Up & Coming Beer Locations (The Session #97)

Forgive me, it has been 10 months since my last con…session post. I am a lapsed blogger. It’s so easy to let life get in the way – the first Friday of the month arrives suddenly, and departs just as suddenly. Or I simply find a reason why I won’t post this month. 

Well, not today people… I read a post by Boak & Bailey today. And it reminded me why I blog. I enjoy it. I enjoy the writing. And the reading. And the interaction. I enjoy the process. I hope that you enjoy this…

So, Brett and Erin (of ourtastytravels.com) ask “where IS the next beer destination?”

I have little doubt that many of this month’s session posts will be arguments for people’s home town or region. And I expect that many of those arguments will be very convincing – for a moment I was going to lead a case for mine; Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula (a pincer movement of Mornington Peninsula Brewery on one flank and Red Hill Brewery on the other). But…

Today is the last day of a sudden trip back to Britain. In fact, I should probably be packing now – so I’ll be brief. 

While I’ve been back in the UK, I’ve visited 5 pubs, and 11 beer retailers. I’ve drunk 7-8 different beers on tap, and about a dozen bottled beers. I’ve had CAMRA-approved real ales, faux-craft supermarket brews, and modern craft beers. I’ve drunk countless pints of, the local standard, Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter (usually pretty reliable, if uninspiring). And I’ve drunk Siren Craft Brew’s remarkable black gose “When The Light Gose Out”. I’ve drunk the always excellent Thornbridge Jaipur and the often underrated Brewdog Punk IPA. I’ve drunk Brooklyn East India from a Spieglau IPA glass, and Harvey’s from a plastic pint glass at the football (food match: meat pie). 

Thinking about the breadth of my last 2 weeks’ beer drinking, I was struck by a simple truth; the “next beer destination” is where you already are. You don’t need to travel to Belgium, or York, or New York, or New Zealand – there are adventures to be had just outside your door!

  • Places worth visiting from my recent travels
  • Coach & Horses, Danehill, East Sussex.
  • Teign Cellars, Newton Abbot, Devon.
  • Tucker’s Maltings, Newton Abbot, Devon.
  • Waitrose, East Grinstead, West Sussex.
  • The Amex Stadium, Falmer, Brighton. 

Beer Mixes (The Session #88)

For those of you who don’t know; the Session is a synchronised day of beer-blogging, held on the first Friday of the month. A beer-blogger offers to host, chooses a topic, collates the posts and the comes up with a compendium of the responses. It’s all a bit of a laugh really.

This month’s topic comes courtesy of Boak and Bailey, and is all about traditional beer mixes. Choose a traditional beer mix. Try it. Write about it. Simple.

So, I decided to try and mix a boilermaker. Apparently, a boilermaker is one part Brown Ale, one part Mild Ale. Honesty alert: I’ve never knowingly drunk Mild, and I’m not sure exactly how it should taste. Still, why let that hold me back?

I’d seen Coopers Mild for sale in my local Dan Murphy’s (other warehouse-style, supermarket-affiliated alcohol-emporia are available), so picked up a couple of bottles. Coopers is the Grandad of the Australia craft beer scene, pre-dating even the phrase craft beer. Surely their Mild would be an accurate representation of the style?

As for the Brown? There could be only one; Mornington Brown, my winter staple.

Out came the glassware, three ISO tasting glasses, because that seemed a little scientific.

I wrote notes, because that seemed a bit scientific too. Here they are…

Coopers Mild Cloudy yellow. White head; large bubbles. Almost a saison nose. Dry. Prickles on tongue. Little flavour – but what’s there is slightly lemony. Reminds me of my first homebrew. Coopers MildMornington Brown Mahogany. Polished. Tan head, think and creamy Earthy, sweet, leathery, woody, autumnal. Big in the mouth. Rich, unctuous, coffee, chocolate. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Mornington Brown Boilermaker Coopington? Morpers? Almost orange, with a tan head. Still got the saison nose, but richer. Sharp on three tongue. Lighter, all round. But, could grow on me. Boilermaker

I have a real problem with this concept.

I like beer. I like good beer. I like good beer, brewed by a brewer. I like good beer, brewed by a brewer who knows what they are doing. I am not a brewer. And I don’t know what I’m doing.

