Yeastie Boys ‘Gunnamatta’

A later / right-now / not-long-ago bottle of Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta'
A later / right-now / not-long-ago bottle of Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta'

It’s rather fitting that, now I’ve finally finished uploading my GABS Weekend notes, I actually have a proper Diary entry for the beer that started my trip. At the preposterously unfortunate time of four-thirty in the morning — around-about when I’d usually be contemplating going to bed — I arrived at the airport, after two hours’ sleep, a deficit from which I never really recovered1 until I slept most of the Tuesday After. But what kept me going, other than caffeine and giddy geeky excitement, was this.

Jos (from Garage Project) had a cheeky little unlabelled 330ml sample bottle,2 and we3 split it — in those appalling, bleary-eyed and boring interminable moments between the ferociously early check-in times they impose and the actual get-going time — just to set the weekend rolling in style. In low-brow, from-the-bottle, borderline problem-drinking style, but style nonetheless. It tasted fairly seriously promising, went on to be a huge hit at GABS (winning their People’s Choice vote), and left me with a powerful urge for more.

And when I got back to Wellington, it was on tap at Little Beer Quarter, so I popped in for — what turned out to be — several. But my photos from the night were a little sub-par, owing both to enjoyably distracting company and LBQ’s eye-friendly but camera-testing lighting. So I’m having another one right now,4 since I needed another photo (such sacrifices I make), since I can buy one at Staff Price from Hashigo now (and it nicely matches the slightly tea-housey decor and paired admirably with my noodles), but mostly on account of it being fundamentally utterly fucking gorgeously delicious.

Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta', LBQ tap badge
Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta' tap badge at Little Beer Quarter

It’s “Earl Grey IPA”, made with the Blue Flower variety from a local company, and it’s really rather astonishing that it doesn’t seem to’ve been done much / at all before. I’ve had a few green tea IPAs, but I’m a black tea guy through and through, myself. There’s the germ of an idea in the back of my head — the [redacted] secret I allude to in my notes — of how to use a (‘proper’) black tea in a beer, but this wasn’t it; this is just one of those style-bending strokes of genius that it’d be unfair of us to come to expect from Yeastie Boys, but which they seem to be able to pull off with uncanny grace and ease.

The citrussy aroma and hop bitterness of the IPA base go perfectly with the likewise (bergamot orange) fruit flavour and tannic edge of the tea. In hindsight, it seems blindingly obvious; the profiles of the two things are so similar and simultaneously so different in a way that succeeds spectacularly well. And the bait-and-switch of it makes for charmingly confusing drinking, as the flavours settle down after each sip and lull you into forgetting about the additional (delightful) weirdness that successive tastes deliver — at least until that tannic feel builds up and/or you find yourself having distinctly different kinds of burp. Alice is also right on the money when she pointed out (with her own sneaky-preview bottle) that the dryness of it really helps; all that fruit flavour and that not-insubstantial strength could’ve quickly gotten teeth-furryingly sweet. With typical cunning and knack, Stu and Sam and Steve avoided that and just melded two independently-wonderful things into one happy marriage. It’s marvellous stuff.

All that, and it’s a lovely liquid tribute to Australian songwriting legend Paul Kelly, named in particular for a track of purely blissful, reverb-soaked, salty and twang-tastic surf rock (itself, in turn, a reference to a break off Mornington Peninsula in Victoria). And if you’re tired of surf rock, you might just be tired of life.

Original Diary entry: Yeastie Boys ‘Gunnamatta’ 16/5/12 @ LBQ’s BGW 6.66%, apparently. This is my second go — I missed it at GABS — after a cheeky bottle shared at the airport on Friday. Paler than yer usual IPA, clear and positively honking with the blue-flower Earl Grey. Not a subtle adjunct, but one that fits stupidly well. Unexpectedly completely transforms the burps. Weird this hasn’t been done more often; the citrus, oily + bitter flavours are made for each other, really. I really want to try my [Trade Secret Redacted],5 now.

Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta', label blurb
Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta', label blurb (feat. Paul Kelly)
Diary II entry #219.1, Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta'
Diary II entry #219.1, Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta'
Diary II entry #219.2, Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta'
Diary II entry #219.2, Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta'

