Thursday, February 25, 2010


It was very pleasing to see the massive show of People Power in Melbourne this week as an estimated ten thousand turned out for a lively but peaceful protest against the State’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ liquor law changes.

Led by Australian music icon Paul Kelly the crowd followed a flat-bed truck down Swanston St in a recreation of AC/DC’s classic 1976 film clip for “It’s a long way to the Top”. The protest was aimed at shining a light on the short-sighted answer to the problems caused by pissed idiots in a few of Melbourne’s large, soulless booze barns run by greedy operators intent on spiling everything for the rest of us.

When live music venue The Tote made the decision to close its doors a few months back as a result of increased license fees it made plenty of people realise that the enjoyment of many was being threatened by the disrespect of a few and I guess that’s why I saw Tuesday’s protest as a massive blow for people power and made me think that there might actually be a groundswell of public feeling out there that ‘we’re not gonna take it’!

Increased license fees and forcing live music venues to employ security is just adding unnecessary expense to many responsible operators while ignoring the fact that there a no more than a handful of cowboys in the industry creating legions of drunk idiots every night of the week. And they can absorb the extra charges as they will just cram another hundred or so in to cover it.

Get rid of the cowboys and discourage the pissed idiots and we’ll go a long way to solving the problems of lawlessness and disorder in our city. A city that, as ACCA DACCA shows in the clip, was once young and innocent and welcoming and cars were allowed to drive down Swanston Street and listening to a band and having a few beers with your mates didn’t mean you’d end up dead in a gutter.

Prof. Pilsner

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Thank You to Mrs Pilsner for this latest research which shows that beer and yoga have the same health benefits. I have not included "Downward Dog" as I don't want to jeopardise the Family Rating of my blog.

Position that brings the sensation of peace and calm.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
This position calms the brain and heals tired legs.

Position stimulates the midirift area and the spinal comumn.

Excelent for back pain and imsomnia.

Excelent for the shoulder area, thorax, legs, and arms.

Great excersice to stimulate the lumbar area, legs, and arms.

Ananda Balasana
This position is great for masaging the hip area.

This position, for ankles and back muscles.

Tones the body, and builds flexibility and helps get rid of 'stress'.

Cheers ... and beers
Prof. Pilsner

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ale Stars of the Puckered Cheek

Ale Stars is growing up. No longer sitting in the high-chair at the end of the Grown-Ups’ Beer Table, it has shed its baby shoes and slipped effortlessly into the Bata Scouts school shoes of the Big Kids’ Playground with no need for the compass in the heel.

What other reason can there be for the success of Tuesday’s event? Ale Stars has not only tackled the challenging portfolio of ‘Wild Beers’ but just about packed the place out. Despite Shandy’s best efforts at ‘promoting’ the forthcoming meeting by incorporating the word ‘sour’, or ‘sah-ww-werrrre’ no less than six times, 44 expectant – and slightly nervous – punters turned out on a very pleasant Melbourne evening to experience a style so very removed from mainstream tastes that it probably could not have been attempted at Ale Stars a year ago.

A selection of Lambic, Gueuze, Flanders’ Red and Oud Bruin greeted the crowd and, while most of these reviews are about the people and the atmosphere, this time around it is pretty much about the beer.

Lindeman’s Kriek was a surprise to most – and a pleasant surprise at that. Cherry pink in a very ‘children’s cough medicine’ kind of way (with an aroma to match) it seemed a strange ‘first-up’ beer. Sweet gave way to tart at the same time as spritzy carbonation gave way to a softening body. A show of hands saw the beer given the thumbs-up. It’s pole position would soon be justified.

Cantillon Gueuze gave the room an eerie silence as the apple-juice looking beer was delivered. The silence was broken by the sound of a few dozen cheeks simultaneously puckering. The expression ‘farmyard smell’ was bandied about and Shandy’s promise of ‘smell of horse blanket’ began to be understood. As it went down, the room warmed to the pleasant surprise of a lemon zing and a dry finish while another show of hands revealed the beers overall acceptance.

