girl + festival [part 2]

A few days before the South West Craft Beer Festival I received an email from Carolina at Buzz Marketing, the team behind the event, to tell me I had been chosen to participate as a beer judge. Moi? A judge? It seemed a little strange since my only qualification is drinking. I have not studied brewing nor have I home brewed, I’ve just enjoyed drinking and recently done a little typing but hey, I was happy to run with it. It sounded like a good fun!

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A few days before the South West Craft Beer Festival I received an email from Carolina at Buzz Marketing, the team behind the event, to tell me I had been chosen to participate as a beer judge as part of the People’s Choice Award.

Moi? A judge? It seemed a little strange since my only “qualification” is drinking. I have not studied brewing nor have I home brewed, I’ve just enjoyed drinking and recently done a little typing but hey, I was happy to run with it. It sounded like a good fun!

The People’s Choice Award was designed to be a collaborative effort between votes cast by the people and four judges consisting of Brian Fitzgerald, President of the Western Australian Brewers Association; Vic Crossland, beer writer for The West Australian, Jeremy Sambrooks, freelance beer writer for The Crafty Pint, Australian Brews News, Beer and Brewer Magazine and Menu Magazine; and little ol’ me, blogger and occasional Crafty and Brews News contributor.

Voting was done with good old fashioned paper and pen with punters asked to submit their top five. A smiley friendly man in a green beer bottle suit, Scotty, ran around in the afternoon to encourage people to get their votes in.

Next year I’d like to see a smart phone app, or something similar, to make voting even easier. Having said that, Scotty was a great sight running around the festival!

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Whilst the votes were tallied the judges took the chance to sit and chat about beer, certainly not a shocking turn of events I’m sure. The Bootleg Brewery Bramling Cross had really impressed and we all agreed that Jeremy Good’s Cowaramup Pilsener was still sensational. There was a lot of beer to chose from and sadly all of us had a small list of beers we had not been able to get to in time, this is the first world problem of the craft beer judge.

For me, my top 5 was largely made up of new or limited release beers because they were the main ones I tried that day. With just a few hours and a self imposed restriction on booze intake, no-one wants a boozy judge, I skipped over beers like Old Coast Road Wheat, Bootleg Raging Bull, Eagle Bay Pale Ale, Colonial Kolsch and Cowaramup Pilsener because I knew they were great having drunk one or twelve in the past.  Instead I tried to get my hands on new stuff and so my top 5 looked something like this, and in no particular order –

  1. Eagle Bay Summer Ale
  2. Bootleg Brewery Bramling Cross
  3. Duckstein Ubekannt
  4. Bush Shack Brewery Old Saint Nick
  5. Cheeky Monkey Hagenbeck Belgian IPA

The People’s Choice Top Five looked like this –

  1. Colonial Kolsch
  2. Eagle Bay Kolsch
  3. Eagle Bay Pale Ale
  4. Old Coast Road Acres of Wheat
  5. Bush Shack Brewery Twisted Lemon Lager

We were given the people’s choice top five, scrambled so we didn’t know what had been voted number one, and discussed the list for a while. All judges highly rated the Colonial Kolsch brewed by Head Brewer Mal Secourable and when we found out it was the people’s number 1 it was clear that we had ourselves a winner!

I know Mal has worked hard to get the Kolsch to be as close to a true Cologne (German) Kolsch beer as possible, keeping a careful eye over each batch and the result is clear. Fresh citrus, soft bitterness and a delicate mouth feel, it’s always a pleasure to have whether you’re at the brewery, The Royal on the Waterfront in East Perth or The Print Hall in Perth City.

Congratulations to Mal, Sorcha, Rich, Sarah and the rest of the crew at Colonial – looking forward to seeing the trophy behind the bar!

… part two down, one more to go!

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Richard from Colonial Brewing accepting the People’s Choice Trophy for their Kolsch
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Me with Richard from Colonial Brewing

girl + festival [part 1]

Recently the second annual South West Craft Beer Festival was held at 3 Oceans Winery in Margaret River. I went along on behalf of The Crafty Pint, you can read my article for Crafty here, so I was lucky enough to attend both days as a VIP.

