South West Craft Beer Festival 2015

I didn’t see any roses or any heart shaped boxes filled with chocolates on Valentine’s Day this year and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Instead I was at the South West Craft Beer Festival!

I didn’t see any roses or any heart shaped boxes filled with chocolates on Valentine’s Day this year and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Instead I spent the years most socially pressured romantic day of the year drinking great locally produced beers in the company of the fabulous personalities who brew it and sell it. Trust me, there was no lacking in love at this years South West Craft Beer Festival which was held last weekend.

Old Broadwater Farm in Busselton is a gorgeous setting for a beer festival, plenty of open space and shady trees and though it’s near the highway you’d never know it.

South West Craft Beer Festival

It was nice to look around the festival, people watching of course, and seeing some familiar faces from Perth, plenty of south west locals and beer-festival-regulars.

I was asked to be part of the Critic’s Choice voting panel again this year to determine the best beer of the festival. Along with Vic (The West Australian), Daniel (Nail Brewing), Jono (What’s Mashing WA blog), Steve (Boilertronics, trophy sponsor), Jason (event organiser) and Brian (West Australian Brewers Association President) I was in pretty damn good company to taste some great beers. We were taken to each brewery tent to sample one beer of their choosing, at the end we had three votes each and then results were:

1st: Bush Shack Brewery Milk Stout – all judges agreed this was a beautiful drop

2nd & 3rd (equal): Colonial Chief Pontiac IPA and Eagle Bay Summer Ale

Highlights and Sneak Peeks from the day:

Colonial Brewing Co.

Colonial’s IPA on Tour series continues with the last of their Chief Pontiac, an American style IPA, floating around and the release of their New Zealand IPA – Lil NIPA hot on its heels. This was the first beer I tried for the day and it was beautiful. The aroma wasn’t as big as I had expected but the flavours were great, bold and well rounded.

Colonial Brewing at SW Craft Beer Festival

Colonial Brewing’s line up of beers for the day

Eagle Bay Brewing Co.

Over a plastic cup of the Eagle Bay Summer Ale, the current Brewer’s Series release of which there’s only about 800L still around, I chatted with retail and marketing manager Margi and found out that, as always, there’s a lot happening at the brewery.

Three brewers are now working hard to bring Eagle Bay beers to thirsty hands with the addition of Shannon (ex-Duckstein) to the brewing team towards the end of last year.

The ESB has been recently released in bottles and soon Eagle Bay’s Vienna Lager will get the same treatment which will mean their full core range will be available in bottles. Margi hopes to see Vienna bottles on shelves by March.

The next Brewer’s Series, their limited release, is almost ready and Eagle Bay fans will rejoice knowing it will be their much loved Black IPA. Keep your eyes on the Eagle Bay Facebook or Twitter page for details on the launch.

Eagle Bay Summer Ale

Eagle Bay Summer Ale

Margaret River Ale Co. / Settlers Tavern

Since I was driving I was restricted in the number of beers I could sample but I did get to try Margaret River Ale Co’s Pale Ale. It’s their best selling beer at the tavern and given its sessionability it’s easy to see why.

Getting briefly distracted from the topic of beer, it was hard not to notice the impressive Yoder smokers they had wheeled down for the day. Fully imported from Kansas to satisfy a desire for real American BBQ, owner and operator of Margaret River Ale Co & Settlers Tavern Rob was proud to handed out finely sliced brisket to all the judges and it was hard not to dive in for more.

Rob - Owner/Operator Margaret River Ale Co and Settlers Tavern

Rob, owner and operator Settlers Tavern & Margaret River Ale Co, at their Yoder Smoker

Cheeky Monkey Brewery

The latest Southern Wailer, Cheeky Monkey’s limited release series, was a sell out at the festival. The ESB – Extra Special Belgian – is an extra special bitter using the same Belgian yeast as their Hagenback Belgian IPA. The result is a delicious twist on a traditional English bitter which clearly many agreed on because the keg was empty by 4pm.

Cheeky Monkey Extra Special Belgian

Cheeky Monkey’s Southern Wailer ESB: Extra Special Belgian

Young Henry’s

The newest brewery to the south west, Young Henry’s is making an impact. The smiling faces at their tent were contagious was locals discovered YH beers for the first time whilst proud ‘sparkies’ who have been working on the ‘beer farm’ enjoyed the beer they’ve had a little part in helping get from brewery to hands. I got to chatting with Chloe, brewer and all round great gal, about how it has all been going and she was overwhelmingly positive.

Young Henry's

Young Henry’s Natural Lager

Chloe – Young Henry’s brewer on Twitter

Replicating the Real Ale was her first big challenge, aside from getting the brewery up and running of course, to bring the same brew loved in Sydney to the south west. She is keen to show off the beer farm and is hosting the WA International Women’s Brew Day at her brewery on Sunday 8 March for any women in the beer industry who would like to get involved.

Bush Shack Brewery

Anyone who has been to Bush Shack knows the name is more than a name, it’s an accurate description of the brewing facilities owner and brewer Danial Wind works with. Different to his neighbouring breweries Danial brews what some may label as “novelty” but their Milk Stout should be in the list for any self respecting beer geek to actively seek out. I remembered this beer from last year and it tasted gorgeous then too, even though the sun was out this lush, chocolatey beer went down a treat. So much so that the myself and the other judges all voted it in our top three beers for the day, the result being Bush Shack’s Milk Stout took home the trophy for Critic’s Choice beer for the festival.

It also has to be said that despite the busy day the Bush Shack staff were washing and rinsing everyone’s glass, that’s pretty damn good I reckon.

