Friday, 31 August 2012

Beer bottle update

Dedication is how I like to describe my affinity to all things beer. A previous post detailed my beer bottle collecting affliction. Since reading it, a few like-minded soles have contacted me to confess their similar sins so I know that I'm not alone in this ailment or strange act of kleptomania.

A friend of mine, KR, eradicated the problem of having scores and scores of beer bottles hanging around gathering dust by simply soaking the labels from the bottles. In the majority of cases, the actual bottles hiding underneath the labels are rather plain and boring.

I am giving serious consideration to following KR's example and disposing of the needless glass element of my proud hoard. The staff at Moreton Bay Recycling Sorting Depot will love me the week I wave goodbye to 200+ bottles! Perhaps I'll stagger the deluge?

I think the key to a successful collection of beer bottle labels is what you actually do with them once removed.

A while back, it was suggested by another friend, KT, that I should put them all in a book. This concerns me somewhat as I fear that I will be pigeon-holed as a scrap-booker. Scrap-booking, in my opinion, falls into a wider category of hobbies that includes knitting/crochet and train spotting.

KR's solution was to randomly stick them on the front of his beer fridge. This serves as a permanent reminder of his achievements because they are constantly on show. I am fortunate enough to also own a decent sized beer fridge so this is a very sensible option.

I am also lucky enough to possess a bar. So, another option would be for me to clad the outer fascia of it with beer bottle labels. It sits in our family room (sometimes referred to as the 'back room' or even the 'other room'). This is basically the room that contains another TV....the room where I'll watch the football (all codes but mainly 'soccer' just for the record) or the room where the kids can watch their Wiggles DVD collection to their hearts content.

The bar is reasonably small and serves a purpose which is mainly to house pub paraphernalia that has somehow ended up in my possession over the years. It's a rather retro looking piece that I acquired a few years ago for approximately $80 on eBay from an elderly couple on the south side of Brisbane. Their story was rather sad in that they were in the process of parting with every item of furniture, then selling the house, then moving into a care facility. Both had suffered a series of heart attacks and strokes in previous years. I felt a little bit of guilt creep in as I waltzed away with their bar. It came with a heap of lovely, heart-felt family stories which I was happy to listen to. The old lady even threw in some antique wooden coasters, a wooden mouse toothpick holder and 2 polystyrene stubby holders from the early 80's! She told me that she couldn't bear to throw the additional bits away and that they should stay with the bar in one of the drawers. I promised her that I would keep it all together and cherish the bar as they had obviously done for the past 40 or 50 years. I've kept that promise.

The label removal process is something that I think has to happen. It will free up so much space and will keep the wife happy which is the ultimate goal in life isn't it?

I will let you know the outcome and publish some photos just as soon as I've worked out a plan of attack.

Hmmm, but what about all the glorious bottle tops....???

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Arvo Beer: Brew 34 & Brew 51 - Review

Arvo Beer recently came onto the Australian beer scene (by wino supremo Casella) and I was immediately sceptical of their advertising approach. It provided me with an opportunity to ponder what the guys behind Arvo were up to with their bizarre and possibly unheard of marketing strategy. I thought long and hard as to whether the whole advertising campaign was marketing genius or a rather elaborate gimmick to lure the Australian beer drinker into buying it.

Essentially, there are 2 lagers - Brew 34 and Brew 51. You buy a 6pack and get 3 of each. You buy a carton and you get 12 of each. Then we're all supposed to visit the Arvo website and vote for our favourite. Having worked my way through the best part of a full carton over the weekend I still can't decide.

I cannot tell them apart and the website didn't give me the choice to vote 'same' unsurprisingly. Could they be the same brew? Is it a hoax.....a true piece of genius?! I told you I'm sceptical. I drank 3 bottles of Brew 34's straight and then 3 bottles of Brew 51's straight and couldn't tell them apart. The next day I tried alternating...34, 51, 34, 51, 34, 51 etc etc. Again, no difference in taste. I've since mentioned my findings to KT who said the same thing. He also struggled to tell them apart. The photo above shows how very alike their appearance is too.

More importantly for me the bigger decision is - genius or gimmick?

The half of me that knows a teency weency bit about advertising is shouting "Genius!". However, the other half of me - the beer drinker - is screaming "Gimmick!" mainly because I'd rather breweries plough their cash into creating a decent brew as opposed to far-fetched marketing but, let's face it, any company needs to make money so I totally respect their business plan to shift beers off shelves and make cash. It's a business after all.

I think time will tell whether Arvo is a flash in the pan or a true stayer.

Last week, Coca Cola Amatil (CCA) announced an agreement with Casella to help their re-entry into the booming beer market next year. CCA have been legally kept out of the arena since their sale of Pacific Beverages. You can read more about it here.