1: And about which I haven’t yet stopped whingeing, evidently.
2: Having a taste several hours before the doors of the Exhibition Building were due to open and unleash GABS upon the world (or the beer-people of this corner of it, at least) was a bit of an extra thrill since all the festival’s beers were supposed to be embargoed until the curtain went up. Several breweries jumped the gun, for reasons best known to themselves. Most that I knew about were at the definitely-forgivable end of the spectrum; little single-keg sneak-peeks in a single bar, almost just testing the waters. Some, notably Tuatara, had more full-on pre-GABS launches but had the decency to mask things (somewhat) by using different names for the same beer in different circumstances. The real sore thumb was Epic’s ‘Zythos’, which — although, let me stress, a fucking lovely beer — had been ubiquitously available long before I even owned a plane ticket to Melbourne. I’ve no idea why they did that, but it wasn’t uncommon to hear a GABS-attending geek declare themselves “done” when they’d had 56/60 of the beers from the Big Board; three weren’t available (through various freight disasters and the like) and the other one was Zythos, which was ‘everywhere and not worth worrying about’.
— a: Updated later, 11 July 2012, to add: I’ve since heard it explained (from inside Tuatara) that there was some kind of misunderstanding between the production side and their Australian distributor, which lead them to (inadvertently) break the embargo. Which does help the situation somewhat, but is certainly the sort of thing that the brewery should’ve been more active in explaining — especially as they geared up to release a slightly different beer here in New Zealand under the same name as their GABS entry.
3: i.e., Garage Project’s Jos & Pete, Hashigo Zake’s Dom & Dave, and meb — united as we were in both GABS-attendence and in holding tickets on the very same flight over to Melbourne.
— b: Then still-unemployed but now employed by both aforementioned companies, coincidentally.
4: Well, I was when I started. Then I realised that I didn’t have all the photos I needed on my server already so couldn’t get it all done remotely, from the pub. So I came home and, unable to resist the logic of it (coupled, especially, with the seasonal coldness of my house at the moment), I fixed myself a pot of Earl Grey tea. And then, rather brilliantly and while writing this very footnote, I received word from much-warmer Sydney that Emma’s just about to crack the bottle she took home after her recent Wellington holiday.c So it seems I’ve sunk so much karmic investment into the idea of “occasion beer” that now the universe conspires to have them happen around me, entirely unbidden.
— c: She’s not usually a black tea person, but is rating it very highly — pleasantly surprised that it really does taste like tea, and comparing it (very favourably) to a “white Earl Grey” tea she recently found.
5: Back in the early days of uploading my Diary entries, I stumbled upon an old note with a bit of a story that wasn’t really suitable for public consumption. The transition from private notebook to ease an addled memory to something visible on the internets — to several tens of people — is still a weird one for me to think about; only about half the entries are written with the eventual scanning-and-publishing present in my mind at all. (GABS probably kept me thinking about it, in this case.)

Post-GABS Afternoon Taphouse Mooch

Post-GABS Taphouse Tasting Paddle
Post-GABS Taphouse Tasting Paddle

When you’re waiting for your plane home to Wellington, when you’ve been staying with friends in the near-Southern suburbs of Melbourne, when you’re in a post-Spectapular state of beery bliss mixed pleasantly with mild lethargy — and when, perhaps, you’re me — there really is no answer to “what shall I do this afternoon?” other than: wander down the road to the Local Taphouse and mooch.1

I do love the Taphouse; it’s just so completely my kind of pub in a bajillion different ways. And to make matters even better, a good friend of mine (and former colleague from two crappy bars here in Wellington) had transplanted there and had the day shift. She fixed me a medically-necessary coffee, ordered an equally-mandatory stonking great big burger and poured a terrifically mood-improving beer in the form of a little glass of Mountain Goat ‘Hightail’, an old favourite of mine. I first met it at Beervana one year, then the leftover kegs joined us at Malthouse, and its easy-going, surefooted and balanced nature admirably coped with the rather unusual “go-with-this-breakfast” task I set.

We sat, we rambled, and we had a few little tasters of various beers. It was a perfect little afternoon at the pub; an ideal dose of simple hospitality after our grand and busy weekend. The Brooklyn East India Pale Ale caught our eye — hailing, as we do, from a country where that style term is famously abused by one of the nation’s biggest-selling mass-market sweet brown lagers2 — and charmed us with its very old-school marmaladey Englishness, as did a bottle of Moon Dog ‘Melon Gibson’, a slightly-sour fruit beer from a “Marvellous Mullets” series (together, brilliantly, with ‘MacGuava’ and ‘Billy Ray Citrus’) and a welcome case of swagger and silliness accompanying worthy and interesting beer, rather than the former being used as a substitute for the latter; Moon Dog seem refreshingly capable of both.

Breakfast of Champions
Breakfast of Champions
Brooklyn E.I.P.A.
Brooklyn E.I.P.A.
Moon Dog 'Melon Gibson'
Moon Dog 'Melon Gibson'






It’s hard to resist a tasting paddle when you’re at the Taphouse,3 so before I realised how little time we had before we needed to head to the airport (through some combination of my lousy memory and being too accustomed to my little City, perhaps), I picked a fairly-random collection of things from the Big Board. Brew Boys’ ‘Ace of Spades’, my first of theirs, would’ve made even better sense with my coffee (but the burger, probably not so much) and was wonderfully fat, full and roasty. The Holgate ‘Temptress’ which followed was a fantastic contrast, with obvious chocolate and vanilla sweetness and the lovely smoothness that Nitrogen can give — and all the niggling dispense issues it can cause, which just kept K.T. happy supplied with a steady stream of leftovers.

Changing favour gears rather drastically to 3 Ravens ‘Ale Noir’, a smoked-and-Pinot-barrelled dark was rather confusing and confronting, but the beer seemed potentially quite interesting — not that I’ll get another chance with it; the brewery seems to’ve closed between then and now, sadly. After all that, Mornington’s IPA, perhaps inevitably, came across as outrageously fruity, almost to the point of absurdity. Generously hefty in the flavour department, it was full of citrus-peel bitterness that crackled across my brain. Those to in combination set me up nicely for the Australian Brewery’s Smoked IPA, which turned out surprisingly accessible; the smoke in ‘Ale Noir’ had that baconny, Rashuns-ish edge, but this had the sparkly notes you get if you squeeze orange peel into a candle flame, which made all the sense in the world given its citrussy pale ale base.

And then, pretty damn sated, we bid farewell and made our way to the airport and back home to Wellington. It was a freakin’ excellent weekend in the dear old Melb, and the Taphouse team deserve a lot of credit for GABS and their utterly-lovely home base. I’ll definitely be back next year, and hopefully considerably sooner than that.

