Drinker’s indolence strikes again

17 06 2011

I’ve been shockingly lazy with this thing, although my laziness is far from shocking for most people who know me in person. Admittedly I’ve been a little distracted by the recent acquisition of L.A. Noire for the Playstation 3. However, this isn’t a blog about video games, so all I’ll say is that I’m rather fond of the protagonist’s hard-arsed partner in homicide, Rusty Galloway, who doesn’t allow the trifling distractions of detective work to stand in the way of a drink. “Three fingers of rye, bartender.”

Anyway, continuing from my last post, an extraordinary amount of BrewDog has been passing through this beer-ravenous maw I use sporadically for eating and frequently for cursing at these two cats who seem to take an almost palpable pleasure at shitting on the kitchen floor. Now I’m just getting sidetracked.

As part of Good Beer Week (going back a few weeks here), Chapel St Cellars held an Abstrakt tasting session. Abstrakt is a very limited run of unusual bottle-conditioned beers from the boozy haggis-gobblers at BrewDog, named simply for their batch numbers (e.g. AB:01, AB:02, and so on… have a look at this link for descriptions of each Abstrakt). Our session encompassed AB:01 all the way to AB:05.

Yeah, not a great photo.

Given the stretch of time between the tasting and the time at which I’m writing this, the finer details have completely escaped my mind. Here’s what I recall – AB:01 was heavily reminiscent of a Trappist ale, and a good effort at that. AB:02 was far too bitter for my liking. Not simply hoppy, just bitter. AB:03 was a curiosity, and the one I was looking forward to the most… an imperial ale casked for two years in whisky barrels with raspberries and strawberries. Couldn’t taste the whisky, to me it tasted much like sparkling white wine with Chambord. AB:04 was a colossal smashing of coffee and chocolate, and AB:05 was like a softer, more rounded version of the AB:04 with less coffee.

The folks at Chapel St Cellars even put on a decent cheese platter afterwards. Except for that thing with nuts in it, whatever that crap is. That shit will send me to the emergency ward in no time.

So, that’s it for the BrewDogs for the moment. There’s been plenty of other drinking going on recently (to state the bloody obvious), plus a book review or two I’d like to thrash out, so once I get my act together I’m hoping to update Nondakure more often!


Dogged drinking

21 05 2011

Despite my professed love for beer, I’m pretty much a failure. It’s Good Beer Week in Victoria, a week-long celebration of the current beer renaissance we are experiencing in this country, and I’m yet to turn up to a single one of the official events. I was particularly keen on two BrewDog tastings happening at Chapel St Cellars – a sample of eight different BrewDogs on Tuesday night, which I missed due to certain music commitments, and Sunday night’s BrewDog Abstrakt AB:01 – AB:05 tasting, which is now sold out because I’m slow and stupid.

To compensate for this, I headed on over to Chapel St Cellars anyway, as the miser in me couldn’t say no to free tastings of paired beverages from the Kiuchi Brewery in Japan, particularly known for their range of Hitachino Nest beers. First up was Hitachino Nest White Ale, which had the classic cirtrus’n’coriander hallmarks of that style, but felt a touch too light in body for my liking. This was paired with Kiuchi Umeshu, which was was sensational. Full-bodied and well-balanced, it doesn’t stray too far into the sweet or tart ends of the umeshu spectrum. Great on the nose as well – if you needed any further proof that the ume is a closer botanical relative of the apricot than of the plum, all you need to do is take a whiff of the empty glass. The Kiuchi Umeshu is like sticking your head into a bag of dried apricots.

Next up was Hitachino Nest Japanese Classic Ale, a beer for which I expressed great fondness in another post about a month or two ago. The maturation in cedar casks adds a unique depth to it, I only wish I could say the same for myself after having sat around in a cedar bathtub in Japan for an hour. Anyway, if you’re familiar with the smell of cedar you’ll likely pick up a whiff of it in the Classic Ale. This was paired with Kikusakari Junmai Tarusake, a nihonshu (what we more commonly call “sake” in English) also casked in cedar. For all my time spent in Japan I know a pitifully small amount about this type of drink, as the styles and varieties can be as equally varied and intimidating (although, mercifully, not as pretentious) as anything the world of wine can throw at you. Unto that, I’ll just say that I really liked it. Great mouthfeel, wonderful flavour, perfectly suited to room temperature.

