Monday, 22 August 2016

UNTAPPD CATCHUP 40

Untappd Catchup

Once again we have a bumper Untappd Catchup here for you. I've been drinking a little more than usual as I try and complete one of the worst assignments I've ever tried to complete, whilst juggling work's accreditation. We've got 6 new pieces of badge artwork for you in this post - check it out and let me know your thoughts on any of the beers in this post.

I had a few pints of Fixation IPA after work at The Gertrude a few weeks ago. This is right up there as Australia's best IPA; it has assertive bitterness and wonderful resinous and juicy hop characteristics. The Wheel of Styles badge has now been leveled - so you will be seeing a lot of this badge for a little while. Fixation unlocked (Level 11).

Another hoppy Australia beer unlocked two badges later in the week; IPA Day (2016) & New Brew Thursday (Level 21). That beer was Venom's second beer; their Black IPA. Black IPA is such a fantastic style when done well and Venom have done very well! The malts were lightly roasted and didn't overpower the palate. That task was left the hops, with a big citrus hit cutting through the roast as well as hints of tropical fruit flavours. I will definitely be buying this beer again soon!


I was clearly enjoying Black IPA's that week, as Garage Project's Lack of Faith unlocked Drink Like a Kiwi (Level 32). This was everything you'd expect from a Garage Project Black IPA - it had wonderfully complex malt flavours, with roast leading the way. The hops were citrusy and provided wonderful bitterness. If you love Black IPA's you have to try this beer! If you love beer you have to try beers from Garage Project! These guys may well be the best brewers in the Southern Hemisphere!

Stella Artois is a beer I almost never drink. That changed because they launched their own badge... Host One to Remember is unlocked by drinking one Stella Artois before September 18. This checkin also unlocked Wheel of Styles (Level 12), I told you you'd be seeing a lot of this badge! I assume most of you are acquainted with Stella - it's actually a reasonably palatable lager. You always know what you're going to get with Stella; it's remarkably consistent with slightly sweet malts and some grassy hops.


Respect the Kölsch is badge that was released in early January, quite why it has taken this long for me to unlock it I'm not sure... Reissdorf Kölsch is one of the oldest Kölsch beers in the market, with the brewery opening in 1894. The beer had slightly sweeter bready malts than I am used to for the style. There's a small amount a citrus flavours, from some lightly bitter hops. As per the style; it's a crisp clean tasting beer and one that would be particularly sessionable.

We are getting close to the end of the Heavy Weight badge, Dainton Family's Black Sheep Coffee Oatmeal Brunch Stout unlocked (Level 46). This was a reasonably impressive beer. The flavour was predominantly of dark chocolate and was quite enjoyable. The flavour was relatively one dimensional however. It had a light creamy mouthfeel, although it was certainly less creamy than other Oatmeal Stouts. There's certainly better examples of the style out there, but it's by no means a bad beer.

Duvel is one of my go to beers. It's a quintessentially Belgian beer that is world renowned. It's a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, although it almost straddles the Tripel category. This beer naturally has some sweet malts, and even some reasonable hop character, but the real star is the yeast. There's some estery spiciness, a bit of aniseed (or something similar) and some fruitiness. It's a beer that every beer lover has to try at least once! Belgian for a Day was the badge.


Sky's the Limit (Level 18) was unlocked by the Murray's Wild Thing Coffee version. This beer is Murray's regular Wild Thing Imperial Stout which has had 1000 espresso shots added to the batch. As you'd expect this stout was big on coffee. It was still sweet, like the regular Wild Thing, but also had this wonderful roastiness and coffee flavour as well as impressive bitterness.

Benediktiner Weissbier Dunkel unlocked Das Boot (Level 10). Das Boot is the badge for drinking German beers and has had an artwork update, as you can see below. The beer was a nice example of the style with plenty of chocolate from the malts complimenting the distinctly wheaty banana flavour. There's a touch of cloves there as well, which is a nice addition. It's on the sweeter side of the style, and this would make me less likely to buy it again.

I've been waiting to try some of the beers from the Parrot Dog Flora Series for a while - their label artwork is awesome! Kowhai, the "Double IPA", unlocked 2X - a new badge that you will be seeing heaps of in the future. Any beer with Imperial or Double in the style counts towards this badge. It was a wonderfully fresh tasting IPA, packed full of resinous pine flavours. It's a wonderful example of a West Coast IPA!


The third time the Wheel of Styles badge has appeared in this post was thanks to Pacific Radler. It's CUB's attempt at a Radler and it was truly disgusting! For those who aren't aware; Radler's are a 50:50 mix of beer and lemonade, originating in Germany. I've had many in Europe and they can be quite refreshing. This one was as bad as anything I can recall drinking. It was disgustingly sweet, and what little beer flavour there was was horribly skunked, probably due to the clear glass bottle! Don't do it to yourselves!

Last Saturday I decided to work through the 5 different Nomad beers that had accumulated in my fridge. Naturally a few of those unlocked badges, the first of which was The Wild Mongrel. The name is fitting given the nature of the beer. It is their Cruisin' Ale which has spent plenty of time on Shiraz grapes. It's gathered a wild yeast strain somewhere along the way and has some nice vinous character and light sourness. If it were either a little more sour, or a little more vinous, or a little fruitier - it could've been very special! Pucker Up (Level 39) is why we're talking about it.


