Monday, 24 September 2012

Matilda Bay: Itchy Green Pants

Itchy Green Pants was released in February of this year to commemorate Matilda Bay Brewing Company's move to their new home in Port Melbourne. Naming of the brew was tongue-in-cheek - mindful of the suffering that brewers encountered as they worked through the hot and heavy manual labouring process of brewing in their green work shorts.
My first and second encounters with Matilda Bay's Itchy Green Pants (IGP) were on the very same day. What are the chances of that?
Part 1 - The Criterion Tavern, Brisbane CBD.
I'd just successfully completed a very demanding project at work and my clients were insisting on celebrating the fact with a beer or two. Being the nice guy that I am, I agreed. I also let them choose the location. Their choice of The Criterion on George Street, Brisbane didn't really surprise me as its quite close to their offices. I wasn't too enamoured at first because I'd been there some years prior. Perhaps as much as 4 years ago. Back then, the place let itself down on all counts - poor beers, poor food, poor sticky floors. Apparently, according to my clients, The Criterion had increased the quality of their food somewhat and they had a nice selection of beers on offer which "might appeal to me". What were they suggesting?!
The place was heaving for a lunchtime and the food was very good, well priced and didn't take long to arrive. The thing that surprised me the most was that a Matilda Bay brew was sitting there on tap! Lucky me!
Always looking for a new beer to try, I had absolutely no hesitation in ordering myself an Itchy Green Pants. They only served beer in pots or pints which meant that I was forced to have a pint as I didn't much fancy battling the crowds at the bar frequently topping up a pot. Besides, my hands are quite big and pots don't really sit well in my grip. Note how I've made 2 extremely poor excuses to condone drinking a pint? Ha ha ha!
Trying to keep in mind that this rendezvous with clients was more important than my impromptu rendezvous with IGP, I paced myself sensibly. 
It has a real fresh, zesty (yet not too fruity) taste to it and accompanied my meal very well. Like many of IGP's stablemates at Matilda Bay, it weighs in at a very sessionable 4.7% abv.
I don't usually drink beer at lunchtime but I'd made an exception for a couple of very important clients after a tough project and with an afternoon of work ahead, I played it sensible and didn't overdo it. I had one more pint and then headed back to work with a wry smile on my face content that I'd stumbled upon IGP wondering if we'd ever meet again.
Part 2 - The Regatta Hotel, Toowong.
I spent the afternoon tapping away on my keyboard often with my head in the clouds dreaming of IGP like a love-struck teenager - smitten, the morning after an excellent first date with a dream girl. 
The day drew to a close and myself, KT and JC headed to The Regatta Hotel in Toowong courtesy of Queensland Rail who, I must say, were running their trains on time that day. A noteworthy fact.
The trip was pre-planned and diarised. It was the annual get-together with ex-colleague, SH.
Upon arrival, it was clearly evident that SH had arrived before us as he'd already found us a table and was half way through a beer. It was outside overlooking the Brisbane River. Now, SH isn't a particularly big fellow and the table itself was a little round thing no bigger than 50cm in diameter. Great that he'd gotten us a table but I wasn't convinced that 4 grown men could comfortably crouch around this thing that was only marginally bigger than the plate that I'd been served my lunch on 4 hours previously.
I did the gentlemanly thing and offered to get the first round in. I strolled in towards the main bar aware that we were very likely to buy a round of drinks each. I had one thing on my mind "I wonder what beer I can choose here that will satisfy me after 4 rounds?"
The bar was steadily filling up with a 'Friday night crowd'. Well, why not. It was a Friday evening after all. I was aiming for a gap at the far end of the bar. The first set of taps that I passed while zig-zagging through the throng of happy faces contained none other than a Matilda Bay beer called Alpha Pale Ale. Not unusual you might think? Well, here in Brisbane it isn’t the norm. Neither is the fact that on the second set of taps was Dogbolter - another Matilda Bay brew. I kept walking. Dodging blokes here and there. Blokes that were carrying 2 drinks. Some blokes performing heroics carrying 3 wet glasses of beer - wishing I'd get out of their way more than I wanted them out of my way! I'd waltzed passed 2 Matilda's.
Feeling like I was pushing my luck having strolled past 2 Matilda Bay beers, I squeezed into the gap at the bar and there, sitting in front me was the third set of taps with a third Matilda Bay've guessed it...Itchy Green Pants. What a stroke of luck!! I ordered pints (seemed impolite not to) and the stroke of luck continued as the bar maid only charged me for schooners.
The conversation rolled on into the night as we reminisced with SH about the 'good old days'. As the daylight disappeared we were treated to a rainbow in the Brisbane sky.
Due to the heat and humidity of Brisbane plus the absence of beer mats on our saucer-like table, puddles of condensation from our glasses had slowly merged into a small pond. My attention was soon turned from conversation to concentration. I was concentrating on stopping continuous drips of water from falling onto my jeans. I didn’t want my day of Itchy Green Pants to evolve into an evening of Silly Wet Pants.
After the embarrassment of a wet crotch was avoided, I headed home. To my delight, I walked through the front door to find that the wife had bought me a take-away Indian curry. I had a 4pack of Cobra's in the beer fridge but that's a story for another time...
Thanks for a nice day Matilda Bay.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Sierra Nevada: Hoptimum 2012 - Review

Ok, ok. I get it. I'm addicted to Sierra Nevada beers at the moment. I have issues. So what?

The very latest addition to my ever-growing 'beer list' (see right) is Sierra Nevada's Hoptimum - a whole-cone Imperial IPA. This is number 234 on my list if you're interested.

