Why My Wife’s Bitter … and other Brewers & Chewers stories

A beer event that combines elements of a meet the brewer session with musical chairs and speed dating is destined to be sensational.

Brewers and Chewers Collage

A beer event that combines elements of a meet the brewer session with musical chairs and speed dating is destined to be sensational.

That’s exactly how the Brewers and Chewers event was described in the Good Beer Week programme and that’s exactly what we got – minus the potential awkwardness of speed dating and lack of seats at musical chairs of course.

Brewers and Chewers found a handful of Australian and International brewers and tempted them to The Local Taphouse in St Kilda for a dinner party with the twist.

Here’s how it worked – Eight brewers, eight tables and about twenty minutes on each table before the bell would sound and it was time for the brewer to move on.

The food was plentiful and delicious. The main of roast pork featured some heart stopping good cracking and social etiquette was the only thing stopping me from licking the plate clean from the beet cured ocean trout.

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The beers, as you’d expect, were all stunning. Each brewer had one of their beers represented and the taps flowed freely. Picking a favourite would be like choosing your favourite child … but since I don’t have any I guess it should be easier. I’m going to go with Bright Brewery’s Fainters Dubbel – it still stands out in my mind and after nine days of Good Beer Week, that means I really, really liked it.

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It was a fantastic event with great food, tasty beers and magnificent company. What made the evening a complete stand out was all this combined with excellent service from the staff at the Local Taphouse and having Pete Mitcham aka Professor Pilsner to host proceedings.

“In no particular order but starting with number one …”, Pete Mitcham

On stage Pete got the event started by introducing each brewer with a few words and a round of applause before they were sacrificed/seated at their first table.

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The story of the beer from Camden that almost didn’t make it

Jasper Cuppaidge – Camden Town Brewing (UK)

“We love lager!”, Jasper told our table so it’s not surprising he chose his Camden Town USA Hells Lager to bring along to Brewers and Chewers. The USA Hells Lager had lovely citrus, cereal and apricot notes and light stone fruit flavours and is an American hopped version of their regular Hells Lager.

But the beer nearly didn’t make the journey from UK to Melbourne and at the last minute Jasper was left with little option but to put the beer on a plane. Jasper joked, “it cost more to get the beers here than it did me!”.

Jasper also chatted about what’s coming up soon for Camden Town including plans to go to cans and a twice yearly keg swap with Stone & Wood (Byron Bay, Australia). Exciting!

The story of how Eric was destined to become a brewer          

Eric Ottaway – Brooklyn Brewery (USA)

Eric said that for him it’s all about good beer and friends, he was clearly in good company at Brewers and Chewers.

I asked Eric how he got into brewing, “do you believe in fate?” he asked in reply. Eric was in health care before he began as a brewer and has since discovered that his great, great, great, great, great uncle had links to a hop farm in Brooklyn. It seems Eric may have been destined to brew great beer for us!

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The story of why My Wife’s Bitter

Brennan Fielding – Burleigh Brewing (QLD)

Burleigh Brewing make a beer called ‘My Wife’s Bitter’. It begs the question, why? It’s an obvious question and one that Brennan seems to be asked frequently. I asked him at our table and then later the host, Pete Mitcham, asked him to tell the story for the crowd.

“How many nights did you sleep on the couch?”, Pete asked Brennan.

“You guys have it all wrong”. Here’s the story.

It was actually Peta’s, Brennan’s wife, idea to name the beer. Whilst in Hawaii Brennan made beer and named one after their daughter and another after their son. “Why don’t I have a beer named after me?” Peta asked Brennan. There was no reason, the right beer just hadn’t come up yet. Then one day, whilst hanging out the washing, Peta had a lightbulb moment. “My beer’s name is My Wife’s Bitter”, she exclaimed, as in a bitter beer for her not a statement about her. However Brennan didn’t feel the meaning would translate in Hawaii where there’s no English heritage for the traditional English style. “Hold on to that name”, he told her.

At Burleigh Brewing the beer started life as a special release beer and now is part of their regular line up, so Brennan made an English Bitter as a gift for his wife.

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The story of many, many new beers        

Jos Ruffel – Garage Project (NZ)

I had to ask about the Garage Project their 24/24 concept – 24 new beers in 24 weeks – I had to ask “why?”

“The more you brew the better you get” Jos remarked and after brewing 40 new beers in their first year of operation he would know what he’s talking about. Initially gaining brewing inspiration from chefs and restaurants in what ingredients they use and how they use it, they now have their own library of ingredients. The brewery itself has transformed into it’s own source inspiration. With this in mind, check out their GABS beer – Death from Above.

The story of beer battles in Italy        

Leo DiVincenzo – Birra Del Borgo (Italy)

I only know two things about beers in Italy,

1. Moretti

2. Birra Del Borgo’s Duchessic is one of the best beers I’ve ever had.

The Italian craft beer scene is clearly very healthy; Leo estimates there are more than 500 craft brewers – “we are all fighting against Peroni, Moretti and Heineken”.

