Friday, August 28, 2009

Now I can’t wait to get old

I love surveys. And studies. Any old grant-driven scientific research, really.

Do you know why? Because it’s pure entertainment. It is all about as relevant as the fifth placed finalist in Australian Idol, as important as Paris Hilton’s latest shopping trip, or as believable as Oprah and Dr Phil combined.

“Give us some cash and we’ll give you some stunning and world-altering figures about important social issues”, they say as they extend their grubby cash-grabbing hand.

“Give us even more cash and we’ll give you some even more stunning and more world-altering figures about important social issues which contradict the first!” With hand out.

Today I read that older Australians who have up to 28 drinks a week stand a better chance of warding off dementia than those who abstain. This data comes from 15 international studies involving more than 10,000 people so it’s not like one of those narrow, pissy little studies that trumpet mind-blowing results and then pop some figures into the fine print which show they phoned ten people or spoke to all the people on a bus one day.

Folk aged 60 or over who drank between one and 28 alcoholic drinks a week were almost 30% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. This raises some very interesting questions. If I start drinking my 28 drinks per week BEFORE I’m 60, will the benefits be less – or will I just spontaneously combust? If I have 29 drinks, will the effects be reversed – or will my head just drop off? If I go one week without ANY DRINKS AT ALL will there be no ill effects at all – or will I suddenly forget my entire family as well as the ability to remember to remove my trousers before using the toilet? If I start before I turn 60 AND have more than 28 drinks will it be the same as swimming 29 minutes after eating rather than 30 minutes after eating? Will I walk into the surf and just explode?
Either way, I’m gettin’ an early start. Why wait till I’m 60? If I start now, surely my body will be better prepared for drinking into old age. After all, you don’t prepare for running a marathon by running a marathon! You have to do SOME training. Like the warning labels say – Excessive alcohol consumption can cause memory loss – or worse, memory loss.

Cheers – and drink up before the contradictory research is released,
Prof. Pilsner

"Ahs forgot to gets me a beer - Oh well, least I ain't BLACK!!"

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Goats, Mates & Beer Karma

I don’t get many Wednesday nights off work, so when I do I want to make the most of it. And ‘the most of it’ turned out to be a visit to the Mountain Goat Brewery in Richmond – on a bit of a whim and a bit of a mission.

After sharing the Ale Stars floor with Dave on the night we did Belgian Blonds (*insert boyish snigger here*) I promised the Head Goat I would pay a visit to get some more info for a post I have been preparing for a while now. It was also a good excuse to have a nice beer.

Now, apart from the ability to consistently produce some damn fine ales, the Goat Guys are also known around the traps as folk who are prepared to have a bit of fun along the way. Traditional brewing methods? Check. Best available natural ingredients? Check. Naming your bottling machine ‘Maxine’ and petting her during operations so that she doesn’t chuck a wobbly? Check.

‘Maxine’ – whose name comes from a witty extension of the brand name, Framax – does work better with a kind word and gentle pat according to Dave and who am I to argue with that? And, apart from their beloved and valued two-legged staff, other ‘members of the Goat family have names. And the one I met on Wednesday was Randy. Or Randle Handle, to his friends. Randy may appear, to the uninitiated, as little more than a large glass tube at the end of the bar but he is far more than that.

Built for them by Richard Watkins of the Wig & Pen in the image of his own creation (known as The Modus Hoperandus) it sits in the beer line between the keg and the font. The beer is drawn from the keg, through Randy, then out and into the temprites (to chill the beer) before coming out at the tap and into your glass. The big deal is this – you can fill the glass tube section of Randy with a ‘flavour component’, like fresh hop flowers, to give the beer a last second kick of fresh aroma and taste. How cool is THAT?!?

What the Goat Guys have got right now is Randy stuffed full of a Coffee blend specially selected from 5 beans sourced from around the equatorial belt. I don’t know a lot about coffee beans and I’m just guessing it’s beans from 5 different places, not just 5 beans, given that I could smell the coffee as Meg was expertly pouring a beer for me. The Mountain Goat Surefoot Stout is running through the beans and the explosion of flavour, the punch of the aroma and the inexplicable and uninterpretable sensation that it gives you is an experience that you just have to experience yourself to know what I mean. If you know what I mean?

