Friday, July 31, 2009

Some nice beer news

While I don’t want to make light of the dreaded GFC and the effects it has had on many people’s livelihood worldwide, I also haven’t got too sucked into the whole ‘imminent collapse of the whole wide world as we know it’ tin-bangers and their calls of doom. Same for Global Warming – “WHOOOOOOOO, We’re all going to DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIE!!!” Call me an optimist.

But today I saw some good news for those ho have been crusading for real causes that affect real people – beer drinkers. It seems that, as a result of the global financial downturn, more and more Australians are staying in instead of going out to dinner. Not great for the restaurant owners who can’t adjust, but there is some good news in it. People staying home to have dinner parties are serving better quality wines and also better beer.

The Herald Sun reports findings of some data or another about sales figures and such which show a big increase in “premium beer” and “bottled wine” sales as well as spirits and a small increase in overall beer sales. I worry a little that ‘Premium Beer’ is what the Big Brewers refer to as premium – mainstream pissy fizz but with silver and gold labels as well as ‘imports’ like Stella Artois (from the small Belgian enclave of Southbank) and Heineken that comes all the way from Camperdown.

Even better was the news that VB sales have dropped by one percent – maybe we are beginning to upgrade a little. I don’t think that this report signals a swing towards craft beer, or even that we are beginning to look for something ‘better’, but maybe it is a small step in the right direction. Premium beer sales are up by 20%, mid-strength by 10% and full strength beer is up by 7% which might just hint at a move towards exploring of the beer world by those who may not have known that anything other than VB and Crown and Toohey’s New existed before.

Today, the premium beer market – tomorrow the craft beer world!!

Prof. Pilsner

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Trivia - Odd One Out

Trivia Part Three answers

Hope you did well so far with the Prof's Ale Stars Trivia Challenge. Part One was True or False, Part Two was multiple choice and Part Three was the simplest of all! Four items, you decide which one is the Odd One Out. Simple. Here are the 'answers'.

11. Lazy Mutt, Spotted Cow and Tusker are named for a DOG, COW and ELEPHANT, Old Speckled Hen is named for an MG SPORTS CAR, making it the odd one out.

12. Phoenix Blue Marlin, Toohey's Blue and OB BLue are all LAGERS, Coor's Blue Moon is a Witbier.

13. Three of these were rhyming slang (made up and fairly crap rhyming slang, I admit!) for that lovely top that sits on a nicely poured beer. Home Sweet Home - FOAM, Breakfast in Bed - HEAD and David Lee Roth - FROTH. Tit For Tat was the Odd One Out.

14. Ready? This one caused the most (A) Discussion, (B) Groans and (C) Most things to be thrown at me and, frankly, I can't see why.


2 Brothers is the only one that is a '2'. But that's not it.
3 Boys is the only one that is NOT Australian. But that's not it.
3 Degrees is the only one that is a brewpub, not a brewery. But that's not it.
3 Ravens is the Odd One Out because it is the only one that doesn't have something odd about it. Compared to the other three. See? Simple.

The last question related to our special guest, Dave Bonighton from Mountain Goat. They were

Hawthorn Football Club, 3 Surfboards, 2 Mountain Bikes and 1 EH Holden.
The Hawthorn Footy Club is Dave's AFL team and the other three things were listed as the only assets on the loan application that Dave and partner Cam could list for the bank when they were looking to start up the brewery. And the unnamed team (High Table, I'm looking at YOU!) who claimed that the mighty Hawks were the only thing on that list that was OVER RATED - you can start next month's trivia with a two point penalty.

And finally, for those who were there and have had to put up with hearing the questions all over again, here is one last Prof Pilsner Trivia Treat. A quick beer-realted 'What am I?'


Prof Pilsner

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Beer Blokes London correspondent

Ale Star Gemma is off for a brief jaunt in The Old Dart which just happens to coincide with the GBBF – that’s The Great British Beer Festival for those who don’t speak fluent abbreviation – and has kindly offered to act as official (unpaid but greatly appreciated) Beer Bloke correspondent.

