Friday, July 30, 2010

New Bayfield's store at Dee Why

Libby and I checked out the new Dee Why Grand shopping centre yesterday.  In a visit made remarkable by the complete incompetence of the parking attendants, we found the new centre to be, well, like any old shopping centre, but with a lot of "soon to open" shop-fronts.  Yawn.

I was hoping to see how the new Dee Why Hotel stacked up, but it too looks a fair way off from pulling its first beer in anger. Maybe in a month or two, judging by the gaping black hole where I expected to find glitz, glamour, and (perhaps unreasonably) decent beer.

But, the latest addition to the Bayfield stable of bottle shops can be found in the 1st carpark. What I like about these guys is the ice bench located just behind the counters, full of single beer bottles which allow the thirsty tradie or traveller to quickly grab a cleanser without having to go to the fridge at the back. Nice idea.

The beer range was modest, to say the least. Big range of Aussie macros and low carbs, the usual imports & brewed-under-licence locals, and the occasional point of interest. If you're into Macs or Monteiths (this is Dee Why after all), then you'll be well rewarded.  Belgian ales are limited to Chimays and Duvels, and the token 500mL English Ale (Spitfire, for example) are evident. The range seems to be a complete subset of that in First Choice, suggesting the same importers/wholesalers.

I did see some Knappstein, and some Kosciuszko pale ale. But other than that, if you want a wider range but in the same theme, then the First Choice at Forestville would be preferable. If you want a more eclectic range, then go to Brookvale Cellars; their support of local brewers (Akuna, Four Pines, Happy Goblin) is commendable.

Bayfield do claim to match advertised competitors' prices (in Manly Daily only); this is good, because I don't think their wine prices are that competitive. So I recommend trawling the 'Daily before heading to Bayfield.

And their malt whiskey range ?  Very ordinary.... I'd go to Dan Murphy, First Choice, or Vintage Cellars before going to Bayfield.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rogues and Others

Enjoyed a quiet afternoon at my brother Chris' place, with a bit of beer tasting with him and his father-in-law Bob.
Luckily for Bob & I, Chris had recently visited Platinum Cellars at North Strathfield, and picked up a couple of Rogues. I threw in a couple of Jamieson Beast IPAs & Coopers Vintage; Bob contributed Paulaner Salvator, Matilda Bay Long Shot, and Happy Goblin Stout.

Just focusing on the Rogues for the moment:

Yellow Snow IPA
Caramel & candle perfume. Big, long bitterness, with pine needles & butterscotch. Bob reckoned it pushed his right eyeball into his frontal lobe.....

XS Imperial IPA
Interesting mix of hops, with Saaz, Cascade, Northwest Goldings. Citrus, apricot, muesli, biscuit, husk seed & complex malts. Rich, long, rewarding.

Double Dead Guy Ale
Husky, grainy, bird seed, touch fruity, perhaps cherry. I summarised it as "Iced Vovo", althought the others didn't pick this up. Honeycomb, vegemite toast.

All excellent.  Not cheap, of course. The "standard" range of Rogues such as Yellow Snow, Wet Hop Ale come in around $18. The premium bottles are upwards of $35. When shared with good, knowledgable company, the price is not an issue.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Back from a break

Well it's been a somewhat busy fortnight. My last posts saw me kegging a beer and planning a trip away, to Port Stephens and then to Melbourne.

Key points of note:
  1. Murray's Heart of Darkness from a growler, overlooking Shoal Bay on a cool, sun-dappled afternoon. Superb.  But not to be drunk all at once, particularly if your mate brings a growler of Icon IPA......
  2. Murray's Whale Ale, on tap at Maverick's at Nelson Bay. Good spot, good beer, for $5.50 a schooner.
  3. No frills beer brands being sold through chain bottle shops, from Australian contract brewers. One such beer is called "Rogue Lager".  I wonder if the Oregon crowd are aware of this.....
  4. Beer Deluxe in Federation Square is by far the most comprehensive beer bar in Australia. It's like a trip to Platinum Cellars, only a little bit dearer :-)
  5. Royston Hotel is, however, the best place for beer and atmosphere.  Reclining in velour 70s furniture, drinking Hargreaves Hill ESB via hand-pulled tap.... Bridge Road Bling IPA.... Mountain Goat Steam Ale.... forget the glamour and range of inner-city Melbourne.  This out-of-the-way bolt hole is well worth the tram fare (or the long and deviating walk from the 'G, as inadvertently happened to us).
  6. Mrs Parma's..... The waitress remembered me from 6 months ago.... amazing... I barely remember her.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Double Coopers in the keg

The vigorous home brew has settled down now, enough for me to run it into the keg for some secondary. It was truly the most violent home brew I've made due to, as mentioned previously, throwing a lot of fermentables onto an active yeast cake.