So-Cal-Iente, the collaboration between Nomad and Stone Brewing, was the other Nomad beer to unlock a badge; Better Together (Level 14). This was a wonderful Black IPA! There's roast and a hint of rye in the malt - before citrus, both added orange zest and from the hops, come to the fore. The orange is very prominent while the Anaheim chilies, that were also added, only give the faintest hint as the beer warms up. It's definitely Black IPA season, so jump on this one while it is still around!

My Marketing Management assignment may have gotten the better of me judging by the length of this Untappd Catchup... The subject is dead and buried come Thursday night, and I hope that will allow me to get some content posted this weekend! I've got a very big Untappd milestone coming up soon and have a beer I'm pretty excited for lined up for it. I would also expect to have Part 4 of The Hottest 100 up within the next week. Until next time guys!

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

THE THIRST #1

The Thirst



I don't only drink beer and write about beer; I also read about beer - A LOT! The idea for this post came to me on holidays, basically it's going to be a quick list of beer related articles/books that I've enjoyed since the last post. If you, like me, have a thirst for beer knowledge; The Thirst is where to find it!

I'm forever looking for new beer articles and have loved a few similar posts on different blogs to what I'm trying to create here. Hopefully you all enjoy it, please send me interesting beer articles if you find them! I'm going to kick it off with a piece I was involved in, and that I also mentioned the other day.

THE BIG ISSUE: GOTTA CATCH 'EM ALL - Kerry McBride of The Crafty Pint (Part 1 here - Part 2 here)

These two pieces explored the relationship between social media and the craft beer. It's a really interesting read and one that I was more than happy to be apart of. It canvasses a wide variety of industry people; the consumer (yours truly), the retailer (Ben from Carwyn), the facilitator (Tim from Untappd) and brewers (Mazen from Hawkers & Ryan from Little Bang). If you're an Untappd user this is a piece worth checking out.

SIMPLE AND TRUE - THE STORY OF SAISON DUPONT - Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting (Link here)

If you are just going to read one article, make it this one. When I first thought about this blog post I spent over an hour looking for this piece. I love everything about it; the writing is complimented by excellent photos and a video which primarily interviews Oliver Dedeycker, the 4th generation Master Brewer of Dupont, and has great shots of the meld of old and new brewing techniques, which help to produce one of the most famous beers in the world.

RAISE A GLASS... YORK'S TASTIEST MEDIEVAL TRADITION - Gavin Aitchison of The York Press (Link here)

I loved this piece because it taught me a new piece of beer history. I'd never heard of the Assize of Ale before. and I'm guessing very few of you are across it either. The piece above focuses more on the modern iteration - however I found the history far more interesting. Basically this was the first regulatory system for the weight (size), quality and price of beer.

HOPPORTUNITY COST: CRAFT BREWERS BRAWL OVER CATCHY NAMES AS PUNS RUN DRY - Sara Randazzo of The Wall Street Journal (Link here)

A interesting look at the American craft beer scene and in particular the trademark issues that are becoming more and more common. For an example you need to simply look in our own back yard at the recent Stone & Wood vs Thunder Road dispute over the term Pacific Ale.

JOURNEY OF THE HOP; FINDING GOLDILOCKS ON THE 49TH PARALLEL - Chenda Ngak of Weather.com (Link here)

If you guys weren't already aware; I love hops! Hops are cool on a number of levels, one of my favourite's being that many varieties able to grow over half a metre in height a week! Hops are, almost always, the part of your beer that imparts the most bitterness, aroma and - depending on the style - flavour. Make sure you watch the video's as well as reading the article, it'll give you a fascinating insight into a hop production facility; Elk Mountain Farm.

THE BREWMASTER'S TABLE - Garrett Oliver

Depending on the frequency of these posts; I'll try and put in a beer book in each of these posts. I read this book on the plane up to Cairns for my recent holiday. Garrett Oliver's books are always a great read and this one was no exception. Some of his suggested food pairings had my mouth watering, so much so that I head straight to the supermarket and Dan's and bought our first two meals - straight from his book. It's an old book (published 2003), but it's a wonderful resource.

There we have it guys, I hope you like the first edition of The Thirst. I think this will be a semi-regular post so please give me any feedback that you have about it. I'd love to see some articles that you guys find interesting - so please hit me up; gus.norris7@gmail.com or on the Beer O'Clock Instagram page. Hopefully I will knock over my marketing assignment tomorrow and then I will be able to get some content out for you!

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

REVIEW: KALIK CRISP

Macro Lager


STATS
  • Country: Bahamas
  • Style: American Adjunct Lager
  • ABV: 4.6%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
Here for you tonight I have a lager that is popping up around Melbourne. Kalik Crisp is a lager from The Bahamas, a country I've never had a beer from. The clear glass bottle that houses this beer has certainly raised my concerns, but I'm still willing to give it a go. First though, some background.

The Bahamas are a group of approximately 700 islands off the South East coast of Florida. Their population is around 400,000 and is mostly Christian. Like many Caribbean nations their economy is massively dependent on tourism; with more than 60% of their GDP being attributed to tourism. They are a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, and subsequently have Queen Elizabeth II as their monarch. Naturally, given it's location, it has a hot, tropical climate - which is what is sparking my concerns about the bottle.

Kalik Crisp poured reasonably well. The colour was certainly on the lighter side, with light yellow being the nicest way I can think of to describe it! The head is brilliant white and initially is of a decent size. It quite aerated, with quite a few larger bubbles almost from the outset, and accordingly fades to a film quite quickly. This film hangs around for the duration and even leaves behind some lacing.

