Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Beers 2009

Well, the busiest week of the year has drawn to a close (if you don’t count preparing for a New Years’ Eve full restaurant and a full-house back at home a-waiting) and now I have a minute to reflect and review the season’s beery offerings for you.

Fortunately, with a young family of our own as well the two sets of grandparents to take into account AND the Littlest Pilsner celebrating her birthday just after Christmas, the Pilsner Clan deigns to spread the festive cheer over the course of the whole week. Lest we all just burn out very early and things get very ugly.

After closing up the restaurant late on Wednesday night and hanging back with the Chef/Owner to crack a celebratory ale and review the busiest month we’ve had, my mind was already sorting and ordering the festive beers to come. Christmas Eve is shared with Mrs P’s family and with the Brother-in-law (and fellow Ale Star) in attendance the beers are always varied and festive and interesting. This year we just happened to ‘click’ and bring some of the same beers to the party.

Beginning with a Budvar – a cracking palate-prepper – we helped to get the dinner ready and keep the kids away from the presents under the tree. Moving to the table we launched into a Christmassy-themed Weihenstephaner Pilsner (click on this link if you don’t know why it’s a Christmas beer) which was soon followed by a Red Hill Bohemian Pilsner. A second Weihenstephaner Pilsner served well as a palate cleanser for the ‘treat’ to come.

Earlier in the year some Samiclaus were purchased and put away for Christmas. They were put away for a number of reasons including the fact that, at 14% ABV it is NOT an everyday beer, that it is brewed ONLY on the feast of St Nick each year and then cask-aged for ten months before bottling, making it a vcery ‘festive’ brew and, finally, because Shandy had warned me, in no uncertain terms, against drinking it while it was ‘fresh’ – i.e. in the same year it was bottled. “Hard work” was how I think he described it.

A bloody hard effort, wrapped up in a difficult task and served up on a bed of nails with side dressing of ‘shit-this-is-bloody-hard-work’ would be closer to it. Maybe it had something to do with the beers which had preceded it? Nup. I can’t imagine having the Samiclaus as a starter. The alcohol content does not hide behind the well balanced malt and hops – it stands like a big Kiwi bouncer out the front of the Mouthfeel Nightclub and stares you down as if to to say; “Sorry mate, not in THOSE shoes.”

Warm – to the point of discomfort – with some nice, if subtle, spicy, blackcurranty, fruit-cakey kind of flavours which just can’t quite break through the heavy richness of the overall palate. Thinking that this might be one of those beers that needs a little warming to release its true character we sat back and waited. A sip. And we waited. And we waited. It never got better. Not that it got any worse – it just didn’t get better. If anything the alcohol warmth got a bit ‘petrol-y’. And not in a nice, fuel-your-engine-and power-out-of-the-straight kind of way.

As I packed the car and carefully stowed my Christmas present of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Anchor Steam beer and Meantime Chocolate (what’s Xmas without chocolate?) I realised that not all Christmas beers bring about Christmas cheer. Putting out a nice icy cold Little Creatures Pale Ale for Santa (after giving the car keys to Mrs Pilsner) I realised that the difference between a beer being great and not-so-memorable is about half an hour.

Christmas Day with three young kids in the house is one of life’s most underrated and pleasurable experiences and one which deserves a post of its own – except it is not nearly as beer-related! Needless to say it involves lots of superfluous packaging, English-from-Chinese translated instructions and AA batteries. After which you seriously need a beer.

Prof. Pilsner

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Peace & Joy & Beer

I think I’ve shared these sentiments in this blog in years gone by, but they just keep coming back into my head. Therefore they are either very persistent and shall be repeated here, or they are still very relevant and shall be repeated here. And here goes.

No matter whether you are Christian or Calathumpian, Muslim or Mormon, Buddhist or “It’s All Bullshit” – Christmas is a special time. And that goes double if you have kids. There is just a certain something in the air if you choose to sniff it and if you can divorce your senses from the chaotic swirl of consumerism, confusion and fat Mums stuffing their faces (and those of their fat kids) with donuts and hamburgers in the shopping centres – it’s actually a very joyous and peaceful time.

Working for as long as I have in restaurants, this time of year has a frenetic pulse, a seemingly discordant symphonic pace and yet underlying it is a ‘buzz’ of better things. People coming from all parts to share – company, food, beer, laughs – and we get a ringside seat. Watching guests arrive. Nervously looking for their group, stuttering as they weigh up where to sit (Next to the boss? Not too far away from the boss? My partner doesn’t know anyone) Almost apologetically ordering their first drinks. Introducing the partner to the work people. Personal and public lives start to race towards collision.

And then something funny happens.

Christmas kicks in and everyone begins to relax. Work is forgotten for a few hours, family is forgotten and suddenly that bloke from accounts who you all thought was a bit of a knob-end actually seems – what’s the word for it? Human? And Mrs Frontbottom, the craggy-faced, hard-arsed bitch from the front office is actually smiling. Someone take a photo. As the entrees are cleared and the mains are served, you can almost hear the tensions unbuttoning. Sometimes it’s the boss who is ‘holding court’, enthralling the crew with war stories of Global Financial Crises past and tales of working in the factory in pre OH&S days when a ‘ladder’ was any collection of assembled objects that got you to the top shelf and a missing finger was a mark of honour and good source of a nickname.

