Friday, April 20, 2007


Last night saw the dinner announcing the results of the 2007 Australian Beer Awards. Conducted by the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria and held at The Sofitel in Melbourne, the awards recognise the achievements of brewers from Australia and around the globe.

The results are always interesting and rarely are they met with unanimous agreement - the average punter certainly scans the result with only a passing interest, as the beers chosen as Grand Champions are often difficult or near impossible to find - and the chosen few are seldom seen as representative of what the average drinker prefers. This last point is not a bad thing, as, if the judging were left to the average drinker then the Grand Champion for the last ten years would have been a tie between VB and 'those VB's that came in cans what looked like cricket shirts wiv nubers and shit on them' with the silver going to VB stubby.

Having said that, the award winners this year are a mixed bunch in terms of availability and popularity.

Weihenstephan Kristall

PREMIERS TROPHY - Best Victorian Beer
Stella Artois

Colonial Brewing Company - Western Australia

Deschutes Brewery, Oregon USA

Colonial Brewing Company - Western Australia

Feral White - Feral Brewing Co WA

Weihenstephan Kristall

Timisoreana - Ursus Brewery Ukraine

Little Creatures Pale Ale - WA

Obsidian Stout - Deschutes Oregon

Redoak Baltic Porter

The Herald Sun in Melbourne (in a tiny corner of page 29) lamented that the rules need addressing as many winning entries were available only over specialist sites on the Internet and that . . . "it was the sixth time in seven years a rarely seen beer had taken the top honour." Pardon me for drinking, but there are, as we speak, TWO examples of Weihenstephaner Kristall in the Beer Bloke fridge as we speak - plus some TWO DOZEN empties collected over the past two months awaiting refilling with Beer Blokes Wheat Beer! And a well known liquor retailer whose name shall be kept nameless unless they wish to sling me some product in contra and it rhymes with Ban Furphy's, has shelves of this and other Weihenstephaner beers.

If I were to be critical I guess I could have a crack at Stella Artois being voted by the Premier as the best Victorian produced beer. Nothing against Stella - love a pint - but the Stella produced in Abbotsford is hardly the best example of Stella going round and is probably one of many standard golden lagers available. Maybe the Premier as the Minister For the Wharehouse Full of Mirrors needs to convene a committee to "leave it with me and I'll look into it."

I was also critical of last years Grand Champion, Redoak Special Reserve, not because it was rubbish but because it is very difficult to find out if it's rubbish. You could only get this beer by booking a table of ten or more at the Redoak restaurant. This is a fault of the judging criteria not Redoak and wants looking into. It would be easier to get drinkers to locate Tony Mokbel and recite the regulations of stage four water restrictions than to try this beer.

More soon.

For the full results of the awards log on ;

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Following a reply from one of our loyal followers - by the way, don’t follow us, we don’t know where we’re going - I have started up a new section for ‘rare or interesting or otherwise different from VBs ‘ beers.

To kick things off I will share with you the tale of a very rare beer, indeed. The Germans have a saying which goes along the lines of always drinking beer within sight of the brewery. In other words, fresh is best. The fresher the better. I agree. In general, beer, being fairly low in alcohol and chilled and therefore not particularly designed to have strong wine-like characteristics, does not mature with age once it is ready to drink. But, like most other beer ’rules’, there are exceptions.

Some Belgian specialty beers are high enough in alcohol that they will store well and may even mature a little, as will the very well crafted copies from the French Canadian outfit, Unibroue. More on them later. One easily found commercial example is coopers’ Vintage Ale. The last limited release of this bold, complex ale was last year following another two years earlier. To the best of my knowledge, they didn’t let one out in between. The literature will tell you that this drop will develop an even more complex, deep character over six to twelve months. My tasting notes show that the beer was certainly still drinkable after about eight months, but wether or not I could really say it was x amount better, I don’t know. I still have four left, so every year, on this day, I will update you. Remind me if I forget, please.

But back to the really rare beer of which I spoke. Back in 2000 a millennium brew was released by Toohey’s under the name of Hahn Special Vintage 2000. A ruby red, 8%, champagne style bottled which pours (very carefully) with a thick head of foam and a fine bubble. This beer was released in only 13,000 cases - all numbered bottles - and was designed to improve with age. I must admit I have only taste tested on two New Year occasions 2000 and 01 and I still have four left. So, if nothing else, there’s a future taste test to report to our readers.

