"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The New Zealand/Colorado War

Craft beer and racial tensions.

Wow, that did not sound right.  That’s probably because those two concepts were not meant to be uttered in the same breath.  They were not meant to be uttered in the same galaxy.  They occupy different ends of the Serious-O-Meter.  One is a social lubricant that allows people to kick back, laugh, and banter with friends and the other causes people to fight, enslave, and kill their fellow humans.  Yet, through some cruel twist of fate, these two worlds collided when the indigenous people of New Zealand heard about Funkwerks and their beer known as Māori King.
The crux of controversy is as follows:  Māori King’s name and logo—that of a moko face—was deemed insensitive by the native New Zealand population.  You can find more details in this article for I seek not to report the facts but rather to play devil’s advocate for each side and try to gain a deeper understanding of this very complicated situation. 

The Plaintiff
I’ve been on this earth long enough to know that you should never, ever, ever assume you understand the viewpoints, beliefs, and taboos of a culture you do not belong to.  I don’t know the folks at Funkwerks but I can say with some certainty that they are not members of the Māori community thus they should not have appropriated Māori imagery for the sake of marketing (even if they were of the same culture it would still be wrong because then they’d be exploiting their own people).  Using a moko face as a logo is as offensive to the Māori people as a Muhammad logo would be to Muslims, as a MLK Jr. logo would be to African-Americans, or as a Dale Earnhardt logo would be to the NASCAR nation.  Some things are just too sacred to be used in advertising.
The Defendant

As uninformed as Funkwerks is concerning Māori culture, the folks in New Zealand probably know even less about the culture of Colorado craft beer.  They do, however, probably think they have a good bead on American culture i.e. fat, Big Mac-eatin’, wife-beatin’, Bible-thumpin’, pollution-dumpin’, money-hungry, uncultured, bigoted jackwads.  If you’ve ever travelled internationally then you know this is true; this is what the world thinks of us.  We need a new PR guy stat. 

The truth is that there are so many diverse and intermingling cultures in this country that you couldn’t count them; we’re as different from state to state as the world is from country to country.  Some Americans are disgraces but most are decent and if you wanted to grab a handful of the least evil and most open-minded people in the nation then you’d need to include the Colorado craft beer community because their liberal mindset is rivaled by few.  Racism just does not flow in their veins.  Naming a beer “Māori King” was not meant to get you all in a tizzy, New Zealand; it was a way to draw attention to the fact that your beautiful country supplied some of the main ingredients in this delicious concoction.

Speaking of tiny, Funkwerks is, indeed, a small operation.  I know because I’ve been there.  I think that some people have it in their heads that Funkwerks is a giant, faceless corporation hell-bent on whitewashing the world.  This aint exactly Budweiser, people.  This is a small, respectable endeavor that seeks to bring great-tasting beer to the masses.  Their intentions are good and their stress level from living in the shadows of big brewery giants is high.  Cut them a break because they’re not the true enemy; they’re just trying to make their way through the world.  I’ve read the downright nasty comments that some people have left on the Funkwerks Facebook page and it left a bitter taste in my mouth because the righteous rage embodied in these people would have been better spent elsewhere.

There is also a question of proximity.  How much damage could a small brewery—which does not distribute outside of Colorado—located on the other side of the world do especially when you consider that the Warriors rugby team is located within New Zealand’s borders?  This team features a logo that is not unlike the one found on Māori King and it would seem like a likely target since we have a similar controversy in America concerning teams like the Cleveland Indians, Washington Redskins, and Kansas City Chiefs.  Alas, it hasn’t been raked over the coals quite the same way as Funkwerks. 

The world of craft beer is anything but serious.  Brewers like to play with words and poke gentle fun at the expense of others.  This is never done in a mean-spirited way; it is all done in good humor.  See, for example, Polygamy Porter and He’Brew.  While there are factions that get their panties in a twist, the population as a whole simply giggles at the clever wordplay and enjoys the beer.  However, when it comes to this issue, the name “Māori King” wasn’t even used in jest; it was used in an honorific way.  Besides that point, we’re talking about New Zealand: a country where cursing on network TV is allowed and people throw around the C-word like they’re saying “hello.”  How the hell could Funkwerks have known this would have been considered offensive?

While I did write a lot more in defense of Funkwerks than I did for the Māori community that should not be interpreted as “Chris is 100% behind Funkwerks and thinks that the Māori community is a bunch of whiners.”  This is patently false.  I believe that the case for the plaintiff is powerful enough to be summed up succinctly unlike the defendant’s case which is so unfocused that defending it results in so many tangents.  The truth is that if I were on the jury I’d be totally baffled as to which way I’d vote.  Yes, I’m copping out but not because I’m a coward but because I truly do not know the answer.

If you’d like to try Māori King, look for the bottles labeled “Southern Tropic”: same beer, different name.  If you are lucky enough to come in possession of a bottle labeled “Māori King” then I suggest you put it in a safe place; it may be a collector’s item some day.  I’m sitting on a bomber of Dry Dock Brewing Co.’s Seven Seas for the very same reason.

