Preston Valley Hops

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-14,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

“I’ve learnt a lot of good lessons this year,” Aaron Davy said as we chatted about the first hop harvest for Preston Valley Hops late last month.

Aaron and his wife Alexis, along with their kids and dog, moved from Hamilton Hill to Queentown, a little outside Donnybrook about 18 months ago.

Since Aaron’s resume includes brewing at WAs biggest breweries, Little Creatures and Gage Roads, it was probably inevitable he would end up involved in beer again in some way. After a successful trial run of growing hops, Aaron decided to dive into growing on a commercial scale.

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He built five-metre tall trestles and with 200 plants across 12 varietals and filled a quarter acre of land and so Preston Valley Hops was born.

Among the varieties grown on the farm there are Saaz, Cascade, Nugget, Chinook, Challenger, Hallertau, Goldings and Perle. Aaron also planted some Victoria, a sister variety to the much-loved Galaxy.

“I am super happy with the way Cascade is going.”

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There must be something about the south-west that loves hops, Karridale Cottages and Hop Farm are thriving, just having finished their third hop harvest, and Preston Valley has exceeded Aaron’s expectations.

Read: Crafty Pint – A Day in the Life of: A Hop Farmer

“The proof is in the pudding, they’re growing really well!”

The Preston Valley land is old farming area that has been grazed for over 50 years “but it’s too good for grazing, we’re right on the river with alluvial dirt so stuff grows here,” he says. Hops are susceptible to pests, disease and mildew so I was surprised to hear from Aaron that he’s not experienced anything like that. Trey over at Karridale* was the same. For whatever reason, these haven’t been an issue for them.

*Trey, is the co-owner along with his partner Olivia, in Karridale Cottages and Hop Farm.

Some plants have grown better than others but Aaron says that was kind of the point of the first year.

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Aaron scoured the internet to research hop and hop farms. He found some information from an American university but, “until you put the rhizomes in the ground and grow a season of hops, that’s how you learn.”

“Trey’s been super helpful, he gave me a heap of rhizomes and good advice when I was setting up,” Aaron says.

 

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“I’m going to narrow it down, depending on demand,” Aaron says, “in terms of going to scale, I’ve really got to focus on what’s going to sell and what I can grow well.” Chinook, he comments, has been growing well but he reckons the lupulin production – all that yellow stuff inside the hop cone that has all the oils, acids and resins that make beer amazing – has been lower than expected. As we chat, Aaron picks a Chinook hop cone off the bine, rips it open and sticks his nose in. He does this a fair bit and he knows it too, he loves it. “Actually, this is really good,” Aaron remarks and smells it again, “actually, that’s really good!” The Chinook is planted in three sections because the plants are from three separate sources, “I’ll definitely propagate from that one!”

“That’s all part of it, it’s about being observant and always smelling the hops.”

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Currently, the farm is a quarter acre with plans to expand to a full acre, the trick will be finding more plants. “Because there is no industry here, you’ve got to scrap and scrounge and get what you can get.” Normally rhizomes would be used to propagate more plants but Aaron is keen to try cloning instead because it’s a better head start with plants than rhizomes because you’re not disturbing your rhizomes and their root systems. “We have a professional local nursery we are working with,” Aaron says and has taken a heap of cuttings from their yard and so far they’ve had a 75% strike rate. Aaron says cloning over rhizomes is a trend he’s noticed happening more and more in the US. Another option is to get plants shipped from the US but they have to spend six months in a quarantine lab, in that time you have to hope they survive and it’s an expensive process that doesn’t refund if those plants don’t survive. Expansion to an acre will depend on how well the propagated plants survive the winter and available funds after they look at a possibly purchasing a harvester and a cold storage solution.

“It’s been such a cool experience,” Aaron can barely contain his excitement as he describes how the plants grow and change with season-to-season.

 

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Mike the Bull, thankfully he doesn’t eat the hops!

 

“Hops are an amazing plant and they’re so cool and having us here, for brewers to come and pick their own hops and get touch with this ingredient, I think, is very cool,” he says, “the pellet is quite far removed from what you have here.”

Cascade and Nugget, in particular, exceeded Aaron’s expectations which he says make him excited to expand and the future of hop growing in the south-west. Aaron and the other hop farmers in the region are keen to work together, the hop growing industry here is still very new, so it’s going to be amazing to watch over the coming years.

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Big thanks to Aaron and Alexis at Preston Valley Hops for taking the time to show me around the farm!

Introducing LiquidBred

Alè Alberti and Mal Secourable have teamed up to bring LiquidBred to life, a beer education experience aimed at the drinker and bringing beer to life.

“It’s probably a stupid answer but we want everyone to come,” says Alè Alberti of LiquidBred, a new consumer orientated beer education offer he has co-founded with brewer Mal Secourable. LiquidBred launches in Perth in September and will bring beer education to some of the most important people – those who are buying and drinking it.


