BACCHUS BREWEING B20 BEERFEST
BEER has occupied the minds of several delegates to this weekend’s G20 summit in Brisbane. Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel ignored security concerns to stroll through Brisbane’s Caxton Street pub and club precinct for a few brews and selfies. US President Bazza Obama told a University of Queensland audience his staff “was very excited for Brisvegas. “When I arrived they advised I needed some XXXX.” Which to Queenslanders is their blessed state beverage, while for Americans it means something entirely different – a popular condom brand. Obama’s attempted joke was flat beer with his Australian audience.
On a more positive note to celebrate Brisbane’s newfound international notoriety, Bachus Brewing in bayside Capalaba has produced 20 beers and a cider, each themed on the participating G20 nations. With assistant taster Bruce Paige in tow we ventured out to the craft brewery for a sip. Mindful of Queensland’s drink driving laws we sampled only 10, so we’ll share those.
UK. Hadrian’s Bitter. Described as “an English style bitter from a Welsh recipe, with added heather flowers from Scotland and fermented with Irish Ale yeast. Since Brisbane was in the midst of a record breaking heatwave with outside temperatures 40C+, perhaps it was ill advised to serve it British style, flat and tepid from a keg on the bar. No head, little nose, what taste there was all up front with no finish. It reminded Bruce of an old, damp mackintosh which has seen better days. Bland and insipid spring to mind.
At 3.9 per cent ABV, this was a wilted flower of Scotland.
Indonesia. Boogie on Down Bali Brown. Described as inspired by the Schapelle Corby story, this keg of brown ale conceals4.2kg of hemp (seeds not leaves). It’s dark hue and promises of forbidden fruits did not translate into this light bodied ale, which offered no hints on the nose, sweet start, not much finish but hints of coffee.
At 4.8 per cent ABV this full strength ale was a bit like Scapelle Corby’s story itself, a disappointing finish.
India. King Korma Lager. Described as inspired by India’s Kingfisher Lager, a korma spiced lager with a mango hop character. There were hints on the nose of what was to follow, subtle spices with a clear coriander start, but the spices had disappeared at the finish.
Neither of us could pick the mango fruit.
At 5.5 per cent, this would be a dangerous sessional beer, but we both voted it was definitely a “one more please”!
Germany. The Third Rauch. Described as a smoked bock made with three different smoked malts, using beechwood, cherrywood and mesquite. Of course “rauch” is German for smoke, and this was a dark, malty beer in true bock style with multiple complex notes which changed with every taste. Think aromas of cigar smoke, old rope dipped in tar, liquorice, dark chocolate which translated in a surprisingly pleasant way into a complex, rich, full bodied beer which continued to surprise with each mouthful.
At 7.6 per cent ABV this is not for quaffing, but Bruce fantasised about it accompanying a roast pork hock with apple sauce and sauerkraut.
Australia. Abbott’s Budget Smugglers Redneck Ale. Described as all Australian ingredients, a light weight, easy drinking, bright red pale ale. It was hard to miss this bright red ale, allegedly coloured with that Australian staple beetroot, as it was being consumed with gusto at several tables around us. Our beloved prime minister is an easy target in his red budgie smugglers, though it may have been lost on some that Abbott’s was a now long-gone, pioneering Melbourne brewery which produced a memorable lager.
This ale was all NSW though, with notes reminiscent of the old Resch’s Dinner Ale. The nose offered no hints, with a slow start but a solid finish as a good quaffing ale should.
At 4.6 per cent ABV this full strength ale would make a good sessional drink, and that seemed to be the popular views of others.
United States. Peanut Butter Jelly Time. Described as inspired by the Family Guy, a peanut butter and jelly amber ale. This ale started with a pleasant nose, followed by a sweet start in which peanuts dominated. Then that was it, with a nothing sort of finish.
At 6.7 per cent ABV, moderation is cautioned. What else can we say? Elvis was apparently carried off by the gastric consequences of a surfeit of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
The lesson is peanuts go well with beer, but not in it.
Saudi Arabia. Saudi Grapes. Described as a 12-month old barrel fermented limbic sour ale with secondary fermentation on grapes, dates and figs. The desert kingdom is strictly teetotal so it would be hard to imagine this being the rage at your next oasis bash.
Still, the double fermentation resulted in an interesting but different drink. There was a clear but strong fruit nose followed by a full bodied, sweet start in which the alcohol (10.5 per cent AVB) kicked right in. It was sour as described rather than bitter, but not unpleasantly so in the style of lambic fruit beers.
If there is such an animal, this would be best described as a liqueur beer, perhaps best served as an aperitif in lieu of sherry, or as an after dinner drink to accompany traditional Middle Eastern sweets like baklava or Turkish delight, or even Turkish coffee.
Russia. bRed Army. Described as a kvass ale, fermented with a sour dough culture, a low alcohol beverage made from stale rye bread and spiced with lemon zest, caraway and mint. Some purists claim fermented kvass ale should not be described as beer. The style certainly fails the German Rheinheitsgebot test, but fermented drinks like horehound beer, ginger beer and others definitely have their place. They are certainly refreshing on a hot day.
At 1.9 per cent ABV bRed (bread, get it?) Army kvass ale would not blow your socks off, but was a bit like the Russian bluff at G20, all bark and no bite. Served over ice, it would be a pleasant alternative to, say soda lime and bitters.
Fruit and spices dominated in a pleasant.
Japan. Wasabi Ninja. Described as the brewery’s flagship Cunning Ninja’s Imperial IPA spiced with wasabi. Indian Pale Ales promise a full bodied, bitter ale and to be true to the style, a higher percentage ABV than standard drinks. This knockout ninja did not disappoint with a good hop nose, full-bodied on the palate and strong bitter finish. Bruce prepared himself for a knockout wasabi hit to clear his sinuses but the wasabi proved subtle rather than overwhelming.
However, at 11.7 per cent AVB, this came with a caution that, like the Saudi Grapes, it would not be served in pints.
We finished with a palate cleansing barrel fermented cider. It was very lightly spritzed, almost flat, with a strong apple nose and tart on the palate. There were no yeast hints, and it was advertised as suitable for those who were gluten intolerant.
At 5.8 per cent ABV it would be ill-advised as a quaffing cider, but could go well mixed with a spritzer such as sparkling mineral water.
Bacchus is a craft brewer based in bayside Capalaba in Brisbane’s south-eastern corridor. The B20 Beerfest was a one off, and while we didn’t get to sample all 20 beers, the brewery produces a continuous range of inventive styles and flavours which suggests a return visit is on the cards. Located at 2 Christine Place, Capalaba, it runs daily cellar clear door sessions form Tuesday to Saturday, the latter lunchtime only. We tried tasting paddles of five samples (approximately 700ml total) at AUD$20.
Among their regular beers is one infused with a whole chicken. As Arnie said, we’ll be back.
My special thanks to my enthusiastic offsider Bruce Paige.