It was a cold an wet day last Sunday when I made my way down to Harts Pub in the rocks for their regular Brewers Feast festival. The main theme of this specific event was hand-pumped ales, but they did have a number of beers I hadn’t tried on tap which I tasted first. Unfortunately some of those beers had run out the day before because this was a two day festival, but that is the nature of things, you can’t drink them all. There was no extra special pricing set up for the day (at previous BFs they’ve had a prepaid token system), but all the beers were $5 for a half pint and $10 for a pint, which makes things easy when it comes to change.
Anyway, on to the beers:
Bridge Road 500: a smokey breakfast lager brewed in honour of their 500th batch of beer. Called breakfast because they literally added their favourite breakfast foods, “Carmen’s muesli, fruit toast, Zoi coffee, tea leaves, Beechworth Honey and maple syrup.” The aroma was roast, with hints of smoke. The taste was amazing, like a mix of smoked bacon and sweet roasted malt. There was also a salty aftertaste, like you get after eating some really good bacon. My favourite (new) beer of the day.
Holgate Big Reg, was a Vienna lager, a style that I don’t think I’ve had before which can make it hard to rate. The aroma was very sweet and malty with nothing much else I could pick up. The taste was similarly sweet and malty, with some slight initial bitterness that lingered. Very drinkable.
Otway Estate Prickly Moses Red, was red. As you’d expect. The aroma was malt backed by a fruity hop aroma I couldn’t put my finger on initially. The taste followed this, being sweet and fruity. I’m still not sure exactly what kind of fruit, it was definitely a melon, but I’m not sure which kind since I’m not usually a melon eater.
Next I headed outside for the hand pumps, which is how beers are traditionally served in England. Something I had never experienced before.
Murray’s Punch & Judy’s is an english bitter, perfect for my first “real ale”. The aroma was light and earthy, and so was the taste. It was good, but I remember it being much better when I first had it. Still good, but not great.
Badlands Pale Ale, was next and I wasn’t looking forward to it since it didn’t impress me in bottled form. The aroma was sweet, and the taste was mostly sweet honey with some bitterness. Better than the bottled version, but still not something I’d recommend.
Rocks Brewing The Hangman Pale Ale, aka the stuff Harts makes itself (although not on site) is something I have drunk before. The nose was all American hops, piney and such. The taste was classic american pale ale, lots of pine, citrus and fruitiness. Although that is also how it tastes on regular draught. Probably my favourite of the hand pumps.
Hunter Beer ESB was the last cab off the rank, and I had high hopes with it being an ESB. The aroma was all sweet caramel. The taste was also mostly sweet caramel, with some earthiness, but it didn’t blow me away.
Overall I wasn’t that impressed with the hand pumps, but maybe the beers going through them weren’t the best. Maybe my hopes were just too high since I’m such a lover of really earthy english-style ales. Still had a good day though, even if it was quite quiet, but that gave me a good chance to chat with some of the staff of the fine establishment.
The next Harts Brewers Feast is pencilled in for Saturday 13th August according to their blog about the event.
It was a nice autumn day on Saturday (May 21 2011) when I rocked on down to The Local Taphouse in Darlinghurst (for the third time that week) for the Kiwi SpecTAPular. 20 taps of beer from New Zealand awaited me, and so did I queue of die-hards at the door. Luckily I knew the two most die hard (Jez and Sam) who happened to be at the front of the line, giving me both company for the line wait and the rest of the day as well as access to the front of the line.
Included after you’d paid your gold coin donation for entry (donated to the NZ Brewers Guild Earthquake Recovery Fund) was a nice little guidebook (which you can see with my notebook to the right) with tasting notes and info on all the beers as well as other nice information about beer and such. I decided to go through the beers on offer in number order since it was easiest and the order was chosen to facilitate such endeavours. The setup for the day was quite good, paddles of five 60mL samples for $7.50 (with a $10 deposit on the wooden paddle) as well as the usual half and full pint glasses for varying prices. There was also a kiwi themed menu on offer, all in kiwi spelling: “fush and chups” and such.
Note: paddles are being reviewed from left to right
1. Harringtons Rogue Hop, a 5% NZ pilsner. Light in colour and aroma, with classic pilsner hop aromas. The taste was very fresh, with a dry fruitiness and a lingering bitterness. Very easy drinking, and it would be great on a hot day, a classic “lawnmower beer”.
2. Sprig & Fern Harvest Pils, another 5% NZ pilsner, this one with a subtle passionfruit hint on the nose. The taste was light, with an initial dry bite and then classic Nelson Sauvin hop flavours of passionfruit (much like a Sauvignon Blanc) that lingered on the palette but there wasn’t much bitterness.