And here’s where the Beer Karma comes in. I’m sitting at the bar with Tom who looks after the sales side of things at Mountain Goat and he introduces me to his drinking mate. “This is Ben, “ “G’Day Ben – what do you do?” “I put the coffee blend together.” “This coffee blend that I am actually enjoying right now, this very minute as we very speak?” “Yes.”

Now where else could something like that collision of coincidences occur? That is what a wanker might call ‘serendipity’ – a beer drinker would just describe it as ‘sweet’. Good, handcrafted real beer, brewed with love, handled with care and then filtered through choice coffee beans, and drunk by me while sitting between the guy who brewed it and the guy who enhanced it ... that’s Beer Karma.

Prof. Pilsner

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ale Stars – The Best?

Calling all Ale Stars and anyone else who likes to contribute to Beer Polls.

In twelve meetings we have sampled around fifty beers with nary a dud amongst them. Imports and locals, refreshing and robust, light, dark and everything in between, we’ve tried them all. And, while beer folk in general and this blog in particular, are not about ratings and rankings it can still be fun to narrow the large field to a select few.

In this case, seven.

Last Ale Stars meeting was a Shandy-selected ‘best of’ of sorts and here’s our chance to nail down the Rest of the Best, if you like. I’ll pick my best 7 from the full (well, as full as what I can remember) list of Ale Stars tried and tested ales, lagers, porters, stouts and weizens.

The list.

Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter, Bright Brewery Staircase Porter, Red Duck Queen Bee Honey Porter and Meantime Coffee Porter, Guinness , Cooper’s Best Extra Stout, Red Hill Imperial Stout, Young’s Double Chocolate, Can You Believe I’ve Remembered Them All So Far, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Weihenstephaner Festbier, Erdinger Oktoberfest Weisbier, Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen, They’re All In Correct Order Too, Saison Dupont, Trois Monts, Bridge Road Saison, Silly Saison, Still Goin’ Strong, Redback Original, Weihenstephan Hefeweissbier & Vitus, Hoegaarden Grand Cru, Promised Aventinus – Couldn’t Get It, Neil Brought Along Some Sebastian, Lucky That, Pilsner Urquell, Hofbrau Original, Emerson Pilsner, Bridge Road Chestnut Lager, Sunner Kolsch, James Squire Golden Ale, Cooper’s Pale Ale, Hargreaves Hill ESB, Its An APA, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Sam Smith’s Old Brewery Pale Ale, Fuller’s London Pride, Worthington’s White Shield, I Better Not Have Missed Any, Cooper’s Sparkling, Bridge Road Australian Ale, Stone & Wood Draught Ale & Pale Lager, That Was A Huge Night, Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale, Emerson Old 95, Feral Razorback, Rogue XS Imperial Red, Still With Me?, Holgate Nut Brown Ale, Meantime Winter Time, Nearly There, Lobethal Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, Don't Remember Much Of That Night, Young’s Christmas Pudding Ale, Murray’s Sassy Blond, Red Hill Belgian Blond, Duvel, Mountain Goat Rapunzel, That’s Orl Ah Got To Say About That.

Now excuse me while I sit down for a bit, take a breath and have a beer while I pick my best seven.

Prof. Pilsner

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ale Stars with party poppers

A celebration of beer and of beer people kicked off well before the advertised time last Tuesday and, by all sketchy reports, was still going strong well after the advertised finishing time!

Ale Stars at the Local Taphouse St Kilda had its first birthday and kicked up its heels in style with 7 beers, plenty of pizza and prizes and plenty of beery fun. A new record of 52 drinkers filled the bar downstairs – a scene far removed from the humble origins of the event where a dozen tentative but brave souls sat upstairs wondering if this thing would take off. You couldn’t wipe the smiles from the faces of Ale Stars proud ‘parents’, Steve, Guy and Shandy.

To the beers. A ‘Best Of’ – of sorts – seven beers chosen from eleven previous meetings of four or five examples each, chosen by the Ale Star Czar, Shandy, to represent the most popularly received beers rather than just his seven favourites. In truth, I think he may have had a leaning towards some of the beers most likely to be found in his own fridge!

