The “I’m not drinking” issue

If someone chooses not to drink, whether it’s that round, that night, that month or that lifetime, it shouldn’t be treated like a big deal.

I recently found myself reading about a non-alcoholic beer being launched in Australia. I was fascinated because it reportedly uses a yeast strain that does not produce alcohol during fermentation like “normal” yeast. The beer nerd in me was curious so I did what any curious person today does, I Googled it. After a few minutes, because that’s the attention span now, I couldn’t find a lot of information so I hit up social media and asked a group of fellow beer geeks if they knew about this yeast that made non-alcoholic beer.

Within my question, I inserted the following sentence:

“FYI, it’s really annoying when, as a woman, you refuse a drink and someone instantly thinks you’re pregnant.”

I did this as a preemptive strike because, as almost any woman would know, as soon as you say the words “non-alcoholic” or “I’m not drinking”, someone will ask* if you are pregnant.

* Yes, making a joke about it is also considered asking.

One of my fellow beer geeks understood instantly, saying that when he and his wife purchased non-alcoholic beer, they scratch off the part of the label where it says “non-alcoholic” just to avoid comments and questions.

Of course, it’s not the most offensive thing about being a woman, especially in a male-dominated industry, but it is kinda annoying.  When a woman says she’s not drinking and you reply with “oh, is someone knocked up?” or point at her stomach with a dumb smile on your face, she is probably rolling her eyes and she might even feel a bit uncomfortable.

Not every woman who says no to a drink is pregnant, it’s not a white smoke moment for the whole group and it’s certainly not a guessing game.

This brings me to another issue, a bigger one, that if someone chooses not to drink, whether it’s that round, that night, that month or that lifetime, it shouldn’t be treated like a big deal.

“Oh, come ooooonnnn …”

“What? Are you driving?”

“Laaaame”

I have certainly been guilty of this. In fact, not that long ago, I continuously and enthusiastically used the word “tequila” as a question (“tequila???!!!”) to encourage a friend to stay at the pub and drink. In the morning I felt like a total jerk.

I have also been on the receiving end of this behaviour too and, on rare occasions, I have dumped a drink when the other person has been so relentlessly persistent that it just seemed easier to pretend I had the drink. Maybe it’s a hospitality industry thing, maybe it’s just our current culture and attitude towards alcohol, I am not going to speculate on the reasons why.  What I am doing is just saying that it is something I have been thinking about on and off for a while and that I have been trying to be more conscious of, to respect anyone’s decision to pass on a drink. “No, thanks, I’m not drinking” shouldn’t be followed by someone asking why.

Falling out of love with big bottles of beer

I used to love the big bottles of beer but recently they’ve just lost their appeal …

When I started to tumble down the rabbit hole of the wonderful world of craft beer I was drawn to big American hoppy beers, beers with crazy or weird ingredients or the really boozy ones, anything limited release or special and anything that came in big 750ml bottles.

Years later, things are a bit different, besides the fact I’m older and don’t bounce back from hangovers as well as I did when I was in my twenties.

Goodbye big bottles of beer …

I’m not putting a ban on 750ml bottles from my life, I’ve got about ten in the fridge right now and that’s half the problem.

The main reason, and I do realise how indulgent this sounds, is that I have so many of the damn things.

They’re in my fridge just taking up space and most of them I can’t even remember when I bought them. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few have been in there for almost a year.

They are on such slow rotation out of the fridge for two reasons –

  1. The beer inside is usually something pretty big and bold; and
  2. You have to find the right occasion to open one.

More often than not, the beers in the 750ml bottles are either of the imperial, barrel aged, wild fermented or sour variety or frequently a combination of two or more of these; weird additional ingredient optional. In short they’re usually not very subtle beers and so sessionability goes out the window along with the chances that they get opened on any given evening.

I am very aware this is a first world problem; sub-category: first world beer geek problem but I am going to keep writing anyway.

Logically I know 750ml is less than one and a half pints and on any given day I’d be happy to have a pint and half of beer but usually it’s not some 10 percent palate wrecker beast of a beer. When I am looking for a thirst quenching beer after work I don’t reach for a 750ml bottle of barley aged Barleywine. A little more thought to occasion and company goes into opening the big bottles, you know, the “right” occasion.