The real test of the glass bottle is often the nose. I'm quite surprised, and thankful, to report that there was very little, if any, signs of skunk in this bottle. I'm also pleased to report that I don't have to invoke the lager rule; Kalik Crisp has a reasonable nose. There was some light cereal grain malt aromas as well as some floral hop notes. The hops didn't seem particularly strong/bitter, but they were definitely there on the nose!

It tastes exactly like what the nose indicated. Kalik Crisp has a light malt base, which is slightly on the sweeter side, but not off-puttingly so. Like I thought, the hops don't provide much bitterness, but they do provide some interest; with some floral flavours and more prominently lemon. There's a tiny bit of corn at the end, but it's not really noticeable if you're not looking for it. The carbonation was quite high, but it was strangely light on the tongue - it's an odd, but pleasant, feeling.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with how this lager tasted. It's not of the same quality as something like the Pilsner Urquell that I had the other day (which was magnificent!), but nor would you expect a tropical lager of this nature to be. It's light, it's refreshing, it's quaffable and it actually tastes like a beer; not skunk. It would be a particularly easy beer to put away multiples of on a tropical beach. In Australia, you've obviously got better options - but if it's still as cheap as it is now come summer, there would be worse options to stock your fridge with for your mates.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Monday, 1 August 2016

UNTAPPD CATCHUP 39

Untappd Catchup


Many weeks have passed since my last Untappd wrap up. Like with the Hottest 100 post - work, uni, I.T. issues and holidays have got in the way of this... Accordingly it's bigger than usual - hopefully it's still just 15 badges when I've finished writing this post!

One of the beers I look forward to every year is the Duvel Tripel Hop. Normally Duvel is brewed with just two hops, Saaz & Styrian Golding. Once a year they brew this beer using a third hop; this year the experimental variety HBC 291, which has now been named Loral. This hop provided a wonderful lime and pepper flavour, which suited Duvel brilliantly! Belgian Holiday (Level 28) was the badge.

The ever confounding New Brew Thursday badge, (Level 20), was unlocked by Uinta's Dubhe Imperial Black IPA. It was a lovely Black IPA, clocking in at 9.2%, packing a bitter punch - which is listed at 109 IBU's. There's also this very interesting licorice flavour that compliments the roasty flavours you would expect from the style. Despite not being the freshest offering; I was very impressed with this beer.


Beers that unlock 2 badges are pretty rare for me these days. Funk Estate's Gose Town did just that; unlocking Pucker Up (Level 37) & What Gose Round (Level 3). For those missing the reference; Gose is a sour style of beer, originating from Goslar in Germany. I got my hands on this through Tru Bru - it's their GABS beer from this year and, as far as I know, it's keg only. It's a good example of the style; with a sour sweet base, plenty of coriander (avoid if you're not a fan) and light saltiness on the back of the palate. If you are unsure of what Gose's are, this would be a good starting point.

A couple of weeks ago Dylan and I shared a number of beer whilst watching the footy. As usual, we dotted several lighter sours throughout the night to cleanse our palates; which has the fringe benefit of making sure we can both get stuff done the next day! Swedish brewer Dugges provided three of those sours; with their Black Currant the only one to earn a badge. It was my least favourite of the 3; I thought the lacto was a bit too strong and the black currant was subsequently detracted from. It was a perfectly acceptable beer, but was overshadowed by Bow Tie Daddy (an aggressively tart Berliner Weiss) & Tropic Thunder (reminiscent of sour breakfast juice - spectacular). Swedish Brews (Level 2) was the badge.

Bad Shepherd's new one; New World IPA, is absolutely on point! This is one of the best Australian made examples of a straight up and down American IPA. Hopped Up (Level 42) is richly deserved for this beer, clocking in at 74 IBU's, utilizing Australian, American, New Zealand and even French hops. It's a wonderfully bitter beer and also smacks you in the face with pine resin and tropical fruit flavours. I loved this beer and can't wait to go back and grab a 6-pack!

 

I do find it interesting that Scottish beers count towards both God Save the Queen & The Highlander badges... Obviously I understand why, but it is interesting nonetheless. The beer that spawned that little muse was Harviestoun's American IPA, which unlocked God Save the Queen (Level 33). It's not a beer I distinctly remember; other than thinking it was very bog-standard for the style. My notes don't help much either - other than to confirm it was a passable, if forgettable, IPA.

Almanac's Elephant Heart de Brettaville was anything but forgettable! This was plain and simply one of the best beers I've had this year! The combination of the Elephant Heart (a type of Plum) flavour and the Brett was just superb! Pucker Up (Level 38) is why we're talking about it, although at another time this would've been reviewed in full! I'm doing a big Almanac tasting with Richo in the next month or two - which I will post a full wrap up of - so keep your eyes peeled Almanac fans!

I was really impressed with the beers from Kees, a Dutch brewery, that made it out here at the end of last year. There's recently been a second, more winter-friendly, influx of their beer's including the 1750 Export Porter. It was a really big Porter, clocking in at 10.5%, and was packed full of roast, some dark fruits and even some licorice. The only thing that detracted from it for me was a strong yeasty (almost Vegemite-like taste) that you were left with at the conclusion of each mouthful; I'm a big Vegemite fan, but even I found it too much. Possibly it was a bottle gone bad? Heavyweight (Level 45) was the badge.


