Slow Beer

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Recent Tasting Notes

Maisels Weisse Original (11/20)

Fairly middle-of-the-road in style but quite competent. Glowing darkish orange in colour with a thin persistent head. Very attractive. Nose is medium strength but mild fruity and banana confectionary notes come through clearly. Milder again to taste - very much in the dry / sharp mould with plenty of fizz and a slightly liquered fruity note tucked away at the finish. Perhaps a touch dilutive but no doubt would work well as a summer drink. Not the greatest example of the genre.

Henry of Harcourt Cider (12/20)

Fizzy champagne head disappears at a rapid pace leaving a murky, cloudy lemon coloured juice. Bouquet is hard to define; mustry apple juice underpinned with a firming edge of acorns, dirt and pepper. Champagne like dryness as well. Lean, dry palate is not generous with flavour; high fizz adds to the dry structure, some supporting acid and a progressively bitter finish. Hard to see the 8.5%, and all-in-all quite balanced. Needs more fruity notes to get me excited.

Knappstein Reserve Lager (15/20)

Finally have got around to trying this beer and I have to say it’s deserved of the hype. Visually lacks excitement; just your standard light amber premium lager-like hue. Bouquet is choco-block full of passion fruit abd grassy herbal notes. As others have rightly observed very wine / sav blanc like (minus the sweaty notes sometimes found in Kiwi savvys). Overt fruit notes drop off in the mouth but are more than adequartely replaced with floral fruits / hops and a firming, bitter finish. Very different and really does push the fruit / floral aromas very well.


Beer News - Micro Brewing Pre-Budget Submission

Many thanks to Anton for giving me the heads on the linked pre-budget submission paper that is advocating the introduction of a 'WET' style rebate for small brewers.

The WET tax (Wine Equalisation Tax) was introduced at the same time the GST was inplemented to ensure taxes on wine, under the new system, would equate with the old 41.9% sales tax. That is, multipling the GST of 10% by the WET tax of 29% gives the same tax payable outcome.

The micro winery scene was given a most welcome tax break last budget with a full WET rebate on the first $500,000 of tax payable. It is only fair that our craft brewers receive a similar hand-up (not 'out'!) and in essence they are seeking excise refund of 60% of duty paid in a financial year up to a maximum of $500,000.

Cam from Mountain Goat is doing a good job of driving this change campaign and you may see him pop up in the press from time to time promoting the change. Let's hope the amendments get up as the changes will only enhance consumer choice for well crafted micro beers.


Monday, March 26, 2007

New Releases - Thorogoods & Murrays

A quick note for Geoff and other cider fans......Thorogoods Billy B's Dark Malt Apple Beer has arrived. $13 for a 750ml. I haven't tried yet but have high hopes given the strength of the Golden Malted apple beer.

Positive developments on the Murrays. We have a bunch of Nirvana Pale Ale and Blond on the way and Murray himself has very generously dragged 2 cases of Anniversary Ale from his personal stash!! Cheers mate.

Haven't seen the wholesale prices yet thus I can't set the retail but I'll post as soon as I find out. Please feel free to drop me an email if you want some of the AA set aside.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Cellar Notes - Rodenbach Classic

Best Before Sept 2006 / Tasted March 2007 (13/20)
Ok, so drinking a beer 6 months past a BB is hardly the stuff of hardcore beer cellaring but this beer does have a track record, of sorts, of showing some ability to age so I thought it worth a show. Plus, as the awesome beer list at Kulminator clearly demonstrates, plenty of bog standard fruit beers and lambics do go the distance.

Dark maroon in colour, almost dull chocolate brown. Nose is settled and shows typical sour notes, but does lack the sweeter characters evident 9 months ago. Some vinegar / oxidative as well; I find this quite appealing but it won't win everybody over. Palate is dry with more sour fruits and touches of vinegar and balsamic salty notes. Flavours are almost certainly on the wane but the structure is holding and, as stated previously, I quite like the old sherried, salty notes.

