GBW 2014: Mega Dega

Last year’s Mega Dega was held after the East versus West event and since I couldn’t see myself surviving a multi-course lunch AND multi-course dinner I opted to only attend East versus West.

This year things were different and I grabbed my ticket for Mega Dega II

GABS: The Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular festival held over three days at the Royal Exhibition Building featuring over 100 beers, market stalls, seminars, food and on one day there were free haircuts!

My day started with a GABS session before heading to Pope Joan for the second edition of Mega Dega, not a bad way to warm up for a big dinner.

There were canapés of mushroom croquettes and oysters on arrival along with a glass of Boatrocker’s Mitte Berliner Weisse style beer. Matt, owner and brewer at Boatrocker, introduced the beer which uses two strains of yeast, Brettanomyces and a German ale yeast, and is aged in Chardonnay barrels. Mitte is delicately sour, very refreshing and is now my new favourite way to start a meal.

1st Course

Beef kibbeh nayeh, crisp flat bread, fresh herbs, cucumber & radish crudités, Lebanese & Iranian pickled vegetables

… paired with 961 Lebanese Pale Ale

Food By: Joseph Abboud from Rumi / Moor’s Head

Beef kibbeh nayeh, crisp flat bread, fresh herbs, cucumber & radish crudités, Lebanese & Iranian pickled vegetables
Beef kibbeh nayeh, crisp flat bread, fresh herbs, cucumber & radish crudités, Lebanese & Iranian pickled vegetables

This dish was like a minced beef tartare and had bulgur wheat mixed through; its softly sweet flavours were wonderfully contrasted by the pickled vegetables and big sprigs of fresh herbs like mint and Italian parsley.

Why 961? That’s the Lebanese telephone code!

961 Lebanese Pale Ale is made to reflect Lebanese food and uses spices such as za’atar, otherwise known as wild thyme, sage, anise and chamomile. The result is a beer that’s unsurprisingly big on spice with a pleasant tropical fruit base.

Together the beer and food paired smoothly, the pale ale adding a nice spice to the dish whilst the fruity sweetness complemented the soft sweet meet.

2nd Course

Hay Custard, Portarlington Mussels and Pickles

Food By: Rob Kaboord from Merricote

… paired with Weihenstephan Kreuz des Sudens Weizenbock

An interesting dish with the hay custard carrying some very soft flavours and adding a big textual feature to the course. The custard set naturally and therefore did not use any eggs causing Rob too joke, “I kinda wish we’d used one or two eggs,” given the 120 custards they had to made for the 120 people in attendance.

Hay Custard, Portarlington Mussels and Pickles
Hay Custard, Portarlington Mussels and Pickles

The Kreuz Des Sudens uses Weinhenstephan’s traditional yeast as well as a bordeaux yeast which their brewer Frank says “you have to kick it a little” when working with wine yeasts such as this. The beer’s name roughly translates to “southern cross” as it was inspired by Australia and uses Australian Galaxy hops however the words “southern cross” are protected, hence the German translation. The Galaxy hops give the beer a lovely passionfruit aroma alongside some banana and toffee. Kreuz des Sudens is big on tropical fruits like mango and pineapple with a clean bitter finish.

3rd Course

Slow Cooked Wild Rabbit & Chorizo with Homemade Green Sriracha

on the side: Autumn Vegetable Fattoush, Pine Mushroooms, Roasted & Smoked Garlic and New Potatoes, Capers and Caramelised Onion

Food By: Rohan Anderson from Whole Larder Love

… paired with Renanissance Stonecutter Scotch Ale

Slow Cooked Wild Rabbit & Chorizo with Homemade Green Sriracha
Slow Cooked Wild Rabbit & Chorizo with Homemade Green Sriracha

“He’s basically been killing things for your pleasure”

Good Beer Week/Crafty Pint’s James Smith sure knows how to introduce someone and Rohan followed through effortlessly with some great commentary around the planning and preparation for the dish. “Rabbits are fluffy and juicy but there will be no fluff, just juicy,” Rohan declared. Each bunny was “skinned, gutted, massaged and loved” and for 120 people, that’s a lot of bunnies to shot and prep as Rohan humorously pointed out when asking everyone to think about this with each bite of food and gulp of beer. We were indeed tasting a labour of love.

His efforts were not under appreciated though; the rabbit had a good peppery and spicy kick mixed through the soft meat and it was hard not to go back for more.

As a match it was a stand out for the night with the rich maltiness and spice in the Stonecutter making for a gorgeous pairing.

AIBA: Australian International Beer Awards

Scotch Ale: aka Week Heavy, malt driven (since hops won’t grow in Scotland) and top fermenting

The beer was introduced by their brewer Andy, fresh from winning Champion Small Brewery at this years AIBAs. The Stonecutter is Renaissance’s flagship beer with a personal connection for Andy as his parents are Scottish. Andy explained the malt driven nature of Scotch Ales in a way I’ll never forget – “buying hops meant given money to the English.” Stonecutter uses 9 different malts including a small amount of distilling malt, the result is a really beautiful beer, one that I will be keeping an eye out for now that I’m back home, with toast, cinnamon and a hint of smoke just a few flavours coming through this complex malty brew.