If you have any rare or interesting beers to share with us, feel free to blog-on and have a say. Remember: the best beer is the one in your hand.
Prof Pilsner.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Hope you all enjoyed the first recipe in our ‘Cooking With Beer’ series. Big Bad Bob, I hope you particularly enjoy the rewards of cooking for Mrs Big Bad. I hope to track down more recipes which involve cooking specifically with Carlton Draught. Wish me luck.

Cooking with beer, I believe, involves two main considerations. Will the beer hold it’s character while cooking in the dish and, can I hold the beer in my hand while cooking the dish.

Cooking for the extended family over Easter I whipped up, for lunch, a kilo of blue Mussels as an entrĂ©e, a main course of Coopers’ Pale Ale battered fish and garlic prawns. This meal consisted of just SEVEN different beers! How economical is that?! Two for cooking and five for cooking with. Let me walk you through the process.

After assisting Wal to move house in the morning, I returned home to prepare. Taking the mussels, I carefully removed the top form a chilled Carlton Draught. Once cleaned, I put the mussels aside to finish the lovely, cold Gaarld’n. Finely chopped chilli, shallots ( or Spring Onion ) and celery pieces were added to a pot with a little oil. A chilled DAB from Germany was added to a glass and set to one side. Once the veg had sweated off, I added the mussels to the pot and the DAB to the lips, continuing until a broad smile ensued. The mussels were then liberally doused in Erdinger Pikantus which is a dark ( dunkel ) wheat beer.

Fresh glasses were liberally doused in the leftovers.

The fish was carefully prepared by removing any bones as well as the top from a very nice bottle of Boag’s Draught. This was followed by a small glass of Coopers’ Pale Ale, the rest of which was whisked up and carefully blended with some flour and a pinch of salt. Dust the fish fillets in the flour, then the batter, then carefully into hot oil. Cook until golden and rest on paper towel to drain. Drain glass of any remaining beer and refill with Maes Belgian Lager. Very nice. This was followed by a not too bad German lager called Memminger. All beers went very well with the fish. Or the fish went very well with the beer. Chris seemed impressed enough to eat fish at all. He usually doesn’t. Maybe the beer helped there, too.

I have cooked mussels with several different beers, now, and all have been well received - by the mussels as well as the guests. Try it for yourself, just grab a good, flavourful wheat beer, witbier, weizen or even a Carlton Draught, Bob, and see for yourself. You may need to vary the level of ‘kick’ in your chilli/onion mix if you use a lesser flavoured beer. More soon.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Australians & Beer - history


Part One

Written by a Beer Bloke, not a qualified historian. You have been warned.

Australia has a rich brewing tradition for a country so relatively young. It follows, then, that we have a rich beer drinking tradition. Or, we drink a lot, therefore we brew a lot. Chicken or egg. I’m no cultural anthropologist. Or poultry expert. But it got me thinking; does our history influence our drinking choices or do we really just drink what we’re given?

Our beer past was shaped by events of a magnitude never before seen by such a young country - remember, we were not even a nation until 1901 - but we were spared wars, both civil and international as a basis for our birth as a cultural identity. Instead it was two principle events - the establishment of Australia as a giant, continent-shaped prison and the discovery of gold that were to mould our identity, build our cities and create our people-ness. Maybe it also shaped our beer landscape.

Captain Cook can take some credit for trying to bring the first beer to Australia. Leaving England on August 26 1768 he was advised to take supplies to brew beer on board in case the water turned bad. He took molasses and turpentine to brew with - so how bad must the water have been! Now when you hear the expression, “getting’ on the turps”, you know whence it come. Cook himself thought beer very beneficial to the health of his crew and reports of the Endeavour’s stock list shows four tonnes of beer on board. Despite this massive quantity, the ship ran out of the stuff just a month into the voyage. Do you still wonder why we are a nation of piss heads?

To the first settlers. A motley collection to say the least and despite management successfully getting nearly all the boarded guests around the world safely, they really had no idea what to do with the land once they got here. Hmm, remembered to bring all the dregs and no-hopers with us, forgot the farmers and the blokes who know about animal husbandry and stuff like that. And someone who can make beer. That might have been handy. It’s a wonder we even drink beer today, given the start.

Early attempts at brewing were fairly spectacularly unsuccessful. Without hops the beer makers - I don’t think we can label them brewers just yet - had to improvise. Cape gooseberry leaf was a popular flavour additive but I guess we can take that from the lack of cape gooseberry leafbeer around today it was none too successfully marketed. John Boston was the colonies first noted brewer. Corn was used for sugar so maybe that is why so much of our modern day beer is a bit thin and pissy.