Bush Shack Brewery

Danial, owner and brewer Bush Shack Brewery, pours Milk Stouts for the judges

Another great festival and it seems to keep getting better each year (except more toilet paper in the girls toilets please!) and makes me pretty happy to see so many great breweries serving up fresh local beers. Big thanks to event organisers Buzz Marketing for inviting me along and asking me to participate in the judging panel. See you next year!

WA Beer Week Preview: South West in the City II

A look into the upcoming WA Beer Week (25 Oct – 2 Nov) – here is a sneak peak at the South West in the City II event, celebrating collaboration between 8 South West breweries

What is the event about?

It’s collaboration but not as you know it – it’s not just two brewers getting together, this is a collaboration brew between some of the South West’s finest brewers including Cheeky Monkey, Colonial, Eagle Bay, Bootleg, Bush Shack, Duckstein and Cowaramup plus new south west residents Young Henry’s.

Last years collaboration was “The Council Worker” Pale Ale and being that it was such a success they decided to join forces again this year.

Your first chance to try this brew will be at this event. Brewers from the day will also be on hand to chat, laugh and share a beer with you.

SW collaboration brew 2013 L-R: Justin Fox, Sorcha Gillen, Jeremy Good, Alex Poulsen, Jared Proudfoot, Nick d'Espeissis and Shannon Grigg Photo Courtesy of Jessica Shaver
Last year’s SW collaboration brew at Eagle Bay Brewing
Photo Courtesy of Jessica Shaver
When is it?

Sunday 26th October, kicking off at 12noon

Where is it?

Five Bar – 560 Beaufort Street, Mt Lawley

Five Bar

How much for tickets and where can I get my grubby mits on them?

$50 per person, purchased through here

Tell me more!

The still unnamed beer was brewed at Cheeky Monkey Brewery & Cidery. Brewers bought along something to contribute to the brew. The result is a wide and varied number of hop varieties including Mosaic (from Roxy, Five Bar venue manager), Topaz (Young Henrys), East Kent Golding (Bush Shack), Galaxy (Bootleg), Chinook (Duckstein) and Enigma (Colonial).

Enigma was most recently used in WA for the Bootleg & Mane Liquor collaboration – Ryezilla

Nick, head brewer at Eagle Bay Brewing, threw in a curve ball with his contribution of star anise and cinnamon.

When I asked Alex, head brewer at Cheeky Monkey, what Cowaramup Brewing had bought along to the brew day his answer was simple, “Jeremy”. The respect and love for Jeremy Good, head brewer at Cowaramup, is absolutely clear.

Besides their generous hospitality, Cheeky Monkey’s contribution was their Belgian yeast strain that is used in their Hagenbeck Belgian IPA.

Whilst last years “The Council Worker” was an Australian Pale Ale Alex said they didn’t want to do the same style again but still wanted something to satisfy both the beer-geek and casual beer drinker alike.

Paul, brewer at Colonial Brewing, is a self confessed malt-man rather than a hop-fiend so having an good malt bill was important to him. With this in mind the brew was designed to be a bit of a red ale, having a good malt structure to support all the hops. Paul is hoping that the beer will have a good burnt toffee malt character to play nicely against the bubblegum flavours from the Belgian yeast.

“It was pretty much a ‘wing it’ brew,”

Paul, Colonial Brewer

Roxy’s choice of hop, Mosiac, was added at the end of the whirlpool for a hint of spice and the relatively new hop variety Enigma was used mostly for aromatics, dry hopped alongside Galaxy.

If your OCD is going crazy and you’re wondering what style this beer is, it’s not really clear cut but Belgian spiced red ale was about as close as Alex got to labelling it. Oh and it should clock in at around the 6% ABV mark.

All in all it’s probably best to get along to South West in the City II and decide for yourself.

WA Beer Week Logo

WA Beer Week banner

GBW 2014: Meeting new people – Paul from The Rainbow Hotel

Today I met Paul who is a bartender at The Rainbow Hotel and it only reaffirmed my strong belief that beer people are the best people.

Today I met Paul who is a bartender at The Rainbow Hotel and it only reaffirmed my strong belief that beer people are the best people.

Wandering round Fitzroy I was looking for a Pint of Origin venue, a designated venue doing tap takeovers all week showcasing beers from each state in Australia, and found The Rainbow Hotel on St Davids Street. All Good Beer Week long they have handed their beer taps to New South Wales, meaning that beers from the likes of EKIM, Doctors Orders, Thirsty Crow and Young Henry’s are all here for your beer drinking pleasure.

On arrival I asked Paul for a recommendation, given it was my first beer of the day he suggested Young Henry’s Newtowner, a beer that apparently doesn’t usually make it outside of Sydney’s Newtown. I grabbed a pint, ordered some food and sat down in the beer garden in the unseasonal sunshine.

This was my very first Young Henry’s beer. The Newtowner is an English Summer Ale with lovely apricot and mango aromas. Beautiful stone fruit, medium bitterness and citrus, it was a great beer to start the afternoon!

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My very first Young Henry's beer - Newtowner
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The Hod Rod Burger ... The burger was ace - messy enough to enjoy but not so much that you were concerned for your clothes!

As time passed and I took photos of my beers, caught up on some emails and stalked people on Twitter, you know, the usual, I overheard Paul talking customers about Pint of Origin and what beers were available. He happily gave tasters to help people pick their next beer and plugged upcoming events at The Rainbow for the rest of the week. He spoke highly of the previous nights food and beer matching event where he says the stand outs were the Thirsty Crow Vanilla Milk Stout with a caramel driven dessert and the Murray’s Angry Many Brown Ale with a heavily spiced kangaroo dish.

Paul’s pick of the bunch is the Riverside Seventy Seven IPA, a big American style IPA using four different hops and clocking in at 7.7% ABV. Like many of us Paul is a self confessed hop head so if you’re the same I suggest you drop in for a pint!
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