Now, for the last couple of years, I have had it in my head that I could have a drink in 1000 different bars within a year. I have discussed this with my wife, who thinks I am crazy, and she has agreed to support me in my endeavor. I have also rejoined a health club and am going to prove that my tour of the bars can be completed while maintaining, and even improving, my overall physical well-being.It reminds me of that line from the musical South Pacific in the song "Happy Talk": If you don't have a dream how you gonna make a dream come true... You can follow this New Yorker's dream at his blog.
I was in Toronto for a few days this week and was able to stop by a brewpub called C'est What. I have some notes to add later after I dig through my stuff but wanted to get these pictures up.
The Next Day: I appear to have sprayed my things with notes-be-gone so I'll do this from memory. I tried two of their own ales with my Porter Beef Ribs and like both a lot. The first was the redundantly named Brown Mild Ale. While it is true there is a style of beer that is a light coloured mild, it is rare enough that it is an exception to the general principle that mild is brown. At 3.3%, it is the right strength for a session of supping. The beer menu said it was nitro dispensed meaning instead of being pushed by the normal CO2 there is a measure of nitrogen added. This is the same idea behind cask flow ale in a can that leaves a tiny fine head. With this real ale, it works very well giving a creamy head that incorporates many of the flavours of the yeast. The beer was creamy with chocolate and walnut flavours. The hops were subdued giving a bit of structure to the finish. Very nice. At the heart of the ale there is fresh clean water, exactly right for the style. This beer alone would bring me back to this pub. It is a beer that every brew pub should offer, that and/or ordinary bitter, a low alcohol version of a hopped light ale. My only complaint is that it costs the same as the other stronger ales. As 60% of the ingredients go in, ther should be some accomodation in the final cost I pay. That being said, $5.18 CND for a quality real ale pint is a good price.
The second ale I tried was their hemp ale. This is a favorite of mine whenever I have had it, the hemp replacing or adding to the hop effect. Depending on the amount and selection of hooping, the tastes can be quite different. In this version, it is basically a basic best bitter of 4.5% to 5.0% in terms of mouthfeel which has a layer of sweet green vegetableness added to it. And the green tastes like...fresh broad beans. Should gross but it is not. Quite good with the ribs. The ribs themselves were worth attending again, though the were a smidge underdone for my liking. Meat should fall off ribs and the inner tissue should have essentially melted away. There was a bit too much of a gnaw to the meal but in terms of flavour and texture it was spot on. Served with a spring salad overly drenched in dressing and tastey fine cut herbed french fries. You can order extra ribs and I did, hence the Freddie Flinstone pile on the plate.
This is the second time I have been to C'est What and each time I think there is something less manic about brewing that I would think normal. Less brewiana-esque than most and a little cool or, better, laid back. But I suppose that is the market they are playing to. Odd to see errors like the menu saying Black Sheep Ale is from Scotland when it is from Yorkshire. Nerds usually do not get that wrong. That being said, the quality of the beers - especially in terms of the yeast selection - is as good as I have every tried.
The brewery at Lawrence Victor Estate Winery
I discovered Lawrence Victor Coonawarra Old Ale (ABV 5%) at a local bar here in Singapore called "Ice Cold Beer". The place used to carry Cooper's, but its supply of Aussie beers is now sadly limited to the uninspiring likes of Fosters, Victoria Bitter and Castlemaine's XXXX. Lawrence Victor is not a beer I would recommend although I would suggest sampling at least one, it's a unique little creation. The head was weak and dissipated rather quickly. The beer had a sickly sweet flavor, reminiscent of overripe fruit. It did have some unique notes, although excessive carbonation masked too many of them. One other reviewer aptly described the aroma as 'vommity.'
Bottle: Poured a very cloudy orange with a medium sized rocky off-white head. Sour dried apricots with a kind of vommity aroma in the background that, surprisingly, wasnt that bad. Tart, sour taste, somewhat like fermented orange juice. Quite fruity, with a touch of light crystal malt when slurped. Strange carbonation with occasionally very big bubbles. Not bad, and quite unique, but not in any way great.Despite the sweet, vommity, fruitiness this is not a beer that you would confuse it for something Belgian. Coonawarra is, of course, a region far better known for its wine and the Old Ale is a side project for the Lawrence Victor winery's (which has a Shiraz I would like to try). Therefore, I can forgive some of their deficiencies on their virgin attempt and beer. I've known several good micros that have had less-than-impressive first products and although this beer wasn't to my taste it did show promise. It should be interesting to see what they come up with next.