Sometimes it’s the quiet bloke from the warehouse who takes centre-stage with a ripping send-up of the boss and his idiosyncrasies. Until now, no one else in the business knew he even spoke English. Everyone is laughing and everyone is equal – especially the boss who is both the target and the bloke who will be footing the tab. But it’s Christmas and everything is Festive-coloured. They can’t help themselves, Christmas is making them relax. Maybe they all ‘Road-Raged’ in the car on the way to the restaurant and maybe they cursed and pissed and moaned and kicked the cat that they had to give up a night to go out with work people – but they can’t help themselves now, the Christmas spirit has them firmly by the festive chestnuts.

And so to my Christmas Wish. To all who have read my blog, to those with whom I have shared a real beer and those with whom our beers have been virtual, to everyone who has listened and shared and commented and criticised – Thank You. I will raise a frothy glass to each and every one of you on Christmas day and genuinely drink to your health and happiness. Because that’s what beer is all about. Making the world a better place.

I hope you can all be like the guests I just described. I hope you can see past the wrapping paper and the 50% Off sale signs, past the dickheads and the doomsdayers, the alarmists and the nay-sayers and just enjoy the moment, even if it’s just for a little while. For what it’s worth, I find that sharing a nice special beer with friends helps the process along.
God Bless and Good Beer,

Prof. Pilsner

P.S. Disrespecting beer makes baby Jesus cry.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Do they know it’s Christmas Ale time?

Ale Stars at The Local Taphouse saw in the festive season last night with a joyous celebration of good company, good cheer and plenty of good beer. Seasonal and Christmas Ales was the theme and the room was filled with the now unmistakable ‘air of Ale Star’ – packed to overflowing with spirit and friendship and chatter and hand-shaking and the sudden need to employ the use of a microphone for the host to be heard.

Christmas is, for most, a special time of year and, while Australia is not as blessed as its northern hemisphere neighbours for Festive Ales from many breweries, it is, nonetheless, well served for those prepared to seek. Limited release specials from some of our own craft brewers as well as the availability of overseas offerings means we don’t have to miss out.

A Meantime High Saison kicked off proceedings with its hints of coriander, orange peel and cumin (is that a beer or a curry-starter?) which was well received. Of the fifty or so attendees most were in the affirmative for this one. Perhaps (he said, trying hard to be nice) the next offering was less enthusiastically received. Redoak, from Sydney, has produced its Xmas Cheer for some years now and each batch seems a little ‘removed’ from its predecessor – seasonal variance, or over-tinkering? Not as many hands shot up for this years’ version and the consensus seemed to be that the body was a little thin for the style with the finish a little spiky.

David Golding from Red Hill Brewery was the next ‘gift’ to emerge from Santa’s sack as he showed just how to entertain the crowd with a short but well chosen series of stories to illustrate the thinking behind both the Red hill story and the Christmas Ale in particular. As is often the case, a trip to Belgium years ago was the catalyst for both the establishment of the brewery on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula as well as the formation of the idea for a seasonal range of beers, of which the Christmas Ale is arguably the star.

The Red Hill Christmas Ale is hopped using the breweries’ own Tettnang and Hallertau hops and the fickle yeast has been ‘tamed’ after four previous attempts made fermentation challenging. A long maturation along with some dry hopping gives this Belgian style seasonal a taut finish after some lovely rich malt and spicy middle bits. Santa wasn’t done yet and we all got to take one home with us to pop under the Christmas tree.

We finished off with a Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve Ale which is based on the amber ale known as St Rogue Red. And that’s about the colour you could expect your nose and cheeks to turn if you emptied too many of these at the Christmas dinner table. A nice finisher after which Dave was kind enough to stay around and chat to the masses. As the first special guest to make a return visit it seemed the Ale Stars still had some questions he didn’t get to answer the first time around.

The festive theme continued with the surprise presentation of a stunningly elegant and beautifully presented pictorial record made to celebrate the Ale Stars first year. A lovely bound first edition that looked very, very professional and didn’t look at all as though Steve and Mark from Cats and myself had cobbled it together from dodgy fuzzy photos, nice clear photos lifted off other peoples’ sites and stuck together with Ale Stars reviews from my blog. Hopefully it will sit proudly on the bar somewhere so that strangers will understand what this whole thing is all about. {Mental note to self – we WILL need to get it laminated}

The night finished with plenty more beery banter around the bar after the announcement of the trivia winners. Some teams did very, very well considering how particularly difficult the questions were but one team did exceptionally well, as it happened. As the team was made up of several previous winners, we, I mean they, were not sure whether to call the team “World Series Super Ultra Team” or “Team – Surely They’ll Disqualify Us Before We Even Start” but it appears that the Christmas spirit won the day and the free beers were duly dispensed. And they were very nice.

Prof. Pilsner

Friday, December 11, 2009

More man time?

You know how I love research, especially when it has anything to do with beer. If it has anything to do with beer AND boobies, I’m there!

