Good Beer Week takes place in Melbourne in May each year, during which a slew of Melbourne’s best pubs, bars and hotels showcase the world’s best brewers and beers. Many of Victoria’s finest restaurants and gastropubs also put on fabulous feasts, where the pairing of fine foods with craft beers takes pride of place. There’s also a massive exhibition called The Great Australian Beer Spectacular at the Royal Exhibition Buildings during Good Beer Week, but it’s a travelling extravaganza that visits other parts of the country during the year.
For some reason, the past five years of GBW have evaded me. Whether it’s because I’ve been busy or lazy, this is the first Good Beer Week in which I’ve actively participated. And gee I had fun.
For GBW this year, I thought I’d take on the rather laborious challenge (chuckles) of finding Australia’s best craft beer – according to me. Luckily, GBW makes this process quite simple with its Pint of Origin program. Pint of Origin is where a host of Melbourne pubs allow their taps to be taken over by brewers from various Australian states, as well as beers and breweries from all over the world.
So, here are my notes from my foray into Australia’s finest beers and some of Melbourne’s most iconic pubs and bars.
My first port of call is the Workers Club Hotel in Brunswick, which is a great little pub that has a real working class atmosphere, that is, until the hipsters take over.
The beer on offer tonight is Melbourne’s own Kaiju Beer, who specialises in my favourite kind of brew – Indian Pale Ale (IPA). Here’s a rundown of what’s on tap tonight:
Kaiju Robohop Golden IPA – 5.7%
Full flavoured, slight biscuity bitterness. Maybe just a hint of passionfruit. Good malty finish, but not overpowering – just the right balance of malt and hops.
Kaiju Metamorphosis IPA – 6.7%
Hop explosion! Dark hopped-out IPA. Very little fruit flavour, but slightly acidic – in a good way. This is a heavy hop-rockin’ brew.
Kaiju Hopped-out Red IPA – 6.2%
This is one of my favourite beers but I’ve never had it on tap before. It really is what is says – a dark red ale, heavy on the hops, but not too dense. Very drinkable and much better on tap that in the bottle (although it’s still very good in the bottle).
Victorian winner: Kaiju Hopped-out Red IPA
Next stop: the Pinnacle Hotel in Fitzroy, which I’ve never been to before but have driven past 100 times. It’s a fabulous old post office building that’s set on a corner in a ‘sliver’ type of construction. It’s nice and warm inside and an acoustic duo is playing very pleasant tunes. We settle near the fireplace and I order a tasting paddle, which is a long board that fits five ‘ponies’ inside.
The beers I’m testing tonight are:
Brewtal Extra Special Bitter (ESB) – 5.2%
Has a kind of caramelised banana vibe to its aroma and aftertaste. Bitter, well rounded and matches well to my Philly cheese steak sandwich (yum). Good body, not too airy, as some lagers tend to be. Nice hop/malt balance, but could do with more hops.
Balter Extra Pale Ale (XPA) – 5%
Very light, probably not the best to drink with hopped-out beers because I think I’m missing the more subtle flavours in this beer. Easy to drink, a little bit hoppy, very fruity, which I don’t usually like, but would make a nice summer session beer.
Three Bolt Session Pale Ale, Green Beacon Brewing – 4.5%
Again, a very light beer, easily sessionable, quite fruity. Has strong mango and passionfruit flavour, along with other citrus notes. It’s a little bit hoppy and has a slightly malty finish.
Bacchus Mosaic Single Hop IPA – 8.1%
Passionfruit and tropical fruit aroma and flavour, maybe a tad too heavy, bit too alcoholic for my taste. Very warming on a cold night though.
Brewtal Brisbane River American Brown Ale – 8.6%
Nice hoppy brown ale with light smoky finish. Good strong beer perfect for the end of the evening. Not too heavy either.
Bacchus Snickers Chocolate Ale – 6.5%
A very nice dessert beer that actually tastes and smells like a Snickers bar. Delicious dark brown ale with a caramel malt kick and a very creamy finish. Drinking this, I immediately feel like making love…
Queensland winner: Bacchus Snickers Chocolate Ale
New South Wales
The Rainbow Hotel in Fitzroy has been taken over by NSW brewers tonight, and I’ve dropped in on my way to a comedy show to taste the blue state’s wares. The Rainbow is a Fitzroy institution and is a mix of old pub and big, heated beer garden with pool tables and, quite often, big crowds. A good spot for a Saturday night session, if you don’t mind that ‘Fitzroy’ vibe.
Here’s to the beers:
Fixation ‘The Fix’ Double IPA – 8.2%
Big fruity aroma and taste on first sip, followed by heavy hop flavour. A little bitter, but very crisp and not too heavy. Big alcohol taste but not overpowering.
Stockade Brew Co 8-bit American IPA – 6.5%
Big hop blast with a ‘salady’ aroma finished with a sweet malt finish. Crisp, clean and easily sessionable. Very well balanced – almost perfect, if not a little ‘light’.
New South Wales winner: Stockade 8-bit American IPA
That’s it for round one. Next week, we’ll visit Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia and we’ll announce the winner of the 2016 Pint of Origin series – as judged by me.