She told me that she could spare a couple of days to get to the event and convey all the ‘colour and oomph’ of what is said to be a great festival. An event of two distinct parts, the GBBF is part very good, varied, traditional, extreme and interesting beers and part freaky anorak wearing beardy-wierdies frightening small children and grown adults alike. So take care Gemma and steer clear of the Tickers.

Gemma promised to squeeze at least one day into her busy social schedule to get to the festival, so stay tuned for a ripping report – or two.

Prof . Pilsner

Part Two Answers

6. The Duvel glass has a nice little Gothic font "D" etched into the bottom of the glass. Correct answer - D

7. The 2 brothers at 2 Brothers Brewery are Dave and Andrew. Cam & Dave are the Goat Guys, Brad and Ross are at Stone & Wood and Simon/Rob is Ale Star regular and top bloke, Simon, who Steve keeps calling Rob 12 months down the track. Answer B

8. In Elizabethan times, the Ale Conner (tester) would SIT ON THE BEER to test the quality. Too much sugar and the beer would stick to his leather britches. Answer D

9. The Munich Oktoberfest begins in September. A

10. In 1892 Sapporro brewed Japans first BLACK BEER. B

Trivia Questons - Part Three

The one you’ve heard about, the one you’ve been waiting for ... the part of the quiz that requires little or no knowledge at all. In fact, it may not help you at all to know much about beer, brewing or brewers. Remember, these questions were delivered after a least three strong Belgian blonds. There, that may rescue the credibility of some embarrassed Ale Stars.

11. Lazy Mutt – (Wisconsin) Golden Ale.
Spotted Cow – (Wisconsin) Cream Ale.
Old Speckled Hen – (UK) Brown Ale.
Tusker – (Kenya) Golden Lager.

12. Phoenix Blue Marlin – Mauritius
Coors Blue Moon – US
Toohey’s Blue – Australia
Oriental Brewery OB Blue – South Korea

13. Home Sweet Home
Breakfast in Bed
Tit for Tat
David Lee Roth

14. 3 Ravens – Australia – Brewery - 3
3 Boys - NZ – Brewery - 3
2 Brothers – Australia – Brewery - 2
3 Degrees – Australia - Brew Pub – 3

15. All relating to Dave Bonighton and Mountain Goat

Hawthorn Football Club
3 Surfboards
2 Mountain Bikes
1 EH Holden

Answers tomorrow.

Prof. Pilsner

Monday, July 27, 2009

Trivia, Tats and a little teasing

Part Two – Trivia & Sign Language

A quick shout out to Justin-Paul and Anton, two Ale Stars regulars who are also readers of this blog. And very god blokes they are too. Although Anton and his unwavering support for the North Melbourne Kangaroos is, at times a little questionable! See above. I also wanted to take the opportunity to thank them for helping to get a laugh on the night.

Justin-Paul ‘signs’ for Anton and, as I’ve said here before, when Shandy is hosting, J-P has to translate from Scottish into English and then into Auslan. On Tuesday they were not only seated behind me, making it more difficult to lip-read, but they also had to cope with me throwing in made-up words like ‘perfuncturolate’ – just to see J-P bruise his hands trying to finger-spell it, then watch as Anton asked him to spell it again, then Justin from the Taphouse explaining that it was a made-up word! Thanks for your understanding guys.

Here is part two of Professor Pilsner’s Ale Stars Trivia Quiz. Simple multiple choice. Pick one.

Part Two – Multiple Choice

6.The specially designed Duvel glass has which letter etched into the bottom to assist with carbonation;

A) B
B) C
C) A or
D) D

7. The 2 Brothers who operate the 2 Brothers brewery are;

A) Brad & Ross
B) Dave & Andrew
C) Cam & Dave or
D) Simon & Rob

8. In Elizabethan times the quality of commercial beer was tested by;

A) Sniffing it
B) Sipping it
C) Swilling it or
D) Sitting on it

9. The Munich Oktoberfest begins in which month;

A) September
B) October
C) December or
D) March

10. In 1892 Sapporro brewed Japan’s first;

A) Lager
B) Black Beer
C) Rice Wine Beer
D) Dry style beer

The answers to these questions - but not to why I chose them! - coming up tomorrow as well as Part Three, Odd One Out. Good Luck!