Each beer was introduced by Shandy with a ‘Who Am I?’ introduction giving hints as to its identity. The first person to call out their own name and provide the correct answer won a prize. Unfortunately, I was stricken with a nasty dry cough and had to exclude myself from the competition. In something of an unrelated coincidence, three others on our table were fortunate enough to come up with some wins – in many cases after only one clue! {sings; “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down ...”}

We led off with Pilsner Urquell, closely followed by Weihenstephaner Heffeweissbier and two finer beers it would be hard to find. Crisp, clean and refreshing but in very different ways, these beers could easily be representative of the whole Ale Stars feel – a broad range of people, from all over and with different beer tastes and experiences, but all drawn together by the event. That’s a bit esoteric isn’t it? I promise I won’t use big words like that again. Which reminds me, does anyone know who has hidden the tech-foul bell?

Timothy Taylor Landlord Pale Ale was opened next and this one was generally well received, as it was the first time around. It was particularly good to see Shandy get all gooey-eyed over his favourite tipple as if it were his high school sweetheart. Perhaps it was? Samuel Smith was probably not his high school sweetheart, but his Taddy Porter was well received as a nice counterpoint to the clean and crisp beers we had had til now.

The only beer out of a total of around fifty that Ale Stars has showcased that has really divided opinion has been Schelkerla smoke beer. We had the Marzen again this time around and, again, it drew the most conversation. Surprisingly, it seemed to have gained a few extra supporters this time. as something of a palate cleanser, we were served the very delicious Saison Dupont, a very fine representative of the Farmhouse style. Slighty sour, with sweet follow up notes and a dry refreshing finish, this one put some space between the smoky and the final beer, a Red Hill Imperial Stout.

But enough about the beers. This is a good chance to thank the Ale Stars creators and driving force, the blokes who run the joint, whose time and effort go into making sure these nights are what they are and whose passion for good beer makes them such a gosh-darn great night out. So, to Steve and Guy, to Justin and James and Sean and all he staff at The Taphouse, a huge thank you. And to Shandy, the at times indecipherable but always affable host who keeps the thing running along the tracks – even if sometimes no one is really quite sure where the tracks are heading! Well done, Happy Birthday and here’s cheers to the next twelve instalments.

Prof. Pilsner

Special mention to Salt & Pepper, AKA ex Taphouse staffer Brendan and Steve and Mark from Cats Arse Art who, despite managing to concentrate so well on the beers that they regularly bring up the rear of the field in the trivia quiz, managed to ace it this time around. For those keeping score, The Prof – and his team, it’s not about me – managed a very creditable third. Second if you don’t count the staff. And that we all reckon Salt & Pepper cheated.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ale Stars. This could be a big one.

I’m off to a birthday party tonight. It’s a first birthday party and I can drink as much as I want. For the first time in a long time, the Prof has a lift into The Local Taphouse for the 1st Anniversary edition of Ale Stars.

Pretty fortunate, really, as we are to be treated to not four, not five, not six .... but SEVEN beers in a ‘Best Of Ale Stars So Far Extravaganza’. Picked from the twelve different beer styles and types that we have visited since August last year, these beers range from hefeweizens to stouts and from English Pale Ales to saisons and smokies.

$35 rather than the usual $25 with trivia (not mine), pizzas and plenty more as well.

See you there.

Prof. Pilsner

Friday, August 14, 2009

What Am I?

For those on the edge of their seats waiting for the answer to the Beer Blokes 'What Am I?' question, here's the answer. Don't groan, don't swear and don't throw anything at your screen. The clue was; her name is Gail.

Belgian Blond Strong Gail

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Winter Beers warm the Courthouse

The weather did its best to make sure the warming winter brews were just the thing to please the guests at last nights Beer Dinner at The Courthouse Restaurant. A chilly breeze outside and a log fire inside made for a night suited to the chosen beers.

Chef Tim O’Brien planned the four food courses which matched beautifully to the beers. A nice easy starter as the guests arrived was found in the form of a Barons Pale Ale, a nice easy drinking Australian style pale ale which served as a good opener to the line up to follow.

Fresh mussels cooked in beer with sides of fat chips and mayonnaise is something you would expect to match up with a Belgian witbier and the guests were pleasantly surprised to find that a Little Creatures Pale Ale was a bit different but very suitable. The punch of citrus freshness in this hop driven ale worked perfectly alongside the clean freshness of the shellfish without being overpowering.

