels whilst 2012 used Merlot which Michael hoped would impart greater red fruit characteristics. It was also delightful to hear that he had selected the barrels personally; there’s something a little romantic about that.

Diving into the 2012 Grandfather there were a lot of big, bold red fruits attacking my palate which, though a little unexpected, were beautifully rich and almost velvety. Rich plum flavours led up to stronger bitter sweet fruit and warming booze, hints of pepper and a soft bitterness. Aromas were bold and varied – melon, plum, burnt toffee, toast … a complex beer that was nice with some punchy blue cheese to challenge it.

Barley with Barley Wine

Australia Day + The Convict

Gage Roads Brewing Company have released a couple of cracking limited release beers in their lifetime. A long time ago I was working as a rep for them and they released a Saison and a Trippel – one of them was sensational but for the life of me, and probably due to a number of years and beers passing, I can’t seem to remember which one. Fast forward five years since then to 2013 and I was at home about to open a bottle of Gage Roads The Convict, an Australian Strong Ale on the eve of Australia Day. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

Gage Roads Brewing Company have released a couple of cracking limited release beers in their lifetime. A long time ago I was working as a rep for them and they released a Saison and a Trippel – one of them was sensational but for the life of me, and probably due to a number of years and beers passing, I can’t seem to remember which one. Fast forward five years since then to 2013 and I was at home about to open a bottle of Gage Roads The Convict, an Australian Strong Ale on the eve of Australia Day. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

Of course I spread the love across a few Aussie brands – Mt Franklin for water and Coopers Pale just because it’s an icon! Happy Australia Day!

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I picked up The Convict at Cellarbrations Carlisle, where all good beer can be found, and it was the last bottle left so I felt a little guilty whilst I was at the register as another customer requested a bottle. Whoops, sorry! I genuinely hope they found another bottle.

The label is fantastic – it’s kinda like Poseidon stepped off the boat after many long months at sea, went on a boozy rampage and misplaced his pupils somewhere …

The Convict - Gage Roads

After said drunken rampage he went off and made a gorgeous beer …

It’s got dark fruits, rich caramel and biscuit flavours all mingling together with a strong bitter finish. At 7.2% abv it is strong enough to let you know it’s boozy but doesn’t dominate or slap you in the face. Having said that my partner and I shared just a single bottle over dinner so perhaps it would be a different story if it were on tap at the pub; the next morning may not be so rosy after multiple pints of this tasty brew.

Dinner match was a Chorizo and Chili Ravioli with Fresh Basil and Parmesan. It was a nice enough match though the dish lacked anything along the sweet-ish lines to go with the strong maltiness of the beer. I’m thinking a beef ravioli with some sweet paprika would have done the trick. I guess I’ll have to get another bottle to find out!

If you can get your hands on it you should try this beer, check out Cellarbrations Carlisle, International Beer Shop and Dan Murphy’s for stocks.

The Convict with Chorizo Ravioli