Hottest 100 2014

As I get older I find my interest in Triple J’s Hottest 100 fading away; I put this down to the fact that as I am pulled kicking and screaming into my mid-thirties I now say things like “I don’t get this song” about new music and “f**k yeah!” when I hear stuff that was released when I was in my teens/early twenties.

On the flipside, The Local Taphouse Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers is increasingly of interest to me. The all Australian beer countdown is hosted by Melbourne venue The Local Taphouse, with support from Australian Brews News & Crafty Pint, and counts down our countries favourite beers from 100 to 1 on Australia Day.

See the full list of 100 beers here

Some feel as though the countdown is a bit boring what with Feral Hop Hog and Stone & Wood Pacific Ale taking out 1st and 2nd position in 2012 and 2013. Incidentally they did it again for 2014 and whilst many predicted this result for the third year running, a pretty impressive achievement even if it’s a bit repetitious, there is a lot that isn’t at all predictable from 3rd to 100th.

Excellent infographic of the 2014 results here

Here is what I noticed from the countdown –

Little Creatures

When Little Creatures was bought by Lion Nathan in 2012 there was some talk of a falling out between craft beer drinkers and LC Pale, the prediction of the end of a great love affair. Yet in this poll by aforementioned craft beer drinkers Little Creatures Pale was voted –

2012 – Little Creatures Pale Ale #3

2013 – Little Creatures Pale Ale #3

2014 – Little Creatures Pale Ale #4

I thought this year may have seen a bigger drop in Fremantle’s favourite brew but it held strong. To think this beer was #1 when the poll first started in 2008 and eight years later it continues to poll in the top 5 is fairly remarkable.

Little Creatures at Gourmet Escape 2012

On a side note Little Creatures Bright Ale jumped up 29 positions to #51. That’s huge! I have no idea what would cause this jump, I know personally I have had an on/off relationship with Bright. When it first came out I loved it, dare I say it, it was my favourite LC beer. Then I went off it, I found it too lolly sweet and now, probably in the last twelve months, I have actually enjoyed a few pint bottles of it.

Another great analysis of results can be found here at Crafty Pint

Mash Copy Cat

I genuinely wasn’t sure where this beer would poll, trying to weigh up the accolades both beer and brewery collected in 2014 with the fact that it’s a WA beer in a poll generally dominated by VIC . I think to debut at #16 is pretty impressive, equal to the impressive nature of the beer itself I reckon.

How WA Breweries Performed

Feral took the most positions with six beers in the poll followed by four beers from Little Creatures and three from Nail Brewing.

Feral Beers

 

Tasting Paddle at Feral Brewing

How I voted

I was happy to see that three of the five beers I voted for made it into the list –

#33 – Feral Watermelon Warhead

#66 – Nail – Red Ale

#70 – La Sirene – Wild Saison

My Votes - Hottest 100 Beers 2014

How I voted

Whilst I knew Cheeky Monkey was an unlikely show in the poll since their distribution isn’t much greater than WA, I was still eager to vote for it because it was such a stupidly delicious beer.

GABS 2015 will be in May hitting Melbourne and Sydney, check out the website for more info.

GABS Beers

The Great Australasian Beer Spectapular aka GABS is one of the best beer events on the Australian calendar and part of the festival involves ‘GABS Beers’, beers brewed specially for the festival. The result of a brief like this is more than 100 totally unique beers to make your Untappd check in’s skyrocket.

La Sirene’s Praline scored the highest of the GABS beers at #5 and I am super stoked I bought one from Mane Liquor when I saw it. It’s also one of the few beers I didn’t try when I was at GABS last year.

GABS Booklet 2014

See? No scratchy notes = I didn’t try La Sirene Praline at GABS 2014

Another good read can be found here at Beer is Your Friend where Glen gives his thoughts on the countdown.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Two Birds Taco place at #13, not bad considering it was a GABS beer in 2013 before being made available in bottles in about April 2014. Clearly the bottled beer was an equal success and probably able to reach more hands than at GABS because it climbed 12 places from 2013.

GABS-LOGO-FINAL-WHITE

If you like beer, whatever beer, get in and vote next year!

Did anything stand out to you about the poll? Any surprises? Did all your beers get into the countdown?

#temptingtuesday – November

As WA Beer Week approached I asked you guys a question – what are your top 3 WA beers? The only rule was that they had to be available now, draught or bottle didn’t matter just as long as it was able to be drunk right now.

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.

I dropped the ball on my own #temptingtuesday thing in November in that I missed it by an entire day. So instead we have tempting Wednesday but I figure a) no one is really paying that much attention and b) it was Melbourne Cup so I probably wasn’t really going to get a straight sober answer out of anyone that day.

Since, at the time of asking the question, it was leading to WA Beer Week I decided to ask the question,

What are your top 3 wa beers?

