Emerson’s ‘JP’ 2008

Emerson's 'JP' 2008
Emerson's 'JP' 2008

‘JP’ is a regular in Emerson’s healthily-populated series of seasonal releases. It’s named in honour of JP Dufour, a Belgian who is reputedly largely responsible for introducing the fledgling local brewing scene to the joys of beers from his homeland. He was a professor at Otago University, I believe with Richard Emerson’s father — and sales from these beers apparently go towards a scholarship.

Each year’s ‘JP’ is a different take on a Belgian style, and the 2008 was a big hearty brown ale, matured on cherries. Generally speaking, I don’t go for cherries. But I go for this, in a big way. So that was clever of them. It’s freaking delicious, and has real cross-category appeal.

Emerson's JP
Diary entry #55, Emerson's JP (redacted)

Verbatim: Emerson’s JP 2008. 5/10/08 $10 @ Markets. I’ve had this before, but it turns out that [REDACTED]. Awesome Belgian brown ale, matured on cherries. I hate cherries, and I love this.

Afterthoughts, October 2010: My first piece of censorship, here. The Diary was never intended for public consumption, after all. I was elated to find such a worthy Little Country beer at the markets in the Big Country, but also moved to pick this particular one because of a certain piece of rumour / gossip I’d heard. So I’ve bleeped that bit out.

Little Creatures ‘Rogers Beer’

Little Creatures 'Rogers Beer'
Little Creatures 'Rogers Beer'

‘Rogers’ is another fantastic session beer, down at 3.8% booze. (Even if it does, like the Cooper’s beers, have apparent apostrophe issues.) It’s a charming ruby brown, with light hoppy- and malty-ness. Sits comfortably beside an Emerson’s Bookbinder, but isn’t so ‘English’ (somehow), as fits the climate of the place it’s made.

Incidentally, Toby is in the background there preparing Steak Tartar, which was a smashing success. And to re-balance the universe after making a meal out of raw steak, he busied his barbeque by making Pavlova on it. Which was, if not a smashing success, at least vastly better than anyone thought it’d be. He’s like some sort of Domestic Mad Scientist.

Little Creatures Rogers
Diary entry #54, Little Creatures Rogers

Verbatim: Little Creatures Roger’s. 5/10/08 $3.5 @ South Melb Markets. Gorgeous sunny day. And a nice basic session beer. At 3.8%, you’d happily drink it all night. Nice ruby brown, light hoppy + maltiness. Akin to a Booky, but not so English.

Afterthoughts, October 2010: Matt Kirkegaard (of BrewsNews.com.au) wrote to inform me that there was more than one Roger, so their seemingly-odd use of the apostrophe is just fine. It’s Rogers plural, not possessive. Since I’m as much Typography Nerd as I am Mad Keen Creatures Fan, that news cheers me greatly.

Swords at the South Melbourne Markets

Swords, South Melbourne Markets

Sunday mornings at the markets are an awesome thing in Melbourne. They’re actually sufficiently awesome to get my nocturnal self out of bed for the occasion, occasionally. When I lived in the Melb, I was nearer the Victoria Markets, so I’m not sure if this stall existed while I lived in town, but I was glad I visited them when I was over for my friends’ wedding.

Named ‘Swords’ for no immediately-apparent reason, they specialised in Australian microbreweries and some moderately-obscure European stuff. Toby was off shopping for food — about which I know basically nothing — so I busied myself here. I picked out a few promising-looking beers, plonked them on the counter and then (assuming that they established my bona fides as a Beer Nerd) asked the very-helpful guy behind the counter to pick me out two more to add to my stash; things I hadn’t picked, but should’ve.

Swag from Swords
My swag from Swords

I wound up with, from left to right:

As you can see from the lack of a link, the Sweetwater doesn’t later show up in the Diary. I have literally no idea why not. Maybe I never drank it; maybe I just never noted it down; maybe Toby had it.

James Squires IPA & Grand Ridge ‘Hatlifter’ Stout

James Squires IPA & Grand Ridge 'Hatlifter' Stout
James Squires IPA & Grand Ridge 'Hatlifter' Stout

In this, the first double-whammy entry, mine is the IPA. It’s a tasty, mild brew which is still very-definitely an IPA. It’s gently hoppy (Fuggly, to be specific) and nicely malty, and is a perfect Gateway Beer to introduce people to pale ales.

I do like the Squires beers. On my way over to the Big Country for this trip, I asked the flight attendant what they had by way of beer, and her answers were Something Horrid; Something Awful; Something Forgettable; and James Squires Golden Ale. No contest, obviously.

The beers from the the Malt Shovel Brewery, as they’re officially called, are really useful. They’re like Mac’s or Monteith’s were here before being bought out by the Bigger Boys. Some beer nerds look down their noses at Mac’s and Monteith’s, but we’re a zillion times better off for having them as the nearly-ubiquitous beers-on-tap than we were when it was DB versus Lion brands, with smatterings of the provincial “Draughts”. They are Gateway Beers; milder versions of the various different styles that give people a low-risk way to Try Something New. My suspicion is that the (inevitably, but lamentably) stronger regionalism in Australia will get in the way of something similar happening over there. But if anyone manages it, it should damn well be Squires.

