AMONGST THE BARRELS AT ONE OF MY FAVOURITE BREWERIES
After another slightly dusty start to the day, easily made better by the Donut Shop on Gertrude Street, I ventured out to Braeside to check out the Boatrocker Barrel Room with my friend, and brewer for the upcoming Nowhereman Brewing, Paul Wyman.
The bar greets you in the middle of the room when you walk in and it’s eye catching bar front is covered in delightfully fun pink flamingos.
The food on offer is simple – a charcuterie and a cheese board and a few pizzas but it’s hard to go past the boards when you are drinking sours beers and such.
The tasting trays are the way to go if you’re like me and want to try as many beers as possible. There’s no set trio of beers, you just pick whatever three beers you’d like to try and the staff will line them up on your tray in the order they recommend you enjoy them in.
The beers were all fantastic. From the hoppy beers on offer, the stand outs for me were California Dreamin’, a US style pale ale, that was bursting with tropical fruit flavour but in a very light body so it was super easy drinking. Stepping up next to the Jabber Jaw Double IPA, that had been freshly tapped that day, was another great beer.
The Wilde Cherry beer, that is a blend of 12 and 18 month French oak barrique aged Flanders style red ale, and aged on whole, fresh Morello cherries, was stupidly beautiful. Miss Pinky, their raspberry berliner weisse, was on point as always and the Roger Ramjet (2014) was, as you’d imagine, sensational.
You can re-visit one of my previous blog posts about Boatrocker’s 2013 Ramjet which includes an interview with founder and head brewer Matt Houghton.
It’s pretty cool to be drinking beers amongst the barrels some of them have likely come from. The barrels vary from what appears to be clean and unused to others that have clearly been there for a while, darkened and even damp from what was probably a tasting to check how its contents were evolving.
Admittedly Boatrockers Barrel Room is a bit of a distance out of the city but much like recommending someone visiting Perth should go to Fremantle, it is well worth the trip. Paul and I split an Uber to and from Melbourne CBD and it cost just shy of $50 each way.
(Another) GABS session
What better way to follow up tasting a dozen or so great Boatrocker beers than by trying more beers at the Saturday night session of the GABS Festival. During this session, I made a point of checking out some festival beers.
The Sierra Nevada (USA) Bombastic Montastic, a Belgian Brown Ale aged in Brandy barrels with additions of cocoa and mandarin, was beautiful! Lovely and right with dark fruit notes and surprisingly easy drinking even though it’s 10.2 percent ABV.
Another great beer was the Behemoth (NZ) Chocolate Fish Milk Stout that hasn’t got anything to do with actual fish in the ocean. Apparently there is a chocolate lolly in New Zealand called ‘chocolate fish’ that is a pink marshmallow, shaped like a fish, and covered in chocolate. The beer wasn’t at all sickly sweet like you may expect from a lolly inspired beer. It had a lovely raspberry fruit character complete with the raspberry tartness you get in real raspberries, of course, balanced into soft chocolatey stout.
My first day of Good Beer Week included a trip to Beer School, hosted by Boatrocker Brewing, and then dinner by Michelin star chef Daniel Burns at Stomping Ground
Good Beer Week, Day 1 : Monday 16 May
Why walk when you can run? This seems to be the way I approach Melbourne’s Good Beer Week.
BOATROCKER BREWING : BEER SCHOOL
I landed in Melbourne around lunch time Monday and was sitting at the Boatrocker Brewing Beer School at Beer Deluxe for the 4pm session of ‘Cut, Contrast and Complement’ hosted by founder and head brewer of Boatrocker, Matt Houghton, and Rob Kabboord, head chef of Merricote.
Together they guided us through a great flavour education session with a plate of individual examples of flavours such as fresh lemon for sour, parmesan for umami and honey for sweet.
It’s one thing to read about beer and food pairing but it’s another to taste and experience, particularly with industry pros and broken down in this easy to understand format.
After identifying salt, sweet, bitter, umami and sour it was onto some beer and food pairings looking at examples of cut, contrast and complement.