Kia ora,


Monday, August 29, 2011

Denver Beer Co. Squeezes In

Sometimes it seems as though Denver is reaching a critical mass.  It was only late July that I was talking about the then-newest brewery in the city, Renegade Brewing Company, but now, head all a-spin, I’m struggling to catch up with all of the metro-area’s latest additions.  With Copper Kettle Brewing Company, Black Sky Brewing, Caution: Brewing Company, and Arvada Beer Company either operating or nearing operational status, I know that Nicole and I will need to keep on our toes to stay informed on our cities greatest asset.  It is the happiest work overload I have ever experienced.
I will start chipping away at this monolithic task with Denver Beer Co. (DBC), the newest addition to the yuppie hangout known as Platte Street.  Nicole and I met with our Geeks Who Drink friends, Robin and Justin, for a visit that involved more drink and less geek (except, of course, for geekery concerning beer). 

While it may be located in an affluent neighborhood, DBC’s brick-and-mortar structure, a former service station, harkens back to a more industrious day when greasy hands and sweaty brows were more common than today’s designer dogs and tight jeans.  The roll-up garage doors that once beckoned coughing jalopies inside are still intact and ready to be opened for warm, sunny days.  The elbow-grease of the business—the actual brewing equipment—is on full display with nothing but a waist-high parapet separating customers from where the magic happens. 

Although DBC has left some of the blue-collar, there has been considerable work done to bring the taproom to Platte Street’s current, high-taste standards.  Quirky paintings of goats and chickens adorn a wall that doubles as a gigantic chalkboard.  Recycled, metal  sidewalk tree-rings double as ungainly yet hip tabletops (this, Nicole really dug).  DBC is a mixture of the new and the old, the working-class and the bourgeois, the red-state and the blue-state.  Based on what I’ve read in their philosophy statement, I’d say this juxtaposition was intentional.

It’s hard to describe the DBC beer list since they rotate beers in and out on a seemingly daily basis but I can write about the beers they had when we visited.  Luckily, DBC offers taster-sized glasses which allow the ambitious beer geek to drink the whole line-up without getting rip-roaring drunk.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, more breweries need to go the way of DBC and offer beers in different sizes.  I do not know the ABV to the following beers as they were not on display.  When they’re rotating beers as quickly as they are, I wonder if DBC even takes the time to take the measurements.   

Saison it Aint So: This beer is a cloudy, orange-tinted-yellow concoction with a yeasty, quintessentially “saison” aroma i.e. loads of farmhouse spices. It has a light flavor that features hints of clove and it finishes dry.

Pomegranate Wheat: This isn’t the only pomegranate wheat in the state; Fort CollinsBrewery’s (FCB) Major Tom’s has already eked a stable spot on the shelves of Colorado liquor stores. Still, there’s no reason why other brewer’s shouldn’t put their own spin on the style. Denver Beer’s Pomegranate Wheat is a cloudy, white grapefruit juice colored beer and the titular fruit is obvious on the nose. The flavor is tart yet light.

Saison on the left, Pomegranate on the right

Smoked Lager: Otherwise known as a rauchbier, a smoked lager is created when the brewing malts are roasted over a wood fire thus giving the beer a smoked flavor. Denver Beer’s rauchbier is opaque and orange-yellow with a BBQ aroma. This scent is similar to hickory dry rub or the Sacrament of Q that was featured at Star Bar’s beercocktail event. Its flavor is lightly smoked and tastes of mesquite. Again, FCB already has a well established rauchbier known as Z Lager but, once again, Denver Beer has every right to make their own. In this case, it is a good thing that they did go ahead and make their own version because it is far superior to FCB’s product which is ashy and overbearing in its meat-like flavor. Denver Beer crafted their rauchbier so that the smoked flavor doesn’t dominate the beer but rather accents it.

Smoked Lager

Confluence Pale Ale: Confluence has a large, rocky head and is clear copper in color. The hop aroma is there but it does not knock the drinker’s socks off; they seem to be more floral hops rather than bitter hops. The flavor is at a medium-level of bitterness but said bitterness does not linger. The drinker tastes the hops for a few moments but then they are gone.

Rye 25 Pale Ale: Rye 25 is an effervescent, clear, pale yellow beer with a very faint rye aroma. The bitterness level is higher than Confluence’s but, like confluence, the bitterness is fleeting. It is a flash-in-the-pan blast of hops. Rye 25 finishes dry.

Confluence on the left, Rye 25 on the right

Platte Pilsner: This beer is a clear, light yellow and it smells bready or pretzely. The flavor is, likewise, bready but with a slight bite of hops.

Stormy Summer Stout: Stormy Summer is very dark with brown highlights. In certain light, it almost looks purple. It has a roasted coffee aroma and the flavor follows suit. Stormy Summer is light-bodied which makes it easy to drink in the season mentioned in its name.

Stormy on the left, Platte on the right
My overall impression of DBC is that it is a very good brewery but not yet a brewery that can play on the same playing field as the established Denver brewers at Great Divide Brewing Co. or even the still-relatively-new folks at Strange Brewing Company.  Every beer I had was good but few were great.  There is potential, though.  With a rotating beer list, one never knows what will be available on any given visit.  My prediction is that DBC will fluctuate from one of the best breweries in the city to a very mediocre one depending on which day you visit it.
No matter where it ranks on the Denver list, DBC will always be acceptable because, in Colorado, a bad brewery is still considered a good brewery in any other state.  I’m sure that local beer geeks will welcome DBC with open arms and parted lips.



Saturday, August 20, 2011

Beer in Australia: Cairns Pt. 2

This is the fourth and final installment in the Australian series.  Please read Beer in Australia: Sydney, Beer in Australia: Melbourne Pt. 1, Beer in Australia: Melbourne Pt. 2, and Beer in Australia: Cairns Pt. 1 before reading this post.