Original Diary entry: Post-GABS Taphouse Afternoon Mooch 14/5/12 with Dom + Dave, and KT behind the bar. Coffee + Hightail + a sublime burger to start, then little tasters of Brooklyn EIPA + Moon Dog Melon Gibson. Before a near obligatory paddle: Australian Brewery Smoked IPA (5.9%), Mornington IPA (6.2%), 3 Ravens ‘Ale Noir’ (Smoked, 5.4% — Their Dark, aged in Pinot Noir barrels), Holgate ‘Temptress’ (Choc porter, 6%), Brewboys ‘Ace of Spades’ (Nitro stout, 5.9%). Going backwards, since nothing really seems strategically obvious. AOS: Big, fat + full roasty bitterness. HT is crazy smooth, vanilla evident (and a bitch to pour, so KT gets plenty of dregs) AN: Weird, a little confusing, but intersting. MIPA: Ludicrously fruit nose, after all those. Big citrus peel bitter body, afterward. SMIPA: Surprisingly accessible, given all that. AN is definitely baconny + Rashuns-y, this just has a little of that burning squeezed-pith sparkle.

Post-GABS Taphouse Big Board
Post-GABS Taphouse Big Board of Beers
Diary II entry #218.1, Post GABS Taphouse Afternoon Mooch
Diary II entry #218.1, Post GABS Taphouse Afternoon Mooch
Diary II entry #218.2, Post GABS Taphouse Afternoon Mooch
Diary II entry #218.2, Post GABS Taphouse Afternoon Mooch

1: Possible idiosyncratic dialect alert: I tend to use mooch in the lesser-but-still legit intransitive sense of “to loiter / wander about aimlessly” rather than the more-pejorative transitive one of “to obtain freely, esp. by subtle begging”. But it also does bear pointing out that Dom (owner of Hashigo Zakea and fellow GABS volunteer) did pick up the tab for all three of us, which was a bloody lovely thing to do.
— a: Coincidentally, I’ve just made another potential-conflict disclosure — because I’ll be joining the Hashigo staff as an occasional fill-in to ease the squeezier weeks in their roster, earn me a little more beer money and keep my bartending muscles from atrophying — so I should get a few words of praise out of the way now, since the following thoughts were ultra-confirmed over GABS weekend. Hashigo really do genuinely invest in their staff (in ways varying from the mundane, like generous staff discount, to the spectacular, such as bringing his second-in-command along to Melbourne most-expenses-paid or arranging staff to go visit breweries and join in making one-off beers), and it shows. Their staff turnover is incredibly low, in an industry famous for high rates but a sector wherein accrued product knowledge and familiarity with regular customers and craft beer notables is absolutely key. The Fork & Brewer, which opened late last year and still hasn’t quite found its feet, is teetering right on the border of complete (i.e. 100%) turnover of its front of house staff — the last time Hashigo had a “new guy” was a year ago. Therein lies a difference worth watching, and worth learning from, if you ask me; it’s a pretty key symptom and cause of the health of any given bar in this scene.
2: Style-wise, Tui is really a “New Zealand Draught”, and (deservedly) cleans up in that category at the local beer awards. D.B., who produce it, are typically proud to shout awards from the hilltops (with a decades-old trophy still boasted on Export Dry’s label, and Tui’s ‘Blond’ sibling crowing about its more-recent successes), but they just can’t quite bring themselves to celebrate Tui being an award-winning something when it’s marketed as a something-else. Given how freely they bullshit about style on all other occasions, that’s frankly a pathetic lack of conviction. (I’d also go further and suggest that beer awards should have a little more muscle on the issue and just bar beers from being entered into categories that are contradicted by their presentation to the public.)
3: I assume. I’ve never tried.


Beer Diary Podcast s02e03: Jo Wood & Mike Neilsen

George and I ventued into the (not really) wilds of Upper Hutt to have a chat with Jo Wood (of Liberty Brewing) and Mike Neilsen (of Tuatara); two homebrewers turned professional brewers (in very different capacities) who still love to get together on a weekend and knock up a random batch of something. We talk about how they got in to brewing, how they each ‘monetised’ it, their favourites and the recurring pains in their respective asses.

We do apologise for the difficulty you might have in hearing us all (well, not me; I’m loud), but we are definitely lacking a bit of Jo Volume and there are booming intermittent glass-on-the-table thumps. Our on-the-road setup is still fairly rudimentary and George had to do the editing quickly before heading away on holiday (though he’s hoping to grab some nicer gear while overseas). Demand-dependent, we might have another crack at the audio when he gets back; let me know how you get on. Cheers!

As always, a direct download is available, there’s a podcast-specific RSS feed, and you should be able to get us on iTunesGeorge and myself can also both be reached on the Twitterthing, or you can leave comments here or on the Bookface.