Boatrockers beers are diverse, interesting and delicious so their ability to pair to food is pretty much boundless.
For me, the Orange Sherbert was delicately acidic and definitely sherberty and paired with the Enokitake mushrooms and parmesan it seemed to round out the beer and soften its acidity. Really interesting!
Trying the Boatrocker Stout was a little special since it’s not available in bottles. Gorgeous nutty, chocolate, coffee and fudgy aromas and flavours like black coffee, burnt toast and chocolate. So damn good.
EVENING WITH MICHELIN STAR CHEF DANIEL BURNS (NYC)
What a way to experience Stomping Ground Beer Hall for the first time – with a dinner by Michelin star chef Daniel Burns, co-owner and head chef at Tørst in New York, paired with beers by Stomping Ground and Evil Twin Brewing, of which Daniel is also co-owner.
The venue is simply incredible and there wasn’t a single thing I didn’t like about it. Freaking sensational. The brewery itself is beautiful too and I was stoked and surprised at how many beers they had on tap, it’s not your standard pale ale, pilsner, wheat beer, stout line up that’s for sure!
Co-owner Guy Greenstone gave me a very quick brewery tour in-between courses. Half, single, double and triple fermenters give the brewery lots of flexibility and it’s hard not to get excited at the sight of a handful of barrels stashed out the back quietly doing their work.
The beers are fantastic, I wrote down precisely zero notes as I was too busy eating and drinking my way through a menu of deliciousness but my stand outs were the Bad Seed Berliner Weisse that was bang-on in terms of being delicate, lightly sour and immensely refreshing; the Barrel Aged Saison with just enough barrel influence that doesn’t steam roll over the Saison character and the Upside Down Brown was toasty with great sweet malt character.
Daniel’s book, Food & Beer, was made available to purchase so I grabbed one and he was also signing them so I got to have a quick chat with him and thank him for a wonderful night.
Big thanks to Matt Marinich and the team at Stomping Ground Beer Hall for inviting me as a guest to this amazing event!
Trying a couple of cheese pairings with Boatrocker’s Saison du Bateau
I fell in love with Boatrocker Brewery when I went to their first ‘Palate Cleanser’ event during Good Beer Week 2013, like a magnificent first date that sparked true love. At the time of the event the brewery, located in Braeside, Victoria, had only been operational for a few weeks. Owner and head brewer, Matt Houghton, hosted a small group at the brewery and took us through a tasting of his favourite sour beers from around the world.
I love a good Saison, it’s the sort of beer I’d like to have in the fridge at all times. It might sound odd but I really like the fact that this Saison is in a 330ml bottle, it just makes it more approachable if it’s just a bottle for one person.
The beer looks divine in the glass. I got aromas of lime sorbet, sourdough and a hint of pear and vanilla. There’s a lot going on in this beer but not in any sort of overwhelming way. It’s beautiful. The whole sorbet and sourdough aroma carries through to the palate, it’s citrus pithy, spicy and herbal with a dry and light mouth feel. I wish I had tried it alongside Saison Du Pont, the Saison generally considered the benchmark of the style, just to see how they compare.
Boatrocker Saison du Bateu (French translation “of the boat”)
Boatrocker Saison du Bateau + Taleggio
Taleggio: An Italian caved ripened cow’s milk cheese
This was an unexpectedly nice pairing to the Saison du Bateau. The cheese, with its fruity, tangy and kinda salty flavours, seemed to coax out the spicy and herbal elements of the beer.
I love chevre; it’s gorgeous, creamy, tangy and bright all at once. Normally I pair it with Eagle Bay Kolsch; the bright citrus in the Kolsch is mirrored in the zesty cheese so it’s always a winner in my mind.
At first bite of chevre followed by a generous sip of Saison du Bateau I thought, “oh mannnn.” The beer swept over the cheese, melding wonderfully with citrusy flavours. The cheese seemed to release all the citrus and pithiness of the beer, smoothing over almost all the bitterness and the herbal elements of the beer sung out too.
