And so the time has come

I have decided to pull a pin on All Ale The Big V.

There are a few reasons for my decision:

1) I was pretty crap at putting up new posts. I love the idea of having a blog but I always found excuses to do other things. I need somebody pushing me, or at least the idea that I might be letting somebody down, to write. And that brings us too…

2) I have agreed to become a regular contributor to Australian Brews News which is the brainchild of former Beer and Brewer editor Matt Kirkegaard.  These will start soon. I just need to deal with last bit of uni and finish the piece I am doing for Radio National’s Future Tense programme (radio is hard!). Sometime in the future I might even find some time to write something for my mate James Smith at The Crafty Pint.  These 2 sites are the future of Australian beer publishing and everybody should be checking them out daily. And…

3) I have a new job working on project development for the Victorian Association of Microbrewers Incorporated (VAMI)! I’d link to their site but they don’t have one as yet. Maybe one day soon. As I’ll be working for the people that the blog was intended to cover I think it’s best to avoid any notion of a conflict of interest.

Keep an eye out in the next edition of Beer and Brewer for a piece I wrote about hops. It’ll hopefully be on the cover of the Homebrew section.

So there you have it. Lots of new challenges in the beer world to keep me busy. At some point in time I will create a site that links to all my writing and I’ll note it on here.

And if you are a Twitter tragic like myself I can now be found @ChrisMc_Beer.

Thanks for reading and keep supporting Victorian beer.



So a goat walks into a bar…

Well it didn’t take me long to fall back into old habits.


The stupid thing is that I went out and had a fantastic night drinking Victorian craft beers a couple of weeks ago, took notes and photos (all of them poor), all with the full intention of blogging the next day but, of course, I didn’t.

But now I am so all is good. Let’s just hope that some of these notes still make some sense.

The occasion was my first Ale Stars at The Local Taphouse in St Kilda.  Not only was it my first Ale Stars but it was also my first visit to The Taphouse.  Now that I have been I realise that my complaint of it being too far from inner north abode was a pretty piss poor excuse. The place is heaven for a beer nerd. Great staff, comfy setting and fantastic beers. It’s almost worth moving to the other side of the river for.

Just kidding! No place is worth that.

This particular Ale Stars was in fact it’s second birthday and they had invited along some special guests in the form of Barry Cranston (2009 joint Australian Champion Homebrewer), Dave Bonighton (Mountain Goat founder) and Jayne Lewis (Head Brewer at the aforementioned Goat).

Dave and Jayne were there to present some special brews which had been developed recently at their Richmond HQ including one brewed by Barry and his co-champ Ross Mitchell.

It was this brew, the Two Champs kolsch, that was first up on the night.  Barry told us he enjoyed his short time as the boss at Goat HQ but it was unusual dealing with the increased quantities brewing on a scale much larger than he was normally used to.  This is only the second or third kolsch that I have ever tried and I’m just not sure if it’s a style that really does it for me.  Maybe on a stinking hot day sitting in a beer garden somewhere but not on a cold Melbourne winter’s eve.

I knew I’d have problems with these bloody notes (and my beer addled memory).

The next up was Dunken the dunkelweizen. My notes extend to “made with 50%wheat” and my sole tasting note is “cherries”.

That is called professionalism people. Take that those of you who argue that Australia’s journalism schools are inadequate!

In my own defense I do think I was taking a bit more interest in what Dave was saying about all things Goat than in what I was drinking.  He explained to us a bit about the formation of Goat and how it was sparked by the time he spent living in the US drinking the beers from the iconic Sierra Nevada brewery.  He also spoke about his excitement at the craft brew scene in Victoria. He put down any suggestion that there would be a Goat cider despite a lot of goading on the subject. I wasn’t 100% convinced though.

I took my chance to put on my “concerned retailer” cap and asked him if the production levels for the Rare Breed beers would be increased because, as you all know, they disappear off the shelves very quickly. His response was that was just the way they wanted it. They aren’t called rare just for the fun of it.

The third beer up was the Richard III, 7.4% doppelbock, brewed in conjunction with Richard Watkins from Canberra’s Wig and Pen brewpub.

I’ve got a lot more notes for this one because I loved it.  Yummy strong malty lager. Nice amber colour. Flavours of caramel and toffee. It’s all about the malt with this one. The hops are just there to hang out. This one was perfect for the cold winter’s night.

The last beer up for the evening was a Double IPA. At 8.3% this wasn’t a beer to trifle with although I fear a lot in the room did and paid the price the next day. (Hi Shandy).

