Weekend Reading #58

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.


Forbes | Eat Your Beer: Why A San Francisco Startup Is Making Granola Bars From Spent Brewing Grains

I am aware of lots of breweries who don’t let their spent grains to go waste and instead provide it for farmers to feed cattle. I love this article’s focus on the small company Regrained who are using spent grain from breweries to make granola bars.

We believe we should all be able to have our beer…and eat it too.

From the ReGrained website

If this kind of thing puts a big smile on your face, pop into Monk Craft Brewery Kitchen in Fremantle where head chef Mitch Mitchell is always putting their breweries spent grain to good use, most prominently in the form of his spent grain sourdough.

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Beer Bread  // Photo from Monk Craft Brewery Kitchen Facebook page

Draft Magazine | Renegade Brewing Co. owner Brian O’Connell talks beer festivals, drinking local and what it means to be a renegade

What I love about breweries and the stories behind why they opened is that I have never heard someone say, “I opened a brewery to make a pot of cash”. Brian’s story is just a fun, passion filled and wonderful as any other story I have heard. I particularly like the recollection of the day he realised he had to give it a shot.

I cancelled the meetings I was supposed to go to, rented a car and drove three hours out to the Delaware coast and spent the day at the Dogfish Head Brewery.

His approach to beer festivals is also of interest, not that we are reaching the same kind of numbers that the US are but being one brewery amongst a field of them begs the question as to how valuable they are for the breweries themselves, maybe is more than one way to get exposure?

Australian Brews News | Bridge Roads sets up authenticity campaign

A really interesting media release from Bridge Roads Brewers (VIC) to introduce new symbols to appear on their packaging and communications. There is this on-going debate as to whether the term “craft beer” is relevant, the can of worms really opens up when you start asking what the term means, how it should (if it should) be defined. This approach from Bridge Roads embraces the word “craft” and gives the drinker an idea of what it means. Maybe it even encourages questions from the drinker, like questions on owns others beers you like, do some breweries brew off site and, most importantly what does that mean?

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The team at Bridge Road Brewers are proud of what they do and the beer they make. The symbols were developed by the team, asking themselves; what is it that makes us different? And what do I expect from the craft beer I drink?

Wall Street Journal | Line Them Up: ‘Crafty’ Expats Stir Up the Vietnamese Beer Scene

As always I really enjoy reading about the craft beer scene in other countries outside of Australia and the US, this article on Vietnam’s emerging craft beer scene, what is driving it and its growth potential is super interesting.

BrewDog | DIY Dog

This is pretty epic. Scottish craft brewery BrewDog, known for excellent beer, making a lot of noise and stuffing a beer bottle into a taxidermy squirrel, have just released their entire back catalogue of beer recipes and story along with a guide to home brewing. Like I said, epic. Even if you don’t home brew, this is a great document to download and get all beer geeky on.

Weekend Reading #53

For those lazy weekend mornings when you just want to stay in bed and catch up on a little reading

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.

Illawarra Mercury | Making a beer with a “rock star” American brewer

Sam Calagione of well known US brewery Dogfish Head was recently in Australia. I have mentioned Calagione recently as I’ve been watching his YouTube series “That’s odd, let’s drink it” so I was pretty envious of being in the wrong part of the country when he visited.

Martyn Cornell’s Zythophile | AB InBev acquires Camden Town: Least surprising news in the history of beer

This caught my attention because I had read a few things, a couple of comments, that were along the same lines, that the sale of Camden Town to AB InBev wasn’t difficult to predict.

Maybe it is because I’m not that close to the UK beer scene, I read a little but certainly not lots. I have met Jasper, founder of Camden Town, on a couple of occasions and also interviewed him the last time he was in Perth. Based on that alone, I actually was surprised to read about the sale.

BrewDog Blog | Nailing our colours to the mother fucking mast

A blog post from the guys at BrewDog following the whole Camden Town Brewery sale, unsurprisingly they are against it and any other craft brewery selling part or whole to a big corporate. What is really interesting is their breakdown of what’s happened to breweries like Lagunitas, Nøgne Ø, Goose Island and Ballast Point who have been bought out part or whole.

Crafty Pint | The Big Issue: Quality

Maybe it’s time for us to stop wondering if the word “craft” is relevant in our industry and make “quality” the more important word, the defining feature that sets the good beer from the bad. Here Crafty interviews a range of beer professionals and asks questions around what is quality, why it’s important and what can be done to make it better.

Craft is the word

For me the word “craft” is still relevant and it still has meaning but its not what defines the industry, its not what it was built on nor what will continue its growth

“It’s got a groove, it’s got a meaning”

For those playing along at home, yes I am attempting to channel a little John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in ‘Grease’ because hell yeah when it comes to the subject of beer, craft does has a groove, craft certainly has a meaning.