The review:

That beer drinker half of me didn't dislike either of these beers. Both weigh in at 4.9% abv which is not too 'heavy' and not too 'mid'. The faint fruity aftertaste in both isn't flimsy and isn't overpowering either. These 2 big factors result in Arvo (both of 'em!) being very drinkable and very sessionable indeed. I would buy Arvo again. Perfect for that Friday night in front of the television watching footy or that long sunny weekend BBQ.
The Arvo website labels Brew 34 as being subtly malty and alludes to the hops giving hints of spice and fruit. Whilst Brew 51 is tagged as having hoppy characters and a touch of fresh fruitiness.
Regarding the online vote results, I certainly wouldn't be fussed either way. If it's Brew 34 that stays in production or Brew 51.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Gage Roads: London Best - Review

The review:

I'm not a big fan of Gage Roads beers. However, having spent the first 31 years of my life in and around London I simply had to treat myself to a bottle of London Best. You've only got to catch a glimpse of the label to see why it would appeal to me, a Pom. I had to try it.

I thought it might warrant being consumed out of a traditional/old fashioned British pint glass (the kind with a handle - see photo).

To be honest, I don't know why I bothered sifting through my pint glass collection. I wish I hadn't even opened the bottle. It's extremely rare for me not to finish a beer. Today, I came very close to not finishing this one.

In my opinion, a beer this awful doesn't deserve to be called 'Best'. It's extremely misleading and surely must be flouting some advertising laws?!

I'd go so far as likening this brew to fizzy brown water. Not up to scratch at all. It pours very badly, no head, no taste, no 'Best' about it whatsoever.

'London Best'. It's a bold statement isn't it? 'Best' what? Perhaps it means London's Best Sample of the River Thames? Perhaps Gage Roads have pulled off the biggest bluff ever and siphoned gallons of water and sludge from the Thames, bottled it, slapped a label on and voila!

It irks me somewhat that this stuff carries a version of the flag from my homeland. Gage Roads will no doubt sell bottles and bottles of this to unsuspecting ex-Poms and Aussies that fancy a taste of London. Let me tell you that this beer is in no way a reflection of London!

The 'Best' thing you'll do next time you're in a bottle shop is walk past this beer.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Sierra Nevada: Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale - Review

There are more and more great beers from the USA working their way over to our shores (look out for a post on this blog in the near future focusing on the American mini-invasion). To date, the guys at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (SNBC) have impressed me a lot.

Their most recent brew to tickle my taste buds is the Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale (2012).

This is the 5th SNBC beer that I've managed to lay my hands lips on. They are (in chronological order) the Pale Ale (5.6% abv), Ruthless Rye IPA (6.6% abv), Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale (5.5% abv) and Torpedo Extra IPA (7.2% abv).

The review:

As much as I have enjoyed all of the above 4 SNBC beers, the Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale (6.7% abv) is my favourite by quite a stretch. A real hoppy taste left me wanting more.

SNBC claim to be the first brewery in the United States to use fresh hops from as far afield as New Zealand. 3 kinds of hops in fact - Pacific Hallertau, Motueka and Southern Cross.

As you can see above, it pours a beautiful, deep amber colour with a full, fluffy-but-strong head which retained it's character throughout - which wasn't long to be honest but only because I drank it quite quickly. 

I savoured every citrussy sip.

At the time of writing, there is only a handful of retailers in Brisbane (that I'm aware of) that has these available. At AU$10 per bottle, you might think it's a little bit pricey. It is worth every cent and I will go back for more.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Latest Haul...

We've all done it. We've all previously been to the bottle shop/off-licence/liquor store, got home, unpacked and stared at our haul and thought "Hmmmm...which one of you first?"

For me, today was no different. 7 bottles made their way into my shopping basket:

Buying singles can be a costly affair but I generally only do it if I've never tried the beers in question.

Today's newbies are as follows:

Whistler Premium Export Lager 5.0% abv - for no other reason than I have yet to add a representative from Canada to my list!

Estrella Damm Pilsner 4.6% abv - same reason as above! First Spanish beer cerveza in my list believe it or not!

Monteith's Radler Bier 5.0% abv - reason for this choice is simply because I do love a Monteith's brew! This is my 7th kind of Monteith's after their Autumn Amber Ale, Black Beer, Dopplebock Winter Ale, Golden Lager, Single Source Lager and Spakling Ale.

Gage Roads London Best 4.4% abv - I've been told by a friend, NM, that this isn't a particularly nice drop. I'll let you know. Reason for purchase is because I'm a sucker for anything that claims to be 'Best'. Plus, look at the Union Jack flag on the was always going into my basket with a label like that!

Mildura Mallee Bull Strong Ale 5.6% abv - I picked this one up to give Mildura another go as I hadn't been too taken aback with my previous Mildura purchases - Choc Hops Stout, Desert Premium Lager and Murray Honey Wheat.