I think it was a quote from Jayne that I’ve got written down here: “We smash the hops into it”.  I find it hard to find a better way to describe it. Cascade, galaxy and citra hops all play there part in this 65(ish) IBU monster. Normally that would be more hop than I can handle but I think by that time of the night my taste buds were pretty well shot.

Unfortunately, while all of these beers were on tap at The Local on the night, there is no guaranteeing they still are. If they can’t be found there I know some of them will be available at Beer Deluxe and at The Goat Bar in the brewery on Wednesday and Friday nights.

So there you have it, my first Ale Stars. Part beer nerd love in, part trivia night, part night on the tiles.

All of that adds up to a bloody good night out. Can’t wait for the next one.

Got to put your money on The Longshot

And we’re back.

And with a predictably crap punny headline too. Glory days.

But why now?

Well if you want to blame anybody for stirring me out of my blogging slumber then look no further than the nice folk at Liquid Ideas. They took pity on me last week and invited me along to the launch of Matilda Bay’s new beer, Longshot.

Longshot is a coffee infused dark ale that Matilda Bay have created in conjunction with Toby’s Estate, the Sydney based coffee company. The story goes that the genesis for the idea came one night during a beer fueled conversation between Matilda Bay’s head brewer Scott Vincent and the man behind Toby’s Estate, Toby Smith. Unlike most of those great late night ideas this one has actually come to fruition.

The co-creators: Toby Smith and Scott Vincent

Last week’s launch was held in Smith’s Brunswick cafe and featured Scott taking us through a tasting of most of the Matilda Bay range. Each beer was matched to a wonderful canape prepared by Blake’s Feast.  If only blogging about beer was this good all of the time.

Enough reverie about the menu, I should get back to talking about Longshot.

Some tech stuff:

6% ABV

They’ve used Northern Brewer hops.

It comes in at 40 on the IBU scale

Scott told us that the base beer is a robust porter but he was very secret squirrel about how the coffee was used.

We did find out that he and Toby chose a highly aromatic Ethiopian blend called Yirgacheffe after conducting a series of cupping exercises. Toby told us that Yirgacheffe was the name of the town where the coffee originates and the region’s coffee is known for its floral fruitiness with chocolate tones.

About 200kgs were roasted and delivered to Matilda Bay’s Garage brewery where the coffee was cold extracted.

A major problem to overcome was stopping the oils in the coffee from affecting the ability of the beer to form a head. Scott told us that he pretty much nailed the recipe on the first attempt but thinking he could maybe do better gave it another crack. He couldn’t and that batch went down the drain.

And that was as much as we could get out of them.  Toby told me later that even he didn’t know how the brewery side of things was done.

Apparently the aim was to produce a balanced beer that would contain obvious flavour profiles but not overwhelming ones.  Have they done that?  I think so. I find it a very easy drinking brew, almost sessionable.  The coffee flavours are there but only slightly more obvious than you find in many stouts.

Some criticism has been made that the coffee flavours are too muted when compared with many of the coffee infused beers on the market.

Not having a lot of experience with the style I decided to do a little bit of research.  The lengths I go to for my readers!

A trip out to Purvis Cellars scored me these little beauties:

Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Peche Mortel, Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout and Meantime Coffee Porter

Oh, what hell this research was (where is the irony button on this thing?).

Each of those beers is a ripper but especially the Peche Mortel by Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel.  They all have such a kick of espresso like flavours that you would swear that somebody had just poured a shot into your beer. The Meantime label says that each bottle is the equivalent of one cup of coffee. In contrast, Scott told us that the caffeine level in the Longshot was negligible.

But these beers are not about balance. They are about trying to squeeze as much coffee kick into each bottle as possible and I love that but after the three of them I’d had enough. I can only wonder how full on beers like the Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel and the AleSmith Speedway Stout are. Some day maybe.

For today I’d rather another Longshot but I seem to have drunk my last two as I’ve written this. Bugger.

More please

But if I want anymore then I will need to go to Dan Murphy’s.

And in that lies my only real criticism of this beer.  It’s exclusive to Dan’s. Apparently their decision to buy it on spec was enough for the bean counters to give Scott the go-ahead with production. Not a good development in the world of brewing in my humble opinion.

Disclaimer: As I said earlier I was lucky enough to receive some very nice food from the good folk at Liquid Ideas, Matilda Bay and Toby’s Estate. I was also given some beer and coffee samples and that spiffy glass you saw before.

It’s been too long


I’m back.

Well the blog is. The truth is I never went away as anybody who follows me on Twitter, @AllAleTheBigV, will attest.

But my blogging was put on hold because of this little person…

Hello blogosphere I'm Maggie

Say hi to Maggie everyone.

