Saturday, 29 June 2013

Road Trip!

Another short blog post today, just to say I'm going away for a couple of weeks on a road trip! Melo and I are packing the car and heading off tomorrow for the better part of 10 days, aiming to hit a whole range of Breweries in Country NSW, VIC and Melbourne proper!

I'll likely have internet when we're in Melbourne, so might do a writeup of the first few breweries from there.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Homebrewing - Nelson Sauvin Pale and KEG!

Haven't written a post in a long time, exams and job applications have been eating all of my time for quite a while. Even this won't be a big proper post, just a quick update on our latest brews, the Nelson Sauvin Pale Ale. 

Had a few mates over last night for some post exam drinks, nothing intense, but Melo insisted I have an ice bath put aside for him, and that I couldn't see it until he was ready. Was confused as but went along with it.

About an hour into the party, he decided it was time, and brought out the big bucket containing...

10L of our Pale Ale, kegged and force carbonated, ready to drink! Hadn't tried it since we moved it from the primary to the secondary, so getting to taste it properly for the first time was awesome, even more to to be on tap!

Mmmmm Pale Ale

The nose was unlike any beer I've had before, the Nelson Sauvin hops really do have a unique aroma to them, somewhere between a galaxy hop and a white wine, subtle yet a definite presence. The beer was ace, coming out well carb'd and nice and cold. Went down a treat for everyone!

So there you have it, kegged pale ale on tap! I'll be doing a big blog post soon to update on our new brews, and the road trip that's starting monday!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Homebrewing - Ghetto Wort Chiller and Quick Update

So after not updating for weeks on end due to exams, I've found some time to write up another post. A lot's been going on with our brews the last couple weeks, bubbling away behind the scenes. 

First off, we had the first batch of ciders... Which were a total disaster. Neither fermented at all, we think due to the cold temperature they were at. So we went and built the water bath, and the latest batch tastes awesome, and is currently being dry hopped, hopefully to be ready in the next couple of weeks.

Next up, the IPA and Belgian dubbel are both bottled now, after a whole lot of worry that our dry hopping had contaminated the IPA, it seems the fears were unfounded. The IPA should be good to drink in a few weeks, but the dubbel probably needs another couple of months. We also did some fancy additions to the dubbel in a couple of demijohns, although we'll keep those on the DL for now.

It is a mystery

However, our latest project was a SMaSH brew, designed by Melo to use some whole cone Nelson Sauvin Hops we'd recently come into posession of. 

Mmmmm Whole Cone Hops

But wait, you might say, what's that bizarre orange thing sitting in the beer? That, my friends, is our latest contraption in a series of brewing related equipment; a ghetto as wort chiller.

Wort chillers are a coiled piece of copper tubing that you pump cold water through and submerge in your beer to cool it down quickly. Commercial quality wort chillers are expensive as though, and we wanted a slightly cheaper option...

Melo the professional pipe-bender

A trip to bunnings later, we came away with a coil of copper piping, and some malleable plastic tubing to connect to the hose. With that built, we set out to brew our beer as always, however this had a very simple pale malt base, and was designed to focus on the hop flavours and aromas, without becoming a hop bomb like our IPA

Nothing but pale malts
Four additions of Whole Cone Hops, slightly crushed
Once the brew was done, we set up our standard ice bath for chilling the wort, but we also set up the worth chiller for a test run. Turns out it works FAR better than the ice bath, cooling our wort in about 1/5th the time the ice bath normally takes on it's own, and cooling it so fast that the ice didn't even have time to all melt.

Pictured: Science in action
So we came away from this brew with a new piece of equipment, some new knowledge of how to use and strain whole-cone hops, and a new brew bubbling away in the fermenter, to be ready in a couple of weeks!

Might not update again for another week or so, I have an exam on Thursday so I'll be busy until at least then studying, then a bit longer celebrating!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Pub Visit: Flat Rock Brew Cafe

After reading about a (relatively) new brew cafe opening in Willoughby, then hearing they'd recently tapped their first kegs of beer brewed on site, I knew I had to go and scope it out. A short cab ride later, we were at Flat Rock Brew Cafe.

