Slow Beer

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Beer Travel - Red Oak Boutique Beer Cafe (Sydney)

I make an effort to call into Red Oak every time I'm in Sydney for work. As many are likely aware brewer owner Dave Hollyoak and fellow owner (& sister) Janet craft a number of Australia's finest craft beers. They are also head and shoulders above every other Australian peer with respect to having the courage and skill to brew and wide range of Belgian, Germany and English benchmark styles (Canberra's Wig & Penn being an obvious exception), and nearly always produce successful interpretations.

The beers 'on-premise' aren't cheap - expect to pay at least $4 for a 250ml glass - but that's the price you pay (and justfiably so) for some of Australia's best hand-made brews. At last count some 36 beers have been brewed over time although perhaps 'only' 15 - 18 will be available at the cafe at any one time.

A bunch of considered beer tasting notes can be found at Rate Beer.

Brewery website here and location (via Google Maps) is here. Please make the effort when next in Sydney - these guys need our support.

.....and finally, and for what's it's worth, a couple tasting notes from a visit last week............

Red Oak Kolsch (12/20)
Fluffy creamy pure white head. Tangy fruits on the nose, albeit in a mild fashion, and a hint of chalk and minerals. Palate flavours are subtle. Mild malt weight, rather the beer is all about a crisp and sharp structure (w/ more chalk and mineral notes) that works well on this particularly hot day. Bread / yeast champagne-like flavours on a dry finish.

Red Oak IPA (14/20)
Near identical head to the kolsch - thick creamy, whiter than white. Attractive nose; a well itegrated combo of sweet fruitiness and green nettles from the hops. Very, very similar characters to taste in the front and middle palate. The finish, however, is dominated by quite a fierce hoppy / bitter punch. Resin-like notes linger on the tongue for a long time. Might be a touch aggressive and blocky on the finish but kudos to the brewery for having the guts to deliver a genuinely sharp and hoppy IPA.

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Recent Tasting Notes

Murray's Nirvana Pale Ale (15/20)
This could well be Australia’s best APA / Pale ale style (yep IMHO better than Little C). Darkish amber in colour with a persistent head, albeit it quite thin in texture. Classy hop treatment evident on the nose, and is underpinned with some nice malt sweetness. Hops again come to the fore to taste; herbal, vegetal, nettles, medium strength bitterness - all happening in a very well balanced and controlled fashion. I don’t pick up much malt character through the palate but the hop action just goes and goes on the finish. Good stuff.

Murray's Sassy Blond (10/20)
Pours slightly weird; fizzy soft drink like with massive bubble action through the body and a thick head (think creamy soda). Nose shows spice, pepper and a touch of citrus. Light weight and elegant. Flavours are very good early with plenty of sweet malts and more spice but the palate weight falls away at an alarming pace. Malt flavours thin out considerably and there’s not much left at the finish apart from a very mild hop note.


Beer News - 'Brew Love is from the Art' (Murray's)

Brew Love is from the Art

(SUE BENNETT, Daily Telegraph, 7 February 2007)

"As a teenager, Graeme Mahy was the only member of his group of mates who rocked up to parties with home-brewed beer. The legal drinking age was 20 in his New Zealand homeland but the then 16-year-old was already passionate about making ale. Nothing has changed since.
A civil engineering career took over for 20 years -- although he never stopped brewing. Then 18 months ago, Sydney real estate agent Murray Howe made him an offer too good to refuse. Mahy was handed an open book with the simple instruction to "not make beer everyone else makes but to experiment and push the boundary".

He was joined in the task by assistant brewer Shawn Sherlock, who began brewing in 1990, "getting more and more obsessed" as he worked as an academic at Newcastle University. Suddenly he, too, was given the chance to make professionally the sorts of beer he'd been making at home.

In something of an understatement, Howe says: "They know they are very lucky." Their workplace at Taylors Arm is pretty special, too. Murray's Craft Brewing Co. is at the back of The Pub With No Beer, made famous by country singer Slim Dusty and set in lush rolling hills at the back of Macksville on the NSW mid coast.

Mahy and Sherlock oversaw the installation of two magnificent copper tuns, or tanks, imported from the Czech Republic. They sit beside a series of stainless steel tanks (more are on order) and an automated bottling line that was made to order in Italy and required five visits by a London-based engineer before it was fitted and working correctly.

Howe bought the pub 3 1/2 years ago, after seeing it advertised in a newspaper. He'd grown up nearby, at South West Rocks, and made the purchase without a visit. When he made the trip, he found "a mess" and not quite the place he remembered from 20 years earlier.