Recent consumption of Sierra Nevada beers have left me wanting more and more. I saw this baby on the shelf in the shop and despite the pricey price tag of AU$12 it made its way to my beer fridge at home no questions asked. This is what an addiction is all about I suppose.
The review:
Although an annual release, this is only the second year that Hoptimum has been brewed and, at 10.4% abv, it is the strongest beer to have passed my lips (the second strongest was La Trappe's Quadrupel at 10.0%).
I have sipped quite a few strong 'uns and most of them tasted strong (sometimes off-putting). In my opinion, the alcohol content in Hoptimum, wasn't overwhelming. It didn't possess me like I thought it was going to. I didn't need a priest on standby to perform an exorcism like I feared. It was this slight fear that had me waiting and waiting for the right time to open it. Any beer drinker will agree that the timing has to be just right for some beers. For me and my new friend, Hoptimum, it was a sunny Sunday afternoon in Spring. Perfect timing...
I've given Hoptimum 4 stars because I really liked it. Simple as that. Similar to Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot, this one (as the name suggests) was very hoppy - with a very bitter explosion indeed. With an IBU of 100, this will knock your socks off in a nice way.
As you can see above (click for larger view) it poured a wonderfully welcoming, cloudy, golden amber colour. Really and truly, a big boys beer like this should have lasted longer than the 10 minutes it took me to finish it however, I just couldn't help it. It was an extremely pleasant beer to drink although, this isn't for the faint hearted. Steer clear of it if you're planning to drive a car or operate machinery soon afterwards. Just sit back, relax and enjoy this one.....and then another.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Cobra Beer arrives in Australia

I was recently alerted to the fact that Cobra beer is now available in Australia. NM stumbled upon this fact and with little haste screamed the news across the office at me. Well, it was more of yell but it may as well have been a scream...for me, this is great news.

I am a huge fan of Cobra - ever since I first tried it at the tender age of 18 back in the UK. I may have been younger but for legal reasons, let's stick with 18.

The Indian curry is a staple diet of many Brits. In some areas of the UK, I reckon they sell more Indian food than some towns in India do! Growing up in the UK meant that I was exposed to Indian food at a young age. Having a good friend who is Indian is even better because his mum and dad used to send authentic samples from their kitchen around to my house. Brilliant!

As I started to take more notice of beer and the importance of a nice drink with a nice meal, Cobra lead the way when a curry was being served. The thing with Cobra is that it isn't as gassy as other beers. You can drink this beer without feeling bloated leaving more room for fine cuisine!

An interesting fact about Cobra is that it came to fruition solely aimed at the British beer market as opposed to being an Indian beer aimed at the Indian population. It was brewed originally in Bangalore for export to the UK.

The importance of finding a good beer to compliment a nice curry will be turned on it's head here in Brisbane. Instead, and somewhat frustratingly, I'll be seeking a nice curry to compliment my good beer...

More info here

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

James Squire: Hop Thief American Pale Ale IV (2012) - Review

Sadly, and somewhat foolishly, I'd been absent for the previous 3 incarnations of James Squire's Hop Thief. Thankfully, the Malt Shovel guys released version number 4 recently and as from today (for a limited time) it is on tap at The Platform Bar, in Brisbane's CBD.

This release is a 'keg only' release, so you will need to be quick and get to your nearest participating pub to try this brew. Due to the unfortunate scarcity of the hop varieties used in this years release, supplies will not broaden to bottling. There is, however, a plan at the brewery to re-visit Hop Thief IV with a tap and bottle release in 2013. Rumours are that it might be exactly the same blend. Other whispers suggest that they might tweak the recipe slightly. We'll see.

A welcome text message from Lucas at The Platform Bar informed me of Hop Thief's arrival. It took no less than 10 seconds for me to spread the word around the office and within 90 minutes 5 of us hardened and seasoned beer lovers were drooling at the bar in anticipation....all for the love of beer.

Due to work commitments, I could only afford the time to drink 2 schooners but it was enough to pen a few words...
The review:

It was ok and I liked it. I'd drink it again for sure. I wasn't bowled over by it but it was by no means a bad drop.

It poured a nice deep amber colour and sustained its head throughout consumption. Quite a delicate hoppiness to it - certainly not an overpowering hit of hops like Mad Brewers' Hoppy Hefe.

There was no overkill like there is in some limited releases in this country. Nice to see it at a subtle 5.0% abv. It is very drinkable and highly sessionable.

It was very refreshing and made a welcome change and a nice addition to the taps in my nearest beer establishment. I'll try and sneak back for a few more before this week is out.   

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Sierra Nevada: Bigfoot Ale 2012 - Review

Hot on the heels of my Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale consumption was the 2012 incarnation of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's Bigfoot Ale - a barley wine style ale - a limited release.

NM and I went halves on a 6pack - mainly to keep the cost down (AU$30 for a 6pack) but equally in case we didn't like it. There's nothing worse than buying a 6pack of beer only to be let down by the first sip of the first bottle. Certainly not the case with this one!

The review:

I thoroughly enjoyed it. In a big(foot) way. I was expecting something different - I don't know why - but as soon as the first mouthful was swallowed I looked up and exhaled a loud 'FFWWOOOAAARRRR'. A real taste explosion - yet very difficult to describe.

As you can see from the image above (click for larger view), it pours a nice deep amber/ruby colour with a strong, somewhat chunky head which disappeared quite quickly (the froth was at the brim of the glass before I focussed the camera and had already reduced by 25% by the time the photo was taken).

This really is a hu-mighty-mongous beer - not just the 9.6% abv content but the bitterness too - it swept me off my feet.

Quite hoppy too. Which I'm a big fan of.

If BIG, bitter, hoppy beers are what you like, then go and treat yourself to some - don't let the price-tag stop you.