The bar area and the millions of bottles surrounding
We scored one of the booths that run down the side wall, and set about ordering some drinks. First off, we picked up a couple of their brewed on site beers, the Flat Rock English-style IPA. 

Forgot to snap a picture, so here's the menu and the empty glass the IPA came in
The IPA was a clouded, golden yellow colour, pumped from a hand tap at the bar and hence covered with a thick, white, nitrogenous head. The aroma was fairly faint, but hints of caramelly malt and noble hops were there. The initial flavour was sublte and floral, with a body of slightly sweet, floral hop flavours and a slightly smoky malt, which mellowed out into a slightly grassy finish. The beer was medium bodied, with the creamy nitrogen head adding texture to each sip.

Next up, we grabbed tasting paddles, trying each of the three beers on tap that weren't made in house. 

Left to Right:  Badlands Pale Ale, Redhill Golden ale, Hopdog Massive Otter
All three were fairly great, very sessionable beers, with none above 5.3% ABV. I was left longing for something a little more... Intense. First off though, dinner was in order. We ate our way through two servings of mushroom and cheese naan, plates of tandoori lamb chops and chicken wings, and a big bowl of chips, before we decided we'd had our fair share of delicious food.

Next started the deliberations over what to drink next. The ladies settled on a bottle of french farmhouse cider, while Melo and I went for the fairly 'out-there' option of the Jester King 'El Cedro', a "Hoppy, Cedar Aged-Ale with Brettanomyces". 

The french cider in question
El Cedro, holographic label and all in front of the bottle wall

As soon as the bottle arrived, we knew we'd picked something special, with the holographic cedar demon on the front and every minute detail of the beer's production and serving written around the label. On first pour, the beer was clouded and golden, with oodles of cappucino-esque white head and a medium to full body. The aroma was slightly funky or 'sour', with hints of stone fruit and 'farmhouse', a word used to describe the odd, 'horsey' characteristic Brett imparts on a lot of beers.

Back at the table, awesome cap visible at the bottom
On the first sip, a sweet yet sour taste of peach and/or apricot comes through, leading to the body where there's an odd mix of sweet, bitter and sour flavours competing for your attention. Hints of phenol spice were also present, but hard to pick out amongst the explosion of so many other flavours. An intense flavour experience for sure, and definitely something we both thoroughly enjoyed.

After we'd polished it off, we were up at the bar ordering some of the Oatmeal Porters, the other beer brewed on site. There, we just so happened to meet Karl, the owner and head brewer, who offered to take us downstairs to see the brewery. We jumped at the offer, and descended into the brewery proper.

250L Brew Kettle/Mash Tun
2 X 230L Fermenters and a slightly smaller Bright Tank
Karl showed us around and talked to us about why he'd opened the brewery, as well as how everything worked and why he'd chosen to brew the beers he had. We got an insight into the kegging system, and how the tap system worked in the bar above. Far simpler than I thought it would be!

Pictured: Cold room full of kegs and tap lines
Following our tour, we headed back upstairs for our last beer of the night, the Flat Rock Oatmeal Porter. Again, I didn't take a photo, so we just get tasting notes.

The pour was dark brown/black and nearly completely opaque, with minimal browned head on top, and a very full, almost syrupy body. The carbonation was extremely little, but we let them sit for a while before we drank, so it may have been lost that way. 
The aroma was a mixture of bitter dark chocolate and dark roasted coffee beans, competing for which was more prominent. On initial tasting, the flavours matched the aroma, with an initial hit of nearly syrupy coffee/chocolate, which stuck around for as long as you had the beer in your mouth. The aftertaste was an intense flavour of black coffee, bitter but not overly so, and fantastic to just let linger for as long as possible.

Random photo to break up blocks of text

Overall, we had a fantastic night, with the food, the service and the drinks all being phenomenal. The prices were great too, with the bill for all our food and drinks coming out to about $40 a head (which considering the quantity of food and drinks was amazing). Will definitely be going back in a week or two to try their next release, an American Style Double IPA! Would recommend to anyone who likes good beer, good food and a great, local pub atmosphere!

