Category Archives: Actual Diary entries

Posts with beer notes — usually handwritten, as per the original Diary’s founding mission

Carlow ‘O’Hara’s Irish Red’

Trying to re-discover this one on took me through two placeholders that said “this name is just an alias for…”, sending me somewhere else. Beer marketing is a funny thing, and brews often wind up existing under different names in different markets or at different times, or both.

Moling's Traditional Celtic
Diary entry #20, Moling's Traditional Celtic

Verbatim: Moling’s Traditional Celtic. St. Patrick’s Day, 17/3/05. 500ml. $5, 4.9%. Dark with a nice red touch. Bubbles hang around alright. Very tasty, though not too strong. I’d like it heavier, but still. Perfect with burgers. Luckily, I’ve got some.

Afterthoughts, October 2010: I still do these day-appropriate tastings of new things, whenever I can; something Irish on Paddy’s Day, something Australian on January 26, that sort of thing. Any excuse, right? But it’s nice to see I started early.


Duvel, several years later, when I'd finally bought a camera

So. This is perhaps the best example why the decision to publish the ‘ancient’ Diary entries as-is was a bit of a Zen exercise. I like Duvel a lot, for inherent and circumstantial reasons. I have done so since I first had it, here on Christmas Day in 2004. But I clearly wasn’t a proper Beer Nerd at all, yet, because I just blithely call it a lager. The shame. The nearly-unutterable shame.

But hey, everyone starts ignorant, right? Ignorance is not a problem, what you do with it is. And you can’t really be blamed for mistakes like these, when some breweries go out of their freaking way to muddy the waters about beer styles and perpetuate the simple-but-wrong idea that golden is lager and non-golden is ale.

Diary entry #19.1, Duvel

Verbatim: Duvel. 330ml, $5, at Wellington, on Christmas. It’s sunny, so a lager with lunch. Bubbles aplenty, nice cloudy gold. Full flavour, but not bitter. Malty, Dad says. Nicely complex smell and taste, but not at all too much. Goes brilliantly with timing and weather.

Diary entry #19.2, Duvel

Afterthoughts, October 2010: “At Wellington” means at my family’s house; so many entries are just tagged “at home”, and sometimes that gets tricky to define — here I was at the house where I grew up and lived for twenty-something years, but I also had a permanent-enough place of my own that “home” became an ambiguous word. Which leads to wonderful sentences like “as soon as I get home I should make sure I buy a plane ticket home”. Huh?

The little “meanwhile” note is also evidence that my take-the-damn-notebook-with-you habit hadn’t yet properly formed. The next entry is from three months later; I must’ve remembered that I’d had those in the intervening time. I have no idea how many other entries fell through the gap between bad habits and bad memory. I suppose that’s why I should keep a Diary. (And why I do.)

Martinborough ‘Tora Dark’

It’s here at entry eighteen and nearly a whole year since page one, that my Diary finds its first New Zealand brew. Shows what you get for being a New Zealander living in Melbourne when you start your Beer Diary.

I should add that even now, at the time of the Great Uploading in October 2010, it’s still a bit shameful how hard it is to get good beer from ‘the other side of the Tasman’ — whichever side you’re on. The situation is massively-improved, sure, but still pretty tragic.

Martinborough 'Tora Dark'
Diary entry #18, Martinborough 'Tora Dark'

Verbatim: Martinborough Brewing: Tora Dark. 330ml, 5%, $?, at home, 11/12/04. “Blerk,” says George. I think it’s great. Rich coffee taste, mild choc. (Goes brillo w/ advent calendar chocolates.) Darkish bubbles, some hanging around. Quite bitter, but in a good way. Mellows out after. (Their lager — which G.’s having — is perfectly decent, too. Heinek-ish.)

Afterthoughts, October 2010: This entire brewery has long since closed down, sadly. And it’s the first such casualty in my Diary (the aged Cooper’s stout was the first ‘retired’ individual beer in the book). A bit of research shows it was a dunkel (a black lager) so we can see that I’m still confused about how colours relate to styles, although that is about to get a whole lot more embarrassing with the next entry

Liefmans Frambozenbier

Liefmans Frambozenbier
Diary entry #17, Liefmans Frambozenbier

Verbatim: Liefmans Frambozenbier. $?, 37.5cl, 4.5%, neat champagne-cork, paper-wrapped bottle. Belgian. Best before end 2014! Darker than you’d think, rich bubbles, still around, fruit all over as poued. Smells just like cordial. Warm beeriness in the background. Just great. Gold medal @ Peterborough ’98. Perfect for “I don’t like beer” girls. It’s raspberry for grown ups.

Afterthoughts, October 2010: And finally, my first fruit beer in the book. Unlike seemingly-many Beer Nerds, I am very fond of the style, actually — for its inherent yumness, for its evangelistic potential, and for its messing-with-people ability. This was starting out right, too; very highly-regarded proper old-school authentic stuff.

Goose Island ‘Honker’s Ale’

Goose Island 'Honker's Ale'
Diary entry #16.1, Goose Island 'Honker's Ale'

Verbatim: Goose Island Honker’s Ale. $?, 12oz, @home, Nov 6. More West Wing, so a Chicago ale with burgers. Darkish, but hints of orange again. Bubbles not so enduring, no haze. Lighter taste + smell, still flat, muted ale-ish. More an afternoon beer. Perfectly respectable + tasty. Great everyday stuff; entry-level Liberty, almost.

