Category Archives: Diary entries

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

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.

 

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.
 

Josie Bones (and Bright ‘Harvest 150’)

Bright Brewery 'Harvest 150' at Josie Bones
Bright Brewery ‘Harvest 150’ (with a predictably-frequently-used meat slicer, and co-founder Chris Badenoch)

If I go missing one day, if you can’t find me for a while and have no idea where I’ve gone, check the cupboards and crawlspaces at Josie Bones in Melbourne. I’d only been there an hour before I was casing the place, looking for a place to stowaway and secretly live — emerging in the dead of night to drink lovely beer and feast on delicious leftovers.

Like my now-beloved Local Taphouse, Josie Bones was one of those amazing-sounding places that opened shortly after I moved back to Wellington. But despite occasional trips back, I’d never managed a visit until the Saturday afternoon between GABS sessions three and four. Hashigo’s David Wood and I met up with my Melbourne-resident friend Toby, and we seized the chance.

It was freakin’ awesome — as I may have telegraphed by suggesting I might disappear there some day. It’s a cute little place (smaller than I, for some reason, thought it’d be), charming and welcoming, well-presented but completely unpretentious. We took a seat at the bar, and quickly realised we were being served by the two founders — recognisable to those People Who Watch the Teevee Box as former Masterchef Australia contestants.

Josie Bones beer list
Josie Bones beer list
Crackling of the day
Crackling of the day
Quail, quail egg, and fries
Quail, quail egg, and fries

 

 

 

 

 

Josie Bones is a massively uncommon thing; a place that properly ‘gets’ food and beer. The beer menu is a gloriously fat clipboard of helpfulness (backed-up by the knowledge and enthusiasm housed in the brains of the staff), and there’s a healthy range available from the taps and/or the fridge. They’d done a wet-hop beer dinner just a few days prior, and several survivors were still pouring. I opted for Bright’s ‘Harvest 150’, since I couldn’t stop yammering about their Fainter’s Dubbel at a mini-beer-fest in Fed Square a few weeks previous. It, too, was exactly what I wanted — fat, rich red malt and plenty of fresh-hop zing and zip around the palate; full-on, but self-assured, rather than desperately clamouring for attention. I (a currently-unemployed person who’s lately been earning meager bartender-money, as I said before) splashed out on some stupidly-delicious food, and the combination of sensory delights nearly crippled me with joy. (And left me, not to belabour the point, idly planning how to move in.)

Door handles
Door handles
Interior
Interior
Tally marks
Tally marks

 

 

 

 

 

The overwhelming sensation — of the people, the place and the beer — was of welcome. Which is remarkably rare, in the “hospitality” (quote-unquote) business, but gleefully and glaringly obvious when done right. It’s a (deservedly) famously “meaty” place, with back-bar art and even door handles that seem to scream “Vegetarians: Fuck Off”. But that’s not it at all. I have it on very good authority from a non-omnivorous friend that, if you stand your ground and ask for things other-than-flesh, they have plenty and it’s just as mind-meltingly delicious. So the trotter-handles and the carcass-painting aren’t a prohibition; they’re just a friendly warning. Ditto the broad beer spectrum. It’s there if you want it, and if you’re remotely curious or just vaguely open-minded, you’ll be helped towards finding something you’ll cherish without scorn or harangue. They’re proud of their ability to match beer to people and people-and-beers to food expertly derived from former animals; they present it forthrightly and with justifiable pride. But it’s not all they do — though if they do bring you into their fold, you’ll become a tally-mark on their wall. I’m told they started keeping track of people they made recant their former “I don’t drink beer” self-identification — and that the smaller tally represented de-converted vegetarians.

Original Diary entry: Josie Bones 12/5/12, inbetween sessions. Finally made it here, and I already want to secretly live in one of their cupboards. Smaller than I thought, nicely kitted out, friendly and welcoming. I’ve got a Bright Brewery ‘Harvest 150’ (7%, $10, 330ml), which is stunning. Gorgeously red, smooth tan head, big fresh hop presence. Like what Garage Project were going for (and mostly got) with ‘Oldham’s Farm’. I splashed out, in hunger and excitement, and got Crackling of the Day (Pork, $4), Fries with Thyme + Prosciutto Salt + Chiptole Aioli ($9) and Crispy Beer-marinated Quail with Pickled Quail Egg ($9). Now, I’m rather satisfied, I must say.