Finding out what the most loved Australian beers of year has been is always fun, always brings some kind of debate and, generally ends with Feral Hop Hog taking out number one position. If they repeat this, who cares? Well a lot of people probably, but it doesn’t mean the poll isn’t any less interesting or fun. Don’t forget folks, beer is about the fun!
So, here’s what I voted for and, as always, it didn’t take hours for me to put this list together, it’s a list of beers I have loved and would recommend any beer lover to seek out (if able to, of course).
Nail Red Ale – love this beer and love that I work for Nail now. Damn right I’m voting for this gorgeous beer.
Pirate Life IIPA – crazy great beer, epic 500ml can and beautiful branding.
Boatrocker Orange Sherbet – I’m so in love with Boatrocker and this beer is perfect.
Colonial Small Ale – the reduced alcohol beer that still tastes great and all inside a super fun can. Seriously, I love the POP it makes!
Feral War Hog – Wow. A beer that slaps you around a bit but damn if it isn’t one of the finest beers to come out of Feral.
If I could fit more, well Monk R2D8 would be in there for sure. As would Boatrocker Banshee and Eagle Bay Citrus IPA. Damn it’s hard to fill just five spots.
Voting closes at 11.59pm AEST TODAY (Monday 18th January) so get voting now if you haven’t already!
When temperatures are close to 40, it’s when I love Berliner Weisse beers even more …
“I’m melting, pass the Berliner Weisse!” this was basically the motto of the day in our house on the Monday after Christmas as Perth sweated and complained it’s way through a few 38+ degree days.
Like any sane and sensible humans we stayed inside for most of it, cranked the air conditioner and did lots of sitting around. We also indulged in a little “it’s the holidays!” justified Monday drinking and cracked open a few beers.
When the temperature persistently hovers around the 40 degree mark it’s hard to find a more refreshing beer than a Berliner Weisse. It’s the delicate sourness, the relatively low alcohol content and the zingy mouth feel that ticks all the right boxes.
A little information about Berliner Weisse …
It’s German, or more accurately it has origins in Berlin and it falls under appellation d’origine controllee meaning you can’t say your beer is a Berliner Weiss unless it’s from Berlin. Yup, that’s a law and that’s why frequently you’ll see the word “style” slotted in to the beer name.
It’s sour, not super dooper sour but certainly sour. It gets like this from using lactobacillus that, like yeast, eats sugar but instead of producing CO2 and alcohol like our yeast buddies, lactobacillus will produce lactic acid and therefore the lovely sourness!
It’s a wheat beer. At the heart of this refreshing sour brew is a wheat beer. Percentages of wheat tend to vary, one article I read said as low as 25% and a couple of others said 50%. The remaining malt is usually pilsner malt.
Fun Note: In 1809 when Napoleon and his troops entered Berlin and drank some Berliner Weisse beers they apparently enjoyed them so much they referred to the beer as the “champagne of the North”
Low Booze: Usually 2.8-3.8 percent ABV.
IBU: 3-6, though sour or tart, the beer isn’t bitter.
Cellaring: Debateable. I came across a few forums and the topic caused a good bit of debate and, from time to time, some name calling.
Back closer to home is this one from Melbourne’s Boatrocker Brewing. Again there’s some differences with this one, for one it’s been aged in Chardonnay barrels with Brettanomyces (a wild yeast strain).
I wrote no tasting notes at all on this one, I was too busy sipping away happily but it doesn’t disappoint if you like the sound of the label. It’s bright and zingy like sherbet, there’s a lot of orange happening and hints other citrus friends along the way.
Boatrocker’s Orange Sherbet isn’t their first Berliner Weisse and judging from their dedicated barrel room it won’t be the last. If you see any releases from these guys be sure to grab some.
Read more about Boatrocker Brewery, their barrel room and beers at here.
Though Berliner Weisse beers can be hard to find, there are a couple of local ones kicking around –
This only makes it out of the brew pub occasionally so you’re best bet is to head to the Swan Valley, grab it at the source otherwise keep an eye out for it at craftier beer bars like Petition,DTC and Bob’s Bar.