But now that she is old enough to do this…

Isn't she cute

(you can follow her @MaggieGMcNamara)

I think it’s time to get the show back on the road so a little later tonight the first real blog post will be up.


It’s good to be back.

It’s on the Peninsula darling!

“We’ve been down on the Peninsula darling.”

That is a common response when I ask my customers about their summer break. But then again I do work in a part of Melbourne where Portsea is a much more likely holiday destination than Bonnie Doon.

Circumstance has meant that it was not till a few weeks ago that I had my own chance to visit Melbourne’s playground. The Mornington Peninsula that is, not Bonnie Doon.

And what did I find?

Well in Portsea and Sorrento it was pretty much what I expected. Gorgeous beaches, huge homes, conspicuous wealth and the lunching ladies of South Yarra. Nice, but not my world.

I wasn’t concerned though because I was fairly certain that my needs were catered for on other parts of the peninsula.

I wasn’t wrong.

About half way back up the peninsula is Red Hill.

As well as being home to wineries of the calibre of Foxeys Hangout, Port Phillip Estate and Montalto, and their Burgundian tendencies, it is also where you will find one of Victoria’s most well respected craft breweries, Red Hill Brewery.

Dave and Karen

RHB was opened by Dave and Karen Golding back in 2004 and they have established a great set up in the beautiful hilly countryside around Red Hill. Being the tourists that we are there was some thought we might have been a bit lost but eventually we found the rustic sign on the side of the road that beckoned us in with the promise of hops, fine ales and real food.  What more could you want?

We parked the car, almost in the shade of the hop trellises, and wandered down the hill to the brewery and the cafe nestled into the trees beside it.

Being a Friday there were no probs getting a table and we were soon in the care of some great floor staff.  The kind who realise it’s a casual dining situation and are themselves relaxed, perhaps even a bit cheeky, but are always there when you need them and are very knowledgeable about what’s on the plate and in this case, more importantly, what’s in the glass.

Girl O' Sea looking beautiful on the deck at Red Hill Brewery

Red Hill Brewery has 3 year round brews (a Scotch Ale, a Golden Ale & a Wheat Beer) and then a number of seasonals. Some of these, especially the Imperial Stout and the Christmas Ale, are incredibly popular and sell out quickly. Dave told me that they are overwhelmed by how popular the seasonals can be.

Summer sees the release of a Belgian Blonde. This year, as there wasn’t enough brewed for a general release, it was only available at the brewery and I was keen to try it. Fairly similar to last year although Dave said he does tweak the recipes.  For me it was sweet malts, a bit of spiciness and a creamy mouthfeel.  It went pretty well with my steak sanga.

A half drunk glass of Belgian Blonde begging to be finished

Girl O’ Sea went the vego option on the Ploughman’s Lunch, sans a glass of beery goodness due to the imminent arrival,  and we finished with a decadent chocolate cheesecake. If only there had been some Imperial Stout around to go with it.

Dave and Karen were gracious hosts and Dave took some time out from a busted water pump to give us a look in the compact brewery.  When we visited the brewery’s output was at its limit but some new equipment was on the way that would help increase it a little bit.

The brewhouse

Dave didn’t seem too convinced by the argument that it was a happy predicament to be in when you are always selling out.  I got the impression that he really values the customers that they have worked hard to get and wants to do the best thing by them.

I’d often wondered why Dave and Karen had decided to grow their own hops on top of the challenges of running a brewery.  The answer is that local council zoning regulations required some sort of primary industry on the property before they would give it the go ahead.  Dave described growing hops as “challenging”.  Anybody keen enough can head down to the brewery in March to take part in the hop picking festivities.

The hop trellises

Sounds like a fun day out.  Maybe I’ll get a chance to poke around for a lost bottle of Imperial Stout to go with that cheesecake?

There is something very special about this parma and pot deal.

What is it with Melbourne and parmas?  As a relatively recent blow-in from the northern states it took some time to get my head around the relationship.  Up north parmas are more commonly called parmis, tend to lurk towards the bottom of most menus and are usually seen as just an excuse to eat a lot of melted cheese.  In Brisbane steaks the size of your head tend to be favoured and in Sydney it’s whatever is trendy that week, normally something fusion.  But in Melbourne the blackboards outside of almost every pub advertise some sort of parma special.  Melbourne just loves a bit of crumbed fried veal, or chicken, or eggplant to go with their beer.

But too often the parma in front of you was frozen not so long before it got put on the plate and the only beers available on tap come from the lovely people at CUB.  One bar/bistro has taken it on itself to provide a venue that not only elevates the humble parma to culinary heights but also celebrates many of the fantastic microbrews that can now be found in Victoria.