“Makes great pies”

Andy, Renaissance Brewing on their Stonecutter Scotch Ale

Roasted and Smoked Garlic New Potatoes
Roasted and Smoked Garlic New Potatoes

5th Course

Food by: Darren Purchese from Burch & Purchese

… paired with Murray’s Grand Cru

Orange, Malt, Caramel, Honey and Chocolate
Orange, Malt, Caramel, Honey and Chocolate

The previous course was a highlight but this one knocked it out of the park. The dessert and the beer complemented each other so much so that if they were people they would have been mockingly told to get a room. The dessert emphasised the bright orange citrus in the beer whilst the Grand Cru highlighted the dessert’s rich chocolate base. The caramel in the dessert shined through the Grand Cru’s dank, apricot, lemony goodness.

Orange, Malt, Caramel, Honey and Chocolate
Orange, Malt, Caramel, Honey and Chocolate

“We wanted to do something different from the traditional chocolate malted beer with chocolate dessert,” Shawn from Murray’s said and they definiately achieved that and then some! According to Shawn it’s one of the best matches he’s ever had with one of his beers.

6th Course

Cheese: Pecora’s Jamberoo Mountain Blue & Berry’s Creek Tarwin Blue

… paired with Mornington Peninsula Russian Imperial Stout

Mega Dega

Merricote’s Rob Kaboord introduced the cheese and beer course, presenting two types of blue cheese. The Percora’s Jamberboo a sheep’s milk cheese from NSW, lightly chalky and soft, like a halloumi cheese that has been dipped in mould. The Berry’s Creek hailed from VIC, a cow’s milk but with more pronounced blue flavours, salty, rich and fruity.

“Holy fuck, what are we going to match with this?!”

Rob on the hunt for a pair with the Mornington Russian Imperial Stout

“AG”, brewer at Mornington Peninsula, introduced the beer remarking it was the fourth time during Good Beer Week that he was discussing this brew. I guess we all have impeciable taste! For AG the match showcased the classic roasty malt and salty cheese pairing that seems to work time and time again.

Good Beer Week 2014

Here’s my calendar for the “week” and I cannot wait to drink beer, over indulge in meat and cheese, soak up as much beery knowledge as I can and, most of all, hang out with some really great people!

It’ just over a week until Good Beer Week kicks off for 2014 and to say I’m excited is a small understatement. It’s like saying that having a TARDIS would be a really nifty way of travelling. No it wouldn’t, it would be freakin’ amazing, just like Good Beer Week is going to be!

Planning for this began last year. I work for a big company so they ask you to submit your requests for annual leave for the year towards the end of the previous year. This meant I booked off my holiday for Good Beer Week many months in advance. Did I know for sure I was going? No. Did I book the time off work just in case? Hell yes.

Months went by, 2014 arrived and before you knew it the Good Beer Week program was coming up! I needed to get my act together if I was going, I needed flights and a bed to crawl into.

Hello Jetstar sale! Love cheap flights, I snapped up those bad boys quick smart. I rang the hotel I stayed in last year. Got an available room? Great weekly rate that didn’t cost the earth? Yup! Done! I was just short of a packed bag and it was only March.

Then the Good Beer Week program was released … Mother. Of. God. This thing is EPIC! The program is one great event after another; my copy will be dog eared before I’ve even checked my bags.

Here’s my calendar for the “week” and I cannot wait to drink beer, over indulge in meat and cheese, soak up as much beery knowledge as I can and, most of all, hang out with some really great people!

Saturday 17 May

A free day, I haven’t bought any tickets for events at all. Perhaps a good chance to check out Pint of Origin venues, tap takeovers in selected Melbourne bars based on geography – all corners of Australia are represented along with New Zealand, Europe, USA and The Rest of the World.

There are also a tonne of free entry, week long events I’d like to check out, including Cookie’s Daily Food and Beer Matching, Rogue Beer and Burger at Beer DeLuxe and Mystery Cellar Dwellers at The Local Taphouse.

The Royston - one of the many PoO locations

Sunday 18 May
The Event: Brew vs Cru featuring Garrett Oliver [sold out]

Why I’m going: Because I’d kick myself, punch myself, slap myself, if I did not go to this event. First, its Garrett Oliver – brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery and beer author, I need to hear what this man has to say! Second, it is being held at Vue de Monde Rialto – a restaurant I have heard outstanding comments about. Third, not that I really need one, is the five courses of food, beer and wine pairing.

Excitement Level: Kid who has skulled red cordial and has a free pass to Disneyland.

Sophie’s Choice: If I wasn’t going to Brew vs Cru I’d be at Barrel and Beast at The Local Taphouse, barrel aged beers matched to slow cooked meats from the Taphouse’s American smoker.

Monday 19 May

The EventRussian Imperial Banquet

Why I’m going: I love Russian Imperial Stouts, they’re like a loving embrace – lingering, comfortable and they always leave you wanting more. How I’ll be after an entire night of them is anyone’s guess but I’ll be sure to keep you updated. I’m also fortunate enough to be representing Crafty Pint at this event, hopefully I’ll be capable of writing something coherent and mildly entertaining the following morning.

