Tuesday, 24 February 2015

BEAR CLUB JANUARY 2015

Tru Bru Bear Club - January 2015


The first Bear Club pack of 2015 is packed full of hoppy goodness! There's the Victory Prima Pils, one of my favourites as well as heaps of IPS's/Pale Ale's and even Hendo's latest creation the Buggin' Out Black IPA. 3 Stouts from Norway, the USA and Queensland round out the pack.

I'm excited about every beer in this pack, whether I've had them before on tap(Wolf of the Willows XPA & Deschutes Chasing Freshies), whether I've heard great things about them (Lervig Konrad & Moor Hoppiness) or because they seem like a genuinely interesting clash of styles (Weihenstephaner/BrewDog India Pale Weizen). I've had enough talking about which beers I'm looking forward to, it's time to drink them!

The Weihenstephaner and BrewDog offering was the obvious starting point for me this month. It really lived up to what I was expecting, with Weihenstephaner and their wheat clearly keeping close control on BrewDog's usually heavy handed hop tactics. This beer brought together the Old World of Brewing (Weihenstephaner) and the New World (BrewDog) seamlessly. The beer is great and I really hope I can get myself some more. If you like your wheat beers it's worth seeking out.

Chasin' Freshies is a seriously good beer! It's made by Deschutes, a brewery based in Bend, Oregon who make some seriously good beers! This one is particularly good and 1 I've now had a few times. The Mosaic hops are really prominent with tropical fruits, particularly passionfruit, as well as having some floral characteristics. There's a peppery spiciness that really adds to it. It's a beer that I think everyone should seek out!

Wolf of the Willows' XPA was the next beer I got into in this pack. It's a beer that I've become very familiar with over the last few months and is simply sensational fresh! I would go as far to say that this is the best first up commercial offering we've seen in Australia in recent years! It's an American Pale Ale/Session IPA/XPA with plenty of citrus and passionfruit flavours and enough malts to balance the quite strong bitterness, especially considering it clocks in at under 5% ABV!

If all Pilsner's were as good as the next beer in my Bear Club the world would be a very different place. Victory's Prima Pils was a real eye opening beer for me. I first had it not long after my first trip to Prague, where I really discovered good beer. It was the beer that opened my mind to the idea that American beer wasn't just Budweiser - something I'm oh so grateful I worked out! The floral hops in this are lovely but don't overpower the soft malts. There's a light citrus tang at the backend that accompanies a nice dry finish. This is the first time I've had it on tap and it's brilliant!


Those who are following me on Twitter, yes I've finally joined you all (@Beeroclockau if you want to see me talk smack about beer), would know all about this next beer; Riverside Brewing's 77 IPA. I compared the bottle and Tru Bru offering last week (read about it here) and found out that they were very similar. It's a beautifully balanced IPA and one all Australian craft beer lovers should try!

Hendo's latest (at time of pack release) was next up. Buggin' Out is a Black IPA that I have had numerous times recently and loved everytime! As I've said earlier this is a slightly thinner Black IPA than others available on the market, but that just makes it very very drinkable! If you see this one around the traps get your hands on it - it's a superb roasty IPA with plenty of hops.

Death from Above is a beer that has previously been reviewed on Beer O'Clock Australia, you can find that review here. It was initially released at GABS in 2013 and was a real hit there! Subsequently there's been a couple of can releases and this is one of those. This self-termed Indochine Pale Ale is superb; with plenty of mango, a hint of cooling mint and less chilli than previous versions. It's still a brilliant beer and I can't wait to have my other cans!

As regular readers would know, I'm a huge fan of cheese. This month's Bear Club had 3 stouts that recommended cheese as the ultimate pairing; the first being Norway's Lervig Aktiebryggeri Russian Imperial Stout; Konrad. Naturally I had it with a lot of cheese! It had a lovely thick body, coffee was the dominant flavour with roast and chocolate also present.