Watermelon Warhead is a Berliner Weisse brewed with fresh Swan Valley watermelon which also spends a little time in chardonnay barrels.
This one comes from 3 Ravens / Mash brewer Brendan O’Sullivan whose passion for sours is second to none. Wizz Fizz is not only a great Berliner Weisse but it’s also the base for a series of Berliner Weisse beers of which we’ve seen Purple Stain, Granny’s Apples and Cola Nick.
Wizz Fizz is intended to be a regular brew so this should be the easier of the bunch to find, there has been two versions released now. I went along to WA Beer Week’s Sour Power event at Mane Liquor in November where Brendan presented a few of his beers including the second version of Wizz Fizz. He said he had tweaked a couple of things from the first Wiz Fizz, using Vienna malt instead of pilsner malt, using 100% lactobacillus for primary fermentation and he also added some Brettanomyces* (a wild strain of yeast) after the first fermentation. Also, just to keep clouding the topic of cellaring Berliner Weisse beers, I’ll add in here that Brendan mentioned this beer in particular had cellaring potential to keep evolving.
Last year’s Mega Dega was held after the East versus West event and since I couldn’t see myself surviving a multi-course lunch AND multi-course dinner I opted to only attend East versus West.
This year things were different and I grabbed my ticket for Mega Dega II
GABS: The Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular festival held over three days at the Royal Exhibition Building featuring over 100 beers, market stalls, seminars, food and on one day there were free haircuts!
My day started with a GABS session before heading to Pope Joan for the second edition of Mega Dega, not a bad way to warm up for a big dinner.
There were canapés of mushroom croquettes and oysters on arrival along with a glass of Boatrocker’s Mitte Berliner Weisse style beer. Matt, owner and brewer at Boatrocker, introduced the beer which uses two strains of yeast, Brettanomyces and a German ale yeast, and is aged in Chardonnay barrels. Mitte is delicately sour, very refreshing and is now my new favourite way to start a meal.
This dish was like a minced beef tartare and had bulgur wheat mixed through; its softly sweet flavours were wonderfully contrasted by the pickled vegetables and big sprigs of fresh herbs like mint and Italian parsley.
Why 961? That’s the Lebanese telephone code!
961 Lebanese Pale Ale is made to reflect Lebanese food and uses spices such as za’atar, otherwise known as wild thyme, sage, anise and chamomile. The result is a beer that’s unsurprisingly big on spice with a pleasant tropical fruit base.
Together the beer and food paired smoothly, the pale ale adding a nice spice to the dish whilst the fruity sweetness complemented the soft sweet meet.
… paired with Weihenstephan Kreuz des Sudens Weizenbock
An interesting dish with the hay custard carrying some very soft flavours and adding a big textual feature to the course. The custard set naturally and therefore did not use any eggs causing Rob too joke, “I kinda wish we’d used one or two eggs,” given the 120 custards they had to made for the 120 people in attendance.
The Kreuz Des Sudens uses Weinhenstephan’s traditional yeast as well as a bordeaux yeast which their brewer Frank says “you have to kick it a little” when working with wine yeasts such as this. The beer’s name roughly translates to “southern cross” as it was inspired by Australia and uses Australian Galaxy hops however the words “southern cross” are protected, hence the German translation. The Galaxy hops give the beer a lovely passionfruit aroma alongside some banana and toffee. Kreuz des Sudens is big on tropical fruits like mango and pineapple with a clean bitter finish.
Slow Cooked Wild Rabbit & Chorizo with Homemade Green Sriracha
on the side: Autumn Vegetable Fattoush, Pine Mushroooms, Roasted & Smoked Garlic and New Potatoes, Capers and Caramelised Onion
“He’s basically been killing things for your pleasure”
Good Beer Week/Crafty Pint’s James Smith sure knows how to introduce someone and Rohan followed through effortlessly with some great commentary around the planning and preparation for the dish. “Rabbits are fluffy and juicy but there will be no fluff, just juicy,” Rohan declared. Each bunny was “skinned, gutted, massaged and loved” and for 120 people, that’s a lot of bunnies to shot and prep as Rohan humorously pointed out when asking everyone to think about this with each bite of food and gulp of beer. We were indeed tasting a labour of love.