In recent years that meaning has been debated, a lot. It seems like every other week I am reading an article about the definition of craft beer, whether is it about an overwhelming need for a definition or a questioning whether its really such a big deal.

“It’s been a depressing spectacle this last couple of years watching people who share a love of great beer tear each other apart over trying to define what craft beer is.”

Pete Brown, 2013

Article – Pete Brown: Is anyone still interested in a definition of craft beer?

The argument for a solid definition of a “craft beer” and “craft brewer” can sometimes feel like a call to action, for all small and independent brewers to unite and take a stand to ensure that the big brewers, the giant corporations, don’t get their grubby mitts in the craft beer pie.

Article – Brewdog: Defining Craft Beer

Article – Brewdog: Defining Craft Beer – Take 2

“Legal definitions are everywhere and are designed to protect a product’s reputation from poor imitations.”

Brewdog, 2013

Those big brewers, giant corporations, like Carlton United and Lion Nathan have their craft beer range of beers, Matilda Bay and James Squire respectively and I often see debate in the social media world as to their credentials. The big brewers are too big, owned by an overseas company and produce too much for these beers to be labelled craft.

Or are they?

How relevant is the size of production or the ownership of the brewery? In relation to the current Brewer’s Association (US) definition its very relevant. It defines craft beer by how much beer the brewer produces, the ownership of the brewery and the method by which they brew. Read the full definition at the Brewers Association website here.

CBIA: A national body which represents the Australian craft brewing industry

A little closer to home we have our CBIA, the Craft Beer Industry Association, which defines craft beer in a much more simple but still meaningful way –

“Craft beer is borne of a mindset, an idea between art and science that inherently requires the skill of a brewer”

Article – Australian Brews News: On the definition of craft beer

Though I am sure many people would disagree with the above, calling for specific outlines and guidelines, it resonates with me because my personal definition of craft currently lies more with intention than it does ownership.

For me the word “craft” is still relevant and it still has meaning but its not what defines the industry, its not what it was built on nor what will continue its growth. Craft brewing means to me that the brewers are creating something they love and that they want others to enjoy, it’s about creating beer with the best ingredients they can get for the beer they want to create and whether they are trying to replicate a long respected style or create their own, the final product is something made with passion and integrity. Call it craft, call it small batch, call it artisanal, as someone who loves beer these words get my attention but my decision to drink these beers rests on so much more.

Article – Draft: The meaning behind craft beer

I read articles calling for a definition of craft beer and I don’t disagree with the argument, I think I just feel there is more happening in the industry, more pressing issues than a single word that require attention. Of course I say this knowing I am on the outskirts of this amazing industry. I don’t own a brewery, nor do I brew beer and nor does my income depend solely on the continued growth of craft beer. I am a blogger, a cheerleader at best and there is so much about beer worthy of pom poms and summersaults – brewing innovation, the diversity of flavour, the celebration of tradition and availability of international beers alongside beers that were brewed a few kilometres from home. Let’s celebrate all this and not get caught up in the little things like a single word. Get caught up in beer, it’s much more fun.

Article – Stone & Wood Brewing: Be good, not crafty!

 

 

Some girls get flowers, I get beer

I like beer more than I like flowers so it’s a good thing I have such a wonderful partner who often brings me gifts of the beery variety

Flowers are nice. They are pretty, they smell good but let’s face it, you can’t drink them. You can’t savour a well poured flower in your glass. You can’t share a flower with your friend and say “Try this! It goes really well with the Gorgonzola”. This is why I like beer more than I like flowers. Lucky for me I have a wonderful boyfriend who often chooses to surprise me with presents of beer rather than bunches of flowers.

Brewdog & Oskar Blues Shipwrecker Circus Barley Wine 10.5% ABV
Brewdog & Oskar Blues Shipwrecker Circus Barley Wine
American style Barleywine | 10.5% ABV

My partner got me this after I had my first taste of beers by Oskar Blues Brewery, Colorado (US) and raved on and on about them. I grabbed them on one of my trips to Cellarbrations Carlisle, getting their Ten Fidy Imperial Stout, Deviant Dale’s IPA and G’Knight Imperial Red Ale. You can check out my blog post on those here. Since I enjoyed them so much he figured I’d like their collaboration with Brew Dog.

He was right.

Barleywines: Big ass beers, originally British, lovingly adopted by the US, both American and English Barleywines are acknowledged as a style with the major difference largely coming down to the almighty hop.

