Tuesday, January 27, 2009

WA Short Updates

Just a quick run down for you of some recent developments at local Western Australian breweries . . . . . . . . . .
Duckstein - Production has now shifted to the new Margaret River site away from the german brewer's spiritual Swan Valley home. And after a many a parking issue in the past (i'm sure you have suffered at some time here), the Valley site now has overflow parking available adjacent to the current car park. Feral - Earthmoving and landscaping is done and dusted at the Haddrill Rd site, with the extended al fresco seating and dining areas now complete - It looks great and on those busy summer days gives even more punters the chance to settle in for an afternoon of those magic Feral beers. Mash - are also creating a licensed outdoor area, commandeering an area of car park to the rear of the current dining deck. Long overdue, and i'm sure it would have happened sooner were it not for the restrictive local licensing issues. If you havent been down to Little Creatures in Freo for a while, then do pop your head in. The sampling room/shop is well and truly up and running and looks sensational - as too does the new layout. Also to note is that they are offering FREE 'Little Creatures' Bicycle hire from the new annexe, there are not heaps available and it is on a first come first served basis, nonetheless another great initiative. Heading down south and Bootleg Brewery, the Margaret River stalwart, are offering hopheads a real treat with their Settlers Pale Ale being pumped through fresh ’08 crop NZ Cascade Hops from 12pm every Friday. Using a system known as 'The Grasshopper', representatives say "this is a relatively new innovation for Bootleg Brewery, however the concept has been around US breweries for some time". I cant wait to get down there on a Friday arvo soon!
I'm still yet to get into the "new" Old Brewery down on the Swan foreshore, but great to see the site brewing again and some craft beer back on the bar, looking forward to trying brewer, Mark Reilly's trio of new brews.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Beer@Southbound & a disappointing inaugural Perth International Beer Fest

With Christmas decorations packed away and the new fitness regime underway (who am I kidding?) it must be 2009 and what better way to kick the year off with two summer festivals, of a different kind.

First up was the "Southbound" music festival down in Busselton on Jan 2nd/3rd. Always well organised and sporting a great line up, yadda yadda, i'm sure you'll find much better write ups on the music side of the event in the local street press. It's the beer i'm interested in. Once again there was a 'boutique' brewers area, and this time Gage Roads & Little Creatures beer featured. Great to see punters again being given the option of quality beer on offer, my only slight gripe was the hike on 2008's pricing. $9's for a cup is about the top end of what you want to be paying for a locally produced beer. And whilst we are on the subject of expensive beer . . . . . .

Next up was last weekends "Perth International Beer Festival". Disappointing would be an understatement. As we slowly shuffled towards the entrance (in the stinking heat) the general call from scores of disgruntled punters, heading out of the Langley Park venue, was "don't bother mate" & "save your money" (door entry alone had cost $25pp!). The calls were a little late for us, as unfortunately we were in the 25 minute queue for people who had already purchased tickets (for those without there was a further 20 minute queue to buy a ticket, before joining the rear of our queue). Nonetheless, we had already paid, so whats the harm in having a look anyway.

On entry, the first impression we came across was the regulation selection of average food vans, If you have been to any festival of any description in Perth in the past 6 months, you'll know exactly the one's that I mean. Choice is limited to the fried and the fatty, and certainly doesn't stretch to the needs of those with allergies or food intolerance.

Deciding against a bite to eat, we headed straight for the bar to quench our insatiable thirst (by now over an hour had passed since the last pint of Squire Golden at The Grosvenor). Even with the busiest of pubs (a la Sunday afternoon at Creatures) with 3 deep at the bar, you can handle the delay because you can still lean over and touch the beer. But when you know you've got at least a twenty minute wait for replenishment, whilst you look on at the attractive, yet cognitively challenged bar staff who seemingly find opening a stubbie the hardest of tasks, It is a little hard to keep your cool.

Of the four or five bars, only two appeared to be serving draught beers (a must for churning out the volume - particularly if the alternative is pouring from stubbies into plastic cups), and the selection of beers was pedestrian at best, with pricing at the higher end of Perth pub levels. I cant say I noticed any product that wasn't already being supplied to Perth pubs/Bottlo's through FM Liquor, Lionel Samson or Phoenix Beers. Although I did get a bit excited to see Konig Ludwig Weissbier & Warsteiner (both brands I have an affinity to) advertising flags, alas neither beer appeared to be stocked.
So we decided to do a quick spin around the paddock to see if perhaps there was a quicker route to slaking our thirsts, unfortunately it wasn't to be. We ghosted past the 50 odd thirsty souls awaiting the misfortune of purchasing a Cup of "Phoenix Beer", from that brewing mecca, err, Mauritius. With the benefit of a recent tasting of said beer, and empathy for the rapidly dehydrating keen samplers, I cant imagine that the crowd were best impressed when finally served.

The music was pleasant, although I did feel for the acts. Performing to distant huddles of those queueing for beer and those carefully guarding their small plots under the shade cloth must have been hard work in the blistering conditions. Oh, and lest we forget that there was a mini LaserQuest game; a kids area and some fairground rides. All essential for any good beerfest. Alas, forlornly we exited, parched, pissed off and grumbling "don't bother mate" & "save your money" to anyone who would listen.

Now maybe Ive got it all wrong, and the event managed to deliver all things to all men, and those few grumbling comments made on exit came from the vocal minority who didn't have a great time. I somehow think not, and perhaps promoters ACOS events could do well to have a look at the Sunset Events book of festival promotion.

Regardless of the event being a success or not, my biggest concern is the impact that can be had on future legitimate Beer Festivals, where its all about the beer and not about "the event". I cant help but think that another substandard beer festival event (lets not forget the Fremantle International Beer Fest in '06) somehow sullies the good name of Beer to the WA public.

So for next year guys, I'd just feel a lot more comfortable if you call it a family fun day, and on the long list of events & entertainment just write underneath in very small letters "Beer Tent".

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