Diary II entry #214.1, Josie Bones
Diary II entry #214.1, Josie Bones
Diary II entry #214.2, Josie Bones
Diary II entry #214.2, Josie Bones
Josie Bones' "May the pork be with you..." receipt
Josie Bones' "May the pork be with you..." receipt

 

GABS Glass #1: Garage Project ‘Double Day of the Dead’

Garage Project 'Double Day of the Dead'
Garage Project 'Double Day of the Dead'

At GABS, I was understudy for Local Taphouse’s Guy Greenstone, who was set to host ‘Beerista’ introductory tasting sessions at the ‘Craft Beer College’ series of free seminars running at the festival. He had a run-in with pneumonia, but was looking hearty during Friday’s Session One, so I seemed to be in the clear. Until about ten minutes before showtime. I was called in, hurried upstairs — from the front door, where I’d been head-counting for the security guys — and stumbled through (well, it seemed to me; apparently it went fine) a fun little chat about on How To Taste A Beer And Thereafter Ramble A Bit About It — with much-appreciated help from Pete Mitcham. Tremendous fun, in the end, but a bit hectic and nerve-wracking on short notice and (as I keep pleading, I know) little sleep.

So: a beer. A proper glass thereof, no mere tasting paddle would do. And no other beer made as much immediate sense as Garage Project’s ‘Double Day of the Dead’ — the miraculous resurrection / version 2.0 / GABS 2012 Special Edition Reprint of ‘Day of the Dead’my favourite beer of 2011. Weirdly, given the tactical shift I made just recently, this also amounts to my first-ever actual Diary entry here online for a Garage Project beer. Which feels very odd given how often I bang on about them in the podcasts (one of which was recorded with them, in their actual garage)1 and how very-many of their beers are waiting in my notebook ready to be uploaded (soon — ish), but these are the consequences of falling way behind in my rambling.

The beer, like its first edition, is a strong (and moreso, second time out) black lager, made with cocoa, agave syrup (i.e., the precursor to Tequila), and smoked chipotle chili. I vaguely recall something being mentioned about a dose of vanilla, too, for this batch — but I have a notoriously crappy memory. It’s got a lot going on, but all the components get along harmoniously and feel like they’re there for a reason. Despite a somewhat-similar shape but a briefer bill of adjuncts, it feels quite a lot more purposeful than Resolute’s ‘Zaragoza’, for example. The booze and the chili add a comforting-but-confronting warmth, the agave (with the vanilla, if I didn’t just hallunicate its mention) seems to smooth out the base nicely, and the cocoa has the wonderfully dusty quality of the tiny little shards of smashed hollow Easter chocolate. It’s fantastic, and was just exactly what I needed.

GABS bought a lot of each beer — running back-of-the-envelope calculations on what the event must’ve involved, money-wise, damn-near did my head in earlier today — and must’ve taken the entire run of many beers that appeared. Not quite so with this one, I was able to tell those jealous Wellingtonians who could only live their Spectapular through me and my all-day Twitter ramblings. There’s a small amount stashed aside and we’ll probably see some of it around town soon. And hopefully some more a few months’ from now, for the Día de los Muertos itself — after it spends the intervening time on holiday in a bourbon barrel. Which is a pretty fucking exciting prospect, if you ask me.

And as I mention in my notes, a proper-glass at GABS was a little on the steep side, price-wise — this was a relative bargain, at $10 worth of tokens, roundabout in the middle of a $6 to $16 range2 — but that’s probably inevitable, given the nature of the event as one stocked almost-entirely with one-off brews. Plus, it pays to remember, that’s me writing as someone a) presently unemployed, b) spending New Zealand dollars in Australia with a non-delightful exchange rate, and additionally c) a person who earnt those slightly-limp New Zealand dollars on criminally-underpaid bartender wages.

Original Diary entry: GABS Glass #1: Garage Project ‘Double Day of the Dead’ 11/5/12 Reward for crash-replacing the host of Beerista. Proper glasses are crazyexpensive, though I can see why. Two notches up in strength, and I can tell: a little booze-heat evident before the chili heat. Cocoa — upgraded to Whittaker’s — is lovely and dusty in that weird way I like. Still nicely balanced and well-assembled, given its many adjuncts. (A dash of vanilla this year, I think they said.) A worthy resurrection.