Part of Mike's brew kit
(Part of) Mike's brew kit
Yakima Monster badge
Yakima Monster badge
Three Boys Best Bitter
Three Boys Best Bitter



Show notes:

  • (0.05) Our first venue change since we were in Wellington’s Southern suburbs. George is planning on buying a neat little portable DAT-thingy, so hopefully we’ll be ‘on location’ more often.
  • (1.20) Beer of the Week #1: Rogue ‘Brutal IPA’, bought at New World Thorndon, who really have been massively upping their already-rather-good beer game lately.
  • (4.00) “No Beer Before Yeast” does sound like a sensible maxim, but last I heard the beer was in okay shape, despite our recklessness. Mike said it was ticking along happily, and should be fit for sampling soon.
  • (11.20) I do keep referencing Liberty’s Imperial oatmeal stout, ‘Never Go Back’; I’ve done it twice already in ten minutes, and I often mention it in recommendations here and elsewhere. If I need to underscore the point further: have some. It’s amazing.
  • (12.30) ‘Darkest Day’ doesn’t seem to’ve made it into my Diary, which is damn-near inexcusable. It was much lighter than the above-mentioned ‘NGB’, but that just made it stupidly drinkable (as opposed to worryingly so).
  • (12.40) Liberty’s ‘West Coast Blonde’ series got a special mention — under Best Experimentation — in our 2011 Year in Review episode, and the Amarillo-hopped edition was the first Liberty beer to make it into my Diary. And the series-concluding ‘10’ IPA from Mikkeller was in the book a little-way before that.
  • (16.20) Jo definitely has a love-hate (or hate-hate) relationship with C!tra. George, on the other hand, named it his Favourite Beer of 2011 — and it was a Beer of the Week for the previous episode on Strong Beer (fittingly enough).
  • (20.40) The secret to Liberty being able to offer free milling: Child Labour.
  • (20.50) Beer of the Week #2: Raindogs ‘Deadwood IPA’. The vexed question of Gray Market Imports was our first-ever podcast topic, but Mike’s point is even prior to that: there’s often not a reason to go looking for imports — the local scene can keep you going longer than you might think. “Imported” doesn’t equal “fancy and worthy”.
  • (24.50) I have no idea why brewers talk in terms of “hectolitres” — one hundred litres, for those of you who have forgotten your more-obscure metric prefices — other than it making for manageably-nice round numbers when talking about most kit sizes.
  • (27.20) Welcome to the World, GoldenDog. You’re in good company, with: Golden Bear, Golden Eagle, ParrotDog, Black Dog, Raindogs…
  • (30.20) Great big name drop: Barry Hannah, who does the design work for Liberty and can be found on the Twitters, and on the Intermanets.
  • (31.00) My notes from last year’s IPA Challenge are almost entirely absent, owing to my being struck-down with a particularly-bad Man Flu and propped up by the dregs of Wellington’s last legal supplies of blessed pseudoephedrine. George and I hope to be at this year’s edition, recording-gizmo in hand.
  • (32.20) I should add, on the mention of my friend and former colleague Jono Galuszka, that he’s re-taken-up the blogging.
  • (32.50) Recommendations: Brewaucracy / Three Boys new session beers. Inbetween recording and notesing, we did have a chance to try the Three Boys release, and it was exactly what I wanted; allow me (as if you have a choice) to upgrade it to Highly Recommended. And if Jo ever re-brews Taranaki Session Beer, get some.
  • (38.30) Jo’s perfect pints: Westvleteren 12 and Russian River ‘Pliny the Elder’, I’ve had both — I loved the former, and was certainly impressed by the other, but thought it was more “lovely” than “legendary”.
  • (41.15) Beer of the Week #3: Liberty ‘Never Go Back’.
  • (47.20) Jo’s Recommendations: Epic, especially ‘Armageddon’ and Pale Ale. The years-old, game-changing Epic Pale Ale is totally worth another look. I’ve had heaps of fun with it, too — and the ‘Reboot’ write-up deserves a read.
  • (50.50) ‘The Thing in the Sunday Star Times’ George refers to was an excellent recent piece by Michael Donaldson.
  • (51.30) Mike’s Recommendations: ‘Armageddon’, which prompts Jo (and me) to add: Tuatara Pilsner, especially since its ‘reboot’.
  • (54.30) Jo and Mike both quickly start throwing large molecule names around when they’re talking about brewing’s minute details. Given their comfort and enthusiasm with them, it just makes me want to learn more chemistry.
  • (59.30) George’s memory is spot on: Alice Galletly did call Jo the “darling of the craft beer scene”, in her write-up on the Cask Yakima Monster launch at Galbraith’s, fittingly-enough. I (typically) haven’t quite gotten around to posting my notes from the pint I had at Hashigo, but I totally agree with her praise for it.
  • (1.00.30) George’s Recommendation: Yeastie Boys ‘Pot Kettle Black’, which he made with pretty spectacular timing, given that dear old PKB just picked up the Champion Beer gong at the Asia Beer Awards in Singapore.
  • (1.01.05) Cue the music: ‘Shopping for Explosives’, by The Coconut Monkeyrocket. Audio editing done in Audacity. Habitual thanks to both.

GABS Glass #4: Moo Brew ‘Belgo’

Moo Brew 'Belgo'
Moo Brew 'Belgo'

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.

Moo Brew's non-Belgian Pale Ale
Moo Brew's non-Belgian Pale Ale

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.

Moo Brew 'Belgo', looming
Moo Brew 'Belgo', looming large under the Big Dome
Moo Brew 'Belgo', tasting note
The Big Book's tasting note for Moo Brew 'Belgo'
Diary II entry # 217, GABS Glass #3: Moo Brew 'Belgo'
Diary II entry # 217, GABS Glass #3: Moo Brew 'Belgo'

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.)