The second course was a magnificent rolled pork belly stuffed with Calvados soaked prunes which was just waiting for a beer with enough backbone to keep up with the big flavours but also had something to drive through the richness. A Pepperjack Ale from the Barossa was just the thing to achieve both aims. Brewed with 5% Pepperjack shiraz it had that fruity warmth of a quality ae but with a slightly acidic backnote provided by the wine. An interesting meeting of beer and wine.

The main course of long, slow cooked lamb shanks was paired with a Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel allowing the rich flavours of the lamb to meet with the depth of flavour in the beer while the citrus lightness in the wheat gave a nice contrast and balance.

Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter completed the night alongside a rich chocolate brownie with a dark chocolate Kahlua sauce. The nuttiness and toffee notes in the porter were just what the brownie needed.

Timo and I are already hatching plans for the next beer dinner and, with the onset of Spring and the warming weather there are plenty of recipes waiting to find a perfect beer partner.

Prof. Pilsner

Friday, August 7, 2009

People who really need a beer 03

This member of the club whose motto is “Let’s just not let anybody do anything ever and then no-one gets hurt” has featured before in posts on people who need a beer and he makes his return on a similar subject. And this time he’s brought some friends along.

Todd Harper is CEO of VicHealth and I just wish that he was President of the Whole Wide World because his ideas are so simple and so effective that the world’s troubles would dry up tomorrow if he was in charge. Last time around he was calling for blanket bans and lock-outs in pubs and nightclubs and warning labels on beers. I laughed then, I laugh now.

Todd apparently conducted a survey where he rang 1500 people and found out that almost NINE OUT OF TEN wanted cigarette style warning labels on their beer, wine and spirits. Pictures of corpses and bloodied faces and women with breast cancer and sick babies – that sort of thing. I don’t know why, either. We all know the message from the QUIT campaign and the accompanying scientific evidence that ‘every cigarette is doing you harm’, but that is not the case for beer or wine or spirits. Done sensibly in moderation, drinking can be beneficial to your health – mental as well as physical.

I don’t even want to think about how much of our tax cash was wasted by this mob yet again but I can guess by some of the other findings that it wouldn’t have been difficult to find something better to spend it on.

“9 out of 10 wanted warnings that exceeding guidelines may be harmful.”
Those who would take notice already know this. It’s the dickheads who don’t and won’t.

“There is demand {no evidence given} for warnings catering for pregnant women and young people.”
See above.

“¾ support nutritional information and a list of ingredients.”
WHAT?! Here, let me help you – malt, hops water and yeast. Grapes, water and yeast. OK, you’ve got me on RTDs – I got no idea what’s in them.

“Most drinkers want to know what type of alcohol is used in pre-mixed drinks.”
Most RTD drinkers must be stoopid. If it says Jim Beam – that’s what’s in it. If it says ‘bourbon’ then it’s rubbing alcohol with bourbon flavouring. OK?

“There is demand {no evidence given} for a standardised display on the number of standard drinks in containers.”
See post on this from Wednesday. It already exists, and you stupid do-gooders don’t like the way the TAC simplifies it. Make up your minds.

The story concludes with a quote from Prof. Robin Room of the Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre in Melbourne who says; “Alcohol affects others adversely, it is not only the effect on the drinker we are talking about.” No Poindexter, alcohol has no legs, no intent, no free will and no grasp of consequences, niether is it inherently good nor evil. It’s dickheads you are talking about – and they don’t, won’t or can’t read your warnings, no matter how you spell them.

Prof. Pilsner

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Courthouse Beer Dinner – Winter Beers

Back by popular demand – no really, actual demand – is the Courthouse Restaurant Beer Dinner. Five beers and four courses including dessert with an entertaining and informative host who promises a fun night of beery informality.

With the bookings already exceeding the Autumn dinner numbers we may be tight for space as other large bookings will probably see us using the Judges Cambers this time around but I’m sure we will all enjoy the beers on offer with a couple of samples that might be just a bit of a surprise. As usual, wines, soft drink or extra beers will be offered to the non-beer drinkers too ensure that everyone is welcome.