Prof. Pilsner

Trivia Answers - Part One

If you haven’t already seen the first part of the Prof’s Ale Stars Trivia, look away now, here come the answers.

True or False answers.

1. The Pilgrims were landed at Plymouth Rock because the Mayflower was running out of beer.

2. Queensland’s first telephone line ran from the Castlemaine Brewery to its city head office.

3. During the Great Depression, Cascade Brewery handed out free malted barley extract to the unemployed.
FALSE – They handed out Beer

4. Well known brewer Ben Franklin wrote a scientific essay on avoiding flatulence by drinking perfume.

5. Australia’s first legal pub was opened by a man transported for stealing brewing supplies.
FALSE – French born Londoner James Larra pinched a silver beer tankard

Part Two, Multiple Choice, coming up later this morning.

Prof. Pilsner

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Trivia, Tats and a little teasing

More notes on the Profs Ale Star experience
Part One – Tats & A Bit of Triv

When you are asked to fill in for someone who has taken a role and stamped it with his unique style and personality and thus made it his own you know that there are only two ways to handle the challenge. Do it different – or don’t do it all.

Shandy had graciously allowed your own Professor to take the reins of the unpredictable charging beast that is Ale Stars and, truth be told, for a while there, I was as toey as a Roman sandal until I realised that the key was to be my own Beer Bloke and not try to ‘out Shandy’ Shandy. But I felt that it was important to recognise his contribution to ‘the brand’. Pay homage, if you like. Or, more truthfully, take the piss.
Shandy, The Local Taphouse St Kilda Ale Stars Czar (try putting THAT on a business card) has a magnificent tattoo on the inside of his forearm. It’s not one of those ‘Bogan Stickers’ like you see displayed at Fountain Gate Shopping Centre, nor is it a skilfully crafted work of art like fellow Ale Star Simon-Rob has, this is special and specific to him. It is his family name written in an ancient Celtic Code
Script. Now, to the unedu-macated it might look a bit like a Bar Code from a laser off the Enterprise, but it is actually a very nice piece of in and has great personal value to its owner. I decided that this was my chance to ‘raise a glass’ to my mate.

I couldn’t find a tattooist who knew any ancient Celtic Code Scripts so I had to go with the next best thing. Something very personal. Something very deep. Something very close to me;

It’s the Glen Waverley train line. Glen Waverley to Richmond, stopping all stations. Stand clear. Please. Stand clear.

I also wanted to dispel any rumours that the trivia I presented in Shandy’s place was designed so that NOBODY would win, thus preserving my stature as Ale Stars Trivia Whiz. This is not true. In fact, I was SO generous in my attempts to allow EVERYONE to win, that I gave the assembled crowd ALL THE ANSWERS! That’s right, multiple choice, True or False and Odd One Out! Every answer was read out – you just had to work out which of the four was the correct one. For those who couldn’t be there and for hose who care here is round One – True or False. Write your answers on a bit of paper – don’t write in the space provided cos it takes me ages to clean the laptop screen. Good Luck!

1. The Pilgrims were landed at Plymouth Rock because the Mayflower was running out of beer

2. Queensland’s first telephone line ran from the Castlemaine Brewery to its city head office.

3. During the Great Depression, Cascade Brewery handed out free malted barley extract to the unemployed.

4. Well known brewer Ben Franklin wrote a scientific essay on avoiding flatulence by drinking perfume.

5. Australia’s first legal pub was opened by a man transported for stealing brewing supplies.

Answers tomorrow as well as Part Two.

Prof. Pilsner

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ale Stars Belgian Blond Ales

If your name is Shandy, here is the review of last nights Ale Stars.

It was OK.

Prof. Pilsner

If your name is NOT Shandy, keep reading down the page a bit.

Ale Stars let their hair down.

When you are attending a beer event that features a beer called Rapunzel, you have to take the opportunity to do the ‘let ya hair down line’ – so now that it’s out of the way, let’s go straight to the review.

How good was Ale Stars, hey!?! What a cracking night – sensational beers, iconic guest brewer, a great crowd and a new host with an amazing trivia quiz! Does it get any better than that!? Think not.