GABS Paddle #2: Random Favourites

Tasting Paddle #2
Tasting Paddle #2

The final Sunday-afternoon session of GABS was considerably lower-key than the ones which came before. There were fewer attendees (a shade less than the Friday afternoon session, perhaps would-be visitors were off being dutiful offspring for Mother’s Day), and the whole machine of the thing was running with now-practiced smoothness such that I, an early duties / backup volunteer had a particularly-early knockoff. Time, then — this not being rocket science — for a beer or several.

My first paddle was everything I could find from the ‘sessionable’ weight class of ≤ 4.5% ABV — I inadvertently overlooked the sixth on offer, Moo Brew’s ‘Belgo’, but I’ll get to that next — and for my second set of five, I decided simply to round up the beers from places I knew and was fond of for one reason or other. It did wind up rather a rag-tag collection, style-wise (though skewing heavily ‘Belgian’), and a sensible drinking order took some figuring-out, again. But I think I managed it; this was a fun little ride.

Starting with Bridge Road’s ‘God Save the Lager’ was daunting — since it’s a 7.5% Imperial Pilsner and I hadn’t really eaten breakfast before heading in to town — but made the most sense, style-wise. A return to tasting paddles made it re-obvious that a little / warmish / plastic sample only ever gives you a hint of a beer’s real character, but ‘G.S.T.L.’ seemed a nudge drier and ‘spicier’ than Epic’s ‘LARGER’ — though it definitely shared the element of being potentially very dangerous indeed. Also, “Imperial Pilsner” seems now to be well and truly a thing; it’ll be interesting to see how it goes, as a (sub-)style. Then, Doctor’s Orders ‘Plasma’ White IPA looked to be an obvious second, and shares the quality of having a style-name with an unexpected adjective in front of it. But really, where else to go, after Black IPA,1 Red IPA and good old-fashioned — what do we even call it, now? — Regular / Middlingly-Brown IPA. The hazy-and-pale body makes you think “white” in Belgian-Wit-esque way, and the hops come through with enjoyably-peculiar notes that made me wish I’d given it a proper-glass try. I’ve had many glasses of Doctor’s Orders ‘Iron Lung’ black pilsner, so he’s got an obvious fondness for the stylistic colour-curveball and certainly seems to have the knack.

I’d had a little sip of the ‘Bob’s Farmhouse Ale’ from Murray’s when I understudy-hosted the ‘Beerista’ seminar during Friday night’s session but it was all a little lost in my personal bewilderment and hurry. It was, at this more-civilised pace, delicious. Cleverly named for both their original location (before they moved the brewery to a headland North of Newcastle and put a charming little pub on Manly Beach) and its super-saison(ish) style, it’s alarmingly drinkable for its massive dose of booze, and genuinely fun and funky while it’s at it. The Little Creatures / White Rabbit ‘Little Rabbit’ that followed, however, was a little more vexing. A collaboration between my long-loved Fremantle favourite and their (also fondly regarded) country cousin, it just seemed to fall well short of its promise. From the outset, it was — for its style — unsettlingly, needlessly clear (that’s it on the far right end of my tasting paddle, above, glowing much like Bridge Road’s souped-up pilsner) and seemed way too strong given its stated inspiration was Westmalle’s table beer. And even if that latter reference was just them reaching / being a bit generous / fudging things for the sake of ‘marketing’ and standing out in the Big Book of Many Blurbs, its strength just came across as too unbalancingly hot. It was nice, but still kinda sad, in context.

Then finally, the black sheep of the paddle: Seven Sheds ‘Black Elephant’, which I reached just as I noticed brewer / beer writer Willie Simpson on a nearby table. A few of his books were instrumental in the transitioning of me from Clueless Drinker to Something Of A Beer Geek and now — as you know, if you’ve made it this far — Part-time Beer-related Rambler. So I just had to embrace the moment of geek-out and say Hi, and am relieved to report (as I always have been able to, so far in this industry) that he turned out to be a lovely chap and very approachable. Fittingly enough for a writer-brewed beer, the Big Book’s tasting note — “a complex riot of roasty notes” — was bang on. ‘Black Elephant’ is apparently a blend (recipe-wise, I believe, rather than just piping two tanks together) of two Seven Sheds regulars; a Belgian strong ale (‘Elephant’s Trunk’) and a spiced strong dark ale (with the throw-back-ish name ‘Willie Warmer’).2 And it tasted like just that; hugeness, spice, richness and the charming eccentricity of a mad old codger in a quiet pub.

Gumbo Kitchen Po' Boy and fried shrimp
Gumbo Kitchen Po' Boy and fried shrimp

Just to repeat myself, this tasting paddle was early in the Sunday session after almost no breakfast. And, to repeat praise from my general post-GABS ponderings, food at the festival was frequently fantastic. None moreso, to my mind, than the ‘Beef Debris’ Po’ Boys from the fine young folks at Gumbo Kitchen. I liked it so much I had one each day, and treated myself to this feast (he says, gesturing sideways) for the final day. There was a fried shrimp option for the po’ boy, but I could never tear myself from the sure-fire deliciousness of the beef. So I asked for a side of fried shrimp with my sammich, resulting in a glorious pile of omnomtastic goodness. After a boozy tasting paddle and this epic heap of endorphin-crackling delight, I had quite the happyface firmly affixed to my skull for a good while into the afternoon.