Flat Rock Brew Cafe is in Naremburn, just off Willoughby Rd. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Pub Visit: Blackout Cafe

About a month ago my sister got dragged to an open-mic night at a bar by some friends of hers, because they wanted to get her to sing. The result was her getting hired by said bar to do gigs once a fortnight. Hence, last night, I headed over to Blackout Cafe in Lindfield, to have a couple of drinks and listen to her play.

Busy Bar
As I sat at the bar for a drink, I noticed they'd changed things up since I first visited, and had now purchased a set of specialty beer glasses. Joy. The range of beers wasn't huge, but I saw the Murray's 2IPA in the fridge and gladly grabbed one.

Beer looks bad with a flash
The pour, as you can see, was slouded and amber with minimal head. The aroma was sweet and piney, with lingering hints of citrusy hops. The body was surprisingly malt driven for an IPA, with toasty caramel flavours coming through the middle, and a final, lingering astringency.

The rest of the menu consisted mainly of the rest of the Murray's beer range, with a couple of standard pub beers (Stella etc.) and then a couple of Anchor Brewing's beers, the Anchor Steam and the Liberty Ale. Having not had the Liberty Ale before, I jumped at the chance

Smells like freedom
The liberty had a partially clouded, golden orange pour with ample white head. The aroma initially was of sweet 'musk stick', changing to a caramely aroma with hints of stone fruit upon warming a bit. The initial flavour is pale yet not sweet, with a hint of starchy fruit, leading in to a body of sweet honey and pale malt, ending on an astringent bitterness that seemed slightly out of place. The beer was medium bodied, with fairly prickly carbonation to lighten up the flavours.

After a couple of tastings, I stuck to the Murray's beers I'd tried before and just sat back and enjoyed the music

Yay live music
Overall, a great night out with friendly bar staff, great food, great beer and great music. I'd recommend the place to anyone looking for somewhere to have a drink and relax on the North Shore.

Blackout Cafe is in Lindfield, NSW

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Restaurant Vist: Pilu at Freshwater

So my Mum's birthday is tomorrow, but we're all busy tomorrow night, so last night we trekked out to Freshwater to have a family birthday dinner at Pilu at Freshwater. Awesome restaurant, we've been there a couple of times before, but I'd never really paid close attention to the drinks list. This time was different

Dat Beer List
I was pretty much blown away by the sheer selection of premium Italian beers on offer. I a little bit wanted one of everything. Unfortunately that wasn't quite an option. So for my first beer, I grabbed one of the OpperBacco TriplIPAs. 

Pictured: Specialty Beer Glassware... Aww Yiss
A cloudy, golden-amber pour with heaps of frothy, off white head, the nose was of strong orangey marmalade and a hint of caramel or toffee. The initial taste was sweet, biscuity malt, followed by zesty citrus, fading away to a roasty, lingering astringency.

The Tripl matched the intensity of flavours in my ravioli entree fantastically, with the strong malt and hop flavours going up against strong truffle and cheese flavours. For main, I'd decided on a slow-roasted pork, and asked the somellier/cicerone what he'd recommend to match it. I ended up with a Birra Barley "Sella Del Diavolo", which sounded like a big, biscuity amber ale.

Photo taken the day after, as I managed to not get a photo on the night

The SDD poured a cloudy, golden-red, with sparse, off-white head. The nose was of slightly sweet citrus, with a big hit of hops, that mellowed out as the beer warmed a little. The initial taste was saccharine sweet, with a quick followup of smoky, caramely malt and a lingering smoke they faded into hoppy bitterness.

The caramelised, smoky flavours of the beer really matched the pork to a tee, far better than any wine I've had with pork has before!

Overall I had a fantastic night, and really enjoyed matching some stellar Italian craft beers with delicious, full-flavoured Italian dishes. Now to try and track down a few of these beers outside of the restaurant!