I can see the attraction of beer mixing in the bad old days when good beer was hard to find. There was always a chance that mixing one substandard brew with another substandard brew was going to lead to a mixture which tasted better than either of the ingredients. Taking some bits from one, and some bits from another, and hoping to only be taking the good bits. Where the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. Unfortunately, it is very possible to take the bad bits and mix them together.

It’s a great idea, making the best of what you’ve got. But not any more; there’s just too much good beer around!


Beer Journalism (The Session #86)

It’s been 4 months since my last confession post, so I’m feeling a bit rusty. Other (very pleasant) parts of my life have stolen my blogging time. Actually, they’ve limited my time on twitter too. I’m feeling a little out of touch. Must change that.

For those of you who don’t know, The Session (a.k.a Beer Blogging Friday), is where the international beer blogging community all share their thoughts on a set topic on the same day. For more info, read this…
I’ve seen some of the topics for the recent Sessions sessions, and sat frustrated on the sidelines. And now I’ve got some time to snap out a post, I’m a little underwhelmed by the topic.
That’s not to say that Heather from BeerHobo has chosen an inferior subject, just that I have little knowledge of it. And I don’t quite know how to start.
We’ve been asked to pen our thoughts about the quality of beer journalism. Right. Erm…

I’ve got a pretty good (and growing) beer library – but that’s not really journalism is it? [prepares himself for bitter backlash from inadvertently insulted writers]
I enjoy reading a pretty wide range of beer blogs, many of whom will probably take part in the month’s session. And I’m looking forward to learning what their takes are on this month’s subject.
I do read beer magazines but if I’m honest, they are my least favourite beer-writing discipline to read. And I haven’t ever examined why, until now.
Reading beer magazines tends to happen when my other options aren’t available – a mighty hardback tome on the beach? An iPad in bed?



As Ferris Beuller says “Life moves pretty fast”, and the craft beer scene is no different. Small batch and limited release brews seem to come past on a weekly basis, and if you’re slow on the uptake, can be gone before you’ve had a chance to try them. Social media allows the gospel to spread fast and wide. Digital could almost be a synonym for Instant. Contrast that to the slow cycle of a monthly (or bimonthly, or quarterly) periodical. Why would you rely on a magazine to keep abreast?

And as for detail? How can a magazine article contain the depth of knowledge of a reference textbook? It can’t, and shouldn’t try to.

So what is the point of magazine-style beer journalism? Opinion?

Isn’t journalism supposed to be impartial?
If so, what place does it have describing something subjective like taste? A truly impartial beer review could only report whether a beer was free from faults, and if it conformed to style guidelines. And would be aneurism-inducingly boring to read. Imagine…
Hop Hog, by Feral Brewing fits into the guidelines for American Pale Ale, at 5.6%abv….zzzzzzzzzzzz!

If it is ok for journalism to be partial, what differentiates it from blogging apart from the medium itself?
Possibly the quality of the written word? I’m fairly sure that my school English teachers would have words to say about my prose – I don’t remember ever being taught creative writing, only years of dissecting The Lord of the Flies and Romeo & Juliet. Did you know that “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” actually means Why are you Romeo? But I digress…
Some blogs (mine) are only written with an amateur level of skill, and some read very professionally. The same can be said of much newsprint.

TopGearI have no objection to partiality. One of my favourite television programmes is BBC’s TopGear. I do love cars and driving, but I mainly watch TopGear because I like seeing the presenters’ different opinions and their defence of those opinions. I could watch Clarkson, Hammond and May argue about anything; cars, washing machines, political theory or beer.
Partiality and opinion are of huge benefit. They can lead to discourse and debate, which causes evolution and ultimately improvement.

There was recently some stuff on twitter bemoaning the one-eyed nature of some beer writers with respect to certain brewers and breweries. If I am struck by the notion that the beer writer, whose work I am reading, feels that a particular brewery can “do no wrong”, I immediately start to question the value of their opinion. Opinion is not impartial, but affected by the mind of the opinion holder. That said, opinion should not be blind, but formed through thought. And an opinion cannot be wrong, even if it may not be aligned with my own.

I have written before about Mornington Peninsula Brewery, and I have a lot to say that is overwhelmingly positive. It is my local. I count AG (the head brewer) as a friend. Their Imperial Stout and Imperial IPA remain two of my favourite beers. But some of their stuff leaves me cold – the Sorachi Kolsch and Mosaic IPA just don’t fit my palate. That says more about my palate than it says about the beer.