The next day we visited Kuranda, a village in the rainforested hills outside of Cairns.  There really isn’t much to say about Kuranda other than it’s just a big tourist shop.  The one interesting part of this off-shoot excursion was BatReach, a bat rehabilitation shelter with a focus on the native fruit bat.  Some people have an aversion to bats but I honestly can’t see why.  Have you ever seen a fruit bat up close?  They look like flying puppies.  How could you hate that?  Your heart would melt if you saw the cookie-eating bat that hung nonchalantly on the finger of the lady running the program.  When the lady was tired of holding it, she’d just put the little rascal on the edge of a patio table and it would hang there and wait to be picked up again.  It was adorable and I want one.
After BatReach, we noticed a ton of wild fruit bats hanging out in Cairns

The next day our tour sent us to snorkel at Green Island.  That was a miserable trip.  I have an ironclad stomach but even I was queasier than a freshman at a frat party as our overcrowded vessel became airborne over every whitecap.  That, however, wasn’t even the worst part of the trip.  One would think that, being in the Great Barrier Reef, the exceptionally beautiful aquatic wildlife would justify the nauseating trip.  No such luck.  Go lay face down (or, for you hip internet kids, go “planking”) in your front lawn and you’ll get a near exact replica of what we saw that day: sea grass under ankle-deep water.  The only wildlife we saw were Japanese tourists who shrieked every time a piece of seaweed grazed their skin.

After the utter bummer of Green Island, we returned to Blue Sky Brewery to meet up with Tess and attend our VIP tour of the brewery (actually, they have public tours on a daily basis but those Aussies sure know how to make an American blogger feel like royalty).  We called upon Tess and, while we waited for her, I ordered a Reef Blonde (4.7% ABV).  There was a dialectical barrier between me and the bartender because I didn’t know what a “jug” was; I just knew that Reef Blonde in a jug was on special.  Long story short, I received a pitcher of beer that I needed to chug in about five minutes.  At least it’s a low-carb beer.

Tess arrived about halfway through the pitcher so we chit-chatted about breweries as I polished off my beer.  Of course, outside of the state, most people don’t know much about beer in Colorado beyond Coors.  Since I’m the self-proclaimed ambassador of Colorado beer, I talked up the state’s ales and lagers and did my best to explain their greatness to our Aussie hosts.  There’s no need to get hung-up on Coors when there’s over one hundred others to choose from. 

Our talk with Tess was a mutual learning experience.  We learned that, even though Blue Sky has only been open since 2008, it has already won 14 Australian International Beer Awards and its kingdom now includes a taproom at the Cairns Domestic Airport.  This business is booming; I hope it doesn’t bust. 
Blue Sky's airport location

We also learned that Green Island is a terrible place to snorkel and that only tourists who don’t know how to swim go there (I think we figured that out on our own, though).  Tess said it’s outer reef or nothing when snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef and, coincidentally, Todd AKA Hot Toddy, our quizmaster from the other day, also worked for an outer reef dive company called Down Under Cruise & Dive.  Foreshadowing much? 

The pitcher was emptied so Tess handed us off to Sean (there are so many ways to spell this name that I’m going to try and use all possible variations and hope I get it right at least once), our friendly Canadian guide and Blue Sky’s apprentice brewer.  Shawn took us to the brewing room and gave us the spiel on grains, hops, cleaning the kettles, the bottling line (very tiny for a brewery of this size), and making cider.  Shaun was also nice enough to give us an additional copy of The Beer Lovers Guide to Australia.  We really raked in the schwag on this trip! 

The tour was nice by any standard but the most memorable moment involved a urinating man (stay with me).  In the men’s restroom, above the urinals, there is a picture window that looks into the brewing room.  I peeked between two fermenting tanks and noticed a man staring right at me.  I stared back until I realized he wasn’t staring at me, he was staring into that far-off land men go to when coaxing out a stubborn stream.  I, embarrassed, quickly looked away and hoped we wouldn’t have another encounter.

Seann led us back to the bar where he poured us a tasting paddle to sample on the house (at least, I think it was on the house; I don’t remember paying).  On our paddle was: FNQ Lager (4.4% ABV), Blue Sky Pilsner (4.5% ABV), IPA, Cairns Gold (3.3% ABV), Wheat, and True Blue Stout (6.4% ABV).  I’ve already reviewed Cairns Gold and True Blue in the previous post so go there for those tasting notes.  I’ve also reviewed the IPA, too, but I’ve got more to say on that.
From left to right: FNQ, Pilsner, IPA, Wheat or Gold (they were probably mixed up), & True Blue   

FNQ—or Far North Queensland—is clear and straw colored with a white head.  The sweet malt aroma is abundant on the nose.  In terms of taste and mouthfeel, FNQ is crisp and dry; a typical, easy-drinking summer beer that fits the light lager category quite well.  The viscosity, however, seems a bit more pronounced in this beer than in others of its type.  It could do with some lightening of the body.

I am torn on Blue Sky Pilsner.  I mentioned in the previous post that we won a six-pack of Pilsner at Blue Sky’s pub quiz which I took back to the hotel, cracked open, and poured into a glass.  I was, in a word, disappointed; it smelled like burned toast, the flavor was akin to something like Natural Ice, and it felt as thick as clam chowder.   Pilsners are supposed to be light and crisp, not thick and soupy, no sir!  There is, however, redemption for this beer because, on tap, it’s a whole new ballgame.  Pilsner on tap is light-bodied and clean tasting—everything this style of beer should be and everything it isn’t in a bottle.  Maybe I got a six-pack that had been sitting around too long.  It was free, you know.