‘Liquid bread’ is an age old colloquial term for a fermented beverage made from malted cereal and flavoured with hops (commonly) or spices, roots or fruit (historically). Its application reflects the belief that the two staples, bread and beer, emerged simultaneously in the Cradle of Civilisation – Mesopotamia


Aside from the recent run of ‘Beer School’ events at the Belgian Beer Cafe hosted by Scott Earley from Mash Brewing, Alè was surprised to find it almost impossible to locate any beer appreciation lessons for consumers to learn more about beer. Given the growth of craft beer and wine appreciation courses being fairly commonplace, it seemed to Alè and Mal that beer wasn’t getting the attention it deserves.

A beer education program for consumers was an idea Mal says was first raised at a meeting of the Western Australian Brewers Association (WABA) many years ago. The idea continued to resurface in conversations and meetings from time to time it never seemed to get off the ground. Perhaps it was just a matter of the right people coming together, people like Mal and Alè.


“The good thing about that is that Mal is one step at a time and I’m a million at a time so we just bring each other in so it’s a really good balance,”

Alè Alberti

Previously from an education and a wine background, Mal appreciates the impact that engaging information can have on people and often wondered why it seemed the wine industry was so far ahead of beer when it came to educating their drinkers.

Having collaborated on beer projects in the past, like the brew they did with Artisan Brewing called Tripel Treating: A Belgian in Mango Land, Mal and Alè got to chatting about the idea of beer appreciation sessions and these chats eventually lead to action.

“It just came up as a topic of conversation and Alè being a really proactive individual basically just said “f**k it,” Mal says with a laugh.

Alè began by gathering expressions of interest to see if their idea had legs, posting a notice at Cellarbrations Superstore where he works, and also across a couple of beer and local Fremantle community Facebook groups. Alè says the response was “overwhelming”.

“The beer community are supportive, the non-beer community are supportive, I think there’s a need for it,” Alè says.

LiquidBred has two options – an ‘Introductory Half Day Masterclass’ and a ‘6 Week Beer Odyssey’. Each title was picked carefully, steering clear of words like “program” and “course” because they are not about achieving learning outcomes or walking away with a laminated certificate.

“What we are trying to do is actually feed people’s imagination, to give them a little bit of a background to where the beer has come from because they all have a history,” Mal says and then they will link this history with their influence and journey on the craft brews we enjoy today.

“It’s more about going through the history of it all as opposed to saying ‘this how you pour a beer’, ‘this is the ingredients’,” Alè says.

“We aren’t taking ourselves too seriously,” Mal assures, “but there’s going to be a lot of information in there, and the information is in the tasting.”

All sessions will feature tastings and they will be conducted blind so people can decide if they like the beer based on how it looks, the flavour and aroma, free from marketing and brand influence.

“People drink with their eyes and we kind of want to rob people of that a little bit so they’re actually tasting free of prejudice, to help them actually understand beers a little better and maybe drink labels or brands they wouldn’t have thought of before”

Mal Secourable

It’s not about telling people that one beer is better than another but about engaging people to talk about beer and find out what they like, or don’t like, and get an understanding of the stories and reasons behind those flavours.

“Everybody experiences taste individually so the strong message will be there is no right or wrong but sharing and working with people around you.”

Mal Secourable

The first Introductory Half Day Masterclasses will be held at Collabor8, the mezzanine space of The Mantle in Fremantle with two dates already set in September. Perfect for those who “have had their curiosity aroused and want to learn more” about craft beer, the four hour session includes 12 tastings, a LiquidBred beer glass and nibbles by Don Tapa.

Dates for the first 6 Week Beer Odyssey are still to be determined, stay tuned to LiquidBred social media for the announcement. Each week is designed to explore a different beer style in a beery adventure from birth to contemporary craft brewing, tasting beers along the way of course!

So where do Alè and Mal see LiquidBred’s evolution? “I get to retire on a tropical island,” Mal says laughing. “For me I see this expanding north of the river and then the south west and then over east and then we hire people, that’s my vision” Alè answers. “My vision is to get bookings for the first two masterclasses and then the odyssey,” Mal counters with another laugh. “See? Me, a million steps and Mal, step-by-step,” Alè says and it seemed as good a place as any to end the our interview, with a laugh and enthusiasm.

Big shout to Alè and Mal for taking the time to sit down and chat with me! Looking forward to seeing LiquidBred in action!

Studying for Cicerone

You may have noticed things have been a touch quiet on the blog lately and some of the reason is a slightly intimidating 237 page document I recently purchased. The document is the Beer Scholar‘s Study Guide for the Certified Cicerone Exam.

A cicerone is knowledgeable beer expert and the certification is independent and recognised around the world. There are four levels to the Cicerone program which is, if you want a quick reference, the beer equivalent of a wine sommelier. I’ve passed the first level – certified beer server – and now it’s on to the second level.

Studying for this exam has been amazingly interesting, heck even reading about taxation was made better by the fact it was focused on beer!

Studying for cicerone

The exam is comprehensive and covers everything from serving and handling beer to the history of beer styles and, of course, there is a tasting component.

With a reputed one in three pass rate, the exam is a little (read: a lot) intimidating and we only have two certified cicerones here in WA. Whether I pass the exam on the first go or if it takes a second shot, the more I read and learn about beer, the more I love it!

On a final note, the other reason for a lack of writing is an ongoing attempt to scrap paint from our door frames and skirting boards which is surprisingly time consuming. Thank goodness for beer because it makes a task this like just that little more bearable!

