“Just hook it to my veeeiiins!”

2 04 2011

As contemptuous as I am of Australia’s big-name beer brands, sometimes I resort to pouring their filthy suds down my gullet. Case in point: last week I was out at a live music venue here in Melbourne, already mildly blitzed, and determined to chart a course for further inebriation. When this is your main goal for the evening (and don’t ever accuse me of being an individual who can’t set and reach personal goals) attributes of taste may often have to take a backseat, particularly if frugality is of some concern. Unwilling to pay $8 or so for some entry-level bottled muck, I opted for some entry-level on-tap muck in the form of a $3.50 pot of Carlton Draught. As long as it’s chilled, and as long as your taste buds are already numbed from prior potation, it’s sufficiently inoffensive and does the job. And it’s not Tooheys New, which is always a bonus. Long gone are the days of dollar pots, and for a club-style venue, $3.50 for a pot of beer is surprisingly reasonable.

(For the readers beyond these Antipodean borders – all two of you – a “pot” is a beer glass size of 285mL, or 10 fl oz, used in Victoria, and apparently in Queensland as well. See this link for more beer glass sizes in Australia and the peculiar names bestowed upon them.)

I’m acutely aware of having opened myself to the charge of snobbery or elitism of some sort. But really, given the choice, why wouldn’t you drink something a little tastier, a little quirkier, a little different? Even if it means having to endure some dickhead at the bar muttering, “Hmmph, poof” under his breath as you walk away with the fancy Belgian raspberry lambic ale you just ordered. On the other hand, I also acknowledge the fact that I frequently find myself in establishments of questionable merit, thus I must also always be prepared to begrudgingly take whatever’s on offer.

Anyway, this rambling is somewhat tied to an event I attended quite recently – the Fed Square Microbreweries Showcase (and I notice that they’ve already put up the information for the next event in October). A solidly enjoyable event, and excellent value for $25. Here’s a list of the beers and ciders I tried:

2 Brothers Growler, 3 Ravens Dark, 3 Ravens Black, Arctic Fox Chocolate Stout, Bellarine Port Pilsner, Bright Brewery Raspberry Lambic, Coldstream Spring Lager, Kooinda Belgian Witbier, Hawthorn Premium Pale Ale, Mildura Storm Cloudy Ale, Mildura Choc Hops, Mountain Goat Skipping Girl Summer Ale, Napoleone Pear Cider, Napoleone Apple Cider, Otway Brewing Organic Blueberry Hefeweizen, Rebello Apple Cider, Sweetwater Weissbier, Pipsqueak Cider.

This is the Atrium in Federation Square. A most unfitting name, given that not a single right angle seems to exist in the entire bloody complex.

My highlight of last October’s event was the 3 Ravens Dark, and it didn’t disappoint this year. Utterly delicious, smokey, almost bacon-like finish. Definitely one for fans of Islay malts. Another big surprise was Mildura Choc Hops. I’ve tried a handful of chocolate stouts, but this was staggeringly delicious. Apparently it’s being released in a small handful of bottleshops soon, certainly keen to get my hands on some. In the cider category, Napoleone absolutely nailed it with their apple and pear ciders. Clean, tart, and not sweet. Rebello’s Cheeky Rascal ciders are similarly praiseworthy, especially their apple and strawberry cider – far better than the nauseatingly sweet and fruity Swedish ciders that are currently all the rage (but hey, I’ll still drink one if I’m offered…)

You’d think 20 x 60mL samples is a bit tight-fisted, barely enough to wet your whistle, although I was admittedly struggling to get rid of the last couple of drink tickets.

Let's see whether your handwriting is any better after a shitload of beer whilst using your non-preferred hand to write whilst the other hand holds both the booklet and a glass of beer.

I’m already looking forward to the next time one… all I have to do is wait seven months. Bah. Let me know if you hear of any similar events in Melbourne in the near future! And watch out for more beer-related posts coming to Nondakure soon!

Advertisements




One for the road

1 02 2011

I took a break from my usual Australia Day activities of bellowing moronic chants and muttering obscenities about immigrants taking over our way of life – besides, my “LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT” t-shirt was in the wash – and went on a road trip to the town of Daylesford. Foregoing the usual enticement of the region’s mineral spas (as much as I like a soak, it’s not easy to be excited about these things once you’ve experienced the glory of a Japanese onsen), a small group of us checked out a handful of the town’s attractions.

Lunch – in my case, a brilliant but ever-so-slightly inadequate serving of pan-fried gnocchi – was summarily devoured at Breakfast and Beer. If you have a look at the website you’ll see that the beer list is extensive and impressive, although in actuality the fridge (which appeared to also serve as the beer menu) appeared to contain a far smaller variety. Nevertheless, to my surprise they stocked a variety of the excellent Hitachino Nest Beers from the Kiuchi Brewery in Japan. Whilst living in Japan I rarely had the opportunity to try local beers beyond the hodgepodge of Asahi/Sapporo/Kirin/etc., as the Japanese palate generally steers towards brews that are as clear, clean, crisp, and generally inoffensive as possible. There are a respectable number of craft breweries out there in all corners of Japan producing a wide variety of beers, often unique, although for a lack of a large market willing to diversify their beer-swilling habits (and perhaps due to a handful of microbrewers’ desires to keep their products as fresh as possible at the time of consumption) they’re not easily available – at least not in Kumamoto or Tokushima, the two Japanese cities in which I’ve lived. So, imagine my surprise when, at this little restaurant and beer garden in Daylesford, I come across a bottle of Rising Sun Pale Ale from Baird Beer in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Rising Sun Pale Ale

How many Japanese cliches can you (mis)appropriate into a single beer label?

Not a bad drop at all. A great reddish-coppery colour, decent head, with some citric/tarty fruit and a sensible amount of hops on the palate. The finish had a satisfying touch of bitterness, although not quite as bitter as being walloped with a $14 charge for the drink. I suppose this is what you get for ordering straight out of the fridge, but to me it seems a little unscrupulous for an establishment such as this to not have a booze menu with prices. The alternative is to lay siege to the poor waitress with a dozen queries over the prices of drinks that take your fancy, and subsequently wasting everyone’s time and prolonging the unbearable wait until the moment when beer meets mouth.

Anyway, our day continued on with a visit to the Daylesford Cider Company, despite the waitress at the previous establishment mumbling something about their ciders being a “bit shit”. In the parking lot was a battered ute (“pickup truck” in Americanese) bearing the Victorian license plate “CIDER”, so I figured they must take their cider rather seriously. Traditionalists they were, as none of the ciders were carbonated. It was the first time I’d ever tried a still cider (drinking previously-bubbly cider left to go flat doesn’t count… or does it?), and whilst it was certainly interesting, I still prefer my ciders slightly sparkling. Out of the sweet, standard and dry varieties, I preferred the acidic and astringent feel of the dry cider, and picked up two bottles to take home. After the cidery we hit up a local chocolate factory, the name of which I’ve forgotten because I’ve already thrown out the packaging after gobbling down everything I bought within the space of 24 hours.

To bring things back full-circle (when I do this it inevitably leads to alcohol and/or Japan) there seems to be a Japanese pastime of hauling the family or your friends into the car and driving off to some remote part of the prefecture in order to try a bit of the local produce. It’s definitely something I could get used to doing here in Australia.