Located in Little Bourke St, Mrs Parma’s was opened in 2006 by Melissa Leaney and Fiona Melbourne.  Melissa and Fiona, both chefs with a history of working in fine dining, had the vision of doing something different.  They realised that there was a market for a bistro that focussed on parmas made by good chefs who had a commitment to quality ingredients (fresh chicken and veal, Italian tomatoes, quality mozzarella).  Pub food but at a restaurant standard.  It then seems like a natural progression to realise that if you are going to increase the standard of the parma on the plate then perhaps the standard of the beer in the pot needs to be improved as well.

When All Ale The Big V popped into Mrs Parma’s for a couple of pots and a chat last week, Fiona and Melissa told me that what they do is a passionate obsession for them.  They feel that all of their staff shares the same love and passion for what they do.

The beer list is all Victorian and mostly microbrews with Carlton Draught being the only concession for those that aren’t prepared to take the leap to something a bit more adventurous. Brews on tap at the moment include Flying Horse’s Dirty Angel, 2 Brother’s Rusty Pale Ale and Mountain Goat’s Hightail. Fiona and Melissa told me that the beers on offer do change every two to three months with the exception being their favourite Gippsland Gold, Gippy Gold as it’s known in the bar, from Grand Ridge. Two taps are kept for specialty kegs.

A range of stubbies are also stocked and one of the popular events in the bar is “Drink The Esky Dry” where a case of something new is featured on a Friday arvo.  Melissa and Fiona are committed to helping out the industry that helped them when they were first setting up the bar.  They told me that they had a terrific response from the brewers they initially contacted and that dealing directly with the brewer is one of the best aspects of the job.  When pressed on their favourite brewers they nominated Temple, Red Hill and Bridge Rd.

While beers will retain their pride of place at Mrs Parma’s do expect to see the odd cider on tap and the wine list is ever developing to reflect Victoria’s strong boutique wine industry.

I have to admit that I haven’t had a chance to try one of the parmas yet but I intend to rectify that in the next couple of weeks.  Anyone care to join me?  What better way to while away an arvo.  Good food, cooked with passion, washed down by some great beers.  Sounds like the good life to me.

Slowbeer and the tale of the disappointing list

My apologies for the lack of posts in the last week or so. Unfortunately finishing off the university year had been sucking up all of my time but that is now done and I can put some decent effort back into All Ale The Big V.  Everything will get prettied up a bit in the near future with a lot more links to all things beer and Vic.

I did find the time to pop out to Hawthorn recently to visit Slowbeer. What a fantastic beer shop.  It has only been open for a couple of months but it has already started to gain quite a reputation amongst Melbourne’s, and Australia’s, lovers of decent beers.  With over 600 beers available it’s not hard to understand why.

Chris behind the counter at Slowbeer

Chris Menichelli, who is one of the co-owners, took the time out to have a bit of a chat to me.  He told me that the store is something of a spin-off from Cloudwine Cellars which means that there is a solid retailing knowledge behind the venture.  Chris himself has been working in the industry for about 5 years and has a fantastic knowledge of the beer world.

Some of the Vic brews on sale

The Victorian brews have to fight for space on the shelves with beers from around the globe but they are well represented.  You can find the ranges from 3 Ravens, Bridge Rd, Holgate, Red Duck and Otway Estate just to name a few.  Of course we probably should try and broaden our horizon outside of Victoria sometimes and Slowbeer would be a great place to try something totally different.  Chris told me that they are thinking of perhaps getting a kegerator for the shop which would then allow them to fill reusable bottles.  Imagine the fun they could have with getting brewers to do one off specials.

I know it’s a week late but I just wanted to make a quick comment on the Top 20 Beers list that Peter Lalor put together for last week’s The Weekend Australian Magazine.

It seems Lalor’s list was driven more by what is available on the shelves of the magazine’s special edition sponsors, Dan Murphy’s, rather than any serious attempt at a definitive list.  Does anybody really think that between them Little Creatures, James Squire and Redoak produce 9 of the top 20 beers in the nation? And what about Coopers, Grand Ridge and Murray’s making up another 6?  Are the 15 best beers in the country produced by only 6 breweries?  I doubt it.

I find it hard to believe that anybody doing a serious study of Australia’s best beers would be able to ignore the output from breweries like Bootleg, Feral, 3 Ravens, Moo Brew or Red Hill.  If the list is going to be based on availability or on what is stocked at one particular retailer at least put that caveat with the piece.

Now I wonder what this list would have been like if Slowbeer had been the major advertiser?