And I liked the Junmai Tarusake and the umeshu so much I decided to buy full bottles of them.

The final round of tastings presented the Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale. Something of an enigma really, wasn’t sure what to make of it, although I’m keen to pick up a full bottle so I can give it another go. Lots of flavours and nuances seemed to be competing for attention in this one. Naturally, this was paired with Kikusakari Asamurasaki, a red rice sake. First time I’ve tried a rice wine that wasn’t clear or white, actually. Not bad, although a little thinner on the palate than what I’m used to. Perhaps I spent too much time in Japan getting blasted on rough-as-guts convenience store nihonshu.

A thoroughly unspectacular photo of my glass of BrewDog Tokyo... but you've gotta try this drink. Seriously.

Not to be let down by my inaction to secure a spot in the BrewDog tastings, I finished off the afternoon by ordering a glass of the notorious 18.2% BrewDog Tokyo, the release of which twisted the knickers of numerous clueless lobby groups. To think that people would abuse this drink is absurd. I’d wager that anyone who orders a Tokyo knows exactly what they’re in for, and you’d be deranged to think you could pound this like a cheap pot of lager. If you wanted to get blotto and destroy your liver, you could pick up a bottle of spirits for the same price as a bottle of Tokyo (and at an infinitely greater number of locations, considering the rarity of the Tokyo), so whatever criticisms these quasi-temperance nannies wish to level at BrewDog are completely illegitimate. Anyway, this is by far the richest and most intense beer I’ve ever come across (and probably will be until I one day try the Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink The Bismarck), it’s reminiscent of the dense fruitiness of a dark fortified wine, we’re getting into spicy pudding/treacle territory here. Delicious, astounding stuff. And great value at Chapel St Cellars at $8 for what I think was a 150mL glass. Doesn’t sound like much, but I spent almost 40 minutes on it. I didn’t ask whether or not they had some bottles for sale, although I’m determined to pick up a few if they’re still available somewhere.

So, that concludes it for another post. Let’s hope I’m a little more on the ball next time Good Beer Week rolls around.

Edit (22/05/11): I waltzed back into Chapel St Cellars this afternoon to find that the Abstrakt tasting was actually taking place at 2:30pm, and there happened to be a cancellation. Some sort of beer deity must be looking kindly upon me… a post on that event to come in the near future.

Subeeriority complex

9 05 2011

Resolutely standing my ground in the face of my friend’s accusations that I was attempting to compensate for something, Saturday evening saw the materialisation – and subsequent and steady dematerialisation – of two rather large vessels of beer. I couldn’t say no to a 1.5L bottle of Grolsch for $10 at Dan Murphy, nor can I ever fail to say yes to the trusty 1L can of Asahi Super Dry (a.k.a The Silver Dove, The Silver Bullet Mortar), also $10, from a small grocery and liquor store in Hawthorn.

See that bottle of Strongbow Clear? That's how I sometimes feel when I'm at that beefcake bodybuilding gym down the road.

I decided to carry the empty bottle of Grolsch home in the reluctant expectation of wielding it as an implement for bludgeoning any one of the assortment of contemptible aberrations that populate Chapel Street on a Saturday night (I don’t know why we focus so much on environmental pollution; fixing social pollution would solve a multitude of problems), with the peripheral thought of perhaps re-using the bottle for some sort of alcoholic concoction in the future.

Also – been worrying about your excessive alcohol intake recently? Worry no more! Have a look at Why Intelligent People Drink More Alcohol at the Psychology Today website. Now, if only a raised intelligence was a side-effect of alcohol, then there might not be so many tossbags out on Chapel Street on the weekends. Or, instead of playing excruciatingly shitty dance music whilst doing their laps up and down the street, they’d at least be blasting out audiobooks of Thomas Paine, Stephen Hawking and Charles Darwin.

