Last Thursday evening the small upstairs dining room of The Local Taphouse in Melbourne contained a diverse mix people. The gathering included beer industry types, commercial brewers, home brewers, beer ‘geeks’, locals and the beer curious. Some had even travelled from Sydney for this beer focused event. One thing that all the attendees did have in common was their gender.
This was the Melbourne Chapter launch of Barley’s Angels – a group of likeminded females who had come together to share their mutual appreciation for beer.
Barley’s Angels is a worldwide movement born out of the Pink Boots Society, a professional organisation for women who work in the beer industry. As an off-shoot division, the goal of the “Angels” is to spread the beer love amongst women, to educate and to encourage women to drink more quality beer. The organiser of the Australian branch of Barley’s Angels, Kirrily Waldhorn (better known by her moniker “The Beer Diva”) pointed out that 51% of the population are of the female persuasion. Therefore, females are the dominant gender, yet only 10% of all beer consumed is done so by the ladies.
Opening the event, Kirrily described this Melbourne launch as ‘Barley’s Angels on speed’. It was a truncated version of the recent Sydney launch due to the decision to hold the first Melbourne Barley’s Angels during the inaugural Good Beer Week festivities. Time constraints and logistics saw the launch wedged into both a shorter timeslot and a smaller room. Not an ideal scenario for the Barley’s Angels concept, yet it provided the event with a sense of cosiness and frenetic pace. It also did not allow for much discussion between the participants. Nonetheless, as it is only the first step on what Kirrily hopes will be an amazing journey for all, future meetings will no doubt offer a more relaxed pace and ample opportunity for further discussion and socialising.
The evening’s tasting session began with something out of the ordinary, a sour beer. The Oude Geuze is a blend of old and young lambic and is therefore fruity but slightly sour with a dry finish. It was perfectly paired with the soft cheese and fresh radish on crusty bread, as is traditional with this variety of beer. Oude Geuze is a complex brew that some may find challenging at first, but provided a refreshing start to the tasting.
One benefit of rushing the Melbourne launch to coincide with Good Beer Week was the opportunity to have a special international guest, albeit a male one. Allowing a man in the room may have broken the B.A rules, but that was quite fitting because the beers this man brews are all about rule breaking. The Angels were lucky enough to have James Watt from Scottish brewery BrewDog to take them through a few of his ‘beer for punks’. Contrary to the ‘punk’ label it is obvious that James cares a great deal about his product and beer in general.
He shared with the Angels his very specific method for tasting beer. Despite the time restrictions there was no rushing the process for experiencing a beer the BrewDog way. It’s all politeness too, starting by greeting the beer, asking how it is before taking that first sip and ensuring it touches every part of the tongue to get the full experience of the flavour. Participants were encouraged to mimic the process (and the Scottish accent) with a BrewDog Punk IPA.
Next beer to say ‘hello’ to was the BrewDog 5am Saint. According to Watt, there is no story behind the name but the BrewDogs are open to any good suggestions. This beer is an amber ale, so slightly thicker with a more malt-driven flavour. It matched incredibly well with a delicious chicken liver pate and caramelised onions, the sweetness in the onion complimenting the subtle sweetness of the brew.
Between beers, the group were treated to some of James’ colourful stories about beer, art and taxidermy, questionable competition entries and conning banks into loaning money to start a brewery. He was also asked the appropriate question about Scottish women and their thoughts on beer. His response indicated that that much like in Australia there is the perception that Scottish women don’t drink beer. Looks like some stereotypes are universal, but Barley’s Angels aims to challenge those perceptions all around the world.
Next we met Trashy Blonde – that’s a beer, by the way, not a personal comment on anyone – which was paired with a prosciutto and sundried tomato pastry. This would seem to be going somewhat backwards at most beer tastings, but our punk brewer explained that he chooses to end on this brew for the palate cleansing properties. It certainly worked in that respect and set us up nicely for the last course.
It was at this point that James left and returned the reins to the capable hands of the Beer Diva. She ended the night by pairing a chocolate truffle with the Moon Dog (yes, another dog brewery) Cock-Socking Ball-Knocking Chipotle Stout, which had also been passed through the Local Taphouse’s Funky Brewster (hops infuser) filled with chipotle chillies and cascade hops. This was quite a treat. There are a few chilli flavoured beers out there, but the spice can often be overpowering. It was well balanced, with just a pleasant amount of burn at the end. Moon Dog are new on the Australian beer scene, but the beers they have released so far have been consistently interesting and well made.
The hour ended and this new team of Angels felt the meeting was over far too quickly. However, there was enough enjoyment to ensure it won’t be the last we see of the Melbourne Barley’s Angels. In fact, the brevity of this first meeting has whet the appetites of the Angels for more of the same. It was a tantalising taste of what the future holds for the beer-loving women of Melbourne. Hopefully there won’t be too long to wait.