What is the “right” occasion?

With one special, limited release bottle of beer I had it was months after I finally opened it but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. On a handful of occasions I went to open it but time and time again it didn’t happen, sometimes it was because my fellow drinkers weren’t really into it or because we had all enjoyed maybe a few too many drinks already. In the end, instead of opening it for a particular occasion my partner and I shared it on an ordinary Tuesday evening, for no reason at all other than enjoying the beer, and it was fantastic.

Saving a beer for a special occasion also puts a lot of expectation on that beer, something it may not be able to live up to regardless of whether the expectations were reasonable or not.

An exception to all of my above feelings is the ‘bottle share’ – gathering mates and all the big bottles you’ve got to share with everyone. After realising the unreasonable oversupply of 750ml bottles of various Russian Imperial Stouts in our fridge, last year a few friends came over to our house for a Russian Imperial Stout bottle share and it was a sensational night with an exceptionally awful hangover the next day.

I love finding big beers in smaller formats like 330ml bottles or cans, like Feral Boris – a Russian Imperial Stout – or Boatrocker Ramjet – a  whisky barrel aged imperial stout. It makes it significantly more appealing to me to buy because it doesn’t require a small army to drink it and I can buy a few bottles and enjoy over the course of a few nights.

Of course many 750ml bottles are limited release beers so on some occasions I feel compelling to buy them, but only some occasions. Coming soon on the blog, why I’m not hunting down every limited release beer.

 

 

 

 

 

Beer + Fine Dining

I figure this beer isn’t targeted at me and I am sure there are people who are excited about these beers including the people behind them but there’s a lot about this concept that sits awkwardly alongside the things I love about beer so here’s my thoughts on these beers in what is basically an extended version of my Facebook post.

With a reach of almost 2,400 people, my Facebook post on Sunday morning about the new James Boag Epicurean beers had more than the average number of eyes look over it –

Sometimes I don’t comment on stories like this, sometimes I just don’t click on it because I know it’s not for me but sometimes I give in and after seeing several sponsored Facebook posts for these beers, I finally clicked.

I figure this beer isn’t targeted at me and I am sure there are people who are excited about these beers including the people behind them but there’s a lot about this concept that sits awkwardly alongside the things I love about beer so here’s my thoughts on these beers in what is basically an extended version of my Facebook post.


“A fine drop for fine dining”

There’s a subtle implication here, and I am not sure if it’s intended or not, that until now beer has not belonged at the fine dining table. Yet here I sit, at my desk at home, with empty bottles around me of beers I’ve had, not all tonight of course, with incredible flavours inside and stunning label and design on the outside. None of these beers would look out of place on white linen.

With the sheer range of flavour beer can offer, no one can say beer doesn’t have a place at a fine dining restaurant.  The right beer isn’t missing from the equation, the education and knowledge to serve it is what’s missing but we are seeing and experiencing a change in places like Wildflower where there has been considerable thought put into their beer offering to reflect the personality and style of the restaurant, at least that’s my impression of Wildflower. A flick through this years Good Beer Week program offers a host of examples, testament to beers ability to sit side by side fine food, including An Evening with Michelin Star Chef Daniel Burns (NYC) who will be presenting his food paired with Stomping Ground (Victoria, Australia) and Evil Twin (Denmark) beers.

For me, fine dining is a luxury, it’s a total experience starting from when you walk in the door and finishing when you leave. It’s about the food of course but it’s also about the service, atmosphere, drinks and the way you feel when you are there. These things are pretty hard to replicate in a home cooking environment so whilst I like that Boag’s have provided the recipes for their recommended food pairings,  I do feel like it also misses the point slightly about why we indulge in fine dining experiences. Specially paired dishes in the venues where the Epicurean beers will be featured would be great; laying out the ideal Epicurean experience just leaves the punter having to book the table and the rest is done.

Photo from James Boag’s website

Making beer feel like wine

It feels almost like they needed some justification for beer to be at the dinner table at all, like one of those 90s sitcoms where a guest who’s rocked up from out of town, not aware of the dress code at a fancy restaurant, has a crappy tie forced on them before they’re allowed to take a seat.