Seriously though, we did miss Shandy as I’m sure he missed us all. Taking a break from the hosting duties to prepare for the arrival of number two bub, Shandy allowed me to stand in for him – an honour and a privilege that I hope I did him proud. Nearly forty Ale Stars including a couple of new faces braved the cool Melbourne winter to warm up to some very lovely, but all very different, Belgian Blonds. And haven’t we all wanted to do THAT at one time or another?

Very special guest for the evening was Dave Bonighton, head brewer and founding Goat of the Mountain Goat Brewery who was there to ensure that his special limited release brew, Rapunzel, was introduced respectfully to the gathering. Dave, with Cam Hines launched Mountain Goat back in 97 and were one of Melbourne’s first craft brewers and have certainly proven themselves to be one of the most successful. Dave was on hand to lead us through the not-too-technical aspects of the style, although he could have got as technical as he liked – anyone know where the tech-foul BS bell went? Shandy, trying to handicap the Prof? Hmmmm?

We began with the Murray’s Sassy Blond as this seemed as good a place as any to begin. When you’re sampling Strong Belgian Blond ales, it’s nice to start with a 4.5% easy drinking starter as you know, at some point, you will need to ramp up the ABV to around 8 + and you don’t want to go too hard too early. Speaking of which, I have mentioned in previous Ale Stars posts that SUBS, or Sneaky Upstairs Beers prior to our 7 o’clock-ish kick off, have become a tradition. Well, it seems that not only are more and more doing it – and earlier and earlier – but we don’t even bother lobbing upstairs anymore!

While Murray’s Blond played along to the style tune well, it wasn’t until the Red Hill Belgian Blond hit the tables that we all realised that this style held some lovely wonders. A warmth of aroma, yeasty and fresh, a malt backbone of biscuity sweetness, restrained hop flavour and bitterness and a lively carbonation leading to a delicious dryness – this one ticked a few extra boxes.

This led us nicely into Duvel – the flagship Belgian Strong Blond and not just one of Dave’s favourite beers, but also the inspiration for his Rapunzel. This ticked all the boxes as well as turning the amp ‘up to ee-leven’. Brightly golden with a rocky foam that crowns the glass, Duvel has aroma and flavour and dryness and a yeasty punch set that it apart from the previous two. Carbonation and dryness that combine to refresh and invigorate, this was Belgian Blond as God meant it!

As Dave had admitted to wanting to attempt a replication of a Duvel, and had admitted to having visited the brewery at about the same time as the Duvel yeast found its way into his carry-on luggage, it seemed fair that we finished with his beer. It also meant that he had to stay til’ the end in the event that he didn’t like the new host. What everybody DID like, was Rapunzel. Dave led us through her story from conception through to creation and nobody was left wondering what a Belgian Blond COULD taste like. This one ticked every box and then drew in a couple more boxes to tick as well! True to style but also true to the Goat creed of Funky & Flavourfull.

The night finished with Dave sharing his brew with the winners of the trivia quiz, and it was good to see the winning team contained only one previous title holder. Personally, with a winning score of 8/15, I’m amazed that the quiz didn’t end in a seven-way nil-all draw! And it was all multiple choice! I blame the alcoholic strength of the beers we had. More on that in a later post.

My thanks to Justin, Guy and Steve for the opportunity to play host for a night, to Shandy for all the text messages he sent through the night and special thanks to Dave Bonighton for bringing a beery credibility to the proceedings that I could not even have hoped to achieve.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ale Stars – The Next Generation

This month’s Ale Stars meeting at The Local Taphouse will be held next Tuesday July 21. Nothing new in that. The beer theme is Belgian Blond Ales and the beers chosen are nice representation of the style which transition well from light and easy drinking through to some firm and fruity brews. As they usually do.

But this month will be a little different. Our affable regular host, Shandy, is off on Beer-Ternity Leave preparing for the impending arrival of the new bub, and so a ‘stand-in’ host was sought. After an exhausting series of auditions, interviews, a world-wide casting call and an elimination process that would make Masterchef Australia proud .... they couldn’t get anyone suitable.

So, in the warm and honest tradition of Ale Stars, Prof. Pilsner was offered the gig. Actually, truth be told, we were having a few quiet ‘afters’ at the bar last month when Justin and Guy told me I had it because when the music stopped, I hadn’t found a chair. That’s the way the game’s played.