Last Sampled: June 2006 (15/20)


Beer News - Brief Observations from the Melbourne Fed Square Micro Tasting

Melbourne's Federation Square runs monthly food and wine 'showcase' events for small regional wineries and micro brewers. This month's event focussed on Victorian micros and ran for 2 sessions. I hadn't been to any of the previous beer events but I was very impressed with the enthusiastic turnout, particular from young folk you wouldn't typically pick as non-mainstream beer drinkers. $20 entry fee buys you a tasting glass and 20 tasting tokens.

Some quick vibes / observations below....................

Beer(s) of the Day
No contest in my opinion - the 3 IPA / Double IPA offerings from Bridge Road, Mountain Goat and Jamieson. All three were very full flavoured, highly hopped resiny styles with plenty of malt to fill the palate out as well. Not unlike the style the US craft scene, particularly the Pacific North West, has made so famous and popular. Great to see that MG clearly has the ability to brew an adventurous top-class beer.

Both Emerald Hill beers showed poorly - plenty of tangy vinegar-like notes in both beers and a metallic hint in the Wheat. Recent samples at both the brewery and via the bottle have showed quite well so today's tasting was a bit of a mystery. The other beer to not look as good as recent tastes was Red Duck's Burton Ale. Some confusing vegie notes on the nose (thanks Lach - you were right) was at complete odds with the excellent mineral and chalk I had previously seen.

I keep trying these beers and I continue to walk away completely unimpressed. They are particularly un-varietal and often are dominated by a 'house' character that is not pleasant. Today - a sharp sour citrus note that may have vaguely worked on the Pilsner but was completely out of place on the ale.

Bright Brewery
2 new beers are about to hit retail shelves - a porter and a dubbel. Both are well made and very generous in flavour. The ain't too many Aussie dubbels around but this one looks very good.

A couple of newbies - Special Bitter and a Saison. Only tried the bitter but hard to assess properly given it was ice cold. We will stock both shortly.

3 Ravens
Always solid and the White was very good; spicy, sweet malts with plenty of cinnamon and ginger. We will stock shortly.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Recent Tasting Notes

Thorogoods Dry Scrumpy (11/20)

Dry zero bubbles style, and, Aarleks rightly observes, perhaps more wine in style than cider. Clear medium gold and of course no head. Quite grapey to smell and the apple content is much more obvious than the other Thorogood ciders I have tried. Some alcohol heat / vapour evident as well. More apple early in the mouth, quite acidic as well (at least early) before sour dry notes kick in (and acid) along with kero like alcohol. To quote others, "Not bad, but not great."

Tappeto Volante (6/20)
What can I say? Another boring euro / pale lager. Bog standard appearance; golden amber and no head. Sweet corny nose; I’d be surprised if there’s much malt here. Thin fizzy palate with more corn / adjunct notes, broadens on the finish with slightly stale notes. I was going to pose the question "why does Australia have to be an export destination for every shitty pale lager ever maded" but I see plenty on have beaten me to it!

Veltins Pilsner (12/20)
Dead simple beer but one that held quite a bit of appeal. No surprises in terms on appearance and bouquet; classic medium gold in colour, thin head, and old fashion some hoppy nose with daggy malts. Sharper to taste with the hop component clearly more assertive. Gets progressively drier and bitter as the beer travels through the palate. A great gardening beer for summer.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Recent Tasting Notes

Henry of Harcourt Duck & Bull Premium Draught Cider (12/20)

Pours a full coloured lemon / gold. A little cloudy and soapy. Nose is quite understated; faint fruity apple notes and hints of tart acid. Palate is very easy going; mild apple fruits (perhaps a touch dilutive), plenty of fizz, soft acids, citrus fruits, some firming hardness and alcohol to finish. Somewhat unremarkable (for mine) but sound in construction. 9% ABV is very well hidden.