The only rule was that they had to be available now, draught or bottle didn’t matter just as long as it was able to be drunk right now. Normally I only ask the question on Twitter but his time I also asked Facebook, here’s how the votes were cast and thank you to everyone who posted a comment!

temptingtuesday november

As for me, well I hate to have to choose between so many of my favourite things but I did manage to narrow it down in what might be considered a predictable but certainly delicious list!

If I had to pick three ...

a trio of ales

On Saturday night I had what you might call “a tale of ales” – Matilda Bay Alpha Pale Ale, Golden Nail and Feral Hop Hog. As I tucked into each of these beers I realised that in many ways they are a tale of a different part of craft beer in WA and even my own craft beer journey …

I’m not sure what the collective noun for many ales would be. A hop back of ales? A tank of ales? A headache of ales perhaps? On Saturday night I had what you might call “a tale of ales” – Matilda Bay Alpha Pale Ale, Golden Nail and Feral Hop Hog. It wasn’t a conscious decision to get these specific beers instead my partner and I had been doing food shopping at the Bunbury Farmers Market popped into Dan Murphy’s on the way home. We happily grabbed the last 6 pack of Golden Nail, there was a 2 for deal on the four packs of Alpha and, frankly, it’s hard to go past the Hog without it leaping from the shelf and begging to be taken home.

As I tucked into each of these beers I realised that in many ways they are a tale of a different part of craft beer in WA and even my own craft beer journey …

a trio of ales

Matilda Bay Brewing – their story, my stories and their Alpha Pale Ale

The short version of the Matilda Bay story starts in 1984, brewing at The Sail & Anchor in Fremantle and this is generally considered the birth of craft beer in WA. It came about when a few friends wanted to make tasty, hand crafted and full flavoured beers. A lot of years, cash and beer and several moves later the brewery is now in Melbourne.

I was lucky to be able to go through the Matilda Bay Brewery in WA before they shut up shop and moved east. They had these big beautiful copper tanks that looked amazing. There was also a big occupational health and safety poster on the wall with an extreme close up of an eyeball with a nail in it. Who on earth brings a nail gun to a brewery?! Anyway, moving along …

The story of Matilda Bay is fairly well known however I have to giggle when I read this from their website:

They purchased a small pub called the Freemasons Hotel in Fremantle, Western Australia, installed a brewery and reopened as the Sail & Anchor Hotel. The brewery at the pub enabled the guys to control the quality and presentation of the beers and talk directly to the growing legions of converts.

I don’t giggle to make mockery of them or because I disagree, I don’t at all. I have a lot of respect for Matilda Bay. I only giggle because the way Phil Sexton, co-founder of Matilda Bay, once told the story to me, well me and a group of other people …

In 2010 I was working for Little Creatures Brewing which was then still part owned by Phil Sexton. I was a sales rep and during one of our sales conferences we were lucky enough to do a beer tasting with Phil. He picked a small range of beers and we sat, tasted the beers and we all asked a LOT of questions of Phil, hammering him like some kind of beery interrogation. After all how often do you get to pick the brain of someone who co-founded the likes of Matilda Bay, Dome Coffee and Little Creatures?

Taking a break from the sales conference and playing footy across from the brewery (2010)
Taking a break from the sales conference and playing footy across from the brewery (2010)

I remember asking Phil what had made them decide to buy a pub? I had braced myself for an answer filled with strategic thinking and powerful foresight. Instead Phil laughed and replied with a very simple answer – no-one wanted to buy their beer, if they wanted to sell their beer they were going to have to buy a pub so they could sell it themselves. It was hard to imagine Phil Sexton rocking up to bottle shops and bars and his beer being rejected by all of them. But that’s what happened.

So they bought a pub and you might be wondering, like I was, why that one in particular? Why The Sail & Anchor? I asked Phil. He smiled and simply said, “because it was the cheapest”.

Brilliant! I love this answer because it removes all the marketing spin and business awe and takes into account a) sheer determination b) dumb luck and c) a ‘screw you, I’ll find another way’ attitude that I think makes for a far more entertaining story than the one on the website.

But what about the beer?

Well Redback Original is my nostalgic favourite of the Matilda Bay line up. It brings back fond memories of my dad drinking it at The Sail & Anchor after a morning of him, me and mum wandering through the Fremantle Markets. However if you’re talking about flavour and taste then it’s gotta be Alpha Pale Ale. Piney, tropical fruits, pineapple and just a seriously tasty pale ale. I know my craft beer heart isn’t supposed to like Matilda Bay beers since they are one of the big brewers, the enemy, etc etc but this is a damn good drop.

Matilda Bay Alpha Pale Ale

Slow Food + Beer

Last Sunday at about 4pm I was eating Blackwood Valley beef that had been braised in beer, malts, herbs and spices. I was drinking Beaten Track Brewery Youngs Scotch Ale that had come all the way from Kalgoorie. I was neck deep in Slow Food Perth’s very first Sunday Session.