Eagle Bay Pale Ale

 

Beer Interpretation #5: Oxidation // Part Two

Beer Interpretation is an irregular series of posts where I try to decipher the sometimes strange and always wonderful world of beer jargon, phrases and catch cries by drilling into the basics and interpreting the lingo.

Beer Interpretation is an irregular series of posts where I try to decipher the sometimes strange and always wonderful world of beer jargon, phrases and catch cries by drilling into the basics and interpreting the lingo. In short I’m going to try and translate the nerdy beer stuff …


Here we are at part two of this edition of Beer Interpretation looking at oxidation in beer.

You can check out part one here which covered what oxidation actually is, what it can taste like and what causes it. To help me make this post possible, I had the pleasure of chatting with the head brewer of Colonial Brewing Margaret River, Paul Wyman and Lion Co. Craft Beer Ambassador, Steve Blaine.

So let’s get back into it …

Paul at the Colonial Brewing Co. stand at this years GABS Festival, Melbourne
Paul at the Colonial Brewing Co. stand at this years GABS Festival, Melbourne
Steve Blaine at GABS Festival Sydney earlier this year. Photo Credit: The Beer Pilgrim
Steve Blaine at GABS Festival Sydney earlier this year. Photo Credit: The Beer Pilgrim

Where does OXIDATion happen?

“From a brewers point of view it’s [oxygen] is the hardest thing to eliminate,”

Paul Wyman, head brewer at Colonial Brewing Co.

At the brewery …

In the brewery there are any number of moments where oxygen can harm the beer. We talk so much about brewing being a craft that sometimes maybe we forget it’s a science as well. Too much or too little of anything can impact the finished product. “It’s crucial to get oxygen right at the start,” Paul says and whilst up until this point of the post you may have gotten the impression oxygen is always and forever bad there is one point it’s not and that’s when it comes to hungry yeast. The yeast needs oxygen to feed on in order to make booze and bubbles, two pretty critical things for beer. “The oxygen we are worried about is the oxygen post fermentation,” Paul clarifies, “a thimble of oxygen can ruin a beer over time.”

“Once yeast has eaten all the oxygen and it starts fermenting you do not want any oxygen to touch your beer,”

Paul Wyman, head brewer at Colonial Brewing Co.

There are multiple points in the brewing process where oxygen can get in where it’s not wanted but having said this Paul and Steve both agree that if oxidation happens at the brewery it’s most likely to occur at the packaging stage.

“You spend four weeks making a beer and if you don’t package it properly then you’ve basically wasted those four weeks,” Paul says, it’s fact he and his fellow brewers are well aware of when canning Colonial beers and take appropriate measures to prevent it.

Colonial Cans

Some breweries will take what is called “a library” where they take a beer from the start, middle and end of a packaging run. The beers are labelled to know which one is which and then stored for number of months before being compared to a fresh beer. This gives them a good idea of how their beer ages in the market because as much as we in the beer world would love to think that beer is being consumed within a few weeks or couple of months, the reality is sometimes longer.

Many larger craft breweries have a lab on site, something Steve and Paul agree is incredibly important to a brewery to produce not just great beer but consistency great beer.

“If you go to a brewery and they’ve got a lab you should feel a lot more comfortable about the beer,”

Steve Blaine, Certified Cicerone & Craft Beer Ambassador Lion Co.

 

Every place after it’s left the brewery …

Once the beer has left the brewery and it’s out of the brewers hands, it’s now up to a lot of different people to ensure drinkers are getting fresh beer, tasting as the brewer intended.

“I would argue that 99.9% of brewers do an excellent job of eliminated oxygen from the brewing process so if you have an oxidised beer I think that more comes down to the way it was stored and cared for and the beer drinker also has a huge role to play in that.”

Steve Blaine, Certified Cicerone & Craft Beer Ambassador Lion Co.

Operators, managers and staff at bars and bottle shops have a responsibility to handle beer correctly. No one would leave a box of seafood outside in the sun for three hours before putting it into the fridge; beer shouldn’t be any different. As a consumer we are also responsible for the beer we buy. Taking it home and storing it in the garage won’t do you any favours. Beer is a luxury, it’s something to be enjoyed so it makes sense to treat it nicely so that it is really enjoyable. Not treating your beer nicely is like going to the movies then sit facing the wall. I’m stretching my analogy somewhat but hopefully you get my drift.

This all comes full circle to those of us in the beer industry also being responsible for educating people on how to treat beer and why. It’s something the industry does in a number of ways, whether it’s master classes on beer, through marketing and even packaging.

Pirate Life (SA) cans - a great example of beer education which features on their website
Pirate Life (SA) cans – a great example of beer education featuring on packaging

How Can You Avoid Oxidised Beer?

Drink fresh, drink local …

“I think ‘fresh is best’ is the most rattled off line in craft beer and craft brewing but it’s the least understood,” says Steve. We say it but what does it really mean? He points to how often he speaks to beer lovers and they’re almost evangelical about hoppy American beers and whilst some are amazing with equally incredible reputations, it’s not always the case by the time they get to us in Australia. In many cases these beers aren’t very fresh at all. Imagine you just hopped off a non-stop flight from the US to Australia, now ask yourself how fresh would you feel?