His efforts were not under appreciated though; the rabbit had a good peppery and spicy kick mixed through the soft meat and it was hard not to go back for more.
As a match it was a stand out for the night with the rich maltiness and spice in the Stonecutter making for a gorgeous pairing.
AIBA: Australian International Beer Awards
Scotch Ale: aka Week Heavy, malt driven (since hops won’t grow in Scotland) and top fermenting
The beer was introduced by their brewer Andy, fresh from winning Champion Small Brewery at this years AIBAs. The Stonecutter is Renaissance’s flagship beer with a personal connection for Andy as his parents are Scottish. Andy explained the malt driven nature of Scotch Ales in a way I’ll never forget – “buying hops meant given money to the English.” Stonecutter uses 9 different malts including a small amount of distilling malt, the result is a really beautiful beer, one that I will be keeping an eye out for now that I’m back home, with toast, cinnamon and a hint of smoke just a few flavours coming through this complex malty brew.
“Makes great pies”
Andy, Renaissance Brewing on their Stonecutter Scotch Ale
The previous course was a highlight but this one knocked it out of the park. The dessert and the beer complemented each other so much so that if they were people they would have been mockingly told to get a room. The dessert emphasised the bright orange citrus in the beer whilst the Grand Cru highlighted the dessert’s rich chocolate base. The caramel in the dessert shined through the Grand Cru’s dank, apricot, lemony goodness.
“We wanted to do something different from the traditional chocolate malted beer with chocolate dessert,” Shawn from Murray’s said and they definiately achieved that and then some! According to Shawn it’s one of the best matches he’s ever had with one of his beers.
Cheese: Pecora’s Jamberoo Mountain Blue & Berry’s Creek Tarwin Blue
… paired with Mornington Peninsula Russian Imperial Stout
Merricote’s Rob Kaboord introduced the cheese and beer course, presenting two types of blue cheese. The Percora’s Jamberboo a sheep’s milk cheese from NSW, lightly chalky and soft, like a halloumi cheese that has been dipped in mould. The Berry’s Creek hailed from VIC, a cow’s milk but with more pronounced blue flavours, salty, rich and fruity.
“Holy fuck, what are we going to match with this?!”
Rob on the hunt for a pair with the Mornington Russian Imperial Stout
“AG”, brewer at Mornington Peninsula, introduced the beer remarking it was the fourth time during Good Beer Week that he was discussing this brew. I guess we all have impeciable taste! For AG the match showcased the classic roasty malt and salty cheese pairing that seems to work time and time again.
Three rounds, state versus state, beer versus beer, food versus food and all with delicious results …
At Melbourne’s Good Beer Week in May one of the stand out events was East versus West: A Beer and Food Title Fight at Josie Bones. With the background music of Eye of the Tiger the east coast of Australia, represented by Josie Bones, battled with the west, represented by Five Bar / Beersine, for the bragging rights to beer and food pairing superiority. Despite not having a home ground advantage, WA came out victorious with the title belt aka a plastic WWE replica. Oh it was glorious! You can relive the magic here.
Last weekend as part of WA Beer Week Five Bar and Beersine hosted the re-match, aka round two, aka a chance for Melbourne to level the score. The format remained the same with three rounds covering yeast driven beers, hop driven beers and malt driven beers. It was all blind tastings so you didn’t know what beer you were tasting or whether the dish was a Beersine / Five Bar or Josie Bones creation.
