Eddie Pensier writes:
If you were imagining an ideal way to spend a warm spring Saturday, it might involve dozens of beers and tasty ethnic nibbles. Such was the case at Beer Day Out, a festival of craft beers sponsored by topnotch local booze merchant Plonk, from whence a high proportion of Pensier family beverages are purchased.
The venue was the Former Transport Depot, the location of Canberra’s beloved Old Bus Depot Markets. About forty different breweries and ten food merchants were represented, and when we arrived shortly after the noon opening time the depot was already nicely populated with beer fans, some of them involved in a cutthroat game of competitive Jenga. Here were some of the highlights.
Cavalier Beer Imperial Stout: A hoppy stout with a super-pleasing aroma of ground coffee. It was rich without being heavy, and lingered lusciously on the palate long after swallowing.
Altenmünster Braue Bier: Modestly hoppy bright-yellow lager. Clean and refreshing, with no particular flavors, either good or bad, to speak of. Still, I’d chug a pint of this on a hot day. (A 100ml sampler of this beer cost $3 instead of the customary $2 for all the others: besides the exotic provenance, I couldn’t see a justification for this.)
Tusker Lager: This Kenyan import brought me up short: it’s the only beer I can think of with no, and I mean no, hop flavor at all. The flavor profile is flat and super-malty, and in fact reminded me more of an unsweetened, alcoholic version of the Malta Goya my mom occasionally let me drink as a kid. Once I got over my surprise, I found it drinkable, but I probably wouldn’t buy it again.
Snack break: Very creditable BBQ sandwiches from Shannon’s: amazing beef brisket and slightly less amazing pulled pork that needed a squirt of BBQ sauce to blossom. Both served on yummy seeded rolls.
Savanna Dark Cider: Africa wasn’t making a good showing at this event: I found this SA cider to be flat-tasting with some unfortunate artificial sweetener notes. It was simultaneously sour-in-a-bad-way and syrupy, like a fountain soda where the mix ratio is unbalanced.
BridgePort Brewing IPA: A most delightful light ale from this American brewer. Lemony aromas fizzed up from the pale-yellow brew, with a subtle non-intrusive bitterness lingering slightly on the back of the tongue.
BridgePort Brewing Kingpin: Richly auburn-colored, this red ale immediately hooked me with its enticing aroma of Malteasers. There wasn’t any candy in the taste though: it was bitter-hoppy all the way down, and could have been a meal if I hadn’t had that sandwich. (I was talked out of trying this in the future.)
Snack break: Disturbingly addictive chili-fennel pork cracklings from Temporada.
Nail Brewing Oatmeal Stout: Slightly less substantial than the Cavalier Stout, this Western Australian stout still boasted an unctuous, creamy texture. The mocha flavors and grainy body were offset by a lingering hoppy bitterness. Still, weirdly for a stout, this could almost be called refreshing.
Young Henry’s Real Ale: Served from a growler by bearded hipsters, this was indeed a real ale, with a nice malt-hops balance and applesauceish flavors. Just rich enough in flavor to avoid being overpowering.
Cigar City Mystery Beer: A gingerbread-like, filling beer was dispensed from the same booth as Young Henry’s, but it does not appear on their website. Possibly it’s from the Tampa-based Cigar City Brewing? Curses on me for not getting the name right, because I’d buy this spicy little number again.
Snack break: Beer ice cream. Yes, you read that correctly. Artisanal Canberra ice-cream maestros Frugii were serving a range of beery ice creams, including lager sorbetto and Bridge Road Chestnut Pilsner gelato. I chose the one made with 2 Brothers Voodoo Baltic Porter, and my goodness but it was a revelation. The richness and chocolaty tones of the porter translated so perfectly into the ice cream medium. There was a little fillip of hoppy sourness that peeked through and even a suggestion of carbonation, although that may have been my mind at work. It isn’t often that I’m truly thrilled and surprised at a food product anymore, but this won me over from the first taste. Well done Frugii.
Zierholz German Ale: Local Canberra brewers Zierholz disappointed with their flagship Bavarian-style ale, an undistinguished yellow brew whose only noticeable flavor characteristic was a regrettable hint of bathroom cleaner.
Zierholz Dunkel:…but they knocked it out of the park with their newly-launched Dunkel, a creamy, dark gold powerhouse that combined a nice lager bitter hoppiness with almost chewy, malty body and faint desserty sweetness. This would be my go-to Zierholz brew.
Nomad Brewing Co. Long Trip Saison: The final tasting of the day was also the strangest, and the strongest. The addition of coffee beans (!) wattle seeds(!!) and Tasmanian pepper (!!!) to various stages of the brewing process resulted in a glowing brew the color and aroma of orange juice, with crazy flavors of clove, nutmeg, peppercorn and chili. With its not-inconsiderable alcohol content of 6.6%, a Long Trip might ruin you for the rest of the night, in more ways than one.
- Paleo Retiree compared-and-contrasted several small food stands with Bobby Flay’s superluxe Gato, and eats and drinks at Filipino restaurant Jeepney.
- Blowhard, Esq. did the food-truck rounds in California, ate a meatball sub at LA’s Grand Central Market, and enjoyed some choice eats on his last NYC trip.
- My pizza taxonomy, an appreciation of the ultra-lowbrow Dinastia Chino-Latino restaurant, and a brief foray into the super-upscale at the legendary Russian Tea Room.