Diary II entry #213.1, GABS Glass #1 - Garage Project 'Double Day of the Dead'
Diary II entry #213.1, GABS Glass #1 - Garage Project 'Double Day of the Dead'
Diary II entry #213.2, GABS Glass #1 - Garage Project 'Double Day of the Dead'
Diary II entry #213.2, GABS Glass #1 - Garage Project 'Double Day of the Dead'
Garage Project 'Double Day of the Dead', with mask
Garage Project 'Double Day of the Dead', with one of many, many masks3

1: When it was incredibly empty, in hindsight. There was a big comfy couch where the brewhouse now stands and barely enough spare space to swing a proverbial cat. It’s been replaced by all sorts of lovely shiny stainless steel.
2: The low end was populated by a surprisingly-varied collection of beers not necessarily united in gentler strength or simpler-looking recipes whereas the high end of the territory was held by Renaissance’s Oak-aged edition of their much-loved and marvellous ‘Stonecutter’. Despite the high price, I kept hearing good things about it from various visitors — and the GABS organisers did make the wise and simplifying move of making all tasters one token, whatever the price of their full glass.
3: With apologies for the considerably crappier camera in my phone, not the ultra-lovely one I always have in my bag. I suppose I was just enjoying my beer to much, and didn’t think to re-take the shot with the mask, after snapping that image for the Twitters.
 

GABS Paddle #1: Everything ≤ 4.5% ABV

Tasting Paddle #1
Tasting Paddle #1

As I’ve mentioned a few times when talking about GABS, my Friday was very sleep-deprived; I only had two hours sleep on Thursday night — my nocturnal nature meshes not at all with early-morning flights — and wound up awake for some twenty-six hours. So I took it very easy, those first two sessions.

I’m a dedicated flag-bearer for midstrength / sessionable beer, and was delighted to see that in a festival of (mostly…) one-offs, I was still able to assemble a paddle-worth of beers at-or-under 4.5% ABV.1 They were pleasingly varied, style-wise (though that did make figuring out a drinking order rather perplexing), which I took to be a good sign of the increasing health of this corner of the industry.

I started with Croucher ‘ANZUS’ — as did the festival, since this was officially beer #1 on the Big Board, and a fittingly trans-Tasman2 way to begin what really was a genuinely Australasian festival. The Little Country wasn’t just there in a tokenistic way; a quarter of the beers were from over here, and from what I’ve read, a lot of Australians had a pleasingly eye-opening experience with New Zealand craft beer. ANZUS is a 2.7% hoppy pale ale, which puts it in the same family as Hallertau ‘Minimus’ and Liberty’s ‘Taranaki Session Beer’, and if that family is determined to have more offspring then I’ll gladly give them all the oysters and tax breaks I can to encourage the activity. Minimus was my ‘Beer of the Year’ for 2011, together with its brothers-from-other-mothers, so I’m positively delighted to see more of them around. It was delicious, and well-balanced — no easy trick at that ABV — and refreshingly bitter. So far as one can tell from a festival-thimble, at least. It’d make a cracker addition to their full range — hint hint, Paul, hint hint.

Next was the Sarsaparilla Stout from country-Victoria’s Grand Ridge, a brewery I have some extra fondness for after a particularly-excellent birthday evening-and-morning spent there years ago. I didn’t notice the mention of licorice in the book until after my first sip — and man do I hate licorice — so the very-much black jellybean nature of the thing was an unpleasant surprise. But if that’s your thing, this’d be a damn-handy four-percent sweet stout to have lying around for wintery afternoons. The Mash3 ‘Koffee Stout’ was only a touch stronger (or 0.3 of a touch, depending on how you calibrate these things), and muchmore my speed, caffeine-fueled organism that I am. Sessionable coffee stout sounds like perfect Writing Beer, to me.

I finished with a Pair of Weirds, one minor, one major. Hargreaves Hill’s ‘La Grisette’ was a bit of a history lesson, in both beer-style and words-of-French-origin terms. The basic idea seemed to be of a blue-collar after-work Belgian; a less-funky old-style Saison, perhaps. The flavours evoked a lot of sweetness, at first, but it dried right out at the back of the palate and could indeed make for a wonderful hot-day restorative. But then, damn. Feral’s ‘Watermelon Warhead’ was one of those beers that was the talk of the festival — in the “no, fucking seriously; try it” sense. An intensely sour Berliner Weisse, dosed with Watermelon juice and fermented in Chardonnay barrels, it was face-puckeringly surprising and brain-tinglingly fantastic. Alice Galletly likened it — in this growd of nearly-five-dozen beers — to a palate-cleansing sorbet, and that’s bang on.4 Making things even more impressive, it transpired that the ABV in the booklet (2.9%) was essentially a work-in-progress guess / estimate / number read of freshly-rolled dice; the beer was more likely around one point nine, making it handsomely the most flavourful — and most charmingly odd — “light beer” I’ve ever had within grabbing distance, or been tempted to grab.