The Inchant brewery's beers were a little more seasoned, the best of the three I sampled was the Thomas Jecks Ale (ABV 4.5%), supposedly a reproduction of the ale brewed at Guildford 's Rose & Crown hotel from the 1840s. Sadly, the hotel seems they have recently gone out of business. I was expecting the worst from the beer after the horrible, horrible head it produced on the initial pour. It was nothing but head... scaarrry! After giving the brew a few minutes to turn into something drinkable, it was fairly decent. It was slightly nutty and yeasty at the finish. The yeasty taste is described here as 'vegemite,' which is about as uniquely Australian as you can get.
The Fettler (ABV 6.3%) reminded me of the spiced homebrews that I used to make for Christmas dark amber and seasoned with honey, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange rind. And it also had that yeasty (vegemite) taste that my homebrews. While a bit thin, and again lacking head, I am a fan of spiced ales and would buy this one again just for the nostalgia. The Bullant bitter red label (ABV 5.5%), was the most disappointing of the three. A bit too sweet at the finish, syrupy mouthfeel and no carbonation or head. I possibly had a bad bottle.
Coming next, Myrick's choice for best Australian Beer.
Coopers of Adelaide is one of my favorite Aussie breweries. It is also possibly the only surviving 19th century brewery to remain in the hands of the original family. While the Malt Shovel Brewery tries to reinvent the brews of James Squire, Coopers has maintained many of its own original recipes and yeast strains. Here in Singapore, three of its brews are readily available: a stout ale, a sparkling ale and a pale ale.
The Best Extra Stout (ABV 6.8%) is the most exceptional, and has been noted as Australia's best beer on several occasions. It’s very thin for a stout, with negligible head, but offers a wide range of flavors in every sip. It typically starts with a burnt or toasted taste followed by notes of chocolate, coffee, toffee and black cheery. It’s marvelously complex. Although bottle-conditioned, it does not have an overwhelming yeasty taste. This comes in second for my favorite dark beer, right after MacAusland’s Oatmeal Stout from Montreal. It’s also my second-favorite Aussie beer.
The pale and sparkling ales are similar in make and taste – but the latter is more impressive, and has found praise from world-renowned beer hunter Michael Jackson. Cooper's claims that its Sparkling Ale (ABV 5.8%) is made according to the same recipe that it developed in 1862. Given that it is nothing like the filtered, pasteurized and homogenized brews that dominate the planet... I imagine that there is a great deal of truth in that claim. Whether it is cloudy or sparkling depends on the pour. For me, it is a cloudy. I tend to pour two-thirds of the beer, swirl the sediment in the bottle and pour the remainder. The result is a swirl of cloud with touches of dark yeast that settle in the glass like as if it were a negative-image snowglobe. The taste has been better described elsewhere:
Coopers Sparkling Ale pours to a very cloudy, opaque, pale blond color, with a dense white head, and a very vibrant and lively carbonation. Like with a good German hefeweizen, you want to roust the yeast and pour it in this beer. The nose on this beer is very inviting with zesty, lemony, sherbet like hops aromas, paired with fresh bready and yeasty aromas. The palate is firm with lots of crisp, tart, malt flavors, and flavors of fresh bread, that dance with some estery fruit on the tongue. Coopers Sparkling Ale finishes with more crisp and tart flavors up front, then ends with some nice grapefruit/lemony hop bitterness, that buzz on the tongue with a sting of carbonation.The Pale Ale (ABV 4.5%) is less impressive, and with good reason. I spoke with one of the brewery representatives who was in Singapore for a promotional tour. He said, essentially, that the Pale Ale was an attempt to lure drinkers of lower-alochol beers and lagers. It's decent, but compared with the brewery's other fare it is wanting. There's more to come for Australia week, and if any Australia-based bloggers care to contribute, do contact Alan.
A few months ago I posted about the names for beer glasses and noted that Australia has some of the most complex set of descriptors which change on a state by state basis. The other day I found this handy chart which explains it all so we that I thought I would
entirely igonre any copyright interest in it and share it with you.
Click on it for a large version that should explain itself. You may want to click on the original larger version for a supersized one depending on your browser. Why go for a middy when you can have a schooner, mate.
Although Australia's best known beer is justly condemned by foreigners and locals alike, the lucky country offers some of the new world's finest beers. Regrettably, this organ A Good Beer Blog does not (yet) have an Australian correspondent, leaving the task up to this Singapore-based blogger. Most of the continent's finest brews never get farther than local microbreweries and bottleshops, but thankfully recently passed free-trade legislation has allowed more of Australia's ales and lagers to flow into this city state - never again question that free trade is a good thing.