Original Diary entry: GABS Paddle #2: Random Favourites. 13/5/12 Happy Mothers Day. Quiet Sunday session, but a nice mood. (32) Bridge Road ‘God Save the Lager’ (7.5% Imperial Pilsner) Spicier than ‘LARGER’, though temperature and plastic make comparison tricky. Nice and dry. Could be deadly. (20) Doctor’s Orders ‘Plasma’ (7% White IPA) Nicely ‘white’ — cloudy, pale, like a witbier — peculiar hoppy nose (but again; limitations). Nice flavourful bitterness. Would be worth a shot. (25) Murray’s ‘Bob’s Farmouse Ale’ (9%) Pete Mitcham told me the name refers to the new location. Oak-aged, hazy + nearly as pale as #20. We had this at Beerista and it’s great fun(k). Love it. (57) Little Creatures / White Rabbit ‘Little Rabbit’ (6.9% Belgian) Similar colour as prior, but unexpectedly clear. Strong, given the stated inspiration (Westmalle’s table beer), and quite ‘hot’. Big round fruit from Noble hops (probably). (50) Seven Sheds ‘Black Elephant’ (7.8% Black Trappist) Willie Simpson! (Minor geek-out impending…) Fittingly, the note is bang on. “A complex riot of roasty notes.” Hell yes. Weird + good. Soy-saucy. [And he was perfectly nice about the geek-out.]

Tasting Paddle #2
Tasting Paddle #2
Diary II entry #216.1, GABS Paddle #2: Random Favourites
Diary II entry #216.1, GABS Paddle #2: Random Favourites
Diary II entry #216.2, GABS Paddle #2: Random Favourites
Diary II entry #216.2, GABS Paddle #2: Random Favourites

1: There are a couple of them in my Diary on upcoming pages — local boys Funk Estate put out a new one I’ve been liking / drinking a lot lately which whole-heartedly embraces the contradictory style-term — so I’m sure I’ll have a proper re-airing of the sometimes-vexed issue of “Black IPA”.
2: It gets the okay, I think, simply because his actual name is Willie. Otherwise, it’d be just so appallingly worth of an entry on Pumpclip Parade (well, if it had a pumpclip) — the label test even has the very Dad-joke-ish note “Guaranteed to warm the extremities”.

GABS Glasses #2 & #3: Bright ‘Resistance Red’ and Wig & Pen ‘This Beer’s Not Real Craft!’

Bright Brewery 'Resistance Red Ale'
Bright Brewery 'Resistance Red Ale'

Well, there stands before you a blog-post-title-length record unlikely to be challenged for a while. I’ve no real idea why I ran two beers into one entry at the time, and I couldn’t figure out a fair way to abbreviate any of it; these were both lovely beers, and they deserve their name in lights. I can only manage blinky little LED lights here, but it’s a start.

After my near-delirium-inducing visit to Josie Bones, I walked back to the Exhibition Building for my pre-session duties and wound up meeting Jon Seltin,1 brewer of the Bright ‘Harvest 150’ I’d had with lunch. He was back and forth through the queue several times, trying to track down his ticket, his “GABS 2012 Brewer” hat, and to locate some friends. I nerded out about the beer I’d just had, the Fainter’s Dubbel that impressed me so much when I was last in town, and the mild irony involved in being a brewery called “Bright” that only sells unfiltered beer.2 He proved to be a thoroughly lovely chap indeed — and sports a magnificent beard, which always earns bonus points with me — and so there was no other plausible candidate for my late-session beer than his ‘Resistance Red Ale’.

And, even with geeky circumstantial motivations aside, it was a genuinely excellent thing. On the colour spectrum, it occupied proper red — a richly alluring siren-ish red-red still uncommon among “red ales” — and so it continued on the nose, in that marvellously synaesthesia-esque way that was so much fun when you first met 8 Wired’s ‘Tall Poppy’. It’s a big, jovial bastard, crammed with summery berryfruit flavours but blessed with the unstodgy agility of something considerably lighter.

Wig & Pen 'This Beer's Not Real Craft'
Wig & Pen 'This Beer's Not Real Craft'

Then: more beer! As I noted in passing while talking about my GABS Paddle #1, it was genuinely heartening to see beers from the Sour & Funky corner of the pantheon generating the kind of talk that the Truly Hoptastic had monopolised for a few years. I took it as a good sign of health and diversity in the scene and opted for a glass of this (he says, gesturing invisibly at the other photo) in equal parts celebration and nostalgia — the latter because it hails from my one-time local, the Wig & Pen in Canberra.3

Canberra, to side-track a moment, is a weird town. It’s tiny, relative to the nation of which it is the official capital, it’s one of those weirdly-contrived artificial cities, and the man who designed much of it seems to’ve lived in one of the shallower ends of the sanity bell-curve. I was at the Australian National University for a while, studying Philosophy with all sorts of marvellous people,4 and living on a decent scholarship right on campus near the center of town. The City was designed for a million residents, but still (after a century) only has a third that many, and the CBD gets particularly empty on the weekend — perhaps because such a chunk of the populace is comprised of sensible public-sector family-types hiding in the sparse suburbia. Couple that with the distance from the coast and the elevation above sea level causing temperatures to swing from 40° summer days to -4° winter chills and it frequently feels like you’re living in some recently-abandoned colony on the fucking moon.