Diary II entry #212, GABS Paddle #1: Everything ≤ 4.5% ABV
Diary II entry #212, GABS Paddle #1: Everything ≤ 4.5% ABV

Original Diary entry: GABS Paddle #1: Everything ≤ 4.5% ABV 11/5/12 in this absurdly gorgeous building back in the beloved Melb. (1) Croucher ‘ANZUS’ (2.7%) A little warmer thant I’d like, but still. In the Minimus mold, obviously, more bitter? Hard to tell from 85ml. (34) Grand Ridge ‘Sarsparilla’ Stout (4%) ~ and licorice root really evident. Black jellybean. Subbed for a hop addition, so rather sweet. (58) Mash ‘Koffee Stout’ (4.3%) Much more my speed. Tasty, but subtle. (36) Hargreaves Hill ‘La Grisette’ (3.8%) A style I’ve never heard of, but kind like. Feels like it’ll be sweet, but dries right out. Weird, but worthy. (55) Feral ‘Watermelon Warhead’ (2.9%) My first Berliner Weisse, and it’s exactly as sour as I’d like. Tart and indeed Watermelonny. Still nicely round.


1: There were actually six in the book, it turned out. I missed one — Moo Brew’s ‘Belgo’ — entirely. But, to atone, I had a whole glass on the Sunday. You’ll see it here soon.
2: Let’s just ignore, provisionally, the rather-fraught third (‘US’) member of that Treaty and focus on the ‘A’-‘NZ’ relationship for a moment — my guess is that Croucher are referring, all at once, to being a New Zealand beer at a festival in Australia, brewed in a vaguely-American style.
3: This being from Mash Brewing in WA, not from the Mash Collective which operates out of Stone & Wood in NSW (which also had a beer in the lineup). It’s probably a very good sign that breweries are proliferating rapidly enough that their names are starting to collide.a
— a: See also, for example, New Zealand’s plural ~Dog beers: ParrotDog, Rain Dogs, Black Dog.
4: Watermelon Warhead was also tied — with a Wig & Pen beer that became my GABS Glass #3 — for the lowest-posted official IBU rating, at a ‘paltry’ 6. Which just goes to show you, among all the hop-fashion and bitterness-chasing, that sour beers really can deliver intensity from a whole ’nother direction.
 

Resolute ‘Zaragoza’ Molé Stout

Resolute 'Zaragoza' Molé Stout
Resolute 'Zaragoza' Molé Stout, twice

Last week was massively distracted, in my brain and many others, by the run-up to GABS and Good Beer Week in Melbourne — but it (i.e., the week) still found time for the (North Island) launch of a new contract brewer in the local scene, Resolute Brewing. Well, for a given value of “new”, at least, since it’s the work of Nathan Crabbe, formerly part of contract-brewing operation Golden Ticket. He’d departed that gig for a job brewing at Harringtons but evidently had a relapse of the do-your-own-thing itch and is back in the game as Resolute.1

He pitched his Beer #1 as a ‘Molé Stout’, inspired by — and brewed with many/most of the same ingredients as — a traditional Mexican mole poblano sauce, namely chocolate, chili and (very many) various spices. Which immediately puts me in mind of last year’s beloved ‘Day of the Dead’ from Garage Project,2 but they’re very different beers, despite their rather-similar initial impressions. Surprisingly light (in both colour and alcoholic weight — the latter not quite as intended, I was told), Zaragoza was definitely promising and well put-together, especially considering its two-dozen-odd ingredients — they weren’t fighting like angry cats in a bag, though they weren’t making much noise of whatever attention-grabbing kind, come to that. Subtlety is no bad thing at all, but it was a little unexpected in this case. To me, it massively suited warming up rather a lot and developed into something like the (friendly) ghostly apparition of an astonishingly decadent chocolate brownie — all the flavour, none of the stodge. If anything, it could use more meat on its bones, but it wasn’t worryingly thin.

