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!

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GABS ’13

IMG_3360I’ve been building towards today for a few weeks (read; months). As a new age family man, I don’t get that much time on my own. Don’t think I’m complaining – quite the opposite – but, a day that is entirely my own is a rare thing to behold. And what better to do on a me-day than go to a beer festival?

GABS, or the Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular, is a be festival organised to coincide with Melbourne’s Good Beer Week. (There’s a whole rant about Good Beer Week, and my inability to attend any of the amazing events, but that’s for another day!) Anyway, GABS is the brainchild of the guys at The Local Taphouse in St. Kilda. Now in its third year, it is held in the World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton, and a number of Australian and New Zealand breweries are invited to brew a new beer for the festival (this year some other well-renowned international breweries have been included too).

There were 92 freshly minted beers, plus a selection of old favourites at the Beer Market (a kind of farmer’s market for breweries). There was a band, and an awesome selection of eateries – no Maccas here – it’s all small companies like PhatBrats (wicked hotdogs), BarBurrito (mmm, burritos), TheMeltShop (posh toasted cheese sarnies).
So what is the form?

It’s not about getting hammered – drunkenness is frowned upon – it’s about tasting the myriad of different characters that beer can display. It’s about seeing what a master brewer can do when he’s playing with a free rein. In fact, I didn’t see anyone worse-for-wear during the 4 and a half hour session. The most raucous behaviour was from a Buck’s (Stag) party, which culminated in an official “GABS ambassador” (and craftbeer  twitter regular) playing dominitrix with a tasting paddle.

The experienced attendee buys a ticket online, and a supply of tokens. More tokens can be purchased at the event. The unit of GABS currency is the $2 Token, so that actual money only changes hands at the token-stall. An 85ml beer taste is worth 1 token, a paddle of 5 tastes is 5 tokens, and a glass of beer is 3 tokens – the ticket price includes a GABS glass, which you get to take home at the end of the day.   

There are two strategies; [1] make it up as you go along – my method at GABS’12, or [2] check out the beer list and plan your attack before the day. Actually, most beer geeks have pre-planned their paddles – the anticipation is half of the fun. I had gone through the list of 92, selected the must haves and the should haves. That whittled me down to 30something different beers. I ended up with a selection of brews, varying from IPAs to Porters and from Märzens to Imperial Stouts. Disappointingly, two of my choices were scratched.

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As I tasted, I wrote my thoughts down. Some beers were insipid whilst some were outrageous. All were interesting! My beer of the day was an amazing Black Ale from a brewery in WA called Feral. Their festival beer was a Black Ale, aged in French Oak Barriques (it’s a type of wine-barrel), and is called Barrique O Karma. I love the cheeky reference to the current resident of the White House.

I also particularly enjoyed a Barleywine from the guys at Bright Brewery. Called Supermucilaginisticexpialidocious, a slightly weird MaryPoppins/medical-dictionary mash-up name, it’s a woody, malty, alcoholicky triumph.In my notes, I described it… “As woody as sitting in a sauna, in a forest, with an erection. And a brandy!”

High praise indeed.

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I also drank a Belgian Blonde Ale with beetroot, an India Pale Ale with balsamic vinegar, a cherry-wheat-porter, and a Vietnamese mint-mango-chilli IPA. Check out my notes below…

I’ve drunk some beers today that I know I won’t drink again, and some that I hope I do. Either way, it’s definitely not XXXX territory!
If you get a chance, get to GABS’14 – you’ll have a blast!

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