Now, if you are going to brew beer (even shitty beer) you are going to need a pub. Australia’s first was built in Parramatta in 1796 by James Larra. Larra was a Frenchman who was transported for nicking a tankard. He was obviously thinking ahead. I’ve never been to a French Pub and, again, there aren’t any French themed pubs thriving today so maybe he was rubbish at it, as well. Probably wouldn’t let anyone in if they had thongs on or spoke too commonly and didn’t speak French. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the French - some of my best friends are rude and arrogant.

James Squire is probably Australia’s first brewer of note. He successfully cultivated the first hop crop and will go down in some book of records for winning a cow from the governors herd as prize for growing hops. Rumour has it that the cow went on to become Australia’s first counter meal and bar mat. Squire was nicked for chicken rustling and may have been planning the first Parma & Pot promotion for the front bar. Not totally rehabilitated, he copped an extra 150 lashes for stealing Government supplies of horehound, presumably to use for bittering beer. Now that’s what I call taking one for the team.

He went on to become one of the fleet’s first success stories. A farmer and landowner, his hops were so successful that, while other breweries around him failed through crap beer, his survived and it was another twenty years before another hop farm was established. He then made a logical step that one might make if they wish to protect their investment. He became a copper. Now that is a true Aussie success story. And it’s all thanks to beer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Pale Ale comes GOOD!

Regular readers will recall that, of the first ten brews, only one seemed to have suffered the fate that all brewers dread most - INFECTION !! A good, if immature aroma, with a reasonable head and carbonation, it just seemed to go wrong somewhere in the middle of the palate . . . he said, trying not to sound like a wine tosser. We feared the worst. Our second ever batch had gone west. And not in an Emu Bitter or Little Creatures kind of way. Poor sanitation, sour, dead beer kind of way.

Rested for two months I decided to give it another chance. Partly because it is, so far, the favoured Beer Bloke product of Mrs Lager and partly because Dr Lager has been giving her plenty over the fact that the only beer she enjoyed was poisoned. And so I can report that the Cascade Imperial Voyage Pale Ale - straight from the kit with no hop or enhancer additives - has come good. Pouring with a magnificent, rocky head, presenting with a clean, yet fruity aroma and tasting as smooth as a Dr Lager cover drive, the beer was so good, I thought, as I downed it, “I must get a photo of this for the blog.” As I put down the empty glass I thought again, “I must make these decisions a little earlier.” Sorry folks. I put anothery in the fridge last night.
This should serve to teach us all a couple of valuable lessons. Firstly, good beer takes time. Secondly, if you have done all the right things cleaning wise, your beer should turn out OK eventually and, thirdly always trust your beer.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Beer & Food

Or, cooking with GAS (Good Ales and Such)

In response to your kind comments and as a result of writers’ block, I give you The Beer Blokes’ first instalment of beer cookery. Now, beer cookery itself is nothing new. I always have a beer at hand while I’m cooking. You’re probably the same, yourself. And we’ve all been to barbeques where the cook seems almost unable to cook unless the hand holding the tongs is balanced by the other hand holding a beer. I’m the same myself. Ying and yang. Ale and Lager. Tits and Arse.

No, today we talk about cooking food with beer as an ingredient. Again, nothing new, but a subject I feel has been sadly ignored and a process which can offer many a culinary delight. You’d think, too, that with the growing, mutant breed of celebrity TV chefs that seems largely unstoppable, that one of them would touch on the subject. Some of them could certainly do with a cold beer or ten to help them lighten up and cook something that is vaguely replicable at home or that doesn’t have bloody rocket in it. Come to think of it, there is probably room for a new TV cook who specialises in beer food. I can be contacted at this address, Lifestyle Food people.

I think, being beer people, that we should begin with something simple. Who doesn’t like pie? The old meat pie is something of a ‘soul food’ for Australians and I would like to share my beer fuelled version with you.

Beef and Ale Pie.

Ingredients; Diced Meat (Cheap stuff like chuck, gravy beef, oyster blade, stewing steak or mince if you prefer. Don‘t use good Fillet steak !) Veg (Whatever you like, or whatever you can’t get the kids to eat) Beer. Six stubbies. You with me so far?