In the article I recommended by Professor Beer in Part One of this post, article author George de Piro explains it’s not just heat but motion that can speed up oxidation, “that is why all imported at beers taste oxidised to some degree: the heat and motion experienced during shipping are brutal!”

This isn’t to say all imported beer is going to be oxidised but given what we know about oxidation and the impact time and temperature can have, the sheer physical distance between us and America is something to consider when selecting your next craft beer. There is a reason breweries like Two Beers (USA) and Sierra Nevada (USA) are insistent on their beer travelling cold and being stored cold and it doesn’t hurt to ask your bartender or retail assistant if they know how the beer was transported.

“If you want to drink American beers, visit America and drink it as the brewer in intended,” Steve suggests, “unless someone can guarantee they’ve kept it icy cold the whole trip.”

Both Steve and Paul say that the more they’ve learnt about beer and oxidation, the more their fridges are stocked with locally made beers rather an imports.

“If you’re buying something local, chances are it’s pretty fresh,”

Steve Blaine, Certified Cicerone & Craft Beer Ambassador Lion Co.

Given the amount of imported beers we, as drinkers, have drunk over the years Steve speculates that when it comes to big name imported beers they’ve probably always had a degree of oxidation. “Sometimes people have become so used to drinking beer that they don’t know what fresh beer tastes like,” says Steve. People will often comment that their big name imported beer tastes different when it’s brewed under license in Australia versus imported. Of course this could be for a number of reasons though one of them may be that the Australian brewed version is not, or is less, oxidised.

Ice, Ice, Baby …

“Buy your beer cold and keep it cold,”

Paul Wyman, Head Brewer Colonial Brewing Co Margaret River

There’s not a great deal to elaborate on here. If you want something perhaps a little catchier, Feral Brewing often say “treat like milk” which is basically the same message.

Take a closer look …

Don’t be afraid to look at the ‘best before’ and/or ‘packaged on’ dates on the beer in question. Also remember a ‘best before’ date isn’t a ‘use by’ date, take into account what style of beer it is and where the beer was brewed when looking at dates.

No harm ever came from reading a book …

“Educate yourself on the style of beer you’re drinking so you know what flavours should and shouldn’t be there,” Steve suggests. Certainly this is where the rabbit hole of craft beer can hook you in but if you don’t want to get too nerdy that’s fine. A quick Google search will bring up enough information on the style of beer so you know what it means when a beer calls itself an “American IPA” or “barley wine” just like you might already have an idea of how a shiraz differs from a pinot noir. Knowing this could mean the difference between a great and a not-so-great beer experience.

Final Words

For the craft beer industry it all comes down to education and that goes for everyone, whether you’re making the beer, selling it or drinking it. When it comes to oxidation it’s good to understand it can happen during the brewing process but also long after the beer has left the brewery.

As the craft beer industry grows hopefully education increases too and not only will drinkers know if they get a beer that’s stale but more bar and bottle shop managers be diligent with how they handle their beer just as they already do with food and other perishables.

Drink more beer, talk to more people about beer, read a little, trust your palate and what you taste, and above all enjoy what you drink!

 

 

Beer Interpretation #5: Oxidation // Part One

Beer Interpretation is an irregular series of posts where I try to decipher the sometimes strange and always wonderful world of beer jargon, phrases and catch cries by drilling into the basics and interpreting the lingo. In short I’m going to try and translate the nerdy beer stuff …

Beer Interpretation is an irregular series of posts where I try to decipher the sometimes strange and always wonderful world of beer jargon, phrases and catch cries by drilling into the basics and interpreting the lingo. In short I’m going to try and translate the nerdy beer stuff …


In every glass of beer there’s an incredible amount of passion, hard work and science that has come together to create it. The journey that takes a bag of grains and other ingredients and turns them into beer is simple yet complicated. Getting the finished the beer to you, the happy person drinking it, is equally simple yet complicated. It’s such a long trip from the making of a beer to the drinking of a beer and occasionally something can go wrong, the result is a beer that doesn’t taste the way the brewer intended – a beer with a fault and one example of a fault is oxidation.

To tackle the complicated topic of oxidation I needed to bring in a couple of big guns from the local brewing scene and so I got in touch with Paul Wyman and Steve Blaine.

Paul Wyman at GABS Melbourne earlier this year

Paul is the head brewer at Colonial Brewing Co, Margaret River and Steve is the Craft Beer Ambassador for Lion Nathan in WA, he also recently became a Certified Cicerone. Over a couple of beers at Petition Beer Corner we chatted about oxidation, ate some chips and had a few laughs too.

You can follow both Paul @6foot6brewer and Steve @the_wa_beer_runner on Instagram

Steve Blaine at GABS Sydney earlier this year // Photo Credit: The Beer Pilgrim

Let’s kick this off and dive into part one of a two part post …

“oxidation”

What is it exactly?

Draft Magazine defines oxidation as “an off flavour that transpires when beer is exposed to oxygen or high temperatures, or is otherwise past its prime.”

Basically it’s beer that is stale and old or one that’s been hit with heat or oxygen snuck in where it wasn’t supposed to.