I've finally unlocked the Beach Bum badge! It took a surprisingly long time as I'm quite partial to on beach drinking - although clearly I revisit the same beaches over and over again. Whilst on holidays; a very fresh Pilsner Urquell from the Dan's in Cairns was enjoyed on Thornton Beach, near Cape Tribulation. This offering was one of the best Pilsner Urquell's I've had outside the Czech Republic. It had that wonderful Noble Hop character that this beer is so renowned for. It's a wonderful beer when fresh - and if there's fresh stock in FNQ there has to be some near where you live!

On holidays the varied check-in locations always lead to a number of the location badges being unlocked. By the Campfire (Level 7) was unlocked at Cape Kimberley, one of few spots north of the Daintree River with phone reception. Lizzie and I made the journey down most nights to watch the Tour de France on the iPad, send some emails and (naturally) enjoy a few beers. On this occassion the beer was the Pirate Life IPA - a beer I muled several of up to FNQ. It's a spectacular example of an Australian brewed American IPA, with chewy caramel malts offsetting the hops which have a strong pineapple element accompanying the usual tropical fruit and pine flavours - as well as nice pronounced bitterness.

Port Douglas have recently got their own brewery; Hemingway's. Naturally while I was up there I thought I ought to pop in and check it out. The venue is awesome and situated in a particularly picturesque spot - if I have time I'll pop out a full review of the place in the coming days. As part of my paddle I had a Bicycle Beer from Temple Brewing in Melbourne, at this stage they don't have enough beers of their own to complete a full paddle. It tasted exactly as I knew it would; lightly wheaty, very effervescent, spicy hops and nicely refreshing. Blondes Do it Better (Level 5) is why you're hearing about it!


It's always a treat to try a new Mikkeller creation. Wit Fit is, strangely enough, a Witbier that unlocked Danish Delight (Level 5) - the badge for trying different Danish beers. It had all the elements you'd expect from a Witbier; light wheat flavours, coriander and some yeastiness. However, it was by no means a traditional Witbier with a bucketload of hops being added; imparting bitterness as well as citrus and fruity characteristics. It is also listed by Mikkeller as an "Imperial Witbier", which certainly was not evident throughout drinking!

Another trip to Hemingway's later in my holiday yielded another badge; Hopped Up (Level 43). Once again it was a guest beer, Yulli's Brew Louis Black IPA, that took home the prize. This was quite an interesting Black IPA, that changed dramatically as it warmed up. At first I thought it was disappointing;  a little thin and lacking in either roast or hop characteristics. As it warmed the roast became more pronounced, although still a little underwhelming for the style, and the hops provided a nice bitter bite. It's not a beer I'd be rushing back to - but iI certainly wouldn't turn down another.


Last but not least, Moa's 2015 Tripel Sauvignon unlocked Dubbel, Tripel and Quad Oh My! (Level 5). It's a really interesting beer. The Candi Sugar that is usually so important in a traditional has been replaced by Sauvignon Blanc grape juice - clearly it worked well! I didn't know that before trying the beer; and actually thought the vinous characteristics were relatively mild, and were even slightly swamped by a traditional Tripel sweetness. Certainly there was some fruitiness that you wouldn't find in a regular Tripel, but I thought that it was close enough to a traditional example with just a tiny twist. I would definitely recommend picking one of these up if you still see one sitting on a shelf.

Finally I've finished this monster post! I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed drinking the beers. Let me know your thoughts on any of the above. Also check out this post by Kerry McBride of the Crafty Pint that I was fortunate enough to be interviewed for. Part 1 here & part 2 here. It's a really cool piece exploring the impact that social media, particularly Untappd, has had on the beer world. Until next time guys!

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

HOTTEST 100 BEERS: PART 3


The Hottest 100 Beers


Part 3 of the Hottest 100 segment is upon us. I've tried at least 1 beer from each decade, for a third time, and have written short summations for you below. Assuming things go to plan, ie. I can find all the beers in time, I intend to complete this challenge in 10 posts.

#10 - Feral Karma Citra This beer has finally made the big time! Feral's Karma Citra was their first ever GABS beers; in the days when it was just a 20 tap event at The Local Taphouse! Last year it finally made the jump from sporadic appearer to year round core range member! This beer straddles the divide of appeal between being approachable to craft beer novices, while still appealing to aficianado's. For those who haven't tried it; please do! It's body is lightly roasted with hints of nuttiness, while still allowing the Citra hops to shine. It's a wonderful Black IPA that I really hopes makes the style more widely available!

#16 - Big Shed Golden Stout Time Big Shed's GABS offering was one of the beer I voted for in last years Hottest 100 countdown. Their beer; Golden Stout Time, a take on Australia's best ice cream - the Golden Gaytime - was simply superb! It had the perfect mix of chocolate, honeycomb and caramel, that blended perfectly with the creamy texture of the beer. In short they nailed it! I really hope these guys keep making this beer long into the future; it's one of the best Sweet Stouts on the market!

#26 - Riverside 777 Quite how this beer slipped this low I'm not sure! It could be that it is hard to get outside it's home state of NSW - although thankfully that is changing! Riverside's 777 could go toe-to-toe with any Imperial IPA. It's, not surprisingly, packed full of hops - both tropical and piney in flavour - while there is a more than adequate malt base that allows them to shine. For 9.2% ABV, it's dangerously easy drinking! I'm going to try and organise a side by side of this beer and the Pirate Life IIPA (3rd in this very same countdown) and report back my findings.