Hoppiness from Moor Beer Company in the U.K. was the next beer I cracked into. It was a really nice dry IPA with plenty of citrus hops combining with a strong caramel malt base. It was almost an American IPA but had a distinctly English twist to it. It's one to look out for.

The second canned and final canned beer in this Bear Club was also from the Garage Project. Their Hop Trial range is a collaborative effort between them and NZ Hops and Plant & Food Research. This is #2, it's not quite as good as the first one but there is plenty of citrus and rock melon as well as a bit of pine. The whole point of these beers is research so if you happen to grab one make sure you fill in the survey! #2 only had 137 respondents, including myself. Get it together guys!

Sixpoint are quickly becoming my favourite brewery. Their Otis, an Oatmeal Stout, was the penultimate beer in this Bear Club. Oatmeal is in my opinion a vastly underutilized ingredient in brewing, it adds so much creaminess. This beer is no exception with heaps of creaminess combining beautifully with roast. I would definitely keep an eye out for this.

I think I saved the best beer for last! The Noisy Minor Yastrebov, a Ukranian Impeial Stout (I'm assuming it's for all intents and purposes a Russian Imperial Stout) is a phenomenal example of the style with treacle, roast and caramel all highly prominent. It's a wickedly thick drop, which is still ridiculously drinkable even at almost 10% ABV! Seek this one out stout lovers!

January '15 was a great Bear Club! Anton has told me that February will be even better, and the few sneak peeks I been given would seem to confirm that on paper. The stouts in this pack really stood out to me, all 3 were excellent. The Chasin' Freshies from Deschutes is another absolute favourite, the cafe/beer place near work has had it on keg a few times and I've enjoyed it everytime they've had it, so keep an eye out for that. Until next time guys!

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

Saturday, 21 February 2015

REVIEW: WOODCHUCK AMBER CIDER

Untappd: Woodchuck Day (2015) Badge


STATS
  • Country: United States
  • Style: Cider
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • Serving Type: 355ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
Do not adjust your computer screens! This is a full length Cider review on Beer O'Clock Australia. As my palate has developed I've been able to appreciate some ciders, I still can't go near the sickly sweet ones without feeling unwell! I had this 3 times to earn the badge, and it's actually pretty good.

So, why am I reviewing a Cider? We're here because Woodchuck Cidery, apparently that's the technical term for where Cider is made, put up a badge on Untappd. Last year they had this distinctive squirrel badge, which had clearly stuck in my mind. While I was in Sydney I was buying beer and Lizzie was browsing and came up with a 6-pack of this. I then saw there was a badge for this year, and here we are...

Now normally I base my appearance on what the style should look that. I'm not particularly well versed in what craft ciders should look like, obviously I know what a Magner's or 5 Seeds looks like but that would be like comparing Guinness to what Heineken looks like. With this in mind, it pours a very clear light yellow colour. There was initially a white bubbly head, as you can just aboutmake out in the picture, but it had almost no retention and left no sign of ever being there.

Woodchuck Amber smells of apples, funnily enough. They seem to be sweetish but not over the top. It's also got a slight yeastiness to the nose which I find quite interesting. It basically smells like fizzy apple juice.

The taste is similar with sweetish apples dominating the flavour. It's lightly acidic which provides a nice tartness to the cider. It tastes like the very expensive super-market apple juices, with some carbonation and a bit of alcohol. I quite like it even though I can't quite explain the flavours I'm drinking.

I'm not sure I could drink this regularly, but once in a while this could hit the spot. It's got good apple flavour without being too sweet. The bit of tartness is what really makes this cider. I clearly have no idea what I'm talking about when it comes to cider though, so for now I'm going to stick to reviewing beers. Hopefully I'll get something up for you all soon.

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

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

UNTAPPD CATCHUP 19

Untappd Catchup


Here we are, back again with another Untappd Catchup. I'm resigned to the fact that there will be many more of these as Untappd continue to release more and more badges. There's one of the new core badges in this review, so look out for the artwork a bit further down the page.