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Recently the second annual South West Craft Beer Festival was held at 3 Oceans Winery in Margaret River. I went along on behalf of The Crafty Pint, you can read my article for Crafty here, so I was lucky enough to attend both days as a VIP.

I know a lot of people were unhappy with the festival organisation. There was a long line to get in, a line to buy tokens and more lines for beer. The South West Craft Beer Festival Facebook page reflected these frustrations and it was great to see the organisers jump in, acknowledge the problems and apologise, promising to address these issues next year. I’m sure we’ll see this great event just get better and better.

My partner and I had driven into 3 Oceans and upon seeing the line decided to kill some time at Cowaramup Brewing, a mere 10-15 minutes down the road. A walk through their hop bines and a middy later, we were back at the festival more than ready to get into the swing of things.

Beer and Hops at Cowaramup

First up we tried the Duckstein Wolf Pale Ale, an unfiltered American Pale Ale, that I really enjoyed though didn’t get the typical big grapefruit, pine needle characteristics that I was expecting. I got big aromas of cooked lemon and spices whilst the palate had a nice fruitiness and upfront bitterness. That’s the beer in the top picture if you want to see its hazy glory!

Next up was the latest seasonal from Michael Brookes at Bootleg Brewery, the Bramling Cross. It’s a twist on an extra special bitter using imported Chinese Blackcurrant tea in post fermentation and the English hop variety Bramling Cross, known for its blackcurrant characteristics. This beer completely blew me away with it’s subtle tartness and bitterness that was perfectly balanced with fresh blackcurrant fruit. Initially I tried the Bramling Cross at the start of December and since then this beer has really settled, all the flavours have balanced out and created a very unique and beautiful beer.

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Not to get all boring and talk about the weather but it was a freakin’ sensationally sunny day. So much so that it seemed improper not to stop by the Eagle Bay Brewing stall and have a glass of their Single Batch Summer Ale. Though it had only been a few weeks since we were introduced it was great to revisit such a tasty little number. Tropical fruits, fresh bitterness, citrus and pineapple. Gorgeous.

We pulled on our metaphorical lederhosen and walked back to see the guys at Duckstein Brewery where they were pouring something new. Assistant Manger, Patrick, presented us with their latest limited release, the Unbekannt. German for “unknown” it is a beer with no proper stylistic home. Head Brewer (or as Patrick says, “the hardest working brewer in WA”) Shannon Grigg has used Belgian yeast and German malts to create a complex and tasty ale with funk, toast, chocolate and red fruit all getting along nicely.

It was time for some food and though there was some delicious food being put out in the VIP room I wasn’t about to miss out on a Spicy Goat Balls Sub from my friend Mitch, aka Beersine.

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Back to the beers again and this time I stole a gulp of a friend’s honey pale ale from Brew 42. It was just enough to think “damn that was tasty, I gotta remember to visit them!” and add it to my long, long beery to-do-list.

I don’t think a beer festival in WA has gone by without me having a Colonial Kolsch and a freshly shucked oyster. It’s now a ritual and one I’m happy to continue until they stop serving me!

I reacquainted myself with the the Cheeky Monkey Hagenback Belgian IPA and had one of those moments when you realise your memory of a beer has barely done it’s justice. Good hits of citrus and tropical fruits, a little honey and a whack of bitterness.

In between trying to serve a long queue of thirsty drinkers Josh, Assistant Brewer at Bush Shack Brewery, managed to find a little of their Old Saint Nick Christmas Ale just before punters had run them dry. Thick and devilishly moreish with big red fruit characteristics I instantly wanted more. I added another brewery visit to Bush Shack to my list of things to do!

By this time it was getting late into the afternoon and there was the People’s Choice Award. Votes had to be counted from punters and the judges added their two cents too – somehow I ended up in that category but that’s all for Part 2 I think …

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