Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Coopers Vintage 2010

Thanks to Matt at http://www.brewsnews.com.au/ for this.

Coopers has announced the forthcoming release of their (usually) annual Extra Strong Vintage Ale.

The release has been brought forward into winter "so it's available through the cold winter months".  Good idea.  I always look forward to the release of the Vintage Ale, but have recently felt somewhat disappointed. They do change recipe year on year, sometimes it's good, sometimes not so.  2007 and 2008 were my recent favourites, and the 1999 was still drinkable when I last had one 6 months ago.

2010 will be interesting. The hop variety Nelson Sauvin is one of several being used. This is what gives Knappstein Reserve Lager its unique fruit bowl flavour and aroma.  With a mid-orange hue, there'd also be a decent malt bill, which will be an interesting counterpoint to the fruity hops.  Although the malt varieties are not mentioned in the press release, you'd think there will be some cara/crystal, and maybe some Munich or Vienna to give it that colour.  So some toast & caramel to balance the fruit character & bitterness. I'm already thinking this is going to come out like an American double IPA.

I look forward to it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dave's IPA - in the keg

10 days after starting, I have put Dave's IPA in the keg.  The kegs I use are the 19L "corny" kegs, popular with home brewers. 

Cleaned them up with keg & line cleaner, then sanitised with iodophor.  It's good to do two kegs at once, if you can concoct a fluid-out-to-fluid-out tube, using two black keg connectors, and a short length of tubing.  This allows one to easily transfer cleaning and sanitising fluid from one keg to the other, under gentle CO2 pressure.  Two kegs cleaned for the price of one.... And I've kept the sanitising fluid in the second keg. Will need this keg in another week or two for a second batch I now have underway. More on that in a minute.

Glass carboys have their advantages for brewers, primarily ease of sanitation, and visibility. However, initial cleaning is often difficult, requiring a bent carboy brush and lots of elbow grease. Worse still is the post-primary transfer of beer from the carboy. The only realistic way is to use a syphon, which demands santised hands, a sanitised transfer hose (inside and out), and some good coordination in getting one end of the syphon hose into the beer, and the other to the bottom of the receiving vessel (in my case the corny keg).

As a precaution, I flush my keg with some CO2 before starting the transfer. CO2 is heavier than normal air, so ideally forms a raft at the bottom of the keg. So once the hose end drops down to the keg bottom, and beer starts gushing out, the hope is that most oxygen is sitting above the splash zone, so little oxidation will occur.

Once the beer is in the keg, the headspace is flushed three or so times also, hopefully banishing any O2 for good.

I snuck a little taste of the beer from the syphon tube once done.  A strong toffee note initially, and some papery/flowery hop notes. These need to settle and integrate.

As for the yeast and hop cake at the bottom of the carboy, I decided to take the easy option and reuse it. Bought two tins of Coopers Pale Ale, and 500g of dry malt. Whacked it straight in, and topped up with water. Aiming for a strong Aussie Ale, hopefully taking up any remaining hop characters from the residue and the hop bag (still in the carboy).  May toss in some additional pellets at secondary time, if aroma is needed.

What I forgot (from an earlier post) was the difficulty in getting cold liquid malt extract into a glass carboy. A big tip: always, always immerse the malt tins in hot water for at least 30 minutes before opening.

Oh the humanity.....

Dropped in for a regular range check-up at Dan Murphy yesterday. Although they tend to stagnate somewhat with their range, occasionally there's something new to try out.

Yesterday, I picked up a 4-pack of Barossa Valley Brewing Organic Ale ($13.99 / 4 pack), and the attractively named, and packaged, Cricketers Arms Lager ($15.99 / 6 pack). A quick taste of the former indicates a decent ale in the English style, and I'll review it properly at a later date.

But the latter ?  Well, I need to delve in cricketing folklore here.... bear with me.

3rd of January, 2003.  5th Ashes Test, Australia vs England. Last over of the day, and the country's Mr Nerves of Steel, captain Steve Waugh, requires 5 runs for his century.  Three balls are blocked, the next ball yields three runs, and so leaving him at the wrong end. But his loyal deputy and equally-legendary Adam Gilchrist, manages to turn over the strike for the last ball of the day.

