Thursday, 5 December 2019


Carwyn Canvent (Part 1)

Carwyn Cellars is a name that every Australian Craft Beer lover should know. It's the preeminent bottle shops in the country. For their advent calendar, they've partnered with 24 Australian Craft Breweries to make an exclusive canned release for their "Canvent Calendar".

After the success of last year there was only ever going to be one Advent Calendar I'd buy this year! Once again this year I'll be cataloging the contents of the Carwyn Canvent Advent Calendar. The Carwyn Canvent Calendar is going to get the full treatment - and with any luck you'll have updates every 5 days. In the interim, let me know what Advent Calendar you've got this year and your initial thoughts on it so far.

Day 1 - Mr Banks/Range Keep the Change - One of the issues advent calendar producers face is the logistics that goes into their creation. They need to leave enough time from beers arriving to be packaged, dispatched & delivered to customers. This lead times means hop forward beers may be quite old by the time consumers receive them. Hence it makes sense that the finest Australian producers Mr Banks & Range are first up with a NEIPA.

This is a cracking way to start! It's exactly what you'd expect from the two best Hazy IPA producers in the country. There's no astringency, very little bitterness & a wonderfully creamy mouthfeel. It's entirely dry hopped with Citra & is one of the best expressions of Citra I've had. There's heaps of tropical fruit & citrus notes.

Day 2 - Mismatch Boston Sour - Day 2 saw a beer style far more suited to the rigours of advent calendar logistics. Mismatch have produced a Berliner Weiss mimicking my favourite cocktail, the whiskey sour. Apparently the name Boston Sour is another name for a whiskey sour with egg whites (which I see as the only acceptable way to serve one, but whatever...).

They've done a really good job of nailing the brief. It has got all the citrus notes that you'd expect, with orange peel the most prominent, whilst there is a good amount of vanilla/oak character. There's a good amount of whiskey flavour & the beer is refreshingly tart, but certainly not overpowering.

Day 3 - Quiet Deeds Open on December 3rd - Another hop forward beer arrived on Day 3. Quiet Deeds/Deeds Brewing are producing some seriously good IPA's at the moment. so it makes sense that their offering would come up early in the Canvent Calendar. Open on December 3rd was supposed to be a Hazy Double IPA, however do to a filtration issue "Hazy" had to be crossed out, by hand, on EVERY label...

It was brewed with Simcoe & Cashmere Cryo hops, Cashmere are one of these new hops that I'm not terribly familiar with. The beer was quite dry & had plenty of pine notes. It's a beer that I'm sure will polarize opinions but it's one that I really enjoyed as a bit of a throwback to IPA's of 5-6 years ago.

Day 4 - Bad Shepherd Smashable - I was really excited when I saw this come out of the Canvent Box. My love of IPL's is well known & it's a SMaSH to boot! Atlas is a cool new Australian malt coming out of NSW, whilst Sabro is one of the hot new hops! This is one of the first beers I've had with this hop, definitely the first single hop beer, but I'm really excited to see if I can pickup some of it's weirder descriptors!

The malt was quite light & laid a good platform for the hops to shine. Most of what I got initially was pine, but as the beer warmed slightly I began to pickup some of the coconut that this hop is famed for; I didn't get any of the mint however. The beer lived up to it's name - it was a very smashable beer!

Day 5 - Rocky Ridge Brown Bean Bear - Carwyn are probably the biggest pushers of Rocky Ridge beers on the East Coast. Their Canvent offering is a beer that could easily have made it to the last week in good condition; a 7% American Brown Ale with Coffee.

This beer went through phases throughout the course of drinking it. At times I thought it was really well balanced between sweetish malts & muted coffee notes, whilst at other time coffee & roast overpowered the malts a bit. I can't think of a beer that's oscillated quite as much as this one, as these thoughts interchanged throughout the course of drinking.

Five days in and I haven't had a bad beer yet, as expected! The pick of these 5 beers for me has been the Mr Banks/Range collaboration; Keep the Change. These guys have been consistently raising the bar for this style of beer, so I'm glad they were able to deliver to a wider audience. The other thing I'd like to note is the openness of Quiet Deeds in owning up to what happened with their beer; you can read their full blog post about it here. If you're doing the Canvent, or any other Advent Calendar for that matter, please let me know what you think of yours; or on our new Facebook page.