According to a recent survey, Australian women believe that it is beneficial for their blokes to go out and have a beer with their mates in order to improve their romantic relationships. I haven’t had the chance to ask Mrs Pilsner if this is true in her particular case, but I’m guessing she hasn’t bought shares in the company conducting this survey. Which just happens to be Cooper’s Brewing Company. The ones who make beer.

The cynic in me might suggest that a brewer conducting a survey concerning the increased consumption of the manufacturer’s own product is, well, a bit, what’s the word ... cynical? To be fair, I think that Cooper’s might just have commissioned, rather than conducted, the survey to promote their new brew but it’s worth pondering just the same.

I’m guessing that Mrs Pilsner was in the 8% who said they thought their bloke spent enough time already drinking beer with their mates, thank you very much rather than the 78% who said they thought their romance would improve if the bloke spent some extra quality Man Time with his mates. The research doesn’t specify if the girls’ romantic improvement would occur with the same bloke she was happily sending off to the pub.

The other figure I found amusing was the one which showed that, while 78% of ladies were all for more Man Time, only 61% of blokes felt they needed more Man Time. Perhaps even more surprising was the 70% of blokes who believe beer is a key ingredient in catching up with their mates. What are the rest of you soft-chops thinkin’?

Cooper’s want to make today (Friday) “National Day of the Man Lunch” reflecting the growing trend for blokes to feel the necessity for catching up with mates for lunch and beer for a bit of good ol’ male bonding away from the women folk. After my second Beer Diva Dinner and plenty of Ale Stars gatherings, can I just suggest that some female beer company (about half of both group is girls) is not the worst thing to happen to a bloke?

Prof. Pilsner

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dinner with The Beer Diva

Christmas is a time for caring and sharing and what better way to show that you care by sharing dinner and a beer - or eight – with The Beer Diva.

The Beer Diva is Kirrily Waldhorn and a more appropriate moniker you could not attach. She just looks like a ‘Kirrily’. And while, in some circles the tag ‘Diva’ might evoke thoughts of stuffiness, petulance or arrogance, in the case of this Diva, the exact opposite is true. Relaxed, unpretentious and generous, she hosts a beer dinner as if you are all guests in her own home. Although she doesn’t run around looking flustered trying to juggle pots, pans and oven mitts, and then rope you into drying the dishes.

She does, however, look very comfortable sharing her passion for beer. A working lunch with head brewer Bill Taylor while working in the marketing department for Lion Nathan was Kirrily’s ‘Eureka’ moment – the event that made her realise her calling! Leaving to pursue a career as a Beer Diva (not sure wether it’s a degree or a diploma course) Kirrily has set out to share the Beer Word with beer novice and expert alike.

The Local Taphouse in St Kilda has been something of a ‘poor cousin’ to the mob in Darlinghurst who have had the pleasure of The Diva’s company on several occasions already. The second Beer Diva Dinner saw an intimate setting for around twenty, complete with Christmas tree and daggy Bon Bons, set alongside a menu of 5 courses matched to eight beers. You do the maths, that’s pretty impressive in anybody’s addition.

A Bridge Road Saison on arrival was followed by a Hoegaarden Wit and a risotto of prawn, lemon and coriander with snow pea tendrils and an introduction by The Beer Diva to the wonders of beer. A Hofbrau Helles with tempura zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and honey on an ajo blanco gazpacho may sound like a combination for which you might seek the advice of a medical specialist but was, in fact, a gastronomic delight.

Head Chef, Richard, emerged from his culinary cave to share his secrets with the dinner guests including the revelation that each meal (apart from the cheese plate) incorporated beer in the recipe. Game On! We decide we had to detect and identify each one.

A 2 Brothers Growler and a Hargreaves Hill Celtic Red were pitted against (or alongside!) each other and a main course of braised ox cheek with red wine jus frisee and glazed shallots and while the descriptions of the aroma of the Celtic Red were, to say the least, varied, all were in agreement on the deliciousness of the food. A Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout and a hazelnut torte served with Chantilly Cream was just the ticket for those needing a sweet fix and the perfect pairing of three distinctly different cheeses with a Leffe Brune was the ideal finish.

At this stage we had all had “an elegant sufficiency” (as Kirrily’s grandmother would say) but there was still one more beer for those clever enough to have scooped the Trivia prize. And what better way to share the festive spirit than by sitting with friends, new and old, and winding down the night talking beer? With the partners of the Taphouse ‘keepers’ on hand (principals sounds too dicky, owners sounds too commercial) the night just had a magical Christmas family dinner kind of feel to it.

An isn’t that what Christmas – and beer – are all about?

Prof. Pilsner

Monday, November 30, 2009

Four into Three won't go

A severe lack of free time and 'head-space' has meant little time for quality posting and so, rather than peppering the blog with random uninteresting posts I figured it was better to starve you all and make you keener for the return!

December this year is effectively a three week month with Christmas Day and Boxing Day taking up the fourth weekend and for the hospitality industry this means trying to squeeze four weeks of fun, frivolity and festiveness into three weeks. Which you can do. Kinda. Almost. But you end up working like a one-armed Beirut bricklayer and finish up as flat as a shit-carter's hat.