A pugnacious, crouching cover drive sees the ball to the boundary. There it is ! A hundred on the last ball of the day.  As one, the crowd streams out of the ground, chanting "Steve Waugh, Steve Waugh, Steve Waugh", ad infinitum, et ad nauseum.

Where do we go to celebrate, chaps ?  Off to the appropriately-named Cricketers Arms on Fitzroy Street. A few more beers, a few more chants, a  few more gibes at the English supporters, and the rest fades to grey......

And what about this evocative new beer, Cricketers Arms Lager ?  Does it invoke in the mind names like Grace, Trumper, Lindwall, Miller ? Maybe a bucolic aroma of cut grass, leather & wood ? Will it take me back to that heady summer's evening at the eponymous (but unrelated) pub  ? (takes sip)


Oh, and we lost that match anyway.....

(edit: review to come... don't hold your breath)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dave's IPA - One week on

Well, the krausen has sunk, and the airlock is bubbling at a rate of once every 15 seconds or so.  I'll move the beer to a secondary fermentation vessel soon. To save myself some cleaning, this usually means going straight to the keg, and letting it condition for a few days at room temperature, then for a fortnight or so in the fridge, prior to carbonation from CO2 cylinder. The only drawback here is the yeast sediment in the keg. If I use a true secondary vessel, then most yeast will be left behind when the beer is transfered to the keg. In saving on the cleaning, I lose a glass or two of beer to extreme cloudiness.....

I suppose if I get my timing spot on, the secondary fermentation could carbonate the keg directly aka Real Ale. So, I think I'll hold off on the cylinder carbonation and firstly test the pressue of the keg, to see what the secondary ferment generated.

I threw the dry hop bag into the glass carboy yesterday. I should have thought about this beforehand. The weave of the bag is so tight that it floats quite high on the beer. So how's the hop aroma going to get into the liquid, I wonder ? Hmmmm.... I should have punctured a hole in the bag before throwing it in.

So, I did a bit of undignified jabbing of the bag with the (sanitised) handle of my plastic spoon. This seems to have dented it somewhat, and it's sitting lower in the liquid now. There was a little bit of splashing, which is undesirable at this stage of the process, but hopefully the headspace of the carboy is mostly CO2, so I doubt much oxidation damage is likely to occur.  Not good, nonetheless.

Another thought.... the bag contains hop pellets, not flowers. The carboy already has pellet residue sitting at the bottom, so I could also have just ripped it open and tossed the pellets in as is. Plus (now I think about it) I have to somehow extricate the used bag from the carboy when done, which will be no simple task considering the thin neck of the carboy (and it's weight).

Live and learn......

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Beer review: BrewDog Punk IPA

After watching Oz and James, I dug out a review from earlier this year.  I was happy to find this beer, and its sister beer Trashy Blonde, at 1st Choice liquor in Forestville, NSW.

Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Punk IPA
American IPA 6.0 %
B+ / 3.9 look: 3.5 smell: 4 taste: 4 feel: 4 drink: 4

Batch 319, BB 14/12/2919, 330mL

Rocky white foam head, slight hazy golden yellow.
Aromas herbaceous at first, some strawberry/rosewater floral notes, big citrus hop, ripe honeydew melon, some toffee pushing through.
Flavours of toffee maltiness upfront, then tropical fruit mix..grapefruit/tangelo brings it home at the back. Firm bitterness.
Fairly light, with a hint of creaminess. Good length to support the bitterness.
A good IPA. Plenty of lingering aftertaste to remind one of that, and inviting the next one. Strong for a session ale, but still could put a few away quite easily.
Serving type: bottle

Oz and James Drink to Britain

The 1st edition of this new series ran on SBS last night. I missed it.... but caught up on YouTube (in three parts). A great watch; these two guys can manage the difficult feat of providing good, interesting information, allthewhile demystifying the subject and taking the piss out of each other.

(edit: as I sit and watch the 2nd episode, I realise that when I wrote this post, I was actually watching the 3rd episode, not the 1st.....Not my fault, honestly....)

This episode (edit: the 3rd episode) focused on Scotland, so beer and whisky were the foci. They landed in Islay to try some Bruichladdich at the distillery. James's eloquent epiphany over the X4 distilled cask whisky is a must-see.

They profiled two Scottish breweries, and thankfully both young & innovative operations: BrewDog and Williams Bros.