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

Thursday, 28 November 2019


2019: The Year of Local

  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 115 Cotham Rd, Kew
  • Food: Steak
  • Price: Average
  • Website
115 Grill & Brewhouse is located in the bottom of the 115 Hotel in leafy Kew in Melbourne's inner east. It's part of the famous Best Western chain as part of their Premier range. When they launched the hotel in 2012 owner Brice Hateley wanted a point of difference & decided to install a micro brewery - something that would've seemed far more radical at the time than it would now. 

Despite never having home brewed before Brice decided to take on the role of head brewer. He brought in Vince Costanzo, a respected brewing consultant & set about learning how to operate his system & produce quality beer. Beyond that I don't have a lot of information, they operate more like a hotel than a brewery & get quite defensive when questions are asked.

The Hotel component of the venue has positioned itself well for conferences & the decor in the bar really reflects that. There's not a heap of personality with white walls a mix of large dark wooden group style tables. There's also a few smaller bar tables & a few benches around the edge of the bar to pull up a high backed stool. One positive of the venue is the big windows on the right hand side, where you can look through to the stainless steel.

Despite having the stainless proudly on display, I was immediately concerned for the beer quality by the number of spirits on offer behind the bar. This was further enhanced when I noted of the 40 or so, mostly older drinkers, in the bar when I visited that very few of them were drinking beer, always a worrying sign at a brewery...

I took my seat at the bar & with some trepidation ordered a Pale Ale. It poured quite a nice deep golden/orange colour with a small white head comprised of medium/large bubbles. That's where the positives stop! There was very little aromatics coming off the beer, whilst the taste resembled bitter dishwashing liquid..

Generally I don't like writing reviews where I really have to rag on a beer, but this was an abomination! I would be upset if I brewed this at home, let alone if I brewed it with the intention of selling it! If this is the sort of quality they are dishing up regularly it's no wonder so few people in the bar were drinking beer!

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

Tuesday, 26 November 2019


2019: The Year of Local

  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Western Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 2 Derrimut Drive, Derrimut
  • Food: Food Trucks
  • Price: Average
  • Website
It's fair to say that Cavalier Brewing is one of the most influential in shaping the current Victorian craft beer scene. Interestingly though, it's not through their own beers that they've been particularly influential, but rather through the space & equipment that they let out to aspiring brewers who couldn't afford to build a brewery from scratch.

Cavalier Brewing was the brainchild of Steve Martin, his cousin Andrew Cronin & Heath Shirtcliffe, who he met on a dog walk of all places. After years of homebrewing they started out brewing commercially in 2011 on a tiny 100L system at the back of Heath's house in Pascoe Vale. Soon they realized this wasn't a sustainable long term plan and took their recipes on the road, to any brewery that would have them - most notably Prickly Moses.

Securing regular tank space was always difficult & so the trio found a warehouse in Melbourne's developing industrial west in 2012 and ordered their kit from China. They ensured they had excess capacity & space to allow aspiring brewers to be able to rent the brewhouse, install their own fermenter & be able to have access to a quality brewing facility whilst they grow their brands. Many of these brewers have gone onto bigger and better things with alumni such as Exit, Kaiju, Wolf of the Willows, Killer Sprocket & many more.

Cavalier's own brand has fallen by the wayside a bit in recent years. A re-brand in 2017 has definitely made the brand more visible than they once were & has seen the beers tweaked to be more in line with the modern palate. They are definitely not viewed with the same cache that they were maybe 5 years ago.

Interestingly I believe they are the only Victorian brewer with brewing operations overseas, quite a number export beer. They operate a couple of brewpubs with The Chancery Group in Bangalore, India. You can read about one of those brewpubs here, thanks to regular reader AJ's India Ale Trails blog. They also have plans for a production facility in the region - although that seems to have gone quiet with concerns about access to water.

It wasn't until September 2018 that Cavalier followed the trend and opened a taproom in a warehouse across the street from their production brewery, possibly to engage with customers they may have lost to more innovative brands. The tap room is in a new build concrete high ceiling warehouse with high level pallet racking stacked with supplies (kegs, pallets, flat packed boxes etc.).

The bar is under a large Cavalier motif and features a wide array of beers, both Cavalier branded & some of their contract brewed offerings. There is an area for a food truck to be parked inside the brewery, which was doing a roaring trade on the day I visited. Seating is most high communal tables - whilst there are a couple of barrels with stools dotted around.

