Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ambassador/Ale Stars Session

After years in the making, finally the out-takes of the Beer Ambassadors trip to the States are available online.  We were supposed to show this last night, but for a few reason, one being time, two being doubts on the audio quality and three being Miro had forgotten to bring the can now understand how Miro 'Just Keep Rollin' Bellini ended up on a fat Mexican dudes couch!

I have edited out the clip with Owen (Moo Brew) and I sampling next years Imperial Stout in the bowels of Moorilla Estate (from oak barrels none the less!).  I just returned from a dirt bike trip on the east coast of Tassie with the Moo guys and will post the vid along with some photos soon.

Thanks everyone who supported us and the Taphouse with their attendance last night.



Sunday, August 8, 2010

A West Side Story

The Beer Hound and Beer-Boy Wonder attended the Draught Masters in Perth recently.

You will be happy to hear that a couple of Beer Ambassadors took out the Victorian state finals for the World Draught Masters. Which meant a couple of flights to the Australian Grand finals, in Perth. (thank you very much Stella Artois!)

But we couldn't spend a whole two days in WA without visiting a couple of Breweries.

We dropped our bags at the hotel and jumped a cab straight out to the Swan Valley but not before a quick pint of Hob Goblin Ale at the Moon & Six Pence, a homely English pub with a lengthy tap list.

Just thirty minutes from the CBD, situated in the Swan Valley, Feral Brewing Company looks like a big old Aussie homestead. A long wide veranda that overlooks paddocks and sheds with a couple of chooks scratching about.

The seats in the taproom were empty, but there was a line for beer a dozen people long. Everyone who could, had taken a sunny seat on the porch. Will Irving from the brewing team, came out to talk (drink) beer with us.

Will took us through the available range, fourteen in total. Their Imperial Stout "Boris" at 11.5% was syrupy and smooth, displaying superb balance. But the Farmhouse Ale won the crowd. The complex blend of spice/citrus flavours and the dry finish of this traditional farmhouse ale was just the right beer to acompany a tour of Feral Brewing operations.

Will took us on a unique tour of their aging barrels. The word "funky" doesn't even begin to describe the range of aromas.

Our cabbie stood us up, so Will kindly offered to drive us to the next destination Mash Brewing the first of a series of WA based brew pubs under the same name (Rockingham to open soon). Where we met Head Brewer Dan Turley and Brewery Owner/Operator Brad Cox.

The Mash team laid down the royal treatment (it is always great to catch a brewery team as they are knocking off). Grant and Dan took us through both their brews and bites. The Westcoast Wheat with the Szechuan pepper squid for the win!

Jacketed tank specially engineered for their Eisbock

The night carried on and the boys were nice enough to crack a couple of bottles of Liefmans Goudeband (a beer we had also spotted tucked away behind the scenes at Feral). Pretty much the perfect night cap. Then we were off home to bed.... after a couple more pints at the Moon & Six Pence. The Twisted Thistle IPA on tap was a little too good an opportunity to go past.

The big day, the Australian World Draught Master Finals. We were down at the Belgian Beer Cafe by 10am and knocked out of the comp by lunchtime.... brilliant! Now the stress is over lets work our way through the menu (in other words, drown our sorrows that we lost the opportunity to compete in Belgium!)

Competition finished up later that evening and the celebrations were in full swing, the winner was Siobhan representing South Australia, and they couldn't have found a better representative. The Westende team put a lot of work into showcasing high end Belgian beer. Venue Manager, Paul Runciman was even kind enough to open a bottle of the Bush Prestige. The Prestige is the barrel aged big daddy of the Scaldis Noel. Not too sweet, not too sour, just rich nectar flavours and texture, very smooth for 13%abv.

Although the night continued, the beer goodies were well behind us. And so ends another Beer Ambassador jaunt, until next time always remember "the best beer is the next beer".

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Road Ahead

Our final destination, Goose Island, was made even more interesting when Randy Mosher invited us down to the brew share that was happening at the Island’s function room. Thirst Fursday (as in 1st Thursday) at GI’s included the ritualistic release of a new Goose beer, this month was the Goose Island Tripel which was tasting fresh, spicy and a touch zesty. It was served in style from a Goose tap head.

After a little tipple we headed over to the crowd which was gorging on a magnificent selection of some craft brews we had not yet encountered on our trip. Some of the more notable bottles were the Old Wooly Barley Wine (Big Time Brewing, Seattle), the Arctic Panzer Wolf Double IPA (Three Floyds Brewery which unfortunately had been cut from out itinerary) and an old favourite from our little sister New Zealand across the Tasman, the Armageddon IPA (Epic).

There was also a worthy selection of local Chicago home brews including an interesting dandelion mead and a pear ale. But the highlight of the night was sharing a glass of Randy’s home brewed Belgian Wit from a growler. Thanks for everything Randy (and we will see you at the Australian National Homebrewing Conference in October).

So thus ends the Great American Beer Adventure 2010, and where to from here? Well the focus will turn to home, Australia, where big things are brewing. Well known craft breweries from the west coast to the east and down to Tassie are planning or have already expanded capacity. There are at least two U.S. brewers down under set to unleash some serious Humulus Lupulus on the Australian palate. The front line is ever pushing forward. More craft beers are claiming taps and a major player will soon open a new city venue, while an old favourite will up the ante. Home brewers will carry the torch and will continue to innovate with big beers that defy an archaic excise tax.