Weltenburger Kloster Barock Dunkel (12/20)

Big active head early but settles quickly. Colour is a very clear light chocolate brown. Nose is an interesting and very balanced mix of roasts and chocolate. Good penetration. Less depth in the flavours when compared to the indications provided by the bouquet. Fizz palate dominates a little early, making the flavours hard to shine, although nutty coffee roast and hints of chocolate emerge in the middle and back palate. Shows plenty of balance. Very textbook and true to the genre.

Henry's of Harcourt Kingston Black (15/20)

Henry’s premium offering, a single variety cider made from Kingston Black apples. Lachan has the colour descriptor bang on - ornage / amber / apricot. Firm, serious nose of minerals, talcum powder, a hint of musk (lavender pehaps?), get the picture. Almost riesling like. Perfumed and light musk confectionary flavours run through the palate early but quickly fall behind some reaonably fierce alcohol and sharp acid. Not rough in any sense but you are left in no doubt that this is a 11%+ drink. Sour citrus fruits kick though in the second half, with a hint of aniseed, driving a long finish. Some ABV heat lingers. Not a drink to take lightly. Definately improved over the course of 60 minutes.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

New Releases Mid March

Not all of the following are 'new' but are in fact restocks of beers we haven't had in a while.......

Sinha Stout $3.80
Hoegaarden Grand Cru $4.70
Sam Adams Boston Lager $3.70
Trois Monts 750ml $13.00

New gear from Germany:
Veltins Pilsner $3.30
Maisel's Weisse $5.20
Maisel's Kristall Weizen $5.20
Weltenburger Kloster Barock Dunkle $6.80
Aecht Shlenkkerla Rauchbier $6.90

Cracking cider from Henry's of Harcourt (near Bendigo)
Original Cider 500ml $5.00
Perry 640ml $6.00
Duck & Bull Cider 500ml $7.00
Premium Cider 750ml $15.00
Sweet Cider 750ml $15.00
Kingston Cider 750ml $20.00

Can someone tell this guy to put his prices up? Bargains - get into 'em!


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Beer News - "Raise the Bar for a Better Ale"

Raise the bar for a better ale
Willie Simpson, The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 March 2007

"In earlier times it was common practice for breweries to enter their beers in agricultural shows where their merits would be judged and medals were highly prized.

The practice fell away in the latter part of the 20th century when the progressive consolidation of ownership in the Australian brewing industry meant there was far less competition of any sort.

Now the wheel has turned once more, with a resurgence in craft breweries reflected by the fact that three states' agricultural societies will stage beer competitions this year.

Melbourne's Australian International Beer Awards is a combined effort between the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria and the University of Ballarat, while the RAS NSW held its inaugural beer competition last month and the 2007 Perth Royal Beer Show will be judged in late March.

Each competition features quite different entry criteria, with the Melbourne show open to all comers, the Perth event limited to beers commercially available in Australia (with a separate category for home brewers) and the RAS NSW competition is limited to Australian bottled beer only (though it may be opened to draught beer in future).

Competitions, though they seem to attract more controversy than mozzies at a picnic, should be a boon for local craft brewers.

For the RAS event, there was a deliberate policy to establish a competition that was relevant to the brewing industry and distinctly different from other similar competitions.

It falls under the umbrella of the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show, where everything from coffee, cupcakes, branded beef and oysters are judged, so why not beer? The scoring system and overall model is drawn, largely, from the successful Sydney Royal Wine Show.

That means a beer must score at least 90 points out of 100 to win a gold medal, with the bar set considerably higher than the other two beer competitions (where 17/20 points wins gold). This year's competition attracted 95 entries and although roughly half won medals.

No gold medals were awarded.

All other beer competitions held in Australia and New Zealand simply lift their style categories directly from the US Brewers Association guidelines, but for the Sydney version the RAS opted for much broader categories (also based on the wine show model).

Most shows have separate divisions for large and small breweries and categories
for low-alcohol beers, but all entries at the Sydney beer competition were judged
in the same general categories.

Some fine-tuning will be in order for next year but, overall, the beer competition was a smoothly run and much-needed addition to the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show.