We hosted a wedding yesterday and, while local beers were included in the tab, a table of younger blokes saw our International Beer Passport and decided to dig into their own wallets and pick out a few specials. However, when they spotted one particular offering, a new game was begun. "Pete, can I buy an Old Fart and have you send it to the two blokes on table 2?" Much hilarity ensued and a return attack came in the form of a Sheepshagger Lager. A Fat Yak followed and defeat was finally admitted when 500 mls of both Old Growler and Sweet FA was sent over.

While I don't encourage drinking irresponsibly, it WAS pretty funny seeing the reactions from opposite sides of the room. The dark looks from the Bride and Groom were trimmed when I assured them that the Top Shelf beers were not finding their way onto the bill!

Goes to show you, though, that the name of the beer can sometimes have an impact on it's saleability.

Prof. Pilsner

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ale Stars Epic adventure

Another month, another Ale Stars. Although, to be fair, this was no ordinary Ale Stars.

For a start, for the first time ever, the “SOLD OUT” sign went up on the morning of the event, the theme was Brewery-based rather than style based and we had our first international guest in New Zealand brewer, Luke Nicholas from Epic Brewing.

It was also memorable because, for the first time ever, I had TWO offers of a lift home (and couldn’t get a spot for either of them initially!) and a huge thanks to JJ for finding them a seat.

Luke Nicholas has been brewing for thirteen years and the last four have seen him running Epic Brewing. And when he says “I run the company” he means ”I am the SOLE employee of the company.” That’s a one man operation. The bottling and labelling, packaging and distribution is all out-sourced, and while this may mean relying on everyone else to get their bit right, it sure keeps payroll costs down. The brewing side of things is, however, is very hands-on with Luke tasting the brew at every stage from mashing-in to conditioning and all points in between. “Basically, I drink a lot of beer” was his own appraisal of his job description.

Luke was able to tell the crowd a few stories about his various ventures, including his novel approach to recreating the conditions of a trip taken by the original India Pale Ales. A wooden cask of his own Armageddon IPA was loaded on to the ferry that travels between New Zealand’s North and South islands and sent back and forth 126 times. The temperature changes on an equator crossing voyage were replicated by storing the barrel in the back of the engine room behind the kid’s playground, which almost brought about a ‘critical structure failure’ when the cask expanded in the heat and beer leaked out and solidified like varnish – a fortunate stroke of chemistry and physics which combined to re-seal the keg.

The consensus was that this experiment would not work in Australia as the ticket inspectors would not be able to cope with such an unresponsive passenger who couldn’t swipe his Myki ticket. 126 times.

Steve from the Local provided the highlight of the night – which really doesn’t translate well if you weren’t there to hear it all – but which I believe I can sum up in a few selected words and phrases and a series of pictures. Here goes;

“Free tool marketing” (I’m Tweeting in my pants), “Facebook, Twitter and Red Tube”, “whole mouth experience”.

Anyway, we were treated to Epic Lager and Pale Ale and finished with the very first Australian visit of the Armageddon IPA on tap. These beers came with some industry credibility as Luke informed us that, at a recent NZ Beer Awards where three of his beers were entered, he picked up 2 Bronze, 1 Gold and a best in class honour.

Our first SOLD OUT Ale Stars came to a close with plenty of banter and beer flowing freely in equal parts and it was pleasing to see (as well as a few new faces) that the size of the crowd did not affect the whole Ale Stars Feel.

And finally, for those wondering, despite not winning the trivia quiz (again) (by a single point) (again) I have done some research and the common name of the native flavouring herb from New Zealand is, in fact, The Maori Arse-Thistle. So there.

Prof. Pilsner

Friday, November 13, 2009

Forget Tiger Woods ...

Never seen so much interest in one bloke since that long haired evangalist walked the streets of Jerusalem two thousand years ago. Fair dinkum, every paper, every news report every radio station - in effect, every normal part of my daily life - has been taken over by 'Tiger-Mania'. Would you believe that we interrupted a radio segment to announce that the door to the plane of Tiger Woods was opening, and, and, wait for it ... "he's wearing a cap, red polo shirt and some shorts!" I shit you not.

Anyway, there is bigger and better news to report for beer lovers and it seems as though the buzz is as big as that surrounding that bloke what walks around and hits a little white ball. That's the same man who once declared that "All the best hockey players are white, all the best basketballers are black and the golf course is full of white men dressed like black pimps."

I don't know what Luke Nicholas thinks of sport but I do know that he can brew a fair beer. And his current tour is about as well planned and detailed as that golfing dudes'. Everywhere I have been in the last few days I've had people telling me about Luke's appointments. I was buying beer for tonight's Beer Dinner and Adam at Purvis Cellars was telling me about a Meet The Brewer tomorrow afternoon between 4 and 6 (free), Slowbeer has Luke appearing at a tasting night there tonight (Friday) 5 till 7, he will be 'on stage live' again at The Local Taphouse for Ale Stars on Tuesday night ($30 7pm start) after a trade tasting on the rooftop terrace from 2 til 5. I'll see if I can sneak in there in a 'Media Reporter' capacity! Does anyone have one of those pork-pie hats with "PRESS" sticking out the side?

"Ahh, one too many Epics!"