First up was another badge earned in Sydney, Hotel Hopper (Level 5). This badge is for checking into venues with the word Hotel in the name. The venue was the Lord Nelson Hotel and Brewery and the beer; their Three Sheets English Pale Ale. It was a nice beer, with good citrus and floral notes.

God Save the Queen (Level 25) was next and it's a beer from January's Bear Club. It's the Brewdog/Weihenstephaner collaboration - India Pale Weizen. The Weizen masters at Weihenstephaner meet the heavy handed hop wizards at BrewDog in this beer and the result is spectacular! You get the banana and cloves of the wheat beer and plenty of hops, it's a very refreshing beer that I'd buy again.


I'm very pro a beer at the soccer, even when the offerings are pretty meagre. The Melbourne Derby at Etihad Stadium was disgustingly hot and I'm going to use that as my excuse for this next beer. It was Pure Blonde, even worse it was Pure Blonde Mid! The beer was certainly not a good lager, but given the conditions I could deal with it! It was cold and wet, which is all I wanted. Lager Jack (Level 39) was the badge.

The first of the five new core badges I earned was Hopped Up. This badge is for drinking beers over 65 IBU's (International Bittering Units), there's the same deal as usual - 5 beers per level, 50 levels. Founders Dark Penance had the honour of being the first beer to earn this badge. I'd heard of lot of hype around this beer and it certainly lived up to it! It's an Imperial Black IPA, clocking in at 8.9% but you'd never know it with a cavalcade of hops and roasty malts dominating the flavour.

Saison's are a style that I've really started to get around in the last year. Trip to the Farm is the badge for Saison's and BrewDog's Electric India, a hoppy Saison, is the beer that earned my latest installment in this badge; Level 7. It didn't quite live up to expectations for me though, with a relatively tame hop bill with only a bit of citrus adding to the quite nice Belgian yeast. By no means is this a bad beer, I just feel it could have been more...


One of my go to beers, Mornington Pale Ale, earned me the Mardi Gras 2015 Badge. It's a really solid beer, whether it be in a bottle, can or off tap. There's plenty of tropical fruit flavours, particularly passionfruit, up front with citrus coming in at the back. The malts are light although there's enough there to balance it. It's a particularly sessionable Pale Ale, which I will have to review in full soon - something I've been putting off for far too long!

And there we have it; another 6 beers wrapped up very quickly. The pick of the bunch for me is definitely that Founders Dark Penance - if you find that buy it! The Mornington Pale Ale is a beer I recommend to everyone, it's a great Aussie drop. Avoid the Pure Blonde Mid if there's anything else available. Hit me up with some suggestions of what you want me to review next, gus.norris7@gmail.com.

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

Monday, 16 February 2015

THE GREAT BOTTLE VS. CAN DEBATE PART 11

The eleventh  installment: The Great Bottle vs. Can (Tap) Debate


STATS
  • Country: Australia
  • Style: American IPA
  • ABV: 7.7%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle/750ml Tap (PET Pour)
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
 
The Great Bottle vs Can Debate is back; albeit with a bit of a twist! This time there is no can! It's been quite a while since I've found a bottle and a can of the same beer at the same shop, so I thought it best to improvise. Tru Bru's January Bear Club provided a tap offering of Riverside Brewing's 77 IPA, a beer I had also happened to have bought at Barny's Fine Ale's...

I noticed I had both the Tru Bru bottle and the regulation bottle in the fridge at the same time, and thought it best to do a comparison - and let you guys know about it. This is an IPA that I've been drinking a lot of recently - and really enjoying as well! I've never had the bottled version before and thankfully I bought it very fresh in Sydney only a few weeks back, I'm really looking forward to this comparison.

Apologies for the photo quality, Lizzie had the camera this evening and hence we're back to iPhone photo's. Both pour similar colours, if anything the bottle has a slightly darker hue - but the head is less dense than the tap offering.