Willie Simpson was a judge and consultant to the RAS NSW and the 2007 Sydney Royal Fine Food Show.

Results RAS NSW 2007 Beer Competition
Entries 95
Gold medals 0
Silver medals 13
Bronze medals 35

Medal winners (NSW Breweries only)
Hahn Premium Lager, Tooheys Extra Dry, Nirvana Pale Ale (Murray's Craft Brewing), Redoak Brown Porter, Redoak Opera Bar Blonde, Redoak Organic Weizen Doppelbock, Redoak Baltic Porter.

Black Wattle Ale (Baron's Brewing), Bluetongue Traditional Pilsener, Hunter Bock, Hunter Pale Ale, Hunter Kolsch, Tooheys New, Tooheys Old Black Ale, James Squire Pilsener, James Squire Golden Ale, James Squire Porter, James Squire Rum Rebellion Porter, Sassy Blonde (Murray's Craft Brewing), Northern Rivers Pale Ale, Redoak Vienna Lager, Redoak Rauch, Redoak India Pale Ale, Redoak Oatmeal Stout, Redoak Organic Hefeweizen, Schwartz Dark Bier, Bullocks Pilsner (Snowy Mountains Brewery), Three Sheets (Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel).

Full results, see "

(Ed - results can also be found at this link


Beer News - "Bubbly, Blond & Very Popular"

Bubbly, Blonde and Very Popular
Willie Simpson, The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 February 2007

"Once upon a time Australians drank beer because they enjoyed the taste or identified with the blokey images the brands conjured. Now, it seems, a growing band of drinkers is choosing beers that are kinder to their waistlines or more in keeping with their daily gym visits. Welcome to the world of low-carbohydrate beers.

You can blame it on the Yanks or the success of Carlton Pure Blonde, which came from nowhere to achieve sales of 100,000 cases within 12 months of its launch and inspired a rash of local low-carb rivals.

Bondi Blonde, the latest to grab the headlines (courtesy of a visit from that Hilton girl), is a curious example of an established brand that has been repackaged as a trendy low-carb number.

Bondi Blonde was one of the original contract beer brands when it was released three years ago, as a premium lager, by Canadian-born entrepreneur Dean Brunne. He noticed a distinct lack of local craft brands when he arrived here in the mid-1990s, so he came up with his own label and had the beer made at the then newly established Bluetongue Brewery in Newcastle.

Despite the cute marketing concept, Brunne found it tough to make a profit out of Bondi Blonde and eventually sold the brand to Bluetongue last year. Little did he realise it would be reinvented as a low-carb label, backed by a serious advertising budget and associated with a global celebrity brand in Paris Hilton.

There's nothing particularly new about low-carb beers, which were around in the late '80s as "dry beers"; basically, brewers use an enzyme to ferment out most of the residual sweetness, which gives standard beer some complexity. Low-calorie brands have been tried without much success and it seems that the public have to be ready for a new trend, rather than having it thrust upon them by beer marketers.

As with gluten-free beers, people choose these brands for dietary and health considerations rather than flavour. Still, it's getting increasingly difficult to ignore them.

Tasting notes
Carlton Pure Blonde (4.6 per cent)
Pale gold; presents like a normal beer with a clean, malty nose.
Palate Reasonable maltiness, "doughnut" mid-palate, some bitterness. Ho-hum and lacks complexity but, overall, probably the best of the local low-carb brigade.

Bondi Blonde (4.5 per cent)
Pale gold; clean aroma; grainy notes.
Palate A hint of green apple initially, but lacks complexity mid-palate;
dry, moderately bitter finish.
Overall, OK, but hardly inspiring.

Hahn Super Dry (4.6 per cent)
Pale gold; moderate mouth-feel; restrained carbonation.
Palate A hint of citrus early, hollow mid-palate; dry, abrupt finish with negligible bitterness. Inoffensive and drinkable enough after a gym session.

Michelob Ultra (4.2 per cent)
Pale gold. This US import is simply one of the worst beers I've encountered in a long stretch.
Palate Thin, chemical-tasting and vague beer flavours, it has few redeeming features. It is, however, low on carbs (2.6g/355ml). So is water.