At some point I'm sure that Luke will take a breath and have a feed as well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ale Stars Special

This months Ale Stars at The Local Taphouse in Melbourne will feature a special treat. Not only will our guest be Epic brewer, Luke Nicholas, but rather than a style, the beer theme will be Epic!

Ale Stars kicks off at 7ish on Tuesday November 17.

Prof. Pilsner

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Beer Dinner will go off!

Almost a full house for The Courthouse Restauant Beer Dinner next Friday night. As of last night (Friday, I think ... it was a long week!) I had room for a table of four and a table of two - or one table of six. Or six tables of lonely ones. Whoever gets in first.

This one should be a cracker with some nice summer styles making their first appearance as well as a special dessert beer and a surprise beer too. Four courses and five beers for fifty bucks. Good work.

Prof. Pilsner

Friday, November 6, 2009

Relax, it's natural

Love a good beer ad. Especially when it's for an ALL NATURAL beer. Certainly looks natural to me.

Prof. Pilsner

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Beer Funny Pictures 02

With the warmer weather upon us, the time has come to think of new and interesting ways to drink beer, stay cool and impress your friends.

These guys have found that by using simple everyday objects from around the home, a pleasant afternoon can be enjoyed by all. A wooden door-stop, a couple of thongs (that’s flip-flops for the Septics, jandals for the Kiwis, Zoris for the Japanese or Hawaii Chappals for the Indians) a length of electrical cord and a regular household power supply. What more could you need?

How about adding to your list the following;

Ambulance subscription
Pre-paid funeral
Twenty cents worth of common sense or
Half a cup of “HAVE A F*#@EN THINK ABOUT IT!”

Then again, maybe Darwin was onto something, after all.

Prof. Pilsner

Thanks, Chris, for the pic. I don't believe it was taken at his last pool party.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How NOT to celebrate a Cup win

Funniest thing I have seen in a long time. Our Prime Minister tipped the winner of yesterday's Melbourne Cup - which is more than I can say for our syndicate - and proceeded to show the Nation the exact opposite way to celebrate. If anyone can think of a dickier way to ride a winner past the post, let me know. And, to top it off, he finishes with a "I don't really like the tatse of beer but don't want people to think I'm a poofter" move. Classic.

This might even be better and dickier than former PM John Howard's reaction to the Rugby World Cup win a few years back.

MovemBeer Update

For those following the Beer Blokes Melbourne Cup syndicate, a review.

We did our dough.

However, Dr Lager and I managed to trifecta the Cup Day Sweep. And he was in Sydney!

The Movembeer beer front was far more successful than the syndicate. A couple of MOuntain Goat Pale Ales, a couple of James Squire Pilsners (Pilsner being my MOniker!) and a couple of Fat Yak Pale Ales (Matilda Bay's MOst popular beer at the moment!)

I realsie that a couple of those may be a tad tenuous, but that's the way we roll in Movembeer here at Beer Blokes - No Rules for a good cause!!

Prof Pilsner

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Melbourne Cup 2009

Melbourne Cup Day is a special day on the Australian sporting calendar with ‘the Race that stops The Nation’ completing its 149th instalment this afternoon at three o’clock. It is equal parts aspiration and frustration, it is something that brings us all together as Australians and it is as good an excuse as any for a BBQ and a piss up. It’s also the reason for this blog.

Today, three years ago, our Melbourne Cup betting syndicate won us all enough cash that we could do something special. A few hundred each – not enough to invest or retire on, but enough to spend frivolously. Which is exactly what Dr Lager and I did.

Our winnings were handed over to our local homebrew shop in return for enough equipment and starter kits to get us into the brewing industry. We began brewing immediately – with success – and Dr Lager fired up the engine on this blog soon after. On Cup Day I like to crack a homebrew or two and toast our humble beginnings while sitting around with old and dear friends as we do every year. Sometimes we win a little, sometimes we break even and get our initial investment back – most years we just ‘do our dough’ – but nobody really cares.

It’s all just a bunch of blokes who grew up together drinking VB and being, well, just being blokes, really. Now we get together a handful of times every year with our families and ... well, not much has changed. Although there is not nearly as much VB around as there used to be.

To those who care, best of luck on The Cup – try to use your winnings on something special (and frivolous) something that might make your world a better place. You could even start writing a blog. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing, you know.

Oh and ladies, remember - frocking up & drinkig up usually equals f@#*ing up.

Prof. Pilsner

Monday, November 2, 2009

I’m just SO proud!

The Pilsner family had one of those weekends where a calendar full of events meant a flurry of activity, military-like timings and change-overs and more than a little bit of angst and stress.

On Sunday Mrs Pilsner was responsible for Pick Up & Delivery of Children services and clothes shopping for kids while my duties included market shopping, house cleaning and dinner preparation. Me and the Littlest Pilsner had the house to ourselves and were able to enjoy some quality Daddy-Daughter time.

Late in the afternoon as I was prepping the veg and making the gravy and poured myself a Weihenstephaner Weissbier in a beautiful Weihenstephaner glass that I had bought myself for Father’s Day. The Littlest pilsner (almost four years old) was on her Helping Step assisting me by eating stuff as quickly as I could cut it when she popped her little nose over the tall foamy weizen.

“Mmmm, Daddy, this beer smells like bananas. I like bananas!”

