The Beer and Brewers club is an inclusive society which aims to promote collaboration amongst students over brewing, to share knowledge about beer, mead and cider, and (hopefully) to keep uni students classy through the enjoyment of craft beer.
1. Know your limit
“Don’t be a d**khead” – Katelyn Kummer
First things first. Australians have a drinking problem. Somewhere between the rum riots in the 1800s and the goon glut of today it became okay- somehow even cool- to drink to the point that you end up shoeless in a puddle of whatever $3 concoction you’d been drinking that night. But never fear, there is an alternative where you can “partake in the libations” without getting alcohol poisoning : craft beers.
With some stouts clocking in 6-10% ABV, your average craft brewer is not opposed to getting a buzz going. Still, the magical qualities that yeast brings to barley, hops and water is something to be enjoyed around friends and in moderation. There is something whimsically enjoyable about kicking back with a fine pint in hand and enjoying the moment. In part because it cost you $10, too much to not enjoy every warm, fuzzy drop, but it’s also kind of nice being able to see straight.
2. Know your beer
Craft beer is a beer which is not owned by the big beer monopolies. Craft brewers tend to value interesting flavours and prefer quality to quantity in their brewing. Formerly craft beer was called microbrew. Beer made on a small scale was once the sign of a great beer that has been lovingly crafted. As the craft scene has grown, the scale of the batch has come to be less important in the definition of craft beer.
The craft beer world is one full of semantics, myths and often, unfortunately, the egos that come along with heated pub debates. Understanding the terms will give you one foot in the door to learning about what you like and how it was made.
The Big Four
Water- 95% of most beers- is often forgotten about when we think of what goes into a great beer. The quality, acidity and mineral content all contribute to the final flavours.
Next comes the malt. Malt is derived from grains, which are in essence tiny energy capsules. To release this energy and flavour in the form of sugars, grains are partially germinated and roasted to varying degrees to create malt. With the right blend of sugars, some will turn into alcohol, others will remain in the beer for sweetness. Hops are paired with the malt. Despite looking like green pinecones, hops are a vine-growing flower with fragrant oils and bitter acids in the petals. There are hundreds of varieties with different bittering, flavouring, and aromatic qualities.
Finally: the yeast. A single celled organism that consumes sugars to create alcohol and carbon dioxide in the process called fermentation. Whilst found floating around in most environments, brewers yeasts have been captured and bred over time to produce the right flavours. Lager yeast creates a cleaner flavour and “bottom ferments” at cooler temperatures, meaning that it hangs around the bottom of the fermentor. Ale yeasts brew at warmer temperatures and loiter towards the top of the fermentor. The higher temperatures lead to delicious fruity flavours.
An Unofficial Style Guide
Pale ale: Made with ale yeast and paler (lightly roasted) malts. The American Pale Ale (APA) is a popular variation of this, with more citrusy and bitter hops- versus earthy/flowery: leads to a more fruity flavoured ale.
Notable examples: Coopers Pale, Fat Yak, Little Creatures Pale Ale
Indian Pale Ale (IPA): There are some interesting histories about the preservative qualities of hops and their subsequent use for long trips from England to India, but it’s basically just a really hoppy beer, usually with higher alcohol content to balance the hop flavour. Notable Examples: Crank shaft (Bent spoke), Venom IPA (Wig and Pen)
Stouts and porters: Interchangeable- though this is a point of controversy- both are dark, bold and are heavily favoured by older brewers. Often porters are lighter and smoother. Stouts are heavier and more bitter/astringent. Both are known for their coffee and chocolate tones.
Wheat beer/weizen: As opposed to barley which is the main malt of most beers, wheat (duh) and wheat yeast is used to create a cloudy and fruity brew which is sometimes soured through aging or flavoured with fruits. Notable examples: Mad Brewers Wheat beer, Bee Sting.
Adjuncts: Unique additions to beer which create flavours or features. Originally a term to describe unmalted grains which were added to beer to cut the cost (e.g. corn, rice). The term has evolved to include sugars (honey, maple syrup, caramel), spices, fruit and even vegetables. The end product can be a more interesting flavour and texture in the beer, or a lower cost beer, depending on the adjunct used and the goals of the brewer.
Notable examples: The Bent Spoke’s Barley Griffin, with oregano.
Wort (Said “wert”): The unfermented sugary mixture of steeped barley malt, hops, adjuncts and sugar.
Trub (Said “Troob”): The gunky yeast sediment left over from fermentation. See: bottom of a coopers bottle.
3. Know your watering holes
Wig and Pen: Whilst not the most accessible of joints for the beardless or cashless, this is the craft beer joint in Canberra with a plethora of awards and international acclaim. Excitingly, the pub will be moving on campus soon. Whatever your tastes, a $7 snifter of the Russian Imperial Stout is worth a try at least once.
Bent Spoke: $11 a pint may be out of the ballpark for most uni students, but there is no denying the friendly atmosphere, recycled wood decor, not to mention the former Wig and Pen head brewer’s rather prestigious hand in it all. The good news: everything on this menu is enjoyable and accessible. The downside (for any stout-loving beer veterans): an IPA is the darkest beer on menu.
Transit Bar: Transit has evolved from being “that bar underneath the backpackers” to a many tapped tasting room.
Honkytonks: Centrally located, these guys regularly rotate a tap with local brews, as well as serving boutique beers from further afield.
Plonk: A bottle shop located at the Fyshwick Markets, it has one of the best collections of local and imported craft beer you’ll find in Australia. The range of ciders, wines and spirits is also quite impressive.
Finally, sometimes pool tables and karaoke take priority over specialty beer. Luckily, Lions Nathan – who own around 40% of the beer market in Australia – are catching onto the fact that we want more than bland, tasteless draughts that dominate taps. James Squire and Mad Brewers have been bought out and contracted to a bar near you.
4. Try your hand at making beer
“Brewing is as simple or complicated as you want it to be” – Frazer Brown
A lot of people enjoy craft beer without needing to make it themselves but making (or trying to make) a good beer at home can teach a lot about the fermentation process, and potentially create a whole new appreciation of the work that goes into brewing. Brewing your own beer is cost effective but, crucially, brewing your own beer also gives you the opportunity to make exactly the beer that you want to drink. The possibilities are limitless.
The ANU Beer and Brewers hold workshops throughout the semester and are always happy to answer questions. If you want to taste some beers we have made, our kegs and us will be making a special appearance at the Engineering Society BBQ on the July 24th- or just join us on facebook!