I tried the IPA off of the paddle and I was sure, then, that I had indeed been given the wrong beer when I ordered an IPA the other day; there are too many discrepancies between the two tasting notes for them to be the same beer.  The beer Shon served me was clear, yellow-gold in color with a light hop and lemon aroma.  The flavor, likewise, was lemony and had a hop character that was milder than most IPAs but it still packed a bit of a wallop.  It had to have been the Pilsner I was drinking the other day—or not.  Maybe the glass was just too cold when I first had the IPA thus killing the power of the hops and leading me to believe I had been the victim of a beer switcheroo.  That’s possible, too, since I wrote both times that there was a lemon character to the beer.  In all honesty, I have no clue; I’m probably just over-thinking it.

The next beer on the paddle was supposed to be Cairns Gold but one of three things must have happened: Shaxwn (silent “x”) made the innocent mistake of switching up a beer or two, Chaun (“ch” making the “sh” sound like in the word cache) wanted to test our mettle as beer analyzers and see if we would notice the incongruity, or Cairns Gold tastes so different on tap than it does in a bottle that it turns into a wheat beer.  I’m going with the first possibility.

Blue Sky’s wheat beer is the best wheat I’ve ever had.  That may not be too impressive since I don’t like wheats but I still think that’s some pretty high praise.  I liked this beer because of its unique bubblegum flavor and aroma (if you think Dry Dock Brewing Co.’s Hefeweizen tastes and smells like bubblegum then you need to get a load of this).  It is light on the clove and banana acts as back-up to the bubblegum.

We thanked the crew at Blue Sky for their fantastic hospitality and went on our merry way until, after about two blocks, we realized that we had no plans for tomorrow and that’d we’d done everything we wanted to do in the city.  What were we to do with a whole 24 hours?  We thought Green Island sucked, the outer reef is supposed to be good, and Todd works for an outer reef dive company.  Math may not be my strong suit but I was starting to add things up.  We did a 180, found Todd, and set up a reservation for the next day’s excursion.

Let me say it again:  Green Island sucks.  You’d know that if you never went to the outer reef but you definitely know it when you’ve seen what else there is to explore.  In the outer reef, it’s deep enough to dive below the surface.  The fish are more abundant and colorful.  We saw two sea turtles, a small shark, and Wally the Maori wrasse (basically, a giant blob of a fish that always hangs out with the divers because the crew feeds him every time they drop anchor).  If you ever snorkel the Great Barrier Reef make absolutely sure you’re going on an outer reef tour.  Might I recommend Down Under Cruise & Dive?

Before I end this post I want to quickly review the remaining two beers I picked up at The Local Bottle Store &Provisions.
Icon 2IPA

Icon 2IPA (7.5% ABV) from Murray’s Craft Brewing Co. looks like murky apple juice and it has a thick head.  Funnily enough, it also smells a lot like apple juice.  Keeping with the theme, the flavor has hints of apple—the Red Delicious type.  After the initial fruit flavor, a hop buzz enters the scene.  It’s not too intense but it’s there.  Licking the foam off of your lips tastes like a mildly flavored apple candy.  Icon 2IPA gives the drinker an all-mouth coating although said coating is thin. 
The Ox

The Ox Imperial Stout (9.4% ABV) from Red Duck is black with brown highlights and features a mochaccino-colored head.  Chocolate aromas overpower coffee aromas and the sinus-clearing scent of alcohol is also present.  These notes stay true in the taste, too; the alcohol is so predominate it almost tastes like liquor more than beer.  One can taste a little of the chocolate up front but the burn of the alcohol makes concentrating on anything else difficult.  The Ox is quite light-bodied for a stout.  Possibly, the amount of alcohol in the beer thins it out.

That about sums up the trip.  Thanks to the bartenders at the Portland Hotel, the guys at The Local, and the staff at Blue Sky for giving our adventures in beer a local flair.  Thanks, also, to Australia in general for a great trip.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been neglecting my Colorado brews for too long and I’ve been meaning to reconnect.


Chris pretty much summed up the highlights of Kuranda. Although, there is Skyrail which allows you to travel above the treetops of the rainforest from Cairns to Kuranda but we didn’t take it.  We heard it is a cool ride, though. We also resisted the urge to buy a kangaroo nut sack bottle opener, flask, change purse, etc.

Sean from Blue Sky recommended Monteith Brewing Co.'s CrushedApple Cider.  I found a bottle at the local bottle shop and gave it a try. Many of the ciders brewed in Australia use a concentrate but Montheith’s still uses real apples. After buying the cider, I realized that it was actually brewed in New Zealand.  Australia and En Zed (that is NZ for those using the American English language) are pretty close, though, so I am still going to write about it. Monteith’s Crushed Apple Cider is clear with a champagne color and strong apple aroma. It almost smells and tastes like a sweet wine. This is probably one of my favorite ciders that I tried.
Crushed Apple Cider

The main reason that I travelled to Australia was to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef; the rest of the trip was icing on the cake. The first day at Green Island was frustrating. As someone that gets motion sick in a car, I was dreading the boat trip. When the guide told us that there was a high wind advisory, I was a little worried. To make things worse, I forgot the Dramamine in the hotel room. So, I found a seat and closed my eyes.  After about 5 minutes, people were grabbing barf bags like they were going out of style. I continued to keep my eyes closed and fight off the motion sickness.  About 90% of the people on the boat were getting sick and I did not want to be one of them. Thankfully, I made it to Green Island without getting sick but, the whole time we were on Green Island, the only thing I could think about was the boat ride back.