I settled on the Pilsner, which was one of the new additions to the lineup when they did their re-brand in 2017. It's a beautifully brewed Pilsner, with great clarity & cereal malt character. The hops are very traditional, offering grassiness and a little bitterness. I think it's a touch on the safe side, appealing to their local crowd, & that a touch more bitterness could really elevate it.

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

Thursday, 21 November 2019


2019: The Year of Local

  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Bellarine Peninsula
  • Tasting Room: 112 Balliang St, South Geelong
  • Food: Snacks
  • Price: Inexpensive
  • Website
Cockies Beer is the brand of beers produced by the Barrabool Hills Brewery in South Geelong. Cockies was started by husband & wife team Jamie & Lizzy Roydhouse in 2014 as a contract operation, brewing out of Cavalier in Derrimut. After 6 batches Jamie decided to take the plunge and purchase his own stainless, eventually opening in South Geelong in June 2015.

Jamie's story is a little different to most new entrants to the craft brewing industry. After a long career in pharmacy Jamie decided to take his long term hobby of home brewing & turn it into a second career. In fact he started home brewing in the 1970's, before many of his fellow new brewery owners were even born!

The brewery is located in an industrial cul-de-sac, a stones throw from the far better known Little Creatures Brewery in Geelong. It's a relatively modern concrete warehouse, that was clearly a showroom of some description in an earlier life. You enter through a little reception area before entering the brewery proper. It's a welcoming little brewery with a small bar around to the right hand side. They keep a tight taplist with their 4 core range beers joined by two seasonals.

The stainless steel takes up the back left third of the warehouse and is mirrored by a cool room on the right hand side. There is a Cockies motif on the back wall, whilst various brewing supplies are neatly stacked around. The brewery is only open to the public on a Friday afternoon & accordingly the tables and chairs are all fold out picnic style stuff. It's definitely an older crowd than you'd find at most craft breweries, but it had a lovely relaxed vibe.

I think this adds to the charm of the brewery. It's a real family operation, with three Roydhouse's the only staff working on the day we visited. They offer free pool upstairs, while there is also a little putting game. There's also complimentary cheese platters & chips, for which they ask for only a small donation, while the jazz band on the night we visited were really good.

The beer was better than I expected at Cockies. The IPA was tasting seriously fresh! It was packed with Galaxy hops, which translated to an IPA with heaps of passionfruit flavours & aromas as well as moderate bitterness! It's one of the better traditional (read bitter not juicy) IPA's I've had this year!

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


2019: The Year of Local

  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: S.E. Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 27 Hartnett Drive, Seaford
  • Food: Uber Eats/Snacks/Cafe
  • Price: Average
  • Website
Biersal Brewery is a family owned & operated brewery in the South Eastern suburb of Seaford, a stones throw away from the far better known Mr Banks. They were the newest brewery in Melbourne when I started writing this piece, until the wave of openings that struck on the weekend of the 8th of November & continued the following weekend...

The head brewer is Ben Luxton, a professional brewer who studied in Palmerston (NZ) & South Australia before returning to his home state, where he honed his craft at The Public Brewery & at Boatrocker Brewers & Distilleries. All the while he was tinkering with home brew recipes in a custom built shed at home. The inevitable happened and Ben decided he wanted to do his own thing, which is where Dad Geoff comes in...

Geoff had always encouraged Ben to find something that he was passionate about & then find someone to pay him to do it. Unfortunately he forgot an important caveat; not me! Geoff was coming to the end of 40 years in the banking sector and was looking to do something else when Ben approached him to start a brewery. Needless to say, they entered into an arrangement where the bank of Mum & Dad financed a substantial portion of Ben's new brewery.

Like many new startups these days they took the risk of ordering equipment from China. They'd done their research & picked the supplier with the best track record. They took the risk on Chinese warranty & ordered a 500L brewhouse, with the idea of brewing to only service their brewpub. The family have lived in the South Eastern suburbs for the last 35 years & knew the area was perfect for their brewery - they just had to find the right space.

The name & logo was derived from old German folklore. A "biersal" is a type of kobold (spirit/sprite), that was thought to inhabit breweries as well as cellars in pubs. The spirits would help with menial tasks, such as washing bottles, glassware & kegs, in return for their share of beer. They were generally well-natured, however failure to pay them in beer often led to equipment going missing. 

And find it they did! The brewery is housed in a large 70's brick warehouse on Hartnett Drive, Seaford. It's licensed for 75 people although it could easily hold more. The bar, featuring a wood mosaic pattern, is on the left side of the brewery about halfway down, whilst the stainless steel is proudly on display lining the back wall of the brewery.