I don’t need to describe for you the picture I presented as this proclamation was issued. Quivering lip, tear in the eye, cheeks flushed with pride and joy. I couldn’t even speak.

Needless to say, I have elevated her standing in the family accordingly and effective immediately. She is now entitled to extra bed-time stories of her choice for a month, she doesn’t have to clean her room if she doesn’t want to and she will now receive a greater portion of my estate upon my death.

To my other two daughters – pick up your respective games.

Prof. Pilsner

PS; Daddy still loves you very, very much. But, seriously, pick up your game.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pass me my trumpet, please

Last night an 'industry' awards night was held. Well, an awards night run by Melbourne's largest suburban newspaper group anyway.

They run a customer vote-driven program each year called Local Favourites where people can nominate and then vote for their favourite shops, businesses, services and stuff. Restaurants & Cafes is one such category and The Courthouse Restaurant in Berwick (very capably managed by chef and owner Tim O'Brien along with yours truly) was sufficiently supported to win last year. Then we backed it up with another win this year which was nice recognition for a lot of hard work. I like to think it has a lot to do with the extensive local and international beer list that I have developed but the food and service might also be a small factor.

Anyway, back to the 'trumpet blowing'. This year the awards were expanded and the 17 restaurants that won their Local Favourite award went to the Hilton on the Park last night to compete for the title of Melbourne's Favourites - the Best of the Best.

And we won. Number One. The Best. Most Votes. El Champion.

Nice to be rewarded and a nice feeling to know that we shared the glory with our staff and our loyal guests. As we toasted our success with an Innis & Gunn, Tim and I both realised that the bit of publicity that would follow wouldn't hurt but the pressure of staying on top was going to be even harder next year.

Wish us luck.

Prof. Pilsner

MoVem-Beer 09

Welcome to the first of MoVem-Beer and the third year of Beer Bloke’s own take on Movember. This is the month in which Blokes and Blokettes can rustle up some funds for prostate cancer research and men’s depression by NOT growing a mo but by drinking beer instead.

Let’s face it, some blokes look like they could have been born with a mo ...

While others look either daggy, dodgy or downright dangerous ...

And Blokettes, I haven't forgotten about you! You can join in by growing a Beer Mo! E-Mail your pics to us at profpilsner@beerblokes.com.au and I'll post them for a readers vote of the best. I'm sure I can even scam up a prize for the winner.

If you don’t look good in a mo but want to support Movemeber (now in its sixth year) just get on board by drinking beers with ‘MO’ in them and donate the cash equivalent of your purchases to either Beyond Blue or Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. Too easy!

I know of some good beer blokes who will be participating in the mo-growing event this year and I’ll check with them to see if it’s OK to post updates and sponsorship details on my blog. We may even run a competition to see whose looks the ‘Best’.

Movember, Beyond Blue and Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia are the causes to support.

Prof 'No Mo' Pilsner

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It’s not just me, then?

A great post over at Pete Brown’s Beer Blog that touches on some issues we have been examining here for a while.

I know sometimes I bang on about certain issues (the posts that Mrs Pilsner refers to as my ‘Redneck Rants) but I just feel at times there is a need to create some balance in the debate. Binge-drinking has long been one issue that I have railed against. By that I mean the harm of binge drinking itself and the poorly formed arguments trotted out by the media.

We’ve spoken before of things like personal responsibility, taking ownership of your actions and ‘STC’ – Suffer The Consequences – and how it gets a bit annoying when the Good Majority gets punished along with the Evil Minority. Well it seems we are not in this fight alone, Beer Brothers. And Sisters, sorry Reg.

Writing for The Publican magazine, Pete has used the release of Government generated figures which show that the overall consumption of alcohol is dropping in the UK, to highlight the distinct lack of reporting of same by the nation’s major newspapers. These would be the same papers that manage to fill page after page with regular scare-stories of binge drinking, beer-fuelled violence and negative health effects of beer.

The article finishes by giving some suggestions as to how we might begin to redress the imbalance and bring some much needed sensibility to the problems faced by some in our civilised society. And here’s where we are both singing from the same hymnbook. Binge-drinking is a problem – for those who partake in the unhealthy practice, and those affected by their behaviour – but the problem is NOT as widespread as the media would have us believe.

We all need to take up ‘arms’ against the enemy. Next time the dinner party conversation comes around to this issue, pipe-up and remind those gathered that overall alcohol consumption is decreasing and bingeing is a problem for a small percentage of the population. We need to deal with it properly – but not by whipping the backs of those who are doing the right thing.

It’s not the final tap of the hammer that cracks the stone – it’s the thousands before it. Start hammering!

Prof. Pilsner

Friday, October 30, 2009

Boonie’s Binges Banned Backwards

Interesting to see that Foster’s has come out today and apologised for using former Australian cricketer and holder of the unofficial Sydney to London beer drinking record as a model for a marketing promotion conducted in the 2005/06 and 06/07 seasons.

A senior executive, Chris Maxwell, said the company now sees that using David Boon as the model for a talking doll which was activated by TV commentary signals was the wrong kind of ambassador for the VB brand.

“Looking back, we have decided that was the wrong thing to do. We didn't have the foresight to see that this issue was going to be so significant. And in glorifying that behaviour we have added to the issue of the normalisation of binge-drinking in Australia.”