Slow Food Collage

Last Sunday at about 4pm I was eating Blackwood Valley beef that had been braised in beer, malts, herbs and spices. I was drinking Beaten Track Brewery Youngs Scotch Ale that had come all the way from Kalgoorie. I was neck deep in Slow Food Perth’s very first Sunday Session.

When: Sunday 21st April | Where: Taste Budd’s Cooking Studio in Highgate

Organisers:

  • Slow Food Perth, a not-for-profit organisation championing “good, clean and fair food”;
  • Mitch Mitchell aka Chef de Beersine who puts everything that goes into a brewery, sans brewer, into his food; and
  • Jessica Shaver, food photographer, beer lover and all round lovely person who sadly couldn’t make it on the day due to sickness.

With Mitch as our experienced guide we ate, drank and chatted through six Western Australian brewed beers matched to six dishes. A magical way to spend three hours on a Sunday afternoon.

Guests were welcomed with a glass of Eagle Bay Brewing Mild Ale, a great tasting, full of flavoured beer that’s also a mid-strength. It seems these two concepts don’t come together as often as they should.

P1050952

Serve #1 – Colonial Brewing Kolsch (Margaret River) + Natural Oysters

I love fresh oysters, I really do, especially when they’re freshly shucked Albany Rocks from King of Oysters Jerry Fraser. Served “naked on a half shell” the Albany Rocks were minerally, salty and plump with a creamy shine. With just a squeeze of lemon, the oysters were (as always) a lovely match to the Colonial Kolsch with it’s clean, floral and citrusy flavours cleansing the palate for the next delicious oyster.

Albany Rock Oysters + Colonial Kolsch

Before the next service Paul, head brewer from The Monk in Fremantle, gave an overview of beer plus insights into his love of brewing. Paul is a self confessed “malt-head” and enjoys making beers that push boundaries just as much as he enjoys brewing a beer perfectly to style. He went through brewing ingredients and passed around malt and hops, the gentlemen beside me seemed happy enough to eat the malt as a course!

Malt and Hops

Serve #2 – Last Drop Brewery Hefeweizen (Canning Vale) + Pumpkin Croquettes with Goat Jamon

Croquettes were a popular dish at Five Bar where I used to work so I’ve certainly had my fair share but these croquettes by Mitch were unlike any I’d had before. The croquettes were inspired by Chinese dim sum with Mitch using glutinous rice flour for a sticky gel like texture. The goat came from Chapman Valley in Geraldton and Mitch cured the meat with beer, spent grains and salt.

The Last Drop Hefeweizen is an amazing example of the style, boasting big bubblegum and banana and just as a hefe should be. The crisp mouth feel of the beer made a wonderful contrast to the sticky croquettes.

Croquettes + Hefeweizen

Serve #3 – Feral Brewing Hop Hog (Swan Valley) + Lamb Bacon with Pretzels

Hello bacon, how I adore you! Mitch cured the lamb with malt, salt and beer and then smoked it over spent grains. The result was a “tropical salty party in your mouth”, which hopefully Mitch doesn’t mind being quoted on but it’s a killer description.

Feral Hop Hog, well, everything is made better with a Hop Hog in your hands which, for me, kinda makes it the bacon of the beer world! The beer cut through the fat in the lamb whilst the tropical notes of Hop Hog contrasted well with the salt of the pretzel.

Lamb Bacon + Feral Hop Hog

Serve #4 – Beaten Track Brewery Youngs Scotch Ale (Kalgoorlie) + Braised Beef Dengaku

The beef was from Blackwood Valley Beef in the states south west, an Australian Certified Organic producer and home to “the happiest cows I’ve ever seen in my life”, says Mitch. The topside beef was braised in beer, grains, herbs and spices and topped with dengaku, a Japanese sweet miso sauce. Mitch put his beery twist on the dengaku by using chocolate and coffee malt grains, all served with eggplant and a bit of brisket on the side.

Beaten Track Brewery from Kalgoorie has only recently popped up on my radar. Their Youngs Scotch Ale had a nice toffee aroma with a sweet malty body and a little smoke. The beers sweet and soft maltiness was a compliment the bold richness in the meats.

Braised Beef and Scotch Ale

Serve #5 – The Monk Rauch (Fremantle) + Beer Cheese with Hop Honey

Ah beer cheese, I can never get enough (though I was struggling for stomach space by this stage!). Mitch uses Capel cheddar and pale ale to make his cheese and served it with his Beersine Hop Honey, made with locally grown hops. Paul from The Monk introduced his Rauch beer, made with German magnum hops with lovely smokey, caramel and bacon flavours and a soft bitter finish. The contrast between the bacon in the beer with the sweet sticky honey was delightfully different to what I might pair cheese with at home. Just goes to show the versatility in beer, like a never ending horizon that I’ve only just started to explore.