Oak and smoke

3 05 2011

About a month ago I churned out a post concerning the Fed Square Microbreweries Showcase in which I waffled on with praise about 3 Ravens Dark, a delicious yet easy-drinking smoky beer with a remarkable but subtle bacon-like finish. Perhaps a very distant relative of something like Ardbeg Uigeadail. Anyway, I was delighted to find some bottles of the brand-spanking-new (but limited) 3 Ravens Double Ale Noir at Slowbeer not too long ago, a barrel-aged version of the Dark. Here’s a blurb/description from The Crafty Pint:

The latest limited release (very limited release) from 3 Ravens has undergone quite a journey. It takes the concept of last year’s first Ale Noir (a Geelong Pinot Noir barrel-aged take on their Dark smoke beer) and adds another dimension. The barrel that was used last time around was refilled with Dark beer which spent ten months maturing. A second batch of Dark was placed into a fresh Pinot barrel for six weeks and then the two were blended. The result is a 6.5% beer that brewer Dave Brough says has “a big oaky, vanilla and earthy phenolic nose”. There’s a thinner body than last year’s as there was less malt to “fatten it up”, he says, which along with the slightly acidic notes and long, dry finish give it a vinous character. As for the palate, it’s “a full bodied Pinot spiced with subtle malt sweetness and peated Scotch notes”. There’s only the tiniest handful of kegs so keep your eyes peeled for where they turn up.

6 Ravens Quadruple Ale Noir Noir.

For some reason I was expecting a ramped-up version of the Dark, but the casking appears to have softened it quite a lot. I can probably agree with the aforementioned “vinous” characteristic though, you can tell there’s something a little different about this beer from the rest of the 3 Ravens offerings.

I still have one of those bottles sitting in the cupboard, I may break it out in the future for a side-by-side with the standard Dark.

The wagon

22 04 2011

I have quite a few teetotal friends. Granted, they’re not exactly in the majority amongst the circles I drift in and out of, but they’re there. Some have abstained upon doctor’s orders, some wish to disassociate themselves from a family history of alcohol abuse, some choose to live a straightedge lifestyle, others have set some strict health and fitness goals for themselves. All perfectly legitimate and respectable reasons.

"Moe, I've come here to make amends for my disgraceful behavior over the last twenty years... I broke barstools, befouled your broom closet, and made sweet love to your pool table, which I then befouled."

None of these friends harangue me over my regular raising of the wrist, nor do I bother with convincing them to hit the sauce. In his enthralling and entertaining memoir, Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens writes: “Alcohol makes other people less tedious, and food less bland, and can help provide what the Greeks called entheos, or the slight buzz of inspiration when reading or writing.” I know all this to be true (especially the first part…) although I certainly don’t attempt to stuff a booze-laden funnel past the oesophagus of my abstinent friends when they’re lackadaisically slumped in the corner of a humdrum nightclub complaining of boredom. The short of it is, nobody likes being preached to.

So, imagine how thrilled I was to open a Sunday newspaper the other week and come across an article spanning a broadsheet page-and-a-third about how a formerly habitually-shitfaced journo has seen the light, and now desires to share the wonders of “the illuminating glow of sobriety” with any sod (or sot, perhaps) willing to surrender their eyeballs for a few moments. The article can be read online: High Sobriety by Jill Stark. The Sunday Age isn’t the first outlet I’d typically turn to for thought-provoking social commentary, but even by their standards this is contemptible, obnoxious, sanctimonious tripe. Here are some samples of the absurdity being peddled to us:

I’d been a regular drinker since my teens and struggled to imagine how life could be anything short of dull and two-dimensional without it. Didn’t the best nights out usually happen after a skinful?

But I was about to turn 35. I had a grown-up job, a ridiculous mortgage and knees that now made a cracking noise every time I stood up. I could no longer afford to drink like I was a teenager.

That rush you get when a favourite singer hits a note that wraps round your heart and leaves you breathless is just as real when you’re drinking water.

But there was a bigger epiphany to come. That night I busted my long-held belief that alcohol is an essential element in any romantic connection.

Alcohol gives us a convenient safety net should the recipient of our truth-telling not react in the way we might like.