The Epicurean “range”, which is actually a pair, consists of  ‘Red’ and a ‘White’, a clear call out to wine. Again, why do we have to make a beer for fine dining feel like wine? The labels themselves look like wine labels too, something I’d imagine was part of the design brief.

The website recommends serving these beers in a wine glass. Not a specialty beer glass? Nope, again beer is being dressed up in what are considered appropriate clothes. Now, I’ll be the first to say I’ve enjoyed many a beer from a wine glass at home and out at venues but in this case it’s the brewery’s recommendation, it should be the ideal way they want the beer to be served and that, surely, should be in the right beer glass. It’s hard to say what beer glass exactly because there’s almost no information on the beers themselves.

It’s a BEER

Of the three guys to create these beers – a chef, sommelier and a master brewer – there’s no cicerone, someone who is pretty much a sommelier of beer. Surely this would have been a welcome chance to work with one of Australia’s cicerone’s, we have a few now!

The beers are still in green bottles, an inferior bottle to keep out UV light from damaging the beer, compared to brown glass. In some ways they treat this beer like a wine and yet in others still mistreat it as a beer.

There is also very little information on the beers themselves, from the website I could find out that the Epicurean Red is brewed with Super Pride and Helga hops whilst the Epicurean White uses Super Pride and Enigma hops. All hops are from Tasmania and that’s it, nothing about the style, the other ingredients, nothing at all.

Photo from James Boag’s website

The story is a marketing strategy

For me, reading through the website feels more like a marketing strategy than someone telling me a great story. A genuine story is one of the things I love about beer, you’ll catch me saying this time and time again. It is why I love talking to beer people because there’s almost always a great story behind the brewery, behind the person and behind the beer. What makes a great story is its authenticity and this, to me, doesn’t have that.

It’s all about Tasmania

There is one great overarching story in these beers and that’s how proud they are about Tasmanian produce and ingredients. Personally, that’s the story I think should be told here. Brew a kick ass beer that’s a showcase of Tasmanian ingredients and local producers, collaborate with them and make all us here on “the mainland” start Googling flights to Tassie because it sounds so amazing.


This beer isn’t even coming to Perth so maybe I should even bother staying up until almost midnight to write this post and Lion Nathan, under which the Boag’s portfolio of beers sit, have been really good to me, sending samples of Little Creatures and White Rabbit beers but these beers have some heart and a story to tell. Epicurean doesn’t tell me a story, at least not one that I want to read.

One step forward, two steps back

Some thoughts on the recent announcement of the ALH Group agreement with CUB and Lion Nathan

There had been rumblings in the beer industry for a few weeks but yesterday it was confirmed, reported by Australian Brews News,

“The Woolworth’s-owned ALH Group has sold its taps to CUB and Lion in unprecedented nationwide deals,”

Australian Brews News

The ALH Group (Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group) have more than 300 pubs across the country, in fact many of your favourite pubs might be an ALH venue – places like The Balmoral, Sail & Anchor, The Queens, Belgian Beer Café and The Vic just to name a few here in Perth.

So what does “sold its taps” mean? It means that CUB, aka Carlton United Beverages, and Lion Nathan have stuck a deal with the group to guarantee a certain number of taps in every single venue are pouring their beers. CUB and Lion Nathan represent the two “big boys” in beer in this country, kind of like Coles and Woolworth’s to put things in supermarket terms, and who are both in turn owned by foreign global corporations. Basically, the overwhelming majority of beer sold in ALH venues will belong to just these two suppliers.

You can read more in the article by James Atkinson at Australian Brews News here, it’s an interesting and good read so I won’t try and reword the details for you here.

An agreement like this is a big step backwards for the craft beer industry although the figures in the short term may not show it given brands in the CUB and Lion Nathan portfolio are counted in most craft beer data, brands like Little Creatures, White Rabbit, Matilda Bay and James Squire. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it’s a big step backwards for independent craft beer.

