Jacqui Goes To GABS!
They say you are supposed to learn at least one new thing everyday, to keep your mind sharp. This past weekend, I learned that beer contains less calories than full cream milk! After considering this and that the ingredients of beer are mostly plant-based and often also found in breakfast cereal, I feel as though I had many nutritious breakfasts in the last few days representing The Scratch during 'Good Beer Week' in Melbourne (but admittedly, I probably don't feel much sharper!).
In its 3rd year, Good Beer Week featured140 events throughout Melbourne and Victoria over 9 days (May 18 - May 26), hosted at microbreweries, beer bars, restaurants and even cocktail bars so Beer Lovers, Beer Novices, Beer Geeks, Foodies and even Home Brewers were well catered for and with loads of free events, finding something to suit your taste or budget was not difficult.
Personally, I decided to focus my attention on just a few of the delights; The Great Northern All American Tap Takeover, The AleHouse NZ Craft Beer Showcase but most importantly, the Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular, held at the Melbourne Royal Exhibition Hall. Here in this beautiful old building, bright red shipping containers housed 92 incredible kegs that have been brewed specifically for the event. From here, the beers were poured for the festival goers who then swilled, sniffed, sipped and rated them with a People's Choice Award being presented to the Brewer with most popular beer of the weekend.
With 2 sessions each day (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), you can probably push yourself to get through all 92 beers - and I know some people who did! - but for me, it was all about trying the beers that I thought I would love along with the ones that I knew would challenge me. As it turns out, I discovered that many beers were deceivingly good and some of the 'must try beers' were a little more ordinary with my top 12 (in no particular order) as follows;
1. Bacchus 'White Choc Raspberry Pils' - Pilsner - QLD
Without any bias, I heard so many good reviews of this beer throughout the SpecTAPular hence, GABS People's Choice Award being given to the well-deserved Queensland brewers!
2. 8 Wired Brewing 'Merge like a Zip' - Imperial Black IPA - NZ
I love my dark beers but this one was something special - the hops though prominent just allowed enough bitterness within the syrupy deliciousness of the full-bodied ale
3. Feral Brewing Co 'Barrique O Karma' - Black, Mildly hoppy and Woody - WA
Fermented in French oak, it is the 2013 version of the Karma Citra and I can see why they took out the People's Choice award with it last year and coming away with 2nd place, this year.
4. Garage Project 'Death from Above' - Indochine Pale Ale
Soft flavours of mint, chilli and mango are the highlights of this beer making it super refreshing and easy to drink and in spite of the naming controversy that surrounded it, this ale took out 4th place in the GABS People's choice awards.
5. HopDog Beerworks 'An American Werewolf in Belgium' - Belgian IPA - NSW
I didn't expect to like this but tried it simply because of the poster in our bar and was blown away by the citrus, pine and passionfruit flavour with subtle Belgian yeast characters.
6. ParrotDog 'Bloody Dingo' - Imperial Red IPA - NZ
New brewers from NZ sure know what they are doing! Using so many hops that they blocked the heat exchanger, this is a big kick in the face of delightful mango bitterness.
7. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co - 'Return of the Red Eye IPA' - IPA - USA
What is with all the Star Wars references in beer lately? I blame the Galaxy hop... But how can I stay mad when it is so freakin' tasty?
8. Prickly Moses - 'Black Stallion' - Barrel Aged Imperial Stout - VIC
Sitting with Luke from Prickly Moses whilst drinking this, it might have been awkward if it wasn't mind-blowingly good - 200L aged in Madera barrels and 200L in Shiraz barrels were combined to give the most unique nose and body.
9. Two Birds Brewing - 'Taco' - Hoppy Wheat Beer - VIC
These ladies always provide the goods! The taco nailed its tasting notes as a zesty, easy drinking ale with citrus and leafy notes - it has a real earthy finish too. I could drink this all day and it seems others agree with this awarded #6 in the GABS People's Choice.
10. Yeastie Boys - 'Golden Age of Bloodshed' Heavily-beeted Belgian Blond - NZ
WOW. This is as pink as it sounds and has the most incredible earthy, spiced flavour.
11. Van Dieman Brewing -' Dubbel Shot' - Belgian Coffee Dubbel - TAS
Maybe it was the craving for coffee after my first big night in Melbourne but this was like a carbonated cold pressed coffee and music to my mouth.
12. Young Henry's - 'Schwarz Ale' - German Black Ale - NSW
Brewed by the Australian Amateur Brewing Champ, Michael Wallace, this beer is roasty, chocolatey and satisfying.
So what else did I learn from this weekend? Firstly when it comes to GABS, don't judge a beer at this event by its brewer/style/nose/colour. In the end, it's all about the taste and these brewers have often travelled outside of their usual style to create something extraordinary.
Also, know your limits. Don't be that guy falling off his chair (and taking the table with him) - this showcase is all about beer appreciation and education and you will want to remember the beers you tasted.
Last of all, to enjoy it! Chat to strangers, talk about the beer, compare notes, hunt down the brewers and ask them questions - remember, we all have a love of beer in common!
If you were unable to make it to Melbourne for Good Beer Week, never fear! Queensland will be hosting their own version from July 13 - July 21. Keep your eyes peeled for all of the events that The Scratch and our friends within the Brisbane craft beer community will be hosting.
- Jacqueline Scorrano