Weekend Reading #61

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.


Ars Technica | Researchers are brewing up medicines from beer hops

My partner found this article and sent me the link and I’m very glad he did. It’s an interesting read because rather than being the usual ‘beer is good for you’ article that’s mostly fluff this one looks at recent scientific studies of compounds found in hops and what medicinal benefits could be found in them.

Good Beer Hunting | The History of Brasserie Dupont – Trailer

How fitting that I am drinking a Saison as I watched this trailer. The trailer is less than a minute but I can’t wait to see the whole thing. Three words rang out to me – spirit, simple and true. Maybe these are the words we should be using to measure or define craft beer.

The Crafty Pint | The Story Of: Boatrocker Ramjet

Ah, Ramjet. One of my absolute favourite beers from one of my favourite breweries.

Back in January of last year I interviewed Boatrocker owner and brewer, Matt Houghton, for my own look at this wonderful beer. This piece from Crafty Pint gives more insight into this beer, its history and its very, very bright future. If I had a teleport, I’d be at ‘Ramjet Day‘ for sure!

Draft Magazine | Why are beer people so outraged?

It is a question that occurs to me frequently, I get confused at why some people type awful things on social media because someone doesn’t like a beer they love or visa versa. Why do other people’s opinions on a beer get someone else so agitated? This article looks at this and more.

Their emotional response to beer comes from passion, they say. And if beer consumers are passionate, that emotional response will sometimes be negative.

Climate Council | A brewed awakening: Climate change threatens BEER

Often it can be hard to comprehend something that is so big, something with so much impact and with that in mind I think this is a wonderfully simple and direct way of communicating climate change. I’d love to taste this beer for myself but I doubt this will make it to WA, if anyone tries this and feels like commenting below please do, I’d love to know!

Beer Story: Boatrocker Ramjet 2013

A closer look into beers that I love, the story behind their making, interviews with the brewer/s and whatever else I can find!

There are a lot of great beers out there and some beers are so memorable that the mention of that beer fills you with happy feelings from memories of drinking it. Maybe you remember where you were when you had it, the way it tasted and the way it looked or maybe you just remember thinking “damn, this is really special”. You might be thinking I sound like a love sick fool and you’d be right, some beers just do that to me and, like anything you fall in love with, you want to learn more about it, you want to get to know it better and so here’s the first in what I hope will be a semi-regular series – ‘Beer Story’, a look into beers I love, the stories behind their making and interviews with the brewer/s. The first Beer Story comes from Boatrocker Brewery in Braeside, Victoria and it’s one of their limited editions – Boatrocker Ramjet Boatrocker Ramjet 2013

10.2% ABV | Barrel Aged Imperial Stout | Limited Release

Boatrocker Brewery

Entrance to Boatrocker Brewery – May 2014

A bit about Boatrocker Brewery – owned and operated by Matt and Andrea Houghton. Matt, like many brewers, started out home brewing, did some traveling and returned home inspired to go from home brewing to commercial. Matt and Andrea’s dream to own their own brewery was realised in 2012 after initially contract brewing. You can read more about Matt and Andrea and their brewery here at their website or here at The Crafty Pint.

Matt Houghton, co-owner and brewer, pouring beers at the brewery during their Palate Cleanser event at Good Beer Week 2014

Ramjet 2013 is an imperial stout that spent three months in ex-whisky barrels from Victoria’s New World Distillery. “Called Ramjet after the engines that used an extra fuel source to go further,” The Crafty Pint – Boatrocker Ramjet. The first time I had Ramjet was during a beer event – East versus West: Round 2 which was held as part of 2013 WA Beer Week. It was Josie Bones (VIC) going head to head with Five Bar (WA) in a three course battle for glory and gloating. Round 1 had been held a few months earlier in Melbourne for Good Beer Week which you can read about here. That first taste of Ramjet 2013 made a big impression on me,

” … Boatrocker’s beer had that “oh my god” factor, with every sip you were impressed and craved more of those toffee and crème brulee flavours …”

Whiskey Baba with Malted Chocolate Cream, Blood Orange Curd and Liquorice with your choice from three whiskey sauces

East versus West Round 2 (November 2013) – Whiskey Baba with Malted Chocolate Cream, Blood Orange Curd and Liquorice with your choice from three whiskey sauces by Julia from Josie Bones

Read: GBW 2014 Review: Boatrocker Palate Cleanser and The Beer Boat that Rocked, my blog post on the 2013 Palate Cleanser