It is worth noting that this agreement between the ALH Group, CUB and Lion Nathan isn’t revolutionary. It’s a little unexpected but it’s certainly not a new practice. For as long as I’ve worked in the industry and long before, these types of agreements were pretty much stock standard. It has only been in the last few years that things have changed with a growing number of breweries popping up, more and more people getting a thirst for craft beer, and venues having more choice than ever when it comes to what beers are available. Having said this, many of these types of agreements still get signed today, they vary in their terms – some might call for the complete exclusion of all other suppliers and some might only apply to a single or a few taps. In short, the market for local craft brewers to get their beers served in bars and restaurants was already challenging but a nationwide agreement that impacts such a large number of pubs makes things a whole lot harder. Instead of climbing a mountain, local craft brewers are now climbing it with a bag full of house bricks on their back whilst the other guys get a nice helicopter ride to take them to the top.

It’s all a little unexpected because, and this isn’t based on a statistic but simply my opinion from working in the industry, there are many places who choose not to sign these sorts of deals, at least not with this level of overwhelming majority. They want freedom to get whatever beers they want from whoever they want, they want to make sure there’s something new on for their regular customers rather than them seeing the same beers over and over again with no change. Food menus are seasonal, wine lists often are too, beers can be the same. These moments are great, it’s recognition of our growing industry and of how much great beer there is to choose from. But every now and again a pub or bar will re-sign another agreement with a big corporate or maybe two. One step forward, two steps back.

Dominion League in Northbridge with a rotational tap list

You might now be thinking that some of these agreements sound anticompetitive and you’re not alone. In fact, there’s an investigation happening now by the ACCC, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, looking into beer tap contracts and it’s an investigation that has been going for some time with the results still not determined.

Read: Sydney Morning Herald – Beer battle ‘priority’ as ACCC puts heat on Lion, Carlton United over beer tap deals

Read: Australian Brews News – Tap Contracts Probe Ongoing

As far as I know, and this is just going off what I’ve read and what I’ve heard, the agreement isn’t 100% exclusive so it’s not to say there won’t be any independent craft beer in any of these venues but it absolutely will mean there will be less of them in many, many venues. It also means that, in pubs where one or a few independent craft beer taps remain, it’s very likely that beers from the two major suppliers will be placed in the most premium tap locations. Whilst that may sound like it’s not a big deal it’s basically the same reason why grocery stores put the non-supermarket brand milk on the bottom shelf and why Coca-Cola occupies the first few bays in the soft drink aisle, because where you put stuff strongly influences the things people buy.

Will news of this make it into the major newspapers? I’m not sure. I think it should. I don’t read a lot of news or watch it on the TV, I tend to rely on podcasts for news, but even so I still caught wind of the uproar around supermarket brand milk and the pressure it puts on dairy farmers and the industry as a whole. A Google search of ‘supermarket branded milk’ reveals a lot of articles around the subject, suggested searches reflect people’s anger and disappointment. Google ‘beer tap contracts’ and you’ll find some articles on the ACCC investigation, maybe a discussion thread on a bartender forum that’s about it. I’m not saying people should be making large signs with clever slogans and taking to the streets in protest (maybe some kind of Trump protest inspired “Not Our Beer”?!) What I am saying is that I believe people would care if they knew their choices were being radically reduced.

Dutch Trading Co, Victoria Park with 18 taps of rotating craft beer

Another notable factor is branding and marketing. Though we are talking about an agreement between one group and two suppliers, there are many, many brands that exist under each supplier. This can make it difficult to know whether the beer you’re drinking is independent craft beer or owned by a foreign corporation. Unlike eggs which are clearly marked as being ‘cage’ or ‘free range’, and although even this isn’t so cut and dry sometimes, there is a quick way for us as consumers to make decision on what we want to support.

I think that’s the key word here – decision. I have heard people comment that they don’t think people really care where their beer comes from and whilst that will most certainly be the case for some, I think there should be clear information that allows people to make the decision for themselves. Right now, things are kinda murky.

Earlier this year Australian independent brewery Bridge Road Brewers announced a new campaign called ‘Respect(ing) the Craft’ aimed to create simple identifiers for people to “differentiate their products from those owned by multinationals,” said founder Ben Kaus in an Australian Brews News article you can find here.

respecting-the-carft-square-bw
Source: Australian Brews News

I understand that not everyone cares about where their beer comes from or who owns it, and that’s fine, but for those who do care, the information should be more easily available. If you want to check where your beer comes from, have a read over the back label. There’s also a recently updated infographic from the Craft Beer Reviewer Australia shows you which beer brands are owned by the large/global corporations. If you want to see it you can find it here. Communicating to drinkers about what it means to be a local craft brewer should probably be at the top of every brewers mind.