What was the beer like? Well, imagine you got a fruitcake, turned up the spices and plums and in your enthusiasm you were overly generous with the rum. Then you got a little distracted and burnt the bottom of your cake so the base caramelised a little. Then you liquified it.

Chimay Gold 4.8% ABV
Chimay Gold
4.8% ABV

When my partner was beer shopping at Cellarbrations Carlisle the topic of trappist beers came up resulting in this Belgian baby landing in my hot little hands.

Trappist: “where brewing is performed by, or under the supervision of, Trappist monks” [Oxford Companion to Beer] of which there are only seven breweries in existence – 6 in Belgium and 1 in the Netherlands. Not strictly a style as such as it’s their authenticity rather than similar flavours/ingredients that categorise them. In short – monk make awesome brewers.

It’s been a while between Chimay’s for me so it was nice to come back to one of the first breweries I got to know when I got hooked on beer many years ago.

Aromas reminded me of the base of a lemon cheesecake but there’s much more happening, I got hints of melon, lemon and banana. Soft yet with a full mouth feel with big spices coming through as the beer warmed up a little, loved the clove and lemony flavours.

8 Wired Superconductor Double IPA Double IPA | 8.8% ABV
8 Wired Superconductor Double IPA
Double IPA | 8.8% ABV

We love our hops in this house so when my partner gave me this present it was only a matter of hours before it was opened.

8 Wired: from New Zealand, brewer Søren Eriksen, well known for their HopWired IPA

His timing was great, my two most recent visits to The Pourhouse in Dunsborough have involved drinking the little brother of this beer, suitably named Semiconductor – a session IPA at a very reasonable 4.4% abv (you can read more here if you’re so inclined). Now it was time to see how it’s big brother stacked up.

It was really freakin’ good.

The aromas on the Superconductor are big and punchy, so much so that I found the flavours weren’t as strong as I was expecting. But don’t get the wrong impression, this is a very flavoursome beer. Toffee, citrus and tropical fruits with the emphasis on pineapple. The mouth feel verges on oily with a long dry and citrusy finish.

 

#temptingtuesday – October

It feels like low booze beers are difficult to come across in our beloved craft beer world in which demand for flavour continues to surpass higher and higher peaks. I think about low ABV (alcohol by volume) beers when I know I’ll have to drive but with more and more extremely tasty low booze beers available it’s time to remember they are no longer just for times of responsibility.

What the heck is #temptingtuesday I hear you say? (well, in my head you do). It’s combining my love affair with Twitter, the fun of chatting with great people and my eternal affection for beer. The mechanics are simple, just like its author, where on the first Tuesday of each month I ask the big wide Twitterverse a beer related question. I get inspired and blog the results.

Christmas decorations, wrapping paper and silly little trinkets have made their way into Coles and Woolworths supermarkets which means we must be in October.

October’s #temptingtuesday was …

What’s your favourite beer that’s under 4% abv?

“Small Beer” is a ye olde type of English beer, very low in booze and common until the 19th century. It was a beer for anyone regardless of age or class. It was also considered a good alternative to water since water quality could be very poor. Health advice has certainly changed …

This question was inspired by two things –

1) I recently discovered the wonderfulness that is Brewdog Dead Pony Club, a 3.8% California Pale Ale from Scotland.

2) Last week Margaret River’s Colonial Brewing introduced their recent limited release Small Ale into the permanent line up. The Small Ale is a reduced alcohol IPA clocking in at 3.5% abv.

I recently wrote a post about my new found love for Brewdog Dead Pony Club and the lower alcohol beers I’ve enjoyed so far but thanks to #temptingtuesday I’ve now got a long list to seek out!

Brewdog Dead Pony Club

Colonial’s Small Ale is now available at all good Colonial outlets and is, as Brewery Manager Richard Moroney describes it, “deliciously responsible”

Colonial's Small Ale

It feels like low booze beers are hard to come across in the craft beer world, a world in which demand for things to be “bigger” seems to grow. I think about low ABV (alcohol by volume) beers when I know I’ll have to drive but with more and more extremely tasty options available it’s time to remember they are no longer just for times of responsibility.

So, what were people’s favourite beers under 4% abv? Prepare to copy and paste these into your beer shopping lists folks!

Feral Brewing (WA) Watermelon Warhead

Cheeky Monkey (WA) Travelling Monk

Birbeck’s Brewing (SA) The Captain

Brewdog (SCOT) Dead Pony Club

Emerson’s (UK) Bookbinder

Mornington’s (VIC) Little Irish Red Ale

Murray’s (NSW) Punch & Judy’s Ale

The Monk (WA) Mild

Old Coast Road (WA) Bitter

Moor (UK) Revival

Colonial Brewing (WA) Small Ale

Redemption (UK) Trinity

And special mention to my friend Scott Bennett and his homebrew The Postman that cracked a mention or two!

girl + Dead Pony Club

My first thought when I poured the beer into a glass was “fat bubbles!” It’s full of fresh and crisp fruity hops with a dry bitter finish that practically dares you to take another sip. It’s also a mere 3.8% abv. Yippee! A tasty lower alcohol beer!