Both noses are very similar, with the bottled version being slightly more astringent than the tap offering. Both are quite malty with good citrus notes coming through. There's hints of spiciness towards the backend as well.

The taste follows very much along the same lines as the aroma. There is little difference between the two except for slight notes of bitter apple in the bottle version. I really rate how much malt is on offer, without detracting from the main characteristic of a good American IPA; bitterness. The hops have lots of citrus qualities and enough spiciness to really make this beer interesting,

In the history of the Great Bottle vs. Can Debate there has never been a draw before; until now! Thankfully today is the first Great Bottle vs. Can Tap Debate instead. I can't split the two at this stage. Both the tap and bottle versions are nicely malty with plenty of hops. Either way this is a brilliantly balanced IPA. If you're not after a hop bomb, this is an Australian IPA worth seeking out.

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

AUSSIE ROUNDUP

I've been drinking alot of Australian craft beer recently that I haven't had time to fully review, here's a roundup of some of the best I've had in the last month or two. It's a review I've been meaning to do for quite a while but haven't quite got round to...

Smiling Samoyed Dark Ale - This was my first beer from these South Australian guys and I have to say I was very impressed! There was plenty of chocolate and roast yet still had the drinkability that Dark Ale's should provide.

Two Metre Tall Cleansing Ale - I'd read many things about this beer but hadn't managed to get my hands on it; until a few months ago. It didn't disappoint, with light sourness and good fruitiness. It's a sour that I could envisage as a gateway sour to someone...

Cricketers Arms Spearhead - The re-launched Cricketers Arms brand included this new American Pale Ale. It was much better than I thought it was going to be and had good bitterness with plenty of citrus coming from the hops. If you're a bit short of coin, you could do a lot worse than picking up a 6-pack of this.

New Norcia Abbey Ale - This is the Malt Shovel Brewery's, makers of the James Squire range, attempt at a Belgian style beer. It's something of a cross between a Belgian Pale Ale and Tripel and it's better than I expected it would be. The beer's named after Austalia's only monastic town, New Norcia, which is around 100km's North of Perth.

Barrow Boys Pedlar's Pale - Another Pale Ale that made the list is from Barrow Boys. These guys are relatively new on the Melbourne beer scene - but have made an impression on me with this beer and their first a dark Vienna Lager. If you see either of these beers they are absolutely worth picking up! This is quite a bitter Pale Ale which won't appeal to everyone.

Doctor's Orders Bottle
PC: Beerbud
La Sirene Super Saison - These guys are starting to get the accolades they deserve! For a few years now they have been producing fantastic Belgian inspired beers, and it was their Praline at GABS that really brought them nationwide acclaim. All that said; Super Saison is basically an Imperial Saison, clocking in at 8%. It's a wonderfully refreshing Saison, although not one I would recommend many of on a hot day...

White Rabbit Belgian Pale - I'm not going to lie and say this is in the top 20 beers I've had this year. What this beer is though, is a good introduction to real Belgian beers. There is that stereotypical Belgian yeast, followed by a more mainstream version of a Pale Ale that the average drinker would be more familiar with it. You could do worse than to pick this one up.

Doctor's Orders Prescription 12 - The Doc has long been known for producing some of Australia's best beers. Prescription 12 is his Spring seasonal Black IPA and is his first commercial release in a bottle - the first of what will hopefully be many more. This is a Belgian Black IPA and it's as good as they come. I first had it from the bottle at The Wheaty in Adelaide and have had it twice more back home, it's worth seeking out if there's any more out there! If not look out for Zephyr, his Imperial Wit, it's also excellent!

Boatrocker/To Øl Orange Sorbet - As those of you who are regular readers will know, I've developed a fair taste for sours - in fact I quite regularly get a thirst that can only be quenched by a sour. Boatrocker & To Øl have teamed up to produce this spectacular Berliner Weiss! It's quite tart with more than enough Orange. It's aged in Chardonnay barrels, but the Chardonnay flavour is not overpowering, with it fading to the background by the end of drinking.