I will do my best to lead the gathered masses through the delights of Murray’s Sassy Blond, Red Hill Belgian Blond, Duvel and the very, very special limited release seasonal from the Goat Guys at Mountain Goat, Rapunzel.

Assisting us in our journey of beery discovery will be none other than Dave Bonighton, head brewer and co-founder of Mountain Goat who showed what real passion for craft beer is all about by travelling all the way to The Local Taphouse in Sydney yesterday to taste his own beer for the purpose of writing some tasting notes for me. That’s true dedication.

Of course, as is customary, delicious pizza will be served throughout, Ale Stars will have the chance to ‘Ask the Brewer’ and Beer Trivia will be presented in between beers. Strap yourselves in for that one! Also available on the night will be a range of special limited release items and memorabilia including T-Shirts featuring ‘I Was There When the Prof Hosted Ale Stars’, ‘Ale Stars – How Good Was The New Bloke?’ and ‘Shandy – I remember him!’ Also, don’t forget to pick up your ‘Prof. Pilsner for Ale Star Tzar voting cards. Just pop them in the box provided – I’ve already filled them in for you. That’s just the kinda bloke I am.

I have even gone out and done some serious ‘Tom Hanks in Castaway’ style method preparation for the night so that I can do our mate proud in his absence. Hope to see as many Ale Stars, new and old, as we can fit in as it may be a while before Shandy hands over the reins of this beast to anyone else again. I’m really looking forward to it. But I have to be honest with you all ...

I’m just a wee bit nervous ...

Prof. Pilsner

P.S. Shandy, so that you don't miss out completely, I will make sure we take plenty of phoor-toors for you!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

High Country living

I have always been a ‘city boy’. More specifically, I have always been a suburban ‘city boy’. Never lived outside of a standard, common garden-variety, outer suburban postcode. Didn’t really even spend much holiday time on farms or anywhere else in the country – no relatives with sprawling properties or acres of livestock and all that. So our recent getaway to Mansfield in Victoria’s magnificent high country was a welcome change.

I’ve spoken plenty before about just how lucky we are at the moment to have so many dedicated and passionate craft brewers out there producing beers of a high quality and varied style. Our three days away was a great chance to relax and seriously (as serious as I can take beer) enjoy some fine ales and lagers. There is just something about a roaring fire, sprawling mountain ranges as a backdrop coupled with the knowledge that you don’t have to be anywhere the next day that makes beer even more special.

I was able to put my feet up with a selection of Jamieson Brewery’s offerings – excluding the IPA which I later found was to be brewed the next week – as well as a few I had brought from home and one I had not even heard of. Jamieson make some very good craft beers and I will write more about our visit there in the coming days. A Brown Ale was their first beer brewed ten years ago and. Embarrassingly, I haven’t had one for years. it’s probably one of those styles that isn’t in my Top Ten, but it is one that fits into my resolution to try more beers that are not in my Top Ten this year. I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy it as much as I did.

A Jamieson Pale Ale (US style), a Mountain Ale (Dark Wheat) and a Raspberry Ale (errr) went down a treat with the family seated around and the crackling of the fire at my feet. The new brew I found was from up near the border, New South Wales way, just out of Swan Hill. Glenbar on the Wakool does not have the slick beer name like the Fat Yak or the Summer Lightning or even the Growler but it does have a very fine beer taste. Glenbar claims to be the first beer in Australia made from organic Australian malt and is a pretty good story that I will tell shortly. As soon as I find out what the story is.

A couple of Ben’s Bridge Road Pale Ales finished the beer side of the story. These were chosen because, although Beechworth is a short trip from Mansfield on a paper map, the issue of the small group of hills collectively known as the Victorian Alps are plonked fairly between the two.

Beers really do seem to taste better when the occasion is right. Right company, right location and right frame of relaxed mind – great beer.

Prof. Pilsner

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What makes a great pub?

To finish off the school holidays I took the two older Pilsners ‘into town’ as my Nana would have said, for a visit to the State Library – yeah I know, pretty edumacational and not at all very beery – but sometimes you just go with something different. And something indoors if it is a rather chilly Melbourne morning.

