A couple of weeks ago I got an email which excited me and most certainly was not spam, it was an invitation from online beer supplier, Beer Cartel to take place in what they thought was a first of it’s kind, an online beer tasting and Q & A session with the brewer from Sydney brewery Riverside Brewing Company on August 19th.
I got a discount on the 4 beers that I bought in order to be able to taste them while watching a live chat session from the Flat Rock Beer Cafe. The beers that were part of the tasting were the
- 55 Pale Ale
- 44 Amber Ale
- 77 IPA
- 88 Porter
The beers were tasted in this order and with a friend who was lured over with mystifying text messages and the promise of beer we were all settled in and ready to watch and taste. The event kicked off at 6:30 PM Central Australian time and we were more then ready to go with the first beer.
The first beer was an American style Pale Ale that based purely on the nose of it was going to be a massively hopped beer that is not something that is uncommon in American pales. The fact that the beer label is emblazoned with a big hop cone plays into this smell. The label also makes claims of a truck load of American Cascade hops which you could certainly smell. This beer is the equivalent of 1.5 standard drinks which means that in the 330 ml bottle you have a 5.5% alcohol by volume. This was one of the first beers launched by Riverside when they opened in 2012. This beer despite having a very hoppy floral aroma didn’t smash me and my friend in the space in the way that we thought it was going to do, instead it gave away to a smokey sort of taste rather then extreme bitter. The bitterness was still there but not nearly as pronounced as the aroma promised it was going to be. I found the beer to be a little bit thin at the back end, maybe it could have used a little bit more malt or maybe I was just spoiled by the big smell and the interesting smokey flavour but I do feel like the mouthfeel dropped off the cliff pretty quickly.
This is where we get to one of my (very few) complaints about the online feed, the pacing. It took quite a while for even the first beer to be opened and I am sorry but we just didn’t have the patience for that. This was something that was constant through the event. I am ready to admit that this could have something to do that I was sharing the beer and therefore got through it rather more quickly then the guys on the stream did.
The second beer that was opened up after a while was the 44 Amber Ale. This beer upped the strength to 6.5% which was 1.7 standard drinks. The beer pours out a murkey brown colour which is the sort of colour that I like to see in my ambers personally. I don’t need my beers to be clear, I like it cloudy sometimes. It makes the beer look a little mysterious, that is the way I see it anyway.
This was a beer with a backbone that is for sure. It was malt driven and perfect for a cooler evening. It had a nice amount of sweetness that was enticing. When tasting the beer my friend pointed out some cherry flavours which were not something that I expected but as I tasted the beer more and as it warmed up a slightly I found this to be a rather pleasant side flavour in the beer and something that made it all the more memorable.
To make another comment on the stream, it was extremely well run on the social media side, so while I was not able to be there in person I was able to not only live tweet but I was able to directly ask questions in almost real time. I was able to ask a question about the future of Australian hop varieties and what future they have in Australia. I was hoping that Australian craft beer is able to move beyond Pride of Ringwood and create a hop variety which has unique characteristics that can start to give Australian beers a hook on an international market much the way that West Coast IPA’s were able to develop. This question was selected as one of the best of the night and as a result my friend and I are going to be able to enjoy 777IPA from Riverside.
The third beer was an India Pale Ale (IPA) called 77. It has a cute elephant on the label and as one participant commented the label art that Riverside produces is pretty amazing. The porter label was my favourite but more on that later. This beer built even further on the alcohol then the amber coming in at 7.7% which equals 2 standard drinks. The massive hop aromas on the pale ale meant that I was prepared for an absolute onslaught when putting my nose to the foam but it wasn’t as hardcore as I thought it would be but it was certainly there for me an still really nice. This beer is really nice but for me it has gotten to the point that I am almost done with IPA’s. This not because I don’t like them but rather because there are soooo many amazing ones out there that it is hard for any one IPA to cut through the noise of every other IPA I have had. Having got that off my chest this is still a really good IPA and I would recommend it if anyone asked me about it but I was still thinking about that slight cherry taste and how unusual that was while drinking the IPA.
The fourth and final beer was the dark beer, the 88 porter. I got excited about this beer based purely on two things, the awesome label which I peeled off and put into my tasting book and the fact that it was a dark beer. This beer was not harsh like some dark beers can be but rather the alcohol was taken down a notch but still could knock you over if you had too many at it’s 6% and 1.6 standard drinks. The malt and hops are well balanced that makes this a really good beer that is not going to fill you up but is not going to leave you wanting more in terms of flavours and mouthfeel. The beer is slightly sweeter then some standard porters, obviously excluding things like milk based dark beers, but this just made the beer go down faster. Some people say that dark beers can almost be a chore to drink but this is a charge that cannot be leveled at the 88. I would recommend this beer to anyone who is skeptical but willing to get into dark beers.
So this lead to the end of the tasting but the stream continued on and to me it made the whole process a little too long. There were also occasional audio issues where despite the fact that I had the speakers on my laptop fully turned up I missed some bits and pieces but all in all it was a great experience and a really good event to hear about the beers as I drank them with friends.
I got a lot out of it and I play to attend the next Sofa Sessions with NZ brewers Yeastie Boys. You can find the link here to get tickets. If you want to hang out drink beers and listen to Stu from Yeastie Boys just let me know.
On a side not this was a really good move by Beer Cartel because I figured if I was going to pay for shipping on these beers I might as well fill my carton so I certainly spent more money then I meant to but hey I got delicious beer so how can I complain?