Silly Yak Aztec Gold (4.5 per cent)
Light straw; clean, grainy aroma and presents like normal beer.
Palate Slightly perfumed, relatively thin and finishes with a tart citrus note. This beer has also shown batch variations. Not the most complex beer, it would probably quench a thirst.

O'Brien Premium Lager (4.5 per cent)
Extremely pale straw; low carbonation; sweet-sour aroma
with wine-like and tart notes.
Palate Thin-bodied, empty mid-palate, tart finish initially, then reasonable bitterness. Out of balance overall, but probably drinkable for the gluten-intolerant.

O'Brien Pale Ale (4.5 per cent)
Hazy gold; head dies quickly; perfumed, flowery aroma.
Palate Weak body, jangle of jasmine-musk and citrus-tart notes, with a bitter shock to the finish. Little resemblance to the pale ale style. "


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Recent Tasting Notes

Red Duck Burton Strong Bitter (15/20)

Latest limited release from Red Duck. Pours a nothing head. Hazy dull orange in colour. Bouquet is very lifted and shows plenty of sweet chalky and confectionary notes. Does plenty for me and shoud attract many others. Settles down very nicely in the palate as classic / textbook bitter notes and structure come into play; nettles, mineral notes, subtle hops, really quite attractive, albeit in a elegant style. Finishes very balanced and broad, exactly the character I love in the likes of Marstons Pedigree and Tim Taylor Landlord. This could be their best beer?

Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne (16/20)

The most striking thing about this beer is the nose; masses of balsamic vinegar, something I have not really encountered in beer prior. Balsamic still evident to taste but it makes way for some more overt sweetness with some clearly defined vinous notes. Not sure if this is a session beer but always great to taste something so different.

Cantillon FouFoune (16/20)

"Really attractive to look at; mid-sized head with decent coffee-like density. Colour is a dullish glowing orange (does that make sense). Lovely nose; pongy and sour early, takes me straight back to Rue Gheude, good intensity. Opens and softens over 15 minutes to reveal much more obvious fruity apricot notes, almost to the extend you’d be forgiven for thinking you were infact sniffing a botrytise semillon dessert wine, although there’s no denying the sour lambic notes underpinning the impressove bouquet. Palate destroys any notion this will be a friendly fruity beer - sour, tangy, almost salty, pongy sulphuric notes. Truck loads of lemon and citrus with a touch of acid burn. Surprisingly all this flavour doesn’t translate into a long or memorable finish. My bottle was very low fizz, and me thinks a few more bubbles may have carried the sour and citrus flavours better as the beer finished up feeling a touch flabby, as strange as it may seem. (2006 bottling purchased at the brewery in October 2006)


Beer News - What's Brewing in the News

What's the Story
Willie Simpson, The Age Epicure, March 13, 2007

"A 160-year-old Geelong pub is leading a micro-brewery mini-revival.

MELBOURNE brew-pubs are becoming a rare and endangered species. Long-running South Melbourne operator Bell's Hotel and Brewery has lasted the distance, but pioneering outfits like the Loaded Dog in Fitzroy sunk without trace yonks ago. The Gunn Island Brewbar stopped brewing its own soon after Woolies bought the joint, and the in-house micro-brewery at Three Degrees has yet to be cranked up (it may never be).

At least the two James Squire Brewhouses - located at Docklands and in the Portland Hotel in the city - are pumping out house-brewed ales on a regular basis. And much further west, Geelong's Scottish Chiefs Tavern Brewery (opened 1845) has been re-invigorated under new brewer Damian Nippard.

This brew-pub, close to Geelong's waterfront, has had a fairly chequered history since the equipment was installed in the late 1980s. After producing a mere handful of brews, the plant lay dormant until the mid-'90s when journeyman brewer Gavin Gamble (he also brewed for Bell's Hotel) fired up the brew kettle once more. As well as knocking out a range of beers for the Scottish Chiefs pub, Gamble sold beer under his own Steampacket Brewery brand to outside venues (including the Labour In Vain bar in Fitzroy for a time).