Excitement Level: When you wake up in the morning after a big night out and smell bacon cooking

Sophie’s Choice: If I wasn’t at the Russian Imperial Banquet I’d be at An Evening with Yeastie Boys at East of Everything for 6 beer and 6 courses with one of my favourite NZ brewing guys!


Tuesday 20 May
The EventGarage Project & Moon Dog’s Local Taphouse Tag Team Tap Takeover

Why I’m going: Aside from the accurate and astounding alliteration (geddit?!) this event showcases two of my favourite breweries

Excitement Level: Kid in candy store but instead of a kid it’s me and instead of candy it’s awesome beer!

Sophie’s Choice: If I wasn’t at Garage Project & Moon Dog’s Local Taphouse takeover I’d be at The Baird Beer Omakase.

Wednesday 21 May
The Event: Sourfest II [sold out]

Why I’m going: I need more sour beers in my life, I truly do. This event was a sell out last year and I didn’t get along. I hear it was amazing so I’m super keen to check it out in 2014.

Excitement Level: When you finally see that band you love live in concert and you sing too loud during every song

Sophie’s Choice: If I wasn’t going to Sourfest II I’d be at Brewers and Chewers at The Local Taphouse. Much like Sourfest this was a sold out night in 2013. Speed dating crossed with a meet the brewer session over a fantastic dinner with the wonderful Pete Mitcham hosting, if last year was anything to go by, this event is a highlight.

Brewers and Chewers 2013
2013 Brewers and Chewers – the venue, the menu and the line up of brewers being interviewed by MC Pete Mitcham

Thursday 22 May
The Event: The Cheese and Cask Ale Experience

Why I’m going: It’s a cheese event, enough said. Plus I went to last year’s edition, which was not cask ale, and it was great! The pairings were genuinely tasty and interesting, I can’t wait to see what they do with cask ales.

Excitement Level: Whenever I step foot into The Re-Store in Leederville … times a hundred.

Sophie’s Choice: If I wasn’t at The Cheese and Cask Ale Experience I’d be at the AIBA Awards Presentation Dinner to cheer on and mingle with the great beer people.

Beer & Cheese Experience at The Local Taphouse last year. This years edition is featuring all cask ales!
Beer & Cheese Experience at The Local Taphouse last year. This years edition is featuring all cask ales!

Friday 23 May
The Event: Game of Cones

Why I’m going: To see some of my favourite people doing their favourite things – Colonial Brewing and Beersine team up for a beer and food matching session on board a tramcar. I’m sooo on board for this one (toot toot!)

Excitement Level: When you’re six years ago and just about to go to your best friend in the whole wide worlds birthday party and you know there’s going to be a magician, fairy bread and lots of cake!

Sophie’s Choice: No choice, it was always going to Game of Cones!

Saturday 24 May
The Event: The Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular

Why I’m going: Because it would borderline on insanity not to go. This is the beer festival to end all beer festivals, like a great barley wine this event gets better with every year. Food stalls, craft beer college, the beer market place and the shining diamond on the crown – the festival beers. Over 100 beers brewed just for the festival. Where else can you try that many brand new, never before released, beers in one place?!

Excitement Level: Remember that kid from earlier who drank the red cordial and went to Disneyland? Now they’re at the gift shop being told they can take whatever they can carry.

Sophie’s Choice: If I wasn’t as the first Saturday GABS session I’d be at Woods of the North at 3 Ravens Brewery for barrel-aged brews, whiskeys, BBQ and boilermakers! Breweries like Feral, Moondog , Boatrocker and Starward will be there for your drinking pleasure.

The Event: Mega Dega II [sold out]

Why I’m going: I missed out last year, opting not to follow a multiple course lunch with a degustation dinner, I was keen to get along this year. Four chefs, six brewers and I think I’ll be rolling out the door of this one!

Excitement Level: When they finally announce the new Doctor Who series (sorry for the second Doctor Who reference of the post but I’m getting frustrated at waiting so long between seasons).

Sophie’s Choice: If I wasn’t at Mega Dega II I’d probably be at the GABS Saturday night session!


Sunday 25 May
The Event: Boatrocker Palate Cleanser

Why I’m going: This was the wild card event of my GBW experience last year. It’s on the last day of the week and it is an EPIC week of palate abuse and indulgence and this event, though ever so slightly earlier than others at 11am is such a welcome treat for those who like their wild and sour beers. They welcome you like family, hell even one of the brewers friends even dropped my partner and I back to St Kilda in her own car last year, and it a really lovely few hours at the Boatrocker brewery.

Excitement Level: When you step off the plane in that city you’ve always wanted to explore.

Sophie’s Choice: Let’s face it, if I wasn’t at Boatrocker I’d be at the last GABS session. Hell, if I made haste I could even catch the last 30mins of GABS straight after Boatrocker!

From last years Palate Cleanser event, can't wait to see what's been happening in these barrels for the last 12 months!
From last years Palate Cleanser event, can’t wait to see what’s been happening in these barrels for the last 12 months!