Acid Freaks + Salmon

“Are you freak enough? Go on. We’re watching” – the label on the bottle of Melbourne brewery BrewCult’s Acid Freaks practically dares you to drink it.

Challenge accepted.

“Are you freak enough? Go on. We’re watching” – the label on the bottle of Melbourne brewery BrewCult’s Acid Freaks practically dares you to drink it.

Challenge accepted.

Brew Cult Acid Freaks

However this wasn’t my first dance with this freak of a beer. It was one of my favourite beers at this years Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular festival, aka GABS, in Melbourne. Acid Freaks is a Baltic Porter infused with balsamic vinegar that’s been aged in Shiraz barrels, fitting firmly into the festival beer criteria of being unique, creative and just downright intriguing.

If you’re unfamiliar with BrewCult it’s a Melbourne operation headed up by Steve “Hendo” Henderson who’s one of the friendly smilest beer folk you’ll meet.

Hendo teamed up with his brother, Ian, who is a craft vinegar producer and together they made this wonderful beer. Imagine the sweetness of a Baltic Porter flirting dangerously with the sourness of balsamic vinegar. Oh my.

When I first tried this beer at GABS my notes were rather concise – “weirdly stunning”.

Tasting Tray and Beer List

Today GABS, Melbourne and Good Beer Week are just a big hazy beery memory. Then, thanks to social media, I saw Acid Freaks was making s way into bottles. Cue excited jumping up and down.

A quick phone call to Cellarbrations Carlisle and I had secured two bottles. Fate would have it a friend was coming down to visit so a beer delivery was arranged. Thanks Fi! Thanks Cellarbrations Carlisle!

Acid Freaks and Olives

I rolled the bottle gently, shifting around the sediment, and poured it into a wine glass with a muddy chocolate brown appearance. Aromas of plum and malt and lovely flavours of sweet red fruit, grapeskin and, of course, balsamic though not as strong as I remembered from GABS. I cursed myself for only getting two bottles, rookie mistake, but I hear there is more to come – yippee!

For a pairing with dinner, I decided to go for an easy match – finding a dish using balsamic vinegar. Gotta love a simple pairing.

Acid Freaks and Salmon

Sunshine + Baltic Porter

I was very excited to order two glasses of the limited release Baltic Porter when my boyfriend and I dropped into Colonial Brewing, Margaret River, one recent Sunday. Though I do get rather excited about beer in general anyway, this beer is a little different – after all, I helped make it … kinda

Colonial Brewing is COOLKeut
Gotta love a little creativity in a coaster!

I was very excited to order two glasses of the limited release Baltic Porter when my boyfriend and I dropped into Colonial Brewing, Margaret River, one recent Sunday. Though I do get rather excited about beer in general anyway, this beer is a little different – after all, I helped make it.

(ahem…)

Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration. I was merely present during a day of brewing but nevertheless it was rather exciting for me!

Spent Grain on a Brew Day for Colonial Baltic Porter

The Baltic Porter follows in the footsteps of previous limited release brews, Keutebier and Mumme, reviving old German beer styles that have been forgotten in recent memory. The Baltic Porter refers to strong Porter beers that were exported off to Baltic countries like Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Basically we’re looking at a sort of love child from a Russian Imperial Stout and London Porter – what a union!

When we visited Colonial the sun was out and shining, it was a beautiful day, and a wonderful contrast to the jet black appearance of the Baltic Porter.

Aromas of dark fruits and raisins that reminded me of the yummy, slightly burnt bits you get at the base of a fruit cake. Taste wise, it’s even better with dusty dark chocolate, more dark fruits and black coffee bitter, all encased in warming 7.5% boozyness.

Read more about Colonial’s Baltic Porter in my article for Australian Brew News and then get down to Colonial to try it for yourself!