What’s harder, is finding a more constructive way to express your emotions.

Removing alcohol leaves you with no excuses.

One out of two ain't bad. I'd say it's just about right, really.

I was going to provide a little commentary for each of these extracted sentences, but I’ll allow you to draw your own conclusions.

As I see it, the article is a portrait of someone lacking in self-control, someone unable to take responsibility for their own actions, and someone who appears to be barely able to acknowledge, if not completely unable to find, the middle ground. The comments section is equally depressing, full of people who seem to have known only total sobriety and full-throttle dipsomania and nothing in between.

I drink most nights. I’m not drunk most nights. A whisky, or a beer, or a glass of wine of liqueur. To the best of my recollection, not since 2006 have I rocked up to work with a hangover. Some people appear to be astonished by the notion that alcohol can be consumed for its taste. As far as I’m aware, alcohol – or rather, alcohol as a product of fermentation and the subsequent potation in which it is present – is the only recreational drug that can still be enjoyed without its effects being necessarily felt. (A similar case could be made for tobacco in the form of cigars, but that’s a somewhat grey area).

On some weekends I’m no stranger to imbibing more liberal amounts; I’ve found that it can make an otherwise insufferable venue or crowd verge on tolerable, and often turn a decent night into a livelier one. I’m not some dewy-eyed cry-on-a-stranger’s-shoulder pisshead. I know my limits, I know when I’m exceeding them, and I’m rather proud of my capacity to stay vertical even whilst thoroughly slaughtered. Yet unlike the author above, never do I use the drink as a catalyst for barfing out a rainbow of emotions or effectuating romantic situations, nor do I use it as any excuse for acts of gross stupidity committed whilst under its influence (hey, it’s all me, baby). Alcohol may be a reason, but it’s never a justification.

The quintessential Japanese salaryman after a night out with the colleagues. Absolutely textbook example here.

When the author writes, “Moderation has always been a harder proposition than abstinence“, is this really true? Are people honestly incapable of driving out to a gig or a club, drinking one beer – or two, if they stick around long enough to space them out – and then sticking to non-alcoholic drinks for the rest of the night? (Bundaberg Ginger Beer is fucking delicious, by the way. Highly recommended as a substitute if you’re planning to get back home without wrapping your car around a pole). I don’t feel that I’m at all qualified to comment definitively on Australia’s drinking culture, but the article and the ensuing comments seem to be indicative of a substantial problem in this country. Er, one of many.

Perhaps the observation on moderation versus abstinence is true. Season 9 of South Park featured a savagely brilliant yet controversial episode entitled Bloody Mary, dealing with Randy Marsh’s worsening alcoholism. The final scene is a conversation between Randy and his son, Stan, in which the following exchange takes place (which can also be watched online here):

Stan: “Dad, you like to drink. So have a drink once in a while. Have two. If you devote your whole life to completely avoiding something you like, then that thing still controls your life and, ‘n you’ve never learned any discipline at all.

Randy: “But, maybe… I’m just the kind of person who needs to have it all or nothing.

Stan: “Naw. All or nothing is easy. But learning to drink a little bit, responsibly, that’sa disciprine. Disciprine… come from within.

Australia... what we need is a little disciprine.

I’m actually tempted to give up the grog for perhaps a fortnight or a month to see how I go – at least for some blog fodder, if for no other reason. But given the fact that I actually can moderate my intake of alcohol, along with the reasonably substantial amount of single malt whisky in my cupboard, I can’t ever picture myself in Jill Stark’s corner. Much like the classic Winston Churchill quote, “Always remember that I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.

Les Enfants Terrible

15 04 2011

And I do mean “Terrible” in the nicest possible way.

See for yourself.

Unibroue Maudite, Terrible, Trois Pistoles.

I seem to be buying a shitload of longnecks recently. Slow Beer (website/blog) and their Wednesday specials are going to be the death of me, or at least my finances/liver/social life. I haven’t had a Unibroue beer in quite a while, looking forward to demolishing these.