The original micro-brewery was designed to make beer from malt extract, but Gamble modified the plant to a full brewery including - famously - installing a claw-footed bathtub as his mash tun. (He produced a similar arrangement for Bell's Hotel and there is still a photo there of owner Bill Bell lolling around in the suds without wearing much in the way of clothing!)

The bathtub has gone and so has Gamble, who left the brewing industry for a "real" job in late 2005. Nippard had worked briefly with Gamble as a part-time assistant brewer and has taken over a similar role to his predecessor - his What's Brewing Company produces house ales for the Scottish Chiefs and he also sells beer to outside venues.

Nippard comes from a strong home-brewing background. He was a foundation member of the Westgate Brewers Club and the inaugural chairman of the VicBrew organisation in the early 1990s. It's fair to say that house beers - pale ale, amber ale and porter - take a back seat to the commercial tap beers available at the Scottish Chiefs, but Nippard brews a 1200 litre batch roughly every second or third week.

"Ideally, I start at 7am and if things go OK I might finish by 6.30 or 7pm," he says. "The beers are a similar style (to previously)," he says, "but I didn't get Gavin's (Gamble) recipe book."

The relatively modern microbrewery sits next to the site of the historic Volum Brewery which ran from 1857 until 1958, when it was taken over by CUB.

What's Brewing Company - tasting notes

Pale Ale (4.5%) - Hazy amber-gold. Light grainy palate, with a dry bitterness emerging late. "It's an English-inspired pale ale but it's got American and Australian hops," brewer Damian Nippard says.

Amber Ale (5.5%) - Hazy, amber-gold. A malt-driven ale with appetising biscuity characters, chewy caramel notes and a restrained bitterness.

Porter (6.2%) - Murky dark brown-black. Malty initially (Milo notes), complex palate with chocolatey/expresso characters, a herbaceous hop bitterness, and a firm, roasty finish."


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Beer News - Latest Newsletter from Squires

Clink on this link to read the latest 'news' from James Squires.........


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

New Releases Early March

A few newbies on the shelves.......

Mildura Storm Cloudy Ale $3.50 / $20.00

Jarrah Jacks Pale Ale $3.20 / $19.00
Jarrah Jacks Pemberton Ale $3.20 / $19.00
Jarrah Jacks Wheat Beer $3.20 / $19.00


Monday, March 05, 2007

Cellar Notes - Weize Kriek

1998 Bottling / Tasted Oct 2006 (16/20)
I've done quite a bit of fruitless research on this beer on the web but I can't find a sliver of data as to its background.

Dull reddish brown - showing its age. Fruity nose of musty old cherries. Good clarity and lift. Soft friendly touches in the mouth. Cherry flavours are very upfront and obvious. Palate tightens up with some tart fruits but essentially a great example of mellow, aged kriek. The price? A mere E1.50!!!!!!!!!!! @ Kulminator.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Beer News - De Bortolo Moves into Brewing

De Bortoli to Move into Brewing
(27 February 2007, Just-Drinks)

"De Bortoli, one of Australia’s top ten wine producers, has launched its brewing business in Griffith, New South Wales, where it bought a brewery eight years ago.

“We just saw an opportunity in the boutique craft beer market,” managing director Darren De Bortoli told ABC News today (27 February). “It’s a sector that’s growing very rapidly.”

According to ABC, up to 15 jobs will be created at the brewery, which is expected to be up and running in three years.

Demand for premium beer - both craft and imports - in Australia is soaring, with sales growing by 15% every year since 2001.

Australia’s largest wine group, Hardy Wine Co., distributes the beers of Western Australia’s Gage Roads Brewing Co. as it looks to expand its portfolio in the face of a tough wine market.
A slew of craft brewers have also floated on the Australian stock market in the last 12 months in a bid to generate funds for expansion."


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