"We thought that David Boon had a perfect fit with VB. He was a good Aussie bloke, with good Aussie values. However, we have had a lot of criticism around using him in regards to this binge-drinking issue,'' Mr Maxwell said at a Sponsorship Australasia conference in Sydney yesterday.

I guess the reason that Foster’s decided to apologise for the use of Boonie some four years AFTER the promo finished was because they were speaking at a sponsorship conference – I don’t even recall there being much fuss at the time. I assume the standard gaggle of wowsers auto-posted their outrage to newspaper letter columns at the time but other than that?

And as for Boonie being a “good Aussie bloke with good Aussie values” – couldn’t agree more. The fact that, in his younger days, he did something a wee bit silly (52 cans on a flight to London silly) in an isolated case of peer group pressure and sporting club culture doesn’t mean he should become the poster boy for binge drinking. We’ve all done things that, looking back, we see as irresponsible or unhealthy or lacking good judgement, but most of us also move on, learn from the experience and don’t repeat the mistakes of our youth. Some of us even mature.

Can we stop generating a mythical moral majority where I just don’t think it really exists? The bleaters are always going to carry on but, you know what I reckon? There really are still a thousand times more of US than there will ever be of THEM!

Perhaps by way of assuaging* their guilt, Foster’s could bring out a new Boonie doll this cricket season which says things like; “Do us a favour, Knackers, and put the kettle on?” or, “Tell you what, Shags, let’s put these cans down and share a strawberry parfait!”

Prof. Pilsner

*Assuage – now that’s a word you don’t often hear in these pages, is it?! I think it means that they are making thereselfs feel better by being sorry. Or sumfink.

and thanks to Mrs Lager for pointing me to the story - I don't read The Big Paper!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Showcasing good blokes and blokettes

I was going to write up a post on the Victorian Microbreweries Showcase tomorrow, but, put quite simply, I had so much fun I had to do it now. That way, if the mood takes you, you can get down there tonight for the second, and last, instalment.

The Atrium at Federation Square is a magnificent canvas on which to depict the community spirit of the Beer Industry. A generous space that allows room to move but at the same time keeps everybody close creates a warm and welcoming environment. That the beers on offer are hand crafted and, in most cases, poured for you by the craftsman him/herself is something of a bonus.

20 plus brewers were displaying their brews (I lost count a little bit towards the end) and with some showcasing a single beer and others offering half a dozen ... well, let’s just say that their was something for everyone. Generous to a fault, the brewers were only too happy to talk about their beers, their breweries or their businesses as well as their plans for future releases and hopes for special release brews.

Arriving early, I felt as though I had the place to myself with some still setting up and others trying to find display stands as others ‘road tested’ their fonts and, in the case of Simon form Hargreaves Hill, their converted esky temprite system. Chatting to the reps and the brewers I felt as if I were at a private beer tasting for one! This illusion was soon shattered as I turned to discover that a couple of people had gate-crashed my beer-do. And when I say a couple, I mean about two hundred – all of a sudden the joint was chockers! The difference between ten past four and twenty-five past four was illustrated by the rise in noise level from ‘private conversation’ to ‘football crowd at train station’. By the time half-five arrived – along with The Suits – there were queues at every booth and the anticipation of trying something new was palpable.

Something of an Ale Stars Road Trip then began to take shape as half a dozen of us bumped into each other, and we eventually morphed into a kind of human beer drinking wave snaking through the various stands, sometimes splitting off to seek out an individual favourite, only to rejoin the amorphous beast some two or three beers later.

Despite the fact that my head was getting reasonably light, my tasting ticket was not getting particularly shorter. As I said, these beer guys are generous to a fault. It’s difficult to explain just how this event feels to the average punter and I hope the pics do the feel some justice. It’s hard to explain the sensation, but before long you are comparing notes with some bloke you’ve never met and giving and taking suggestions for beers ‘you just have to try’. Strangers become instant friends and calls of ‘where did you get that one?’ and ‘have you tried their Hefeweizen?’ ring out through the growing throng. As I said, it’s just a lot of fun.

If you can get down there this afternoon between four and eight you might see what I mean, in any case, you won’t be disappointed.

Prof. Pilsner

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Kwak Tales

I need your help!

Kwak, along with Innis & Gunn is the most ‘popular’ beer on our beer list. And by popular I mean the easiest to sell when someone says; “Surprise me!” People who order these beers fall broadly into two categories.

The first are those who don’t know much about beer apart from the two or three brands they usually drink and want to try something ‘fancy’ – they’ll go for Kwak. The second are those who know a little or a lot about beer and want to treat themselves or try a beer that they have only heard about till now – they’ll go the Innis & Gunn.

The Kwak is also popular due to the marketing value of its distinctive glass. Whenever a guest orders a Kwak, the staff know to take the ‘long way around’ to deliver it so that we show off the glass to the rest of the diners. The number of other guests who then ask “what was THAT?!’ ensures a good crack at extra sales. And here’s where I need the help of the Beer Blokes’ readers.