Since then I have been lucky enough to drink Ramjet at the brewery a couple of times during Boatrocker’s Palate Cleanser events during 2013 and 2014 Good Beer Week. I also grabbed a couple of bottles to stash away before they all disappeared. [Yep, sorry, if you had been reading this and put Ramjet 2013 on your beer shopping list then I’m afraid I have some bad news, as far as I know it’s all gone. On the bright side, there will be a 2014 release]  The last time I had a Ramjet 2013 was on New Years Eve when I opened my second last bottle; the beer was still sensational but in a whole new way. Those toffee and crème brulee flavours I had originally tasted in November 2013 had settled into an amazing balance of rich and varied flavours. Boatrocker Ramjet 2013 - my tasting notes.jpg Here is an interview I did with Matt recently about Ramjet, how the original brew came to be and where we can expect 2014 to take us …

Interview: Matt Houghton, Boatrocker co-owner and head brewer

How do you approach creating a new beer recipe?

We firstly think about what beer we’d like to brew, and when we think we’d like to drink it. We then start discussing what aspects of the style we like, whether full bodied or lighter, bitterness levels, etc. Matt & I [yup, both brewers are Matt!] then discuss our options with raw ingredients, and what yeast profile we’d like, and then start building a recipe around that. We then do a pilot brew of around 60L, just to see if we’re in the ball park. Once we’ve tasted the pilot, we discuss what changes we’d make, if any, and then scale it up to full batch size. At the end of the day, it’s all about what we’d like to drink.

When did you brew Ramjet 2013?

We brewed Ramjet 2013 towards the end of May. We had been discussing an Imperial Stout for some time, and we had some tank space coming up, and thought, why not?

Why did you want to brew an imperial stout?

The style is, quite simply, fantastic. There are so many options available to the brewer in terms of roastiness, bitterness, sweetness, abv, wood aged etc. And rather selfishly, we wanted a dark beer for us to drink in the winter months!

Was Ramjet always planned to be barrel aged? What do you most enjoy about the process of barrel-ageing?

When Matt and I were discussing the imperial stout, a wood character was one of the first things discussed, although we originally mooted the idea of bourbon barrels. Personally, the depth of character that barrel ageing can bring to a beer is truly astounding. Not only does the previous occupant impart its character to the finished beer, so too does the type of wood and size of barrel. Barrel ageing really can take the beer to another level. It’s quite fascinating tasting a beer that has been ‘wood-aged’ with oak chips, to the same beer that has been barrel aged. There is actually no comparison.

What made you choose the whisky barrels from New World Distillery?

Before Matt came to us, he was working at the New World Distillery. When it comes to sourcing locally made Whisky, there are not that many options, and with Matt’s contacts, it was a natural choice. The guys at the distillery are great. There is a lot of mutual appreciation for each others products and what we are both trying to achieve. Their whisky is just fantastic and complements beer so well. We’ve found that with not only Ramjet but a number of other beer styles (upcoming releases in 2015), the whisky and barrels from New World Distillery are second to none.

How did you come to decide on 3 months of barrel ageing?

With barrel ageing, there is no set time limit. The beer is ready when the beer is ready. We tested the beer at regular intervals, and when the flavours were just right, we removed it from the barrels. Ramjet 2014 for example, spent about 6 months in barrels. There are a number of factors, so the best bet is to let your tastebuds decide.

Where there any surprises during the brew for Ramjet 2013?

The biggest surprise was how much we could push the brewhouse. The amount of malt that goes into a 10% abv + beer is a lot. We really had to work our system hard. Aside from that, there were not really any other surprises.

It feels like there is a lot of love for Ramjet, many people speak very highly of it and it came in at #37 in the 2013 The Critics’ Choice Australia’s Best Beers. When you first released Ramjet, what were your expectations on how it would be received?

We had no idea that people would like the beer so much. When we brew beer, we don’t do it for recognition or to try and win awards. We brew what we want to drink. Thankfully people want to drink what we want to drink. When we first released Ramjet, it was a little young, and needed more time in the wings, and in hindsight that is what we should have done.

What is one of the most interesting or fun events you’ve had Ramjet be a part of?

That’s a tough one… There have been a few. The East v West dinner with Beersine comes to mind but unfortunately I wasn’t there so from personal experience the dinner at Merricote where we had a 6 course meal matched to 6 of our beers was incredible. The Ramjet was matched with a cacao cigar, with tobacco infused chocolate and an ‘ash’ from cabbage and hay!

If anyone has any Ramjet 2013 bottles, when do you recommend they open them?

If they haven’t already done so, I believe you can expect to get a little more time out of Ramjet 2013 if stored well. There has been a definite ageing, but all in the right direction, as the oxidised notes are working very well with the barrel character of the beer. I’d say at least another year or two.

