I reached the legal drinking age at a time when ‘beer choice’ meant a pot from the VB tap on the left or the one on the right and so I don’t have many early memories of unique beer experiences. But in a nice piece of Beer Karma the only memory that really sticks is also the only one that is linked to a specific beer.
Matilda Bay Dogbolter.
It was my first trip to Fremantle and my first experience of beer that wasn’t pale gold, moderately hopped and generously fizzy. It didn’t look like the beer I knew and it sure didn’t smell like the beer I knew, but something about it told me everything would be OK.
Had I listened a little closer to the beer I may have heard it warn that it had a slightly higher alcohol content than some of our party were used to and that drinking one too many may result in the youngest of our group sitting in a metered parking bay for half an hour.*
That aside, I still remember the experience with a certain fondness. I had broken away from the grip of mainstream lager and I had shattered my perceptions of what beer could be. Dogbolter began life at The Sail & Anchor as a strong dark ale. In 1989 the Matilda Bay Dark Lager took the name Dogbolter to become Dogbolter Special Dark Lager before becoming one of the original Matilda Bay Reserve range of special brews.
Fast forward to the present and my list of ‘favourite’ beers is as long as that first magical trip across the Nullarbor all those years ago. Still, it seems that every time I add a new beer to the list, an old favourite has to make way for it – I simply can’t fit more beer into either my fridge, my schedule or my waistband.
So that’s why it was a pleasant surprise to rediscover that old friend recently. It was a Beer & Food Matching on stage at the Melbourne Home Show, which saw Dogbolter paired with a Double Chocolate Mud Cake. Many of the guests at the show were genuinely surprised to see that a beer could be matched with dessert and it was more than a little amazing to see just how much love there was for this ol’ Dog.
In addition to the stage show, Dogbolter was also offered in sample sizes to visitors alongide several other Matilda Bay beers and a selection of other Australian craft beers. The comments ranged from “What’s that black one?” through “That can’t be a lager, can it?” and “Nah! I don’t like stout!” But every punter game to take a taste walked away with a new-found respect for this mysterious Germanic-styled lager.
Giving a richness and mild coffee malt background which leads into a perfectly balanced hop finish all wrapped up in a refreshing lager body, Dogbolter proved two things over those four days. First, if you provide enough free samples and give mainstream beer drinkers the opportunity to discuss different beers without picking on their regular tipple, you just might send them off to the bottle shop to pick up something nice.
And secondly – and this is pretty important, so concentrate please – sometimes as we wade into the depths of extreme and radical and limited edition and super-high alcohol funky beers, we can lose sight of the simple pleasure derived from more ‘mainstream’ craft beers. There really is magic in finding that you are very pleasantly surprised by the enjoyment and fulfilment that comes from re-discovering an ‘old friend’.
*For those wondering, we did attempt to remove the member of our group sitting in the parking bay, but he had actually put a coin in the meter and was determined to sit out his full half hour. We collected him then. After a few more Dogbolters, of course.