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Alternative Reviews (The Session no.84)

Logo of The Session, Beer Blogging FridayThe Session (a.k.a Beer Blogging Friday) is a monthly event for the beer blogging community, started by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer. On the first Friday of each month, beer bloggers unite to write about a predetermined topic. Each month a different blog hosts The Session, chooses the topic, and posts a roundup of all the responses received. For more info on The Session and the upcoming topics, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin’s archive page.

This month’s Session is hosted by Oliver Gray of the blog Literature and Libation. His chosen topic: Alternative Reviews.

“I ask all of you to review a beer. Any beer. Of your choosing even! There’s a catch though, just one eentsy, tiny rule that you have to adhere to: you cannot review the beer… you can’t write about SRM color, or mouthfeel, or head retention. Absolutely no discussion of malt backbones or hop profiles allowed. Lacing and aroma descriptions are right out. Don’t even think about rating the beer out of ten possible points.”

I love this challenge. It’s an approach to beer writing that I’m very keen to utilise more often. So thank you, Oliver. From now on, this is how I prefer to see beer reviewed… something I alluded to in my last post, regarding beer writing in 2014 and beyond.

A banner image showing the ocean horizon

The summer heatwave has returned to Melbourne. And damn, it’s hot. The days are sunny, dry and draining. The sunshine burns. It’s damaging, both on your skin and your mind. The temperature is 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) again today. My body is sweating, yet all I’ve done is sit on the couch and type on my laptop.

Don’t get me wrong, this weather is nice and I love summer, but the extended heat is exhausting. It limits life to simply surviving the day by doing as little as possible, avoiding exertion, when I’d rather be out in the world getting stuff done. Heatwaves of the length and regularity that we’ve seen this year are not common here. Sure, Melbourne is often hit with a few days of extreme heat around this time each year, but we’re only a week into February and we’ve had four strong hits of heatwave already this year.

We don’t have air conditioning at home, just fans, so staying cool generally means drinking cold beverages. I know that drinking beer isn’t particularly good for our physiology in the heat. Alcohol dehydrates you by inhibiting the brain’s hydration regulation (or something like that). The tradition of drinking many pale and light flavoured beers on hot days is probably misdirected, but that’s what we reach for. Yes, maybe we should be drinking more dark beers in the heat, but that’s a discussion for another post.

A collage of four summer beersI’ve been filling my fridge with the most convenient new beer of 2013 (Australia’s hottest year record), an icy cold can of ‘Goat. To steal a description from several others: it’s summer in a can. As you crack the can of Mountain Goat Summer Ale, sunshine streams out and happiness hits me in the face.

My short attention span for beer flavours means that I’m soon looking for something else. The Burleigh Brewing 28 Pale Ale is excellent for this dry heat. It’s a beer that I “rediscovered” late last year while staying on the Gold Coast for work. I like to drink local when travelling, and you can’t get more local on the Gold Coast than Burleigh Brewing. Their 28 Pale Ale is the Gold Coast in a bottle (just the good parts of the Gold Coast)…long stretches of beach and just the right amount of nakedness. Although, as possible consequence of this beer being sold through major supermarket chains who don’t give a fuck about correct storage of beer, I think the last few bottles I had may have suffered from bad treatment in the shops, because the beer was like some of the bad parts of the Gold Coast…bikies, excess and too much fake gold.

And then there’s the juicy vibrancy of Bridge Road Brewers Beechworthy Pale Ale that distracts you from the discomfort of the roasting heat. Yes, Beechy Pale Ale is an amnesia pill for the summer oven.

However, there’s one beer I keep coming back to during an Aussie heatwave… Stone & Wood Pacific Ale. Let me grab another bottle from the fridge now…

All of a sudden I’m relaxed, I’m relieved. Weight is lifted, a sensation that originates in the mouth.

I’m on a beach, hypnotised by the sight, sound and beauty of wave after wave rolling onto the shore.

Breathing in deep, the air is full of nature. Smells of rainforest, tropical fruit, sand and sea surround you. My bare feet are buried in the sand, and I’m carefree. I so rarely feel like this these days. The stress of my job is far way, more than 1,600 kilometres away. I’m far removed from the concrete, tension and questionable concerns of the hot hot city. The climate is just right, and very rarely subjected to extreme heat.

A travel photo of Byron Bay beachA light wind blows, and I am cool. Byron Bay, on Australia’s central east coast, is a beautiful place to escape the Melbourne heat. I’m continually amazed by how the Stone & Wood brewers have captured their home environment in this bottle. This is the summer I love.

Byron Bay is a place where the population enjoy the simple things of life. In this small coastal town, culture is more important than status, and goods are hand crafted.

It’s all in the bottle, because I’m still here, sprawled out on the couch at home, encapsulated by the blistering heat.

How does such a simple beer communicate so much, transporting you to a better place? I don’t know the answer. All I can say is… wondrous, brilliant beer. Afterall, it is just beer.

Without even blinking, I’ve consumed five bottles. Why do I feel like I’ve only had one?

Ahh, yes, it really does go down easily. I’m ready for a sixth.

James drinks Pacific Ale standing in front of Stone & Wood kegs

Actually there. Drinking Stone & Wood Pacific Ale from the source, at the brewery in Byron Bay.

And now for some Session postscript…

The popular Stone & Wood Pacific Ale can be hard to find in the bottleshops at the moment… but never fear, stock is on its way back to the shelves. The indie brewers have been overwhelmed with demand and suffered delays with the set up of their second brewery, which is extending their small operation due to the success of Pacific Ale. The Stone & Wood team wisely warned us about this predicament on their blog and kindly kept us updated. Did Stone & Wood make a mistake by distributing their beer too broadly, subjecting themselves to consumer disappointment in their inability to keep up with demand? Maybe, but that won’t last long, and at least now they can afford to build a bigger brewery. If you can’t find Pacific Ale when you want it, send a quick tweet or email to Stone & Wood and they’ll point you in the right direction. Thankfully, Pacific Ale is on tap at Oscar’s Alehouse, so on these blistering hot days I can wander down the road for a pint or three. Wonderful.

Other great Aussie beers to grab for refreshment on hot days include Nail Brewing Golden Nail Hoppy Summer Ale, Red Hill Brewery Pilsner, BrewCult Hop Zone Session IPA, Feral Brewing Sly Fox Golden Ale. Try them all!

Oh, and I have no interest in Moa’s Shane Warne beer. For an explanation, check out the bonus outtake episode of The Beer Diary podcast. Phil Cook explains why (ug, something something fully necessarily and silly marketing) I have no interest in spending money on this beer, when I’m usually happy to try any and every beer, and prefer to do so before passing judgement. Yes Phil, your assessment is perfect – Moa was well received in Australia when they were simply bottles on the shelves. The beers themselves did the talking. Then, as soon as their marketing arrived in Australia, our interest evaporated.

3 thoughts on “Alternative Reviews (The Session no.84)

  1. Pingback: The Session 84 – Round-Up (Part 2) | Literature and Libation

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