Girl + GABS

This year saw 90 unique beers hit the taps! Combined with lots of old favourites from dozens upon dozens of brewers, it was enough to blow my Untappd count into the next century (if I could be bothered updating it frequently of course!)

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The Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular, aka GABS, was held at the Melbourne Royal Exhibition Hall on Friday 24th – Sunday 26th May. It coincided with the last three days of Good Beer Week so I deliberately didn’t booked any GBW events for my partner and I on Saturday so it could be our “GABS day”.

GABS is the brain child of Steve and Guy, the guys behind The Local Taphouse venues in Darlinghurst and St Kilda. I had the pleasure of meeting Steve and Guy when I visited GABS. They are obviously passionate about craft beer and about providing the right platform for consumers to enjoy, discover and share.

Thursday GABS

So, what is GABS? I’m glad you asked – it’s a beer festival that celebrates brewing creativity. At the heart of the festival are the GABS beers – those which are brewed specially for the festival. This year saw 90 unique beers hit the taps! Combined with lots of old favourites from dozens upon dozens of brewers, it was enough to blow my Untappd count into the next century (if I could be bothered updating it frequently of course!). And it wasn’t just Australian brewers showing off, breweries from the United States, the UK, Italy and Aussie neighbours New Zealand also showed off their brewing flair.

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The folk at GABS were kind enough to provide me with a media pass for the event and our friends at Eagle Bay Brewing provided my partner with a ticket. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I love the beer community, their generosity knows no bounds. Thank you Steve and Guy, thank you Margi and Adrian.

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Best Beer of GABS

The “best of” categories fell into two categories – People’s Choice and Brewer’s Choice.

My vote for the People’s Choice Best Beer of GABS went to the collaboration brew from Moon Dog / Nøgne Ø – Selvmordstokt, a cherry wheat porter. Gorgeous black cherry, coconut and chocolate, a little funky and a whole lot yummy.

The winner was Bacchus Brewing White Chocolate Raspberry Pilsner and sadly one I didn’t have! I did try their White Chocolate Pilsner at Dejavu as part of Pint of Origin and very much enjoyed it. I even thought it had a touch of raspberry to it, perhaps it was my palate trying to tell me something about the future. Congratulations to Bacchus, hopefully we see this make it into their regular line up for more folks to enjoy.

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The winner of the Brewer’s Choice went to a brewery who must have a hell of a trophy cabinet these days – Feral Brewing for their Barrique O Karma. Being one of my favourite brewers and from my home state, I made sure I didn’t miss out on this one. It had a soft and sweet maltiness and the nose on it was great. Being that it’s based on their Karma Citra, a black IPA, that I have enjoyed many times it’s unsurprising I really liked this one.

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More Beery Highlights

Staying with Feral, their collaboration with Richard from The Wig & Pen (ACT) was appropriately called ‘Pig Pen’ tipping its hat to both breweries (not that pigs wear hats of course … actually maybe some do) it was called a ‘free range ale’. What does this mean? I’m not sure, perhaps it comes from the ingredients reading like a global shopping list or perhaps simply because they didn’t brew it to a specific style. Regardless of the reason it is a very good drop. Slightly tart, refreshing and with great drinkability. It was the first beer I wrote “yum” beside.

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Two Birds Brewing (VIC) Taco, “a hoppy wheat beer with inspiration” or as I wrote it “wheat beer with omf”. Twitter and crackbook had provided a few insights into this beer so I knew to expect lime and coriander and that’s exactly what I got. It was inspired after eating fish tacos in San Diego and so I’m not sure whether I read this and expected to taste corn chips or whether I really could taste corn chips. Either way, damn good beer!

Birra Del Borgo (ITA) won me over with their fabulous name – Myrtle’s Bunga Bunga Party. A spiced ale that was just lovely with honey and almost nectar sweetness. Also oddly moreish.

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Speaking of fun names, Cacao Cabana from Eagle Bay (WA) and The Monk (WA) had a smushed banana flavour going on with soft chocolate notes buried inside. It was like peeling back the layers on a dessert!

Gary the White from Colonial Brewing (WA) was a white stout, dry and rich, the flavours were all strangely familiar packaged in the unexpected. Fab!

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The GABS beer from Steve ‘Hendo’ Henderson’s Brewcult had been a bit of a talking point in the lead up to the event. A collaboration brew with Steve’s brother, a craft vinegar maker, it was described as porter infused with barrel aged balsamic vinegar. The aptly named “Acid Freaks” had the beer geeks intrigued. I had met Hendo by chance a few days earlier and asked how Acid Freaks had turned out. He simply replied that he didn’t want to say too much and inadvertently influence peoples opinions but he would say he was happy with it. My notes read: “soft tang, weirdly stunning”. The all important balance of sweet and bitter was spot on. God I hope he sends some to WA.

Taking me back to my childhood, the Duckstein (WA) Porter tasted like lamingtons. I love beers that evoke my memories and this beer did exactly that.

So many beers …. god that was amazing! Thank you GABS, loved every minute!

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Business Time + Brewery

Let me set the scene …

It’s a Saturday afternoon and inside Eagle Bay Brewing there is what appears to be a monk dressed in a brown robe, held together with just visible safety pins, staring into a mash tun.

If you had looked inside Eagle Bay Brewing on Saturday you may have seen what appeared to be a monk dressed in a brown robe, that was held together with safety pins, and peering into a mash tun.