I sometimes receive feedback when I’ve done a particularly good job at work. And occasionally, I get feedback when things haven’t gone perfectly. I love the pat on the back, but I love the raised eyebrow and furrowed brow too. How can I do a better job if nobody tells me where I need to get better?
The desire to be the best that you can be is one of the central tenets of professionalism. And the ability to respond to constructive criticism is vital in a professional. As someone who embraces both of those things, I look for the same in others. Feedback is one way in which the craft brewer is different from the macro brewer – and the ease with which that conversation can take place is a boon to both producer and consumer.

So what are my thoughts about beer writing? I’ll still use social media and blogs to keep up to date, and books for deepening my knowledge, but I’ll continue to buy beer magazines to read on the loo!


Against The Grain (The Session #83)

The Session (aka Beer Blogging Friday) is a thing where beer bloggers from around the world think about a predetermined topic and then simultaneously release their thoughts into the wilds of the internet.
Imagine those beautiful candle-powered sky lanterns, but with added beer.
This month’s thoughts are being corralled by thebakeandbrew.com with the theme; Against The Grain. Basically, what do you dislike that everyone else loves, and why (or vice versa).

When I first read the announcement for January’s session, I knew instantly what I was going to write. Unfortunately, I am worried that it is going to seriously undermine any beergeek-cred that I’ve accrued over the last couple of years.

I expect that many of this months Session posts are going to read something like; “I keep trying DogFishHead’s 90 minute IPA and, call me a fool if you like, but I prefer the 60 minute” or “I just can’t get past the fact that Westvleteren12 is over-rated“.

My own thoughts are… well, erm… Where I go against the grain is… ahem, I… Oh man, this is harder than I thought. OK, here goes…

I have a dirty little secret.

I quite like [coughs] Corona.
From a [coughs] bottle.
With a [coughs] slice of [coughs] lime.

Right. I’ve said it, and now am going to be drummed out of the club.
The thing is, I think of beer a bit like I think of poetry or prose; I love well-crafted verse. Beauty can be found in the words of a sonnet, or in a series of rhyming couplets, or in a phrase of iambic pentameter*. There is majesty in the words of the greats; Shakespeare, Dickens, Dahl…
But, on the beach, I read fiction – stories about detectives or soldiers or sci-fi.

It’s exactly the same with beer; I love a well-crafted pint. A perfectly balanced IPA is a beautiful thing to behold; when the malt bill compliments the hop profile, with neither dominating. Beauty can be found in a mouthful of saison, or a porter, or in a barleywine. And there is majesty in an Imperial IPA or Russian Imperial Stout.
But, on the beach, when I have sand between my toes, and sun in my eyes, I like to drink Corona. I know that it’s not a great beer. I know its not really even a good beer. It doesn’t even taste right without a wedge of lime in the neck of the bottle. Or if the sun isn’t shining.
It would be easy to say that I have been taken in by Corona’s From Where You’d Rather Be advertising campaign, but I felt this way before it started.

Sometimes, a beer is elevated by circumstance. Sometimes, I don’t want to have to think too hard about the beer I’m drinking. Sometimes, I realise that there is a very fine line between beergeek and beerwanker. And nobody likes a beerwanker. Now, did anyone see where I put my barrel-aged, hop-forward, fruit-infused, sour, smoked imperial barleywine?

*As an aside, I’ve decided that one day I am going to brew a lambic, just so I can call it lambic pentameter. I might even drink it on the beach.


Coffin Sally

I love the craftbeer movement.
I love that I get to call it the craftbeer movement, which makes it sound a little like a band of rebels intent on overthrowing the occupying armies of a despotic regime. Think; the French resistance during WW2 , or (geek alert) the Rebel Alliance in StarWars.
One of the things that I most love about the craftbeer movement, is that I get to meet interesting and passionate people, who do what they do because they love what they do.
Yesterday I met Nick and Marcus, who together run Coffin Sally, a funky little pizza joint in Port Fairy.


The pizzas look, smell, and taste fantastic! Actually, I can only give a second hand report about the taste of the pizzas, but the vonSchlapper children absolutely inhaled their margarita (tomato, mozzarella and basil).