3. The Twisted Hop Sauvin Pils, yet another 5% NZ pils, this one had very little aroma, and the taste was passionfruit with soapy hints. Some upfront bitterness that faded quickly. Overall it was quite disappointing.
4. Mussel Inn Whit Pig, a “manuka wit” coming at 4.8% with a bit more colour than the previous beers. The aroma was very woody, like a sawdust filled workshop with some yeasty characters. The taste was a mix of initial rich manuka honey sweetness and the coriander spiciness you get from a classic wit that lingered. One of my standout beers.
5. Emerson’s Bird Dog a 5.5% pale ale. The nose was all pine tree, just like a classic cascade hops loaded american pale ale. Malt with a light piney-ness was how I’d describe the flavour, with a moderate level of bitterness. It didn’t blow your head off, it just ticked all the boxes to be an easy drinking pale ale.
6. Golden Bear Hanky Panky another pale ale, but lighter at 4.4%. The nose was very light, just some sweetness and grassy notes. The taste was…. meh. Watery and grassy and really not much going on at all.
7. Founders Fair Maiden a 5% american pale ale with not much happening when it comes to aroma. The taste was crisp, with hints of caramel biscuityness and some generic bitterness. Better than the last, but still not great.
8. Tuatara APA, oh look another APA, this one at 5.8%, the nose was all piney american-style hops and the taste was divine. Pine with an earthiness that lingered, like you’d picked up and handful of dirt and pine needles off the forest floor and had a chew on them.
9. Moa Five Hop a 6.2% ESB/Strong Ale according to the notes. The nose was dominated by Nelson Sauvin passionfruit notes. The taste was quite sweet, with caramel, vanilla and an oakey woodiness, all of which lingered with a solid bitter backbone.
10. Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude a peat smoked golden strong ale coming in at 7%. To quote the Seinfeld episode The Limo…. “the peat, ah the peat.” Seriously there isn’t much else to say, although there was also a petrol kind of scent on the nose. Those who drink single malt whiskey said it tasted like Laphroaig. Very unique.
11. Townshend JCIPA stepping up to the India Pale Ale stage, this one being in the English style at 5.8%. The aroma was light and sweet, with an initial hit of citrus and creaminess. The taste was dominated by sweet caramel maltiness with a lingering earthy bitterness. It didn’t really stand out though, which is weird because english style beers are usually my favourite.
12. Brew Moon Hophead IPA a 5% IPA, this had a sweet aroma with a hint of hops. The taste followed this, being sweet and malty with some pine and fruit hop notes in the background.
13. Croucher Brewing Patriot an American Black Ale or Black IPA (it’s complicated and I really don’t care) of 5.5% ABV, this obviously stands out for its dark colour in this set. The nose was all roast, and the flavour was also roasty, but balanced out by classic american hop flavours.
14. Renaissance Stonecutter, a 7% scotch ale with a classic dark amber colour, the aroma was very yeasty. Couldn’t really tell if it was marmite, vegemite or some other mite, but you get the idea. The taste was very similar, but with hints of dark fruit. Didn’t like it at all because of its mite-ness. It did get me singing though.
15. 8 Wired Hopwired, back to a lighter colour for this 7.3% New World Kiwi India Pale Ale. The nose was a tropical fruitsplosion, and the taste was like all those fruits dumped in a bowl of cream. Very drinkable, and definitely one for those who say they “don’t like beer”.
16. Epic Hop Zombie an 8.5% Double IPA, that is supposedly “New Zealand’s hoppiest ever beer…. but you wouldn’t know it. The aroma was sweet and fruity, and the flavour was a mix of caramel malt and tropical fruit. Superb, and spoiler alert: my favourite of the day.
17. Cock & Bull Monks Habit a 7% red ale with a nose dominated by malt with hints of sultanas. The taste was sweet and malty, almost milo-like, with a backbones of raisins and lingering bitterness. Another standout.
18. Three Boys Oyster Stout, and now on to the dark end with this 6.2% stout. The main aroma was an almost bittersweet dark roast, with hints of salty fish. The taste was sweet and roasty with a solid meatiness in the mid palette.
19. Invercargill Pitch Black, a 4.5% stout with colour to match its name and all I could smell was roast. Tastewise it was very dry and roasty with hints of coffee and chocolate.
20. Mike’s Imperial Porter, the last beer was an 8% imperial porter. The nose was roasted malt with what seemed to be a lavender scent. The taste was dark fruit for days. Loved it, as you’d expect.