“Heat is the enemy. All chemistry speeds up as the temperature rises.”

Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher

How does it happen?

A great read on oxidation can be found at Professor Beer, an American website written by George de Piro who is the brewmaster at Druthers Brewing Company and a Master Judge in the Beer Judge Certification Program.

“Oxidative reactions are always occurring in beer, regardless of how it is stored,”

Professor Beer

Yep, that’s right, you heard the man, so it’s not surprising to then realise that time itself will bring about oxidation.

Time …

“Every beer will oxidise eventually,” Paul says. “Even beers that are supposed to be aged like barley wines and imperial stouts eventually will get that papery, cardboard character given enough time,” continues Steve.

We seem to forget that beer is a consumable, it’s not supposed to last forever. Sure, there’s pasteurisation that extends beer shelf life – a post for another day I suspect – but this doesn’t magically turn beer into some kind of heat resistant super liquid.

One of the best ways I’ve seen the importance of time communicated is in Stone Brewing (US) Enjoy By series of IPAs. Each release features the date in huge print on the front and it’s the date that the brewers want you to drink the beer by and it’s about five weeks from the date the beer is bottled.

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Heat …

“Temperature is an absolute critical component to oxidation, the hotter the beer the quicker it happens,” says Steve. “Yeah, you’re just speeding up the reaction,” confirms Paul.

Steve uses a basic rule of thumb taught to him by Russ Gosling, head brewer at Little Creatures in Fremantle, “A beer will be ‘brewery fresh’ for three days if it’s stored at 30 degrees, thirty days if it’s stored at 20 degrees and 300 days if stored at ten degrees.”

This is why you hear some beer lovers talk adoringly about their favourite brewery that cold stores and cold transports their beers. Keeping beer cold is all about keeping oxidation at bay.

Feral Brewing puts its well, “treat like milk” they say and it’s a great way to think about your beer though probably not something to add to your breakfast routine. A significant difference between milk and beer, in the context of freshness, is that whilst bad milk will make you feel ill, bad beer won’t. “It is this durability that leads people to believe that beer can withstand all sorts of abuse,” Professor Beer writes.

What does oxidised beer taste like?

Sometimes you’ll hear someone describe a beer as being “tired”, “old” or “stale” and that’s oxidation at work. Remember, time is not a friend to many beer styles. There’s a reason that many craft breweries talk about drinking beer fresh.

Obviously “tired” is a bit of an obscure descriptor, well how about “flabby”? That’s one way that Steve describes tired and oxidised beer. “It just falls to the side of your palate,” Steve describes, “and that for me is the biggest indicator of oxidation. You drink it and it just becomes astringent, like you just sucked on a teabag.”

Often oxidised beers are described as tasting papery, like wet-cardboard, or even having a sherry or cheesiness to them. You might notice that these descriptors are pretty varied and that’s because it depends on how badly or in what way the beer is oxidised. It’s also improtant to remember that we don’t all taste beer the same way.

We are all beautiful and unique snowflakes …

Everyone perceives flavours differently, tasting beer is completely subjective. What one person tastes as corn might taste like tomato to someone else, what is green apples to you is pumpkin to the person beside you. The trick is to figure out what oxidised beer tastes like to you, not to anyone else and this takes some time, a little education and, of course, some beer drinking.

Understanding oxidation isn’t easy …

“I’ve only really understood oxidation well in the last six to nine months,”

Steve Blaine, Certified Cicerone & Craft Beer Ambassador

Steve had the benefit of the expertise at Little Creatures Brewing (part of his employer’s, Lion Nathan, portfolio) whose brewers who took him through what he describes as an “intensive session” on how to detect oxidised beers. It involved comparing a nine month old bottle of Little Creatures Pale Ale, their flagship American style pale ale, that had been kept at warm even hot temperatures to a fresh pale ale.

If you want to get your science on, this is absolutely something you can do at home if you don’t mind deliberately harming your beer. Pick something local, something fresh – have a look at the dates on the bottle or can – and leave it in the sun for a few hours and/or up to a day and then put it back in the fridge. Be sure to mark it so you know it’s the beer you have messed with. Give it a few more weeks and then taste it against the same fresh beer and see what the differences are.

To step the science up a notch you can look online for a beer sensory kit that provides you with liquid capsules containing the flavour fault which you then put into a beer.

Once you start to get the idea of what oxidised beer is and tastes like it’s generally agreed that it won’t leave you, you’ll get better and better at knowing when it’s there. “As soon as your brain is switched on to it you can’t switch it off which is a great thing,” says Steve.


Part two of this post will be up soon, continuing with oxidation and looking at where it can happen and how we as drinkers can avoid it.

A Bottle Share of Barley Wine

A brewer, a distiller and a certified cicerone walk into our house.

My other half and I had three friends over last weekend to share the bottle of Mountain Goat 2016 Barrel Breed Barley Wine that came to me in the form of wonderful and very generous beer mail. Our friends, fellow booze industry people like us, had a few barley wine stashed away themselves and so a bottle share soon put itself together.

A bottle share is something I have been meaning to do for a while – get some friends together, everyone brings beers to share, I probably don’t need to spell it out, I’m sure you figured this out from the name.