The kitchen is in the shop window, with a small counter for serving takeaway customers. It’s thoroughly enticing to wander along the high street during the afternoon, and see the team prepping dough and toppings for that night’s service. 20131109-211436.jpg

Head past the kitchen, down the narrow corridor, and find the bar. There’s an open fire, a couple of tables, a walled courtyard, and if you go further still, an eclectic dining-room full of mismatched tables, chairs and light-fittings, with laid-back tunes loud enough to listen to but quiet enough to talk over.
There’s a small but well thought out beer list, with; Stone & Wood Lager, Pale Ales from Bridge Road and Kooinda, and Holgate’s marvellous Temptress, plus others.
Now I struggle to go past Temptress when it’s available, especially on a wet and windy night. It’s a great beer, which serves up chocolate and vanilla and caramel, but balances all of that sweetness with a perfect hit of coffee-shaped bitterness.
20131109-211453.jpgI didn’t have to ask for a glass, which is a good sign. And the glass wasn’t chilled, which is a better sign still. They were latte glasses, which I thought an odd choice, but actually added to the casual charm the place (glasses of rosé and riesling were served the same way).
The service was great too; but then I love that natural banter that you can have with guys who are enthusiastic about their new project. Nick and Marcus and I talked about craftbeer, and homebrew, and transition beers, and about some of their plans for the future.
It’s fair to say that Coffin Sally has won a fan this weekend: I can’t wait to come back, and see how those plans are going.

Women & Beer (The Session #81)

TheSessionBeerBloggingFridayI like beer.
I also like women.
I like one woman more than any other.
That one woman said something very wise to me, one night many moons ago, soon after we first met.
That very wise thing was; “You don’t have to drink shit beer, you’re not a student any more!”
That one wise woman brought good beer.*
That one wise woman is now my wife; I knew that I was onto a good thing.

* The beer was made by Matilda Bay Brewery, and I’m pretty sure that it was just called Matilda Bay. It had a sandy coloured label, with blue writing. And I can’t find anything about it anywhere. If anyone remembers it, or has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Australian beers available in January 2003, please tell me.


I’ve just had an epiphany. Well, maybe calling it an epiphany is a slight exaggeration, but I’ve definitely realised something about the subjective nature of taste.

HopHog ValeVale IPA has long been one of my go to IPAs. I’m aware that some regard Vale IPA as slightly substandard, and that “you can taste the contract” (Sh!t Beer Geeks Say 2013), but I think that’s a bit harsh. It is an easy-drinking IPA, rather than a “special occasion” beer, but that doesn’t make it substandard in my book. I often take it with me when I’m on missionary work converting the unenlightened (craftbeer unbelievers). (Dan’s $3.99/bottle)

Feral HopHog IPA was recently voted Australia’s #1 beer. Again. I know that I risk being run out of town, but I never quite got the hype. People really rave about this beer. It even gets mentioned twice in the aforementioned “Sh!t Beer Geeks Say”. I’ve always enjoyed HopHog, but to call it Australia’s best beer felt a bit much. Even calling it Australia’s best IPA seemed a bit of a stretch; Mornington Peninsula Brewery’s Imperial IPA, or the late lamented Temple Brewing’s Midnight IPA, anyone? (Dan’s $4.99/bottle)

Anyway, the other night I opened the two back–to-back, and I finally get it.
We started with the HopHog. It is a well-hopped beer, with real citrus punch and a piney resinous backbone – there’s plenty of hop-flavour and real bitterness there too, but it’s controlled. The beer sits nicely in your mouth, and doesn’t demand your undivided attention. Drinking HopHog is a very pleasant experience – no one component is overpowering.

Moving on to the Vale IPA, I noticed a distracting base flavour that I hadn’t appreciated before. The aromatic hop flavours were there, the alpha-acid bitterness too, and a hunk of malt. But they didn’t seem to fit together. I’d never noticed it before, but it just seemed a bit two-dimensional, jarring even. Not bad, mind; just unbalanced.

So, I’ve had my mind expanded. Just a little bit. I’ve seen that my opinion of one beer can be affected by the previous or next one. And that as my palate matures, and my knowledge grows, I am starting to recognise more complex (and amorphous) qualities like balance. I’ve also learnt that when I’m underwhelmed by a beer that everyone else raves about (or at least, all those beergeeks who I respect), I should probably try it again.

The Elevator Pitch (The Session #78)

The Session (also known as Beer Blogging Friday) is a opportunity, once per month, for beer bloggers around the world to pen their different thoughts on a specific topic set by that month’s host.