Colonial Limited Release Baltic Porter
Colonial Growler of Baltic Porter – being enjoyed on day 3 of being unemployed … not a bad way to spend some time

 

Food + Beer

Love beer. Love cooking. Putting the two loves together is not only fun but it’s efficient! Here’s what I’ve been getting up to lately … some worked, some didn’t but hey, that’s all the fun …

Love beer. Love cooking. Putting the two loves together is not only fun but it’s efficient!

Here’s what I’ve been getting up to lately … some worked, some didn’t but hey, that’s all the fun …

2 Brothers Kung Foo Rice Lager
Victoria | Australia
4.7% abv | Rice Lager

The Food:

Spicy jalapanoes, beef mince and cheese – oh and don’t forget the sour cream, mushrooms and red capsicum, fresh lime and spring onions. Not exactly ingredients that you’d describe as light or delicate but definitely delicious.

The Beer:

The 2 Brothers Kung Foo Rice Lager is delicious – well balanced light flavours, a bit citrusy and hoppy and a bit of fun. After all, who could resist a beer with Bruce Lee on the label called Kung Foo?! It’s also nice to see a sessionable summer type beer from a relatively unfamiliar style. It reminds me of the Kolsch style; great beer styles that can be the door for many people to get discover a love of craft beer.

Food + Beer:

This is a match that didn’t quite work. Not knowing what to expect from a rice lager, which it turns out is a fairly delicate beer, the rice lager was trampled, stomped and run over by the food.

Uncommon Brewers Baltic Porter
California | North America
7.8% abv | Baltic Porter

The Food:

Whilst this wasn’t the most creative meal it’s hard to go past a great piece of steak and potatoes. I think I’d have any meal that had hash browns with it. The steaks were perfectly cooked to medium rare (thanks to the boyfriend) and the hash browns were golden and crisp.

The Beer:

My boyfriend and I had recently polished off a growler of Colonial’s limited edition Baltic Porter so we were keen to open the Uncommon Brewers Baltic Porter for comparison. The two Baltic Porters share a few similarities in their flavours with chocolate, dark fruits and black coffee plus both are nice and high in the boozey factor at 7.5% and 7.8% abv respectively. The Uncommon Brewers Baltic Porter had a sneaky smokey element too, a really interesting taste after you get a nose full of dark red fruits and black currant. In short, just delightful!

Food + Beer:

Though it wouldn’t be my first choice as a best match it was a surprisingly decent mate to the Uncommon Brewers Baltic Porter. The food was simple but full of flavour, smokiness from the beer was a nice addition to a medium rare steak,

Bridge Road’s The Harvest
Victoria | Australia
4.6% abv | Harvest Ale

The Food:

The teriyaki chicken burger was finger licking good. Sticky and savoury sweet and just the sort of meal you’re glad to be eating at home because it’s not elegant to eat but that doesn’t matter because it’s tasty as hell.

The Beer:

Bridge Road’s The Harvest 2011 ale is oh-so-deliciously amazing. Gorgeous tropical fruits, crisp citrus and plenty of hops – it all makes for one amazing beer.

Food + Beer:

Both the dish and the beer bring a certain element of sweetness in two very different ways and it turns out to be a nice little match. Instead of two sweet things coming together and making it like biting into a bag of sugar, the tropical sweetness in the beer is refreshing and cleansing and cuts through the thick sweetness of the burger.

girl + beer … on location

Only in the South West could an attempt to catch up with a mate result in a day in a brewhouse. Mal is Head Brewer at Colonial Brewery in Margaret River and invited me to hang out in the brewery for the day whilst they brewed the next Limited Edition Colonial beer – a Baltic Porter. Due to release in late June/early July – start planning your South West getaway now!

girl+beer on location at Colonial Brewing, Margaret River

Friday 25th May 2012 …

Only in the South West could an attempt to catch up with a mate result in a day in a brewhouse …

I’ve spent many a happy conversation chatting with Mal, Head Brewer at Colonial Brewery at various beer events. At some of these events Colonial have been offering beautiful Western Australian oysters with their Kolsch and I’ve indulged in more than one (or five) at a time, shovelling them as elegantly as I could manage whilst standing up and juggling a beer.