In trying to slow it down, I had the fermenter out in the cold night air. I think it dropped to about 8C the other night, but the beer just kept going.... amazing.

I'm trying some secondary fermetation in the keg; threw in 25 carbonation pellets. This is the same principle as priming bottles before capping. The target pressure will be for a lightly sparkling beer.... not too fizzy.

A quick taste of the beer was taken, of course. A distinct maltiness not unlike a Scottish ale, but backed up by the somewhat angular hops (Pride of Ringwood, no doubt).  I could taste alcohol too, so we definitely have a strong'un.  I'll give it a fortnight to prime & settle, by then it will hopefully be self-pressured enough for at least a couple of Real Ale pints.

Article: Noble Hop Varieties and Substitutes for Home Brewing

My latest contribution to Suite101 is a quick article on the noble hop varieties, and possible non-noble substitutes.

Planning for Melbourne Trip

Friday week sees Dennis, Darren & myself down to Melbourne for a weekend of beer & footy.

We're gonna watch "the Pies go the Saints at the G" whatever that means.

But more importantly, I have a few venues to explore, analyse, and relay back to my loyal reader. That'd be the writer, of course.

I arrive before the other guys, so will have a couple of hours in the city to kill. Methinks Beer Deluxe and/or Transport at Federation Square will be the best start. I've been to the latter (and to the outstanding restaurant "Taxi" upstairs) but only somewhat satisfied. Good range, but awkward atmosphere and variable service. The as-yet-untried Beer Deluxe is around on the Flinders St side, and seems to attract the occasional single-barrel edition from various micro breweries, so must have some cred.

Once the boys arrive, I might suggest a tram trip to Richmond; both the Royston Hotel and Mountain Goat brewery are located on River St, near the bridge. Mountain Goat does pizzas and beers (including brewery-only offerings) on Friday evenings, so looks like a good start to the weekend.

Saturday will inevitably be geared around "the G"; I might try and sway the boys south-bound after the game, to the original Local Taphouse in East St Kilda. If anything like its younger sibling in Darlinghurst, NSW, this place will be outstanding. (I do hear similar reports about the Royston).

But.... if we decide to head back into the city, there are some other good alternatives. Hungry men demand lots of food, and no better beer/food combination can be found than Mrs Parma's on Little Bourke Street. Plate-sized schnitzels, and local (Victorian) craft brews on tap. A great place; a recent long weekend had me there on three occasions.

Also good in Melbourne is Cookie, the unusual combination of Thai cafeteria and boutique beer bar. My first trip (Jan 09 from memory) was remarkable; subsequent visits have not come up to the first's standard, as is so often the case. But anywhere with a hardcover beer menu is worth taking your mates to.

Also, there are Squires brewhouse, Belgian beer cafe, and the European Bier cafe. The first two of these are not unique to Melbourne. The last of these appears to be the bastard child of the Belgian beer cafes and a Dan Murphy. Probably give it a miss.

Comments are welcome; I know there are also some excellent beer shops, but carry-on luggage, and limited time, will preclude visits.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Coopers Vintage tasting

On Sunday, Darren and I had an impromptu vertical tasting of Coopers Vintage.  I picked up a six-pack of the 2010 edition from Dan Murphy last week, and swapped one of the bottles for a 2009, still in stock. Darren, on the other hand, had some 1998 and 1999 bottles in the fridge.

I inadvertently left the 2009 at home, so we ended up tasting the youngest, and the two oldest vintages.

I was surprised, to say the least. In the past, I have always claimed the 1999 as the best release, holding up with enough malt to support the sherry notes that accrue over time. This one had smooth, bready notes, touch of sherry/rancio, a lemonade nose (?), and chocolate biscuit. Still going well after nearly 11 years.

However, Darren's 1998s were not too dissimilar. Perhaps paler in colour, more molasses on the nose. My memory of the 98 was of a thin drink, way past its best. But Darren has kept these in good condition, and the results spoke for themselves.

The youngster, 2010, is big, strong, hoppy.  Good now, for the hop character, but will lose this over time and acquire the characteristics of its older siblings.

Beer review: Barossa Valley Brewing Organic Ale

Acquired at Dan Murphy, Mona Vale for $13.99 4/pack.

Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Barossa Valley Brewing Organic Ale
English Pale Ale 5.0%
B / 3.65 look: 3 smell: 4 taste: 4 feel: 3 drink: 3.5
Pours a hazy dark honey, nice white head that fades fairly quickly. Smells floral, an almost mead-like aroma too, with a touch of spice. Flavours support the aroma, with an attractive late-hopping (an English noble, say, East Kent Goldings), and a decent bitterness at the back. Finishes a little bit short, maybe a touch soapy in mouthfeel. All up a good English Pale, and good for two or three pints.
Serving type: bottle

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Trip to The Rocks

Met up with Rowan last night at the Lord Nelson. An old stomping ground of ours, and always good to drop in and see what, if anything, has changed.

I got into town a few hours earlier, with some non-beer related activities on the agenda. Getting these out of the way was of high priority, so I could focus on the important things.

Started off at Harts Pub; Red Truck Lager, from True South Brewery, is a top-notch Märzen with a brilliant red/brown, good malty profile, and an assertive bitterness that (I think) is unusual for the style. A great find, nonetheless.

Also a good find at Harts was meeting up with a couple of American beer lovers. Dave and Mia from California had a couple of days in Australia, including Fremantle and Sydney. Harts was their first stop before moving on to the Aussie, the Lord, and then James Squire brewhouse, and staying in Manly, not too far from Four Pines. Nice meeting you guys, and hope you found some good beers in your travels.

Check out Dave's home brewing set up here:   .......drool..... You know a guy's serious when you see electric pumps and counterflow chillers..... nice one Dave.

Anyway, after Harts I dropped in to Jackson's on George.  This is where I had my beer epiphany, many years ago. A bottle of La Trappe Tripel, I believe it was.  Not much has changed in the pub; still an attractive wood & brass fit out, and a fair range of bottled beers (incl Konig Ludwig, Ichnusa, Maisel, Trumer, Maredsous among others). The draught beer range, however, leaves a lot to be desired. And no La Trappe, from what I could see.

For lunch, headed back up the hill to Heritage Belgian Beer Cafe for a bowl of chips & a glass of Leffe Blonde. Not much change out of $20 for that.

Then to the Australian, just to see what the current range looked like. They had something called Lifesaver on tap. "Where's that from" I asked.  "Dunno" came the reply.  Another bartender said "Barons".  I ordered a Little Creatures....

Just before meeting Rowan, I had a quick look into the Hero of Waterloo. This used to be the only place in Sydney where one could get a draught Bass or Newcastle Brown.... $6 a pint in 1993. The best thing today is James Squire Porter. Oh well....

And on to the Lord Nelson. The Three Sheets is drinking wonderfully well, with (from my view) an improved hop profile that lifts it significantly. And I have a higher regard now for the Quayle. Although BeerAdvocate calls it a Krystalweizen, I'd put it in the American Wheat category: less of the banana/clove but more of the wheatiness.  The Trafalgar is still an honest Aussie Sparkling Ale and a good alternative to Coopers (also available). The Victory seemed paler than I recall, although a very satisfying Bitter.  And the Old Admiral still kicks arse..... and a great accompaniment to the Ploughman's lunch.

One thing of interest:  The Lord Nelson has been bottling their Three Sheets and Old Admiral for a couple of years now.  As a part of it, they put together some artwork for the labelling that is very distinctive, with nautical yellow and red themes respectively.  They have extended this theme to the other beers.  Check this out: Does this mean they plan to bottle the others as well ?

Using yeast cake from previous brew

As mentioned a couple of days ago, I had the bright idea of pitching a couple of Coopers tins and DME into the remains of Dave's IPA.
After kegging the IPA, I thought it'd be good to reuse the yeast, and eke out whatever hop aroma remained in the pellet residue and hop bag. So, just tip in some more fermentables and off we go...
Coopers Pale Ale Complete Beer Ingredient Kit for Home BrewingAll good.... in theory.  What I didn't count on was the explosive activity of the yeast.  After a fermentation, the yeast count has increased exponentially.... and they're still very much active and raring to go.
So, coupling this with more malt than I probably should have used, it all frothed up and out the airlock. Messy.
The scary bit, however, was the airlock regularly becoming blocked with hop residue. This resulted in increased pressure in the fermenter.
A quick word of advice..... if the airlock has stopped bubbling, but fermentation is visibly underway, be very, very careful when taking the bung out. It's difficult cleaning green and brown gunk off the ceiling....

Aussie Beer Blog

Aussie Beer Blog