Our first attempt to snorkel resulted in Chris getting a coral-scraped belly and a lot of wasted time looking for a place that was deep enough to float. We went to the beach on the other side of the island and found a place to snorkel where we found a few cool fish but nothing too exciting. I have seen the same stuff snorkeling in Hawaii. The water was also a little on the cool side since it is winter in Australia. After about 45 minutes of looking at the same fish, I decided it was time to go back to shore.  At least the ride back to Cairns was not as bad and we caught a glimpse of a humpback whale.

After a disappointing day on Green Island, I was looking forward to our second day of snorkeling in the outer reef. Of course, the boat ride was just as miserable. At one point we looked out the window and saw nothing but water: no sky, no horizon, just water. But, when we finally got to the outer reef, you could tell that it was going to be amazing snorkeling. Rather than having to find a place to snorkel from a beach, we snorkeled right off the boat.  We saw sea turtles, a reef shark, an alligator gar (which got a little too friendly with Chris [Yeah, when Toddy threw a handful of fish at me when I was climbing the ladder ~ Chris] ), Nemo (or at least one of his cousins), and a whole bunch of other sea creatures. I can’t wait to see the pictures I took. On the boat ride home we saw another whale but this one gave us a little more of a show. I hope I can use these pictures in my classroom and talk about the changes that are happening to the reef.

On our last day in Australia we visited Port Douglas. Port Douglas is another “touristy” village with markets and shopping. It also has a scenic “Four-mile Beach” which was very beautiful. To pass the time in Port Douglas (after I made Chris stop into every shop and walk through the market twice), we stopped in the local Irish Pub. I ordered the Bulmer’s cider which I just looked up and learned it is an Irish Cider. I guess I will wait to review that until I visit Ireland. Next summer’s adventure?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Beer in Australia: Cairns Pt. 1

This is the fourth installment in the Australian trip series.  Read the previous post titled Beer in Australia: Melbourne Pt. 2. 

After Melbourne, Nicole and I flew to the Outback and Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park, home of Australia’s most famous geological standout— Uluṟu/Ayers Rock.  Oddly enough, Kata Tjuṯa/Mount Olga is a nearby formation that is bigger in area, height, and Aboriginal sacredness but, for some reason, it never hit it big in the European-descendant demographic.  I think I can see the reason why, though.  Being such a monolithic structure makes Uluṟu a little more impressive than the conglomeration that is Kata Tjuṯa. 
Uluṟu/Ayers Rock

Kata Tjuṯa/Mount Olga

Like many a Coloradoan, I’m easily moved by the grandeur of nature. The formations in Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park are no exception.  Even while other tourists jabbered on about Lady Gaga and other such nonsense in a tone loud enough to be heard in New Zealand, I was still able to have a meditative moment on the sunrise tour of Uluṟu.  Such is its spiritual power.  My only complaint about this leg of the trip is that we didn’t spend enough days exploring the surrounding landscape.

When we weren’t taking in the sights we were hanging out at the small cluster of accommodations and restaurants located a few miles from the rock.  Before dinner one night I decided it was time to crack open two of the beers I picked up at The Local Bottlestore & Provisions. 

Pacific Ale
Stone & Wood's Pacific Ale (4.4% ABV) is unfiltered so it has the cloudy appearance that is so familiar to the process.  It is a pale yellow—almost pastel—and it looks a bit like a Belgian wit.  A rocky, bubbly white head tops off the beer.  Pacific Ale has yeasty, zesty scents as well as a pungent passion fruit or grapefruit aroma.  According to Nicole: “It smells like Hawaii.”  The fruitiness is apparent on the tongue but it’s not as obvious as it is on the nose.  There is also a yeasty undertone and little to no bitterness; this beer is all about showcasing the fruit flavors that linger and tingle on the back of the tongue.  In terms of mouthfeel, Pacific Ale is dry, dry, dry.  Dry as the Outback I was drinking it in.  It’s downright arid: a desert.  It is probably the driest beer I have ever had as well as one of the best Aussie beers I’ve ever had.   

Hop Hog
Next, I popped the top off of Hop Hog American IPA (5.8% ABV) from Feral Brewing Company.  Looking at Hop Hog reminded me of Avery IPA: it’s a slightly foggy, dark, golden yellow.  Also like Avery IPA is the fact that you can smell the hops from two feet away.  This is definitely a slap-yer-face American IPA.  The hops smell Cascade-esque and have a grapefruit essence.  When it comes to the flavor, well, it’s not exactly easy drinking nor is it as harsh as, say, Modus Hoperandi.  It’s at a medium-level of bitterness; even the usual bite in the back of the mouth is a lot mellower than most IPAs.  In short, there are no KO hop punches, just kidney punches.  I must admit, I liked this beer quite a bit.  This is an instance where a foreign brewery did a fairly good job of replicating an American style.  My hat is off to you, Feral Brewing.

Our final stop on our Australian adventure was Cairns (to pronounce like an Aussie, disregard the “i” and “r”): a perpetually warm city near the rainforest and Great Barrier Reef.  By the time we landed and settled in at our hotel the sun was beginning to set and we were in need of some snacks and suds.  Blue Sky Brewery is where we set our sights.

