East versus West

When an event starts with Eye of the Tiger blaring from a stereo you know that you’re in for a treat.

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When an event starts with Eye of the Tiger blaring from a stereo you know that you’re in for a treat.

It was East versus West: Beer and Food Title Fight. The prize was the unofficial naming of who was the beer capital of Australia. Some may say it was a fight long in the making.

In one corner we had Josie Bones representing Victoria, in the other we had Five Bar putting on gloves for Western Australia.

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Josie Bones had the home ground advantage and the WA team had travelled a long way, would they have what it takes to go toe to toe with Josie Bones?

The format was simple. Three rounds, each round featuring two beers (one from each state but of course you didn’t know where the beers were from until the end) and food matchings. Patrons were asked to judge each match on a scale of 1-5 and then pick their favourite beer and favourite dish.

The bell was rung, literally, and round one got underway.

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Round One – yeast driven beers

Hefeweizen + Pressed Lamb Terrine and Cured Lamb Loin
VERSUS
Saison de Miel + Pheasant Ballantine with Spiced Chutney

The pressed lamb terrine had lovely spices against the rich lamb loin and the hint of mint on top was refreshing.

The hefeweizen served as a great palate cleanser, cutting through the richness in the meat and complimenting the spices with its own Belgian yeast coriander flavours.

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The texture of the pheasant was just divine, almost luxurious and presented beautifully.

The rich Saison with sweet-ish fruitiness contrasted nicely with the spicy chutney. It also has to be said that the lacing on the saison was down right sexy. You’ll have to take my word for it cause I neglected to take a photo.

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I scored these matches evenly very good, call me a fence sitter but it was a tough round to tell the two apart! My favourite beer was the Saison de Miel and favourite dish was the pressed lamb, to me they were the most interesting of the round.

Round Two – hop driven beers

Imperial Pilsener + Confit Pork Belly with Yabby
VERSUS
Barrel Fermented American IPA + Spiced Brisket

Pork belly is one of those dishes that seems to make people lose their minds, particularly when it is done well. So when it’s presented to you beautifully, melts in your mouth and makes you savour every bite – yep, mind lost. The ‘surf n turf’ style dish with pork from Western Plains in Mt Mercer and yabby from Mildura, set the bar even higher than round one. It had a soft smoky component whilst being sweet and rich yet not overpowering.

The wet hopped imperial pilsner was divine, the aromas wetter of sweet wort, cerealy and a wee bit boozy. It was big on flavour too, I got cooked citrus and tropical fruits.

As a match though I found the beer and food fighting each other, the bubbly tropical fruit in the pilsner against such a creamy, rich and smokey dish.

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Confit pork belly was going to be hard to top but then the spiced brisket swaggered into the room. I say swaggered because it was gorgeous to look at with the rich brisket sitting on a creamy celeriac pillow and topped with a dotting of pomegranate. For me, the pomegranate made the dish, they’d pop in your mouth and release a soft sweetness and fruit into the brisket.

The barrel fermented American IPA (which you may or may not have guessed what it is) tasted amazingly fresh. Big big tropical hops backed up by vanilla oak reminded me why this is one of my favourite beers.

As a match this was my favourite, it was a beautiful and interesting marriage of flavours between the pomegranate and tropical hops, the vanilla oak and rich brisket, the spices and the carbonation and citrus in the beer.

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I scored the brisket and IPA as my preferred match, the IPA also got my score for the preferred beer then I agonised over which dish I preferred the most. I went for the brisket in the end because I found it a really interesting dish, one that made me really think about what I was eating and I like that in a dish.

Round Three – malt driven beers

Imperial Stout + Smoked Waygu Brisket with Carrot and Licorice
VERSUS
Scotch Ale + Off the Wagon Wheel

The imperial stout was outstanding, truly one of the best beers in an event full of beautiful beers. Coffee beans and pure dark chocolate encased in a delicately creamy body … Oh my … And it was a great match with smokey waygu brisket. The dusty chocolate flavours in the beer complimented the charcoal and licorice flavours in the brisket. The sweetness from the carrots, which initially I didn’t expect much from, were needed for the sweetness in the stout.

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The final serve was an Off The Wagon Wheel with a scotch ale. The texture contrasts in the wagon wheel were fun and interesting, crumbly oat biscuit on the outside and soft marshmallow on the inside. Drizzled in elegant chocolate, it was a great dish to end on.

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The scotch ale was perfect for sipping on, contemplating the amazing dishes and beers we had been lucky enough to have. The nose was soft and reminded me of raisins and the taste was full flavoured without the really chewy mouthfeel that can sometimes accompany it.