Brewdog Dead Pony Club

For those unfamiliar with the beer called Dead Pony Club from Scottish brewers Brewdog, the title of this post may seem a touch weird / creepy / a cry for help. For everyone else it’s just another blog post about a nice tasting beer.

So, Dead Pony Club – why the name? I honestly couldn’t say. I love a quirky website and punchy beer blurb but this made zero sense to me. Perhaps it’s because I don’t know anything about howitzers, internal combustion or mufflers. Heck, I don’t know anything about ponies either. My dad has two miniature horses which are definitely not ponies and that’s as far as my pony knowledge goes but I’m getting somewhat sidetracked. Why is this beer called Dead Pony Club? I don’t know. Does it taste good? Yes it does.

Something you can't do with bottles ...
Something you can’t do with bottles …

My first thought when I poured the beer into a glass was “fat bubbles!” It’s full of fresh and crisp fruity hops with a dry bitter finish that practically dares you to take another sip. This beer is all about the hops but not in an overbearing way. There’s piney, grapefruit and citrus notes and I got a little grassiness and biscuit flavours to boot.

It’s also a mere 3.8% abv. Yippee! A tasty lower alcohol beer!

For whatever reason the beers with big booze numbers get a fair bit of attention. Big booze is sometimes mistakenly equated with brilliance. The same can be said for high IBU and massively hopped beers. In reality, and I’m probably stating the obvious, it’s about balance over and above claiming the “biggest” something.

Dead Pony Club is well balanced and tasty with great fresh hop characters and is less than 5% abv, adding to it’s appeal. I can have a few of these and not worry about the booze factor too much or more accurately about the headache the next day. I’ve noticed that since turning thirty I don’t bounce back from boozy nights as brightly as I used to.

The problem is that great tasting, full flavoured lower alcohol beers are hard to come by. Recently my partner tried a booze free beer and when I asked how it tasted he replied “like sadness”.

Here are a few of my favourite low booze beers that don’t taste like sadness, regret or any other depressing flavours …

Little Creatures Rogers’

3.8% abv | Little Creatures Brewing | Fremantle (WA)

This is my go-to lower alcohol beer. Fun fact about this beer – the name is Rogers’ not Roger’s, as in it doesn’t belong to one guy named Roger but it belongs to two guys named Roger – namely Roger Bussell and Roger Bailey who designed the beer. I guess “fun fact” might depend on your definition of fun. Anyway, this malty, hoppy amber ale has long been a favourite of mine and has become pretty widely available.

Cheeky Monkey Travelling Monk

3.5% abv | Cheeky Monkey Brewery & Cidery | Margaret River (WA)

It pours a gorgeous deep amber colour, you gotta love a sexy appearance, and is a great balance of sweet malt and fresh hops. I get hints of marmalade and oranges too. Available at the brewery, in bottles and mini kegs.

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Mini Kegs from Cheeky Monkey

Eagle Bay Mild Ale

3.5% abv | Eagle Bay Brewing | Eagle Bay (WA)

Tropical fruits, a little citrus and good bitterness. Available at the brewery and in bottles.

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Eagle Bay Mild at Morrie’s Anytime, Margaret River

The Cheesy Italian Job

“We are so lucky to be able to create something new in collaboration, wineries can’t” – Leonardo di Vincenzo, Head Brewer at Birra del Borgo

My partner and I had reached Friday of Good Beer Week – day seven of an epic nine days of beer amazingness.

We started our day at The Gertrude for the Tasmanian Pint of Origin, then lunch at Brother Burger and the Marvelous Brew where they were hosting a tap takeover of Kiwi beers and finished the afternoon at The Tramway for the SA Pint of Origin. Our palates were well and truly warmed up and ready for the event for the evening – Birra del Borgo Collaboration Celebration at Slowbeer in Richmond.

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The event promised to be full of great beer, cheese and meat. That is exactly what we got and it was fantastic!

But of course it wasn’t that simple.

The beers were from Italian brewery Birra Del Borgo and all were collaboration brews. The cheese was also all Italian and the meats, well they were just yum.

We were lucky enough to have the head brewer of Birra del Borgo himself, Leonardo di Vincenzo to guide us through his beers and the stories behind their creation.