Blue Sky is in an open-walled courtyard type of setting with a small bar and seating area located just off of the sidewalk and a larger bar and seating area set back into the niche.  We bellied-up to the larger bar, I ordered an IPA (I didn’t write down its proper name and it’s not on the website because it’s not a flagship beer—it might have been Big Hitter), and we took a seat off to the side.

IPA (maybe)
The IPA is mostly clear but with a hint of haze.  The color is that of darkish gold or, perhaps, fool’s gold.  I was quite surprised when I took a big whiff and detected nary a hop aroma.  It was, instead, bready.  There was a much stronger yeast profile than a hop profile which is mighty peculiar for an IPA.  The flavor continues the trend of deception: almost no hop bite.  Sure, the hops are there but they’re tamed to such an extent that they can scarcely be called the centerpiece of the beer.  There is also a lemony quality to the beer.  The overall impression I got was that it is less an IPA and more an unusually hoppy Pilsner.  Did I even get the right beer I wondered.  I didn’t pay really close attention during the pour so it is definitely a possibility that the bartender might have been pulling on the pilsner tab instead of the IPA.  Miscommunications resulting from hurdling the dialect barrier could have occurred or perhaps the bartender just wasn’t paying attention to her hands. Other instances of seemingly misplaced beers at Blue Sky eventually led me to believe that a beer switch-up was likely the case.  Probably.  More on that in a later post.

Beer dork that I am, I was making quite the show of assessing my beer by holding it up to the light and in front of a white piece of paper.  Not surprisingly, this turned a few heads.  One such head belonged to Todd, an employee of Blue Sky and the man who was about to proctor the Believe it or Not bar trivia.  Politely, but with obvious curiosity, he asked what in the Sam Hill I was doing.  After a quick explanation I handed him my card, he handed me Tess’s card (she being the Advertising & Marketing Manager for the brewery) so that we might get in contact and get an insider’s view of Blue Sky, and thus set in motion a series of events that eventually capped off our Aussie journey (do be patient, dear reader, for these events will unfold before your eager eyes through my most masterful storytelling).

And, hell yes, we participated in the pub trivia.  If you don’t know me but have read this blog then you can be assured of three things: I like beer, I like roller coasters, and I like pub trivia.  Just like at the Mitre Tavern, we placed second.  The killing round was the sports round; it was almost exclusively about cricket, rugby, and Aussie-rules football.  To a couple of Americans, these sports look like the bastard children of Quidditch and Calvinball so, needless to say, we floundered.  We did, however, get the bonus round correct and walked out of Blue Sky with a free six-pack of Blue Sky Pilsner (4.5% ABV).  Sweet.
Cairns Gold

During the game I enjoyed a Cairns Gold (3.3% ABV).  This time I know I got the right beer because they served it in a “stubbie” AKA bottle.  I know that in America we call short bottles stubbies but it seems that all bottles in Australia share this designation.  Cairns Gold is very clear and has the color of dark champagne.  It is the color that non-beer geeks associate with beer.  A floral hop aroma is pretty easy to root out (yes, Aussie readers, I know what “root” means to you but I’m writing to a predominately American audience so get your mind out of the gutter).  These floral hops have an interesting effect on the taste; the beer is not bitter but possesses a sweet, flowery, and fruity flavor that is reminiscent of eating a honeysuckle.  I would pin the causes of the flowery and fruity flavors on the hops and the sweetness on the malts.
True Blue

The final beer I had before departing was True Blue Stout (6.4 % ABV), a beer that, I think, is suffering from an identity crisis.  The colors are right for a stout: dark, chestnut brown, red highlights, and an off-white head.  The aroma, however, is slightly off.  It has a very mild smell and it’s not very roasty.  It smells, instead, like the sweet malts found in a nut brown ale.  The flavor redeems True Blue to some extent; it does taste a little bit like a stout with a mild roast flavor and light coffee and dark chocolate aftertaste. It also has a tiny base of bitter that sits in the back of the tongue.  However, as I drank, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was also tasting the nutty flavors of a brown ale.  Whatever redemption was in the flavor was taken away by the mouthfeel; True Blue is too dang light to be a stout.  It’s not heavy and it’s not thick and creamy.  A stout should feel like a meal, this beer was just too thinned out.  It tasted quite good, though; I just don’t believe it’s being marketed correctly.  My advice to Blue sky: re-brand True Blue as a brown and then formulate a new, monstrously thick recipe for a stout and serve that sucker on nitro.

We have more to talk about including a rainforest trip, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, and a lot more interactions with the fine folks at Blue Sky.  Stay tuned for more.



I think Chris summed up the highlights of Ayer’s Rock. However, I will add a couple of things about the wildlife. Our hotel warned us of the presence of giant centipedes and to keep our luggage zipped at all times. Luckily, we did not see any giant centipedes but we did see some large spiders hanging out in their webs. I am not sure what kind they were because I couldn’t handle looking at the spider identification book long enough to figure it out. As we walked to some of the lookouts we saw some tracks that could possibly have been dingo tracks. During our sunrise tour we were told to keep a lookout for camels. Unfortunately, we only saw a dead one by the side of the road. It still amazes me how large they are
Wicked Cider

After the outback we were off to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. The reef was the main reason I wanted to visit Australia. As a science teacher, I wanted to be able to use the reef as examples in my classroom using pictures and firsthand experience. When we arrived in Cairns, I used the GPS on my phone to look for places to eat dinner. One of the places that showed up on the map was the Blue Sky Brewery. Chris, of course, was excited to visit the brewery. I was happy to see that Blue Sky had their own cider so I could continue my quest to review Australian ciders. The Wicked Apple Cider (5% ABV) holds the tagline “Be Tempted – It’s Wickedly Cool” and the label displays a naked siren surrounded by snakes. The Wicked Apple is champagne in color. It is clear with several bubbles. The aroma is that of tart apples, such as Granny Smith, with a light apple flavor and a hint of tartness. The cider is smooth, crisp and refreshing.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Beer in Australia: Melbourne Pt. 2

This is a continuation from Beer in Australia: Melbourne Pt. 1.  Please read that post before continuing on.