All together we had 15 barley wines and lined up together on the table they looked a little intimidating but pretty exciting too, perhaps the same way a big wave looks to a surfer.*

After a couple of welcome beers, after all you generally don’t just jump into a barley wine without a little warm up, we thought we’d better settle on what order we would try the beers. As a rough guide we went from lowest to highest ABV (alcohol by volume) as pictured left to right below.

barley wine

Highlights of the Night

Mountain Goat Barrel Breed 2016 Barley Wine – surprisingly lighter in body than I had expected but that is probably due to the onslaught my palate had already been subjected to. Lots happening here in this excellent example of a barley wine.

11.3% ABV // Barley Wine aged in Lark Distillery barrels // Limited bottles available // One keg now available at Bob’s Bar, Perth and the other will be tapped at Mane Liquor on Saturday 16 July at a special event also featuring Gusface Grillah.

Mountain Goat Barley Wine

Boatrocker Banshee – rich, boozy, head meltingly delicious.

Boatrocker Banshee

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2011, 2013 & 2016 – tasting the differences in years was super interesting, particularly when it came to the body of the beer, how much weight and richness was added with a few years of aging.

Sierra Nevada Big Foot

Not-so-Highlights of the Night

Lack of notes – not one of us wrote down anything about the beers and hence this post being sadly lacking in tasting notes. Next time I’d attach a big tag to each bottle and even if I just got a few key words here and there that would have been great.

The next day – oh my, that was a mighty hangover.

advice for your own bottle share …

Take notes, drink a TONNE of water and plan to do very little the next day!

*not sure why I went with that analogy, I’ve never surfed a day in my life.

Seeing Double Three Times

A post dedicated to double IPAs and ending with a three way side by side of IIPAs from WA, SA and California.

Want to see a lot of beer geeks get ridiculously excited? Put out a limited release double IPA.

Feral Brewing‘s Tusk Day – the release day of their imperial IPA – sees one keg go to a handful of selected bars across the country who commit to tapping the keg immediately. Eager drinkers plan their day to ensure they can get to the selected venues before the keg runs dry and social media is flooded with #tuskday photos. The most recent release in WA at the end of April saw most kegs last a mere couple of hours.

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Feral Tusk Imperial IPA at Feral Fest 3 – a lack of tasting notes is explained by the many Feral beers that followed this one!

Recently Mash Brewing, also in the Swan Valley, released their Sarcasm Session IIPA (see what they did there?!) into a limited run of 330ml bottles and Tusk-like excitement once again dominated my social media feed.

With craft beer exploding the way it is and American style pale ales dominating people’s hearts and taste buds, it only makes sense that their bigger siblings – IPAs and IIPAs get people even more excited. After all, you’re taking a thing people love, the pale ale, and adding more of the things that they love – more hops, more booze, more fun.


What is a double IPA anyway?

Double IPA, IIPA, Imperial IPA, Extra IPA, it’s all the basically the same thing – an IPA but bigger, dominated by US and/or new world hops, it’s feisty, bitter, boozy but still balanced.

Double IPA
Information taken/edited from BJCP 2015 & The Oxford Companion to Beer

Of course, not all IIPAs are the same, what a boring beer world that would be. So, when you pour a double IPA into a suitably fancy glass, what’s the most important thing to look for?

Two words – “fresh” and “hops”. Fresh beer is the best beer when it comes to something like a double IPA which is critically defined by its hop aroma and character. Look for local and don’t be afraid to ask the bartender or take a look at the date on the bottle/can whilst you’re beer shopping at your favourite bottle shop. Anything past three months, whilst not off or undrinkable, isn’t in it’s peak condition, the way the brewer wants you to enjoy it and given the sheer number of IPAs and IIPAs available, something fresher is probably easily at hand.

On the release of Mash’s Sarcasm I decided to line up two other double IPAs, the first is a classic and the first very IIPA I ever had – Sierra Nevada Torpedo from California and the second is a modern instant hit – Pirate Life IIPA from Adelaide.

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L-R: Mash Sarcasm, Pirate Life IIPA & Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

girl+beer’s tasting notes …

Mash Sarcasm Session IPA | Consumed within days of packaging

At 9.5% ABV it was the booziest one of the three and there was a big alcohol sweetness amongst the pineapple and tropical fruits. Pairing it with some Old Winchester cheese with its fruitiness and tangy flavours took the edge of the booze in the beer. If you like you’re double IIPAs thick and on the sweeter side this hit that spot.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA | BB 11.05.16

My first experience with a double IPA was many years ago and it was this one from Sierra Nevada. Amongst the pioneers of the craft beer revolution in the US, I looked to this beer to show me what a double IPA was all about. I remember being blown away by how hoppy it was.

This particular bottle wasn’t in the prime of it’s life so it was kinda disappointing to come back to it now and find it not as I remember. The tropical fruit aromas were there but sat alongside some candy, lolly and unwanted green apple character too.

With a best before date of 05.11.16, so 11 May 2016 when de-Americanised, it was a good example of why drinking fresh beer matters.

Pirate Life IIPA | BB 20.01.17

I was impressed when I first had this beer and subsequent tries haven’t changed my opinion. Slightly more subdued aromas but spice, stone fruit and lemon are all present and it follows through in flavour with a nice biscuity malt and dry finish. A balanced showcase of hops with real drinkability.