#35 - 4 Pines Indian Summer Pale Ale 4 Pines released this beer, their first - and to date only - canned offering, at the start of last summer. Quite how this beer ended up this high in the countdown beguiles me. It's an inoffensive Pale Ale, with relatively low carbonation, malt flavour and hop flavour. What little flavour there is, is of light breads malts and some passionfruit. I can see the appeal of this beer, on a 35+ degree day by a pool - but frankly there are far better options available at the same price point. Most beers I can find a way to endorse their standing in the Hottest 100 beers - but #35 is far far too high for this beer, so lacking in flavour. There's a time and a place; and the Hottest 100 is certainly not the place!

#46 - Feral Tusk This one is really stretching back some time! Feral Tusk is the beer I most look forward to every year. It's a massive Imperial IPA, released on tap just twice a year at select venues around the country. The beer has a huge caramel malt base, as you'd expect for such a big Imperial IPA (11.8%), before an avalanche of hops attack your senses with pine and tropical fruit flavour dominating. It's a wonderful IPA, that's dangerously drinkable! Every year I wonder how this beer ends up this far down the countdown, but then I think that 46th isn't bad for a beer that is available for less than one week a year!

#60 - Hawthorn Pale Ale
 I have flipped and flopped on Hawthorn's beers more than any brewery I can recall. Clearly quality control is not their strong suit... I was interested to see their Pale Ale in the Hottest 100 and was quite looking forward to trying it again. I was severely disappointed. The malts were like stale bread, almost cardboardy, while there was some orange peel flavour and aroma coming from the hops. This isn't a beer that I would go seeking out - it's neither a good nor an awful Pale Ale, but it's also not one you'd expect to make the Hottest 100 beers. I don't know if this was just a bad batch, but I seem to have that feeling quite a bit with beers from Hawthorn...

#66 - White Rabbit Pale Ale Unlike most Australian brewers, White Rabbit's Pale Ale isn't American/Australian in style; it's Belgian. I was unsure what to think when they announced their Belgian Pale Ale in July 2014(ish) - Australian's always rave about Belgian beers, but could White Rabbit reproduce that flavour and capture that market. Clearly they've done pretty well - with this beer finding it's way up from #85 in it's first year. The beer is a simple Belgian Pale Ale with nice Belgian yeast phenols and flavours. There's light citrus and floral qualities from the hops that are quite nice as well. It's certainly not going to standup to the best Belgian examples but it is more than serviceable. I quite like this beer and hope it sparks a trend that more Aussie brewers experiment with different yeasts.

#79 - Australian Beer Co. Yenda Pale Ale I've been interested to try the Coca-Cola owned Yenda beers since they were first announced - for a number of reasons it hasn't happened until now. The first one I tried - was as a palate cleanser in the middle of a large sour session - and was truly appalling! The second, on a clean palate, was slightly less galling - but still pretty appalling! The malts were more reminiscent of cardboard than malt and there was some slight floral hop qualities - although slight may be being kind...

#89 - Mornington Pale Ale In contrast to the Yenda offering, Mornington's exceptional Pale Ale somehow slotted in a whole 10 places lower in the countdown. It's a beautifully constructed Pale Ale, with a light biscuity malt platform allowing the passionfruit and citrus aromas and flavours of the hops to shine! I drink this beer regularly and can only imagine that other people aren't drinking it if it was to slip this far down the countdown. These guys are exporting to China so you should be able to find it throughout most of Australia.

#97 - Coopers Sparkling Ale It had been years since I last tried a Coopers Red! I was so pleased to see this sneak into the Hottest 100 so I could reminisce a bit. It tasted similar to what I recall - with pale malts and some distinct yeastiness. There's more citrus hops than I remembered, but they aren't particularly bitter. It was a wonderful trip down memory lane - and it certainly won't be years until my next one!

I know this post has been a long time coming! A combination of Uni, work, holidays and I.T issues saw this post delayed and delayed and delayed... Part 4 won't be more than 2-3 weeks away I wouldn't have thought. As usual fire any questions you have at me/let me know what you thought of my comments on any of the above beers. If you want to follow this challenge along live, you can follow me on the Beeroclockau Instagram page. Until next time...

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Sunday, 10 July 2016

UNTAPPD CATCHUP 38

Untappd Catchup


Some computer issues have seen this post get delayed several times - and subsequently get longer and longer! Anyway; during the last 3 weeks I've had a number of really good beers - some of which are reviewed below. Check it out, and remember to leave me your feedback on any of the beers you've had!

First up was BrewDog's Black IPA from their Prototype range, a beer that unlocked God Save the Queen (Level 32). Initially, it was nicely roasty but lacking a bit in hops. It wasn't a bad Black IPA, but it didn't have the wow factor that I normally associate with BrewDog.

Another beer from the new BrewDog Prototype range that unlocked a badge was the Milk Stout. I thought this was the pick of the 4 beers, and one that I'd love to see incorporated into their core range. It was slightly sweet, and had that nice chocolate/lacto thing that many Milk Stouts have going on. Highlander (Level 4), the badge for drinking Scottish beers, is the reason we're talking about it. Interestingly - 19 of my 20 Scottish beers since the introduction of the badge have been from Brewdog.


