Beer in mind with Jason Clifton

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Everyone enjoys an experiment or two…

The approaching cooler weather and lower temperatures should not be a reason to hang up the beer coolie and change the drink of choice to a red wine or port. Beer offers up perfect partners for when the thermometer readings start dropping. A raft of red, ruby, and black ales get dusted off, their best before dates checked and made ready for whatever occasion awaits.

There are two main key characteristics that make for a good ‘winter warmer’. The first is a big malty body that can handle being drunk at a slightly warmer temperature. The second is that warm glow you experience after drinking an ale with a heightened alcohol content, and if you’re going to be warmed by anything alcohol, would be second on my list.

A great experiment to highlight the affect of temperature on taste involves buying a big wholesome Irish or English Ale. The choice of glassware is key. A big brandy bowl or large wine glass is perfect, or simply find something that doesn’t leak. The experiment requires the same beer to be tasted at three different temperatures.

Drinking your chosen brew straight from the fridge: you should note the mouth-feel and flavour of the beer. It is not a lot different from drinking a lager, only darker. There may be some chocolate or coffee flavours, but nothing of note. By cupping your hands around the glass, in a beer cuddle, you can warm the beer over 5 -10 minutes. The beer should taste dramatically different. The initial sharpness should have gone, the malt used to craft the beer should be more evident and the mouth-feel thicker.

Many brewers will include ‘Suggested Serving Temperatures’ on the label of their bottles, (ales in the range of 7 – 12 degrees), with this in mind. The final taste should only be attempted if you are extremely game, or English. Drink the beer at room temperature. You will notice the beer change yet again. The malt will continue to be prominent, but there may be an accompanying warmth from the alcohol. Here ends the lesson; repeat as necessary.

The first Beer In Mind beer appreciation night was held on 8 March at TGs. It was a great success and lots of fun. It was attended by 40 ‘beer appreciators’, who were treated to seven beers matched with six courses (somebody got too excited and organised one more beer than there were courses). There were some outstanding beers, many of which were limited releases and new, even to the seasoned beer lovers. The food and beer matches worked perfectly, with a noticeable mention going to the Hunter Brewing Company’s ‘Cranky Pants’, a 5.8% India Pale Ale, which was matched with Spiced Chicken with Potato Rosti.

Everyone aced the Pilsner tasting challenge (note to self – make it harder next time), but were more challenged with the beer trivia. The reward for the win in the form of a yet to be released Oyster Stout (yes, brewed with real oysters). The great TGs staff were given a much needed break when Black Duck Brewery served their Dark Ale (paired with tasty marinated beef strips on baked Parmesan wafer), as those who had never poured a beer were given the opportunity. A full wrap up of the evening can be viewed on the Beer In Mind Facebook page, by requesting it via email at

The biggest Australian beer festival on the calendar is just around the corner. The first Great Australian Beer SpecTapular ( is on from May 11 – 13 in Melbourne. The festival is all about ‘What Beer Can Be’. Twenty breweries from NZ and 40 from Australia have been requested to brew something specifically for the festival. Some of the more exotic examples are ‘Beetroot Belgian Ale’, ‘Smoking Swine’, and ‘Chilli Stout’.

One of our local breweries, The Little Brewing Company, are contributing a 6.2% Robust Porter, the first time that this beer has been brewed by them. According to Kylie at the brewery, it’s amazing, demonstrating smooth, full bodied, chocolate and mocha flavours. The nature of the beer festival means that it cannot be sold prior to 13 May, but they will have limited stock available in bottles at the cellar door following it. I would highly recommend getting along to try some.

I have booked my tickets for GABS and hope to be able to bring some of the exciting creations back to Port Macquarie for our next Beer In Mind appreciation night. Please email or ‘Like’ the Beer In Mind Facebook page to be included in regular updates.

Beer In Mind … Cola has more carbohydrates than beer; make the switch today!

This story was published in issue 78 of Port Macquarie Focus 

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