Our next day in Melbourne was a busy day indeed.  For much of the day we were engaged in a walking tour of what felt like the entire city.  Our heads were filled with so much information about Melbourne and its history that, by the time of my writing this, I’ve forgotten most of it.  There were a few experiences, however, that stick out in my mind. 

One of these experiences was our encounter with eccentric opal miner Nicolas S. Le Souëf of Lightning Ridge Opal Mines.  While his demonstrations on opal cutting and setting were interesting enough, the menagerie he’s collected whilst digging about at the Coober Pedy mines was what caught my attention.  As you can imagine, the types of animals that live in mine shafts are not, generally, the types you’d want to have a cuddle with.  Redback spiders, huntsman spiders, giant centipedes, and snakes were all on display along with the rather less cringe-inducing lizard habitat (the blue tongue skink was neat because of its namesake body part).

Immediately following the walking tour we boarded a bus and travelled to Phillip Island to see the Penguin Parade.  Every day at sunset hundreds of Little Penguins storm the beaches and waddle their selves over the dunes and up the hill to their roosts.  It was quite a sight to see but it was also cold and we were exhausted from the walking tour.  We slept well that night.

The next day we put our newfound knowledge of Melbourne to work by visiting Mitre Tavern.  This tavern is tucked away in a wide-set alley and it said to be the oldest pub in the city.  While there, I had a Steam Ale (4.5% ABV) from Mountain Goat Brewery.

Steam Ale
Steam Ale is clear, light yellow in color with a hint of paleness.  On the nose, the beer is yeasty and perhaps a bit sour.  When drinking Steam Ale, one cannot help but notice the flowery flavor of the hops as the beer sloshes over the tongue.  Amid the floral flavors is also a bitterness not unlike the peel of a citrus fruit.  Overall, the flavors are mild.  However, over time, the hop bitterness starts to accumulate in the back of the mouth.  Even though it becomes more apparent, this bitterness can hardly be called a defining feature of the beer.  In terms of mouthfeel, Mountain Goat has thought of an ingenious way for you to keep drinking their product: give it a super dry finish.  After each sip my mouth felt drier thus necessitating I wet it with another sip.  It was a vicious yet delicious cycle.

The next beer I ordered was Dark Ale (4.7% ABV) from Moo Brew Brewery.  Dark Ale is, as the name suggests, dark but also transparent like stained glass.  It is a reddish brown—similar to rust or an old copper penny—and has an eggshell white head.  At first, the aroma suggests the presence of coffee but a more astute nose might place the scent as toffee.  Indeed, hints of toffee are also noticeable on the tongue.  The beer is very low on bitter but high on malty goodness and the overall taste is similar to that of an ESB.  Dark Ale is medium-bodied with a slightly wet feel.
Dark Ale
Before leaving Mitre Tavern we partook in some lunchtime trivia.  Anybody who knows me and Nicole knows we’re unfaltering fans of Geeks Who Drink and, since we had missed our usual game at the D Note, our quiz itch needed a good scratchin’.  We came in second which isn’t too bad for a couple of foreigners with limited knowledge of Australian pop culture. 

Our next stop was in the seaside suburb of St. Kilda.  The first place we visited upon arrival was Luna Park, an old-timey amusement park that dates back 1912.  I have mentioned in previous posts my affinity for the roller coaster and I really would have liked to have ridden Scenic Railway because, firstly, it would have been the oldest coaster I’ve ever ridden, and secondly, with its ornate trains and on-board brakeman, the ride exudes classic coaster charm.  Alas, the park was closed that day and, because of renovations, Scenic Railway would have been closed, anyway.
Scenic Railway at Luna Park
However, with coaster disappointment comes beer success.  We left Luna Park and, based on a suggestion from our friendly bartender at the Portland Hotel, we walked to The Local Bottle Store & Provisions—a beer store specializing in the craft scene.  Fool that I am, I tried to navigate the store on my own before realizing I had no idea what I was looking for.  Thankfully, the man behind the counter was a helpful bloke and gung-ho enough to accept my challenge: if you had to choose four beers to be the face of Australian craft beer, which would you pick?  Through his guidance, I picked up Pacific Ale (4.4% ABV) from Stone & Wood, Hop Hog American IPA (5.8% ABV) from Feral Brewing Company, Murray’s Icon 2IPA (7.5% ABV) from Murray’s Craft Beer Co., and The Ox Imperial Stout (9.4% ABV) from Red Duck.  I packed these away for later use.