But there was the blessed Wig & Pen — mere minutes from my bedroom — to save the day many, many times, and to help give me an appreciation for real beer. I loved the Wig, was utterly delighted to see them win Best Small Brewery at the AIBA, and am now feeling massively nostalgic for Canberra — of all places — partially just because I really want to visit that pub again. It’s a cute and cozy little place, with a non-obnoxiously contrived British Boozer kind of feel which, if anything, just makes perfect sense in an artificial city. They do a wide range of beers, all brewed on-site in a seemingly-poky little corner, which don’t bother adhering to any mindlessly-English-traditionalism the look of the place might suggest. It’s their brewer, Richard Watkins, who built most of the Hopinators in Australasian beer bars, after all. There was a story about it being up for sale last year, with the owner expressing a desire to retire, but I’m honestly not sure what came of that and I hope that if it does sell, someone just keeps it running as is and keeps Richard there making his lovely beers. (May we should chip in and buy it for him…)

Anyway, this thing — this bright golden, face-puckering, deliciously cleansing little thing. It’s just what I needed to end the day, despite being basically the opposite of what I usually think of when I think “nightcap”. My weekend’s days were long, and I was fading steadily, but this little bugger perked me right up. I grew up with a crapabble5 crabapple tree in the front yard and developed a fondness for that perky-but-easy kind of sourness, and T.B.N.R.C.6 had a nose on it that made me think of those, if they hadn’t been red but rather green and Granny-Smith-ish. The body rounded out a little from the nose, and the result was just bloody good fun, pleasantly challenging but ultimately rather deliciously quaffable. Getting cheerfully tipsy on it some bakingly-hot Canberra summer afternoon would sure leave an impressively-puckered bliss-grin on your face.

Good people drink good beer, as Uncle Hunter reminds us. Jon and Richard are (further) proof that lovely people brew damn fine beer, too. Cheers to them both.

Diary II entry #215, GABS Glass #2: Bright 'Resistance Red Ale' & GABS Glass #3: Wig & Pen 'This Beer's Not Real Craft'
Diary II entry #215, GABS Glass #2: Bright 'Resistance Red Ale' & GABS Glass #3: Wig & Pen 'This Beer's Not Real Craft'

Original Diary entry: GABS Glass #2: Bright ‘Resistance Red Ale’ 12/5/12 7.2%, 380ml, 5 tokens ($10). Sirenny red, paler head than the wet-hop. We met Jon in the interminable queue — several times, poor guy. Couldn’t find his hat. Utterly lovely chap, great beard, patient with geekouts. Smells “Red!” like Tall Poppy did, that first time. Berryish + summery fruit flavours. Quite nimble for its strength. — and GABS Glass #3: Wig & Pen ‘This Beer’s Not Read Craft’ sour blonde @ 5%, 380ml, 5 tokens. Like Granny Smith crabapples on the nose, were such a thing to exist. Rounder in the face. Great combination of tart + fresh. Good fun. Nicely cleansing, with a puckering sideline.

1: If you head to Bright Brewery’s website around-about the time I post this, there should still be a superbly-disturbing-and-brilliant American-Beauty-esque poster for Harvest 150, featuring Jon.
2: “Bright beer”, by the way, is what you call it when the yeast is no longer in suspension, whether you just let it drop slowly (maybe with some finings to help) or filter it out. The brewery, in fact, is named after the small Victorian town in which it operates. I was, as will surprise few of my friends, unable to resist the geeky pun of it all, however.
3: Their website was, for the longest time, a glorious relic of mid-nineties Microsoft FrontPage-era delights. But I’ve just looked again, and it pretty-much looks like they’ve been taken over by a particularly-resourceful domain name squatter, which is both weirder and sadder.
4: And, for a good chunk of my time, in a fucking marvellously whacked-out building. The Coombs Building, home of the Research School of Social Sciences, is a triple-interlocked-honeycomb oddity with differing floor levels from octagon to octagon. It was an easy beast to get lost in, and made for brilliantly-productive philosophy-contemplating-wanderings if I needed to hide from the heat.
5: Oops. Thanks to Stu for catching that delightful typo. “Crapapple” is one of my idiosyncratic expletives, and I swear a lot more often than I reminisce about my childhood — “crapabble” is apparently what happens when I attempt to transition from doing the former to doing the latter while typing at a fairly decent rate.
6: I’m still not sure quite why the name, other than the pure cheerfully counter-trend nature of a weird little sour coming after those years of the hop-fashion. The notes in the official GABS booklet weren’t much help on that score, but do note the awesome titbit that the beer is a blend of 18-month, 18-week and 18-day old batches.

Beer Diary Podcast s02e02: Australia

And now, a brief interlude for a long-lost podcast episode. We recorded shortly before I went away to GABS in Melbourne — and immediately before George and I went along to Hashigo Zake’s marvellous little ‘X-Ale’ festival in the still-empty ParrotDog brewery. I did intend to post it while I was away for bonus location-and-subject-confluence points, but those plans of mine never seem to work out.

We take the chance to catch up a little on the Australian scene, and also celebrate the return of fresh-hop beers, the prospect of new employment (for me, and a certain someone else), offer a few recommendations — and an uncommon word of warning.

As always, a direct download is available, there’s a podcast-specific RSS feed, and you should be able to get us on iTunesGeorge and myself can also both be reached on the Twitterthing, or you can leave comments here or on the Bookface.