Rodenbach Classic shifted the colour wheel from a very pale straw to a rich deep mahogany (and don’t I dislike that as a beer word!) with some tart/fruity/malty elements and a taste not dissimilar to brown sugar and dark berry with some acid edges designed to surprise and delight.

A Liefman’s Goudenband, plain bottle-hand-wrapped-in-paper, closed the night with a beer that seemed to combine bits of all the previous beers, although this might have had something to do with the cumulative effects of the previous beers. Complex and refreshing, at 8% it was the biggie of the gig but again received well.

You’d be forgiven for mistaking this round of Ale Stars for a Union stop-work meeting or a primary school lesson so often were we asked for a show of hands! Combine this with the following elements;

A number of recent Ale Star coverts returning,
Several new members – two of whom finished the night by applying for membership,
One member participating in the trivia quiz by mobile phone from outside whilst smoking a cigar,

An amazing number of puerile jokes based on the word ‘Genus’,
Actually, it was just the same puerile joke repeated over and over,
And a trivia quiz designed to seriously handicap knowledgable types by awarding points for ‘funny team names’.
Actually, some of the team names were pretty clever...
and it was one of the most enjoyable outings to date.

Prof. Pilsner

P.S. Cheers, good luck and goodbye to Ale Star Matt (S31) who is leaving us to pursue a beer drinking Odyssey in the USA and then the UK.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Holgate Brewhouse for lunch

A nice Sunday with no commitments around the house and an empty spot on the calendar is a rarity in this household at the moment and with Valentine’s Day/Weekend coming up and a ton of other engagements after that I knew it would be a while before the opportunity would again present.

I had been meaning to stick to an earlier self-commitment to drink more beer this year – I mean, visit more interesting regional centres around this wide brown land – and decided that a trip to Woodend, less than an hour from Melbourne’s CBD, would be a good place to start.

The fact that Holgate Brewhouse sits at the geographical centre of Woodend and has a very well regarded restaurant may have come into play as well. I had also made a promise to Julian from Holgate’s that I would pay a visit so, as they say, all the planets were aligned.

The Holgate Brewhouse operates out of Keating’s Hotel, a 100 year old building on a corner in the middle of a picture-postcard town and has been home to the brewery since the Holgate’s took over the lease in 2002. The brewery itself was established by Paul and Natasha in 1999.

Richard and the staff looked after us beautifully and, as a restaurant manager, it as a treat to be on the other end of good service – although at one point Mrs Pilsner had to ask me to sit down and stop taking the girls’ orders. Old habits! The menu features plenty of local produce and if you can’t find a beer to match something on the menu, then you’re pretty hard to please.

As Mrs Pilsner had kindly offered to take the driving duties for the return trip (after my first three trips to ask a question saw me return with a new beer) I thought it would be a nice challenge to match each course with a beer. Beginning with a Pilsner and then a Macedon Ale I then had to try the newest, ‘Only Available at the Brewery’ beer, the Road Trip APA. Inspired by, well, a Road Trip to The States, this is a refreshing if slightly restrained take on the APA which went down beautifully.

While Mrs Pilsner took the eldest Pilsner for a shopping-walk I was left to mind the two Littlest Pilsners while they had dessert. It was fun. They had Bunny Ears Ice Cream and I had Holgate Temptress chocolate Porter then the Littlest Pilsner locked herself in the toilet and while Megan was very kindly extricating her I took the opportunity to tour the brewhouse. It was fun.

Holgate Brewhouse is well worth the short trip to Woodend if for no other reason that it is just very nice to sit at the bar of a nice real hotel having just had some nice real beer – some, like the Temptress, straight from the hand-pumped beer engine – and to listen to the sounds of somewhere seemingly a million miles away from the city and to not have to listen the clanging of pokies.

They also have some very nice accommodation available so if your driving partner is not as flexible as mine, you can make as many trips to the bar to ask questions as you like and not have to drive home.

