Not too sure if we can file this story under ‘world-first’ but the most recent episode of Ale Stars at The Local Taphouse St Kilda certainly qualifies as something very special. The long-running and well patronised beer appreciation gathering launched the first of what it hopes will become a regular fixture on the Ale Stars calendar this week – “Q & Ales”*.
Based on a format similar to that used by the ABC TV program, Q & A, but without the shoe throwing, political ranting and name-calling, Q & Ales brings beer luminaries into the room via the wonders of the Wide Wide World of Webs where they can share their stories and answer questions posed by the punters themselves.
The idea was hatched by Taphouse co-founder, Guy Greenstone who also played the role of host for the first session with such presence that he will certainly be invited back for future episodes. After a condensed version of the regular Ale Stars experience where a range of beers are shared and discussed and a few rounds of dodgy beer trivia are fought keenly, the first guest was introduced.
Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster Garrett Oliver kindly offered to brave the knowledgeable crowd, the vagaries of long-range internet connectivity and, not least of all, a 4.30am rising to account for time difference and daylight savings, to be the inaugural guest. After a short delay while technical issues were resolved and the expectant crowd placated with another beer, Garrett appeared on the big screen and received a welcome usually reserved for those appearing in person.
A man well accustomed to working a crowd, Garrett quickly hooked the audience and kept things moving as he spoke of his journey from his college days as a bland lager drinker to his ‘beer epiphany’ on his travels through Europe and from home brewer to professional and figurehead of one of America’s fastest growing brewing operations.
Selected attendees who had pre-submitted questions were invited to pose them directly to Garrett and both the questions and their answers indicated a fair knowledge of beer, brewing and Garrett’s area of expertise, beer and food matching. The session rattled along at a good pace, ably piloted by Guy and his affable, friendly style until the sun rose in Brooklyn – as shown live via webcam to people in Melbourne celebrating their sixth or seventh beer – and this was the cue for Garrett to unveil (or more accurately, uncork ) a surprise beer; The Brooklyn Sorachi Ace Saison.
There really is something very special about trying a beer which has literally arrived in the country a matter of hours earlier, with the brewer, as the sun rises on a video screen a metre away but on the other side of the world…
The Q & Ales concept is no half-baked gimmick and, like all things pioneered by The Local Taphouse team, it was meticulously planned and executed, down to the recording, editing and posting of the soon-to-be series on a dedicated You Tube Taphouse TV Channel. Stay tuned. Despite staggering out of the venue late (for a school night) the crowd was keen for the concept to prosper – although future guest ‘stars’ have a hard act to follow.
*Q & Ales is set to become a regular feature of selected Ale Star sessions. Keep reading Australian Brews News for details of forthcoming events or visit www.thelocal.com.au.