The weekend just gone, 29th and 30th of October, saw the Australian Heritage Hotel host the 7th Annual Australian Beer Festival.
By all reports it was the biggest and best of all the years which will make the organisers happy. There were over 24 brewers present each with a good selection of their wares for the punters to taste. The following brewers were camped out on the street
• Pinchgut Brewing Company
• Balmain Brewing Company
• Fusion Brewing
• Longboard Brewing Company
• Burleigh Brewing Company
• Mountain Goat Brewery
• Little Creatures
• Stone and Wood Brewing Company
• McLaren Vale Beer Company
• 4 Pines Brewing Company
• The Aussie Cider Company
• Murrays Craft Brewing Company
• John Boston Premium Beverages
• Endeavour Beverages
• Matilda Bay
• Holgate Brewhouse
• Shady Lady Beer
• Illawarra Brewing Company
• Hop Dog Beer Works
• The Rocks Brewing Company
• Blue Tongue
• Cascade Brewery
• Koala Beer
Plus the Home brew champions.
At the very start of the day the street was closed off and looked like this
By the time Peter and I got to the festival at about 1:00 pm on the Saturday it was starting to look like this
And by about 3 pm it started to look like this.
The huge number of people who flocked out for the two days was a testament to how far craft brewing has come in such a short time in Australia. Some of the stalls that had the least number of people were the bigger boys of the brewing world such as Coopers and Cascade.
Before me and Peter took our tasting cups out into the street we decided that it would be prudent to try get into some food.
Considering that the Australian Heritage Hotel was putting it out there that they had some great off the wall pizza, that’s what we went for.
The Salt Water Crocodile with fresh Thai herbs, marinated in spicy coconut cream with asian greens. It has got to be one of the best pizza based experiences I have ever experienced. As can be seen by the following photos the pizza was amazing. I’m not putting my photo up because it is all googly eyes and pizza base, so just feast your eyes on my dad eating his share of the pizza. It was especially good with Matilda Bay Brewing’s “Fat Yak” pale ale.
Still enough of that, food is for the weak, unless it compliments the beer.
The first beers we checked out where the Home Brew champions.
My opinion on them, well we seperated the chaff from the wheat pretty early on in the day. The beers were good, but not the top notch stuff I was looking for. The strong belgium golden ale in an attempted Duvel style was good but it lack the class of the original and was more then a little harsh. In comparison the Oatmeal stout was smooth but it had this real lack of mouth feel and was kind of a let down. Still it was better then anything I had produced lately, which is nothing because I haven’t had time.
We slowly started to work our way through the rather sparse crowd to make our mind up about what to taste next.
For the sake of allowing readers to do something else with their day I am not going to post about each and every beer we tried over the week end, just the most memorable, for better or worse.
Top 5 best beers of the Festival (Justin)
I had known about the dark side of the vale for a while, but had not been able to get my hands on any. I was a little nervous of giving another Mclaren lager a try after my experience with the Dry, which Peter really enjoyed. Still this dark lager just hit the spot. It was the middle of the afternoon and I just really needed something easy to drink which was not all carbonation and marketing, yes I am looking at you Cascade Pure. The DRK is an American dark lager at 4.5% ABV, 30 IBU and uses Falconer’s Flight hop from the US. It doesn’t linger long or strong but it does have a hint of chocolate.
[ At the time of writing, The Maclaren Brewing Companies website is being revamped]
The Grand Cru is a mix of two classic styles, the Strong Golden Ale and Belgium Trippel. It uses authentic Belgium yeast and weighs in 8.8% and has Hallertau hops. It is beautifully fruity with banana esthers which are fantastic in the summer time. It is not big on the bitterness but I found it to be a little tart. Murray’s was my second favourite brewery of the festival with it’s Angry Man, Whale Ale and Punch and Judy beers on display. Definitly check out the Whale Ale if you have a chance but it doesn’t have the kick and strength of the Grand Cru, nor the complexity so it just missed out on the top 5.
[ Murrays’ website is also undergoing some construction]
Kolsch beer, coming out of Manly, Sydney, courtesy of 4 Pines Brewing Company 4.6% beer. This is a German style, a very mild and malty. I don’t usually enjoy such a style but for something rather different I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a straw and lively looking, a bit like a beer that’s ready to party. The head pours bubbly bright white and stays around as it’s drunk. There is also a rapid procession of bubbles flying up through the glass. The beer has a wonderful crisp taste and just a hint of that dryness you get in from using a wheat malt.
The 4 Pines Kolsch has very quickly become my favorite session beer and 4 Pines with it’s amazing range, the kolsch, pale and the space stout all are great.
The Big Dipper is the most recent of the Single Batch series which started out as a great novelty but have been a little stale of late, or at least until this larger then life American style IPA. The guys at little creatures have hopped it up on the single batch by using 5 different new world hops for a total of seven different kinds of hops. The raise the alcohol to 7.8% and while this is usually high for a beer, it is a little light for the double IPA category. It pours like a hazy sunset which you have watched through the dirty window of your Toyota and tastes well hoppy and extremely bitter. At 55 IBU’s (international bitterness Units) it should be a couple of steps down from sucking on a lemon, but it is not. It has a nice solid fruity taste of citrus but the malty sweetness just overruns the hops. It is like Kurt Russel running down people at the start of Death Proof. So while it doesn’t meet the convention about what I would look for on my big IPA’s it was interesting to see to try a more malty version.
Now for something a little darker, the number one beer of the festival, in mine and other peoples opinions was the Victorian offering, The Temptress. This chocolate porter from Holgate is one I only heard heaps of praise about during the festival.
It sits at 6.0 % which is just right i think and follows with a dose of Dutch cocoa and vanilla beans. These vanilla flavours get lost in the chocolatey goodness though. It feels like a genuinely warming beer that is great for a winter night, but to be fair it is so smooth and delicious I would still consider reaching for it on a 40 degree day.
The one thing you should not expect to see in this darky is any head, if you like the visual experience of a big white cloud on your brewski you will be disappointed, this disappointment will dissipate the second your other senses get a chance to embrace it.
The carbonation was perfect and the mouth feel superb. I can’t get enough of the Temptress and to be fair, the Hoppinator was great as well.
In the end the People’s Choice Awards come out as follows.
Best Lager: Stone & Wood Lager
Best Light Ale: Murrays Angry Man Pale Ale
Best Dark: Vale Dark
Best Specialty: Aussie Cider
Best Overall Beer: Holgate Chocolate Temptress
There are also a bunch of other beers that were interesting, didn’t suit me or just missed out on selection.
The Shady Lady with rose infused beer was a concept that baffled me and I wondered whether it was a watery larger in an effort to appeal to people who don’t traditionally dig beer. Still experiments like this haven’t gone well in past, have they, Hummingbird?
A pumpkin ale was something I have been meaning to try for ages, sadly I was disappointed. Then I remembered I don’t really like pumpkin so I cared less.
The Rocks Brewing Company. Amazing they were, the beers great and the marketing is fantastic, I think we will be seeing a lot more of them as time goes by. The Butcher porter was wonderful. To top it all off the back stories of their beers are a great read and add a story that is more realistic and gritty then the James Squire series.
So that wraps it up, a great time was had and thanks to all the brewers, guest speakers ( I learnt a lot more about pairing desserts to beer, especially a lemon meringue with a wit beer) and especially the Australian Heritage Hotel. I will certainly be attending again next year and i hope i can get a big bunch of people to check it out with me.
O and if you want to check out more pictures from the event they can be found on facebook here. A special shout out if you can find Peter in any of the photos.