Weekend Reading #40

Here’s a few articles I’ve read recently and enjoyed and hope you will too!

I love lounging in bed on weekends and catching up on all my favourite beery reading. From the American craft beer scene, local beer news and anything else that tickles my beery fancy, there is a lot of excellent reading material out there! Every weekend (though I may miss the occasional one due to forgetfulness!) I’m posting a list of the articles and blogs that have enjoyed and hope that you will too!


All About Beer | Creating a “Beer From Here”

Beer has always been strongly linked to a sense of place. Beer styles can be unique to regions, embedded in a country or towns history and story, such as Pilsner arising from the Czech town of Plzen or Kolsch from Cologne in Germany. Often beer styles are determined by the history of their local ingredients, like farmhouse ales – a category that covers Saison and Biere de Garde – which were brewed on local farms during winter to sustain farm workers during summer. They spiced beers with whatever was nearby and the water would have been different from farm to farm, all in all adding up to a beer that was different at each farm.

Read More: Craft Beer – Farmhouse Beer: Rustic Meets Exquisite

Today brewers can get their hops from the United States, speciality malts from Germany and all sorts of other ingredients from all over the world. This article features breweries who are trying to source their ingredients locally, it’s important to them and their beers but once upon a time it wasn’t even a choice. Interesting how things come full circle!

Pencil and Spoon | A New Beer Flavour Wheel

I have always liked the beer flavour wheel and, if you haven’t seen the original then don’t worry as it’s in the link too. Beer is a minefield of flavours and aromas and the words to describe them are, pardon the pun, on the tip of your tongue and you just can’t find the right word. This wheel is a good step in the right direction to helping you find those words. By no means it is the only way to describe beer, hell I thought a beer had some aromas of skittles whilst at the Perth Royal Beer Show judging earlier this week, but it’s a good place to help understand what’s going on in your beer.

The Brewing Network | Craft Malting

This one isn’t so much beer reading as it’s beer listening- a podcast! It’s an American podcast and during this episode they chat with New Zealand craft maltsters Gladfield Malt. A really interesting interview with owners Doug and Gabi Michael and well worth listening to. I will be chatting with Doug and Gabi in the near future so hope to bring you a post on Gladfield Malt soon. They were also the on Australian Brews News podcast if you want to hear more.

Weekend Reading #39

This edition looks at beer trends in the US, opinions on Matilda Bay Brewing and XXXX new Pale Ale …

I love lounging in bed on weekends and catching up on all my favourite beery reading. From the American craft beer scene, local beer news and anything else that tickles my beery fancy, there is a lot of excellent reading material out there! Every weekend (though I may miss the occasional one due to forgetfulness!) I’m posting a list of the articles and blogs that have enjoyed and hope that you will too!


 

This apparently weekly post has been a little MIA of late, my apologies, hopefully things get back on track from here on in!

Nielson | Tapped In: Craft and Local are Powerful Trends in the Beer Aisle

Though it’s from the US it is still interesting to see the trends especially beyond just the mainstream versus craft beer categories. This looks at where people are buying their beer, what qualities are important to them and, most interestingly, what those qualities – things like “craft” – actually mean to them.

Beer Diary | Wellington Bars from inside and out

Phil Cook reflects on two recent articles in the New Zealand media on craft beer in a nice demonstration of when mainstream media starts to understand craft and when they don’t.

Australian Brews News | XXXX God Serves Up New Pale Ale

Ah, it is hard not to screw your nose up at something like this. I’d like to think it’s not because I’m a beer snob but because I don’t think it’s smart from a branding point of view.

VB tried this a few years ago, buried in the back of my beer muddled memory is some sort of tall and skinny bottle with a faux vintage oval label with the words “Victorian Bitter” something something on it. Anyway, my point being that VB tried to move their brand into the craft beer space and it didn’t work.

It doesn’t work, in my opinion, because you have a brand that is so entrenched in its roots that to change it, or to even try to change it, alienates exciting drinkers and confuses the rest. Either way it is not doing much for sales.

Maybe I’m wrong but I see the same thing here, XXXX drinkers like their XXXX, why would they change? Do XXXX even want them to switch to the Pale Ale?

“The craft beer market in Australia is starting to really take off …” – sorry, but the craft beer market has already taken flight, the take off was a while ago.

Ale of a Time | Matilda Bay: A Branding Mess

Beer is Your Friend | Matilda Bay: A Tale of Too Many Beers

Two great posts from two of my favourite beer writers on the muddle that seems to be Matilda Bay.