Sitting on a park bench, quaffing BrewDog's Punk IPA and Trashy Blonde, out of paper bags, was hilarious, although they probably missed on some key points such as appearance and aroma. I tasted and enjoyed the IPA earlier this year; my review will be posted shortly.

At Williams Bros, they sat in a heather field with brothers Bruce and Scott, and tried (I think) the Fraoch Heather Ale, and the Roisin Tayberry Ale, a cross of raspberry & blackberry, according to website.

A good watch, and a good laugh.  Wednesday evenings on SBS, else YouTube whenever you like.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Article: Using Hops in Home Brewing

At this risk of writing about the bleeding obvious, I decided to pen my next Suite 101 article on hops. My latest brewing endeavours got me thinking about the different ways of late & dry hopping, so I did a bit of reading up on different methods, and wrote a quick 600 words.

I just love the "Randall"; locally, I think the Wig & Pen in Canberra has rigged one up on occasion. Perhaps others around the country too.  It's not a particularly good option for the home brewer. Firstly you need a lot of hop flowers to make it viable, and some space, and all the connectors from serving tank to the tap. And it needs to be big enough for the beer to hang around long enough to pick up the volatile oils.  But then the beer needs to be rechilled before serving.

Oh well, I like the concept; I won't be building one in the near future, however.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dave's IPA - brew progress

The beer has been "in utero" now for two days. Yesterday, a thin, white slick appeared on the surface, indicating the yeast was waking up and getting into the growth phase.

Today, I have a beer with three extra inches of grungy, rocky krausen, and the airlock is bubbling at a rate of every 2 seconds. The temperature in my cellar is about 15C, so it's not what you'd call vigorous; it is, however, steady.

I should point out that I failed to record an original gravity, which of course means that tha ABV will remain a mystery.  And as I topped the fermenter up with water, I judged by sight when I stop. So, two uncontrolled variables that will prevent an accurate OG and ABV measurement.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Brew Day - continued....

13:04.  45 minutes of boil is done. Just threw in the Goldings flavouring hops, which will boil for another 14 minutes.  The fermenter is ready; I just bleach the bugger and scrub it if there're any spots, but that's the joy of glass... easy to clean.

13:20  Late hops into the boil, then flameout. Time to get the ice blocks into the brew; not made easier by the fact that I'm supposed to be cooking lunch on the same stovetop as well.

13:56  All done.  Funny thing about beer brewing - there are great swathes of inactivity, followed by intense moments of focus & energy. Getting the ice bricks into the boiler was no simple task; I needed to enlist my wife's assistance to prevent the majority of the wort splashing out all over the stove.

But the ice-in-wort approach has merits. I still got the boiler into the sink and ran cold water up the side, but a couple of stirs of the iceblocks was all it took to drop the wort temperature quickly.  A quick lunch, and then into the fermenter. Topped up with tap-water, and I pitched the yeast immediately.

The Safale S-04 has a fermentation range of 15-24C; our bar area is probably around the 16-17C mark at the moment, which means a slower fermentation, but a cleaner fermentation. With IPAs, you want to focus on the interplay of extra hops, extra bitterness, extra malt and extra body.  Yeast esters would just make a mess of this. So a cooler ferment the better.

I now wait three days, and throw a bag of Goldings flowers into the fermenter as a dry-hop. I think Dave has the right idea here..... dry-hopping is great to add the fresh hop characteristics to the beer, but the fermentation activity can drive the aromas out the air-lock. Waiting three days (or once the krausen has started to settle) is a good idea, I reckon.

Now for the clean-up......

Beer review: Ekim Viking IPA

Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Ekim Viking IPA
India Pale Ale 6.0%
A- / 4.25 look: 4 smell: 4 taste: 4.5 feel: 4 drink: 4.5
Bottled 3 May 2010. Poured into James Squire half pint tumbler.

1" beige rocky pillowy head. Chestnut/copper/amber colour, slightly hazy. Olive tinges at the edges. Very attractive.

Aromas are an interwoven blend of malt & hop. Floral, soap perfume mixed with bread crust and caramel. Fruit notes of pineapple, maybe a touch of marmalade.

Richly flavoured, starting with caramel/toffee, with firm herbaceous/pine characters. Spicy notes of caraway or celery seed. It flows over the tongue offering more piney flavours to support the bitterness. Late hints of toast. Rewarding, and outstanding.