As I mentioned earlier, to the best of my knowledge, the agreement in question isn’t a blanket, 100% across the board thing. Mitch Panting, venue manager at Fremantle’s iconic Sail & Anchor jumped into Facebook group Perth Beer Snobs to tell drinkers what to expect from his pub,

“The Sail and Anchor Pub has fought/pushed for every independent tap. We’re proud of the support we give local brewers, and we won’t waiver from that. We plan to continue to stand by local legends IN8, Nail, Mash, 3 Rivers, Gage, Artisan, Eagle Bay, Feral among others and look forward to demonstrating the market that these brewers share with their excellent product.”

The Balmoral is also keeping many of its local craft beer taps and from what I saw of the Belgian Beer Café this week they also managed to keep a few craft taps too. These are just my observations of course, it will be a matter of going into these venues over the coming weeks and seeing what changes take place.

There are some passionate craft beer people who have worked hard in their respective ALH pubs to show that craft beer isn’t a hipster trend that will wilt like an old kale leaf, it does put good money into the till, it can be very good for business. For these guys, yesterdays decision will be as disappointing to them as it is to us, perhaps even more so.

Mash Brewing Tenth Birthday event at The Queens

The short version is that this agreement is not good news for local craft beer.

I see more and more bottle shops increasing their independent craft beer offering, stores that I would have never imagined eight years ago would be selling any craft beer at all now have Garage Project White Mischief Gose today, a sour beer infused with white peaches.

This sort of thing makes me super happy but these beers need to be available on tap together with availability in bottle shops in order for craft breweries to succeed.

Having venues like those in the ALH group to support local craft beer, who’s customers aren’t all beer geeks, is important for craft beer to grow. You can’t know you want to drink craft beer until you get introduced to it and some of these venues did just that. Now there’s less of them it just got a little harder for local craft to find its way to new customers.

It is so important for all of us to keep supporting craft, to buy it and, more importantly, to ask for it when you’re out whether it’s at the pub, small bar, restaurant or at your local bottle shop. Show managers and owners that it is what you want and support it when you see it.

Caboose, Mt Lawley with 12 taps uncontracted to any suppliers

 

Please ask for craft beer

You, the drinker, are the most powerful element of this whole craft beer revolution and we, everyone who works in craft beer, want to see more people like you drinking craft beer!

I don’t know if you’re aware but you, the drinker, are the most powerful element of this whole craft beer revolution and we, everyone who works in craft beer, want to see more people like you.

A huge part of this becoming a reality is having more bottle shops, bars and restaurants stocking a range of great beer.

I’ve written and re-written this post a number of times over the past two weeks and I’ve reached the conclusion that short and sweet is the way to go otherwise I end up rambling … a lot. So here we go …

Commenting and posting on beer loving Facebook groups is one thing but asking the bottle shop/bar/restaurant manager is another thing. The latter can realistically result in more craft beer on more menus and in more fridges.

As a beer sales rep I can tell you that if one person has asked for a specific beer, odds are that a few others have too and store managers and bar managers remember that stuff and that’s how we are going to get more craft beer all over the damn place. Seriously, ask, that’s all it takes, you’d be surprised how big an impact you can have.

wp-1453043534061.jpg
What beers would you love to see in your local bottle shop, bar or restaurant?

 

 

 

So what?

I think as beer lovers we should always be asking ourselves this question of “so what?”

I’ve had this idea in my head for a couple of months, though it’s not so much an idea but a question. That question is “so what?” and I switch from thinking it’s obvious ands are-you-seriously-going-to-write-a-whole-post-on-this to wondering if it might be the most important question in craft beer today.

I’ll try to explain myself.

As beer geeks we tend to get caught up in the wonderful stories and romance in our favourite brews and brewers, I know I certainly do. We cheer and whoop at the notion of something dry hopped, barrel aged, soured or all of the above; or a beer with Brettanomyces, some weird ingredient or new hop variety. Whilst there’s absolutely nothing wrong with such excitement I think it’s important to still ask yourself, “so what?”