Equipment; Large heavy bottomed saucepan. Large heavy bottomed frypan. Large heavy bottomed assistant. Sorry, Mrs Pilsner. Stove top. Fridge (for the Beer).

This recipe works well with any Ale, but I have had best results with stronger tasting brews as the cooking will develop the flavours but reduce the depth a little. James Squires’ Strong Australian Ale (limited release) was a cracker. I have also used JS Original Amber Ale, Coopers’ Dark Ale and Newcastle Brown. If you can drink it and enjoy, you can cook with it. You can also add a layer of mash to the top before putting the pastry on to make a shepherds pie-ish thing.

Step One. Take two beers. Pour one into a nice glass. Drink.

Step Two. Gently fry off some onion in a large saucepan with a little oil and butter to soften. Don’t overcook. Add diced, firm veggies like carrot, celery and parsnip. Stir.

Step Three. Check beer glass. Top up if necessary.

Step Four. Toss the beef in some seasoned flour and, in a frypan, brown in small batches. If using mince, don’t try to coat each bit in seasoned flour. If using good Fillet steak , see above. Add meat to the saucepan with the veg. You can add a little beef stock at this point.
Step Five. Repeat Step Three.

Step Six. Take two more beers. Drink one and pour the other into the saucepan.

Step Seven. Bring to a boil and let simmer gently for at least an hour. If using mince, this should be enough. If using cubed steak, an hour and a half may be needed. If using good Fillet Steak, I won’t tell you again. Allow the volume of liquid to reduce by about half. You can add peas, corn or mushroom with about half an hour to go.

Step Eight. Use this time to go to the bottle shop for more beer, if required.

Step Nine. Don’t drive to bottle shop if you have repeated step one or step three more than twice.
Step Ten. Probably should’ve put step nine before step eight.

Step Eleven. Sorry.

Step Twelve. If home again safely, repeat Step Three.

Step Thirteen. In the frypan, melt a little butter and add some plain flour. Cook gently for a minute and then stir this into the saucepan to magically create the gravy.

Step Fourteen. Have a beer to celebrate learning to make the gravy.

Step Fifteen. Turn the stew-like mixture into a pie dish and top with pastry. Bake at about 180c for about ten minutes, or until pastry is golden, or until everyone is too hungry to wait anymore. If using mince or cubed, you could make smaller, individual pies. If using good Fillet Steak, call for pizza now. And think about drinking a little less, yeah?

Step Sixteen. Enjoy eating your Beef and Ale pie with the same beer that you used in the recipe. The same KIND of beer. Not the beer you used in the recipe. It is now too hot and cooked to drink. If you still go ahead and drink it, go and sit in the corner with the good Fillet Steak bloke, please. I will speak to you both after class.

Monday, April 2, 2007

It’s Beer-n a While

A busy time for the Beer Blokes the last few weeks, which is the reason for the lack of web based activity. I promise, though, in the next two weeks to make it up to everyone with some wonderful, beer-fuelled word mayhem.

The last of the first round of lagers has been bottled and is conditioning away nicely. Another strong brew - 6% - a result, I think, of an all malt base. So that’s our tenth brew down and both Dr Lager and I have plentiful stocks of our previous efforts maturing safely in storage. Happy days ahead. Indeed.

I have also begun testing some beer recipes - both food and beer matching and cooking with beer. The first installment of Beer Bloke Kitchen will be ready by the end of this week. Stay tuned, Big Bad Bob.

Also in the beer diverter pipeline is a new series from which our readers may just learn. It attempts (or pretends) to track the history of our hallowed brew from the time the first shod foot landed on our fair shores, to the present day. Australian history like you never got at school. In a bottle.

Also hope a reader or two can give us a review of the Craft Brew showcase held last week at Melbourne’s Federation Square. Having attended, and drunk my way through, the inaugural one two years ago, I have missed the three since. These events are a great way to sample the current Craft Brews around without having to commit to a large cost outlay - for around twenty bucks you get twenty tasting tickets which you can swap for any of the beers on display - and you also have the chance to speak with the brewers themselves. A word of advice, though. Do your questioning early because, by beer number thirty ( I scored a comp. ticket after I bought one) it just becomes a slur-a-thon. And you forget what they tell you anyway.

So there you have your next few weeks entertainment mapped out for you. Don’t thank me, just go out and buy a couple of beers that you never thought you’d try, tip them down the beer hole and thank the bloke upstairs for your bounty.

Cheers. Prof. Pilsner