Reading the Big Book while waiting for my Food Coma to subside and my brain to ramp back up to some semblance of walking-and-talking ability, I noticed that I’d missed out a sessionable beer from what I thought was an exhaustive set of five. Shamefully so, since it was from Moo Brew, who’ve made any number of worthy things — including beers that comprised the bulk of a huge shipment which made its way over to the Malthouse and gave me my as-yet Greatest Ever Kegtris Challenge.
So — no better way to say Sorry than to buy a glass of beer, I suppose. ‘Belgo’ turned out to be a genuinely charming little bugger; deliciously quaffable at the magic four-point-five mark, and a perfectly endearing little mongrel1 from mixed American Pale Ale and Lightly-Funky Belgian parentage. Hoppy-x is a still-ascendant trend, in new-beer-style terms, and most “hoppy Belgians” seem, to me, to’ve leapt to the higher ends of booze and flavour intensity — big fat Belgian meets overblown and brash American. But not this. This is just quietly doing its thing, doing it well, and not making a fuss; the contrast was truly welcome and appealing.
It was so calmly done, in fact, that the skeptical circuits of my brain (of which there are many) were fired up and beeping and buzzing. Together with the weirdly understated and underexplained tasting note in the Big Book — “Moo Brew simply asked us to let the punters be the judge of this…” — and the existence of their similarly-pitched (but non-Belgian) Pale Ale, this seemed to be one of those Happy Accidents with which the craft beer industry is not-infrequently blessed but rarely comfortable openly talking about (for no properly worthy reason).
Rescued mistakes — of pitching the wrong yeast, or slightly buggering-up the recipe, or of unexpected brew-to-brew sequence effects — have given us Yeastie Boys ‘Red Rackham’ (essentially a Belgianised ‘Hud-a-wa”), Invercargill ‘Men’n Skurrts’ (a slightly smoky scotch-ale-esque thing of pure joy inadvertently caused by the Rex Attitude brewed before it on the same gear), Liberty Brewing’s ‘Alpha Dogg’ (a mildly mangled brew of ‘C!tra’), and West Coast’s Amber Ale (a contracted beer that wasn’t quite what the contract-ee intended) — purely to name my favourites and the ones that leap most-readily from my broken memory. This happens a lot, and there is literally no point in dumping a drinkable-but-different beer entirely down the drain. Making beer is expensive, and there are many ways to non-fatally fuck it up.
‘Belgo’ has, post-GABS, joined the official Moo Brew range and been given its own little piece of that utterly-gorgeous label art that its definitely-non-bastard siblings possess, so I’m entirely happy to take Moo at their word that this is something entirely intentional and a stroke of genius rather than of luck. But fundamentally, I don’t mind. Whether ‘Belgo’ has its origins in one or not,2 I like these Happy Accidents; craft beer is ripe for occasional doses of evolution-by-grand-mutation rather than over-cautious design — I just wish we were more open in talking about them when they happen.
Original Diary entry: GABS Glass #4: Moo Brew ‘Belgo’ 13/5/12, with sincere apologies for missing it off Paddle #1. ($8, 4.5%, 380ml) Rich golden colour, surprisingly. Nice easy funk, great quaffing mongrel1 ale. Weirdly understated tasting note in the book — late sub-in? Not what they planned? No idea, but the result is unarguably just kinda nice. After-work Belgian. Can’t shake the suspicion it’s a rescued mistake.
1: It’s probably obvious, but perhaps worth underscoring,a that I only ever use the word “mongrel” in a positive way. I am very much a Cosmopolitan, in political-philosophy terms,b and a big fan of anything that causes a happy breakdown in overly-defended boundaries.
— a: Hence the two footnote anchors pointing to the same clarification (above).
— b: That Wikipedia article is totally worth a read, not-least because it starts from an Apollo Program photograph of Planet Earth and winds up talking about Art Deco architecture and thereby nicely encapsulates just the kind of Mongrelism I’m talking about.
2: [Swooping in with a late-breaking footnote mere minutes later to add:] Through the magic of the Twitters, I’ve since heard from Moo Brew that this was indeed an completely-intentional piece of cleverness (in my praising terms, not their own) rather than the Happy Accident I wondered about at the time and above. I really should’ve asked, in hindsight, but the idle ponderings were in my original Diary and I do like to keep these write-ups firmly in its spirit. (He says, partially attempting to excuse the journalistic failure, but also completely sincerely.)