Toby’s beer — that’s him not doing very well at Guitar Hero in the background — is Grand Ridge ‘Hatlifter’ Stout. Another from Mirboo North, this one was definitely my favourite when we visited a few years prior, and was still freaking gorgeous. Unfeasibly smooth and easy to drink, and so a perfect Introductory Stout to anyone silly enough to resist such an idea.

James Squires IPA
Diary entry #53, James Squires IPA

Verbatim: James Squires IPA. 3/10/08 $3 @ IGA. Had the Golden Ale on the plane yesterday, too. Big fan of these Malt Shovel boys. Lovely mild IPA, but still an IPA. Gently hoppy and malty, very good gateway beer(s) for evangelism. (Fuggled.)

Afterthoughts, October 2010: A fairly ruthless Editorial Policy is in effect, it seems. ‘Hatlifter’ is denied an entry, despite not already having gotten one at the brewery itself, just because it’s Toby’s beer, rather than mine. And it’s possibly not very fair to say he wasn’t doing very well at Guitar Hero; really, he just wasn’t doing well compared to me — few people do. I’m a severally-faceted Nerd.

Little Creatures ‘Bright Ale’

Little Creatures 'Bright Ale'
Little Creatures 'Bright Ale'

The golden ale little brother to the very-much-loved Creatures Pale, ‘Bright’ isn’t as socks-off-knocking as the classic Critter, but is bloody lovely. Reminiscent of fellow Australian legend Cooper’s ‘Sparkling’, it’s lively, fruity, and (like I said; there’s no better word for it) lovely.

Really, I’m only surprised that it (apparently) took me this long before I had one. My love affair with Cooper’s Sparkling began way back in 2001 or so, on a stupidly hot Australia Day. I apparently had slack beer advisors; nobody told me I’d love this, too. It occurs to me that I’ve used the word “love” a lot, here. Basically, it’s just that tasty.

Verbatim: Little Creatures Bright Ale. 2/10/08 $3.5 @ IGA. Reminiscent of Sparkling, unless the name is confusing me. Very lovely + fruity. Apply, I think. Not as socks-knocking as Pale Ale, but yummy. Named just too compare against it?

Little Creatures 'Bright Ale'
Diary entry #52, Little Creatures Bright Ale

Afterthoughts, October 2010: As I know now (and as you, clever reader, may or may not already know), ‘bright’ here really refers to the filteredness of this beer as against the slightly-sedimenty (slightly ‘with-Creatures’, after all) Pale Ale. Golden ales really do develop into an obsession, with me; I bloody loves them, I do.

Gage Roads Pils

Gage Road Pils
Gage Road Pils

I’d previously been given their IPA by Karen & Lee when they visited New Zealand last year, and am always keen to try something from the Dear Old West. It’s a great example of the Australian Midstrength; slightly less boozy, so you can just keep drinking and sitting around passing time with friends for hours on end without getting too blurry — they’re the hot-climate cousin to British “Session Ales”.

This Pils maybe isn’t quite “pilsy” enough for me, but that’s just a matter of labelling. It’s a seriously refreshing bottle of lagery goodness. Toby compared something about the feel of it to having a piece of rosewater Turkish delight. And odd as that sounds, he’s on to something.

Gage Road Pils
Diary entry #51, Gage Road Pils

Verbatim: Gage Roads Pils. 2/10/08 $3 @ IGA. With sticky rice. Matches brilliantly. Not Pilsy enough for me, but a lovely crisp midstrength lager. Refreshing as all get-out. Toby compares the feel to a bit of rosewater Turkish delight.

Afterthoughts, October 2010: The session-strength segment of the market remains shamefully overlooked here in New Zealand. There is one deservedly-legendary exception in Emerson’s ‘Bookbinder’, and occasional feats of genius like Hallertau’s ‘Minimus’, but still. Too much emphasis on the loopily-boozy in the scene these days.

Grand Ridge ‘Natural Blonde’

Grand Ridge 'Natural Blonde'
Grand Ridge 'Natural Blonde'

I visited the Grand Ridge brewery (in a poky little Victorian town called Mirboo North) when I was in Australia for my birthday a few years ago (2006?) and had a fantastic time there, so I was pleased to see their stuff in the local corner shop upon my return to Melbourne for Karen & Lee’s wedding.

The Blonde itself (herself?) is a lovely accessible wheat beer. Hugely drinkable, with a good dose of fruity- and spicy-ness, even a bit of a fresh herby sort of a thing going on. Good for evangelism to people who usually stick to their lagers, or to anyone who’s already been pursuaded into a Summer Ale type of thing.

And it has to be said that the range of craft beer on offer at the local IGA (a superette, essentially, in New Zealand English terms; just a little convenience store) was seriously heartening. A lot of the next few entries are from one little shopping spree in the early evening of the Friday when I arrived in town.

Grand Ridge Natural Blonde
Diary entry #50, Grand Ridge Natural Blonde

Verbatim: Grand Ridge Natural Blonde. 2/10/08 $3.50 @ IGA, Armadale 3143. In Melbourne, Fatty and I raided the local shop. Hadn’t had this at the brewery two years back. It’s lovely + drinkable. Very accessible wheat. Fruity and spicy, freshly herby even.

Afterthoughts, October 2010: I have no earthly idea why that beer — that wheat beer, even — seems to have no head, and no trace of having had one. I’m similarly confused as to why my historical self didn’t find that notable.