Now you might be asking the all important question, “why?” Because Eagle Bay Brewing have teamed up with The Monk to brew a collaboration beer for GABS. Paul, the head brewer for The Monk, has a monk robe that he wears from time to time and thankfully this was one of those times. The beer is call the Cacao Cabana and you can read here to discover more about the beer.

The birth of Cacao Cabana was serenaded by Flight of the Conchord’s “Business Time” played during mash in. There was no good reason for this other than because someone had mentioned the song earlier and we all had a giggle. Paul’s monk robes were a hit but since they were held together with only a handful of safety pins we were all glad he’d chosen to keep his clothes on underneath. You had to admire his dedication to character as he remained in his robes from milling to mash.

Watching the brewers work together, finding out differences in approaches or minor cases of equipment envy (“man, I wish we had one of those at my brewery!”) was also interesting.

And at the end of the day we sat down with pints of Eagle Bay Single Batch Summer Ale (just 15 litres to go). Great day for what I’m sure will be a great beer!

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Two Monks and an Eagle walk into a Brewery …

Two monks and an eagle walk into a brewhouse …

The guys at Eagle Bay Brewing and The Monk Brewery & Kitchen were kind enough to invite myself and my partner to join them on Saturday at Eagle Bay Brewing. We were invited for a special occasion (not merely for our witty banter and captivating conversational skills of course) of the first brew day for their collaboration brew for the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular festival.

The guys at Eagle Bay Brewing and The Monk Brewery & Kitchen were kind enough to invite myself and my partner to join them on Saturday at Eagle Bay Brewing. We were invited for a special occasion (not merely for our witty banter and captivating conversational skills of course), the first brew day for their collaboration brew for the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular festival.

Eagle Bay and Monk Collage

The Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular, or simply GABS for short, is a three day beer festival in Melbourne that brings together brewers from Australia, New Zealand and beyond. It’s a great opportunity to taste craft beer and meet the brewers; there is also live entertainment, educational seminars and gourmet food stalls. It’s no wonder the event attracts so much attention … and it only started last year. The 2013 edition of GABS is happening on Friday 24th – Sunday 25th May, coinciding with the final days of the annual Good Beer Week.

The highlight of GABS are the festival beers, beers brewed especially for the festival showcasing brewing creativity and experimentation. Previous GABS beers that have won the hearts of beer fans include Feral Watermelon Warhead and Yeastie Boys Gunnamatta IPA which have gone on to be regular brews for Feral and Yeastie Boys alike.

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The South West’s own Eagle Bay Brewing have teamed up with Fremantle’s The Monk to create a beer for GABS – the Cacao Cabana.

If by this point you don’t have Barry Manilow singing Copacabana in your head then you’re a stronger person than me.

Spending the day with brewers is always both educational and very funny but I’ll save the details of brew day antics for another post, for now here are some beery details to get your palate excited …

Eagle Bay and The Monk Grid

What’s Happening …

Eagle Bay Brewing | Head Brewer – Nick d’Espeissis

The Monk Brewery & Kitchen | Head Brewer – Paul Wyman, Assistant Brewer – Jack

Cacao Cabana | Choc Brown Hefeweizen

Cacao Cabana in Fermentation Tank

The Inspiration …

Paul wanted to make a beer reminiscent of choc/banana lollipops and was also keen to play with a hefeweizen yeast. He threw the idea at Nick and he jumped on board, bringing with him the know-how in using cacao husks in beer (having brewed with them for their winter single batch Cacao Stout), the idea for an English brown ale base and an invitation to come hang out down south.

Brazilian Cacao Husks

The Beer …

The Cacao Cabana uses a hefeweizen yeast with cacao husks from Bahen & Co Chocolate, Margaret River, and an English Brown Ale base.

Hops – English varieties East Kent Goldings and Target. The beer will be yeast driven, Paul and Nick are looking for big fat banana characteristics from the hefeweizen yeast so they don’t want too much hop aroma interfering.

Malts – a pale malt base with the likes of carafa (German roasted malt), caramunich and a touch of wheat thrown in.

Cacao Husks – from Margaret River company Bahen & Co who make stone ground chocolate from bean to bar. During the chocolate making process the cacao beans are broken, separating the nibs from the husks and these husks are a by-product. Thankfully they had somewhere to go – into this beer! Paul and Nick are using husks from Brazilian and Madagascan cacao beans, about even amounts of both, thrown into the mash. There is a chance they will also be used for dry hopping too.

All GABS festival beers are released first at the festival so if you’re heading along to Melbourne be sure to give it a go, I know I’ll be there!

Paul, Nick and Jack

Big thanks to Eagle Bay’s Margi, Nick and Adrian, and also Paul and Jack from The Monk, for inviting us to Eagle Bay Brewing for the day. It’s always an education to hang out with brewers and learn about brewing plus there’s always a laugh and a beer too. Thanks also to the chefs at Eagle Bay Brewing for feeding us during a busy lunch service and spoilt us with amazing pizzas, pate, cheese, bread and fries. 

27 April 2013 | Update

I dropped into Eagle Bay Brewing on Friday, taking advantage of their special $15 growler refills, and Nick kindly have me a sample of the Cacao Cabana. Only just post ferment, the beer has a lovely banana characteristic, real fresh banana. The chocolate is there but very subtle, Nick tells me there might be a case to throw in more cacao husks, “dry husking” you might even call it! Oh how intriguing! I can’t wait for GABS!