Monday, March 30, 2009

Ale Stars in Darlo

A quick shout-out to all those readers in New South Wales to let you know that The Local Taphouse in Sydney is holding their first Ale Stars session on Tuesday April 7. As regular readers will have guessed this event is one of my extra special favourite things to do that concerns beer and if you are anywhere near the joint on the first Tuesday of the month, get in and have a ball. And a beer. Or four.

Andrew Gow is the Ale Stars Tzar for the Sydney crowd and he is a bloke who is not only passionate about beer and brewing but communicates his knowledge and thoughts really well. He is also very capable of encouraging discussion and debate so those who attend will feel encouraged to participate rather than feel they are sitting in a classroom situation – a classroom where you have to drink beer, and where your homework will involve drinking more beer, but ... Interaction and discussion is what makes Ale Stars such a great night out. I was fortunate enough to have a good beer-chat with AG when he was down for an Ale Stars session late last year and I know he will bring a great vibe to the Darlo Ale Stars.

‘AG’ also knows just a little bit about beer having spent a fair amount of time as a brewer in some of Australia’s most highly regarded craft brewing operations. Mountain Goat, Matilda Bay and now at Five Islands in Wooloongong, AG will provide the nuts and bolts of the whole brewing process without the need for a Tech-Foul bell which means that beer lovers of all experience and knowledge levels will get something extra out of an Ale Stars session. If we have learned anything from the St Kilda Ale Stars sessions it is that you certainly get out of it what you put in. Be a part of it and it becomes so much more than just drinking beer.

On behalf of the St Kilda Ale Stars, I wish you all the best as you begin your journey of beer discovery!

Prof. Pilsner

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ale Stars – English Pale Ales and handicapping

People often ask me about beer. It’s not as if they stop me in the street and say; “Hey, aren’t you Prof. Pilsner? Tell me all about beer!” or anything like that, it’s just that if you stand around in the same place for long enough, holding a beer the whole time, people get an impression. I’m fine with that. Passion and beer, hand-in-hand.

So, just because you happen to do OK in a beer trivia quiz, and then you follow that up with another reasonable effort – in a team situation, mind you – and then you just happen to make passing mention of this fact on a little-read beer blog, well, that’s no reason to be singled out and publicly ‘outed’ as a beer-smartarse, is it? No, I didn’t think so either.

Shandy and Steve kicked off the latest instalment of Ale Stars by welcoming the newcomers and telling the assembled crowd that I was too clever and whichever team I happened to be on would be punished by beginning the quiz with a two point handicap. Luckily beer people don’t take themselves too seriously! (Plus, you’ll need more than two points to take me out!! Bastards!!)

Now, I know I usually devote the bulk of this review to describing the beers we tried, the opinions forwarded along with reporting the usually fair and un-tampered-with results of the beer trivia quiz (including any outstanding efforts like if someone has never been on a losing team and has, say for example, only got three questions wrong ever) but this time the review is different. Because Ale Stars is different. Something has changed. The beers themselves are important, but not THAT important. We are no longer a group of strangers who happen to turn up in the same place on the same Tuesday every month and sample beers – friendships have formed and some now meet up beforehand for SUBS and catch up with others and others again stay back afterwards and have a couple of sneaky afters and shit is talked and fun is had and groups have joined up to form larger groups. And isn’t that what beer is all about? Isn’t beer great!?!

For those unable to make the night, here are the details. The very well organised Shandy had arranged the perfect evening to suit the English Pale Ale style. A perfect Melbourne Autumn evening – grey, drizzly and a little gloomy – just like a balmy English summer day, really. In a recent post we looked at Desert Island Beers and the first picked by Shandy was Timothy Taylor’s Landlord. This was our first up beer and I can see why he could have this for the rest of his life. By the way, it's not the Tim Taylor from 'Home Improvement'. There you go.

Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery Pale was next up and with this one feelings were a bit mixed, particularly for those fortunate enough to have had any of these beers on tap or, better still, hand pulled from the cask. A lively debate on Northern vs Southern preferences, sparklers and hand pumps and all things Ale-y followed as we moved to a Fuller’s London Pride and finished with a Worthington’s White Shield. You can find out more about all the nice beers we had by contacting Shandy or visiting your local beer shop!

