First published on 17 May 2012. Updated on 24 May 2012.
Trust the Irishman to smuggle in some contraband 60 percent whiskey to a brewer dinner. Brendan Moylan, the impish rogue behind Moylan’s brewery and bar in the US (who only claims his Irish heritage when it’s convenient – moments such as this) went cackling from table to table last night, imparting his boozy wisdom on all and sundry. As was the point of the Brewers and Chewers dinner. A night where hard-out craft fans, amateurs and professionals got to get up close and personal with some of the world's best (and most notorious) brewers.
Naturally, it all had to go down at the Local Taphouse – Melbourne’s heartland of craft beer. Newly renovated with a bocce court out the back, a bottle shop off one side and chef Jeff Simpson on board bashing the pans, this pub’s become all kinds of a big deal lately. At one point, foot long beef ribs hit the table – they don’t mess around.
Considering the amount of high-octane beer that was flowing (more than one person came undone when they hit the 10 percent Hoptimum brew), the night rolled out like a perfectly orchestrated ballet. Only one glass was smashed. And that was by Taphouse owner Steve Jeffares, so it doesn’t count.
Pete “Professor Pilsner” Mitchum can be held highly responsible for smooth proceedings. He managed to both ably guide the brewers between the tables (where they spent 10-15 minutes being quizzed on industry gossip and their personal lives by diners) and to praise/insult them at the same time.
But such is the good-natured spirit of Good Beer Week that Owen Johnston of Tasmania’s Moo Brew copped the incest jokes right on the chin. But he’s a good guy like that. A man who does a back breaking job all day, is passionate about their beers being for those “who want to sit around at the pub and have a few pints, not just one”, yet can talk about the beauty of the sun, setting between two mountains and shining through the panoramic windows onto brewery floor. Although he did swiftly apologise for the “touchy-feely” nature of this sentiment.
Sam Füss didn’t apologise for jack. She was the only female brewer in the group, but was pegged as most-likely-to-sock-Mitchum for his digging jokes. That’s how she rolls. Most of the jabs were related to her plans to move away from True South brewery (as of the end of this week) and to take some time doing contract brewing around the country prior to opening Old Salt – her own operation.
Contracting can be a dirty word in craft, apparently, but Kiwi Stu McKinlay of the Yeastie Boys (best name ever?) stood in its defence, and his word counts for a lot at the moment. The musically inclined brewer with a penchant for dressing like a golfer (on acid), is responsible for the Gunnamatta beer which won People’s Choice at the Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular on the weekend. Infused with 10Kg of Earl Grey tea, it’s an aromatic brew that you could give to your gran and drink till you fall over. Which gives McKinlay two strong legs to stand on.
Temperature-talk and the comparing of equipment rapidly descended into streaker chat – apparently a volunteer did a victory lap of the Exhibition centre on the weekend. A proposal was tabled and unanimously passed that this should become an annual event.
Steve Grossman of Sierra Nevada gave us the good news that their line is going into cans – which is the best information beer loving Meredith Music Festival fans could receive.
By the time the large vessels of steamed chocolate pudding and beer ice-cream were cleared away, we were no closer to being able to pronounce the name of Kjetil Jikiun from Nøgne Ø in Norway, but we did get to hear his plans of opening a brewery in Asia. We think.
For a night that put such a force of mighty talent, mightier beers and rabid enthusiasts in one room, it was a flat-out surprise that nobody streaked, died or even fell over. But there’s always next year.