Abbey Collaby (2014) - The 2014 Abbey Collaby offering is my favourite so far. It's a collaboration between Mountain Goat, Moon Dog and Matilda Bay. This year's offering is a Barley Wine; and also happens to be the Barley Wine that finally confirms for me that I "get" the style! Plenty of citrus accompanying caramel and raisins - I really like this beer!

Six String Dark Red IPA - Another beer that a number of people really hyped up for me. Beers that are hyped as much as this one can often let you down. This one doesn't though! It's very malty at first but by the end of drinking you're convinced that it's a hoppy beast! It's a beer that intrigues me, the colour of the beer doesn't match what it tastes like. It's a beer I will be going out of my way to get more of, for research purposes of course.

Boatrocker Tripel - I raved about this beer before (in September's Bear Club I do believe), it's so good that it needs another mention! The extra few month's in the bottle have done this beer no harm at all. It's still sweet, as all Tripel's should be, plenty of spice with nice honey and apricot! This is as good as Tripel's get in Australia!

Brewcult Buggin' Out - Buggin' Out is, the legendary, Hendo's Black IPA. I've had this beer a number of times, including at Ballarat Beer Festival where I loved it. My latest offering is from Tru Bru's Bear Club and I have to say, it's absolutely sensational. The body is a little thinner than your average Black IPA - but rather than detracting from the beer, I think the sessionability (it's definitely a word!) improves the beer! It's roasty, hoppy and delicious! Get your hands on this one!

There's a fair few beers listed above; let me know if you've had any of them and your thoughts on them. This year I'm going to make a concerted effort to review a bit more Australian stuff in full, we'll see how that goes... Time is still a little short. Anyway that aside - questions, suggestions etc. gus.norris7@gmail.com. Feel free to drop me a line about anything. Until next time...

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

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

REVIEW: 3 RAVENS THE DRUID

Et Cetebeer


STATS

  • Country: Australia
  • Style: Quadrupel
  • ABV: 11.0%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Expensive
Here is the review that I've been promising since last years Golden Pints; my Best Australian Bottled Beer - 3 Ravens The Druid! It's an amazing quad, which was one of Adrian McNulty's (now of MoonDog) departing gifts for 3 Ravens.

The Druid is a Pedro Ximenez barrel aged Quadrupel. Pedro Ximenez (or PX as it may now be known) is a Spanish Dessert Sherry for those who don't know. In my experience PX has quite a strong dark fruit flavour, which should (and does, I've had it before) lend itself to working well with a Quadrupel. Hopefully this beer has held up well since it's release last July, time to get into it!

3 Ravens The Druid pours a dark ruby with quite a thin cream coloured head. The head retention was not great but there was a rim of foam left around the glass throughout drinking. There was little to no evident carbonation and only minimal lacing. Those last elements are not that important in a Quadrupel and in fact I think it's a great looking example of the style.

The nose is an assault on the senses, in a good way! The nose is loaded with banana and bubblegum initially before the stronger aroma's of dark fruit and caramel begin to come through. Cherries and Raisins are the most prominent of the dark fruits. There's also a Port-ey sort of aroma, which I'm assuming is the Pedro Ximenez coming through. Right at the end of the nose there is a slight hint of saltiness, which is really intriguing me...

I was so happy to taste this and realize it was just as good, if not better, than the beer I remember! There was quite a lot of banana and bubblegum but they blended into the background behind some cherries and what I now believe to be plums. The Pedro Ximenez flavour is much stronger than the nose had indicated and it was joined by a slight oakiness, presumably from the PX barrels. It's not too sweet, as some others are, and the carbonation and mouthfeel is spot on. This beer is just going to get better with age!

Adrian McNulty's creation may have been one of his lasts for 3 Ravens, but it is surely his finest! It's a brilliant, out of the box, beer! This is definitely a beer that I'd recommend for those who love the true Belgian styles, but aren't afraid of something a little different. The light woodiness and strong flavour from the PX barrels the beer was aged in really is an exciting twist on the style. I am so glad I have a couple more of these in the back of my beer cupboard! Availability would be very limited on this now, so if you see it don't miss out!