Mal and I have been meaning to catch up over a pint for a while now so when I found myself with a Friday off I thought it would be a great opportunity. After all, who could refuse a Friday afternoon beer?! However my suggestion was nicely one-up-ed  by Mal’s invitation to spend a day at the brewhouse whilst they brewed the next limited release – a Baltic Porter. “Do you want to come and join in?”, he asked. I think my reply was “hell yes”.

I was excited … really excited. Mash in was scheduled for 8am and Mal gave me an open invitation to head over whenever. There seemed to be an understanding that 8am might be what I’d consider “violently early”. I really wanted to be there for the mash and my boyfriend pointed out that I’d be mad to miss it. I knew he was right so I set my alarm and dreamt a beery-sleep. It was still very dark outside when my alarm started making seriously unpleasant noises. It went off again after the factory determined “snooze” time was up and it was still dark and it was really cold and as you’ve probably guessed by now, I missed the mash in.

I arrived just after 9am after a quick read through my Oxford Companion to Beer to remind myself about Baltic Porters.

An English style, referring to strong Porter beers exported off to the Baltic countries such as Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Mal introduced me to his partner in brewing crime, Sorcha, and I proceeded to spend the day being either one of their shadows. I was encouraged to ask as many questions as I liked and, in most cases, needed because keeping up with brewer jargon in the wild is a little fast paced for this beer drinking gal. I’ve done a number of tours through breweries in my career – Matilda Bay, Gage Roads, Little Creatures, White Rabbit and Elmar’s in the Valley but it’s all surface stuff – here’s some equipment, here’s what is does, and so forth which is always great, don’t get me wrong, but compared to spending a whole day at a brewery … it’s the difference between listening to a CD and seeing the act live on stage.

The Colonial Baltic Porter will follow in the footsteps of earlier limited edition beers Keutebier and Mumme to continue the journey in old beer styles that have been a little neglected in recent times. Without concern for the latest trending styles or what Joe Bloggs is brewing down the road or on the other side of the Earth for that matter, Mal and Colonial are about beer styles that have captured their attention and, in turn, their desire to brew it for themselves. Colonial’s Limited Editions have gained significant momentum, flying out the door of the brewery, on show at sister venues The Royal and The Raffles and a few stray kegs making their way to like minded beer venues like Clancy’s Fish Pub Dunsborough and The Norfolk Hotel.

Having not brewed the Baltic Porter before the process was almost like baby sitting a small child, watching everything it was doing to make sure it was okay. It can’t be too hot or too cold or too thick and there was continuous testing. As the morning went on I had started to feel somewhat of a really incompetent stalker, following too closely behind poor Mal and Sorcha, so I volunteered to help with the testing. I was proud as punch as I stood in the brewery with a beaker of soon-to-be Baltic Porter in a small tub of ice water, swishing it around and watching the thermometer reach 20 degrees when it was ready for testing. I must have resembled some sort of mad Asian scientist, swishing a black liquid and smiling a slightly deranged smile. It’s a miracle I was invited back again or perhaps Mal was just being super polite.

The first step I got to see was the mash being transferred to the lauder tun. I peered in to see what was happening whilst the contents of the tank slowly rose as the pump worked diligently. That pump certainly had it’s work cut out for it with the Baltic Porter mash being a much thicker one than it had previously dealt with so we were on the look out for any signs of struggle. As the mash began recirculating Sorcha and I decided it looked a little like a cappuccino.

Now it was time for sparging. I used to think sparging was simply washing the mash with water from a thing that looked like an upside sprinkler. Whilst I’m not essentially wrong I did learn a lot more. Yes, it’s about washing the mash and basically making sure you’re getting the most good stuff that you can but it’s also a balancing act between too little, too much, too hot and too cold. There was more staring into the tank at this stage and without a functioning torch it was trickier but thankfully Sorcha had a back up – the iPhone Torch app. It was severely battery draining but turned out to be rather handy on this particular day. Oh and even now on reflection I still stand by my original thinking that the sparging bit looks like an upside down sprinkler.

