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.

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