Lightly syrupy mouthfeel, sliding smoothly along, finishing a bit sticky & cloying. But this is OK when there is a good bitterness to cut through it at the end. Overall impression of richness and lusciousness.

A top-class IPA, and a top-class beer. Along with the 4 Pines Pale Ale, this beer has been a great find, and a delight to use as inspiration for my own IPA, currently brewing away...

Better stir the pot now.....

Brew Day - Dave's IPA

Saturday 19th June, 2010

11:00 am. I planned to have an outdoor boil. I have a three-ring burner and, so I thought, a full gas cylinder. Set up the brick pile, the burner, the ingredients..... no cylinder.  It seems that my full cylinder, plus my regulator and adaptor hoses, have all disappeared.... Not happy, so it's up to the kitchen...

11:15 am.  Anyway.... got the boiler pot into the kitchen and onto the stove.  Heated three litres of water to 70 C, and dropped in the kilo of mixed grain (in a pantihose leg, tied off..... makes removal and rinsing so much easier.....).  Just waiting 'til 11:40 for the rinse (aka "sparge").   Contemplating getting some inspiration for the style being brewed..... Ekim Viking IPA perhaps ?

12:07 pm. Grains are rinsed, the dry malt & bittering hops are in the brew pot, and I have also put the two Morgans tins of liquid malt extract in also. I know I said I wasn't going to, but it seems a lot easier to empty the tins now into the pot, rather than via a funnel into the glass fermenter.  Now waiting for the lot to boil, then another 45 minutes before adding the flavouring hops.

Time for a beer review.....

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dave's IPA homebrew kit

A while back I dropped into Dave's Homebrew to see what was new.  Dave has been very helpful in the past, particularly when I started doing all-grain batches.  But these days I don't seem to have the time to commit to the 6+ hours or so I seem to need to do a full mash. So, customised extract kits are the go. 

Having a good look around the shop, I noticed these sealed boxes simply with the name of a beer style on a Dave's Homebrew label.  He told me he put them together by demand, as lots of punters wanted to do the steeped grain and DIY hopping routine, but not want to get caught up in recipe formulation. I think it's a great initiative, although quite labour-intensive for Dave.

Anyway, I bought an IPA kit. It will be for an English IPA style (East Kent Goldings are the hops). It's got two tins of Morgan's unhopped lager extract, a bag of mixed grain (which looks like some crystal and a touch of wheat), a bag of dried malt extract with hops, two bags of hop pellets, a satchel of finising hops, and a packet of Safale ale yeast.

There is a comprehensive instruction sheet, including the wise words of not putting a lid on the boil pot.

So, I'll give this a go soon.  I'll probably fiddle with the procedure a bit.... for one I don't think I need to boil the Morgan's LME as the syrup is already "kettled for excess protein removal"; I'll warm the tins up and pour straight into the fermenter.  So I'll only boil the DME, the hops, and the extract from the steeped grains. This gives me more room in the boiler for the following adjusted step.......

I'm also going to give his recommended 15 minute ice-bath step a miss, and use several litres of frozen pre-boiled water instead as the wort-cooling technique.  I don't think ice baths cool quick enough (and, being a bit tight at the moment, I don't want to have to buy several bags of ice at $6 a throw).  So, throw the ice straight into the boiler at the end, and hopefully have enough to bring the wort temperature down into the 30's asap.

I reckon, judging by the amount of fermentable being used, we're looking at an OG of around 1.060. I plan to ferment in my glass carboy..... a pain to syphon from, but so much easier to clean, and to observe whilst fermenting.  I'll then keg it (hate bottle washing), cold-condition it, carbonate it, and drink it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Article: Understanding Australian Sparkling Ale

Aimed more at international readers (yep - I've had two !), my latest article is a somewhat cursory look at the Australian sparkling ale "style".


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Long weekend beer tasting

Well, Paul and I got through 4 of the 5 beers. For some mysterious reason a bottle of Tanqueray 10 appeared on the kitchen table, so martinis were in order.  You can forget about even-handed judgement after that..... And then we had pinot noir with the duck, so things got away from us a bit....