Three double IPAs, three different beers. This is why I love beer! It’s so diverse. Many times I’ve heard people say, “I don’t like wheat beers” or “I don’t like stouts” and I would urge these people to keep an open mind. One or even a couple of beers don’t represent everything that a single beer style can offer; be open to trying more, talk to more people, and I’ll bet you’ll find one you like and what a shame it would have been to miss out.

 

Beer Interpretation #4: Dry Hopping

Alright, so this “dry hopping” thing, why do beer lovers get so excited about it?

Beer Interpretation is an irregular series of posts where I try to decipher the sometimes strange and always wonderful world of beer jargon, phrases and catch cries by drilling into the basics and interpreting the lingo. Basically I’m going to try and translate the nerdy beer stuff.


DRY HOPPING

Alright, so this “dry hopping” thing, why do beer lovers get so excited about it?

Hops themselves are exciting, they’re gorgeous to look at, wonderful to smell and they bring so much to beer – bitterness, flavour and aroma. That’s quite the significiant contribution!

Check out – Beer Interpretation #1: Hoppy

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Hops, being the magical beasts that they are, get added at various stages of the brewing process and dry hopping is just another way for brewers to use hops.

Dry hopping happens after fermentation, so when the yeast has made bubbles and booze, and it’s done to give the beer a nice big hop aroma. The best examples to see dry hopping in action are beers like pale ales and their extended family, i.e. IPAs, double IPAs, etc, where a full hoppy nose is more than welcome, in fact it’s compulsory!

When hops are added early in the boil it results in the alpha acids in the hops becoming isomerized, which means the alpha acids undergo a chemical change, which results in bitterness. At the other end, after fermentation, dry hopping sees the hops treated a little more kindly. Whilst the temperature will still be warm, it won’t be anywhere near the high temperatures needed for the boil so the hops just hang out for a while, maybe a week, maybe more or less, allowing the intact essential oils from the hops to dissolve into the beer and BOOM, hello wonderful hop aroma.

Karridale Hop Farm

I get super excited when I stick my nose in a beer and like what I smell, it’s like a prelude for the palate and we all know how significantly taste is impacted by smell. That’s why you’re always hearing beer geeks bang on about glassware, your beer doesn’t want to be caged up inside a bottle, release your beer and all it’s wonders!

The problem with hop aroma is that it starts to fade, pretty much straight away and after a couple of months the aroma faded or changed alot, either way, not what you want. This takes us back to my previous post in this series, “Beer Interpretation #2: Fresh is Best”. Think of it like a fresh mango, when it’s ready to eat you want to grab that sucker and enjoy it, delaying just makes for a sad mango and nobody wants that.

More Reading: A Perfect Pint – Beer School: Hops

Go Buy Some Beer …

Your best bet for big dry hopping is going to be fresh pale ales and IPAs, much like my list for the first post in this series, so grab WA local beers like Feral Hop Hop, Nail Golden Ale*, Eagle Bay Pale Ale, Mash Copy Cat (and also Grasscutter, I had one today and forgot how good it smells!) to taste and smell what dry hopping can do for a beer.

Looking outside of WA, there’s plenty of great options, for instance pick up Mornington IPA (Victoria), Epic Hop Zombie (NZ) or pretty much anything Pirate Life (Adelaide).

*disclaimer: I still work for Nail Brewing

 

 

Beer Interpretation #3: Malty

An irregular series of posts where I try to decipher the sometimes strange and always wonderful world of beer jargon, phrases and catch cries by drilling into the basics and interpreting the lingo. Basically I’m going to try and translate the nerdy beer stuff.

Beer Interpretation is an irregular series of posts where I try to decipher the sometimes strange and always wonderful world of beer jargon, phrases and catch cries by drilling into the basics and interpreting the lingo. Basically I’m going to try and translate the nerdy beer stuff.

You can read previous posts here – #1 Hoppy and #2 Fresh is Best


Seeing as the first two posts were focused on hops it seemed logical to go to another ingredient of beer – malt. But what do people mean when they describe a beer as “malty”?

“MALTY”

Much like its “hoppy” counterpart, “malty” can mean any number of different things because as an ingredient “malt” can vary from a light pilsner malt to a heavily roasted malt and all in between, each giving off very different flavours. Malts can provide flavours like honey, caramel, biscuit and nutty and bolder flavours like coffee, chocolate, roast and smoke and even borderline meaty characters. How does malt do all that? Well, perhaps this is a good time to talk about what malt exactly is.

What is this magical thing called Malt?

Malt refers to grain that has been malted and more often than not the grain is barley. The barley is harvested and then steeped in water to start the germination process which is then halted by the barley being dried and kilned. The degree to which the barley is kilned determines what sort of malt you end up with.

Bridge Road Brewers do an awesome job of explaining the brewing process, including a breakdown of malt and the process, on their website.

What does Malt do for Beer?

So, so much. Without malt there’s no sugar and if there’s no sugar then the yeast can’t eat it and that means there’s no alcohol being produced. In short, without malt there’s nothing even resembling beer, just a watery bitter liquid.