Veteran Ale Star Ben then led us on a merry Show-And-Tell about his recent international sporting tournament win in Perth recently. It’s not often that you get to share beers with an actual international sporting title holder – and this was no exception. More on Ben’s efforts in more detail in a separate post.

As the beer flowed and the groups chatted the news was announced that the next Ale Stars would be the long awaited ‘Road Trip’ – The Ale Stars take on the Yarra Valley in a bus Tour 09. Coldsteam Brewery for samples, Hargreaves Hill Restaurant & Bar at Yarra Glen for lunch (and beer) and finishing with the new (so new it ain’t even open yet!) White Rabbit Brewery out Healesville way. Nice! I can hear the laughter already.

As is now the case, Ale Stars finished off with a mingling of Ale Stars around the bar and beyond with beer chat a-plenty and plans being made for the road trip. A special mention to the new faces on Tuesday night (about 8 or so) who all seemed keen to return and to the recent-new faces who ween’t scared off too much and came back. And an extra special mention to Chris and Shandy’s new mates (names I’ve forgotten) who are hearing impaired – having to translate Shandy’s Scottish/Aussie into understandable English, then translate that into non-tech laymans language, then translate that into Auslan while drinking at the same time... top effort, boys. Sorry, TOP EFFORT, BOYS!! Just kidding.

A quick final mention and congratulations to the team known as Ready, Set, Drink who won the trivia quiz when the ‘winners’ (Taphouse staff) disqualified themselves for only having two members on their team when Shandy specifically asked everyone to form teams of FOUR OR FIVE!!! Tsk, Tsk. Nevermind, as I’ve stated here before, the results are not important, it’s all about fun. And only missing two answers and then with two more points deducted STILL came second to a team who cheated. Hmmm? Good effort, that.

Prof. Pilsner

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Harden the F@#K UP lager

We have this famous bloke here in Australia. His name is Mark Brandon Read. To the uninitiated the name may evoke images of a starch-shirted chartered accountant or a kindergarten teacher. The obligatory use of the middle name, however, should probably give a hint as to the real fame (or infamy) of Mr Read.

He is better known by his nickname, ‘Chopper’, and is definitely NOT a kindergarten teacher. Chopper is a crim. A convicted career criminal, Read served time for various offences including assault, kidnapping, torture, armed robbery and firearm offences. He also had an inmate cut off his ears for him. Pardon?

Anyway, since leaving his life of crime behind him he has taken to making a living as an author, children’s book writer, painter and rap artist. Eric Bana portrayed his life in the film ‘Chopper’, we got to see his snag in the recent mini series on gang crime, ‘Underbelly’ and comedian Heath Franklin has made a fair career out of taking the piss as Chopper the kid’s show host, weatherman and travel agent. His catch phrase is ‘Harden The F@#K Up!!’

So you would expect that Choppers latest incarnation would be a little more ballsy than a 6% ABV lager. That’s right, Chopper has given his permission (and bank account deposit details, presumably) to the good folk at Bintara Brewery in Victoria’s Rutherglen (not too far from the stamping ground of legendary bushranger Ned Kelly) to whack his name and likeness on beer bottles. They don’t, however, have his beer on or near their website.

I am going to give the beer a go tonight and in the meantime I will leave you with this very interesting review from a Chopper fan site;

Chopper has his own Brand of Beer Guaranteed to get your ears off as Chopper would say.A mad 6% Strength

Chopper heavy is a clean Australian style lager. Its golden colour has an extra lustre with a spark or flame of light refracted in the glass. A full bodied beer with the characteristic hoppy bitterness and a thick creamy head.
The beer is paler than heavy pilsners and is made from soft local water.
The beer has a malt driven bouquet, a mild hoppy palate and a slightly bitter after taste.
Chopper Heavy is handcrafted in small batches that comply with traditional methods
Hmmm. A ‘spark or flame of refracted light’ ...

I’ll let you know what gets refracted tomorrow.