Here’s how the battle unfolded …
Round 1 – Yeast Driven Beers
Last Drop Saison with Wort Poached Marron, Pickled Cucumber and Beer Blanc Sauce
Holgate Little Heifer Hefeweizen with Ripened Goats Cheese Croquette with Bacon Jam and Pickled Apple
The marron was a beautiful way to start the afternoon, soft and delicate with the cucumber adding a refreshing element. The Last Drop Saison, after geting rave reviews from punters at the Fremantle BeerFest the day before, continued to be loved here. A slight banana nose, soft and well balanced and lightly spiced, it was gorgeous. The two together proved a nice matching of delicate, soft but still very expressive flavours.
Half way through eating the second dish I decided that bacon jam was the way of the future. Honestly. Think about it. Bacon jam. Just ponder that for a moment and if you’re not drooling then I think there’s something wrong with you and we might not be able to be friends. The bacon jam added salty caramelised goodness to the soft and springy goat’s cheese croquettes. Holgate’s Little Heifer is a great example of a hefeweizen with sweet banana aromas and a nice silky mouthfeel. It cut through the oil in the croquettes and was a nice sweet/salt contrast to the bacon jam. This was my second favourite beer and food match of the day.
Boneyard Golden Ale with Prawn Po’Boy with Chipolte Aioli, Vic Secret Hop Salt and Malt Vinegar Game Chips
The Monk Chief IPA with ‘Tongue in Cheek’ – Masterstock Beef Cheek & Ox Tongue Croquette and Kimchi
The menu, pre-reveal, described Boneyard Golden Ale as a “session IPA” and it’s spot on, fresh tropical hops backed up by soft lingering bitterness makes it damn drinkable. The hop salt on the chips had lots of people licking the chips to get the full flavour which was fun and perhaps a little uncouth but hey, that’s the fun of beer and food sometimes!
The Monk Chief with the aptly named ‘tongue in cheek’ dish was my favourite pairing of the day, the way the kimchi and hops played together was unique, tasty and I couldn’t get enough of it! The beef cheek and ox tongue bought out all the maltiness from the IPA, easily one of my favourite IPAs going around.
How the votes swung …
Favourite Beer, Favourite Dish and Favourite Pairing: VIC – Boneyard Golden Ale with Prawn Po’Boy.
Round 3 – Malt Driven Beers
Feral Razorback Barleywine with Peppermint Pavlova garnished with Local Berries and Local Milk Chocolate
Boatrocker Ramjet Whiskey Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with Whiskey Baba with Malted Chocolate Cream, Blood Orange Curd and Liquorice with your choice from three whiskey sauces
The barleywine and peppermint pavlova was, for me, the most intriguing match of the day. On paper I expected the barleywine to completely dominate the dessert but this wasn’t the case. The peppermint was able to stand out and cut through the big bold flavours of the barleywine making for a really interesting contrast. The berries were a nice complement to the deeper sweetness from the beer.
Like the Razorback, Boatrocker’s beer had that “oh my god” factor, with every sip you were impressed and craved more of those toffee and creme brulee flavours. It melded well with the baba which is essentially a booze soaked cake and you needed a big ballsy dessert to go head to head with the Ramjet. Due to my own eagerness to try the whiskey sauces, and by eagerness I mean I had all three doused on my dessert, I may have ended up with a dish that was more booze than dessert. Prior to this however it was a great match of similar flavours coming together.
How the votes swung …
Favourite Beer, Favourite Dish and Favourite Pairing: VIC – Boatrocker Ramjet with Whiskey Baba
So Victoria’s Josie Bones took the title belt on the plane back to the East Coast which just means we need to head back for Good Beer Week 2014 to retrieve it again. Congratulations Julia, Brendan and the Josie Bones team! Well played Mitch and Five Bar, well played.
Scores are level, the fight continues …
Thank you to Five Bar, Beersine and Josies Bones for another fantastic event! I feel privileged to be able to say I’ve been to both East versus West events this year and they have been great experiences in showcasing some fine beers and creative dishes. Bring on 2014!
Thank you also to Andy Mac at Five Bar and Mitch at Beersine for inviting me along. It’s always nice to go back to your old bar and feel like you’ve come home for a visit.