Our opinions were pretty much in alignment.  The Cascade First Harvest is overrated & overpriced. The Ekim Viking IPA and the 4 Pines Pale Ale were both excellent.  I'll review these formally soon, after having a couple of more tasters, just to be sure.......   The James Squire Malt Runner was, well, hard to pin down. Quite thinner than anticipated, and dryer too. Definite chocolate and cherry, but altogether a bit confused.

But the definite finds were Ekim and 4 Pines.  To paraphrase Ferris, If you have the means, I highly recommend picking some up.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Beer review: Cascade First Harvest No 9 2010

 Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Cascade First Harvest No.9 2010
English Pale Ale 5.5%
C+ / 3.15  look: 4 smell: 2.5 taste: 3 feel: 3 drink: 3.5

Pours a brilliant pale amber/bay colour. Settles into a 1cm head, and leaves a good lace

Smells like a typical Aussie macro lager, in fact I think this beer would sit better under macro lager than English pale ale. Big metallic note that screams PoR, or clone thereof. A very Tasmanian lager smell, to me. But there are some subtleties. Maybe some green fruit and herbs, like papaya or nettle. Interesting, but not that appealing.

Flavour is along the lines of the smell, with a floral note underpinning. Slight, light honey/golden syrup note.

It's mouthfeel is fairly light, dry, and crisp.

A good beer-garden drink, but the subtleties in this beer would be lost in such a setting. And the price would make anyone baulk at buying a jug......

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Beer haul for Long Weekend

Went for a casual drive around a few decent Northern Beaches beer shops. I use the term "decent" guardedly; there is no shop in this district that comes anywhere near Platinum (in NSW), or others interstate.
Nevermind... always an interesting exercise, despite the limitations.

My reason for this trip was to find an interesting mix of Aussie (& NZ as it happened) 6-packs.  Paul & family are here for BBQ duck tomorrow. Not sure exactly how to match beer to this. Perhaps something fruity and crisp ?  Or something rich and sweet ?

Vintage Cellars Forestville - Cascade First Harvest $22.99 six-pack
This beer is now on its 9th release. I've never fancied this beer, but always prepared to give it a go. Every year is different, as the Cascade crew try different hop clones & hybrids. Ostensibly English Pale Ale - may lean towards American every so often. My reviews of the last three editions show consistency in flavour (approx 3.5 - worthy/good), but I have had varying reactions to the aroma and overall drinkability.

1st Choice Forestville - James Squire Malt Runner $15.90 six-pack
You can also see why I tend to eschew the Cascade First Harvest. Ridiculous price for a six-pack. James Squires beers, on the other hand, always offer value. And that includes the limited release beers also. I've read varying thoughts on this beer.... some say it's a Cherry Ripe in a glass, others pick the malt. Will this go well with BBQ duck ?

Porters Liquor Balgowlah - Monteith Winter Ale Doppelbock ($16.99) 4 Pines Pale Ale ($19.99)
Thought the Winter Ale might go nicely side-by-side with the Malt Runner. Beeradvocate reviewers, however, tend to give it more of a warming, chocolate character, so maybe dessert for this one.

4 Pines in a bottle.  Fantastic.  This fact was why I headed to Balgowlah. The Pale and the Kolsch are available in bottle, and for the $20 a six-pack price. Compared to the Cascade price, this is good value (as yet untasted, admittedly). The draught 4 Pines beers are pretty good, and it's great to see local bottlo's supporting their packaged offerings.

Brookvale Cellars - Ekim Viking IPA  ($25.00)
When I first saw the hand-written ABV and bottling date information on the label, I thought "hmmm... just like Happy Goblin".  Funnily enough, that's where it's brewed (Happy Goblin, Mt Kuringai, NSW). The bottling date is early May, so still nice and fresh and with a month under its belt in the bottle.  Should be ideal.  The price is high, but I'm happy to fork out for tiny, local brewers.

Paul & I will go through these tomorrow, and our considered opinions will follow.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Article: Beer and Brewery tour of NSW Coast

To complement the article on breweries of NSW inland, I completed the following article over the weekend.


Article: American Beer success at 2010 AIBA

American BeerMy latest article for Suite101 is here http://beers.suite101.com/article.cfm/american-beers-succeed-in-australian-international-beer-awards.

The article is targeted more at the American reader, who may or may not be aware of their countrymen's craft brewing success outside of the US.

