It seems these days, in our media market filled with a multitude of bloggers (it’s like anyone can start one), that the week after Good Beer Week tends towards saturation. I’ve decided that we need to cut through the noise with a suitably clickbait title, hence 4 Mindblowing Good Week Beers That Will Blow Your Mind (and 1 That’s Sorta OK).
Good Beer Week, which is a tad deceptive in its name because it goes for eight or nine days depending on your tolerance for punishing your organs, is a week-ish long beer festival in Melbourne. Last year we didn’t really know what was going on so we didn’t make much effort. This year we took an extra day, flying down very late on Wednesday night, and set it aside for some Good Beer Week activities. Along the way we drank a stack of good beers, opened our craniums to new culinary experiences and even chatted to a few strangers. It’s everything you want a beer festival to be.
(Actually, I want mine to be in Brisbane so I can sleep in my own bed, so Good Beer Week is a close second to Brewsvegas)
We hit up Good Beer Week on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It would make more sense to tell the story of our extended weekend through the beers that really stood out from the pack and in no particular order:
Our very first stop was at the Gertrude Hotel in Fitzroy on Thursday. We popped in to the Tasmanian Pint of Origin (#PoO – yeah, I know) venue last year but were a bit disappointed to find a only handful of beers remaining. In 2014, there was a selection of six beers and a couple of ciders from breweries I’d never heard of. The absolute standout, in what was a great field of beers, was the Van Dieman Brewing White IPA.
Imagine the Hollywood vision of heaven. There’s fluffy white clouds. Angels. Harps. Maybe Jesus if you’re so inclined (seventy-two virgins if you’re inclined a different way). Imagine one of those angels took a cloud and placed it on your tongue. What would that feel like? Probably pretty close to this I imagine – silky smooth. Throw in some orange, coriander, mint, Belgian yeast and a generous hopping regime and you have a well-balanced beer that will blow your mind.
We also dropped into the Queensland Pint of Origin venue and had one of the best burgers I’ve had in a long time but the beer selection was a bit less mind-blowing.
Based in Marlborough, NZ, Renaissance Brewing were recently crowned Champion Small Brewery for the second year running at the Australian International Beer Awards. This beer was also Beer of the Week, so I guess the accolades keep coming.
I’ve never come across this brewery before but during Mega Dega II, held at Pope Joan in Brunswick East on Saturday night, their Scotch ale was paired with the third course, a dish consisting of potatoes, greens and the pièce de résistance, wild rabbit (hunted by the chef if his jokes are accurate), chorizo and mushroom served in a spicy chipotle sauce.
I might pull some strings and see if ammo will do a Mega Dega II write-up later this week but a few notes on this particular beer. It’s perfect. I don’t even like Scotch ale but in that moment, in that glass, next to that plate of food, it was perfect. It was bang on-style – malty, slightly smoky and with that quintessential Scotch yeast character – and showed all the characteristics of well-crafted, beautiful beer that blew our minds.
Thursday’s PoO crawl, a phrase you shouldn’t use out of context, terminated at the Rainbow Hotel in Fitzroy for the New South Wales Pint of Origin. I came expecting to pick up some Riverside and some Ekim but instead was blindsided by this stunner from Wayward Brewing, based in the inner-west of Sydney.
Firstly, apologies for singling Wayward’s GABS beer out for some ridicule on Instagram. Other breweries also copped my pedagogical marking.
Secondly, this Berliner Weisse – a style of which seemed to be everywhere during Good Beer Week – did not have a raspberry character in the same way that Lindemans Framboise has, but rather balanced up the tart acidity of the berries against the innate sourness of the “champagne of the north“. Some beers in this category can tend towards the overly yeasty, somewhat puke-tasting, which might be true to history but is not necessarily pleasant. This beer is not like that. My brains, which are an interestingly similar colour to the beer, were sprayed across the bar because my mind was blown.
During this year’s Hottest 100 countdown, the Thirsty Crow Vanilla Milk Stout was a mystery. I’d had the other nine and we’ve written positive reviews (mostly) for eight of them. Where did this come from? It quickly became apparent that no one in Brisbane whose opinion I would value had ever tried it. I made a mental note.
Bam! Tasting paddles at the Rainbow Hotel during Good Beer Week offered the opportunity to pick up the – supposedly – tenth best beer in the country. I was hooked as soon as I got my nostrils over it. I’m sucker for sweet beers and I’m sucker for a good malt profile. A strong dose of vanilla with a heaping of lactose on top of a stout pretty much sounds like a beer that was made explicitly for me. Given this beer’s reputation, my mind wasn’t blown…except that it totally was.
Which brings me to our sorta OK beer:
For Thursday night, we’d picked a kind of a random activity. It was called “Louisiana Craft”, a multiple course feast of Cajun food (mostly) paired with Louisiana beers for under $50 per seat. Well why not?
Abita, according to our tablemate who’s engaged to a brewer working at Great Raft Brewing, is a bit like an independent Louisiana version of James Squire; they make kind of pedestrian beers for a wider market. Po’ Boy Quarter, where our dinner was held, had planned to do a range of Louisiana beers but most of them ended up stuck in a shipping container somewhere, so we were given a voucher for a free beer for the next week, which was less useful, considering our return to Brisbane on Sunday.
Turbodog was the best of the bunch, an English brown ale in a sea of lagers, served up with sweet bread pudding, although I think we were supposed to eat it with the buffalo wings. I think the loss of the other beers threw the pairing plans out a bit. Very unfortunate but still a great night.