Weekend of Darkness, Part Two – The Beers I Liked

Continued from Weekend of Darkness, Part One – The Weekend.

I won’t write about the one beer I disliked this weekend. Good breweries don’t deserve to have their hard-working, beer-sharing name smeared because someone didn’t like one of their beers. I’ll just say that I could see what they were trying to do with it, but in my humble opinion, they missed the mark, and what could have been great, wasn’t.

As for the eleven I enjoyed, I’ll give some minor notes (in no particular order). I don’t have a very advanced palate, so I’ll just do what I can.

White Lies/Croft Brewing Dead Bellboy – Smoked Vanilla Porter 5.8% (QLD)

To my nose, there was sweet sticky vanilla extract. To my mouth, smoked almonds. A delightful experience.

Epic Beer Epicurean – Coffee & Fig Imperial Stout 8% (NZ)

The aroma was rich with figs—I felt like I was in Turkey. The flavour didn’t carry quite as much as the aroma promised, but it did have some bitter coffee in the fadeout.

Brewtal Brewers Oaked Bloody Good Stout – Barrel Aged Oatmeal Stout 7.1% (QLD)

The dark brown head already hinted that there was going to be a lot in this drink, and there was. I don’t know if ‘woody chocolate’ is a thing, but after this beer, I hope it is, because that’s what I was tasting, and it was good. Sweet brown sugar hung around for a bit, but then it trailed off into bitter cocoa, with the wood turning to glowing embers in my chest.

Wig & Pen Russian Imperial Stout 7.7% (ACT)

This was much sweeter and lighter than I expected—almost like a stout with some butterscotch schnapps added.

Moondog Brewing Ogden Nash’s Pash Rash – Redskin Imperial Stout 8.8% (VIC)

When I was 18, a friend of mine infused a bottle of vodka with Redskins, and it tasted like Redskins with a hint of vodka. This was similar—Redskins with a hint of stout. I could understand someone being disappointed if they were expecting a heavy stout taste, but great if you were looking for Redskins. Also great if you wanted to drink a beer and feel like a kid at the same time. It was light-hearted, and didn’t take itself too seriously.

Rocks Brewing Choc Oats and Rye Stout 6% (NSW)

There wasn’t a whole lot of depth to this (I suppose that wasn’t helped by drinking this after some of the other, bigger flavours), but it was a smooth, pleasant sip. Went down easily.

Hopdog Beerworks 6TenK II – Bourbon Oaked American Porter 6.2% (NSW)

I only had a sip of this one, and while there was nothing negative about it, it also didn’t win my heart. See Weekend of Darkness Part Three for more on my expectations of barrel-aged beers.

Boatrocker Ramjet 2014 – Russian Imperial Stout(VIC)

Warm and sweet, with dark fruits—plum and fig, perhaps? My overall impression of this was like drinking a sticky dessert wine, or a port. Take a deep sip of port, dwell on the sweetness on the tongue, enjoy the warmth down the throat, and you’ll have some idea of the Ramjet experience.

Newstead Brewing/Brewtal Brewers Mulled Warrior – Spiced Imperial Stout 9% (QLD)

Little spicy, little peppery, little bitter. I was expecting this mullet stout to be to stout as mulled wine is to red wine, which it wasn’t quite. But enjoyable.

Mornington Peninsula Russian Imperial Stout 9.5% (VIC)

I felt like a pirate drinking this beer, heading below deck and trying to get cozy on a winter’s night with a half-a-bottle of dark rum.

Wig & Pen King of the North – Cask Imperial Brown Ale 11% (ACT)

This was all silk and sultanas.

I feel that I probably did some of these drinks an injustice—when you have a fairly barbaric palate and you taste ten dark beers in a relatively short period of time, you surely miss a lot of the subtleties. But what can I say—that’s why I’m at Schoonerversity!

Stay tuned for the final installation: Weekend of Darkness, Part Three – The Beers I Loved.

Weekend of Darkness, Part One – The Weekend

Most universities have weekends off. But not Schoonerversity. At Schoonerversity, even on the weekends, there’s no rest for the wicked. And that’s never truer than on the Weekend of Darkness, at The Scratch.

As of a week ago, we live just down the road from The Scratch, an awesome craft beer bar in Milton. While Scratch has been our favourite and go-to bar for a while, it’s now our local. And it’s a good neighbour.

This weekend was the second annual Weekend of Darkness, those blissful 54 hours where The Scratch offers only dark beers on their taps. Forty dark beers from all around Australia and New Zealand (well, except for one from USA). Porters, stouts, black IPAs and dark Belgian ales. Chocolate, coffee, smoke, oak, fig, whiskey… so many flavours going on, sometimes all in the same drink. And the staff provided their own dark flavour as well, with their Addams-Family-esque costuming for the weekend, and their doll heads and mannequin torsos adorning the place. They’re an odd lot. In a good way.

Weekend of Darkness. Dark beer, dark times.

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There was food available over the weekend (all dark and rich and smokey, of course), but we were saving our wallets for the dark drink. We took along some cookies that my wife baked, appropriate to the weekend–dark cocoa, choc chip, hazelnut meal, a double shot of espresso, and some applewood smoked salt. Dark and delicious, and sharing many of the characteristics to be found on tap. The only problem was the temptation to gorge myself on them and destroy my palate. Luckily, discipline prevailed, and the beer was prioritised.

