A funny thing happened to me on the way home from work…

It feels like a mile-stone: I’ve been to my first beer launch.

It was a very pleasing affair: a small, select group of like-minded individuals, gathering to mark the birth of a quite spectacular beer. And I was there too. Let me tell you what happened…

I knew that the guys at Mornington Peninsula Brewery had a new beer coming out: a Russian Imperial Stout, but expected that it’d take a week or two before I got to the brewery for a taste. Except that as I was driving home, I was stuck by a thought. A simple thought. A pure thought. The kind of thought that should be preceded by a choir holding a single, unbroken, unwavering note…

“A swift one might be nice!”.

But who was I to go to a beer launch? I’m a nobody. You can’t really call yourself a blogger with a single post! I’ve become mates with a few beer people through Twitter and Untappd, but I don’t really know anything about beer. I know what I like, but I’m an amateur. So I sat in the car, and wondered whether I should just go home. Who would I talk to? Would I be the sad git who shuffles in, has his drink without saying a word, then shuffles out again? But that thought just wouldn’t go away; a swift one really would be nice. And besides, I wouldn’t be on my own; beer people are good people.

And they are!

I’ve traded tweets with Matt from the Mornington Peninsula Brewery, on and off for a while. And I’ve admired his work from afar. Well, not too afar – it’s often in a glass on its way to my mouth. But I’d not met him before, yet he greeted me like a mate. One of the nice things about the Australian craft beer scene is that you can actually get to meet the guys (and girls) responsible for making the beer. It’s not a closed shop; and it seems to me that the brewers brew because they love beer. My worries, about having nobody to talk to, had faded before my beer had even settled. Admittedly, that took a few minutes as Matt was still fine-tuning the flow through the sparkler. But even that felt good; experiencing teething troubles is part of the experience of being at the start of something. Waiting for the beer to settle felt rather like the half-light before sunrise – full of anticipation, expectation and potential.

Matt waited to check that my first sup was followed by an exclamation of approval, before moving away to attend to others. As he turned away I heard my name from across the bar, and saw a familiar face grinning at me. I won’t say his name, for I haven’t asked his permission, but greeting me was a man whom I first met through work about four years ago. We met again in 2010 when he introduced me to several very fine beers, including Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier and Red Hill Brewery’s Christmas Ale. He didn’t know it, but he was the catalyst to my entering the Australian craft beer world. We chatted about all sorts of things; how we’d met and what we’d been up to since. We talked about beer and brewing, about stouts and IPAs and Lambics. And we agreed that the Mornington Peninsula Brewery is a very fine establishment, producing a range of very fine beers.

On a related note; I would go as far as to say that the brewery bar at Mornington Peninsula Brewery, has captured the atmosphere of an old English pub better than any other bar I’ve been to in Australia. The actual decor couldn’t be more different – bare concrete, high ceilings and an industrial aesthetic versus horse-brasses, an open-fire and roof-beams that you bang your head on. But the vibe is there; it’s just a very friendly place to sit with a cracking beer and talk to friends and strangers.

As for the Russian Imperial Stout… It is sublime! If your benchmark is Guinness or Murphy’s, you’re in for a VERY pleasant shock. I’m not going to describe it now, I’ll need to have another one. I’m afraid I didn’t take notes; I was having far too much fun talking to beer people, making new friends, and enjoying beer as a true social medium. Suffice to say that the swift one was very nice indeed!

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