girl + SWCBF

A new venue at Busselton’s Old Broadwater Farm, tucked in behind Fairway Drive, gave the festival a bit of a make over for its third year (if my beer soaked brain recalls the years correctly)

Let’s just get it out the way early shall we? 2013 was not a good year for the South West Craft Beer Festival. From the moment those ticketing machines failed and the queue of people got progressively longer festival organisers were facing an uphill battle. I felt for them; sometimes shit goes up and there’s a fan waiting to spread it all over the place.

2014 was much brighter. Luminescent in fact.

A new venue at Busselton’s Old Broadwater Farm, tucked in behind Fairway Drive, gave the festival a bit of a make over for its third year (if my beer soaked brain recalls the years correctly). More space, more trees to relax under and a much improved layout with food and beer stalls scattered amongst each other rather than being separated like troublesome kids. I had a brief chat with organisers on the day, very happy with Saturday’s turn out, and they say next year there will be even more shade for relief from February heat. Of course having said that it rained the first year of the festival so who knows.

I walked in just after 1pm on Saturday, traditionally the busier day of the weekend long festival, and wasn’t greeted by queues, only friendly security and festival staff. Happy days!

Immediately I set about my mission, to taste the eight beers submitted for judging for the Critic’s Choice Award since the organisers were nice enough to ask me to be one of aforementioned critics. I was in fine company too – joined by fellow beer writer and award winning home brewer Jeremy Sambrooks, WA Brewers Association President Brian Fitzgerald and the Busselton-Dunsborough Mail rounding out the judging panel.

Here are the beers that were up for judging …

SW Craft Beer Festival Critic Choice

The Cheeky Monkey Hagenbeck Belgian IPA has always been a favourite of mine. When Jared “Red” Proudfoot was head brewer my tasting notes on my first pint was all praises for it’s strong bitterness, orange and piney hops. Now it’s Alex Poulsen at the brewing wheel, so to speak, and the Hagenbeck is still amazingly tasty. It’s fresher and crisper than ever with a little spice and great stone fruit flavours to whisk you into a happy IPA place.

Cheeky Monkey taps - aren't they pretty?!

Buck Shack’s Milk Stout was full of milky, chocolately, vanilla goodness but perhaps suffered from the almost overwhelming heat of the day. In fact this silly judge wore jeans so I was extra uncomfortable. It was a beer rated highly by all judges on the day.

On the other end of the weather-to-beer chart was Eagle Bay’s Summer Ale, another highly rated beer with all judges. Summer in a glass … that’s all I will say. Summer in a freaking glass.

Eagle Bay tent decked out nicely as always!

The stand out beer of the festival for all four judges was Bootleg’s Coconut Hefeweizen, taking out the Critic’s Choice best of the festival.

“Freaking awesome” I wrote on my piece of paper on the day. Bootleg brewers Michael Brookes and Ryan Nilsson-Linne have created a little tropical monster with this one. The beer is so good that it almost makes me forget about the girl with the coconut boobs on the logo, sorry boys not my cuppa tea. The Coconut Hefeweizen still tastes very much like a hefeweizen should with banana and slight vanilla flavours. The toasted coconut folds in nicely, slipping into the style as if it’s meant to be there the whole time, it’s like an uninvited guest who turns out to be the life of the party. I could barely keep my nose out of the glass long enough to drink it.

And it turns out the drinkers agreed with us with Coconut Hefeweizen, taking out the People’s Choice award for best beer of the festival too! Nice work Bootleg!

Ryan happily sampling Coconut Hefeweizen

girl + festival [part 3]

With the madness of Saturday now behind us it was time to see what the Sunday edition of the South West Craft Beer Festival would bring and with that thought in my head I awoke to the sound of rain. I looked out the window to see that Saturday’s bright sunshine and blue skies had been replaced with cloud.