I always tell the Kwak story to the guest as I’m pouring the beer – it’s a great tale and it buys you a bit of pouring time as well as engaging the diner. A while back a guest was telling me about a restaurant or bar he had visited somewhere in Belgium where the Kwak glasses kept ‘disappearing’. Apparently the bar owner, sick of having his expensive glassware frequently ‘liberated’, devised a basket-on-a-pulley system attached to the ceiling behind the bar.

When a punter would front the bar and order a Kwak the barstaff would reply with;
“Left shoe or right shoe?” The prospective drinker would have to surrender one shoe which would be placed in the basket and hoisted up to the ceiling – when he got his Kwak glass back, you got your shoe back.

Can anyone shed a light on this tale? Is it a true story, a Beer Myth or a story made up of bits of other stories? Does anyone know of the Bar or restaurant in the story.

Prof. Pilsner

Microbrewery Showcase reminder

Just a quick one to remind lovers of fine, handcrafted beers that the Victorian Microbrewery Showcase kicks of today and concludes tomorrow.

The Atrium at Fed Square is the venue and this time around a record 24 brewers will be offering their wares for your beery pleasure.

The gig kicks off at 4 and goes through until 8, tasting tickets are $25 for 20 samples with a $2 glass deposit and you also get a $5 food voucher with that.

Come and see if you can spot me there.

I'll be the one outside the entrance at ten to four, hopping on tippy-toes from foot to foot and pressing my nose against the glass until the very large Kiwi with the sunglasses and a Number Tag opens the door.

Prof. Pilsner

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Beer Bones

Flicking through this months’ Beer Advocate magazine I smiled as I read that beer is the latest wonder food in warding off a disease. This time around osteoporosis is in its frothy sights as new research shows that moderate beer intake can help to protect against weakening of the bones.

And in further good news, beer comes out ahead of wine – again – which was found wanting in preventing brittle bones. It seems that the high levels of silicon found in beer (who knew?!) not only protect against bone breakage, it also helps to boost new bone formation. Magic!!

The study involved 1,700 women with an average age of 48 and found that women who drank beer had stronger bones than those who didn’t. Ultrasound scans of the women’s hands revealed a denser bone structure than those of the non beer drinkers. And, girls, you don’t need to go out and grab slabs of the amber medicine, either, as the tests revealed that there was no difference in the results of those who drank less than a pint a day to those who drank more. Even a little is a lot!

That’s worth raising a glass to, isn’t it? As is the fact that I get to use another of my Sexy Scientist Series!

Prof. Pilsner

Monday, October 26, 2009

Moron VB

Sorry, I’ll read that again ... MORE ON VB.

The latest instalment of the ongoing saga regarding Australia’s highest selling beer, Victoria Bitter, is up and running.

In previous posts I discussed the reaction to ‘changes’ to VB by its brewer, Carlton & United Breweries. These changes involved dropping the alcohol by volume level of the beer from 4.9% down to 4.8% last year and then again to 4.6% earlier this year. The uproar has been deafening with a conga-line of self confessed career VB drinkers threatening to switch beers because their favourite brew has turned to something worse than water. Some have claimed the courage of their convictions and have already switched brands.

So now we hear rumours that VB has not just changed its alcoholic strength (by a ‘whopping’ .03%) but has in fact become – DAH DAH DAH ... DAAAAAH!!! – a completely different beer! They reckon it has been switched for the 4.6% ABV Fourex, the flagship brew of Queenslanders! And not just a Queensland brew, but one which is brewed by the company’s brewing rival, Lion Nathan. There may be a small flaw in your theory, there, dickheads.

I have managed to procure two stubbies of VB – one of the old 4.8% variety and one of the new 4.6% beasts. I will conduct a strictly controlled secret experiment (secret because you can imagine the damage to my reputation as a Beer Bloke if I were to be seen drinking VB!) and I will post the results.

Again, wish me luck.

Prof. Pilsner

Saturday, October 24, 2009

De Coinq

Or, show us ya Golden Apples!

Not much more than a year ago I didn’t know what a Saison was. Never heard of it let alone was I able to identify it as beer style. Also never liked quinces. Or Golden Apples as they were once referred to.

Now here I am drinking Saison flavoured with quince. There you go!

Bridge Road Brewers Saison is part of their upscale Chevalier range – named after a Frenchman, Jacques Chevalier, who called Beechworth home during the gold rush and ran the sawmill which was powered by the waterfall that cascades beneath the old stone bridge where brewer Ben Kraus grew up and brewed his first batches and from which Bridge Road Brewers gets its name which will bring us back to doh!

The beers in this range are special brews in stylish 750ml bottles which are great because they look good on the table and encourage the sharing of beer – very noble. The Saison is a beautiful interpretation of a Farmhouse Ale, 6%, lightly golden, dense white head, crisp dryness with plenty of refreshing tartness from the yeast that is as good on its own as it is paired with foods from seafood to cheese.

Picking quinces from his own garden, Ben candies the fruit by boiling in a sugar syrup for 6 hours before adding the cooled mix to the primary ferment. The resulting Saison de Coinq takes no more than a little of the fermentable sugars from the fruit but graciously accepts the added colour and flavour to add a rounded note of interest to the overall taste.

Ben plans to double the quince content for next year’s limited release batch.

Prof. Pilsner