Once a brand that way very well respected and had a clear identity as WA’s pioneer of craft beer it has since become a bit of a nothing brand. It doesn’t seem to stand for anything, there’s no clear messages I can see and the portfolio of beers seem to keep increasing, each one more vague than the other. It feels like they’ve taken the approach of “the more darts we throw at the board, the greater the odds one will hit the bullseye”

I’d love to see Matilda Bay reclaim its identity and be the welcome drink to craft beer that it was for me when I started looking for beer with flavour, not just beers to get drunk on cheap. I drank Redback and Beez Neez and from there I found James Squire Golden Ale and then on to Little Creatures Pale Ale. I have a soft spot for Matilda Bay and I just hope they don’t kill off Alpha. That’s a pretty damn good beer.

 

 

Interview: Designers of the Colonial Small Ale can

An embarrassingly long overdue post featuring an interview I did with Ian Mutch and Dune Haggar who designed the Colonial Brewing Co. Small Ale can print

Okay, I am going to be super up front here and say that this post was supposed to go up several months ago when Colonial Small Ale can first hit shelves and stole hearts. By my calculations that makes this post about four months late. Pretty embarrassing but I think these interviews and fun and interesting and it would be a shame not to put them out there. Plus the interviewees gave me their time and efforts and, quite frankly, its poor form on my behalf to not have gotten to this before.

So here we have my interview with the men behind the gorgeous Small Ale can design – Dune Haggar and Ian Mutch.

A Little Background …

Colonial Brewing Co. | Margaret River, WA | Facebook | Instagram

The Colonial Small Ale can is special in a number of ways. For one, it is an excellent beer and just 3.5% ABV. Two, it has a lid that completely comes off. This 360 degree lid is the first one in Australia. The very audible POP when you open a can is surprisngly satisfying and its appeal is also functional as it allows you to stick your nose in to get to all the beautiful aromatics. Finally, the unique can art makes it almost impossible to throw it away.

Colonial Small Ale lid

Colonial Small Ale - Brews in the Beer Garden at The Blvd

The Designers …

Dune Haggar is a graphic designer and illustrator working in Dunsborough, WA. Ian Mutch, who hails from the south west as well, is an artist whose exhibitions have been featured from Margaret River to London. Together Dune and Ian, along with the Emergence Creative Festival and, of course, Colonial Brewing created the gorgeous Small Ale design.

Dune and Ian were kind enough to give me their time to answer a few questions back in late March.

The Interview …

What did you think when you first tried Colonial Small Ale?

Ian: I thought “Woahhhh! That’s a crazy ring pull lid”

Dune: Same, I hadn’t seen that kind of ring pull and was thinking about my upcoming Upcycling Event and how I could of used them in a demonstration. I also wanted to see the temperature activated ink in action but mine was probably about 6.5 degrees.

What was the brief you were given in designing the can?

Ian: The illustration was based on the recent artwork we did for Emergence Creative Festival to represent small details and facets of the festival.

Dune: What he said, but more suave.

Have you guys collaborated before? In what ways do you complement/challenge each other?

Ian: Or first collaboration was the recent branding work for Emergence [Creative], just before doing the can. Our styles are both in small details and narrative but if you look closer there actually quite different in things like line-weight, objects, characters and things. We actually have a couple more collaboration projects in the pipeline.

Dune: I really like the flow between our work as our complexity and creature characters complement each other. I liked working with another graphic designer too as we plan well and then let our illustrator brains freestyle it a bit and give it a little chaos.

THERE’S a lot happening on the can, I NOTICED the #2 in the design which I assume references the second beer to be canned by Colonial, what does the rest of the design represent?

Ian: Yeah, the #2 was also brief requirement, kind of like “if you can throw that in there that would be great too.” The can mainly represents the collaboration between Emergence Creative and Colonial. For me it’s representing creatives of the festival combined with down south and necking nice beer.

Dune: Ian said a good sentence, I will not attempt to rearrange his words as mine … *claps*

Colonial Small Ale cans

Where did you look for inspiration?

Ian: Stories from random drunk people I’ve met along the way.

Dune: Crazy nights, day dreams, novels, the world around us, world events and music to name a few.

What was the most challenging part of the design?

Ian: Because printing onto a metal can is a much different process from printing on paper, it was a challenge representing ‘small’ with details without making the artwork too intricate for the printing guys. That and the fact that I had a broken leg at the time.

Dune: Yes, the printing method, limited PMS inks and printing on the can were the defining considerations. But sometimes having these limitations can help when you set out to work on a limitless piece. I had no broken legs at the time.

What was the easiest?

