Friday, 29 July 2011

Beer of the Week - Mountain Goat Coffee IPA

Coffee IPA (Seriously). – 6%

I can understand why some people may feel that local craft breweries should spend more energy on the perfecting of a well known style like Pilsener or Bitter, rather than crafting some opium infused, quadruple hopped, imperial star destroyer of a purple 2IPAxLambic Guerzer hybrid.  Myself though?  I am not of that opinion.  It’s the inventiveness of some of the brewers and the lunacy of some of their creations which helps make the craft beer world so absorbing...

That being said, I approached this beer with a healthy dose of scepticism, my mind couldn’t really consolidate the idea of Indian Pale Ale and coffee.  Luckily, Mountain Goat don’t dick around and have produced a really nice ale, well suited to order once the main course has been cleared away.

It looks good, smallish white head on a clear, noble looking red tinged oak.  The nose is fruity, mango backed by fresh coffee beans, not roasty like you’d expect, but with an organic earthiness which gives it a lot of depth. 
It tastes a bit odd at first but as the glass warms and you get used to the flavour you start to enjoy it.  A really well rounded fruitiness of mangoes, paw paw and rockmelon is followed by a mild espresso- like earthy bitterness. 

The coffee flavours do not dominate and are in balance, although I felt it didn’t have that more assertive bitterness you’d expect from something calling itself an IPA.  Either way, the flavours worked together really well, I hope Mountain Goat keep making this, maybe as a Rare Breed, because it is an enjoyable beer that I’d gladly have again.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Beer of the Week – Murray’s Best Extra

Imperial Porter 8%

Okay, technically the beer of last week, sue me.  I must say, I’m having difficulty seeing where the line between an Imperial Stout and an Imperial Porter is drawn, not that I’m complaining mind, for something as excellent as this the brewers could call it a Syphilis Stout for all I care, I’d still drink it.  The more I think about it I can’t help but liken this beer to the character of Omar Little from HBO’s The Wire, beyond the somewhat effeminate grace it is hard as nails, heed my warning friend, this is not a beer with which to fuck...
The Best Extra is as dark as they come and pours with a large, cream coloured head which leaves a thick, sticky lace coating the glass.  The nose is out of this world, sweet chocolaty caramel fudge but rounded with the faintest hint of sultanas and a slight roasted nuttiness.

The palate begins with the same sweet chocolate/caramel notes soon joined by a dry, fruity rum and raisin character.  Mid-way through the malty sweet chocolate flavour transitions to the firm bitterness of dark chocolate twinned with espresso which builds to a balanced, slightly spicy, finish.  There is a pleasant, long aftertaste of sweet plumb and dry dates. The mouth-feel is exactly what you want in this style of beer, firm yet yielding and duplicitously smooth. 
I imagine this being best enjoyed as a warming after dinner beer to accompany dessert.  The brewers suggest it matching it with chocolaty desserts, I wasn’t able to test this as fully as I would have liked, as all I had available was a Cadbury’s Favourites Moro which I found at the bottom of my bag.  Not a very good example to test the beer’s matching potential but I did discover the Best Extra doesn’t match too well with lint.  Then again, few things ever do...

Murray's comin'!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Places of Note 2 - The Prince Wine Store Essendon

80 Primrose Street, on the corner of Albion St, Essendon, Vic, 3181

Mon to Thurs - 10am - 9pm
Fri & Sat - 10am - 10pm
Sun - Noon - 10pm

You could easily drive past the Prince Wine Store in Essendon and not give it a moment’s notice.  VB sign on the roof and all, this drive-through bottle shop looks like any of a thousand cheap piss merchants that dot the suburbs of every town and city in this nation.  You know the sort, a drive way out the front, posters everywhere advertising slabs of Woodstock and Pure Blonde, where about the nicest thing you’ll find to take home is a six-pack of Blue Tongue, if you’re lucky.  So yeah, I wouldn’t blame you if you kept driving, but never the less, in the Prince’s case this would be a mistake on the scale of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.