Prof. Pilsner

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A goal achieved

I was going to use this post to spruik a Beer Dinner that I’m hosting at The Courthouse Restaurant at the end of February. We missed out on a dinner during January as things just got a bit too busy and people were away but figured the weather would still be OK for some nice Summer/warm weather beers matched to some nice dishes this month.

I even had Neil Whittorn from Matilda Bay offer to ‘invite himself’ for the event, an offer I readily accepted. All I had to do then was get some bums-on-seats. I’ve been hosting beer dinners now for about seven years and, while getting people interested in a beer dinner is relatively easy, getting them to actually book and come to a dinner is a different thing altogether.

At The Courthouse we have held at least five or six dinners a year for the past five years and have built a solid base of reliable regulars who love coming along. But so many others make all the right noises while they’re in the restaurant having a few beers and then fail to reply when you send them an invite.

But not this time. Since just before Christmas we decided to set up a sub-list from our e-mail data base just for our Beer People so that we could send them a newsletter and an invite before we advertised the date to the general public. We did a mail out just over a week ago and I have spent the last couple of days writing to people to apologise for being unable to fit them all in! That’s right, after those early days of hosting a dinner for two tables and a total of six people we have now had to cap the numbers and put up the Sold Out sign.

This week, after we get through the joy of three separate sittings for Valentine’s Day, I’ll have to go out and get more beer. And more food. And some more staff.

Prof. Pilsner

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Big Helga and the Professor

As a Beer Bloke I’m often asked for an opinion on a beer. Usually it’s a guest in the restaurant or a mate at a function or even that little old lady in Dan Murphy’s who was happy to ask a stranger (I was also the only other person in the craft/imported beer section at the time) for some advice. And while I’ll never just bag a beer – I might strongly suggest an alternative – I always try to say nice things.

When there is an added incentive to say nice things – say, the offer of a very nice, badged beer glass and some free product, well, you know how it is... ?
It doesn’t make any difference.

When I was approached to accept a free gift and some free pots in return for promoting a new beer I said I would be glad to help out. Anything to get more people drinking better beer and all that. I added that I didn’t really do ‘beer reviews’ and I wouldn’t say anything that I wasn’t prepared to stand behind.

At this point I wasn’t told which beer I would be spruiking, although; “A large boutique brewery client that wants to send you a 6-pack of their new, unreleased publicly Munich style Lager/Pale Ale” did lead me to suspect that a rather tall German lady might be arriving shortly in liquid form.* And don’t we all want that!

Plenty has been written and spoken about Big Helga in the beer blogosphere recently and I have to admit that I already had a soft spot for Matildas Bays’ latest garage-engineered brew, having sampled it with the brewers at the Microbrewery Showcase back in November.

She is a lovely light-golden lager who, while maybe not strictly speaking an Oktoberfest lager, certainly has the required ID that would see her easily admitted to the beer tent in Munich. There is a bit of debate about as to whether or not it has too much hop flavour to be a true Helles or not enough to be an Oktoberfest beer, but either way, she is refreshing and rewarding.

And, as it is with all good beers, it has some stories attached. I can promise you, from years of suggesting and then pouring various beers for guests, the easiest ones to sell are the ones with a story. Big Helga’s ‘heritage’ may be straight from the first chapter of the Marketing For Dummies Manual and you can take that for what it’s worth, but it has a very credible back-story concerning the lass representing the ‘original’ Big Helga at the product launch back in October.

MB Executive, Jamie Fox had found it impossible to find a model with the suitable height to carry the role until a late night tram ride revealed a possible candidate for the future Helga. Apparently half-tanked and inarguably half her size, he made the last-second decision to jump off the tram when she did and accost her in the street. The old yarn about the girl-on-the-tram and the ‘modelling agent’ could easily have played out with the pint-sized stalker gazing at the night sky from the gutter – he didn’t even have a business card on him to back his sketchy claims! Fortunately she took the chance and now Big Helga lives!