Goose Island 'Honker's Ale'
Diary entry #16.2, Goose Island 'Honker's Ale'

Afterthoughts, October 2010: Not that I knew it at the time, but Honker’s is styled as an American take on English pale ale, whereas the Liberty I’m evidently comparing-to is pure American pale ale — so the observed easier-ness makes a lot of sense.

Anchor ‘Liberty Ale’

I remember this one quite well, reaching for a legendary American ale after the re-election of GWB. It was a pretty freaking bleak day; I was in a genuine philosophical funk for days, even weeks. But I knew it wasn’t the fault of the entire country, so I did consciously reach out to known / suspected “good things”, so as to keep perspective. There really is a sense in which self-medicating with beer can be healthy. Very occasionally.

Anchor 'Liberty'
Diary entry #15, Anchor 'Liberty'

Verbatim: Anchor Brewing Co. Liberty Ale. $?, 12oz, @ home, Nov 4. Bush won again, but the West Wing is on. — Great bubbles, still around, very slightly cloudy, amber color. Even smells a bit orange-colored. Quite a strong muted-fruit flavour. Tasty. (5.9%) Bananas and orange peels, but flat notes where lagers would be sharp. Still bubbly. Well-made American. And then a big Hello Coriander at the end. The feel. Another fun thing about San Fran.

Afterthoughts, October 2010: It’s taken the Diary a while to get to its first pale ale, hasn’t it? The style hadn’t really hit its stride in the Australian microbrew scene, and the market definitely skewed (as you can see from these entries) towards European imports. I like the note that it “smells orange-colored” — and can’t help but notice that my occasional American-spelling habit was quite ingrained, at this point — that seems to be me noticing the classic American hoppy flavours. But then my brain got overloaded by the fruity / herby hoppy notes and seems to’ve retreated to the wheat beer genres it knew much better at the time when trying to pigeon-hole them.

Carlow ‘O’Hara’s Celtic Stout’

O'Hara's Celtic Stout
Diary entry #14, Carlow 'O'Hara's Celtic Stout'

Verbatim: O’Hara’s Celtic Stout. 12oz, 4.3%, <$5, 20/08/04, at home. Same brewery as above: Carlow, Ireland. Good n black, but broad, tan bubbles which went wandering too soon. More like uber-dark ale, really. Won a gold at BIIA, 2000. Goes just great with Futurama. G. flinches at the coffee-ness. I must be StoutMan.

Afterthoughts, October 2010: With all the bitter coffee flavour that’s apparently in there, I’m not sure where I thought the line between “uber-dark” and stout lay. I quite like the “less than” signs on the prices for these two Carlow beers, too. Always good to know that I can occasionally remember a ballpark, if the details do escape.

Carlow ‘Curim’ Golden Celtic Wheat

Carlow 'Curim'
Diary entry #13, Carlow 'Curim'

Verbatim: Curim Gold Celtic Wheat Beer. 12oz, 4.3%, <$5, 20/08/04, at home. Dark-gold, slightly cloudy. Bubbles gone already. Nice, lightly yeasty nose. Smooth, with just a bit of sharp to stay interesting. It’s Irish, so not the wheatiest, but none too bad.

Afterthoughts, October 2010: Here’s a good / terrible example of how forgetful and badly-habited I was in the early days of the Diary; a four-month mysterious gap since the previous entry. Shameful. And yeah, I’m not sure quite how I thought the “it’s Irish, so” bit really followed.

Jamieson ‘Mountain Ale’

Jamieson 'Mountain Ale'
Diary entry #12, Jamieson 'Mountain Ale'

Verbatim: Jamieson Mountain Ale. 330ml, 4.9%, $3ish, 11/4/04, at home. “Dark wheat beer”. Brown-black. Weird. Seems stuck halfway. Not bad, per se, but not wheat and not dark. Can’t see it winning friends. Stick with La Rossa.

Afterthoughts, October 2010: Oh, so very far to go until proper Beer Nerdery, still. Here’s me totally confused and confounded by the thought that “dark wheat beer” might be a thing unto itself and obviously under the impression that “dark” was basically a style, rather than just a colour, into which territory many beers may wander. There are some particularly-lovely dark wheats much later in the Diary, so I did eventually get the point.

Beamish Stout

Beamish Stout
Diary entry #11, Beamish Stout

Verbatim: Beamish Stout. 500ml, 4.2% $4ish, 29/3/04, at home with massive steak. It’s dark, and raining. I thought it all work together (one of those days). God bless Mr Widget. Gorgeous bubbles. Smooth, less punch than Guinness, closer to Craic*. Very good everyday stout. Uses cereals and caramel, but it’s not like I’m a mad Bavarian.

Afterthoughts, October 2010: Beamish is still very-much the Overlooked Third of the classic Irish dry stouts, still. Which I still think is unfair. (The *-mark refers further down the page — see the next scan — reminding myself that ‘Craic’ was a very-tasty little number in a similar style, made by the James Squire’s pub in town.) And I’m particularly delighted to see me beginning to mock the silly and undeservedly famous “Bavarian Purity Law” so early on; it’s a subject to which I’ll definitely return…