Doors open at 7 for a 7.30 start. The Courthouse Restaurant is at 1 Gloucester Ave Berwick, on the corner of High Street. See you there.

Prof. Pilsner

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Get your hands off my boobies!

A recurrent theme in this blog is do-gooders, bleeding hearts and fun-nannies trying to sanitise and simplify and overtake my life. OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but it seems that every week I am having to ask myself; “Is that REALLY necessary?!?”

Today it is some bunch of tools who put two and two together and come up with “OH MY LORD, YOU CAN”T DO THAT!!!” The two and two that they are putting together makes up a new campaign to educate those who may need a little assistance in order to make the right choice. Two beers and two boobies.

We are constantly being advised as to the alcoholic strength of the beer we drink wether it be a nice craft beer or an import or a glass of bland mainstream fizz. Every container of take away beer clearly states the number of standard drinks contained within. 1 standard drink, 1.3 standard drinks, 2 standard drinks. Simple, really. And this is a good thing because it gives all drinkers the opportunity to understand the terms of measurement. It’s about education.

But what about tap beer? How many standard drinks are there in a pot? A schooner? A pint? A pony or a butcher, a middie a schmiddie or a tasting paddle? The TAC (accident compensation, to which all tax payers contribute and all innocent victims are eligible to be paid from) has used different techniques to get the message across that drinking and driving is dangerous. All based on standard drinks. And now they want to make the point with a well put together ad campaign showing two blokes trying to calculate how many standard drinks they have had.

A barmaid pours two more beers for them, then tips out and tops up the beers to different levels based on a complex formula taking into account their respective weights, metabolism, food intake, drinking speeds etc. It is a well constructed message saying; “If you think you’re over the limit, you probably are”. This ad has been around over a year with no problems. Maybe the do-gooders missed the ads because they played during the telecasts of fun things like sport, funny movies and reality programs. The ads have recently been condensed into a beer coaster format showing two beers being served by the same friendly barmaid with the words “This is 3 standard drinks”.

The do-gooders have come out swinging. “We don’t want breasts with our messages! These coasters will just make people want to drink more beer! Are you all MAD!?!” Damn right I’m mad, you sanctimonious twat! It takes the right kind of marketing to point out the right message, and if the TAC use these two points to make a point and young, stupid, potential Beer-Idiots are drawn to these points and then they get the point – then that’s a good thing. Now piss off.

You can see the original ad here.

Prof. Pilsner

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Beers for Cheers and Tears

Regular readers of this blog – that’s people who read this carp regularly, not people with good, high fibre diets – will know what I mean about the occasion making the beer. Sometimes a beer is all the better for having it at a certain time, in certain company or for a certain reason. There is always an occasion. That’s for certain.

A phone message from Ale Star Czar, Shandy to announce the safe (if slightly overdue) arrival of the second baby boy for he and Tracey came on the back of the news that a mate had passed away after a short illness. Life goes on, Big Picture, Circle of Life – that kind of thing.

Stewie was a mate through my involvement with the Melbourne Storm Rugby League Club and, in particular, the Graveyard Banner Crew. A trip to the doctor for a bout of pneumonia led to the news that no one wants to hear, and we have been riding his illness with him and his wife Rose for just on a year. A top bloke, taken too soon. A couple of cans of Carlton Draught is not my usual bar order but, in the company of mates sharing a loss and speaking fondly of a mate lost just seemed to make those beers taste much better than I ever remembered it.

Wetting the baby’s head is just the same. I had been saving a six-pack of Bridge Road Brewers ‘The Harvest’ that Ben sent down from the brewery just before he sold off the last slab. One of my favourite beers of all time and the perfect beer to celebrate good news with. It was a very pleasant drop that passed my lips and made my mouth happy as I toasted the health of another mate’s newborn. I would have toasted him by name, but even as I write, a name is TBA. That’s To Be Advised for those non Gen –Yers and others who don’t speak fluent proper abbreviation.

Shandy, if it’s any help, I have looked to the beer fridge for inspiration. Hope these suggestions help. I am limited by what is in the fridge and the cellar as we speak. Timothy, as in the Landlord, Samuel, as in the Taddy Porter, Harve, as in The Harvest, Col, as in Coldstream Pilsner, Stephan, as in Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel or Fat Yak. You choose.

Prof. Pilsner