Today marks the 78th “The Session” and the topic is a good’un. Hosted by James Davidson of BeerBarBand (another beerfriend of mine), the task is to come up with an “elevator pitch” for beer, in 250 words or less. Convert a wine-snob to switch to beer, turn someone from macro to craft, convince yourself that your own beer-addiction is ok… just argue the case for beer before the lift stops, the doors open and your target steps out.
Me? I had to write about wine – my dad used to own a vineyard in Cahors in southwest France, my sister-in-law is a well-respected Australian winemaker, and father-in-law is an unpublished wine-critic with astounding knowledge. Of course I had to fight beer’s corner…

By the way, I’m not counting any words above here. I don’t know if that’s in the rules of the game, but its in the spirit…

I love wine. I love that you can taste sunshine and earth in the grapes. But, although wine can display a spectrum of experience (sweet to dry, delicate to brash), the breadth of that experience is limited because wine is always grape-driven. A pinot noir isn’t that different from a shiraz. It is just fermented grape juice after all.

Beer, however, contains four ingredients (malt, hops, yeast, water) which can either be balanced, or one can dominate, resulting in hugely different styles. For example; IPAs are driven by hops, Porters by malt, and Saisons by yeast. And no one is going to confuse a Saison with a Porter, not even a chardonnay drinker.
In a specific style, tweaking just one ingredient alters the end result. See Mikkeller’s series of 20 single-hop IPAs (link), or compare two spontaneously–inoculated lambics.
Even water exerts a profound effect on flavour, as demonstrated by the public preference for beers from hard-watered Burton-Upon-Trent way back in the 1300s.

All wines taste related, but not beers; a yeasty saison bears almost no resemblance to a malty Russian Imperial Stout, yet they can both be amazing. With a limitless palate available, I can’t comprehend always drinking a version of the same thing. It would feel like drinker’s Groundhog Day (link).
That’s why I’m going to tip your glass of merlot down the drain, and pour you a glass of Holgate’s Half A World Away instead. It’ll blow your mind! (link)
[245 words]

Beerography – Part 1

I’m interested in the idea of  personal growth and progression, of learning and acquiring knowledge, and about how our growing knowledge changes as our perception of the world around us. I guess that’s one of the reasons I started writing this blog – I wanted (and still want) to understand my own personal beer history.

My beer biography has had several distinct chapters, with the end of each chapter and the start of the next marking one of the turning points in my life. Thankfully, some of the chapters were very brief, whilst others have been more prolonged. Some chapters end abruptly, whilst others merge almost imperceptibly into the next.

  1. The Park
  2. Mainstream 1 – Euro-lager
  3. Mainstream 2 – English Bitter
  4. CAMRA also known at “The First Enlightenment”
  5. VB-or-XXXX (ugh!)
  6. Premium
  7. CAMRA-redux
  8. Craft Beer / Beergeek also known as “The Second Enlightenment”

Thinking back over my time as a beer drinker, I can see now that my tastes have grown steadily more complex, more interesting, (and more expensive). I’ll admit that there have been blips – although there were normally mitigating circumstances.

I’ve previously recounted a little about “The Park” chapter. If you fancy reading the first chapter of my beerbiography click here. I delve deeper into those dark memories at some time in the future, but now is most definitely not the time.

The “Mainstream Euro-lager” chapter was thankfully short-lived. If my memory serves me correctly; it lasted the length of the summer before I left school, ending as the weather started to close in for autumn. I can only really remember drinking four or five different beers… Initially Heineken (see previous post), then as the summer progressed Carlsberg and Stella Artois (aka “Wife-Beater”). I think I may have even had a Castlemaine XXXX and a Fosters or two. (Australian advertising has some serious apologising to do!)

Kronenbourg 1664

As my taste matured I started on Kronenbourg 1664, which I still have a fondness for. Not the beer itself, but the idea. Seize cent soixante quatre. It just rolls of the tongue so. Perhaps it is something to do with learning French for 9 years at school? Bonjour. Je m’appelle Will. J’habite en Australie…etc

My abiding memory of the lagers that I drank that summer, is that they were too fizzy. I could hardly drink them. The bubbles would get up your nose as you raised the glass to your mouth, or tickle your throat as you swallowed. You certainly couldn’t neck a pint of Stella comfortably.
Isn’t it odd that I remember nothing about flavour? No, it’s probably not that odd, they’re hardly the most flavoursome of beers, and getting a bit sloshed was the main aim. Getting sloshed, and helping to summon up the courage to actually talk to a girl.

