GBW 2014: Mega Dega

Last year’s Mega Dega was held after the East versus West event and since I couldn’t see myself surviving a multi-course lunch AND multi-course dinner I opted to only attend East versus West.

This year things were different and I grabbed my ticket for Mega Dega II

GABS: The Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular festival held over three days at the Royal Exhibition Building featuring over 100 beers, market stalls, seminars, food and on one day there were free haircuts!

My day started with a GABS session before heading to Pope Joan for the second edition of Mega Dega, not a bad way to warm up for a big dinner.

There were canapés of mushroom croquettes and oysters on arrival along with a glass of Boatrocker’s Mitte Berliner Weisse style beer. Matt, owner and brewer at Boatrocker, introduced the beer which uses two strains of yeast, Brettanomyces and a German ale yeast, and is aged in Chardonnay barrels. Mitte is delicately sour, very refreshing and is now my new favourite way to start a meal.

1st Course

Beef kibbeh nayeh, crisp flat bread, fresh herbs, cucumber & radish crudités, Lebanese & Iranian pickled vegetables

… paired with 961 Lebanese Pale Ale

Food By: Joseph Abboud from Rumi / Moor’s Head

Beef kibbeh nayeh, crisp flat bread, fresh herbs, cucumber & radish crudités, Lebanese & Iranian pickled vegetables
Beef kibbeh nayeh, crisp flat bread, fresh herbs, cucumber & radish crudités, Lebanese & Iranian pickled vegetables

This dish was like a minced beef tartare and had bulgur wheat mixed through; its softly sweet flavours were wonderfully contrasted by the pickled vegetables and big sprigs of fresh herbs like mint and Italian parsley.

Why 961? That’s the Lebanese telephone code!

961 Lebanese Pale Ale is made to reflect Lebanese food and uses spices such as za’atar, otherwise known as wild thyme, sage, anise and chamomile. The result is a beer that’s unsurprisingly big on spice with a pleasant tropical fruit base.

Together the beer and food paired smoothly, the pale ale adding a nice spice to the dish whilst the fruity sweetness complemented the soft sweet meet.

2nd Course

Hay Custard, Portarlington Mussels and Pickles

Food By: Rob Kaboord from Merricote

… paired with Weihenstephan Kreuz des Sudens Weizenbock

An interesting dish with the hay custard carrying some very soft flavours and adding a big textual feature to the course. The custard set naturally and therefore did not use any eggs causing Rob too joke, “I kinda wish we’d used one or two eggs,” given the 120 custards they had to made for the 120 people in attendance.

Hay Custard, Portarlington Mussels and Pickles
Hay Custard, Portarlington Mussels and Pickles

The Kreuz Des Sudens uses Weinhenstephan’s traditional yeast as well as a bordeaux yeast which their brewer Frank says “you have to kick it a little” when working with wine yeasts such as this. The beer’s name roughly translates to “southern cross” as it was inspired by Australia and uses Australian Galaxy hops however the words “southern cross” are protected, hence the German translation. The Galaxy hops give the beer a lovely passionfruit aroma alongside some banana and toffee. Kreuz des Sudens is big on tropical fruits like mango and pineapple with a clean bitter finish.

3rd Course

Slow Cooked Wild Rabbit & Chorizo with Homemade Green Sriracha

on the side: Autumn Vegetable Fattoush, Pine Mushroooms, Roasted & Smoked Garlic and New Potatoes, Capers and Caramelised Onion

Food By: Rohan Anderson from Whole Larder Love

… paired with Renanissance Stonecutter Scotch Ale

Slow Cooked Wild Rabbit & Chorizo with Homemade Green Sriracha
Slow Cooked Wild Rabbit & Chorizo with Homemade Green Sriracha

“He’s basically been killing things for your pleasure”

Good Beer Week/Crafty Pint’s James Smith sure knows how to introduce someone and Rohan followed through effortlessly with some great commentary around the planning and preparation for the dish. “Rabbits are fluffy and juicy but there will be no fluff, just juicy,” Rohan declared. Each bunny was “skinned, gutted, massaged and loved” and for 120 people, that’s a lot of bunnies to shot and prep as Rohan humorously pointed out when asking everyone to think about this with each bite of food and gulp of beer. We were indeed tasting a labour of love.

His efforts were not under appreciated though; the rabbit had a good peppery and spicy kick mixed through the soft meat and it was hard not to go back for more.

As a match it was a stand out for the night with the rich maltiness and spice in the Stonecutter making for a gorgeous pairing.

AIBA: Australian International Beer Awards

Scotch Ale: aka Week Heavy, malt driven (since hops won’t grow in Scotland) and top fermenting

The beer was introduced by their brewer Andy, fresh from winning Champion Small Brewery at this years AIBAs. The Stonecutter is Renaissance’s flagship beer with a personal connection for Andy as his parents are Scottish. Andy explained the malt driven nature of Scotch Ales in a way I’ll never forget – “buying hops meant given money to the English.” Stonecutter uses 9 different malts including a small amount of distilling malt, the result is a really beautiful beer, one that I will be keeping an eye out for now that I’m back home, with toast, cinnamon and a hint of smoke just a few flavours coming through this complex malty brew.

“Makes great pies”

Andy, Renaissance Brewing on their Stonecutter Scotch Ale

Roasted and Smoked Garlic New Potatoes
Roasted and Smoked Garlic New Potatoes

5th Course

Food by: Darren Purchese from Burch & Purchese

… paired with Murray’s Grand Cru

Orange, Malt, Caramel, Honey and Chocolate
Orange, Malt, Caramel, Honey and Chocolate

The previous course was a highlight but this one knocked it out of the park. The dessert and the beer complemented each other so much so that if they were people they would have been mockingly told to get a room. The dessert emphasised the bright orange citrus in the beer whilst the Grand Cru highlighted the dessert’s rich chocolate base. The caramel in the dessert shined through the Grand Cru’s dank, apricot, lemony goodness.

Orange, Malt, Caramel, Honey and Chocolate
Orange, Malt, Caramel, Honey and Chocolate

“We wanted to do something different from the traditional chocolate malted beer with chocolate dessert,” Shawn from Murray’s said and they definiately achieved that and then some! According to Shawn it’s one of the best matches he’s ever had with one of his beers.

6th Course

Cheese: Pecora’s Jamberoo Mountain Blue & Berry’s Creek Tarwin Blue

… paired with Mornington Peninsula Russian Imperial Stout

Mega Dega

Merricote’s Rob Kaboord introduced the cheese and beer course, presenting two types of blue cheese. The Percora’s Jamberboo a sheep’s milk cheese from NSW, lightly chalky and soft, like a halloumi cheese that has been dipped in mould. The Berry’s Creek hailed from VIC, a cow’s milk but with more pronounced blue flavours, salty, rich and fruity.

“Holy fuck, what are we going to match with this?!”

Rob on the hunt for a pair with the Mornington Russian Imperial Stout

“AG”, brewer at Mornington Peninsula, introduced the beer remarking it was the fourth time during Good Beer Week that he was discussing this brew. I guess we all have impeciable taste! For AG the match showcased the classic roasty malt and salty cheese pairing that seems to work time and time again.

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