Overall it was a great day, sure there were some duds, but you get that. Epic Hop Zombie was my number 1, but Mussel Inn Whit Pig, Tuatara APA, 8 Wired Hopwired, Cock & Bull Monks Habit and Mike’s Imperial Porter weren’t far behind, and the Yeastie Boys Rex Attiude was worth it as a unique experience.
Finally, I’d recommend getting down to the next SpecTAPular in early July at either the Darlinghurst (Sydney) or St Kilda (Melbourne) locations, since it is held simultaneously at both. The theme will be USA beers, and if you’re at darlo, feel free to buy me a beer since it’ll be my birthday.
Saturday I was lucky enough, despite being double-booked with a talk at Skepticamp Sydney, to be able to spend a few hours at Paddy’s Brewery for their 2011 Hop Harvest Festival. I was able to taste 10 beers, most of which were special one-off brews for the festival. From the name it should be obvious that the focus was hops. The setup was pretty simple, all the brewers were arrayed around their function room, and you got a middy for $3 paid direct to the brewer. You didn’t have to deal with tokens or cards, but each brewer did have to deal with cash. I’ve also seen some suggestions that some smaller tasting glasses (lets say $1 for something one-third the size) might be good to allow people to taste more without getting too inebriated, and I’d agree with that.
4 Pines Brewing Company Full Nelson was my first of the day, and it definitely lived up to the theme. A simple pale with a load of hops dumped in (which turned out to be a theme for the day), the aroma was loaded with creamy hops and passionfruit. Lingering bitterness dominated the taste with a good citrusy after taste.
Murray’s Craft Brewing Co. “one-off” Saison was next, a saison with a bunch of home-grown hops dumped in, they even had the used up flowers littering their stand. It had a very fruity smell, typical of a saison. Taste-wise it was quite light and very fruity, but with some solid bitterness backing it up. It was extremely drinkable and refreshing.
The Australian Brewery Galaxy Pale Ale. A Pale Ale, with lots of hops. In this case the locally developed Galaxy, as was obvious from the name (and everything else), and even got a joking “Guess what hops we used” from the brewer. The aroma was all galaxy, light and passionfruity. The flavour…. smooth, fruity with more backend bitterness than Stone & Wood Pacific Ale but very similar in style.
Doctors Orders Brewing Synapse, was the first really different beer. It’s a Black Saison, and it will be available on tap in a few selected locations. The nose was loaded with roasted malt, the taste was also roasted but not that coffee flavour you’d get in a russian imperial stout, it was more like caramelised raisins, and there was also a wonderful sour note that was hard to place initially.
Paddy’s Brewery Special Fat Arsed Bastard. a version of their strong “no particular style” ale with…. shockingly…. MOAR HOPS! Those hops came through on the nose, along with a strong caramel smell. The taste started with a slight caramel malt and raisins taste, then the hops slam you in the face, and you’re left with lingering malt, raisins and bitterness.
Mudgee Brewing Co. IPA. The first official India Pale Ale of the day, although some of the others probably were. Aroma was raisins for days. Flavour was raisins for days, with some generic bitterness. Seriously just left your mouth feeling liked you’d just eaten a big box of raisins.
St Peters Brewery Pale Ale. It’s never a good sign when a friend hands you an almost full beer they didn’t want to finish. This “beer” tasted like watered down honey. There was the slightest hint of bitterness, like the cupboard they got the honey from also had some hops in it, but it was really just watered down honey.
Happy Goblin GSB aka Goblin Special Bitter. This was a little different, and not just because the brewer looks like a dirty hippy, he stressed that he’s more into malt than hops but he still made this one special. The aroma lived up to that, very earthy and malty. The flavour matched it exactly, solid malt base and then the earthy taste of fuggles hops. Being a classic English hop it definitely stood out because everything else seemed to be using New World Hop varieties.
Badlands Brewery IPA (Man Singh) was something I wasn’t really expecting too much from, since their regular Pale Ale had been such a disappointment to me. It shocked me by being pretty good. Malt and hops on the nose, flavour was loaded with malt with a lingering bitterness but no specific hop flavours jumped out.
Black Duck Brewery APA, my last beer of the festival was this American Pale Ale from a brewer I’d never tasted before. It was ok, generically hoppy aroma, generically bitter taste with some maltiness, but it really didn’t stand out amongst the rest.
Overall it was a good festival, I know some other stuff got rolled out after I left including some really special beers and some of the beers I tasted randalled (aka force filtered) through extra hops, and I’m disappointed I missed those, but sometimes that happens. It’s hard to pick a best from the 10 I tasted, but the beers from Doctors Orders, 4 Pines, Paddy’s and Happy Goblin were my faves. The Happy Goblin especially, but then I’m a huge fan of Fuggles.