In fact, the only thing that gives you a hint of what’s waiting inside is the Rouge’s poster on the front entrance and, like a shark zeroing in on a whiff of blood, I’m in the door and dodging past the stacks of wine.  Knowing the other Prince wine store in South Melbourne I’m sure all these stacks of grape juice are of excellent quality but of no interest to one of a more refined palate like myself.  All the action is in the fridges at the back and what awaits there is quite a sight.

The website mentions something about 600 bottles of beer but I doubt there is quite that many, although there were workmen whom seemed to be setting up shelves in the adjacent room so who knows.  Either way, there is a lot of good beer here, leaning more toward the international than the local.  All the Belgian staples like Duvel and the trappists (sick band name) with smaller selection of German, North American and British (Darkstar!) but all quality.   There is also a whole fridge’s worth of some of New Zealand’s best like Tuatara, Yeastie Boys and 8 wired.

If you want beers from the northern extremities then the Prince has the range to beat with a literal Viking horde weighing down the shelves.  We’re talking Nogne O, Haandbryggeriet, Amager Bryghus, Beer Here and not just one or two styles from either but a decent representation of each range, indeed there two shelves dedicated solely to Mikkeller in all its varied and pricey forms.  That’s probably why there are so few British beers present, they’ve all shitted themselves and fled back to their quaint yet highly flammable thatch villages...
So yeah, if you are ever travelling anywhere in the general vicinity of Essendon, the Prince is well worth a diversion to go and visit.             

Friday, 8 July 2011

Beer of the Week 3

NZ Craft Beer TV Presents Mash Up 

Pale Ale 6%

I know the web address has Aussie beer in the title but bugger it, I write about what inspires me and this week’s muse comes from South of the Tasman.  New Zealanders are practically part of the family anyway, the tag foreigner doesn’t really apply to them the way it does to others like those lay-about Queenslanders.  What?  Part of Australia?  Really?  Wow...

Mash Up is billed as the world’s biggest collaborative brew, a joining of forces by 44 of NZ’s craft breweries and is the result of two lucky bastards (head of Epic and a former Thornbridge brewer) driving around the islands in a van visiting the various breweries and collecting their input and eventually crafting what is essentially a manifesto of where NZ craft brewing is at in 2011.

The result is predictably hoppy, showcasing what Kiwi breweries are famous for, big, hoppy Pale Ales.  In the glass it looks stunning, a perfect golden amber, with few bubbles it almost looks like a glass of clear, resinous sap.  The nose is also sublime, a veritable basket of tropical fruits – passionfruit, pineapple, mango, paw paw and really sweet lime, almost like Schweppes lime cordial syrup.
The taste is also really fruity, citrusy and oily to begin with, followed by what I swear is kiwi fruit.  This builds to a powerful, though slightly rough hoppy bitterness with characteristics of pineapple and grapefruit, a touch of passionfruit and hints of green apple.  There is a prolonged bitter aftertaste which becomes slightly metallic, a bit like Little Creatures PA.  Not really my thing but this is the only fault I found with an otherwise very desirable concoction.

Brewed at Epic, for the full story head here.  In other Epic news, the incredible Hop Zombie has just had its second batch released, I’m not sure how much will make its way to our shores but as the one keg at Cookie Bar during Good Beer Week was emptied in about 40 minutes there is clearly plenty of demand.  There won’t be any more until the next harvest in spring so grab what you can, hole yourself up in a good defendable position with a shotty and await the slathering undead hordes!  Remember, aim for the head!    

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Beer of the Week 2

Van Dieman Brewing White Hills

Witbier 4.6%

The Van Dieman range isn’t easy to get on the mainland but this Tassie brewer’s beers are well worth seeking out.  A while back at the Taphouse I tried the Stack’s Bluff Oatmeal Stout and was very impressed and, needless to say, I was eager to try a few more.  On a recent visit to Hobart I finally got that chance when I found the whole family in at Cool Wine in the city.    

A fan of witbiers, I picked out the White Hills Ale to have with dinner that night and, as I poured the bottle I was greeted with a towering, cloudlike head atop a dense, pale, waxy yellow body.  In my tall (purloined) Moo Brew pilsener glass it bore an uncanny resemblance to ice cream cone.  The aroma was pretty classic witbier stuff, wheat, coriander and cloves, sweet vanilla, with only a subtle banana peel note in the back.  Pretty full bodied for a witbier and quite creamy, the taste is largely banana on approach spiced with citrus peel and coriander followed by a lemony vanilla finish, almost like a cheesecake.  Top stuff.