We will continue blogging our beer adventures starting with our latest trip to Feral Brewery and Mash Brewery in Western Australia. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned.

Where beer is, we hope to be.

Beer Ambassador’s-at-Large

Sunday, July 4, 2010

¡Viva la RevoluciĆ³n!

North-west of Chicago City proper, Logan Square ia a predominantly Latino neighbourhood with relatively low cost housing.  Not really a place you might expect to find a newly opened cosmpolitan brewpub.  Aptly named 'Revolution' this trendy new bar with a high level of quality food had been highly recommended by our contacts in Detroit and Chicago.

Opened in Frebruary this year, Revolution is a superbly put together venue. They don't yet bottle or keg so everything is served directly from the tank. They share their tap lineup with other local craft and worldly brews and have a well rounded bottle list of 62 beers.

We started with a flight of the six house brews available.
- Workingman Mild
- Bottom Up Belgian Wit
- Iron Fist Pale Ale
- Eugene Porter (which was the favourite)
- Coup de Grace Saison
- The Whip Wheat IPA (notable for its use of the Japanase Sorachi Ace hops)

As we worked our way through the flight, the knowledge of our bartender and the quality of the food became apparent.  We really should have organised this as a six course degustation. But by the time we started matching beer to food we had moved onto the guest beers.  Not as a snub to the house brews, but because they were beers you just couldn't go passed.

First up was the Founders Diablo Noche Black India Ale, which was well balanced, restrained yet a full dark malt character and a good punch of hops, a suitable match for the applewood smoked wings w/ blue cheese potato salad and dipping sauce.  Other interesting appetizers were the bacon fat popcorn, sweet potato cakes and the range of four types of bruschetta (particularly the roasted cauliflower, white bean, arugula & lemon-infused oil).

We'd had some good wings, but these took the cake!

Americans seem to always find a way to get more fat into their food,
but the bacon fat popcorn was surprisingly delicious!

Sweet potato cakes w/ roasted red pepper yogur, a tasty vego option.

Though our stomachs were bulging by this stage, the Dogfish Head Immort Ale (a barley wine brewed with peat-smoked barley, juniper berries, vanilla & maple syrup) seemed like the perfect match to the locally produced Creamy Sexy Blue (Great American Cheese) served with poached apple, candied wallnut and drizzled with honey...a match made in heaven!!

We were wait, there's more!  We had apparently drunk the Dogfish Head barrel dry and this made way for the New Holland Brewing Dragon's Milk Ale, a strong ale aged in oak.  This was the perferct excuse to try the house cherry bourbon cake!

Overall, our experience at Revolution was excellent due to the following factors: the beers were solid and they had a great guest line-up complemented by a big range of quality bottled beers.  The food was awesome, some of the best we'd had on our trip.  Most importantly, the staff were friendly, informative, had a good understanding of the product and were actively interested in their role not just from a customer service aspect (ie. tips) but in delivering the overall beer/food experience.  Revolution stood out as one of the most impressive beer & food centric venues we had seen.

Alas, we couldnt stay there all night.  We had a date with Randy Mosher and a brew swap meeting at Goose Island Brewpub!  Our final Chicago post, yet to come.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Chicago Day 2

A much needed sleep-in meant a late start to out first full day in Chicago.  Our first stop was Taste of Chicago in Grant Park.  Other than the plethora of doughy, fried sugar coated foods, the more interesting fare on offer included caramel & cheese popcorn mix, pork filled banana dumpling, mustard fried catfish, mango cumin fries and frozen hibiscus leaf tea with whipped cream to name a few.  The only beers on offer were Stella, Heineken and Bud.  We needed to find a good bar fast!

We didnt realise the scale of our map and wound up walking through one of Chicago's toughest neighbourhoods, Cabrini Green.  Our destination was the Map Room, but on the way we found a cool neighbourhood bar in North Damen called Big Star, a converted auto garage with a beer garden out front.  The set-up was very similar to Apex bar in Portland, though the beer garden was more for table service only and drinkers were encouraged to sit at the bar.  Enjoying communal tables outside was clearly not part of the equation.  We drank the Lost Abbey Devotion, Lagunitas Pils and one final Green Flash West Coast IPA for our lost comrade, Tom whom we had left in New York.  It was interesting to note that of the 6 beers on tap, 4 were from the west coast. 

Our final destination for the day was the Map Room.  They had around 24 beers on tap and a hand pump (empty at the time).  Our contacts in both Chicago and Detroit and recommended this bar highly.  A long bar with nice high ceilings and a nice roomy area in the rear.  The taps were a nice spread of international and local brews and a good bottle selection (though our first 2 choices were unavailable).  We drank the Three Floyds Hop King, Kostritzer Schwarzbier, Kaimai Porter's Rye Ale (New Zealand) and the Daisy Cutter Pale Ale from local brewery Half Acre.

We were treated to a tour of the coolroom, keg room and the firkin cooler.

It was interesting to chat with Laura (Owner) and discover they have had similar issues with some designs of disposable kegs.  Better designs such as the Key Keg, developed in association with Weihenstephaner have helped brewers like Mikkeller and Brewdog reach markets further afield.  Some brewers we have met have mentioned informally that they are thinking of exporting using the Key Keg.  As this technology becomes more widely used, it will be interesting to see what new draught products arrive in Australia (and what potential there is for Aussie craft brewers to export).