What food would you match to a Ramjet 2013 now?

I’m very much a fan of savoury foods with Ramjet 2013, and as a way to finish a meal, some excellent blue cheese with water crackers and I’m a happy man. I’d err on the sweeter blues rather than the sharper more mature ones.

Did you make any changes to Ramjet for 2014?

The Ramjet 2014 has had only minor tweaks to the malt bill. The beer itself is higher in abv (10.6% compared to 10.2%), and we believe has greater ageing potential than the previous vintage. The biggest change that will be apparent is the barrel character. This is something that will be different for nearly every Ramjet. Ramjet 2013 had barrels that previously held red wine (before the whisky), and that note definitely comes through. This year there was a mix of ex-red wine & pedro ximinez barrels, so there will be a natural change in character, but delicious nonetheless. The other change to Ramjet 2014 that will be noticeable, is that we are ageing the beer after packaging longer. This comes at considerable expense in terms of space at the brewery and from a cash-flow point of view, but it also means that the beer won’t be released before it should. You really can’t rush these things. Barrels at Boatrocker Brewery

Pedro Ximinez barrels at Boatrocker Brewery – May 2014

I would like to thank Matt very much for his time in answering my questions. If you are in Melbourne for Good Beer Week this May and Boatrocker holds their Palate Cleanser event again I would strongly urge you to get tickets and get them quickly. The beers are fantastic, the food is great and Matt and Andrea are wonderful hosts. If you would like more on Ramjet and Boatrocker –

Beer Review: YouTube

Beer Year, Day No. 127 – Boatrocker Ramjet Beer Review by ‘Legless Goanna’

Brewer Interview: Podcast

Ale of a Time – Podcast ‘sode 25: Matt from Boatrocker

Read: Blog Post

From Beer to Eternity: Boatrocker Brewery Show

Read: Blog Post

64 Bottles of Beer on the Wall: Boatrocker Brewery – Ramjet

Read: Article

The Crafty Pint: Starting a Brewery – The Boatrocker Story

East versus West … Re-Match

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.

Hard working chefs Mitch from Beersine/Five Bar and Julia from Josie Bones
Hard working chefs Mitch from Beersine/Five Bar and Julia from Josie Bones

Here’s how the battle unfolded …

Round 1 – Yeast Driven Beers

Last Drop Saison with Wort Poached Marron, Pickled Cucumber and Beer Blanc Sauce

versus

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.

Wort Poached Marron, Pickled Cucumber and Beer Blanc Sauce by Mitch from Beersine / Five Bar
Wort Poached Marron, Pickled Cucumber and Beer Blanc Sauce by Mitch from Beersine / Five Bar

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.

Ripened Goat's Cheese Croquettes with Bacon Jam and Pickled Apple by Julia from Josie Bones
Ripened Goat’s Cheese Croquettes with Bacon Jam and Pickled Apple by Julia from Josie Bones

How the votes swung …

Favourite Beer: WA – Last Drop Saison

Favourite Dish: VIC – Ripened Goats Cheese Croquettes

Favourite Pairing: VIC – Holgate Hefeweizen + Ripened Goats Cheese Croquettes

Round 2 – Hop Driven Beers

Boneyard Golden Ale with Prawn Po’Boy with Chipolte Aioli, Vic Secret Hop Salt and Malt Vinegar Game Chips

versus

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!

Prawn Po'Boy with Chipolte Aioli, Vic Secret Hop Salt and Malt Vinegar Game Chips by Julia from Josie Bones
Prawn Po’Boy with Chipolte Aioli with (not pictured) Vic Secret Hop Salt and Malt Vinegar Game Chips by Julia from Josie Bones

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.

Tongue in Cheek - Masterstock Beef Cheek and Ox Tongue Croquette with Kimchi by Mitch from Beersine/Five Bar
Tongue in Cheek – Masterstock Beef Cheek and Ox Tongue Croquette with Kimchi by Mitch from Beersine/Five Bar

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

versus

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.

Peppermint Pavlova with Fresh Local Berries and Local Milk Chocolate by Mitch from Beersine/Five Bar
Peppermint Pavlova with Fresh Local Berries and Local Milk Chocolate by Mitch from Beersine/Five Bar

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.

Whiskey Baba with Malted Chocolate Cream, Blood Orange Curd and Liquorice with your choice from three whiskey sauces by Julia from Josie Bones
Whiskey Baba with Malted Chocolate Cream, Blood Orange Curd and Liquorice with your choice from three whiskey sauces by Julia from Josie Bones

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.

Photo by Feral Brewing
Photo by Feral Brewing

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.