For Australian readers, it's more just for interest's sake, as so many of the American medal-winning beers are not exported to Australia. I think only Rogue Ales & Great Divide beers are available, and then only from premium beer outlets such as Slowbeer, Purvis, International Beer Shop, and Platinum Cellars.

Oh, there is of course Samuel Adams Boston Lager. It won a Bronze in the European Lager (Packaged) category. But The Boston Beer Company won 30 medals, from 36 beers submitted. You would think that they could perhaps see their way to exporting some of these others ?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Beer review: Murray's Icon Double IPA

Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Murray's Icon Double IPA
American IPA 7.5%
True Brew Double IPA Homebrew Beer Ingredient KitOverall: A- / 4.25  look: 4.5 smell: 4.5 taste: 4 feel: 4 drink: 4.5
Served by Murray Howe at the brewery outlet. A fresh minikeg too.
Pours a superb dark orange/russet/amber, with a thick white head & lace. Sitting in the courtyard, it looks fantastic in the morning light. Smells like a malt factory, with lovely tropical fruit aromas. Fresh flavours, pine resin, citrus, slight spicy tingle, like fresh ginger, although I could also pull out similarities to nutmeg, musk, szechuan pepper, or tea-tree even. Big bitterness of course. Tastes similar to aroma, with a lovely balance & firm bitterness. Chewy, remarkable.
Highly recommended for enthusiasts, the curious, and the open-minded. Low-carb/clear/dry-style lovers should be warned that this beer has real flavour.
Serving type: on-tap

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Quick trip to Murray's Brewery

Just returned from visiting a new family member in Port Stephens. A quick visit to Murray's was on the cards, of course.

Since moving from Taylor's Arm to Bob's Farm, Murray's has become more accessible, and more familiar to the mug punter. I think the cohabitation with Port Stephens winery is spot-on; I can't see any market cross-cannibalisation here, as you're either there for the beer, or for the wine (maybe both, but if so someone else is driving and it doesn't matter).....

Saturday lunch is jumping. Coach-loads of Chinese tourists, engagement parties, and beer wankers alike (ahem) make for a busy cellar/brewery door. Most people head to the wine tasting, which is fine by me, as I get easy access to the beer, and to Murray as well.

He's such a laid-back bloke, taking the brewery's success in his stride, and maintaining his steadfast principles of brewing good, tasty beer..... that he likes. Bugger what the style categories demand. And most drinkers are aware of this. Murray's had modest success at the AIBA recently, but this is due more to the straight-jacket style categories, and (as Wig & Pen would have you believe) Old Codger judges.

Stuff 'em.  Murray's beer is some of Australia's best.  The Icon double IPA is outstanding. They changed the keg while I waited, and the first pour of a fresh keg is something to behold. Big hops, big caramel, seductive red/brown hue, dense offwhite head, lingering bitterness..... superb.... absolutely superb.

And I availed myself of the growlers (right).  $25 for 1.9 litres of beer, $15 refills (although the stronger ales such as Icon will cost more). We'll be heading back to Port Stephens next month for a week's holiday, and the two empty growlers will be the first things I pack.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Beer review: Black Sheep Riggwelter Yorkshire Ale

It's a typical North Atlantic night here in Sydney, Australia.  Persistent squalls of cold, diagonal rain, a leaky roof, and short-tempered neighbours....

Just the night for something appropriate.  Not having any Skullsplitter to quench my yearning for the sunny climes of Orkney, I settled on North Yorkshire.... currently bathed in sunshine with lambs gambolling etc. etc....

Speaking of lambs, a riggwelter is a sheep that's landed on its back, and unable to upright itself. The word derives from Old Norse, evidently.  The beer, on the other hand, hails from the Black Sheep brewery of North Yorkshire.  The Black Sheep Ale would be familiar to those of you who frequent Dan Murphy.  The Riggwelter is harder to find.... I picked my bottle up from Northmead cellars, and I believe the better bottleshops around the country provide also. e.g Slowbeer, International Beer Shop, Purvis....

Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.