The drawing in of the nights marked then end of Mainstream Euro-Lager and the start of my Mainstream English Bitter phase. To be honest, there is such an overlap that they probably should be the same chapter; 2a and 2b perhaps? I never really enjoyed the lagers. It was just what you were expected to drink. Anyway, at some point, I decided to try something different, and found that I actually enjoyed the experience. Suddenly, I was starting to appreciate some flavour. At the primordial beginning of my beer-life, I would have had no ability to explain what I was tasting, or even describe why I enjoyed it more than the swill I had been drinking before. I was just happier with a John Smiths, Boddingtons, Tetley (insert name of other English macro ale as available).

Not the author.
Really, it’s not!

If I am honest, I was never cool during my school years. I don’t think that I was quite as hopelessly uncool at Will from the BBC’s The Inbetweeners, but I can see my young self in him. Anyway, drinking lager was cool, drinking bitter was not. Bars were cool, pubs were not. Others were cool, I was not. Rather than stay at boarding school, I used to stay at my friend James’s house on Saturday nights. On our walk into town, we would invariably stop at his local country pub for a decent pint, before arriving at the bar/nightclub of the moment. My pint at The V***** Arms [redacted for dramatic reasons] was always my favourite drink of the night – and given a stronger sense of self, I would have stayed there all evening chatting to my friend rather than join the crowd heading into town aiming to get pissed (usually successful) and maybe snogged (usually unsuccessful). This Saturday routine continued, largely unaltered, for about a year. Turning 18 during the Christmas holidays removed the illicit thrill of the purchase, but didn’t change much else. To be honest I hadn’t been carded (ID checked) for a while; I just about looked old enough, and anyway, underage drinkers don’t usually go for bitter (#pro-tip).

The Mainstream English Bitter chapter merged into the CAMRA chapter about a year later. I had left boarding school, and secured myself a place in an academic college in the next county, with the single goal of negotiating a place on a specific (and ridiculously competitive) university course.
During that summer, I still drank with James in his quiet little pub. I also became one of the regulars at the quiet little pub in my own village and I started working behind the bar of a private members club in a nearby seaside town.

I learnt a lot about beer and drinking during that year after I left school. I learnt about hospitality, and familiarity. I learnt how nice it felt to have your own spot at the bar, to appreciate the relationship between barman and patron, to feel what it felt like to have your freshly pulled pint arrive at the bar by the time you have hung up your coat at the door.
I learnt how it felt to be asked to join a regular weeknight quiz team (for reference; Hold the cradle still Mother, while I shave the chicken’s lips! is the best name for a pub quiz team. Ever. Embarrassingly, I don’t remember the names of anyone else in the team, although I do remember that they were a thoroughly friendly bunch). I learnt how it felt to represent your pub in the local inter-pub quiz championship (this one was much more serious; no silly name, and the line-up included the landlord, the vicar, some other chap from the parish council and me). I learnt about last orders and lock-ins. I learnt to handle both the drunk and the obnoxious. I learnt that manners and civility can get better service for the customer and a drink for the barman.

I graduated from John Smiths and Boddingtons to Bass,20130609-110508.jpg Wadworth’s 6X and Flower’s IPA. I can remember seeing the advert on television and thinking; I’ll give that a whirl (In the advert; some ramblers enter a country pub and all chose beers with names like “Skull Splitter” and “Old Belcher”, before the knowing local orders a pint of Flowers with a knowing smile, and the voiceover makes some comment about the folly of choosing a beer by it’s name).
And it was a hop, skip and a jump from there to the next chapter…CAMRA.


For those who do’t know; CAMRA stands for the CAMpaign for Real Ale. Set up by four friends in 1971, CAMRA’s goal was to champion variety and choice for the beer drinker, and stifle the expansion of flavourless mass-produced beer. I have never been a paid-up member of CAMRA, although that is probably more to do with being a tightarse than for any moral or ethical reason. In my defence, I was about 19 and more interested in my own position at the bar than in the greater good of the beer industry (and, I hadn’t quite grown into my beard, pipe and hand-knitted jumper). My appetite grew, as did my willingness to try new beers. I remember some of the better things that I tried that year – Teignworthy Reel Ale, Dartmoor Jail Ale, Sharp’s Doom Bar. They were all of a similar style (English Bitter), but I couldn’t have told you that in those days.  There were some absolutely cracking beers but, looking back, they were all very similar (in style, in flavour, in ABV). One of the hallmarks of the modern Craft Beer revolution is the breadth of variety; there are Pales, and IPAs, and Wits, and Dubbels, and Browns, and Saisons and Porters, and Lambics, and… (and they all taste completely different!). Don’t get me wrong – I love Real Ale, and I think that CAMRA started the ball rolling on the salvation of beer, but there is so much more to try.