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

Monday, 9 February 2015

REVIEW: TRAPPIST WESTVLETEREN BLONDE

Trappist Beer #11 Westvleteren


STATS
  • Country: Belgium
  • Style: Belgian Pale Ale
  • ABV: 5.8%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Special Occasions Only
Westvleteren is the holy grail for Trappist beer lovers and the Blonde is the hardest of them all to find! The 12, previously reviewed (badly) here, gets the most acclaim but from all reports this beer is a brilliant example of the style.

Westvleteren rose to fame in the early 2000's when Ratebeer.com named it as "The Best Beer in the World". Demand skyrocketed and the Monks had to begin to limit the amount each customer could buy. Despite the surge in popularity, Westvleteren refuse to increase production to meet demand because they "brew beer to be able to afford to be monks." Normally to get Westvleteren you must call the phone number, which is open for very few hours a day and arrange a time to collect your case of beer. People I know have called 300+ times and never gotten through! I'm very lucky to have another chance to try a beer from the Saint Sixtus Abbey!

The Westvleteren Blonde pours a hazy golden colour with a white foamy head. The head initially fades quite quickly from 2 fingers down to 1. Strangely the head then seems to settle and lasts throughout drinking. Chalices bring out the best colour in beer, in my opinion, and this beer is no exception; it looks sensational! If if tastes half as good as it looks Westvleteren Blonde will be a great beer!

Onto the nose and it's very pleasant. There is nice amounts of grassy, herbaceous and earthy hops that mix in well with the strong peppery aroma coming from the yeast. As it warms citrus becomes more apparent on the nose, as does a light vinous character which is quite interesting. The hops seem to provide much more flavour than bitterness, as I detected very little of the latter on the nose.

How does it taste? In a word; sensational! Westvleteren's Blonde is as good a Belgian Pale/Blonde that I've come across! The mouthfeel is light and creamy - and the flavour follows suit. It's light upfront with some citrus, a touch of pepper and even some coriander. The hops begin to come through around this point and they are surprisingly bitter with grassiness the most pronounced element. As the beer warms you get hints of barnyard funk. The hops and yeast are much more prominent than I had anticipated - for the better! The beer is quite spicy and delicious!

I remember many of you saying last time I reviewed a Westvleteren beer that I shouldn't be encouraging people re-selling Westvleteren beers as it's against the principles of the Monks. For that reason I won't be mentioning who sold it to me, if you're keen on that information please email me - gus.norris7@gmail.com. In summary; it's a brilliant example of a Belgian Pale Ale/Blonde. Would I pay the asking price again? Probably not, but I'm very happy I did once! You should too if you love beer!

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

Monday, 2 February 2015

REVIEW: SARAJEVSKO PREMIUM

Macro Lager


STATS
  • Country: Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Style: American Adjunct Lager
  • ABV: 4.9%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
Lager lovers rejoice; we are back with out first lager review for 2015! We're going to Bosnia & Herzegovina for this review and from what I've heard it's as good, if not better, than the last Bosnian lager I had.

Bosnia & Herzegovina has a population of just under 4 million and is a nation now known for it's natural beauty. This was not the case in the early-mid nineties, when a bloody civil war drew the worlds attention. This beer is from the capital Sarajevo and the brewery is housed in a lovely old building, see image below. Enough about Bosnia & Herzegovina, it's time to get into this beer!

As you can see in the picture above, Sarajevsko Premium pours a nice golden colour with a white, three finger head. The head was very airy and dissipated very quickly leaving no lacing or foam at all. This isn't necessarily a bad sign, it could just mean that Sarajevsko is normally consumed straight from the bottle. The ceramic swing-top is a nice touch, I do love swing-top bottles!

