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!

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.

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]

Oh for Peat’s Sake

Malted barley. Hops. Yeast. Water.
(And sometimes; a special secret ingredient)
Yet, the most amazing breadth of flavours can be created by the master-brewer.
Beer is such a diverse drink; a yeasty Saison bears little resemblance to a roasty Stout. And even within a style, one example can be poles apart from another.

One of the great things about craft beer, is that this diversity is celebrated. It’s perfectly ok for a beer to divide opinion. And, a beer that divides opinions more than most, is RexAttitude from New Zealand’s Yeastie Boys.
Rex is a beer brewed with peated malt. XeRReX is the one-off single-batch Imperial version.

Actually, I think it’s really important that brewers brew beers which split the craftbeer world in two. I’d rather open a beer that I really dislike, than one of which I have no opinion.
Death to mediocrity!
I’m not sure that this is a mindset shared by some other craftbeer drinkers.
XerreX currently rates at 3.58 on @untappd. This means that either the majority of drinkers/raters think it’s unremarkable (seriously unlikely) OR the lovers balance the haters (much more likely).
WARNING: SCHOOLBOY STATISTICS ALERT! Using the mean is less useful than the mode. Mean is when the sum of the responses is divided by the number of respondants, while Mode is simply the most commonly selected response. 3.606 tells us nothing, but knowing that most people rate it 5, slightly fewer rate it 1 (nobody rates it 3) tells us much more.

I’ll fess up. I really disliked it, right from the moment of the click-pfft, even before I’d poured it; the smell of smoke was overpowering. And lifting the glass to my mouth brought me closer to the smell.
And in the mouth, all I got was smoke. People talk about its balance malt profile. I couldn’t taste anything but smoke.
The odd thing about Yeastie Boys XerreX is that despite finding it revolting, I love it!
Don’t get me wrong, I never ever want to drink it again, but I love that it exists. I love that some mad kiwis have been told “You can’t do that: It’ll never work!” But they did it anyway.
Think of all the people throughout the course of history to whom that was said; Leonardo DaVinci, Gallileo, The Wright Brothers, Christopher Columbus, James Cook, Edmund Hillary.

I love that while I hate XerreX, I love Yeastie Boys Gunnamatta. I love that the same creative spirit that embraces peat-smoke also embraces tea leaves. I love that there are brewers out there pushing the boundaries of what can be done with 4 simple ingredients. I love that in the craftbeer world there is a place for beers like XerreX.

So, how do I rate it on @untappd?
5 because I love that it exists? Or 1 because its horrible*?
Definitely not 3, because it is anything but mediocre!

(* other opinions are available and welcome)