Two Moon Dogs and 'Melon Gibson'
Two Moon Dogs and their 'Melon Gibson'
4 Pines tasting paddle, empties
4 Pines tasting paddle, or "tasting bridge"
Bridge Road Saison and the Local Taphouse Hopinator
Bridge Road Saison and the Taphouse Hopinator
The Exhibition Building, site of GABS 2012
The Exhibition Building, site of GABS 2012
Townshend 'Last of the Summer Ale', lacing
Lacing on 'Last of the Summer Ale'
One Trick Pony
Epic's 'One Trick Pony' tagline on 'Zythos IPA'

Show notes:

  • (2.00) Matt Kirkegaard of had an excellent piece on the ‘portfolio’ approach to marketing a stable of pretty-damn-samey products in Australia.
  • (3.30) Asahi seem to be the Big Conglom, in this case. Independent Liquor, the Asahi-owned operator of pretend-brewery ‘Boundary Road’ have just done a wank-tastic revamp of their corporate website. They don’t shy away from the fact that their owners are their owners, which — coupled with their name, and the “brand story” for Boundary Road — amounts to a masterclass in suppressing Cognitive Dissonance.
  • (4.30) If you did need more, my fuller rant on Boundary Road is a few pages back in the Diary, reporting from back in time when we did a ‘Chosen One’ blind(ish) tasting.
  • (5.40) Post-GABS, allow me to put even heavier emphasis on that “maybe”.
  • (8.30) KeyKegs are nicely explained on their mysteriously-fancy website.
  • (9.40) Beer of the Week #1: Black Heart Belgian Blonde (6.8%) And I really did mean to sound more complimentary when I compared it to Tuatara ‘Ardennes’.
  • (12.35) Dale, of the eponymous Brewing Co., is Dale Holland, indeed.
  • (14.30) Moon Dog’s website hasn’t been updated in a while, but I think you’ll get the idea. And if you’re reading about Moon Dog, you should read about weirdo-genius Moondog, especially if you do so while listening to ‘Lament I, Bird’s Lament’ — familiar to most of us, these days, as the basis of a Mr. Scruff track. I’m not sure if the brewery was named after the man. I should ask. It would suit. </musicaldiversion>
  • (21.55) Best thing I had while I was over there: Bright Brewery Fainter’s Dubbel. Bright is indeed in country Victoria, and this podcast is sammiched between two posted Diary entries that include their beers. So that’s a happy coincidence.
  • (24.10) My favourite bar in Australia, still: The Local Taphouse in Melbourne. But there are plenty of other lovely pubs, which was marvellous. Hart’s Pub in Sydney and pub night at Mountain Goat in Melbourne are definitely also worthy mentions.
  • (27.10) Obviously, talk of GABS is a little outdated, now. Sorry about that. Hopefully my various dispatches from there will convince you to join me next year.
  • (29.50) The 2012 AIBA round was indeed held concurrently.
  • (32.40) Beer of the Week #2: Kooinda Black IPA (7%) Geographically, we were both pretty abysmally off. Heidelberg isn’t where either of us thought it was, but we’ll wear our error proudly and
  • (35.40) Fresh-hop beers are back! Hopwired IPA mostly leverages Nelson Sauvin and Motueka — not Riwaka. My (minor) bad. And here’s me showing my slackness, again. Garage Project’s ‘Oldham’s Farm’ wet-hop ale has almost all run out, by now.
  • (39.00) A bine is distinct from a “vine”, it turns out. It’s a matter of how your twisted plant-bit adheres to the thing its climbing upon. Vines use tendrils or suckers of some sort, and bines rely on extra friction from twisting and/or downward-spiking hairs — the word seems to be a portmanteau of bind + vine.
  • (40.30) The post (and video) about Garage Install Day is worth a look, for sure.
  • (43.20) I’ve got a post from way back about ‘Brewjolais’, which coincidentally also laments the now-nearly-fixed lack of brewing here in Wellington. And Hashigo did indeed do a night of fresh-hop beers. It was a lovely evening at the pub. Again; sorry for the delay.
  • (44.30) My retirement still hasn’t been overturned, officially. I’ll let you know.
  • (45.30) Recommendation #1: Go to a beer festival! X-Ale was a great (boozy!) day, and everything I heard about The Auckland Hop was very positive. And Beervana 2012 tickets are selling fast already…
  • (47.20) Recommendation #2: Epic ‘Zythos’ IPA. I think the actual constituent hops in the mix is still a proprietary secret. Epic ‘Mayhem’, way back, was a real turning point for me and Luke’s beers. My “one trick pony” reference occurred in my write-up of the Epic / Dogfish Head ‘Portamarillo’ — then the thing that saved them from that status.
  • (53.00) My first thought was Vinnie Jones, but just because he crossed into the world of Guy Ritchie movies and things and so non-sporty me knew who the hell he was. Robbie Savage — once the ‘dirtiest player in history’ — does seem pretty apt, too.
  • (54.00) A cautionary note: Stoke Bombers. My first run-in with Stoke and their beers did not go well, and they just haven’t notably improved since, sadly. If you get George and I thinking back to the time we dosed a fucking-horrible Speight’s “Apricot” (scare-quotes mandatory) beer with bacon salt — in a vain attempt to do something to make it less bad — then you’re not in a good way. And the filing does seem to confirm the dickishness of their trademark move; they went for “bomber”, not anything brand-specific, despite it being a long-standing word for pint-plus sized bottles.
  • (57.40) On the Beer List: Kelly Ryan. (The guy from Stereophonics is Kelly Jones — which makes sense, given his Welshishness, of course.) Now I think I’ve got just the thing for him, and since Kate Jordan happens to be in town, I’ll get her to mule it back towards that end of the island.
  • (1.02.00) Cue the music: ‘Shopping for Explosives’, by The Coconut Monkeyrocket. Audio editing done in Audacity. Habitual thanks to both.