Riggwelter Yorkshire Ale
English Brown Ale 5.7%
Overall: B / 3.7  look: 4 smell: 3.5 taste: 3.5 feel: 4 drink: 4
Pours a clear brown/amber, with a nice heavy 1" beige head. Looks the part.
Complex aroma of caramel, faint char, slight sherbet, dust.
Flavour starts with caramel, moving to a char & coffee, finishing with a herbaceous yet metallic/rusty hop note. Bitterness is good and balanced.
Feels astringent at first, with lightness in the mid-palate. Finishes dryly. This makes it a good drinking ale, as there is no cloying stickiness at the back.
Serving type: bottle

Thursday, June 3, 2010

2010 Australian International Beer Awards - Analysis of medals

I've gone through the results of the 2010 AIBA, and totalled up the number of medals per category. I don't have visibility of the volume of beers submitted per category, and as such can't determine whether a category is strong or weak in an overall sense.

But other inferences can be made from the data by looking at the mix of medals:

Russian Imperial Stout Homebrew Beer Ingredient KitImperials are best, Porter is next
Strongest performing beer style is Imperial Stout.  Winning 21 medals overall, 33% of these were gold. The overall percentage of gold medals for the competition was 10%. (i.e. 10% of medals awarded were gold).

Second strongest style was Porter. Winning 35 medals overall, 23% of these were gold.

Pilsener: must-do-better
Continental Pilsener (Classic Beer Style)The most medals overall was Pilsener, with 47.  However, only 4% were gold.  So it can be inferred that this style is OK, but not reaching its potential.

"Other" is too big a catch-all
The 2nd and 3rd most medals were wone by "Other" categories. This implies two things: there is a lot of good work happening with brewers trying new things, new styles etc. But..... it also implies the categories for this beer show need to be overhauled.  "Other" should not be so prominent in the volume of medals won.

Aussies need some work
Complete Coopers Brewery Australian Pale Ale Beer Kit PackageAustralian-style Lagers and Ales are the underachievers of this show. Although not a widespread style, they only received 1 gold each (JS Sundown Lager and Nail Ale), which accounted for 5% of medals won in this category.

Packaged & Draught categories - unnecessary
One more consideration that comes from the data..... is there really a need to have separate categories for Packaged and Draught beers ? The ratio of medals won is roughly 2:1 (although this will be due to the sheer volume of packaged international beers). It should be noted that the Gold % was roughly the same for both groups (10%).

I wonder if the judges look for "draught" characteristics vs "bottle" characterstics (as they would when judging, say, porter chartacteristics vs pilsener characteristics) ?  I wouldn't think so.  So I think this split in categories should be done away with.

Certainly, they are two different beasts, and should be submitted separately, but then let them be judged against each other.  It wouldn't lessen the number of medals...... but it would remove half the categories.  This might allow the organisers to do something about the "Other" categories and get a little more specific.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Beer reviews: Abbaye de Leffe

I first encountered a Leffe bottle in about 1986. I was in the Four In Hand pub in Paddington, Sydney, looked up at the beer display shelf, and there was this wonderous bottle with purple foil around the neck. I didn't even dare ask for a price, and so it went untasted.

About 13 years later, the Belgian Beer Cafe opened it's doors in Cammeray, with Leffes Blonde and Bruin available on tap, and others in bottle (including the mysterious purple-foiled Leffe Vieille Cuvée). Leffe is now de rigueur in many establishments and quality bottle shops, although not cheap.

Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems 
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.

Leffe Blonde
Belgian Pale Ale 6.6%
Leffe 2-Pack GlasswareOverall: B / 3.55 look: 3.5 smell: 4 taste: 3.5 feel: 3 drink: 3.5
Pours a dark gold, pale amber colour. Heavy rocky, off-white head. Leaves a solid lace behind. Cracking the bottle gives off hop volatiles... herbal, vegetatious.... This is lost quickly, leading into heavier hop notes & toffee. Some funky sulfur, and a waxy perfume that wouldn't go out of place in a candle shop. Flavours of honeycomb, and musky, peppery spice. A slight ascorbate or citrate-like tang. Chewy, full mouthfeel. Slight dustiness, like the astringency of an old claret. Medium bitterness. And a slight cloying sweetness that would probably preclude this being a session beer.... need a lager to wash it down.
Serving type: bottle