Prof. Pilsner

Meanwhile, here’s ‘Chopper’ pretending to be comedian Heath Franklin ... or is that the other way around? That's if I can get the stupid internets thingys to work - otherwise just look for Chopper on that youtyubey thingy ... you know, tha webbysite where all the monkeys wee on thereselfs.

Monday, March 16, 2009

When great ideas become reality

A few years back I was helping out a electrician mate, working as his ‘wire monkey’, running cables, drilling holes, wiring light fittings and stuff when we hit on an idea.

We were spending plenty of time on the roads going from one job to the next and we began to dismay at the generally poor attitude of so many drivers. Not the blatant hoon type behaviour or dangerous driving that is just scary to watch but the low-level, common garden variety dickhead behaviour that is, sadly, all too common. Tail-gating, lane-changing, discourteous ‘Yes, I DO think I’m the only car on the road’ kind of attitude.

We conceded that, while no single action was particularly worthy of wasting the time of the police or the courts, we reckoned that there had to be some way of curbing the attitude that it’s OK to drive like a total tool. My solution was ‘The Card’. A card for dickheads.

Any copper who spotted someone doing any or all of these low-level dickhead-y things could simply record the rego number, slow the car down, hand the driver his Card and be on his way. The Card would carry a small token fine and a warning – Learn Or Burn. Collect too many dickhead Cards and you lose your licence, cop a bigger fine or be forced to walk the main street of your capital city wearing a sandwich board proclaiming “I Am A Dickhead”. Simple.

We both conceded that this would all be just a pipe dream, but there was still just a glimmer of hope. Today, that hope, that dream became a glorious reality.

A court in Perth, Western Australia, has handed a $400 fine to a man for – get this – barking like a dog in his front yard!! How good is THAT!! The Magistrate said the man was ‘carrying on like an idiot’. Or, perhaps a dickhead!!

I think that The Card has just been born.

Prof. Pilsner

Friday, March 13, 2009

Here is something else that won’t work

Following on from my slap to the bald foreheads of the dopey professors who wish to scare all the normal people into having no more than 1 ½ stubbies of beer at any one time (what are we supposed to do with the other half, Poindexters?!?) comes the next instalment in the Nanny State’s quest to run the whole wide world at the level of the dumbest common denominator.

Warning labels on all alcohol products sold in Australia akin to the kind used to do little more than raise tax through cigarette sales are being proposed. These warnings would take the form of graphic representations of the dangers or the results of drinking. As the ciggie warnings aim to achieve, so too would these booze-bangs be aimed at preventing silly people from doing silly things.

Picture a nice bottle of NZ Sauvignon Blanc with the winemaker’s logo alongside a rotting liver. Maybe a chilled stubby of finely crafted ale featuring a teenage girl vomiting in a gutter? Perhaps you’d prefer a six-pack of mainstream macro lager, each can showing a different pissed idiot sporting an alcohol driven injury? Collect the full set! Swap with your mates! I just need the tool with bloody knuckles who punched the road sign and I’ve got the lot!

Or consider the following tableau, acted out in one of our city’s finest dining rooms;

The immaculately presented waiter with the long white apron and starched shirt approaches the couple who are about to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary with a rather expensive bottle of imported sparkling.

“I trust sir and madam will enjoy the 1968 Chateau de Or-Hor-Horr. Note the fine moussey texture, the hint of peach and bergamot on the nose and the very fine pictorial representation of the young woman being gang-raped by the drunken low-lifes. Enjoy!!”

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again here and I’ll keep saying it – dickheads are dickheads because they lead the lives of dickheads. They are dickheads and they won’t suddenly stop being dickheads because you charge them extra (in tax) and tell them that it is bad to do naughty things. And here’s a picture. They know right from wrong and they don’t really care. Drunk or sober. Dickheads. Get it?