In a future post, I’m going to look at the more recent chapters of my beerography, from Brisbane’s wilderness years to my craftbeer rebirth (also known as The Second Enlightenment) !

If you’ve read this far; thanks and please come back to read the next bit. As always, comments welcome below…

IPA (The Session #77)

TheSessionBeerBloggingFridayThe Session (also known as Beer Blogging Friday) is a opportunity, once per month, for beer bloggers around the world to pen their different thoughts on a specific topic set by that month’s host.

This month is the 77th time The Session has been run, and the topic has been set by Justin of http://justinsbrewreview.blogspot.com.au/ who wants to know why people get in such a froth about IPAs.

India Pale Ale

Being an Englishman, who spent a large portion of his childhood as an expat in Africa and the Middle East, I understand the romance in the IPA story. When you live a long way from your home and family, there is something deeply reassuring about anything which comes from the old country and links you back to what you left behind: It’s why Aussies in Britain eat Vegemite, and why Brits in Australia crave Marmite.

EICThe story goes that only the most heavily-hopped pale ales survived the 6 month journey from London to India (incredibly, the voyage often started out by heading southwest to South America before turning southeast to round the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa and then northeast again to India!). As only the most heavily-hopped pale ales survived the journey, they gained the name India Pale Ales (or IPAs). Hops are naturally preservative, so extra hops should equal extra preservation. Unfortunately, “India Pale Ale” is a misleading term for a number of reasons – firstly, styles other than hoppy-pales were also sent to quench the thirst of the colonial British (often in equal or greater volumes – Porter was especially popular!). IPA can’t really claim the India appellation. Secondly, “pale” is a subjective term – yes, they’re paler than porter but they’re darker than true pale ales, saisons, weizens… While I’m talking about IPA colour, what is the go with Black IPA? Let’s look at that again; BLACK India PALE Ale – so that’s pale black is it? Let’s just all agree to go with IBA or India Black Ale shall we? And also, the term India Pale Ale wasn’t even coined until the 1830s, 50 years after the hop-driven ales were first shipped to the colonies. And it was a term used for beers sold in Britain, not in India itself. Nostalgia was obviously in vogue during the 1830s. Plus, the East India Company traded with many British colonies, not just those on the Indian peninsula.

So, we’ve decided that both the IPA name and history, have a romance associated with them. And like most romances; there is some degree of rose-tinting but, at the core, there is something truly special.

Modern IPAs are hop-tastic, alcoholic and unctious. They are the poster-child of the craftbeer movement, but they’re not for everyone. Some people regard them as severely overrated – a brewed version of the emperor’s new clothes. Me? I’m not really a black and white kind of guy. I think there are IPAs and IPAs (or should that be ipas and IPAs?).

BassMy first grownup beer was Bass. It’s a memory beer for me, but I only recently found out that it is an IPA. It’s hardly hop-driven, and is at the other end of the scale from a modern craft IPA. Speaking of which, I’ve said before that Mornington Peninsula Brewery‘s Imperial IPA is one of my Desert Island Beers (for explanation, see BBC’s long-standing radio interview programme Desert Island Discs – a different interviewee every week for 71 years – where the interviewee or “castaway” must select 8 pieces of music, 1 book and 1 luxury item).


I’ll be honest; I love hops. I love the bitterness, the resin, the floral-characters. I love that Fuggles are different from Galaxy, which are different from Citra or Nelson Sauvin. I love that there are brewers like Ben Kraus at Bridge Road and Mikeller who brew whole series of single-hop IPAs, and I love that they really do taste different. I love modern IPAs – it’s the style that I seem to gravitate towards. They’re fun, and can be a bit lairy. They’re complex and interesting, but approachable. They can be a main event or something to drink while watching “the game”.

I love hops, and hop-forward beers. But not to the exclusion of malt and yeast.
I’ve got so many more adventures to have – why would I miss out on Belgian Dubbels and Tripels, on smoked beers, on peated-beers (props to Yeastie Boys), or on Saisons and Lambics?
I wouldn’t!