Leffe Brune / Brown
Belgian Dark Ale 6.50%
Belgian Ale (Classic Beer Style Ser)Overall: B+ / 3.8 look: 3.5 smell: 3.5 taste: 4 feel: 4 drink: 4
Poured into a Leffe chalice. Big beige head, heavy rocky froth. Deep dark brown, with mahogany edges. Aromas of coffee, and a distinct salami-like gamey note. Chewy Belgian malts, again the gamey note which brings in a subtle briney taste. Aftertastes include some floral/vegetal hop, with a medium bitterness. Drink it with antipasto....Second mouthful, and I get a quick hint of charred steak. Some gamey caramelisation I guess. Strange but true. Drink it with BBQ beef...Big effervescence in the mouth, slight lip tingle like sherbet lolly, medium body, and semi-sweet finish.
Serving type: bottle

Leffe Radieuse
Belgian Strong Dark Ale 8.2%
Brew Like a Monk: Trappist, Abbey, and Strong Belgian Ales and How to Brew ThemOverall: B- / 3.35 look: 3.5 smell: 3.5 taste: 3 feel: 4 drink: 3.5
Poured into an old Leffe chalice that I got in a gift pack. Dense beige head, holds for a time, fades with drinking. No obvious carbonation. Colour of russet, burnt orange, chestnut... appealing. The nose is initially subtle, but picks up with the ambient temperature... fresh hops are first to come out, but then sweet candy, orange, a hint of raw steak. As it warms further, some malt becomes apparent. While no obvious carbonation, the fluid expands in the mouth, releasing the dissolved CO2. The flavour belies the nose... it's all spice. Cinnamon, musk, clove. You could marinade a pork fillet in this beer... What malt there is makes a late appearance, as the ale warms in the glass. There is a light hint of hop flavour at the finish, but by then the bitterness kicks in. With this, there are notes of fennel/anise... this seems to carry into the mouthfeel, where the bitterness is more reminiscent of absinthe or campari than the more familiar hop bitterness. An interesting drink, but I don't know exactly how to tackle it....
Serving type: bottle

Leffe Vieille Cuvée
Belgian Strong Dark Ale 8.2%
Overall: B / 3.55 look: 3.5 smell: 3.5 taste: 3.5 feel: 4 drink: 3.5
Burnt orange, brown. Beige head.
Nose first of fresh hops, then some complex malts. Even an earthy hint of mushroom or somesuch.... Flavour is spicy. Some yeasty phenolics, fruity candy hints. Lolly shop. Foamy mouthfeel, with good malt body that balances the bitterness that comes out. I reviewed this in parallel with the Radieuse... this is not as harsh, and more approachable.
Serving type: bottle

Beeradvocate ratings systems

When reviewing beers, I adhere to the Beeradvocate standard.

Beers are rated on five attributes, using a score of 1-5 (1 the lowest, 5 the highest). These attributes are weight-averaged to produce an overall rating for the beer.

Appearance (20%)
Smell (20%)
Taste (40%)
Mouthfeel (10%)
Drinkability (10%)

The Beer Lover's Rating Guide: Revised EditionFor example, a beer with respective attribute scores of 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 2.5, 3.0 will have an overall score of:

(2 x 20%) + (2.5 x 20%) + (3.0 x 40%) + (2.5 x 10%) + (3.0 x 10%)  =  2.65

The rating is also represented on the scale A+ to F, with a description.

Score Text Label Rating
>= 4.51 A+ world class
>= 4.26 A outstanding
>= 4.01 A- excellent
>= 3.76 B+ very good
>= 3.51 B good
>= 3.26 B- worthy
>= 3.01 C+ decent
>= 2.76 C mediocre
>= 2.51 C- not worthy
>= 2.26 D+ avoid
>= 2.01 D avoid
>= 1.76 D- avoid
< 1.76 F avoid

More information available here http://beeradvocate.com/help/index?topic=ratings

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Article: 2010 Australian International Beer Awards Trophy Winners

In this article I profile the winning breweries and beers from the 2010 AIBA.


Sadly, I have yet try the majority of those discussed. It is not a rule that beers submitted to this competition must also be available in Australia. Although frustrating for beer lovers in Australia, it works to the advantage of Australian brewers (Redoak for example) who have tasted overseas competition success.
The full results of the competition can be found here: http://www.beerawards.com/pdfs/AIBA_COR_V2.pdf

Aussie Beer Blog

Aussie Beer Blog