Tone is probably important to note here too, please don’t read my question with a hint of teenage angst or foot stomping bratty child. A longer version of this question may be,

“Tell me why this is important …”

So what if a beer has been vigorously dry hopped? The reason it was dry hopped so intensely is much more important and relevant than the mere fact it was done. Did it contribute positively to the beer? Was the beer still balanced and drinkable? The answer to these questions needs to be ‘yes’.

Doing an exciting and/or new thing to a beer doesn’t guarantee that the beer is amazing. Every sour, every barrel-aged, every weird ingredient doesn’t give the beer an automatic big thumbs up.

I think as beer lovers we should always be asking ourselves this question of “so what?”

Great examples that come to my mind are Two Birds Taco and Brew Cult Acid Freaks. Both beers with strange additions, coriander & lime peel and balsamic vinegar respectively and each beer is a showcase of ingredients used to genuinely enhance the beer and create something stunning and unique. You can taste the harmony of flavours and see what the brewer was aiming for. On the other hand, and this is obviously just my opinion, Rogue’s Beard Beer – a beer from the United States that uses beard yeast – I didn’t get the same feelings about. Other than a passing curiosity, I couldn’t find a reason to really care about this beer. For me the “so what?” was just novelty and whilst that’s not a bad answer, most of the time I’m looking for more in my beers than novelty.

Recently I listened to an excellent episode the Good Beer Hunting podcast, episode 75 with Lauren from New Belgium and she talked about a situation with a yeast bank who had been visiting as number of breweries in US (this part is approximately half way through the episode).

“We’re going to identify all the species of sour bacteria and wild yeast,” Lauren was told.

“Ok. What for? What’s the point?” was her reply.

“So that you know.”

“But what am I going to do with that?”

Whilst she was interested in what the results might be Lauren thought it was unlikely to result in better beer. A great example, I thought, of the important question of “so what?”

Asking “so what?” might be a good way to remind us to ask “why”, to get more of the story behind a beer or a brewery or why they brew the way they do.


Thanks for hanging on this long, that has certainly been one of the more rambly posts I have done for a while!

Weekend Reading #56

For those lazy weekend mornings when you just want to stay in bed and catch up on a little reading – Weekend Reading is a weekly (ahem, usually) post with the articles I’ve enjoyed in the past seven days.

For those lazy weekend mornings when you just want to stay in bed and catch up on a little reading – Weekend Reading is a weekly (ahem, usually) post with the articles I’ve enjoyed in the past seven days.


Draft Mag | Making Sense of the Reinheitsgebot

In April it will be 500 years since the famous Reinheitsgebot aka Germany Purity Law came into effect. This is a fantastic read to get the facts of what this law is, how and why it came about (for pricing, not for great beer) and what it really means.

The Age | Ray’s Rant: What Happened to the Good, Old Fashioned Aussie Lager?

I don’t think this article is any good so you might be wondering what it’s doing here. It is troubling to me that an article like this makes it into the mainstream press.

I understand that it’s an opinion piece more than anything but it lacks a lot of research and the strange almost patriotic language, some could be Alf Stewart quotes, is at odds with the articles conclusion of five beers he recommends which are all owned by foreign companies. It’s also interesting to note that one of the beers has been discontinued, not sure when but I think it has been some time.

Perhaps the first article I have listed would have been good for Ray to discover the premium imported lagers he enjoys are not held accountable to the Reinheitsgebot.

“Bring back the taste of Australia,” he remarks. I don’t believe for a second that Australia can be encapsulated in just the ice cold lagers that have continued to decline year after year as this and many other articles and research tells us. What happened to the good, old fashioned Aussie lager, you ask? The same thing as instant coffee and sliced white bread, the market grew and a growing number of consumers are looking for something more.

Oh and this article wouldn’t be complete with a reference “bearded hipsters” though this time it’s aimed at the brewers not the craft beer drinkers. Please don’t make name brewers just in WA who are not bearded. Whilst I’m not listing things, if Ray would like a list of Australian lagers please refer to James Smith’s book 150 Great Australian Beers, pages 34-48 – the lager section.