Oh dear... I was quite disappointed when I smelled this lager. It didn't pass the no smell is a good thing test! It was overly sweet at first and had no hop profile at all til it warmed up a bit, when a hint of grassiness break through the overly sweet grain smell. Hopefully it tastes better than it smells.

Thankfully it is better than it smells, although not a lot better. The grains are sweet, although thankfully there is no skunkiness. There is some bitterness coming from the grassy hops, but the flavour is definitely on the weaker side. It actually slightly cloying as the drinking proceeds, not exactly what I'm looking for in a lager...

It's fair to say that I was a bit let down by this beer. It'd been hyped up as being Bosnia's best lager and to put it simply; it wasn't! Sweetness is not (hugely) out of place in a lager, if it's in relatively small doses. Unfortunately for Sarajevsko Premium the sweetness in this beer was above and beyond that acceptable amount and made it somewhat difficult to finish drinking the 500ml bottle. I would avoid this one if I was you - if anyone has any thoughts on this beer I'd love to hear from you! gus.norris7@gmail.com

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

OUT OF OFFICE: BALLARAT BEER FESTIVAL

Out of Office


STATS
  • Location: Ballarat, VIC
  • Tasting Paddle: N/A
  • Food: YES
  • Branded Glassware: YES
  • Merchandise: YES
In the past Out of Office, or Roadies as it was then know, was dedicated to reviewing micro breweries. With the relaunch of the segment it now also takes in other great craft beer related stuff outside of my bar!

Held over the Australia Day long-weekend, Ballarat Beer Festival is into it's fourth year. This was my first trip up to Ballarat for the festival and when I boarded the train at Southern Cross for the 1 and a half hour journey I was pretty excited, yet unsure what to expect. A quick little nap on the train and I was ready to go.

The free bus shuttle service from Ballarat train station to City Oval was a nice touch, it was a walk-able distance but would've been quite long. Ballarat had certainly saved it's best weather of the year for the day, with the sun beating down and not a cloud in the sky. So sunny was it that my first port of call was the merchandise stand to buy a hat!

City Oval in Ballarat is quite picturesque on a brilliant day, I can't imagine it'd be the same when they play footy in the pouring rain on a Saturday afternoon though. While the oval would usually be dotted with players chasing a ball; on Beer Festival day it was dotted with beer lovers chasing their favourite brewers around and sampling their wares. Much like GABS, Ballarat Beer Festival runs on a token system, which really does make buying beers so much easier, no pesky coins to put away in your wallet while somewhat (read very) inebriated!

I fittingly kicked off the day with a beer from Ballarat's own Rebellion Brewery. The beer was O'Brien's India Pale Ale, a gluten free IPA. It was nothing particularly special, nor was it's stable mate the Rat Lager, but both were light and drinkable.

Riverside Brewing was the first tent I decided to make a beeline for, and more specifically their '77' IPA. It's a beer that I love, and also one you'll see in this month's Bear Club. This was where I had my first two token beer of the afternoon and it was certainly not to be my last!

A visit to one of the breweries I never had a beer from before was next. That brewery was Savarain from Sale in Eastern Victoria and if I'm being honest I'd never even heard of them before the festival. The beer was their S'In Brown Ale and it was quite an impressive Brown Ale at that with malt and hops working together in great harmony.

Kooinda's new Blackberry Wit was the next to pass my lips. It had quite a tart yet sweet fruit flavour, which wasn't distinctly blackberries, but also managed to still clearly show it was a witbier. I hope that makes some sense to those of you who haven't tried it. Southern Bay's Ranga was earning rave reviews from those around me and I have to say I was impressed, coming from someone who isn't the biggest Amber Ale fan that's high praise indeed!

At this point I think I decided that I needed to line my stomach with something. The Festival had a healthy lineup of different food trucks, most of which would go really well with beer. Tornatoes are possibly the greatest beer snack in the world! Thin deep fried potato dipped in your choice of seasoning! I had a lot of them throughout the afternoon... The sausage sizzle run by the RSL also got a bit of a workout, 1 token ($2) for a sausage with sauce and onions is hard value to beat!