Ian: A can is only a small area to cover so made things easy. Especially when you’re in a collab and covering just half of the area. Also the guys from Emergence, Colonial and the agency were a real cruise to work with and gave us a pretty open brief.

Dune: Yes, having a relaxed system really helps get things done right and on time. No middle management meetings about HR etc.

It’s such a unique design, particularly for a beer, how has the feedback been to it?

Ian: I think everyone’s pretty into the looseness of it, especially in a market that seems to be saturated with more vintage types of label designs. Mostly though I think everyone’s mind is blown with the large mouth top of the can.

Dune: The mouth on the thing is great (even for flavour reasons alone) but I have found people are really keen to chat about it. It’s not like we designed a Dungeons and Dragons mouse pad etc. People at Emergence were physically holding the cans while we chatted so it really is that special hands on thing. If I was rich enough and strong enough I would forgo business cards and just carry around beer customised beer cans.


The can was awarded SILVER in the 2015 Australian International Beer Awards in the category of ‘Labels/Surface Graphic on Bottles or Cans’

Chatting with Jasper, Camden Town Brewery // Part 4

The final part of my interview with Jasper from Camden Town Brewery, London, when he was in Perth in May.

Jasper of Camden Town Brewery (London) was in Perth at the end of May talking beer and enjoying the sunshine. I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview Jasper over a coffee and some breakfast.

We chatted for over an hour about how Camden came to be in Australia, the craft beer scene in the UK compared to here, the need for a definition on craft beer, the formation of a new association for British craft brewers – United Craft Brewers, Camden’s sour program and the new brewery Camden are building. In short, we talked a lot about some really cool stuff.

Read: Part One, Part Two and Part Three

Big thanks to Sarah from Memorable Drinks and Jasper from Camden Town Brewery for letting me conduct this interview on such short notice and with such a tight schedule, much appreciated.

Jasper and I at Gordon Street Garage

Here’s the fourth and final instalment, I hope you enjoy reading it as much I have enjoyed writing it!

If you were to start your brewery today, would you do anything different?

“That’s a great question,” Jasper said and after a long pause exclaimed “Loads!” and laughed.

“I would have bought a bigger brewery.”

As far as the beers go, Jasper wouldn’t change a thing. The range is exactly what they set out to do. “We are a dedicated lager brewer and proud to be,” Jasper said.

So other than a bigger brewery, what else would Jasper do a little differently? Hire more staff of course, “we were probably a little short on people.”

How will craft beer grow?

Beer consumption in Australia is declining but craft beer continues to grow, it has been said time and time again.

[Read: Business Insider – Craft beer consumption in Australia has passed a big milestone]

So what can the craft beer industry do to keep this growth going?

To Jasper the growth of craft beer will continue, it’s our job to nurture it.

“It can’t get bigger without great people.”

Craft breweries need to continue to emphasis quality and longevity, prove that craft beer isn’t a fad or a faze, it’s here to stay. On top of this the industry needs to make sure drinkers understand what is meant by “quality”. As a word that is thrown around a lot in many industries, it’s important the words stand for something.

“There’s a reason why the big brewers of the world are big. Their beers might be boring but they make good beer, consistently and quality, and it might not be for you and might not be your style or flavour but you can never criticise them on quality. For us to grow as a category everyone needs to pull their socks up, us included.”


 

And that’s it folks!

Endless thanks to Jasper and Sarah, from Memorable Drinks, for spending brunch with me and my constant questions. I loved talking beer with you guys!!

Porter & Stout Tasting at Northbridge Brewing Co.

On Wednesday 15 July Northbridge Brewing Co will have their next beer club, in preparation I look back at the last one …

Every two months Northbridge Brewing Co hold their Beer Club, a beer tasting around a particular style/s hosted by head brewer Ken Arrowsmith. It’s held on the rooftop Sky Deck bar, perfect for a cool Northbridge evening.

I have been lucky to have been invited to these tasting where Ken guides the group through up to eight generous samples and the Northbridge Brewing Co kitchen sends out an assortment of picky food.

Stout and Porter Beer Club at Northbridge Brewing Co

The next Beer Club is an extra special one – a Trappist Beer Tasting – with a line up of beers that includes the ‘best beer in the world’ – Westvleteren  12. Other beers listed for tasting are Westvleteren 8, Westvleteren Blonde, Rochefort 10, Orval and La Trappe Triple.

Trappist Beers – beers brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery by their monks, beers are produced not for profit but for the maintenance of the monastery with any extra funds going to charity

[Beer Reading] Business Insider: How a tiny brewery run by monks came to make the best beer in the world

Northbridge’s Trappist Beer Tasting is on Wednesday night, tickets and more information found here.