So began millions of dollars in investment. The pub has been updated, a large restaurant has been added and an excellent chef, Gavin Shepherd, installed. The walls are lined with memorabilia about the region's timber history, tributes to Slim Dusty, who was born nearby, and country music pioneer Gordon Parsons who wrote the hit song A Pub With No Beer.
Howe, who spent 10 years as sales manager with building company Meriton, began his quest to make outstanding craft beer about five years ago. "I was at the Sierra Nevada brewery at Chico in northern California. It was a bit of an epiphany. The beer was probably the first really successful micro beer produced in America, a pale ale," Howe says.

"It was so full of flavour and aroma that it hit you in the face.

I could not believe it. I thought if I can do better than that I could create a craft beer culture in Australia. I mulled it over for 12 months -- would I, wouldn't I? -- then I really decided to jump into it."

Bland is a word Howe uses often to describe much mass-produced beer and it's a feature he detests. He's also learned to express such an opinion is to launch a lively debate.

"I want to be unconventional," he explains. "I don't want to make beer just for the sake of it and to sell it easily. I want to make the beer we love to drink. I felt there was enough of a market to sell to.

"I don't think Murray's will ever be a mass producer of beer. The brewers are as much artists as a sculptor or a painter.

"I'd like to think we can get craft beer to the point where it's accepted as a beer that's a step above what we've been led to believe is a good beer in Australia. "I think I can do it. We will know in five years." It's liquid gold

Eight beers make up the Murray's line-up. They're unpasteurised; no preservatives are used. "It's a new brewery but how we do it is traditional, to ancient processes," head brewer Graeme Mahy says. "We are not true to the style of any beers."

Three are bottled -- Sassy Blonde, Nirvana and the Anniversary Ale. The beers include:

* Sunrise Wheat: A Belgian-style wheat beer, akin to a Hoegaarden but with honey, orange peel and crushed coriander seed.

* Nirvana Pale Ale: It uses Cascade hops and pale malt from the UK.

* Swinging Arm Dark Ale: Roasted malt gives it a smoky flavour. Tooheys Old drinkers love it.

* Anniversary Ale: A wood oaked-beer of which owner Murray Howe admits: "It's a beer most people will not like." A lot of wheat and barley is used, yeast is added twice. It's highly hopped but not bitter. champagne-style. They've made 900 bottles and 300 were bought by three Sydney stores the first day.

* Grand Cru: High in alcohol and sugar, it's great with blue cheese.

* Sassy Blonde: It has a spicy orange flavour and is brewed with a distinctive Belgian yeast and Styrian Golding hops.

* Icon 21PA: A hybrid of Imperial and American India pale ales. "


Thursday, February 22, 2007

New Beers for February

A handful of decent beers have just hit the shelves......

Matilda Bay Barking Duck $10.50
(be quick....not sure how good our supplies will be on-going as CUB reckon we are 'too cheap'.....when we hear this supply is usually the brand manager is pissed off that we don't stock the crap stuff like Redback and Bohemian Pilsner)

What's Brewing Pale Ale $2.60 / $15.60
What's Brewing Amber Ale $2.60 / $15.60
What's Brewing Porter $2.60 / $15.60

Buffalow Brewery Stout $3.80


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Top Selling Beer - Top 20 Overall

Ok Ok,

Hardly beer "news" but I thought it may be of minor interest to outline what's moving well on the retail shelves. And to think VB nearly outsells the beers ranked from 2nd to 9th in aggregation!

1. Victorian Bitter
2. Carlton Draught
3. Corona
4. James Boags Premium
5. Cascade Premium Light
6. Stella Atois
7. Crown Lager
8. Asahi
9. Coopers Sparkling Ale
10. Coopers Pale Ale
11. Hargreaves Hill Pale (excellent effort!!)
12. Invalid Stout (thanks to a single customer believe it or not!)
13. Fosters Lager
14. Little Creatures Pale Ale
15. Pure Blond
16. Melbourne Bitter
17. Cascade Premium
18. James Boag Premium Light
19. Carlton Cold
20. Hoegaarden White

Unfortunately 16 of these beers are owned / distributed by CUB...just goes to show how strong their market position is.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Slow Beer Delivery Charges

It can be difficult to implement a 'one size fits all' freight charge structure so instead we have opted to add the freight charge to your order once we receive a confirmation of the exact cost from the courier.

This way you can be sure the actual amount charged reflects exactly the cost Slow Beer incurs to ship your beer.

Below we have outlined the indicative charges per box to major capital cities. These costs are based on a standard 16kg case of wine, roughly equivalent to a 20 bottle case of 330ml / 375ml beer bottles. Rest assured we will confirm the freight charge with you via phone or email before charging yourcard.

Melbourne $6.00
Sydney / Brisbane / Adelaide / Hobart $15.00
Perth $25.00
Darwin $30.00


Beer News - Matilda Bay Newsletter

Latest newsletter from CUB's 'garage' operation is attached here.................