After a tour and some activities we headed off in search of lunch –here’s where beer comes into it – and found ourselves inside Melbourne Central shopping complex. And I mean complex. The joint is a fair old rabbit warren if you’re not familiar with it. There’s only one place that didn’t look like a cheesy generic fast food outlet so that made the choice a bit easier. From the outside it just looks like one of those built-from-a-kit ‘Plastic McPaddy’s Original Pretend Irish Pub Co” kind of places but I could see beer taps and in we went.

As we sat waiting for lunch my mind wandered; what is it that makes a great pub? Because, while I couldn’t answer that, I COULD decide what DOESN’T make a great pub. And a lot of it I was looking at right now.

A stage area is fine. Having a velvet rope circling it – not. Especially when it doesn’t look like its had a run for a while and is currently a holding pen for a raffle prize. And the prize is a scooter.

Ye olde weighing machine – not. Who goes to a pub and then wants to weigh themselves? Is it a challenge to piss heads to get lagered up and see who can put on the most weight? Or who can drink the most and then LOSE the most weight the quickest?

Windows all around – good. Windows all around a pub that is completely INDOORS – not. I love to window sit and drink while I watch the passing parade, but grandma lugging shopping bags and a thousand teenagers queuing to buy movie tickets ... nuh.

And one of my favourites after years in the hospitality business – a quick run of the fingers under the table edge revealed a gallery of other people’s chewy. That one’s not an overall killer, it’s just a sign that management is not on top of the ’one percenters’.

Standard pub menu featuring the usual suspects – acceptable. A chicken parma that Sergei Bubka couldn’t jump over – nuh. I would rather one a quarter of the size that tasted like something.

Having said all that, we three had a great time and, really, I’m probably being a bit picky. It is just an interesting exercise to try to nail down just what it is that makes a pub NOT great!

Prof. Pilsner
P.S. The picture above is a shot of what I imagine a great pub looks like :) It's just a snap of some random pub from somewhere;)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I'll have a beer please

Saturday night, freezing cold weather, restaurant as full as a state school hat-rack and the phone still ringing at seven o’clock with late diners hoping to sneak in. All we need now is beer.

I am always scanning the bookings list during the week to see if I can recognise any regulars, especially those who enjoy their beer. When I know these folk are coming in I know it will give me a great opportunity to showcase the 70 odd listed beers that we stock all year round
as well as the chance to treat them with something ‘off-list’ from the cellar or spoil them by getting something extra special for them. The other bonus is that if they don’t want it – I get it!

This night we had two tables in the dining room who were beer nuts of a pretty high order as well as a few other diners scattered throughout who were hoping to try something a bit different. Because we had hosted our Beer Dinner the night before, I had been out to Purvis Cellars for some stock so I had a bit of a stash of ‘specials’ in the cellar.

Both these tables are restaurant regulars and beer nuts but were unable to get to the beer dinner. So we proceeded to do something of a “I can’t believe it’s not a beer dinner, beer dinner” of our own. The younger blokes on a table of eight were more your international lager drinkers with a few different styles thrown in while the older party of four have pretty much got to the stage where they tell me what they are going to order foodwise and I just keep matching beers coming their way.

Working from a starting point of lighter flavoured styles through to a series of really full flavoured limited release ales was a real challenge – especially as I still had to look after the restaurant, restock, take bookings, deliver desserts .... not drink any beers.

From Kronenburg to Budvar, from Fat Yak and Barons ESB to Young’s Christmas Pudding Ale and Redoak Christmas Cheer, Innis & Gunn (half a slab between the two tables!) and Cascade First Harvest to Grimbergen Blond and Floris Fraise strawberry beer it was a beery feast fit for a king, a queen and a truckload of knaves.

Big HI and thanks to Rod and Barb who were back again last week with Rob and Jo and who cleaned out the rest of the Specials Cellar. It’s a good excuse for me to get out to Cloudwine and Purvis this week to restock. Love the shopping bit!

Prof. Pilsner

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cop That!

I have often spoken about how my enjoyment of a beer – any beer – can be enhanced by the situation or the occasion that I find myself in. This is a cracker. Sipping a nice refreshing Bridge Road Pale Ale I laughed and laughed as I read the paper. The beer somehow just tasted – better.