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With the madness of Saturday now behind us it was time to see what the Sunday edition of the South West Craft Beer Festival would bring and with that thought in my head I awoke to the sound of rain. I looked out the window to see that Saturday’s bright sunshine and blue skies had been replaced with cloud.

Eventually the sun came out but it bought along a friend in the shape of some gusty wind. There were no queues when my partner and I arrived, in fact there was no lining up for anything. In so many ways Sunday was indeed shaping up to be a very different day.

Sunday was family day so admittedly it shouldn’t be surprising that the two days were so different but it was a strange contrast none the less.

Free kids activities seemed popular with countless kids running around with painted faces and balloon animals.  The bouncy castle resembled a containment area for hyperactive kids.

Time for beer.

Since Duckstein Brewery were the first stall in the line up we decided it was a good starting point. Having had the Wolf Pale Ale the day before it was time to try the Pilsner. Toasty, citrusy and with a little green apple it is a really great pilsner and now available in bottles, brewed under license by Gage Roads Brewing Company.

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It was impossible to walk past Colonial Brewery without sampling a Kolsch and Jerry Fraser’s sensational freshly shucked oysters. Knowing Jerry from working together on Sundays at Five Bar in Mt Lawley, it was great to see his smiling face and catch up. Oh and did I mention, I got to eat oysters?! Mmmm oysters …

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Cheeky Monkey Brewery and Cidery were pouring their new limited release Southern Wailer Ginger Pale Ale. It’smone of those beers that stops you in your tracks and completely engages your brain. All I could think was “wow, where has this marriage of hops and ginger been all my life?!” In my notepad I wrote down a few words on this one but I think it says it all when I’ve written “ginger + hops = awesome”.

Head Brewer Jared Proudfoot has used a kilo of fresh ginger during fermentation and ground ginger in the boil. The hops are American Columbus and Centennial, both known for their big citrusy characteristics and typically found in American Pale and IPAs. The result is the citrusy/piney hop bitterness you’d expect from an American Pale Ale that’s been softly wrapped in fresh ginger. To say it’s balanced feels like an understatement. I’ll be seeking out more of this for sure!

It has been a while since I’ve had the ciders from Custard Cidery Donnybrook so it was nice to revisit their delicious Scrumpy Cider and try their new Original Sparkling Apple Cider. Chatting with Ian and Tom, it is clear the guys are super passionate about cider and they love it, their energy is infectious. It’s a good thing they have so much energy because they’re set to open a venue near Meelup Beach appropriately called ‘The Cider Room’ and hope to open the doors sometime near Easter. The Cider Room will feature a fully local line up of food and endeavour to be as environmentally low impact as possible.

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Time for cheese.

We headed over to see the brilliant Mitch, Chef at Five Bar and the man behind Beersine who makes hops and beer a key ingredient in his food. Luckily for us Mitch had something special to try, his new Beersine Malty Wit Cheese made with Colonial Brewing Witbier and whole grains of malt. It was served picnic style with a fresh bread roll, wooden knife and some hop honey and … holy mother of …. WOW. It’s amazing. I’ll be honest, he’s my friend, a great chef and all round top guy so you may think I’m a bit biased but trust me – eat this! The hop honey is made with Saaz hops which is a little based on availability and also based on their lower alpha acid content which means lower bitterness and thereby less aggressive with the honey.

Keep an eye out for an upcoming beer and cheese event with Mitch at The International Beer Shop.

Malty Wit Cheese

My final beer for the day was the Eagle Bay Vienna Lager, lovely toasty aromas and rich malty character, it was nice to finish with a beer I’ve not had in a while.

Eagle Bay Vienna

The last stop of the day, however, wasn’t for a beer but it was for a beer related product. The Brewers Dray, run by husband and wife team Matt and Mara, make a mean Spiced Stout Chutney that’s featured on many a beef burger in our house and we were in dire need of a top up. Matt and Mara were kind enough to give us their chutney and also their Tomato Chilli Hopped Relish as a gift, thank you!. I’m looking forward to dishing these up with some home cooking soon!

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