It is interesting to ponder the question at what point does an appreciator of beer cross the line and truly become a beer fanatic?. I recently had plenty of time to contemplate this very question while travelling 319 kilometers from Grafton to West End in Brisbane to attend the Mountain Goat Beer Academy held at Archive Beer Boutique.
Perhaps the first image to pop into one’s mind on mention of the word ‘Academy’, is one of those cheesy eighties police movie spoofs with plenty of slapstick humour and lowbrow wit. A quick glance at the night’s menu however, quickly cleared the mind of any such shenanigan, seeing well-regarded Australian craft beers matched with ingredients the likes of spiced duck, chilli caramel pork, scallops and mussels.
Craft brewery Mountain Goat, from Richmond in Victoria, had their first bottle of beer on the shop shelves in late ’97, and have been producing palate-friendly ales ever since. Their current line up consists of three mainstays; Organic Steam Ale, High Tale Ale, and more recently an India Pale Ale, with several seasonal long neck brews in limited release throughout the year.
Mountain Goat Brewery’s love for beer perhaps is reflected in the overall experience they provide. In addition to beers that are generally well received by the beer drinking public, the detail found on their long neck beer labels provides both a tantalisation and ‘report card’ of what will follow, with some beer education thrown in. Their recent collaboration with legendary Danish brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergso of Mikkeller brewery, also introduced the Australian native bush food Pepperberry to many beer palates for the first time.
The Goat Academy kicked off with brewery co-founder Dave Bonighton introducing himself, and sharing some of the Mountain Goat story before moving into the first course – Tempura prawns, scallops and mussels with wasabi mayo and fresh lime matched with Mountain Goat Steam Ale. Dave explained that as the Steam Ale is an organic beer, the bulk of the ingredients have to be specially imported so that the beer can include the certified organic mark.
The Steam is a crisp ale that pours pale gold, incorporating Cascade, Citra, Hallertau and Galaxy hops with a citrusy aroma, and fresh smooth finish.
The second course consisted of a spiced duck salad with mango, baby cos, shaved fennel, pine nut vinaigrette matched with Mountain Goat Hightail Ale. In Dave’s words, this beer was the epiphany beer that started it all, as well as being “stylistically, a bit of a mongrel”.
The maltiness of Hightale Ale makes it a good match for game meats.Inspired by and English amber ale, it has a rich malt body and a floral hop/grassy aroma.Before the commencement of course three, Dave retold the familiar story (to some), of the origins for the India Pale Ale style and how this beer survived the long olden day journey by sea from England to India thanks to the preservation properties of increased hops. Mountain Goat’s take on the style, simply named Mountain Goat India Pale Ale, was described as having notes of stone fruit, and employs the process of dry hopping, where hops are thrown directly into the fermenter (one of the final stages of beer production). It was pointed out that ‘Ahhh is the song of hops’, and that the palate can become ‘addicted’ to hops.
Course three soon followed, and consisted of roast pork belly with chilli caramel, sand crab, green apple and ginger salad matched with Mountain Goat IPA.
Archive’s chef Tim Wrigley, explained that in devising this combination, he was looking to avoid the commonly used match of a curry, and instead used the fatty meat qualities of the pork, to balance out the big bold flavours of the IPA.
After the completion of the third course, the question must have come up as to why name a brewery after a horned four hoofed mammal? Dave explained that Mountain Goats ‘just like to go up’, and that standing on its own four feet is the first thing a newly born Mountain Goat does….. they can also grow up to six feet tall! Perhaps the final statement was the goat rather than Dave talking, as it was time to move onto the fourth round.
Chocolate Soufflé cupcake with liquorice & espresso cream matched the final beer for the night; Mountain Goat’s ‘Rare Breed’ limited release titled Before The Dawn Black IPA. Like the proceeding courses, this one was well received by everyone in attendance, this finishing effort perhaps being the most impressive due to the challenges associated with matching something sweet with a palate that has been increasingly ‘bittered’ (or battered by rising IBU’s) throughout the night. The liquorice addition, pleasantly completed this sweet combination.
With the Mountain Goat Black IPA being a limited release, you may encounter some difficulty finding it on a shelf. The current ‘rare breed’ Fancy Pants Amber Ale however, is currently plentiful on the shelves, and easy to find due to its jaffa orange label.
While there probably won’t be another Mountain Goat Academy at the Archive Beer Boutique in the near future, it is worth keeping an eye on their special beer matching events that occur every few months. The next one is Camden Town Brewery High Tea on the 18th May, with some tickets still remaining (bookings 07 3844 3419).