Gage Roads | Meet the Team: Aaron Heary

A great interview with Gage’s long time brewer Aaron and when you read about his home brews you’ll get super thirsty! The photography in this interview is also lovely.

 

Hottest 100: It’s Fun, Honestly

I really enjoyed the post Beer Is Your Friend wrote on the Hottest 100 beers, I felt said everything I had wanted to say but evidently I have more to add.

Originally I wasn’t going to write a post on the Hottest 100 but ultimately couldn’t help myself.

I really enjoyed this blog post from Beer Is Your Friend that I felt said everything I had wanted to say. Evidently I had more to add.


Fun. You remember ‘fun’, right? I strongly associate fun with my love of craft beer but sometimes, like during the Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers poll, I feel like fun gets overshadowed by snobbery.

I watched social media rant and look down on each and every vote that got James Squire 150 Lashes Pale Ale into the top 10, five Little Creatures beers into the list and Matilda Bay Fat Yak at thirsty-something.

Results here if you’ve not seen yet

Now, I’m not saying I don’t get worked up about things when it comes to beer. I have been known to voice my annoyance when I am at a venue that clearly doesn’t give a damn about their beer list or when a brewery lists its opening hours incorrectly. But I get annoyed, I move on, everything is alright.

What really bothers me is beer snobbery and it was in every negative comment I read about the poll. The negativity could have only been louder had there been an emoji of a child stamping their foot.

To the casual observer it probably seemed like craft beer isn’t much fun and those who drink it are beer snobs who will judge you for what beer is in your hand. If you have gotten this impression I want you to know that this is not true.

Beer snobs are out there, there’s no denying it, but I believe they are not the majority. Just like every lawyer isn’t a scumbag and every bartender isn’t a hipster male with a beard.

The Hottest 100 is a bit of fun, a way to bring people together with beer as the social glue. It celebrates the diversity of beer and the brilliant brewers who make them.

I don’t take the list to say that Feral Hop Hog must be slipping in quality because they dropped a place to number two and Stone & Wood must be the greatest brewers in the country with their Pacific Ale going up to number one. The list doesn’t mean that Little Creatures are better brewers than Boatrocker.

I think the list is more like a pulse check of beer in Australia, a snapshot of what beers are consistently loved, what styles are getting attention, what breweries are making noise. Every year it shows that more and more people are interested in the beer they are drinking with the increase in votes, it shows that the standard of beer in Australia is improving with some beers consistently placing in the list year after year. It shows me that the beer scene in this country is getting better and better.

If you ever wanted a list of beers you should try, this poll is a great place to start. They’re all Australian, they are all brewed by passionate and talented brewers, you’ll like some, you won’t like others, but the idea is to have fun trying!


PS: I really enjoy the hottest 100, I had a lot of fun jumping on social media and making some noise about the WA beers that made it on the list. Congratulations to all you wonderful brewers making beautiful beer!

 

 

 

 

So, 2015, how good was it?

Doing the whole “reflection” thing even though I wasn’t going to but 2015 was a pretty kick ass year

Pretty damn freaking good, that’s how 2015 was.

I had no intention of doing the whole “highlights of the year” blog thing but I did find myself looking through my photos from the year and thinking, “damn it’s been a great year” so here we go, here’s a few stand outs for 2015 …  (in no particular order)

La Sirene Beer & Cheese Night

Mane Liquor hosted a handful of great events throughout the year, including a ‘King of the Hops’ Dinner at The Trustee and an intimate sour event during WA Beer Week, but one of their stand out events was the stunning beer & cheese session featuring beers from Melbourne’s La Sirene.

Mane Liquor teamed up with the Little Cheese Shop to create these magical beer and cheese matches that blew everyone away.
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WA Beer & Cheese Night

Staying with all things creamy and delicious, the Little Cheese Shop have hosted a number of beer & cheese events at their shop in Bayswater. All are a sell out due to the quality of the night and the limited places, here is hoping that Geoff and the team at Little Cheese Shop keep them coming in 2016.

You can read my post on this event here*.

*warning: graphic cheese content that will make you want to eat lots of cheese
Little Cheese Shop - Cheese & WA Beer

A New Job with Nail Brewing

On 1st June I started a new job with Nail Brewing. Nail are WA local, independent, family owned and operated and owner/director John Stallwood’s reputation for brewing is highly regarded so when this opportunity came my way I don’t see how I could have possibly said no. I love my job and I love being involved in the craft beer industry every single day.