Of the four ingredients needed for beer – those being malt, water, hops and yeast – malt is often referred to as the backbone of the beer, the foundation for everything else.

Besides providing the sugars that the yeast consume in order to produce alcohol, malt also contributes to the colour, aroma and flavour of a beer.

Yet whilst malt contributes to a lot of what a beer is in the end, when a beer is described as “malty” it is usually about the flavour having significant malt influence.

Read: Beer Advocate Malt and Adjunct Guide

So, as a descriptor “malty” could mean lashings of coffee and chocolate like you’d find in a stout from roasted malt or perhaps it could refer to a melody of caramel and dark fruits like you’d get in a strong ale. Going bigger, malty could also describe the bold richness of molasses of a Barley Wine or the oddly tantalising smokey, meaty, sweet malt flavours that can be found in a German Rauchbier.

In short, “malty” is about as useful as saying a fruit salad tastes “fruity”.*

*and I say this knowing I have often used “malty” as a descriptor!

Go Buy Some Beer …

Feral Karma Citra

An instance of malty meets hoppy in this year round brew from Feral Brewing, it’s an India Black Ale which is a fancy way of saying it’s a love child of an IPA (the hoppy bit) and a dark beer (that’d be the malty bit).

What’s so malty? Well, the colour for one but mainly it’s the chocolate and roasty flavours that are just as prominent as the hops.

4 Pines ESB

There aren’t heaps of Australian brewed ESBs, the style doesn’t have the almost fanatic-like following that IPAs and Pale Ales have, but none the less they can be an absolutely cracking beer and this is one of my favourites.

What’s so malty? It’s the toffee, red fruit and biscuity malt presence in this beer that makes it so gorgeous.

4 Pines ESB

Feral Boris

Russian Imperial Stouts aren’t just a show case for dark malts, they’re the main act, the big gig.

What’s so malty? Almost all of it; there’s a few different malts at play here to provide the roasty, liquorice, coffee and chocolate mash up that’s happening here.

Feral Russian Imperial Stout Boris

Schlenkerla Rauchbier

A traditional German beer using Beechwood smoked malts, a speciality of Bamberg. A beer style not for everyone but well worth trying at least once if not a few times.

What’s so malty? The smokey malts of course! But it’s not like licking an ashtray, it’s smokey but also borderline bacon-like with hints of toast and sweetness from the malts too.

 

 

 

 

 

Beer Interpretation #2: Fresh is Best

A few weeks ago I kicked off a new series of posts I am calling Beer Interpretation, the idea being to decipher the weird and wonderful world of craft beer jargon. The first post was on the term “hoppy”, which you can read here and given hops is such a HUGE topic in craft beer this seemed like the logical second post in this series …

“FRESH IS BEST”

Beer geeks can switch from conversations around the importance of fresh beer to then discussing beer cellaring techniques in the blink of an eye.

“Fresh is best” and similar phrases are often linked to craft beers with a lot of hop* character in them, it’s basically just short hand for “this beer is full of hops, drink it NOW, don’t wait”.

*Check out Beer Interpretation #1: Hoppy for more information and links to other hop related article

Whilst encouraging people to drink beer as soon as they get their hands on it might see a little irresponsible it actually isn’t. It is about making sure that the beer you are drinking is in the best possible condition.

The reason for this is that hops are pretty delicate, after all what do you expect from a plant that only grows in very specific parts of the world – namely between 35-55 degrees latitude in the southern and northern hemispheres. To top it all off the hop flowers can only be harvested once a year in each hemisphere. Once harvested the essential oils and alpha acids in the hops, the things that make them so wonderful and useful to beer, begin to deteriorate. It shouldn’t be too surprising really, I mean, can you run as fast as you could ten years ago? I didn’t think so. Age matters.

To combat this, to ensure that hops can be used to brew beer all year around and all over the world, hops are dried and made into pellets like little concentrated pills of awesome, then vacuum packed and cold stored to preserve them. It’s little wonder that hops are not a cheap ingredient in the brewing process. But they are oh-so-worth it.

Anyway, back to the subject of freshness.

The affect that hops have on a beer, namely contributing bitterness and flavour, are also subject to the ageing process regardless of whether the brewers used hop flowers straight from harvest or hop pellets stored in peak conditions.

As hop flavour deteriorates in a beer you stop getting all the lovely flavours and aromas that the brewer intended and instead get unpleasant characteristics like cheesy, sweaty and musty. That’s bad.

So when you’re grabbing a beer where hop flavour and aroma is important, like pale ales, IPAs, golden ales and such, drink them fresh and enjoy them a lot! As Feral Brewing says, “treat like milk”.


GO BUY SOME BEER

Any of the beers I recommended in the previous edition, if they are super fresh, are going to be great.

Add to the list Stone Brewery Enjoy By IPA, an IPA from the US that specifies a very short date range to drink this beer before. There’s even a timer on the website, counting down the hours and minutes of this beer’s peak life.


MORE READING

Draft Magazine | Off Flavours

Beer Sensory Science | Hop Flavor

Serious Eats | How to Buy Fresh beer and Why it Matters

BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog | Brewing Hops Storage: Preserving Precious Hops