For those beerily-minded folk reading this Big Helga’s ‘stats’ are as follows;
She sits around the 20 IBU mark, giving her roughly the same bitterness as a VB or Toohey’s New and she weighs in at 4.7% ABV. For the really beer-nerdy among you, her ‘complexion’ is 12 EBC making her just a little more golden than a Helles might ordinarily be. She is bittered and flavoured with a NZ Pacifica hop in both kettle and dry form producing plenty of flavour without too much bitterness. Just what you want in a good woman.

But, to finish, she IS a little different. Brewer Scott Vincent describes her as a good lawnmower beer for the session drinkers but a beer which rewards the Thinkin’ Drinker with some inner complexity. Some tropical fruit aromas and a dry resonance makes her very palatable and a good partner to the increasingly popular older brother, Fat Yak.

Did I make you want to go out and get yourself some? Because I could do with some promo stuff and I gotta earn it first!

Prof. Pilsner

*At the time of posting, she still hasn’t arrived in the promised six-pack form.

P.S. The pic I found on Matt's blog probably doesn't show just how tall Big Helga is - Matt is a pretty tall streak himself. Is it too late to ask if I can use your pic, Matt?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Some more Beer Karma

I used to do bit a fair bit of specialised chalkboard art for a number of restaurants a few years back - menu boards with caricatures and sneaky little pop culture references hidden in them – that sort of thing.

I’m too busy to keep it up as a business and I haven’t done any for a while but one old customer called me to come out and update a small board he has at a little cafe in South Melbourne and I couldn’t help but help him out.

It was a ten minute job to change a few prices and add a few items but, as often happens in real life, a nice little coincidence led to a nice little experience. The cafe owner had taken the ladder home and even though I just push six-foot, I can’t reach a chalkboard perched above a work bench and grill without feeling a little toey so we had to have a Plan B.

“Would you mind popping over the road and asking to borrow their ladder?” he asked.

‘Over the road’ just happens to be nice little inner suburban relic of Pubs in Years Past, The Maori Chief hotel. Founded in 1867 (I know that’s not old for you English pub people but it’s positively ANCIENT by our Colonial standards!) it has a front bar at the front and a side bar at the side and a nice dining room and function area as well.

It also has The Goat on tap.

I just happened to notice as I grabbed the ladder that Mountain Goat Steam Ale was on tap in the front bar and decided that a nice way to thank them for the use of the ladder would be to come back after the job was done and share some nice quality time with the Youngest Pilsner, who was along for the ride.

Can I just say how nice it was to sit at a good old fashioned bar in a good old fashioned pub sipping a good old fashioned pot of very nice beer with your youngest for company. It was all over in fifteen minutes but it was worth ten times that.

Prof. Pilsner

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Another one of those nights

Two in a week! Last night we were fortunate to have a booking of ten consisting of some local Fine Wine Department managers from one of Australia’s large liquor retailers. Fortunate for them because they got to experience the charm and atmosphere of the area’s most beautifully appointed restaurant and fortunate for us because they were each bringing along a special bottle from their own private cellars.

How is that fortunate for us when it means we lose out on drink sales? Because the trade-off was that we would get to share each wine with them in return for us selecting several small courses to match to each ‘mystery bottle’. How was that fortunate for me when I am very much a Beer Bloke and not a Wine Wanker?

Well, while I do enjoy the odd lager, ale or assorted other, I can also appreciate other forms of imbibing fluid when it is a good representation of the style or when it’s matched to food or even when it’s just something special. That’s the kind of guy I am.

But last night gave me a new insight into something I might have been taking for granted. These guys and girls were really passionate, not just about how old or rare or special the wine was but also about sharing an interest, getting together and having an experience. And, as an ‘outsider’ I really enjoyed watching the interaction, the camaraderie and the slow but inevitable effect of a table of people and ten bottles of wine!

I guess that my passion for beer is seen by others in the same way that I saw theirs. At Beer Dinners and Ale Stars meetings and Spectapulars and Microbrewery Showcases and just at a simple table at home with a mate or two, sharing a beer and a bit of bullshit is what life is really all about the other stuff can either wait, or get stuffed!

Prof. Pilsner