Soon it was time for the almost-beer to move house again. This time from the lauter tun to the kettle, ready for the boil and the whirlpool. As it bubbled along I was once again struck by the intricacy of it all. Who’ve have thought beer was so sensitive? I mean I knew it was an art and I knew, in theory, that any number of factors could affect the final outcome but it’s really ANY number of factors, no matter how seemingly small. It’s crazy. As we watched the bubbles, monitoring what they were doing, Sorcha remarked it sounded like a babbling brook and from there we came up with the idea for a ‘Sounds of the Brewery’ relaxation tape. I think we were half serious; I’ll have to chat with her later to further develop the idea.

Now it was time for hops and so carefully measured doses of East Kent Goldings and Northern Brewer were thrown in for a nice hot bubbly swim in the kettle. I spent more time with my head in the tank and although I was blinking profusely as my contact lens’ struggled with the steam; I was also enjoying the aromas.

“Time for the messy part” I was told. Sorcha and Mal played around with the forklift and positioned a big white tub under the gaping mouth of the lauter tun. Then a slightly scary looking piece of machinery with spinny things was wheeled in. The process I am poorly describing is the removal of all the spent grain from the lauter tun, ready to be taken away and eaten by the local cattle or, sometimes, pigs. Apparently pigs go nuts for it. Those crazy, drunken pigs.

Mal started up the machine and it was damn loud. He declared himself to be a gentlemen as he handed me his ear muffs for my already slightly deteriorated ears. The spent grain overfilled two of these huge tubs, hitting home again just how much of a bigger style the Baltic Porter is going to be.

Time for the whirlpool. The whirlpool removes all the hop fragments and other bits and pieces that don’t belong by whirling it all up into one mass of stuff called the trub. We had to listen out for the gurgling noises and I remarked how it sounded like a bath tub being emptied. From here it was time to cool things down and the heat exchanger quickly went to work since yeast doesn’t really like to be boiled. Fair enough too.

The first Colonial Baltic Porter was now well on it’s way to completion! It was time to celebrate and unwind with a little more testing, this time of the tasting variety …

The limited release beers I’ve tried in recent memory have all been big, hoppy American styles and I’ve enjoyed them all but, as a category, pale ale is wider reaching than this and Colonial Pale Ale is a great reminder to this. Inspired by German ale styles the Colonial Pale Ale is an Altbier, a type of Pale Ale, that is beautiful with great biscuity malt, peppery spice and medium body. The background for Altbier evolves from older German ales, like the Keutebier style which was Colonial’s last limited release, with the name “alt” meaning “old” being a relative term to when lagers were gaining in popularity.

Next up we tasted the Kolsch and although by strict definition a true Kolsch is brewed in Cologne, Germany, there are a couple of great Australian breweries producing their own Kolsch style beers. I’ve enjoyed countless Colonial Kolsch pints and it’s always a sensational beer exhibiting great balance in spiciness, bitterness and hoppiness. I also love this style because it’s a great one to recommend to people who are tipping their toes in the water of craft brewing. When I was working at Five Bar we recommended it to a bunch of fellow hospitality folk and they drank us out of both the Sunner Kolsch, from Cologne, and 4 Pines Kolsch.

The final taster was the Colonial Porter, a fittingly dark number to end the day on with coffee and chocolate delivered with medium body.

I left Colonial with a massive smile on my face, as I normally do anyway, and a far better understanding of the beer making process. Mal and Sorcha were fantastic hosts, as well as Sarah in the bar for making me a great coffee and Adam in the kitchen for an epic fish burger for lunch. Be sure to look out for Colonial’s next Limited Edition – Baltic Porter – due to land in late June/early July. What a perfect excuse for a winter South West getaway, huh?

Colonial Brewing | Osmington Road, Margaret River
Open Daily 11am – 6pm