Dutch Trading Co. & Petition Beer Corner

We were pretty lucky in 2015 to have two pretty kick ass, dedicated craft beer venues open up. Dutch Trading Co in Victoria Park and Petition Beer Corner in Perth CBD together have more than 40 taps of craft beer goodness.

You can read about DTC here in this article by Guy Southern of Good Times Craft Beverages and fellow WA contributor for Crafty Pint.

Beer at Dutch Trading Co

Day Trip to Adelaide

Coopers invited me, flights and all, to the Adelaide for the launch of this years Coopers Vintage. Though under normal circumstances a day trip from Perth to Adelaide might be madness this was beery related and positively delightful madness.

Read more about my experience at the Coopers Vintage Launch here.

Coopers Vintage tasting

Judging (with training wheels)

Being asked to be an associate judge at the Perth Royal Beer Show this year was an amazing experience both as a challenge and learning for my palate and just to get to hang out with some of the best beer people in the industry.

Read more about my experience here.

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Brewing with Women of Beer

Being a part of this years International Women’s Collaboration Brew in WA was a really special event. I day tripped it down to Margaret River and came back with a stomach sore from laughing so much and shoes covered in grape juice!

Read more about this annual event via my article at Crafty Pint.

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Countless Great Beers

I could really go nuts refining and categorising a list of great beers I had this year but don’t want to fall down that rabbit hole, it’d be February before I resurfaced! Instead here is a haphazard list of beer highlights from beers I’d had for the first time in 2015 –

    • Little Creatures Return of the Dread
    • Pirate Life IIPA
    • Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio

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“just a few beers”

Because being a beer nerd means a trip to the bottle shop is rarely a simple exercise

I should know by now that I am pretty much incapable of popping into a good beer retailer with the intention of getting “just a few beers”. Nine times out of ten I leave with a mixed carton of delightful beery goodness.

Not that I am really complaining, I mean if this is the worse thing that happens to me then I’m leading a damn good life.

It’s really more of an observation, a beer geek trait shared by many and results in a fridge packed with beers, credit cards a little heavier and partners a little perplexed. Well, most partners, not mine, he’s used to it by now and his whisky collection can at times rival my beer collection.

But what is it about nerding out on beer that makes me want to buy them like I’m stockpiling for some kind of global beer shortage?

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VARIETY

I won’t lie, it’s nice to have a variety of beer to choose from at home. Going to the fridge and wondering whether I feel like an IPA, a Saison or a Stout is a nice place to be. Spontaneous nights where you open something really special for no other reason than you want to are great.

THE NEW AND THE TASTY

With so many breweries even just in Australia it’s impossible get to every beer, or even just new and limited releases, but damned if any good beer nerd isn’t going to try their best to get to as many as they can. Working in the industry makes it that much harder to resist the allure of “oh, I’ve not had THAT beer!” Call it research, call it a tax deduction, call it staying up to date with industry trends, call it whatever you like, your beer geek brain rationalises it whilst your hand has reached into the fridge and grabbed the beer on question.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Asking the staff at your favourite beer retailer, “what have you been drinking lately?” can be like letting children run free in a toy store it will result in them grabbing everything they can get their grubby hands on. The sheer number of beers to choose from is huge and so when someone recommends something not only is this very useful but it’s a damn compelling reason to buy. That beer just went from a gamble to a sure thing or you’re about to discover your new favourite brewery, either way, very exciting beer nerd stuff.

EDUCATION

Being a beer nerd is an ongoing adventure, it is finding new beers and learning about new styles, new methods of brewing, what hops do what and what new ingredients are being used by your favourite brewers, it’s about getting nerdy about your palate, the science behind yeast and most of all, enjoying lots of great, different beers.

On that note, I have to say, I am not sure what point, if any, I have really made here but it seems like a good final post for 2015, a post that is mildly reflective, a shared experience (as I am sure this over the top beer shop doesn’t just happen to me) and first and foremost, a love of beer.

May your holidays be filled with laughter and the people and beers you love!