For starters, Sydney's Malt Shovel Brewery produces some of Oz's finest brews. Two are available locally in Singapore, the James Squire Original Amber Ale and James Squire Pilsner. The first is pleasant amber with a wonderfully creamy head, smooth mouthfeel and nutty finish. The brewery's website describes it quite well:
The first brew from the Malt Shovel Brewery is an amber ale, branded James Squire in honour of Australia's first brewer, who first brewed beer in Sydney in 1794. This premium hand-crafted ale is a unique brew of three malts and three tasmanian hops added late to the kettle plus an original 125 year old, top fermenting ale yeast, creating an easy-drinking, deep copper-coloured ale with distinct richness, creamy head, and a slightly utty finish.The pilsner is equally impressive – particularly given the regrettable adoption of the term by middling international lagers. MSB makes a pilsen with a long-lasting creamy head:
Brewer tasting notes: A blend of pale, crystal and carapils malts produces a distinctive coppery colour, rich malt sweetness and persistent creamy head. The flavour is very ale-like with a lingering slightly nutty finish. Willamette hops are added late in the kettle boil for a refreshing citrus (almost grapefruit) hop character.
The key to the distinctive flavour of James Squire Original Pilsener is the use of quality ingredients. Using a much higher hopping level than most Australian lagers, it's brewed with Czech Saaz and New Zealand Belgian Saaz aroma hops to produce the pronounced floral spicy finish and wonderful herbaceous aroma. A blend of pale malt from Tamworth and Munich malt from Ballarat,with no sugar, produces the rich mellowness and rounded palate to balance the hoppy bitterness. The colour is a distinctive golden brilliance.MSB also make a glorious porter. It is not yet available here - but anyone making a visit to Australia should try it.
The Sunshine Coast Brewery is less impressive, judging from the samples of Noosa Premium Wheat Ale and Robinsons Chilli Beer. Lisa sampled the 'wheat' beer – which was clearer in color than most other wheat ales, and incredibly light. Had it not come in a clearly labeled beer bottle, I may have mistaken it for water. There's a slight musty scent and it finished with a very, very, slight hint of lemon. The website notes:
This is a delightfully light and crisp wheat based beer that is easy to drink and a favorite for both the gents and ladies. We use the top fermentation process to achieve a clean crisp and very refreshing Ale that may be served with a slice of lemon or lime.To which Lisa commented: "Uh huh, it needs a slice of lemon to give it some flavor." Still, she noted that it was inoffensive and easy to drink... "I could drink a dozen of these, it's like water."
It's more or less like making love in a canoe. Consider it a 'girl' beer. Others who have sampled this one have called it an Aussie Corona. The chilli beer was, to be charitable, marginally better – if only because it did have some flavor. It wasn't much of a flavor, just a hint of chilli with an acidic aftertaste. Bleah. Clearly not the best Oz has to offer.
More coming tomorrow...
This week will see some posts here at A Good Beer Blog focusing on the scene in Australia, that warmer other Canada, the place to which the smarter cousins immigrated. Australia might win the award as AGGB nation of the year except they would probably win every year with stats like this:
Australia has always been a nation of heavy drinkers, but a new study has finally attached a dollar value to our thirst for alcohol – about $80 out of a family's budget every week. The research by Victorian drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre Odyssey House claims a family of four – two parents in their 40s, a 16-year-old boy and an 18-year-old girl – would spend an average of $4135 buying the equivalent of 37 litres of pure alcohol every year. The consumption equals 883 stubbies of medium/full strength beer, 171 stubbies of low alcohol beer, 77 bottles of wine, 311 bottles of pre-mixed spirits, 8.4 casks of wine and 13.9 bottles of neat spirits.Holy Aussie-moly!! Put another way, by the newspaper The Australian, "over a year, a family of four spends about $4135 on alcohol, guzzling on average 44 slabs of beer, 14 bottles of spirits and 77 bottles of wine." What is a "slab" of beer? Whatever it is, it is a great name for it. And seeing as there are still at least 4,000 members of the Australian Temperance Union, that is a slab or two more for the rest of Oz. In terms of beer consumption per capita, Canada ranks 16th in the world which is well behind Australia at 11th - no average Czech...but who is?
Coming up over the next few days we will have some reviews and other stories from correspondents on the front lines. In the meantime here are some Aussie homebrewers on the radio and here is my quick note on the only Aussie real ale available here in Ontario, Cooper's Sparking Ale.