Resolute and Golden Ticket, side by side
Resolute and Golden Ticket, side by side

Golden Ticket, meanwhile, has continued in the hands of Nathan’s former business partner Ally McGilvray and has been making some lovely beers — like ‘Black Emperor’ (a “black pilsner”) and ‘Champion Malky’ (a characterful golden ale) — one of which was on handpull right beside this one, fittingly enough. I’d had two pints of Zaragoza and realised I had time for another half of something before I had to head off, and was unable to resist the fittingness of the two beers side by side and one after another. I also got that photo of the badges together — Hashigo’s difficult lighting mandated using my camera’s HDR trickery and the multiple exposures made Dylan’s photobomb ghostly and spectacular. ‘Brown Marvel’ is a charmingly quaffable take on an American Brown, a nicely balanced mix of a little malty roast and a little fruit hop. And as if to underscore the surprising lightness of Zaragoza, this “brown” seemed a shade or two darker in the glass than the stout which came before it.

Original Diary entry: Resolute ‘Zaragoza’ Stout 8/5/12 @ HZ for BGC,3 its North Island launch. R is Nathan, formerly of Golden Ticket, then Harringtons, then on his own again. Brewed at the resurrected Twisted Hop, which is neat. I’m not enough of a foodie to know much about Molé, but chili-choc is the general idea. Only 4.5% (intended to be %5-ish), and very-brown, not black. Surprising lightness of body isn’t bad, but I was keen for some stodge. Tastes very brownie, but with utterly un-brownie texture. Hints of vanilla emerge (whether from actual vanilla or not). Chili isn’t of the hot kind at all. This isn’t a patch on DOTD, but it’s equally not at all bad and a promising start. — Then, appropriately, Golden Ticket ‘Brown Marvel’ (5.5%, $8, 380ml) Which is, oddly, darker. Pleasantly easy-going. Suits handpull. A little roast, and a little fruity hop.

Golden Ticket 'Brown Marvel'
Golden Ticket 'Brown Marvel'
Hashigo's Daily Menu, Resolute-ified
Hashigo's Daily Menu, Resolute-ified
Diary II entry #211, Resolute 'Zaragoza'
Diary II entry #211, Resolute 'Zaragoza'

1: There’s no real suggestion of a falling-out, or at least none that I’ve picked up on. It just seems to be the case — and fair enough — that since Golden Ticket had, by now, put out more beers without Nathan that it had done with him it’s become Ally’s thing.
2: My favourite beer of 2011, a black lager with cocoa, chili and agave syrup — which was also launched with appropriate timing, having its debut on the actual Dia De Los Muertos, November 1. ‘Zaragoza’, equally fittingly, made its first-first appearance on Cinco de Mayo.
3: I habitually refer to Hashigo’s ‘New Release Tuesday’ as “#BeerGeekChurch”. They became ‘a thing’ with the Garage Project’s 24/24 phase, and have continued since. There is always a decent crowd of lovely beer nerds to hang out with; it’s a brilliant part of the week.
 

Alaskan Winter Ale

Alaskan 'Winter Ale'
Alaskan 'Winter Ale'

The best-laid plans and all that, right? Four different U.S. imports arrived in the keg fridge at work in the early stages of last winter, and all four had glorious great big ostentatious American-style tap handles. I quickly hatched a plan (not just within the bounds of my own head; I told the right people and made the relevant notes) to put them all side-by-side on the 4th of July. It just seemed to make sense. But these things had a way of undoing themselves and I’d show up to work in the days preceding the Americans’ collective birthday and find that one or other had been cracked, with or without its marvellous handle, and placed in some random corner of the taps. Sigh.

But. But — it turns out that if the proverbial man with the best-laid plan (and possibly the mice) is extraordinarily stubborn, faced with a quiet weekend night shift, and entirely comfortable with spending a few hours in the keg chiller, shuffling hefty things into organised piles in a zero-degrees-Celsius environment — the Zen Art Of Kegtris1then you might just witness a resurrection of that plan. And, as you can see from the handles arrayed behind my glass, that’s exactly what happened. It was, in its own way, beautiful. If I do say so.

July 4th tap handles
The Four of July

The reshuffle was a Saturday night, and I was (uncharacteristically) also working the Sunday — which is when I had this, as a little reward for getting everything done and ready for “tomorrow”, the 4th. I’ve entirely forgotten which lovely friend of mine I happened to bump into before work who shouted it for me as I mooched around before my shift — I’d turned up early, even further out of character and probably due to the disorientation of the schedule change.