With so many craft brewers in a country known for it’s wine I couldn’t help but find some similarities between Italy and Margaret River. Given a recent article that threw up the idea that breweries in the south west were harming the reputation of the Margaret River wine region, I asked if there was any competition between craft brewers and wineries.  The answer was simply no. A sentiment that I am confident is shared by the vast majority of the south west but I was interested to ask.

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The story of Scott’s first ever barley wine

Scott Brandon – Bright Brewery (VIC)

We talked about the Great Australiasian Beer SpecTAPular and his entry into the festival – the Supermucilaginisticepialidocious. Not only is it a mouth full but it’s a barley wine. They went for this style because he had never brewed one before which begged the question, “how is it?”, we asked.

“It’s awesome”, he replied.

I had the Bright Fainters Dubbel with dessert and it was an amazing match. The dessert of honeycomb ice cream, chocolate stout brownie and butterscotch sauce was chewy and decedant, nutty and sweet. The dubbel’s richness, raisins and spice was a perfect compliment.

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All brewers were fantastic company, each time the bell rang it was much too soon. Other brewers who I haven’t mentioned yet are Tim Thomas from Hop Dog (NSW) and Ashur Hall from Illawarra Brewing Company (NSW) who were also excellent company but sadly my note taking wasn’t perfect.

Thanks to Steve, Guy, Ashley, Head Chef Paul and all the staff at The Local Taphouse for going to great lengths to ensure we all had a lovely night, never wanting for anything.

Thanks to Pete Mitcham for being the host with the most, it was great to meet you and I hope to cross paths again with you soon, preferably where there’s beer of course.

And of course thank you to the Tim, Scott, Ashur, Jasper, Leo, Jos, Brennan and Eric, it was a genuine pleasure to meet all of you. So long and thank you for all the beer.

Gnocchi + IPA

Homemade Gnocchi with Chorizo and Mushrooms matched with Queensland’s Burleigh Brewing FIGJAM IPA

A few months ago my partner and I attended a Tasty of Tuscany cooking school at Wildwood Valley in Margaret River. It was a great way to spend a Saturday and with a variety of classes, accommodation and both full and half day options it really is a must-do. It’s also BYO so it’s great to a) take along some delicious beer and b) see the funny faces you get from everyone else who took along a bottle of wine.

Matching Sierra Nevada Summerfest with Slow Cooked Mushrooms ... yup, we were the only ones with beer!
Matching Sierra Nevada Summerfest with Crostini with Funghi and Olio di Tartufo
And yes, we were the only ones with beer!
It was an awesome match of crisp beer happily cutting through the creamy, oily mushrooms

One of the dishes we made that day was Pan Fried Gnocchi with Roasted Pumpkin, Ricotta and Sage. The dish had turned out beautifully and we loved the light, pillowy gnocchi so decided it was about it we tried doing it at home.

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Making Gnocchi at Wildwood Valley Cooking School
Top Right – Gnocchi after it’s been in boiling water then blanched quickly in ice water
Bottom Right – Gnocchi in the pan over high heat

Sadly we were without some of the ingredients required so decided instead to do our gnocchi with slowly sauteed mushrooms with smoked paprika and diced chorizo and, of course, a generous knob of butter. The result was just as tasty and it means I will now be crossing off gnocchi from my list of things to order at restaurants since it’s fun and yum to make at home!

We matched this with a bottle of Burleigh Brewing FIGJAM IPA that we stumbled across randomly at a Dan Murphy’s in Perth. It’s another beautiful beer that’s really well balanced. I got a hit of marmalade, spices and tropical fruit on the nose and then its backed up with great hoppy bitterness but nothing too overpowering (so I was surprised to find it is 70 IBU, just goes to show how surprising beer can be!)

Left - Burleigh Brewing FIGJAM IPA<br />Right - Pan Fried Gnocchi

It was quiet a good match, the paprika in the mushrooms sealed the deal by adding a delicate spice that went really well with the beer and because the gnocchi itself was quite light it wasn’t fighting against the beer. Food and beer win!

Pan Fried Gnocchi

Royal Blue Potatoes

Plain Flour

Salt

Butter

Olive Oil

Chorizo (we used Coat of Arms Chorzio from the Margaret River Venison Farm cause it’s very full flavoured so you don’t need much)

Mushrooms

Paprika

Parmesan

Once you’ve made your gnocchi dough and you want to cut it up we found that the trusty paint scraper (that we use for our BBQ) works a treat.  Once cut you want to throw them into boiling water and when they float up to the top, fish them out and throw them into iced water. Allow to cool and then remove onto an oiled pan. Once you’ve done them all, pop into the fridge for a bit. The pan frying bit is easy – high heat and don’t burn them!

The mushrooms can be kicked off first, popped into a frying pan on low heat and allowed to simmer for ages. Just keep adding a splash of water for moisture, trust me, they’ll be tops! Add spices and keep simmering away before throwing in with the gnocchi at the last minute.