The very great majority of us who responsibly enjoy a beer, a wine, a spirit or kava from a coconut shell do the right thing. All the time. Don’t punish us because there are a handful of knuckle-draggers who know the difference between a toilet and a handbag but choose to abuse and flaunt the basic tenets of civilised society. Spend some of your time, effort and research grants (from tax) and get to them at primary school before they have their behaviour approved and sanctioned by do-gooders and civil libertarians who don’t wish to see the poor little buggers punished for something that is clearly not their fault. Or is it their fault? Hmmm.

Prof. Pilsner

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Bloke is back. And he’s not happy.

After a month of rearranging or cancelling plans, sorting out babysitters and coping with lack of sleep due to the recent weather activity, I was really looking forward to the prospect of a quiet weekend spent with family and friends – and beer. And plenty of it.

So what better way to really piss me off than this; get a collection of lab-coated, clipboard-clutching Poindexters in need of more Federal Government funding to piss up against a wall and get them all to ignore all the research they had just been paid to do and come up with a new set of figures designed to really piss me off. Mission accomplished, Egg-Heads!!

You see, a little while back some group of academic pin-heads called the National Health and Medical Research Council decided that there just HAD to be a number that we could attach to the amount of booze a man or a woman could/should have before they would grow a second head, try to stop trams with their faces and cost society its innocence. They have now halved the number.

Two quick things, beer researchers;

1) Stop making up new research figures, and
2) Piss Off!!

Prof. Pilsner
PS The lass at the top is NOT one of the lab-coated dickheads to which I referred. I'm not sure she's even a REAL scientist.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

We now return you to normal programming

At around 7 50pm on Wednesday night the pager beeped yet again. This time, however, the message was the one we had been looking forward to for the past three weeks. There were no more specific requests for fire or storm related tasks like running forward command centres (FCC), Municipal Emergency Response Centres (MERO), Incident Response Centres (ICC), Relief Centres or CFA Staging Areas. We were also informed that the RECC (Regional Emergency Communications Centre) would revert to a Central Duty Officer (CDO) role as of twenty hundred hours that night. I could begin thinking about things returning to normal (BEER).

The following day the news came through that the Kilmore East/Murrundindi complex fire that had been burning out of control, and the cause of much of the devastation and death since Black Saturday, was now officially listed as ‘contained’. That means that it was still burning, but within containment lines. This fire alone – and remember it was one of about eight significant blazes – had torched just on 186,000 hectares. That’s like a small country.

Our last three weeks have been spent either out and about at various fire grounds assisting with clean-up or recce operations, running information and liaison centres for residents in affected or threatened areas, lighting and supplying staging areas ahead of bushfire operations or bracing for, and then cleaning up after, wild wind and rain storms that lashed the state last week. Victoria – 46 degrees one week, pissing down the next. Lucky we are known for our sense of humour.

We’ve come to the back end of our worst fire season ever. The heatwave that gave us some three weeks of plus-thirty degree days dotted with four and five day bursts of plus-forties is over. The storms and rains have passed.

I’ve missed my blogging. Truth be told, I’ve missed my beer. he odd one or two here and there without the luxury of being able to sit and sip and really enjoy it. We’ll get right back into that –starting this week. Except that my team is ‘on-call’ this week, so maybe next week. Dr Lager and his family are over for lunch on the public holiday Monday, so may just give it a fair old nudge before the week begins.

And, while I haven’t had the time or energy to post much at all, I have been busy collecting thoughts, opinions and stories for the blog. And be warned – some arse clowns are in the sights for some serious back-handers. It’s good to see that the dickheads have not been idle while I’ve been busy.

Stay tuned.

Prof. Pilsner

Oh! Very Funny!!

Heatwave? Check
Worst bushfires ever? Check
Wild winds? Check.
Unseasonal dumping of massive quantities of rain in a very short space of time? Check

Did we miss anything?

Apparently so.

Last night at 8.52 we thought we heard a large helicopter – not unlike the giant orange Sikorsky Skycranes that we have become accustomed to hearing on their way to or from the fires – passing close overhead. Not.

An earth tremor measuring 4.6 shook the house for about 5 seconds (though it seemed like a minute at the time) and loudly rattled all the special beer glasses on the special beer glass shelf.

None were lost.

To the man upstairs, that’ll do us for now. Thanks.

Prof. Pilsner