Gerrod: Think you know beer? Matt Kirkegaard certainly does, so he’s the perfect person to be launching Beer Academy in Australia. Beer Academy is a beer appreciation class which started in the UK in 2003. And now, it’s come to Australia – starting in Brisbane, no less! My brother Jason and I went along to a Wednesday lunch-time class to check it out, on behalf of Eat Drink Brisbane.
Jason: “Free beer and snacks, can you come?”….. Well there was much more to the conversation and that, but they were the strong points! Gerrod called me last minute to see if I was willing to take one for the team and be his accomplice. Luckily it was my first day of annual leave, and I couldn’t think of any better excuse to get away from the computer, and work!
Bitter Suite at New Farm was playing host to the event – it was quite a small group in attendance, which in my opinion worked well. It was also great to see the crowd was split pretty much 50 / 50 between males to females.
Gerrod: Yeah I agree, the small class size was great. Beer Academy limits its class sizes to 20 people at most. They’ll even come to your home/office/etc if you want a private class!
Jason: Again taking one for the team, as I walked in the door I was greeted by a ice cold glass of Stone & Wood Pacific Ale – it was like summer in a glass!
Gerrod: It was so light and fruity! Matt explained that it’s actually a dry beer – the fruity flavour comes from the smell, which tricks your taste buds into thinking it tastes like passionfruit. I would have been happy drinking it all afternoon; but there were more beers to be sampled!
Jason: The next drop was quite unique – it was a Brut des Flandres. Unlike your usual beers, this one presents in a champagne-like bottle. The beer is brewed and aged in Belgium, before heading off to France for a yeast fermentation before final capping of the bottles. It was matched with some coffin bay oysters. I’m not sure if it was the combining with the beer or not, but they were some of the creamiest oysters I have ever had.
Gerrod: Those oysters were goooooood. For my birthday this year, I’m going to replicate this exact combination. Matt also suggested that scallops pair well with this beer. Its only downside is that it has a peculiar smell – someone suggested Steak and Kidney pie, and I don’t think they were far off.
Jason: Next came the Burleigh Brewing Hefeweizen, or “Hef” to the locals.
Gerrod: Hahaha…. “Hef”.
Jason: Hef’s an unfiltered wheat beer in the classic Southern German style. To me this beer smelt just like banana lollies – I really enjoyed it, and being paired with the goat’s cheese feta was unbelievable. A perfect example of how pairing beer and food can heighten the taste of both.
Gerrod: I couldn’t believe how much the first three beers didn’t smell like beer – banana lollies was bang-on for this one. Matt reckons that beer (in general) is “the gymnast of beverages”, because it’s so flexible with the way it can be paired with food. Personally, I preferred the cheddar cheese with this one… Hef and cheddar should get together to make some sort of beer-cheese love child.
Jason: Number five on our list was the Four ‘Wives’ Pilsener from the Malt Shovel brewery (one of my favourites!). It’s not one I usually drink, but the malty goodness of the beer – thanks to the pale and munich malts – paired with some chorizo sausage really made me consider buying it more often. One interesting fact that Beer Captain Matt told us was the malt in beer helps breaks down the capsaicin (the really spicy bit) in chili, hence why in most SE Asian countries, beer is the beverage of choice.
Gerrod: And here I’ve been dousing spicy foods with milk, like a sucker! The Pilsener was the first beer that actually smelled like beer – as did the next drop we were presented with – the Fighting Falcon IPA, from Brisbane’s very own Bacchus Brewing Co, at Capalaba. This one was also paired with the chorizo and the cheeses, but I didn’t think the pairing worked quite as well as the less bitter beers. Maybe it’s because I’m generally not a fan of pale-ales.
Jason: The Falcon was another great drop – it had a great body to it, and a nice depth of flavour. I tried it with most of the foods and didn’t remember any being a stand-out.
Gerrod: The last two beers were served at the same time, as they were both porters, and both paired with dessert – vanilla-bean ice cream, and a chocolate brownie.
Jason: Not just any brownie – a Dello Mano Luxury Brownie!
Gerrod: I’m not sure I’ve had a porter beer before, and Matt explained that even though they weren’t very common nowadays, they were basically the beer of choice back in olden times. In fact, the first fleet were sucking down porters when they landed in Australia! The two that we enjoyed were Baltic Rum Porter (another number from Bacchus), and The Temptress from Holgate Brewhouse in Victoria.
Jason: I had previously tried the Temptress, so was excited to see how it performed with the pairings. Sadly my first experience of the temptress a few weeks ago was rather lack-luster as the bar staff at the establishment I purchased it from had no idea what it even tasted like, so I was a bit apprehensive trying it. This is where I see the Beer Academy being a great thing for Australia – not only can the average punter go along and become better educated about beer, but bar staff can learn more about this ancient beverage, and hopefully share more love of beer with their patrons.
Back to the Temptress; pairing it with the Dello Mano brownies really changed the profile of the beer, making it a perfect after-dinner dessert option.
Gerrod: Agreed – the chocloate notes in the beer did a great job matching up with the brownie – but the Rum Porter was the stand-out for me. Emphasis is definitely on “rum” in that one.
Jason: I LOVED the Rum Porter! The labelling sold me on it – “dark, complex with hints of malt chocolate, roasted coffee, and a creamy finish”. Gladly the Rum Porter was all of that, plus delicious hint of rum and raisin. This was especially good with the brownie and the vanilla ice cream. On Matt’s recommendation, I spooned a large scoop of the ice cream into the beer, creating some kind of beeragatto, or beer spider float. It was so good – I would certainly do it again. It was just like Christmas pudding!
Gerrod: I thorougly enjoyed our beer excursion, and it was great to get more of an insight into the different characteristics of various beers. Before attending the academy, I would have thought that pairing food and alcohol was something strictly reserved for wine, but I was amazed at how well it works with beer. Anyone who appreciates a fine brew and delicious food should sign themselves up for a class, it’s money well spent!
Jason: Definitely – I’d encourage anyone with any interest in beer to get on down to a tasting session. I like to think I am pretty adventurous with trying different beers, and now having more knowledge on the beer and food matching, I think a trip down to my local bottle-o is on order!
The Beer Academy Australia
Contact: Matt Kirkegaard, 0407 968 430
a: 75 Welsby Street New Farm QLD 4005
p: (07) 3254 4426