James Squire's new release last Summer, The Swindler unlocked Blondes Do It Better (Level 4). This beer has been in the news recently after beating out Stone & Wood's Pacific Ale in The World Beer Cup English-style Summer Ale category. On first tasting, James Squire have swindled a Gold Medal! The beer is almost flavourless and I can't for the life of me understand how it rated so highly, unless the beer they entered in the competition is different to the packaged product... Cynical? I know! But I can't explain it any other way. I've got another one and will be revisiting in the future to confirm my previous findings.

Better Together has become one of my favourite badges, I love seeing two brewers collaborate and produce something incredible! Better Together (Level 13) was unlocked by the Nomad Cross Pallet Nation, a beer brewed at Nomad with input from Pallet Magazine and Sam Calagione, of Dog Fish Head fame. It's a wonderfully complex beer, an Amber Ale with plenty of smokiness accompanied by some maple sweetness. Apparently there's some Australian spices in there as well, but they don't add much noticeable flavour.  

Knee Deep's hoppy beers have once again made it to our shores. The best way to sample them is from a keg, so naturally I visited Tru Bru to get my fix! Man Juice, not only evokes an image I could do without, is a seriously good IPA. It's packed full of citrus flavours, with mandarin the most prominent - I can't recall ever having a beer which was so clearly dominated by mandarin. Although it's not massively hoppy, 69 IBU's was enough to earn Hopped Up (Level 40).


Hop Surplus was another Knee Deep offering that I picked up at Tru Bru. This IPA was monstrous; clocking in at 10% on the dot, it unlocked Sky's the Limit (Level 17). It's certainly not a subtle beer! It's got plenty of sweet caramel malts upfront, before being swamped by a bitter hit of pine resin and hints of citrus. The ABV is well hidden, but certainly shows itself after you finish! It's a big beer; treat it with caution.

New Brew Thursday (Level 19) was unlocked by Exit's Amber Ale. This badge has continually confused me since the start, and once again it randomly arrived. This beer is part of the new core range and Exit and was a lovely example of the style. It had all the malts you'd expect from an Amber/Red, while having a nice citrusy hop bite that kept me interested. You honestly can't go wrong with any of the beers these guys produce.

To celebrate the completion of my piece on the history of Grisette (see here), I opened the 8 Wired/Modern Times collaboration Halfway to Whangarei Grissette (quite why Grisette is spelled with two "s's" I can't explain...). It was beautifully funky, with Brett relatively restrained, and a nice grassy & citrusy zing. Stylistically it wasn't a Grisette, but it was a very tasty beer! Drink Like a Kiwi (Level 30) is why you're hearing about it.


Richo and I caught up for the first time in ages later that night and shared a few really good beers. The first to earn a badge was the Almanac Tropical Platypus, which unlocked Pucker Up (Level 36). I was already well on the way by this point - but I vividly remember this beer. It was spectacular with kiwifruit and passionfruit both prominent flavours, as well as lovely acidity and vinous qualities - presumably from the white wine barrels it was aged in. The Almanac sours, and the IPA as well for that matter, are all awesome! I'm doing a big tasting on their stuff soon, which I will try and write up.

Another beer from that night unlocked Fruits of Your Labor (Level 4). Founders Blushing Monk was the beer and I was surprised by it as soon as it was poured. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't a bright red beer! It had a very sweet raspberry raspberry flavour initially, yet finished strangely tart. It straddled this line between, almost too, sweet and tart. It was a really interesting juxtaposition of different raspberry flavours and one I'd recommend trying.

The last beer to earn a badge that night (but unfortunately not the last beer of the night...) was Panhead's Black Sabbath. I was quite surprised that I was only up to (Level 2) of The Wine of Beers, the badge for drinking Barley Wines. In any case, I remember this was a really tasty Barley Wine - my notes confirm this and also say that it was packed full of licorice flavours. I will have to source more to confirm however...


Canadian beers rarely make it to our shores. So when the Collective Arts Brew beers made it out here for Good Beer Week I had to grab some. Their Collective Project; Black IPA was a lovely example of the style. It was definitely malt drive, with roasted coffee the main flavour proponent. There's also plenty of piney hop bitterness. This was the first beer in this review to unlock two badges; Wheel of Styles, a new core badge for trying 20 different beer styles, and Hopped Up (Level 41).

Last weekend Lizzie and I were driving around the western suburbs; and what trip out that side is complete without stopping for lunch at Fox in the Corn? For those who don't know; it's a pasta restaurant in Footscray with an amazing beer list, specializing in sours. After consulting with Josh I ended up starting with BrewDog's B Side: Sour Red Ale. This is the first offering to come out of BrewDog's new sour only brewery. It had all the complexity of a proper Flemish Red but is only a 4 week kettle sour, I think with pediococcus rather than lactobacillus but I may be wrong. The badge? Independence Day (2016) - for having a beer within 3 days of July 4.

Epic's Hopdozer unlocked Paint the Town Red (Level 8). These New Zealand brewers are known for their copious use of hops and this holds true with this Red Ale. This was a pretty sensational example of a hoppy Red Ale/Red IPA, Red IPA is a term I'm not huge on - but similarly to Black IPA it does explain what you'll get. This had nice maltiness and wonderful hop bitterness! I'm looking forward to get back to the shop and buy more!


A lunchtime work trip to Dr Morse for Lizzie's birthday unlocked Heavy Weight (Level 44). It was a particularly cold Melbourne's winters day and the Akasha From the Shadows Porter was the only way to go. The beer was nice and malty, with roasted malts dominant and hints of chocolate and coffee becoming more prominent as it warmed. For the ABV(5.5%) it drank beautifully, with a thick creamy body. I will be keeping my eyes peeled for this in the future.