It made for a great start to my workday, not least because 6.5% ABV in a light and sweet and gorgeously perfumed little ale helps to put a bit of a shine on your face, if you skipped breakfast. Comparisons to local-oddity ‘Captain Cooker’ from the Mussel Inn are meant as sincere and complimentary. They’re both charmingly peculiar, enjoyably different, and really interestingly tasty. And seriously, the tap handle is a fucking great big snow-covered tree. With a weirdly adorable eagle on the top. I still can’t believe the Powers That Be were content to leave that sitting in a dark cupboard, but I’m glad I overruled them.

Original Diary entry: Alaskan Winter Ale 3/7/11 From the four, all properly in place at last. Much paler than we expected, light amber. Smells like Christmass + shortbread, candy sweetness. Made with spruce, which help justify the already-awesome tap handle. Has that Captain Cookery sweet perfume. 6.5%-ish. Lovely start to a Sunday at work.

Alaskan 'Winter Ale', tap handle top (Malthouse, 3 July 2011)
Alaskan Winter Ale's tap-handle eagle
Alaskan Winter Ale, tap handle base (Malthouse, 2 July 2011)
Alaskan Winter Ale's tap handle base
Diary II entry #120, Alaskan Winter Ale
Diary II entry #120, Alaskan Winter Ale

1: Which really does seem to be a ‘me’ word — a fact that makes me deliriously proud. I do hope it catches on. If it does, I’m totally adding “neologist” to my CV.
 

St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout (My house, 8 May 2012)
St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

My Canada Day last year then continued with this, a Quebecker Oatmeal Stout, there at my desk at home (with the Diary itself and my rather-lovely Hashigo Zake bottle opener visible behind it, and it perched on ludicrously-extravagant Moa Beer leather-and-felt coaster). And, just for a sense of continuity and appropriateness I’m now — as then — listening to The Tragically Hip, who I’ve been fond of for ages and to the extent where it appears as a data point to those not-insignificant numbers of people who assume me to be Canadian.

This is a massively well-renowned stout, and it was being consumed by someone to which oatmeal stout is a kind of wintery, liquid Kryptonite.1 But it and I just didn’t get along fantastically well. Its company was pleasant enough, but it should’ve been like a fireside chat with Stephen Fry himself, given the circumstances. This just didn’t have the glorious smoothness that is half the reason I go so wibbly for a good oatmeal stout,2 and there was a faint tinge of metal that made it reminiscent (not entirely unwelcomely) of a thick foil bag of chocolate-chip cookies.

It just seemed a little past its prime — though the Best Before date was impenetrably Hieroglyphic, smooshed and encoded. Consensus from a few at Hashigo was that it probably had been around for a while and had come via a third party somewhere, this not being one of their ultra-cautious imports. While neither a disaster nor a complete swing-and-a-miss, certainly, it simply wasn’t quite what I wanted and seemed unable (in that time and place) from making good on its promise. Mercifully, in the same takeaway-shopping trip, I also bought another ‘Péché Mortel’ from the equally-Quebeçois Dieu du Diel!, which was completely delicious and undegraded and thereby rescued the evening convincingly. Now I just want another of those.

Diary II entry #119, St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout
Diary II entry #119, St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

Original Diary Entry: St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout 1/7/11 continuing the theme. $9.5 @ HZ, 341ml only 5% Another hundreder,3 which didn’t immediately grab me. The smoothness of the oats (and of the online praise), just isn’t so much there. I initially thought I just had it too cold. But it’s still having the same sharp uptick ride on the palate. Not unwelcome, just unexpected, unplanned. Slightly metal? Can’t decipher the best before. “12 B? 30 / J2010” Hopefully the latter isn’t it… Not sure. Smells like a bag of cookies. [2nd Péché Mortel was way better.]


1: Damnit. Now a Superman reference seconds after talking about Canadian music has the Crash Test Dummies firmly stuck in my head.
2: See, for example, Liberty’s stupidly-fucking-fantastic ‘Never Go Back’ — or, if you think that might be cheating a little, with its hugeness, just look to Firestone Walker’s ‘Velvet Merlin’.
3: By which I mean it scored a full 100 on RateBeer.com. I probably use that word as short hand because I really loved Neal Stephenson’s Anathem (in which it means something very different).