“We are so lucky to be able to create something new in collaboration, wineries can’t”

Leonardo di Vincenzo

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Beer #1 My Antonia – in collaboration with Dogfish Head (USA)

I’ve heard lots of good things about Dogfish Head but sadly have only tried one of their beers, their 90 Minute IPA, which was pretty damn tasty.

Leo recounted meeting Sam Calagione, head brewer for Dogfish Head, at a beer festival in Montreal, and have now collaborated on two separate beers. The other being Etrusca which makes an appearance later in the evening.

Leo described My Antonia as a traditional European style beer with some “special characters”. It’s an imperial pilsner that is continuously hopped, dry hopped and bottle fermented. It uses saaz hops, true to a European pilsner, in additional to two American hops – Simcoe and Warrior.

My Antonia is brewed by both Birra Del Borgo and Dogfish Head separately. Whilst the recipe is the same Leo says there’s definitely a difference between the two.

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The My Antonia we tasted was brewed by Birra del Borgo. It was a lovely hazy straw colour with a thick mouth feel and big tropical fruits.

It was served with Gorgonzola, an Italian cows milk blue cheese, and cured pork loin that was sweet and peppery.

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Beer #2 Agua Calienta – in collaboration with Opperbacco, Brewfist and Toccalmatto (all ITA)

This is what happens when you get four Italian breweries together – Agua CalientaLeo calls this a “crazy beer”.

The beer is their interpretation of a traditional British India Pale Ale. They used French oak fermenters, normally used for wine production, to increase oxidisation in the beer. It’s their way of representing to the long journey that IPAs of old would have made from Britain to India. They used four types of malt and popular English hop East Kent Goldings with New Zealand Pacific Jade hops.

The result is an earthy, spicy and biscuity beer with hints of raisins and I even got a little caramel.

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Agua Calienta was served with black truffle salami and taleggio cheese. We almost asked if the cheese was cave ripened since we had just been educated about taleggio at the event at The Local Taphouse but you don’t want to be those people. Plus it’s not like we are experts, just shameless cheese eating machines.

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Beer #3 ReAle in Kilt – in collaboration with Brewdog (SCT)

ReAle in Kilt is a reimagining of Birra del Borgo’s flagship ReAle, an American style pale ale, made with Scottish brewery Brewdog.

They started this project with Brewdog last year and says they are pretty good friends, “when we drink beer, we drink strong beer”. This made the 8.4% abv of ReAle in Kilt pretty unsurprising.

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ReAle in Kilt uses wood fermentation and all German hops, showing a definite break from the original ReAle.

It’s an intriguing and rather moreish beer. I got flavours like bacon, smoke, biscuit and toffee. It was a great match to Wagu bresaola, oak smoked cheddar and rocket sliders.

Wagu Sliders

Beer #4 Etrusca – in collaboration with Dogfish Head (USA) and Baladin Brewery (ITA)

Etrusca goes exploring through the ancient Italian Etruscan civilisation, roughly around where we call Tuscany. Leonardo, Sam (Dogfish Head) and Teo Musso (Baladin) traveled to Rome with an archaeologist to examine drinking vessels from 2,800-year-old Etruscan tombs and from there they created Etrusca.

The beer aims to be as authentic as possible and as such incorporates some different fermentation vessels and ingredients to create an ancient ale.

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Ingredients include gentian root, hazelnut, pomegranate and grapes as well as an ancient yeast strain. For variety each brewery used a different fermentation vessel – Dogfish Head using brass, Baladin using wood and Birra del Borgo using terracotta.

Etrusca was served with an Italian cows milk cheese wrapped in walnut leafs and olives.

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Leonardo was asked about his thoughts on beer trends and consumers expectations. It was certainly a relevant question considering the range of beers we tasted throughout the evening were arguably not appealing to the mass beer market. So how does a brewer balance their brewing creativity and curiosity with beers that, without being crass, make money? I strongly suspect this question is not that simple but Leonardo’s response was interesting.

“I don’t care about the expectation of the customer”, he said without a tone of intolerance but more in the sense that it’s not what drives him to create new beers. He doesn’t get into trends either, “if craft brewers think about the trends of the market they lose their soul”. Ultimately Leonardo is looking for something different, something that tastes special. I think Birra del Borgo have certainly achieved that.

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On a side note it seems to me a striking testament to Good Beer Week as a whole that Leonardo flew all the way to Melbourne to speak to us crazy Australian beer fans!

Also, I have heard an unconfirmed report that Birra del Borgo’s Duchessic – a blend of their Saison with Cantillon Lambic – is currently available at The International Beer Shop. If this is true, be still my beating heart …