Dark cookies and dark beer bring light to the weekend.

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I managed to get my hands on the WoD programme a few days early, so I was able to mark the brews I was keen to try. I put a little star next to each description I liked. Turns out, that did not cut the list down very much. But it did give me some focus, so when my wife and I turned up on Saturday afternoon, and made it to the front of the queue (people lined up out the door to take part in these dark times), we had some idea of what we wanted.

Between meeting up with a few groups of friends on Saturday, and managing to sneak in a quick sip on Sunday night, we tasted fourteen of the taps on offer over the weekend. (It’s a good thing they offered them all in ponies!) One I disliked. Eleven I enjoyed. And two that I could write epic poems about, to be sung by mutant minstrels in a post-apocalyptic world in centuries to come.

Weekend of Darkness, Part Two – The Beers I Liked

Weekend of Darkness, Part Three – The Beers I Loved

Unremarkable beer and unforgettable beer

I’m generally a man of simple tastes.

Go into my wardrobe, and you’ll see a stack of t-shirts – a bunch of black shirts, a bunch of navy shirts, and a bunch of shirts that are barely distinguishable from black or navy. Most days, I’ll wear one of those plain t-shirts, a pair of jeans, and some plain shoes. It’s basic, and it works. Foolproof is my style… most of the time.

But that’s not my whole wardrobe. You’ll also see a button-front shirt covered in a print of Atari consoles. A grey shirt with pink paisley cuffs. A t-shirt depicting a steampunk Icarus falling from the sky. A few stand-out items, attention-grabbers, pieces worthy of comment.

I like simple and easy and repeatable a lot of the time, but I also love a bit of adventure. A risk that might dash me on the rocks, but will hopefully pay down dividends of a great evening and memorable stories.

I’m the same with my taste in beer. A lot of the time, I’m happy with a crisp pale ale, a straightforward amber ale, a smooth ESB. I’ll buy a 6-pack I don’t need to think too much about, because I know I’ll crack it open, and I’ll enjoy it from first sip to last. It’s not remarkable, but it’s reliable.

But I’m not content to just stick to these kinds of beers. I want a Red IPA that’ll roughhouse me. A Russian Imperial Stout that’ll knock my teeth out. A whiskey barrel-aged ale that makes me dream of mahogany and pipe tobacco. I like to spend the night with a beer you wouldn’t take home to meet your parents. A beer you’re still telling stories about a month down the track. Remarkable beer. Unforgettable beer.

Yesterday, I wore jeans and a black t-shirt. Today, I’m wearing jeans and a navy t-shirt. But I think tomorrow I’ll wear something exciting.

The Beer Belt

I live in Brisbane.

Over the past few years, Brisbane has become a craft beer haven. People’s tastes are developing, the menus are becoming more sophisticated… Brisbane is on its own craft beer adventure, and it’s going so well that XXXX are getting worried because people are finally cottoning on that there’s something better out there. New bars are popping up like mushrooms after a storm. They’re opening faster than I can get to them, and I love it.

Until a week ago, we lived on the northern fringe of Brisbane. While there were a few choice watering holes near us, the pickings were fairly slim overall. Then last week we moved to the inner suburbs, where great beer flows freely. (I guess you could say we moved from the bald spot to the beer belly.)

The CBD, Fortitude Valley, Paddington, Milton, Petrie Terrace, Newstead, Teneriffe… we’re now in the Beer Belt.

Welcome to Schoonerversity

I love beer.

When I’m drinking beer, I’m either cooling down and relaxing after a long, hard day, or I’m talking and laughing with good friends while my tastebuds and my stomach are falling ever more in love with me. Both of those scenarios are what I consider to be a good time.

But I don’t just like drinking beer. I like telling people about the best beer I’ve had lately, and hearing about theirs. I like finding out about a great beer I haven’t tried yet, and hunting it down. I like checking out new beers, new bars, and new breweries. I like learning about styles of beer and brewing methods.

I love beer. And they say, ‘Do what you love’. Now that I’ve moved house and am changing jobs, I’d love to work with beer. That just seems to make sense.

So now I’m knuckling down to learn everything I can about beer. I want to be a beer nerd.

I already know a bit. I know my IPAs from my amber ales, my wheat beers from my pale ales, my stouts from my ESBs. I’m not completely ignorant, but I’m like a school student. My education has begun, but it’s far from complete. I’m ready to learn, grow, develop expertise. To gain advanced knowledge, and an advanced palate. I’m a brewdent, but I’d like to be a brewfessor.

This is my journey. This is where I’ll keep light, floral trivia and fruity tidbits of information. This is where I’ll slug through heavy, molasses-y cramming sessions. This is where I’ll regale you with smooth, malty tales of my on-the-ground experience (because I’ll need to do my homework, right?). Sometimes it will be educational, sometimes it will be scintillating. Hopefully it will be intriguing and interesting, or familiar and refreshing. Always it will take you further down the rabbit hole of my thoughts, my progress, and my love of beer.

Welcome to Schoonerversity. We’re going to have an excellent time.