Beer porn

10 04 2011

The beer orgy continues! A diversity of the ol’ barley pop has been swilled over the past few weeks here at Nondakure HQ. In a slight change of tack, this post will be more visual than textual. In other words, I’m just being plain lazy and can’t be bothered constructing a proper piece of writing.

Tosser's Real Dry. This is the first time in 12 years I've seen beer in a plastic bottle. Says a lot about the venue in which it's served... then again, it provides inebriated bogans with an opportunity to belt each other with their drinking vessels without actually causing serious harm. And don't even get me started on the jokes about the name of the beer.

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.”

-Abraham Lincoln

Brew Dog Paradox. Now here's an interesting one... it's not exactly a secret that I enjoy whisky, so the thought of a beer matured in whisky casks - in this case, The Arran Malt - is a lip-smacking proposition. The only problem is that I've never actually tried Arran, so I'm not exactly sure what points of reference I'm looking for here (er, other than whisky) but it was delicious nonetheless. Chapel Street Cellars and Slow Beer here in Melbourne have a variety of other beers aged in whisky casks (including a number of peated whisky casks), although unfortunately the vast majority are beyond the sort of price I'm willing to pay for a beverage that, once opened, you have to drink in its entirety.

“A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it’s better to be thoroughly sure.”

-Czech proverb

Here is a comment left by user "Eddie murphy" on thebackpacker.net website concerning Phoenix Beer from Mauritus: "I had phoenix beer when i was in mauritius it was wicked. I got really drunk and i didnt care im telling you guys once you drink phoenix you wont drink another beer. I also like cool aid ma mama makes that for me all the time. i like to smoke weed and drink phoenix beer. Smoke de sensimiila an drink de phoenix beer!! i like to sing micheal jacksons song oh tito stop teasing, im telling mom. i also like cock." I'm actually going to Mauritius in July, so expect further commentary on this beer (and in all likelihood, the local rums) a few months down the track.

“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.”

-Frank Zappa

L-R: HaandBryggeriet 'Norwegian Wood', Hitachino Nest Japanese Classic Ale, 3 Ravens Dark, 8 Wired 'The Big Smoke' Smoked Porter. All picked up from Slow Beer in Hawthorn. The Norwegian Wood was impressive (apparently it's a recreation of traditional Norse beer), quite a distinct spicy and smokey finish to it, and the first beer I've tried featuring juniper twigs and berries in the ingredients. Greatly enjoyed the Hitachino brew as well, the cedar barrels definitely impart a unique flavour. Definitely keen to try more from that brewery, might even be worth a side-trip next time I'm in Japan. 3 Ravens Dark has been the highlight of the last two Fed Square Microbrewery Showcase events I've been to (see my last post), and 'The Big Smoke' was a decent but balanced wallop of smoke, roasted coffee and dark chocolate. Good stuff.

“Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer.”

-Arnold Schwarzenegger

Okay, so not booze, but I put in an order for some of Blair's sauces. Deadly stuff, and an absolute must for chilli freaks. On the Scoville scale, regular Tabasco rates about 2,500 to 5,000. Mega Death Sauce is around 500,000, Ultra Death is about 800,000. And I've learned to not inhale whilst taking in a mouthful of anything coated in Death Rain habanero powder.

“He was a wise man who invented beer.”


Tusker. Significant mainly for the fact that it’s the first beer from mainland Africa (Kenya, to be precise) that I’ve tried. Not sure if the cheeky rogues who designed the logo intended to draw a comical elephant in blackface… well, at least that’s what I see, probably says more about me than the people from Tusker. Anyway, apparently the logo is a reference to the founder of Kenya Breweries Ltd who was killed by an elephant whilst on a hunt. Here’s to that elephant.

“Beer makes you feel the way you ought to feel without beer.”

-Henry Lawson

Mountain Goat Surefoot Stout. And you'd better believe it's stouter and as bitter as a North Korean despot. Okay, perhaps not reaching Arrogant Bastard Ale standards (I mean the beer, not the tyrant), but it's got some heft to it. The financial controller at my current place of employment also happens to be in a similar position at Mountain Goat... I really ought to ask if they need an extra pair of hands, so I can stand around looking lost and confused in a completely new place of employment.