My vote for the matching favoured the brisket over the wagon wheel, but only just. The imperial stout got my beer vote and the wagon wheel got my food vote.

With the votes all in it was time to count and to keep us entertained we were served Beersine Pale Ale cheese, hop honey and fresh bread. I tried not to drool when the cheese came out but it was tough.

Now … For the reveal … Here’s the full menu, complete with which beers were which and which state served what:

(Again, sorry for the poorly lit photo)

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The winners were declared and WEST was declare the winner! Congratulations Five Bar and chef Mitch aka Beersine.

Huge thanks to all involved in this sensational event, I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the afternoon!

Here’s how it broke down:

Round One – Yeast was won by Victoria with their Pobblebonk Saison de Miel paired with Pheasant ballantine with spiced chutney
Round Two – Hops was won by Western Australia with Feral Barrel Fermented Hog paired with Spiced brisket from Boyup Brook
Round Three – Malt was won by Western Australia with The Monk Scotch Ale paired with the Off The Wagon Wheel
Favourite beer overall went to Feral Barrel Fermented Hog (WA)
Favourite dish overall went to the Spiced Brisket (Beersine / Five Bar of WA)
Favourite beer and food pairing overall went to Feral Barrel Fermented Hog and the Spiced Brisket (WA)

Hottest 100 + Beer

I have to confess. I’ve never voted in this before, mainly because I’m pretty lazy and it all just seemed too hard. How on earth do you select a top 5? I’m sure it doesn’t need saying but there are some really amazing, delicious, tasty, dangerous, sexy, heart-pounding exciting beers being made all over the country … how the hell do you pick a top 5?

It’s Hottest 100 time again – beer style, of course. That’s right  – the Taphouse Hottest 100 is back and if you’ve not got your votes in yet I suggest you hurry up! Pick your favourite Australian beers from 2012 and vote now peoples!

Taphouse Hottest 100

It all sounds so easy, right?

I have to confess. I’ve never voted in this before, mainly because I’m pretty lazy and it all just seemed too hard. How on earth do you select a top 5? I’m sure it doesn’t need saying but there are some really amazing, delicious, tasty, dangerous, sexy, heart-pounding exciting beers being made all over the country … how the hell do you pick a top 5?

I reckon James Davidson from Beer Bar Band blog had a great system for selecting a top 5 – check it out here. If only I could steal it but sadly the percentage of beers I drink that actually end up on Untappd are rather small. I’m not sure whether to put this down to laziness or denial, either way it’s not an accurate tool for me to judge the beers I’ve most enjoyed in 2012.

In reality I could have spent hours painstakingly putting together a top 5, based on any number of criteria from most consumed, most written about, most interesting, most whatever. In the end I looked at my list of beers on my blog and voted for the five beers that jumped out at me and triggered great beery memories.

Feral Ales at Five (1)

I remember the first time I tried this, it blew me away! Feral Hop Hog is hands down one of my favourite beers and spotting a barrel fermented version made me excited like a small child fueled by red cordial. Generally only found at Feral Brewing, Swan Valley, but sometimes it appears at my old stomping ground, Five Bar in Mt Lawley.

The Monk - The Chief

The joyful sounds coming from the table at the Perth Royal Beer Show awards when the team at The Monk picked up their award was awesome. Tasting the beer at the Exhibitor Tasting was even better.

On a side note, be sure to like /follow Two Brewers Abroad – Steve (formerly of The Monk) and Steph (formerly of Gage Roads) as they hit the USA for lots of beery adventures!

Goat Bottles (1)

Gotta love a collaborative limited release brew! The first bottle I tried of this was a gift from some friends and it was love at first sight. An amazingly tasty beer and I was lucky enough to drink it with Goat Brewer, Dave, at The Night of the Goat at Five Bar, Mt Lawley … well, we all drank this until it ran out but luckily there was plenty of Surefoot Stout and Hightail Ale to ensure we were replenished!

Black Market IPA Words

When I am at Bootleg Brewery and this seasonal beer is on tap I just have to have it. It’s that simple. If you’re lucky you may be able to find a 6 pack in your local bottle-o, I do love the packaging on this one too – ye olde newspaper style.

Temple Midnight IPA (1)

Tried this around the time of my 30th birthday, made pizzas and chilli prawns and it was sensational. I remember sitting on the couch, sipping away and wishing my glass would do that magical refill thing from the Tim Tams ad.