Who knows when I’ll get a chance to have another bottle of this satisfying wheat beer but a lot of the Tasmanian breweries are so small they don’t send all that much over Bass Straight.  I was also lucky enough to pick up a bottle of the limited release Hedgerow Berry Ale.  Matured over fresh sloes, rose hips and hawthorn berries for six weeks and then bottle matured for half a year which results in a very interesting brew, the sort of thing you’d expect a druid to have in his gourd.  I narrowly missed out on trying the seasonal Little Hell ESB on a hand pump at Preachers in Battery Point as the keg was still a little unsettled, hopefully one or two bottles make it as far as Slow Beer...   

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Places of Note 1 - Cool Wine

Shop 8, MidCity Arcade, Criterion Street, Hobart, TAS 7000 

That island state, the Apple Isle, a land where legends have trod the earth.  Darwin, Flynn, Boonie, Foster, erm…Princess Mary?  It is a beautiful yet rugged land, some compare it to Scotland, although those people may need to check their facts as last I looked Scotland wasn’t smothered in gum trees or haunted by flannelette-clad bush pigs.  Sure, we may be that perennially broke cousin who’s whining all the other states do their best to ignore at the family gatherings, but this is God’s own country dammit!  One day we’re going to secede and then where will you Mainlanders be?  Think about it,  we’ve got all the hops!!!

KNEEL MAINLANDER!!!  So commands the Keg with Legs...
That same (some would say cantankerous) climate which provides such excellent conditions that allow members of the noble Cannabicea order to flourish in these damp, rich soils also quite suits the vine, there are quality vineyards and wineries all over the island.  This becomes depressingly apparent as you walk into the average bottle shop and see nothing but shelf after shelf of wine, with only stacked cartons of Cascades of Boags looming in the distance like grim housing commission flats.

Luckily, Cool Wine is no ordinary bottle shop.  Tucked down a small street in Hobart’s CBD it came as a very pleasant surprise when I spied a carton of Stone & Wood in the window.  As the name suggests a fair percentage of shelf space is devoted to wine, and if that is your thing then you shall not be disappointed, nothing is filler, every bottle here is of quality.  One of the owners is a qualified wine judge so the only stuff you’ll see here has been intensely vetted.

The big draw for our purposes though, is the formidable selection of beers in the back third of the store.  I have never seen such a range of beer squeezed into such a small space, two shelves and a mid-sized fridge, all straining under the weight of a couple of hundred bottles.  The opposite wall is reminiscent of a busy port with dozens of brightly coloured cartons, stacked liked shipping crates bearing the names of brewers from all over the world; Sierra Nevada, North Coast, Adnams, Fullers, Schneider Weiss, Hitachino, beers which were nigh impossible to find in Tasmania a few short years ago.

The shelves are stocked with a universal selection, the likes of Mikkeller, Renaissance, Innis & Gunn, Cantillon and many of the trappists while the stalwarts which all good beer stores should stock such as Samuel Smith, Epic, Rouges and Paulaner were well represented.  Proudly proclaimed as the best beer fridge in Tasmania, half the fridge space was taken up by the Tasmanian microbreweries, Seven Sheds, Van Diemans, Moo Brew, et al and a smattering of stuff from interstate, including a strong showing from Holgate.
This is the best beer selection in Hobart, hands down, the thought of all those quality beers still sends a shiver down my spine. 

If you live in Hobart and have even the slightest interest in good beer then this will become a great place to blow half your pay.  Judging by their facebook page they also do regular beer and wine tasting nights.  If you’re only visiting then this should be one of your first stops so you can stock the hotel room fridge with a good sampling of Tassie’s finest.  Seriously guys, visit.  We need the money and I’ve got a nasty feeling Canberra would be quite happy selling us off to China.  Heh, that’d distract attention away from the carbon tax.  Can you imagine Bob Brown's face when he read that in the paper?  Priceless...