Samuel Adams Summer Ale 5.5% abv - I fancied this one to add to the ever-growing contingent on my list from America. Please visit the Samuel Adams website and checkout their vast amount of beers!!!

Tower 10 IPA 7.0% abv - made it's way home with me because I loooved the Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale.

These 7 beers will, of course, make their way onto the beer list (see far right hand side of blog for complete list). This will take my total to 228 different beers since June 2010.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Coopers: Celebration Ale - Review

I've always been a mediocre fan of Coopers beers. I don't dislike the brews at all but on the other hand I've never been bowled over by one either. If I'm ever short of time and in a hurry and feel the need to pick up a 6pack on the way home for example, I'd be happy to walk out with some Sparkling Ale - an affordable heavy I'm sure you'll agree.

I'm happy to state that the annual releases of Extra Strong Vintage Ale are quite nice drops too.

Back in March, I found out that Coopers were to release a Celebration Ale in May 2012 - a beer to commemerate 150 years since former shoemaker, Thomas Cooper, produced his first commercial beer. I waited patiently for a few months praying that the beer wouldn't taste like shoes from 150 years ago.

Towards the back end of May, I grabbed myself a 6pack from Dan Murphy's at Kippa Ring.

The Review:

2.5 stars for this 5.2% effort. Not too fussed with it if I'm blatantly honest. I couldn't help feeling that it was missing something. I was expecting more.

As soon as it poured with little head, I had a feeling I'd be disappointed.

Brewed with three different hop varieties – Centennial (USA), Nelson Sauvin (NZ) and Pride of Ringwood (Australia), I was expecting a heck of a lot more taste.

Try it because you've got to right? 150 years to celebrate! Alas, I won't fight you for the last bottle on the shelf.

Monday, 13 August 2012

The Visit

As some of you more astute and more frequent visitors to '200 Different Beers' have noted, it has been quite some time since my last post. 25 days in fact. YIKES!

I will correct that as of now but there has been good reason.

My humble abode on Brisbane's northside has been jam-packed with visitors for the past 3 weeks. Mum, Dad and my British-born eldest son decended on this antipodean isle meaning the house contained no less than 7 human beings and my blogging quite simply had to take a back seat.

There were many, many good times shared in such a short space of time. I won't bore you with them all. You're reading this blog because you're interested in beer right? Well, Dad is a keen beer drinker.....

The story begins some months back when I realised that the craft beer revolution that has overwhelmed America and is on the up and up here in Australia has not yet come to the fore in the UK. Yes, there are breweries over there doing the right thing and have been for quite some time such as Wychwood, Wells & Young, Hook Norton, Greene King to name but a few but they are still very much in the minority. The European breed of lager (Heineken, Stella, Carlsberg) is still the winner in retail sales. So, Dad is going to be in for a treat!

Months before Mr Magin Senior's visit, I decided to 'keep' 2 bottles out of every 6 pack that I purchased. The theory was that I would get to appreciate 4 beers and share the other 2 with him. However, as he pointed out, I actually got to drink 5 and he got to drink 1. Oh, what a shame.

I proudly ended up with a list of 23 different beers (x 2 of course) for us to taste during his stay. Some were more obscure than others. Some were just a random 'pick up in passing' from Dan Murphy's. Others were carefully purchased (Little Creatures Single Batches). I made sure he was well aware of the presence of 46 bottles in the beer fridge by placing a designed-by-me 'menu' actually on the beer fridge and even in his wardrode! Should the thought of beer cross his mind as he was getting dressed in the mornings, I wanted the 'menu' to be at hand. 

Here is the 'menu' (click on it for a larger view):

Suffice to say that we consumed every drop - even drinking 3 within the first 24 hours of his feet touching Australian soil. We cut it a bit fine as the final 2 passed our taste buds on the family's penultimate night. The last night was kept alcohol-free (by him not me) just in case of an upset tummy on the flight. Nobody wants to be sat, caged like a chicken, in frequent desperation for the loo on a long haul flight. Not even in the name of a good beer. Mind you, could a good beer even be classed as a 'good beer' if upsets ones stomach?

Everybody's tastes are different but overall we generally gave the thumbs-up and thumbs-down to the same beers. Top of the pile, in both of our views, were the Little Creatures Single Batch beers especially The Big Dipper and The Quiet American. Special mentions go to There Is No Santa (Brewdog), both Stoke Bomber Ales (McCashin Family), Big Eye IPA (Ballast Point) and Monteith's Autumn Ale. Dad certainly won't be letting his gullet entertain Mildura's Choc Hops again though! Not to his liking. Perhaps he should've avoided the 4 pints of Bulmers that he drank at a function a few hours before!

I hope not to leave it as long as 3 weeks between blogs next time.

Happy drinking (sensibly).