Saturday Sunshine + Mt Lawley

Five Bar and The Brisbane Hotel – both in Mt Lawley and both former employers of mine and both amazing venues. Get acquainted or simply visit again and again like an old friend. Just be sure to get a beer whilst you’re there …

Beaufort Street, Mt Lawley
During Beaufort Street Festival 2011

Driving up to Perth inevitably results in visiting places with friends behind the bar, so it was not a surprise that my boyfriend and I found ourselves hanging out at Five Bar & The Brisbane Hotel on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Located along Beaufort Street in the always evolving suburb of Mt Lawley, it is the sort of strip you can spend a whole day exploring. Book shops, almost endless cafes, clothing, knickknacks stores, day spa, florists, furniture stores, and don’t forget the pubs, the bars and the places to eat. What’s best is that you could spent a fortune in a day or you could spend very little. I have had many happy days doing a delightfully cheap n’ cheerful feed at Taka’s before grabbing a pint at The Flying Scotsman then walking around Hyde Park on a nice sunny day.

We arrived at Five Bar just before lunch and as my most recent ex in terms of employers, where I was Assistant Manager, it’s always nice to drop back for a visit! We sat at the bar and watched as it slowly filled with hungry Saturday lunch people. We had gone straight for the Feral taps, sighting Barrel Fermented (Hop) Hog and Karma Citra (India Black Ale) on offer. It made sense for us to get one of each and share since we are both wildly in love with Feral Brewing.

This may be a good time to congratulate Brendan and his team on Feral Hop Hog taking out #1 spot in the 2011 The Critics’ Choice Australia’s Best Beers!

Five Bar is a bit unique in that although they are a James Squire Ambassador Venue, offering 5 James Squire Beers and their Orchard Crush Cider on tap, they are also able to offer 2 Feral beers from a second set of taps. This second set of taps is also set a little differently, both in appearance and function. They stand out as two old wooden barrels on the bar, it’s hard not to wander down and take a look (though the barrels don’t actually store any beer) and secondly, the temperature is set a fraction higher and the carbonation a fraction lower. This has been done with consultation from Brendan, Owner and Head Brewer at Feral, meaning his beers are served with a little less chill to enhance flavours and with a little less bubble which, I find, results in a smoother, fuller mouth feel. Five Bar tend to get a couple of kegs of this and that from Brendan so it always pays to look down the end of the bar and see what’s there. More often than not it’s something offered normally only at Feral Brewing and always something sensational.

The B.F.H (Barrel Fermented Hog) remains the American IPA style of Hop Hog but, as though been sent to a naughty corner, has spent time in new French oak. The result is some delightful vanilla flavours lingering on the front of your palate. Dominant American hops are still very much present and very much welcome!

Sometimes I think beer tastes better out of glasses with handles …

The Karma Citra, always a favourite of mine, is an India Black Ale, or Black IPA, or whatever you want to call the style. On it’s first appearance at the bar, I explained the style to people as a porter and an IPA who had a baby. It seemed to get the idea across in the most time efficient manner. Dark malts for chocolate overtones, and we’re talking proper dark chocolate here, the 70% and above cocoa stuff. It’s a wonder they even manage to get to your nostrils with all the big hop aromas going on but they manage nicely. Citra refers to the hop variety used, which was created in a cross breeding hop program in 1990 and so named for a heavy citrus characteristics it brings to the table. Tropical fruits tag along for the ride too. It’s jet black in appearance with a smooth tan head and then those fruity flavours jump out at you with hop bitterness and malts. Love.

We left, intrigued by the Mash Up, a New Zealand collaborative brew reportedly by 44 NZ craft breweries but had a lunch appointment at The Brisbane.

One of my favourite city beer gardens that has been meticulously cared for since The Brisbane re-opened her doors in 2005. Perhaps it’s a bit on the cliche side but when you’re sitting there and the sun is shining through healthy green trees, it’s just a wonderful place to be! The Brisbane is another one of my former employers, a place I spent many happy years with, and it always makes me smile to come back and visit.

We sat in the back corner of the beer garden and I had decided to re-visit a beer I hadn’t had in quite some time, Redback Original Wheat (no lemon), and HELLO BANANA! I don’t remember tasting that much banana on it in the past. I was quite pleased and it had to be said, the beer looked sensational too. That distinctive shape, the red streak, the clarity and the sun, well, we were soon ordering another. Also, if you go to The Brisbane and don’t get the Homemade Sausage Rolls, you’ve done yourself a grave disservice and you should slap yourself on the wrist, write it down in your phone and make sure you order it next time.

A clear Redback branding win in the sunny Brisbane beer garden

All in all a rather successful afternoon in Mt Lawley and that only covered two spots!

You can visit Five Bar any day from 11am for tasty Feral beers on tap and be sure to ask the bar staff if there’s anything new in the fridges.

You can drop by The Brisbane any day too if you fancy indulging in Homemade Sausage Rolls with a pint in the beer garden.