There's a whole range of different furniture, ranging from high tables with brewery stools, through regular tables with black backed chairs, to coffee tables with little arm chairs & even some little colouring tables for the kids. Coupled with the cafe food from The Black Goose, next door, & the promise of food trucks on the weekends this is very quickly going to turn into a locals hangout.

I was driving on the day I visited so I opted for one of the lower ABV options; the Hefe'Rye'zen. I was actually pretty impressed with the beer. It had the banana & bubblegum that you would expect from a normal Hefeweizen, with a good amount of spicy rye. I didn't pickup any cloves, however it may have been obscured by the rye. I'd be really keen to get back out and check out a few more of their beers!

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


2019: The Year of Local

  • Brewery Type: Gypsy
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: Not in the traditional sense
  • Brewed At: La Sirene
  • Food: Asian
  • Price: Average
  • Website
Shiki Brewing is the house range of beers from the Lucas Group of restaurants & is primarily found at their restaurants. Before people jump down my throat about including Shiki & not including other house brands; Shiki is sold in select bottle shops from time to time. Therefore, under the criteria I set, it qualifies. Although I have to say I did think about it for a while.

Chris Lucas is the man behind the restaurant group, which now comprises Kong, Chin Chin, Kisume, Gogo, Hawker Hall & probably more that I've missed! Before he setup his own Asian dining empire he was the man running my local "pub" The Botanical. It was here that he began to understand the disregard in which big brewers hold good food, preferring him to push beer sales rather than focusing on the food offering. He ignored them & beer sales rose anyway due to the people flocking there to eat...

When he opened Chin Chin his customers were demanding a better product to accompanying the wonderful spicy food. Unfortunately Chris was locked into a contract with a major brewer at Chin Chin... This is when he had the idea for Hawker Hall, his Windsor based Asian style food & beer hall complete with 18 independent taps - naturally he would need his own beers on tap as well! Shiki is Japanese for formula & Chris certainly followed the right formula when he set up his own brand.

He interviewed a number of leading brewers before settling on Costa Nikias of La Sirene to design his beers. A number of iterations of the various beers were trialed, before settling on the right beers that would pair with his Asian inspired food. I believe the beers are still brewed at La Sirene, but haven't been able to confirm this.

This brings us to the review, I had their Lager recently at Hawker Hall. (Yes the photo is focused on the wine not the beer - I may have had a few...). The recipe is a simple German Pilsner, using Pilsner Malt & Hallertau hops. That follows through to the taste, it's a clean lager with citrus & grassy notes and just enough bitterness. It's a really nice accompaniment for the food on offer at Hawker Hall!

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


The Great Bottle vs. Can Debate

  • Country: Australia
  • Style: American Pale Ale
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle/Can
  • Price: Inexpensive
I was slightly surprised when I looked back & found that it had been almost five years since I'd done one of these! I guess that's a sign of the times with more and more craft breweries moving away from bottles. This segment really became the domain of the big brewers & feel by the wayside accordingly. 

When I saw that Old Mate, the Pale Ale that is now driving Moon Dog's expansion to Moon Dog World & a 400% increase in production capacity, was to be canned I felt like we'd be a chance to reboot this segment. Luckily I was able to get my hands on a bottle & a can brewed within a month of each other, which should allow for the best outcome in this segment. As usual, I better stop typing & get these beers out!

The beers pour an almost identical golden colour with a moderate white head on top. The head on the canned version is marginally larger, although this may be due to way a can pours versus a bottle. Both heads diminish to next to nothing relatively quickly. They're both exactly what I'd expect from the style.

Initially both beers smell very similar. They're both inoffensive with some cracker malt aroma up front. There's more on the hop front which initially smells a little green, despite both beers having been packaged for a few months. Once you get passed that there's some nice citrus & stone fruit notes.

First impressions, I slightly preferred the bottle. There was a slight dirtiness to the can at first that the bottle didn't have. After a couple of minutes this was gone & the hops on the canned version were able to shine that little bit more than they did in the bottled version. Both follow the aroma closely, with malt taking a backseat to the grapefruit & peach notes from the hops.

This is one of the hardest decisions I've had so far, as the beers are so similar! Had they been brewed on the same day I feel I would've had an even tougher task splitting them. I'm going to have to give it to the can, by a whisker. It was probably warmer than you would drink the beer in a normal situation before the difference was noticeable though - so feel free to fire away on either packaging vessel, just get the freshest one!

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