In the mean time, just to get your taste buds tingling, here’s the beers we tasted at the last Beer Club – Porters & Stouts … Hope to see you Wednesday for Trappists!


Samuel Smith Teddy’s Porter | 5.0% ABV | North Yorkshire

I enjoyed this one, a lot going on but the body was much lighter than I was expecting.

Billabong Porter | 5.0% ABV | Perth

Fuller’s London Porter | 5.4% ABV | London

Northbridge Brewing Co Japanese Porter | 5.0% ABV | Perth

Beer Club usually coincides with the breweries own limited release beer. Their Japanese Porter, which there may still be one keg left if you hurry, was brewed with the Japanese Sorachi Ace hop variety which added a citrus lemon.

Northbridge Brewing Co Japanese Porter

Feral Smoked Porter | 4.7% ABV | Perth

Gotta love a beer that promotes itself as having “bacony undertones”

Nail Oatmeal Stout | 6.0% ABV | Perth

I had only just started my job with Nail Brewing at the time of this event so I was keen to hear what Ken had to say, “it’s a bit of a legend and rightly so in my opinion”. Thanks Ken!

Coopers Best Extra Stout | 6.3% ABV | Adelaide

This was a really great and interesting inclusion because I’ve had this beer on many an occasion but rarely break it down like I would a beer I’ve not tried before. Comparing it with the other beers reinforced my love for this beer; I found it really interesting that I got bigger roasty flavour and fruitiness than in the previous beers.

Heretic Shallow Grave Porter | 7.0% ABV | California

I think Ken’s description said it all – “delicious, luscious and rich”. This is one of the first beers I had from this US brewery and I was mighty impressed when it had it then and still like it very much now. The nose, to me, just smells like fresh chocolate cake.

Stouts and Porter Beer Club at Northbridge Brewing Co

Day Trip: Adelaide’s Coopers Vintage Launch

A day trip to Adelaide to attend this years Cooper’s Vintage Ale launch

On Tuesday my alarm went off at the unusually early time of 4:30am. I reached for it with as much ninja-like speed as I could, hoping to not wake my partner, but I’m really far too slow. Sorry honey. By 5:30am I was in a cab and on my way to the airport.

There are not many things I can think of that would get me out of bed at 4:30am but beer is indeed one of them. I was lucky to been invited to the Adelaide launch of this years Coopers Vintage Ale. Similar events were held on the same day in Melbourne and Sydney.

[Beer Reading] 250 Beers blog post on his trip to the Melbourne event here and also the Crafty Pint article here.

I arrived at Adeliade airport just before 11am, took a photo of the Coopers Alehouse bar at the airport and lamented the lack of craft beer at Perth airport, and set about getting a cab to Pirie & Co for the event.

Coopers Alehouse at Adelaide Airport

After dawdling a little at the airport, checking my work phone and doing very important social media-ing etc, I arrived at the Pirie & Co about 5 minutes early. Just enough time to get a coffee …

… Though not quite enough time for me to finish it so I walked into the Coopers Vintage Ale launch with a take away flat white in hand and a sheepish look on my face. About 30 people were already there, most with a beer in hand. I downed the rest of my coffee and quickly disposed of the evidence via a friendly bartender who swapped my empty coffee cup for a schooner of Coopers Pale Ale. It went down effortlessly.

After a couple of beers and canapés we were asked to find a seat at one of three long tables set up in the venue’s Social Club, their underground speakeasy style bar below the main venue.

Pirie & Co

Coopers Vintage Launch

The lunch was introduced by Cam Pearce, National Sales & Marketing Director, who spoke of Coopers current standing, place in the beer market and, of course, their annual release Vintage Ale.

Coopers is 100% family owned and is the counties largest independent brewery by far. Cam was pleased to report that they are currently experiencing 4.7% growth, pretty good in a beer market that we keep hearing is in decline unless you’re a craft brewer. 

Cam spoke positively about the growth of craft beer,

“It creates interest and engagement in beer”

Cam Pearce, National Sales & Marketing Director

Coopers seem to have a unique position in Australian beer drinkers minds.

“We are a gateway for those getting into craft and a welcome rest for geeks tired of a triple hopped beer,” Cam said. Coopers know they are not the small craft brewer with out-there beers or boundary pushing releases and nor do they want to be becuase in the same breath they are also not seen as the mass produced, corporate machine brewer.