I was brought up with a strong belief that you always do the right thing – sense of social justice if you will - and that you do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do. Still think that way and Mrs Pilsner and I are teaching our girls to think the same. But, sadly, many couldn’t give a fat rat’s clacker about anybody or anything but themselves. It is to one of these groups that Beer Blokes raises a glass now and says; “Cheers! Cop that!!”

The federal government recently launched a series of ‘stimulus packages’ to help the Australian economy. These were a number of cash handouts to many regular people (including some overseas visitors, exchange students and more than a few dead people) payable in a lump sum of up to $900 for individuals and $2800 for families. There was only one stipulation – you had to file a tax return.

Here’s where it gets good. There is a group out there in Australian society who try to avoid their social responsibility to others by refusing to lodge a tax return. This way they can avoid such annoyances as child support payments, spousal maintenance and deductions to their welfare benefits. But sometimes greed, coupled with base stupidity means a win for the good guys.

Many of these deadbeat mums and dads – 21,327 of them actually - were busted big-time when they couldn’t file their tax missing tax returns quick enough so as to scoop up a piece of my hard earned taxpayer dollars. Their tax returns enabled the Department of Human Services to recoup 23.5 million dollars in child support.

That’s worth another beer.

Prof. Pilsner

Monday, July 6, 2009


My recent trip with the eldest Pilsner to Canberra coincided with a Melbourne Storm home game. As a Premium member with reserved seats under the coaches box it is always tough to miss a game but attending the ANZAC Day dawn service at the Australian War Memorial was a worthy substitute.

The Saturday night game was against traditional rivals the New Zealand Warriors – a nice ANZAC celebration match – and recent clashes have been close and exciting affairs regardless of the teams ladder positions. Our room sat right above the very comfortable lounge and bar which held a few hundred drinkers and around eight big screen tellies.

The bar was packed with ANZAC Day revellers and the courtyard raged all day with the raucous shouting and cheering of another hundred or so at the two-up ring. I fronted the bar in the early afternoon and chatted briefly with the bloke behind the jump as soldiers, sailors and various suits poured into the place in a constant stream. “Busiest day of the year by a long shot”, he said as he chain-poured lagers with one hand, sorted change with the other and organised another bloke to change the Carlton Draught keg with a nod in that tap’s direction at the same time.

I noticed that the biggest of the big screen TVs was showing the NRL game between St George Illawarra and the Sydney Roosters with regular promos for the Storm/Warriors clash flashing across the bottom of the screen.

“Coming up next – the ANZAC clash between Melbourne and New Zealand!!” “Stay Tuned!!!” “Right after this match, we go straight to Melbourne – Storm and the Warriors!!” “They were mates on the battlefield, now they face off in a clash for bragging rights on the footy field!!” “Get a Crazy Frog ringtone for your mobile!! Your mates will think you ROCK!!!”

The first game finished and I whipped back upstairs with the eldest Pilsner’s dinner, wished myself luck for the boys and raced back downstairs to hook a good spot in front of the TV closest to the bar. The last station promo before the Big Game wound up and I decided on my first beer. I turned back to see NOT the Melbourne Storm, but a RUGBY UNION game. Rugby Union?!? That’s the game in which three blokes try to push two blokes up one bloke’s arse!!! What happened? Where’s the Storm!?!

I turned to the bloke at the bar to forcefully – but fairly – register my disappointment, with a small attachment regarding the reversal of the aforementioned channel-change when my eye caught a wide-screen view of the whole bar. The game showing was the Super 14 game between the New Zealand based Crusaders and the Canberra based Brumbies and there must have been close to three hundred blokes all glued to every screen in the joint.

And there was not a single neck to be seen among them.

I tucked my Storm hat under my coat and quietly went back upstairs.

The Storm and the Warriors drew 14 all after one of the most exciting clashes between the two teams in their 12 year history after two periods of extra time. The Brumbies managed to just get out of first gear to be handed their own arses 56 to 10. If there really is a God, he doesn’t live in Canberra.

Prof. Pilsner

Friday, July 3, 2009

Festival of the Frothy

Just a quick plug for a beer trivia/tasting spectacular which is being held in Melbourne tomorrow (Saturday) night.