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Recent Tasting Notes

De Hemel Moenen (15/20)

Now I understand this beer should have a bit of smoke action but I struggled to see this character either on the nose or the palate. Massive head that just wouldn’t quite early, unmanageable really. Light reddish tan in colour. Sweet nose, ’fruit tingles’ confectionary notes and perhaps some cherry. Ultra smooth palate with sweet malts that positively glide through the mouth. More cherry flavour (think Dr Pepper in a small and elegant dose) that is easy to pick, perhaps due to the low carbonation. Pretty good beer that shows a decent amount of stuffing for a 6%er. Not cheap from memory, about e6.0 from the fabulous Bierkoning in Amsterdam.

Thorogoods of Burra Sparkling Scrumpy (12/20)

Pours a fierce head that disappears at an equally fierce rate of knots. Light gold in colour, not unlike a ‘premium’ Euro style lager. Appealing aromas of cut grass, sweet apples and some citrus. Palate is dominated by huge fizz and a very firm acid cut that drives a slightly rough finish. Cider and fruit notes don’t really get going with the fizz and acid but overall this cider style shows some interest.


Beer News - Potential Tax Breaks for Micros

And fair enough too. Australia's small wineries get a decent tax break via exemptions in WET tax (well deserved mind you) but there is absolutely no reason why brewers shouldn't get them as well. Let's hope the campaign by Holgate etc develope positively.

Suds Set Seek a Tax Break , Ben Oliver, 16 January 2007, Sunbury/Macedon Ranges Leader

MICRO-BREWERS are frothing at the mouth over tax breaks they say they deserve to even the playing field with wineries and encourage more players into the market.

Wineries are allowed tax breaks of up to $500,000 a year. Now Australia's boutique beer makers are pressing Canberra for equal treatment.

Natasha Holgate, director of Holgate Brewhouse in Woodend, said little brewers deserved to be treated on a par with wineries. "We pay the same amount of tax as the big breweries. In other developed countries they have breaks for smaller breweries such as in New Zealand and the US.
"Small wineries get a tax exemption and we just want to have the same level of fairness."
Holgate Brewhouse is one member of the Australian Association of Microbrewers petitioning the Federal Government for a 60 per cent rebate on excise. It wants a maximum rebate for brewers that produce at least 340,000 litres a year of full-strength beer.

Holgate can produce up to 3600 litres of beer a week but declined to disclose how much beer it would make in an average year.

The plan has received support from small business minister Fran Bailey, who is also the member for the local Liberal seat of McEwen. Mrs Holgate said a rebate would spur regional employment, tourism and attract new brewers. "For a place like us in a regional area it would help us expand and take on employment," she said.

"There are also a lot of people interested in visiting brewhouses, so besides manufacturing more beer there would also be the tourism component."

Holgate Brewhouse started in 1999. It employs four casual staff and 13 full time-part time workers.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Beer News - Play Brewer for a Day!

This could be be good fun me thinks...........


Friday, February 02, 2007

Recent Tasting Notes - What's Brewing

Newish mob from Geelong which I believe has taken over the old Scottish Chief brewery. All-in-all I thought the beers showed fairly well.

Map and web links here.

Amber Ale (12/20)
Uninspiring upon pouring with effectively no head. Amber / light brown in colour. Soft malts with a touch of sweet caramel on the nose, not unlike a English bitter. Quite appealing. Very similar to taste although the malt weight doesn’t really get out of 2nd gear. Some firming bitterness on the finish. Quite low in fizz and probably all the better for it. Had I drunk blind I would definately have picked it as a UK bitter. Not bad for a relatively new member on the Melbourne craft scene.

Pale Ale (13/12)
Another decent effort from What’s. glowing orange apricot in the glass with a thin patchy head. Fruity note with added complexity via spicy ginger / nettle note - nice. Steps down a notch in the palate as the malts don’t really make their presence felt. Quite dry with decent hop input, again herbal and spicy, although I should stress "elegant" in terms of flavour intensity. Medium length finish with some confectionary like malts finally making an appearance.

Porter (11/20)
Perhaps the least impressive of the 3 What’s Brewing beers but this is no disaster. Dirty tan brown in colour like filthy dish washing water, kinda unique and certainly different. Milk chocolate roast nose, a touch smokey and acidic (ie burning wood). Like the other beers the palate doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the bouquet. In this case some mild roast notes are offset but a faint metallic, iron like note. Needs a lot more omph (ie obvious sweet notes) although I do appreciate the beer is not necessarily chasing stout-like palate weight.


Beer News - Positive Consumer Trends in the US

All we need now is for the Aussie consumer to wake up to themselves!!!

Imported beers take the top shelf


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