Coopers Vintage Ale was first released in 1998 and this year marks the 15th release and yes, you’re right, that means they skipped a couple of  years. The yeast used is always Coopers house strain but the hops are the key ingredient subject to change year to year.

Coopers Vintage Launch at Pirie & Co

The Coopers brewing team select the hops for the Vintage Ale by a process they call “hop idol”, rating each hop variety to find a winner, so to speak, though I don’t believe there is any singing involved.

The winner of this years “hop idol” was Melba, an Australian hop variety that is still relatively new. 100kg were used in the brew alongside Ella and Vic Secret hops. Styrian Golding and Cascade hops were used for dry hopping.

Dry Hopping: addition of hops post fermentation to add extra aroma

The result is that regular Coopers Vintage Ale drinkers may find this years release on the hoppier side compared to previous years and this is deliberate. Recognising palates have adjusted to bigger hop flavours and bitterness, the IBU on this years Vintage is a bit higher than previous releases, coming in at 60 IBU.

“60 is the new 40”

Cam Pearce, National Sales & Marketing Director

Generous samples of the 2010 and 2015 Vintage Ale’s were delivered to tables just before the mains were served. David Medlyn, Cooper’s Technical Brewer, introduced the two beers.

There is also a lot of crystal malt in this years release alongside some wheat for improved head retention. “With a good pair of snow shoes you could run across there,” Dave laughed.

Blood Orange Sorbet

Blood orange sorbet with a drizzle of Coopers Light

It was actually very surprising just how much difference there was between the 2010 and 2015 vintages. Colour wise, the 2010 was darker with a more red hue than its paler younger sibling. They are two entirely different beasts.

Coopers Vintage tasting

Side by Side Tasting of Coopers Vintage: 2010 on left, 2015 on right

2010 Vintage Ale: Packed with Christmas cake, honey, caramel and spicy red fruit aromas. Christmas cake follows strongly in the flavour alongside a faintly citrusy finish.

2010 Coopers Vintage Ale

Coopers Vintage 2010

2015 Vintage Ale: Fresh passionfruit and citrus aroma; stone fruit, pithy citrus and grapefruit flavours dominate with a little spice that balances things out.

Coopers Vintage 2015

Coopers Vintage 2015

Wagu Scotch Fillet

Wagyu Scotch Fillet with Roasted Heirloom Carrots, Smashed Kipfler Potatoes and a Coopers Sparkling Beef Jus

French chocolate tart with Coopers Stout wafer

French Chocolate Tart with Coopers Stout Wafer

It was such a great experience to be able to attend this event, I have been holding onto a single bottle of the 2013 and 2014 Vintages and now with the 2015 I was looking forward to doing a vertical tasting however given what five years did for the 2010 I am inclined to leave this for a few more years.

Big thanks to Coopers and Corporate Conversation for inviting me to this event including paying for the return flights and cab charges to get from to and from Adelaide Airport. Not to mention the goodie bag we were sent home with and, as they have for the last three years, the media kit with three 2015 Vintage beers presented beautifully. 

Weekend Reading #38

This edition features articles on the term ‘sour beer’, White Labs Yeast, session IPAs and the importance of breweries telling a story

I love lounging in bed on weekends and catching up on all my favourite beery reading. From the American craft beer scene, local beer news and anything else that tickles my beery fancy, there is a lot of excellent reading material out there! Every weekend (though I may miss the occasional one due to forgetfulness!) I’m posting a list of the articles and blogs that have enjoyed and hope that you will too!


Brewbound | Brewbound Session: The Art of Storytelling

One of my favourite beer podcasts to listen to is Good Beer Hunting by Michael Kiser. Great interviews and engaging conversations, it’s fantastic! Here is an article and a video about storytelling, engagement and breweries.

Good Beer Hunting | Trading Pitches for Pizza – White Labs Pure Yeast and Fermentation in San Diego, CA

As beer geeks we can get a little caught up in the hops and the malt, seemingly the more romantic ingredients of brewing but the science behind yeast is something fascinating. I love finding great articles on yeast and fermentation; so much to learn!

Fortune | Low-alcohol Session IPA is the hot beer trend for summer

This is probably not massively surprising given we have been drinking Australian and New Zealand session hoppy beers like 8 Wired Semiconductor, Colonial Small Ale and, more recently, Pirate Life Throwback IPA.

Draft Magazine | Stop Calling Beers ‘Sours’

An article questioning the use of the term ‘sour’ which I found quite interesting.

Ale of a Time | Keep Calling Beers ‘Sours’

To flip the previous article on its head, here’s a great piece from Luke Robertson.