Paul at Slow Food

Beer Cheese and Rauch

Serve #6 – Nail Brewing Oatmeal Stout (Bassendean) + Off the Wagon Wheels

Mitch first created his Off the Wagon Wheels whilst working in the kitchen at The Monk, so named due to their resemblance to the Wagon Wheel biscuits we had as kids (or do they still make them?). Two grain-ita biscuits, no prizes for the key ingredient there, with a strawberry jam and hop marshmallow middle and all topped with chocolate. Not just any chocolate either but Margaret River’s Bahen & Co who make chocolate using traditional methods and just two ingredients – cacao beans and cane sugar.

Nail Oatmeal Stout provided satin smooth chocolate and coffee flavours that only enhanced the dessert, how can you go wrong with strawberry, marshmallows, chocolate and coffee?

I’m full just from writing this blog post and remembering the food and beer, I’m going to have to go and lie down now.

Thank You to all involved – Pauline and the team at Slow Food Perth, Mitch and Paras from Beersine, Paul from The Monk, Jerry Fraser – King of Oysters, Jessica Shaver, Scott Bennett, Sophie from Taste Budd’s Cooking Studio, Abhi’s Bakery and all the breweries who featured their beers and the great company of those who came along to the event.

I’ll leave you with the favourite thing I overheard at the event which was said, if memory serves me right, to Paul,

“It’s amazing how different beers are these days, beer used to be just beer”

Beer + Awards

Hitching a seat at the Perth Royal Beer Show Awards Ceremony with the team at Feral Brewing, tweeting with Jayne Lewis from Two Birds and finishing the night at Five Bar … yup, that’s a Friday night

Beautiful Three Course Dinner

Before I start I want to send a big THANK YOU to Feral Brewing

who so kindly offered me their spare seat at this years

Perth Royal Beer Show Awards Ceremony held at The Parmelia Hilton.

I arrived in the city a little early and found myself yawning so went on a mission to find a convenience store to purchase an energy drink. On my travels I ran into Mal, Head Brewer from Colonial Brewing, and brewers from Gage Roads who were on route to The Print Hall for a beer. They invited me along and beer certainly sounded a lot tastier than some horrible fluorescent energy drink.

After a pint of Colonial Alt Beer I headed to the Hilton for the big night. [Click here for a full list of the evenings winners].

The evening started with Swan Draught and Cowaramup Pilsener before we took our seats for dinner. I sat beside Jayne Lewis from Two Birds Brewing who’d been in town for the judging and having met on Twitter it was nice to make the leap into the real world. On that note don’t forget to follow Jayne on Twitter. Jayne tweets more frequently and with far more interesting stuff than I do. I got to witness her amazing high speed smart phone typing skills as trophies flew out in quick succession.

Sitting with the team from Feral, I got the chance to catch up with Brendan Varis who laughed at my story of selling Hop Hog to a customer at Clancy’s Fish Pub Dunsborough.

Customer: “What can you tell me about this?” [points to Feral Hop Hog decal]

Me: “It’s fucking awesome”

Customer: “I’ll have a pint”

Entrees arrived and I’d been looking forward to a spicy Tandoori Chicken match with Feral Hop Hog but they went rather lighter on the spices than I had hoped. Perhaps it’s just my palate-slaughtering use of chillies at home that ruined my expectations. All in all it was still a tasty dish and for those wondering, because I had to look it up too, “timbale” is kinda fancy speak for “round” and “paratha” is Indian flat bread. Fancy!

One of the highlights of the night had to be the cheers, woops and clapping from The Monk Brewery & Kitchen table as they were awarded the trophy for Best Ale Draught for their The Chief – Amarillo Edition and pulled in a few 2nd places in big categories too.

The other highlight was being witness to a healthy dose of man-love from the guys at Billabong Brewery for each of the 4 trophies they picked up – Best WA Beer of the Show, Best Commercial Beer of the Show, Best Wheat Beer Packaged and Best Wheat Beer Draught.

Mains were delicious, I think the only comment from our table was the feeling of being fooled in thinking the parsnip was another prawn spring roll!

After cleaning my plate of entree and main, and our table had requested yet another carafe of Feral Hop Hog, I was struggling to find room to fit dessert. A choice had to be made so I merely sampled the Beeramisu, lovely creamy and soft, and instead enjoyed a full glass of The Monk Porter. After all, there has to be room for beer! It poured beautifully, a nice thick head, with soft chocolate and caramel flavours that was perfect for finishing the night on … (or least finishing dinner on before catching up with Five Bar’s chef, beer dude and all round top guy, Mitch for a beer or two at Five!)