From The Local Bottle Store & Provisions it was a short walk to The Local Taphouse—the obviously-affiliated craft beer bar next door.  There, in addition to trading puns with the bartender (like my family and I, she and her siblings often volley lame jokes back and forth much to the eye-rolling annoyance of the third party observer), I had a Coffee IPA (6% ABV), a trial brew from Mountain Goat that is described as “a new world IPA…with coffee in it.”  Yes, it is caffeinated. 
Inside of The Local Taphouse
Coffee IPA
Coffee IPA is basically the same color as the average American IPA: clear and reddish yellow or burnt orange.  I thought that it would have been darker given that there was coffee in it.  Further deceiving the drinker is the aroma that smells strongly of American Northwest-style hops but not of the namesake additive.  Even after I tasted the beer I wasn’t sure I was tasting coffee.  In fact, it tastes more like a chili beer; something about the combination of strong, American hops and coffee makes the flavor taste like a liquefied, mildly spicy pepper.  The hops are also made known at the onset of the taste; the sequence is a hop bite first followed by that peculiar pepper flavor.  The mouthfeel is very wet; each new sip brings a new wave of slobber.  If Denver residents want to try a similar beer, pop on down to Renegade Brewing Company and have a Sunday Morning (6.8% ABV).
Next in line was Chevalier Biere de Garde (7.5% ABV) from Bridge Road Brewers—a clear mahogany beer with an off-white head.  The aroma is sweet and malty and, curiously, smells of both caramel and plum.  The flavors are also an incongruous mix of spicy yeast, tartness, oaken cherry, and the slight burn of alcohol.  While all of these flavors intermingle, the sweet fruitiness overpowers all.  It is, perhaps, too sweet to be really enjoyable. 
Biere de Garde
That about sums up our time in Melbourne but there’s still to be said about Australia.  Keep your eyes open for the Outback and Cairns post.



Our tour of Melbourne taught us a lot about gold and its importance to the state of Victoria. We also learned about some of the architecture in the city which has several buildings with a Venetian influence. Our guide took us to the Queen Victoria Market, Flinders Station, Federation Square, the Old Treasury Building, the arcades (malls) with historic paintings on the ceilings, and she pointed out the Young and Jackson Hotel which houses a painting called “Chloe”. This is a painting of a naked woman that young soldiers would visit before going off to war. She also showed us the crests of each state in Australia as well as the national crest. The crest includes a kangaroo and an emu which are two animals that have the inability to move backward. This represented that the country was moving forward and not backward. These crests are on the former AMP building which has beautiful architecture and is now a very swanky looking night club.
The national seal is on the left

After our walking tour we travelled by bus to Churchill Island and Phillip Island. On Churchill Island we visited the Heritage Farm which shows traditional Australian farming practices such as sheep shearing, whip cracking, herding dogs, and cow milking. They also have several animals that live on the farm. With all the sheep shearing they do, I was hoping that they turned some of into yarn that they would have for sale but I had no such luck. After Churchill Island, we drove to the Koala Conservation Center on Phillip Island. We were able to see koalas napping in the trees and wallabies hopping around. One koala was nice enough to wake up to munch on some leaves and scoot along the branches. The last stop of the night was the Penguin Parade. Along with several other tourists we sat in the rain and cold and waited for the Little Penguins to come home from their fishing trip. They are pretty cute as they try to find their home and their mate. It is amazing that they can find their mate just by their call since they all look similar.
What kind of jerk spanks koalas?
When we stopped at the Mitre Tavern the next day I decided I would try another cider. I had the Gypsy Pear Cider by 2 Brothers Brewery. This cider is yellow in color and one can easily see through it. It has a lot of bubbles with fleeting white foam and a light pear aroma. The flavor is crisp with the pear flavors coming through as more of an aftertaste. It is also a bit tart but with a fruity flavor. I really enjoyed the tartness of this cider. Sometimes I find beer to be a little too heavy.  Cider, however, always seems more light and refreshing.  

We were getting ready to move on with our journey to St. Kilda but the quizmaster convinced us to play the lunchtime trivia. It really didn’t take that much convincing since we were interested in seeing what trivia was like in Australia. Being that the quiz is a lunch quiz, it is geared for professionals getting a quick bite to eat before heading back to the office. The quiz consists of two rounds with ten questions in each round. In addition, there is a visual round with ten pictures. When we played, the pictures were of actors, authors, and musicians. The winning team gets their bill paid for.  Not too shabby.
Gypsy Pear Cider
Later that day we visited St. Kilda and Prahran which were just a short tram-ride away from the CBD (central business district). I was able to catch up with my friend Liz who is a student at NICA (National Institute of Circus Arts). Think of Cirque de Soleil, not the creepy clown that shows up at your kid’s birthday party. She showed us some of the training that she has been doing which is pretty amazing. We learned that other countries have places and products that wouldn’t go over so well in the US. We had some pizza at the Lucky Coq, which is next to a salon called Manhor. For dessert, we had Golden Gaytimes, a smooth and creamy ice confection made with toffee, chocolate and honeycomb biscuit. Thanks Liz! If only the US had some of the ice cream bars that they do in Australia I’d be one happy girl.
I'll admit it, I had a Golden Gaytime in Australia
How would you pronounce this?
One last thing: when we were watching TV one morning we found Geordie Shore, UK’s version of Jersey Shore, featured on MTV UK. Just like the cast of Jersey Shore, the cast of Geordie Shore find cleavage, tanning, and wearing wife-beaters as the most important things in life.  Watch these classy lads and lasses for yourself  at this link. We also saw the commercials for Progressive Insurance featuring the Australian version of Flo, Kitty. “Like” Kitty, the Progressive Girl on Facebook and you, too, can watch the commercials.