The Great Australasian Beer Spectapular is a funny place. Over a hundred breweries each create a unique beer for the festival. Many breweries take the most off the wall concept they can think of and make that. As a punter, the only thing you have to help choose your beers is a thirty-odd page guide filled with tasting notes written by the brewers. For many, the aim is to get through as many samples to tick off as many brand new beers as possible.
So on the one hand, you have brewers creating incredibly complex beers and on the other, punters’ entire experience of all that hard work is reduced to a single 90mL plastic tasting cup in a tray of four other equally complex beers.
There’s a massive discrepancy there. I’ve been pondering how the typical serving at the festival affects the perception of the beer. In a less stimulating environment, served in a glass and with a greater volume, does your opinion of the beer change?
Each brewery only needs to provide five kegs for the festival itself and I would imagine some breweries have a minimum batch size far in excess of that, so GABS beers tend to end up floating around the country as one-offs for those who couldn’t make it to the festival. Still others wait and see what the reaction is on social media before brewing additional batches for the later release and, in a few cases, becoming permanent line-up additions.
As one accumulates Untappd check-ins, brand new beers tend to be sparser than they once were and often you can’t remember what you have or haven’t had in the past. Sometimes, it turns out, you’re drinking a GABS beer. It might be useful to compare thoughts then and now.
A word of caution: we try to be fair about our Untappd check-ins but I also go in knowing that no one with any knowledge about how people work takes the opinions spewed forth by the user base of Untappd (or RateBeer or BeerAvocate) with anything less than a mine’s worth of salt. That said, we didn’t start by going out and looking for these beers nor did we pre-compare our previous rating. It all sort of just happened by accident.
Little Brewing Co Breaking the Cardinal Rule
Little Brewing Co’s range of Belgian beers are nearly peerless in this country and their Death Between the Tanks DIPA is celebrated by those who are lucky enough to have had it. For GABS, they prepared a hopped-up tripel, however, I feel that this specific batch is not as thick in body as I would like. That may be the additional hoppiness affecting my perception.
When I did the second check-in, I thought I’d originally given it 3, so 3.5 was supposed to be bumping it up half a point. It turns out I had the exact same thoughts during both check-ins: a bit on thin side but otherwise quite pleasant.
We were both pretty excited about this at GABS, particularly me after having the lower ABV version, so there may have an element of overrating. For example, I rated Praline a 4 but ended up voting for that in the People’s Choice.
The second time around, I probably wouldn’t have rated it 4.5 but Untappd doesn’t give you a 4.25 option, so I opted to be nicer than meaner with my scoring. I think the only problem is that the upper limit for this beer is 200mL – it’s more like a dessert appertif than beer.
Ekim Brewing Slammer
I’m going to be honest with you: any beer that has a prominent Sorachi Ace hop character is not going down well with me. I’ll be polite and mark it a three but inside I loathe it with the passion of a thousand burning suns.
I’m prone to exaggeration which is why I’m using ammo’s thoughts to round-out this beer. Slammer is an agave-spiked pale ale made with the aforementioned Japanese hops. Interestingly, ammo picked it as tasting like dill both times (an assessment I’m inclined to agree with). Despite the relatively low ABV, this is a moderately challenging beer: the mix of tequila and a hop whose popularity is mercurial at best and the strong flavours must have come through in both sittings.
Gin, anyone? This is a Finnish-style beer called sahti made with Australian gin botanicals. It very much smells like that’s the case. The botanicals actually came across much stronger in the GABS context, perhaps where it was a bit warmer, than at The Scratch, in a proper glass and everything. Notably, the first time round I compared it to tea (no idea what I was talking about) and the second time around, the malt profile was easier to detect.
If you like gin, this will be up your alley and the flavours are strong enough that they come through in any serving medium, as long as the beer is the right temperature. Some of the subtleties of the beer were probably lost on both tastings though.
I must say that I’m surprised by the lack of movement between scores. Admittedly, a sample size of four is not conclusive and our ratings are massively subjective. Perhaps it was all a bit pointless because who cares about Untappd scores? Indeed, ammo has expressed some reservations about Pepper Steak Porter by Brewcult in bottle form – that it’s drier.
But perhaps this exercise reinforces a few ideas:
- your first reaction to the overall impression is usually the “correct” one
- glassware can improve your drinking experience but it won’t turn the earth upside down for very strongly flavoured beers (serving temperature is far more important)
- the words that goes with your Untappd check-in are gibberish and won’t make any sense more than ten minutes after they’re written
What are your experiences?