The Festival Of The Frothy promises to be a night of beery excellence as trivia is contested, shared entrees and dinner are eaten, brewers and beer people are met and ... beer is drunk.

Ormand Hall, Belgian Beer Cafe is the venue and the Funky Bunch Trivia guys will provide the information/entertainment side of things while brewers such as Bridge Road, Temple, Mountain Goat, Holgate, Hargreaves Hill and Trumer Pils will lay on the beers.

This is the first of (hopefully) many events of this kind.

A shame that it coincides with

The Local Taphouse Stars & Stripes SpecTapular,
Melbourne Storm taking on the Newcastle Knights at Olympic Park and
Me having to manage a full restaurant with a half page waiting list.

For those who can, get down to Ormand Hall, Belgian Beer Cafe
557 St Kilda Rd (Enter via Moubray St) at 7 o’clock on Saturday July 4.

Tom, I promise I will get my s%$t together for the next one and assemble a crack team from The Local Taphouse! Contenders - and pretenders, beware!!

Prof. Pilsner

It’s not about beer – or is it?

One of the variables that come into play while you’re holidaying is the food. Tourist destinations can be hit and miss when it comes to feeding a range of diets, preferences and attitudes – especially where young children’s appetites are concerned.

Country towns can often supply plenty of Road House crap, dodgy processed stuff wrapped in that crinkly plastic that won’t burn and massively large serves of Pub Favourites which are big on size and small on flavour. And, like Forrest Gump, until you get there, you never know what you’re gonna git.

These small rural and regional destinations will always, however, throw up a nice surprise every time. You just have to find it. In Mansfield I found the ultimate example of my all time favourite non-beer treat – The Vanilla Slice. Or The Snot Block to its devotees. For the uninitiated, The Snot Block is a tasty pastry made by sandwiching a thick slab of set vanilla custard between to thinnish layers of crispy puff pastry and topped with either a layer of vanilla icing or a generous dusting of vanilla icing sugar. Mmmmmmmm .... colesterolly!

Most Snot Blocks fall into the mid-range as far as quality goes – it’s pretty difficult to find a bad one – but a really good one is a rare treat. This was as rare a find as you could hope for. As you can see in the picture, this thing was less of a dessert and more of a doorstop; thick in a generous way, custard-y in a very homemade way and delicious in an overall way. $4.40 and it was a bargain. So much so that we stopped in at cafe Forty-1 on our way back to Melbourne. Partly to get another one and partly because this treat was SO good, I had eaten it all before I realised that I hadn’t taken a picture of it for the blog.

Why, you may ask is this Snot Block review on a beerblog? Good question – glad you asked. Eating this (after speaking to the staff at Forty-1 to confirm that it was not just homemade but homemade on the premises) I realised that the taste was better for knowing that someone had put some real care and passion as well as skill, to create this sensation I was feeling. Someone developed the process that resulted in something that looked pretty much like all the others but, when savoured, was an experience worth writing about.

And I’ve just discovered that this is why I like a good craft beer so much.

Prof. Pilsner

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Beer Blokes in the High Country

A pretty hectic two weeks has just been capped off by a very nice (if very short) break in Mansfield in the Victorian High Country.

The Pilsner family managed to squeeze a three day getaway into the first slot of the school holidays after a week and a half of two-day and all-day training courses for me combined with extra nights at the Courthouse Restaurant. We must be doing something right out there as midweek nights are getting busier and busier which is difficult for me – I have to stand and serve and then watch as people drink more and more specialty beers and I can’t join them!

Mansfield is a small regional centre at the foot of the Victorian Alps (read; collection of small hill-like objects) about two and a half hours out of Melbourne. It is at the heart of the King Valley, a region that produces some very good wines, and has some fair historical significance.

It is also bloody cold in winter and trying to marshal the little Pilsners into cold weather gear when they just want to bolt around in fairy dresses and bare feet is, I guess, just a part of the rich tapestry that is family holidays.

Once I get my head back in the big city game – and unpack and wash the last of the many, many, many suitcases that seem to have grown out of the back of the Commodore over the three days, I will sit down with a beer and write up my various experiences.

Prof. Pilsner