After a long day in the cold at the footy, I knew it was time to crack the Townshend's Flemish Stout that'd been in my fridge for a few weeks. As soon as I smelt the beer, I knew it was exactly what I was after! This beer had lovely chocolate notes that contrasted beautifully with this complex sour wood and cherry flavour - which was very reminiscent of a Flanders Red. It was a touch over carbonated for my liking, but this was a very minor issue for me. Drink Like a Kiwi (Level 31) was the badge.

Last but not least was the Nøgne Ø Saison Reserve, which unlocked Trip to the Farm (Level 16). This beer gushed as violently as any beer I've ever had before. The best part of two thirds of the bottle hit the ground and unfortunately not my glass. What little I did get to taste was a little disappointing. I was quite surprised to not pickup any elements of the wine barrels this beer is aged in (although their contribution may have been the gushing...). There was a nice orange peel taste but it wasn't particularly strong. I thought this was a bit weaker that what I've come to expect from Nøgne Ø.


There we have it guys I've finally managed to get this post finished without it deleting itself (third times the charm)! I hope you've enjoyed the read and possibly found some beers you'd like to try. As usual, let me know if you've had any of these via the usual channels; email, Twitter or Instagram. I've got a few pieces in the pipeline, which hopefully you'll see over the next week or so. My camera is operational again, so I may finally be able to get that glassware post up for you! Until next time...

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Friday, 24 June 2016

WHAT'S IN STYLE: GRISETTE


Grisette


I've been thinking about the segment for the best part of a couple of years. The idea came to me when looking for some information on the subject of today's first "What's in Style?". For such a historically important beer style, there was very little information on Grisette available. That's changed slightly in the two years since, however none are as comprehensive as what I'm hoping to put together here.

Primarily I'm here to answer the question; what is Grisette? It's quite a change from my usual reviews only style, so I hope you all like it! As way of introduction; Grisette is a style originating from around the Hainaut province in Wallonia, the French speaking region of Belgium. Grisette is often referred to as "Table Saison", indeed if you were to submit a Grisette for judging under the BJCP guidelines this is what your beer would have to be classified as. To simply call Grisette a low ABV Saison is to do it an injustice. Like with most beer styles; there are a number of differences between the two styles;

Saisons have been inextricably linked to farming throughout their history. Saisons were an important part of Belgian farm life. The full-time farm hands used the quieter winter months to brew Saison to be consumed by, and refresh, the farming hands during the warm active farming months. A side benefit of brewing in winter, was that the spent grain could be used to feed the livestock, in months that their natural food would be less plentiful.

A statue of a Grisette in Paris
Grisette's are similarly linked to coal mining in the Hainaut province. The middle of the 18th Century brought about the start of the Industrial Revolution in Belgium. Charleroi, the major city in Hainaut province, was at the forefront of the revolution with coal mines springing up all around the region. The miners of Hainaut lived a physically demanding like. Like the farmers, the miners used beer as both sustenance and refreshment during the Summer months. Their beer was lighter in ABV and, as a product of Industrialization, "cleaner" when compared to it's more famous cousin.

The etymology of Grisette is not entirely clear. The most commonly accepted theories revolve around "gris", the French word for grey. Grey is the colour most commonly associated with mining, due to the dust the workers collected on their bodies and clothing. Others say the beer is name after the porphyritic stone that was mined in the Hainaut province, which is a distinctive grey colour. While some attribute the name to the colour of the beer, with it falling in between white (witbier) and yellow (saison). Phil Markowski in his book Farmhouse Ales has a different take, which I will reproduce verbatim; "Grisette is commonly said to refer to young women who worked in factories and wore a distinctive gray frock as a uniform. As one story goes, these young women, grisettes, would hold trays of ale to refresh the workers as the exited the mines." Almost all the available literature cites one of the above theories, or a version thereof. Some sources state that the beer was actually called Saison in this region at the time, and that the term Grisette was purely a marketing term which sprung up years after it's initial popularity.

The beers sold as Grisette today tastes nothing like what Grisette would've tasted like in the Hainaut province in the 1800's. This is in part due to improved production facilities and in part due to no one alive knowing what real Grisette tasted like. World War 2 and the subsequent downturn in the 1950's or mining in the Hainaut province, saw Grisette die out as a style completely by 1960. Beers brewed under the Grisette name have been popping up here and there since 2010(ish), but have really gained popularity in the last year or so - as brewers search for ways to differentiate their farmhouse ales from the rest of the crowd.

In that sense, modern day Grisette is more of a marketing term. Brewers are more and more commonly naming their low-ABV Saisons, Grisette to stand out from a market flooded with Saisons, both good and bad. While I understand the marketing element, I'm also a stickler for correctly naming beers. Ill-informed people shouldn't say I love Grisette's when really they've had a Saison. From the research I've done, Grisettes were more than just low-ABV Saisons - but to understand the difference between past and present Grisettes, it is important to understand the difference between past and present Saisons.

Much like Grisettes, Saisons have changed markedly since the 1800's. This needn't be as surprising as it may sound. Saisons by their very nature changed from batch to batch. Brewing on farms wasn't the most sanitary of practices and wild yeast would regularly have inoculated the beer. They also would've varied by vastly different grain bills from year to year; whatever grain was left from the previous harvest would make that years beer. Fast-forward to today and there is still huge variance in what different brewers call Saison; some are tart and funky and some are lightly fruity and have a cleaner yeast element. I've always though it strange how big the variation is in what's considered "Saison".