From here on in my ratings on Untappd seem to have gone up and up... I wonder why? Anyway Barrow Boys' Pedlars Pale really hit the spot given the weather conditions and I was impressed by how much Rye there was in Temple's Rye Hard. We then headed up to the Brewers Backyard, where most of the guys who brew at Cavalier, and a few others, were hanging out. Exit's #005 is a lovely amber ale, although was possibly still a little green. I had a good chat to Frase and Grum from Exit there, both lovely guys - can't wait to see what their next offering is like!

BrewCult's Buggin Out was a really nice Black IPA, another soon to be Bear Club beer. As were the two beers I sampled from 7 Cent, their Hard Deck IPA and their Berliner Weiss. Other highlights were 3 beers from Kaiju, all of which were great, the Motley Brew (15 brewery collaboration) and Wayward's FUSAMI Victory IPL, a beer that I've already raved about in my latest Untappd badge catchup, to name just a few... (There were many many more)

We wrapped up the day on the grass in front of the stage, with the odd venture for more beers and pork taco's - Dos Diablos make the best pork taco's! The music was good, the beers were good and the company was great! Around 6 we headed back to the shuttle bus, apparently via the merchandise stand, to get the train back home.

If they'd had tickets on sale for next years Ballarat Beer Festival at the gate on the way out I would have bought one! It was such a great day and I'll definitely be back next year, hopefully with a bigger crew.  There's wine and cider stalls dotted around as well for anyone who isn't a fan of beer (apparently those people exist!). All of you who have thought about going to Ballarat for the Beer Festival, stop thinking and go - it's absolutely worth your time. I met a few of the many Untappd friends that I've never met previously, got very drunk and only mildly sunburnt! If that's not a glowing endorsement I don't know what is!

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

Sunday, 1 February 2015

REVIEW: PRANCING PONY INDIA RED ALE

Untappd: Brew Bowl XLIX Badge


STATS
  • Country: Australia
  • Style: American Red Ale
  • ABV: 7.9%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Expensive
After a long drive back from Sydney I wanted a beer with a bit of body and bite to it. That led me to this; the Prancing Pony (the brewery I visited outside of Adelaide earlier this year) India Red Ale. It was the pick of the bunch for me at the brewery and I'm hoping it will be just as good now.

Brew Bowl is a yearly recurring badge to commemorate the Super Bowl, the premier day on the American sporting calendar. This year is Brew Bowl XLIX, or 49 for those who can't deal with Roman numerals, which funnily enough is the same number as this years Super Bowl. I look forward to the game every year and this feels like it should be a great warm up beer.

The body of this beer pours an amber colour with an orange tinge. It's quite an odd colour but is also quite alluring with it's big 4 finger white head of white head. The retention is not amazing but there is still a thin layer of foam over the body of the beer throughout drinking, to go along with some reasonable lacing as well. For the style it's a really nice looking beer.

Onto the nose and I get plenty of fruitiness at first. I'm getting apricot, peach and some other fruits that I can't name off the top of my head. There's also a spiciness as well, which I think might be cinnamon... The caramel malts are quite prominent on the nose. It seems balanced, let's see if it carries over to the taste.

Prancing Pony's India Red Ale is wonderfully balanced! The caramel malts combine brilliantly with the fruitiness from the hops. I still get the apricot and peach as well as some passionfruit and some hints of citrus. The spiciness is also quite noticeable and really adds something.

This really is a spectacular beer! Prancing Pony are Australia's only Fire Brewer's, read their website here for more details. They say this brings out a bit more caramelisation - and I have a feeling that the spiciness may come from this process as well. Despite this special relationship they have with malt, this India Red Ale still has plenty of hops. It's a brilliantly balanced beer; hell it's a brilliant beer full stop! The 7.9% ABV doesn't seem out of place either, although you can feel it by the end of the 500ml bottle. If you see this beauty buy it, it's a great beer!

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