Grisettes were industrially brewed from the outset of the style. This is in part because the style evolved later, but also because of it's clear links to industrialization. This in-turn limited the variation between batches, through both infection and base ingredient change. While we aren't able to taste what 1800's Grisette tasted like, we have learnt that wheat made up as much as 10% of the grain bill. Earlier researchers spoke to people who had sampled 1940's Grisette, who were able to confirm that the style was similar but distinct to Saison. The beers were lower in alcohol, less tart, had a light hop character but were still dry and refreshing. The use of more controlled fermentation is, I think, one of the key difference between the styles.

In the 1970's Saison had almost gone the way of Grisette, with only Brasserie de Silly and the makers of the famous Saison Dupont still producing Saison on a commercial scale. The beer writer Michael Jackson is credited with helping save the most famous example of the style, Saison Dupont, from extinction by bringing the style to the attention of an English speaking audience for the first time. An American beer importer, Dan Feinberg, went to Dupont to import Saison Dupont to America and was told that they were actually thinking of discontinuing Saison Dupont as it only made up 2% of sales. Feinberg wouldn't take no for an answer and convinced the brewers to try exporting to America. The rest is history; Saison is one of the fastest growing styles in the craft beer world and Saison Dupont accounts for 40% of Dupont's sales, despite almost all of that being outside Belgium!

The popularization of commercial Saison production, a style that was not mass-produced historically, has seen a push towards a more homogenized product. The yeast used is all tightly controlled and their are very few Saison yeast strains available, leading to less variation. The same can be said of the malt bill - with Saisons trending towards a drier, cleaner finish. The beers no longer change from season to season depending on what grain was available. The mass-production of Saison, saw the product become more and more like historic Grisette.

My research has led me to conclude that modern-day Saisons, on the whole, are more similar to historic Grisettes than they are to historic Saisons. There are obviously exceptions; La Vermontoise, a collaboration between Hill Farmstead and Brasserie de Blaugies, was properly tart and funky and springs instantly to mind. Both styles were intended to be dry and refreshing, with the two main differentials being the cleaner, less wild, yeasts of Grisette and the ABV. The cleanliness of the yeast, and subsequent lack of tartness, appears to me to be the most important distinction, whether this is between historic and modern Saisons or between Saisons and Grisettes may be semantics, but is in fact why we are here.

As a stickler for beers being brewed to style; I would like to see all beers called Grisette to fulfill all of the following criteria.
  • ABV range (3.0-5.0%)
  • At least 5% wheat.
  • No noticeable tartness.
  • Light, but noticeable, hopping.
  • Dry, refreshing finish.
The first conclusion I drew from this exercise surprised me; it is modern day Saisons that are misnamed, more so than Grisette's. Both styles are noticeably different to what we presumed they would have tasted like when consumed by workers in the 1800's, with Saisons loss of tartness the most apparent. I understand the reasons behind the homogenization/cleanliness of Saison, with consumers demanding the same taste from their favourite beers all the time. I just wish we lived in a world where Lambic and traditional Saison were understood by a wider audience, and that people understood that beer can change and evolve in the same ways, if not even better, that wine can.

Marketing; a ubiquitous part of 21st century life and responsible for the revival of beer terms, like Grisette. In 1970, the people of the Hainaut province of Belgium may have been able to recall Grisette beers. By 2000, the term would have been gone from the memories of all but the most strident of Grisette fans, and certainly no one outside Belgium would know the term. 2016, sees a number of beers called Grisette not seen since the late 19th century and most of them being brewed outside of it's historical heartland. The rise of craft beer in America has seen many of these historic terms and styles resurrected from the dead, as brewers tried to make their beers standout from an ever more crowded market. I feel that how Grisette is used now, is inaccurate in many ways, but strangely that in most cases, it is a more accurate term than if the brewer had simply called their beer, the more popular term, Saison. This is a rare occasion, where marketers have put their spiel on a product and actually turned it into a more accurate descriptor of the product. The average consumer almost certainly doesn't care, but I think it's fantastic!

Finally, I've been trying to come up with a succinct sentence or two to sum up Grisette. I've been
churning it over in my head for a few days and find myself coming back to where I entered this post "Low-ABV Saison". After forming the premise that modern day Saisons are more like high-ABV historic Grisettes, I think the easiest way to explain Grisette to modern day drinkers is that; Grisette is like a low-ABV version of what you call Saison, whilst true/historic Saison is not what you think Saison is. I understand that this explanation won't be for everyone, or that many drinkers don't care about the evolution of the style, but I feel that this explanation will appeal to many of you who have finished reading this mammoth essay I've written. It certainly works for me, in a very wordy/nitpicky way.

I hope that piece has answered most of your Grisette related questions. As I'm not, currently, a homebrewer it's a little (read: very!) lacking from a technical side of things, but I hope gives you a base understanding on the history of the style. Some acknowledgements are in order. the works of Garrett Oliver, Phil Markowski, Stan Hieronymus, Jeff Alworth, Dave Janssen and other forum contributors have been used to form the ideas for post. I'd love feedback on what you guys thought of this post, whether you're a regular reader or someone who's found this post through your interest in Grisette/Saison. Please either email me (gus.norris7@gmail.com) or comment below. Hopefully there will be a further What's in Style post in the future, if anyone has a style they want to know more about let me know and I'll see what I can come up with.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!