Froth chats with two of our favourite gypsy brewers about their GABS beers.
Old Wives Ales – Rubezahl Salted Caramel Weizenbock
We’re always going to have some pretty strong love feelings of Melbourne’s Old Wives Ales – they started their gypsy brewing operation just when we started Froth magazine, so we both entered the wild and zany world of craft beer at the same time. Home brew mates from the Merri Mashers brew club (a home brew club which seems to create a lot of pros), the foursome consists of designer Nathan Keatch, Swedish home brew guru Mattias Isaksson, boss man and the responsible one Justin Spicer and the heavily dreadlocked Shannon Brooks, or Wolfman to his mates. They kicked off proceedings in late 2015 with their Hair of the Dog XPA, a kickass beer with a light and fruity aroma, and followed it up with their New Tricks ESB and Full Moon Black Rye IPA, which both won medals at last night’s AIBA awards – the boys were stoked that their ESB ranked higher than British brewery Fuller’s extremely decorated world champion ESB. Last year they made a passionfruit gose called Pop’s Passion Tart which used smoked salt from Smalt, makers of cold smoked salt (yes this is a thing), and for their GABS beer they were keen to continue with the salt theme. And thus the Caramel Salted Weizenbock was born. We chatted to Justin Spicer about their GABS brew.
What’s the story behind your GABS beer?
About 18 months ago we had a Merri Mashers case swap, and we actually had two case swaps because there are so many Merri Mashers now, and we had one with 24 beers that could be any sort of beer, and one that was just strong beers, so I went in that one. I’ve been wanting to make a weizenbock for a while, I’ve always loved hefeweizens and German-style wheat beers. A weizenbock is basically a strong hefeweizen. So I made this weizenbock and put it in the case swap and it got some great feedback, everyone was loving it, so when we were trying to find out what to do for GABS – I’ve always been fascinated by beers that taste like food – so we threw around a bunch of different ideas about different flavours, and because we’ve been working with Smalt we thought, ‘Well, it would be great to salt something, but we already did our passionfruit gose, so what else would you salt? Well, there’s salted caramel, what would that go well with? Well, there’s that bananary weizenbock I made.’ So it’s salted caramel and banana, and we knocked it up and the test batch that Mattias did was fantastic, so it became our GABS beer! It’s a much bigger beer than the gose was, being 8%, so I think that hides the smoke a bit, but you definitely get that minerally feeling that you get from the salted caramel versus the straight-up caramel. So I think it’s worked all right. We’ll let the public be the judge!
How did you impart the caramel flavour?
We found a couple of different suppliers of caramel flavourings – most of them do syrups, but syrups are full of sugar so when you put them in the beer the sugar ferments and it becomes very alcoholic and very boozy. But we found a supplier from Queensland that does a caramel extract with no sugar. It is super concentrated so we only needed 700ml in 1000L of beer to give it that caramel profile.
Will it be available after GABS?
It will, we’ll have a dozen kegs – we’ll probably send some up to Sydney where we have our new distributor up there, but there’ll be some at our regular favourite venues around Melbourne, so we’re looking forward to that.
Who did the artwork for the beer?
The decal design is by the tattoo artist who has done all of Keatch’s and Shannon’s tattoos, Kane from Fox Body Art in Collingwood.
Does the beer have a special name?
Rubezahl. As you know, we name our beers after old wives’ tales, so Rubezahl is a German spirit figure from German folklore that lives in the mountains and is very kind to people that are good to him, but he will smite you if you upset him. So I thought that described our beer very well because if you treat it nicely – don’t drink it too quickly or too much of it, it will be very good to you, but if you abuse it, well at 8% it’s going to sneak up on you. So we thought that was a good match.
Co-Conspirators Brewing – Rumball In the Jungle
Interviewing Melbourne indie brewers Co-Conspirators is always a barrel of laughs. Consisting of two couples (Maggie and Deon Smit, Jacquie Sacco and Tim Martin), they are former award-winning home brewers from Melbourne’s inner north Merri Mashers brew club, who banded together to start their own gypsy operation. They’ve been up and running for just six months but have already wowed punters with their kickass The Butcher Red IPA (which won bronze at last night’s AIBA awards), as well as their The Bookie Pale Ale and Henchman IPA. With a couple of exciting new releases in the coming months, they will definitely be one to watch! Their GABS beer, Rumball in the Jungle, is a coconut rum porter, with an awesome label design by Froth designer Clint Weaver – who also took out bronze last night for his awesome label for the Co-Conspirators The Butcher.
Tell me about your GABS beer?
Deon: It’s a rumball porter, so it’s a rumball base put into a porter beer, and it is delicious.
How do you make a rumball base?
The rumball is based on chocolate, cacao, coconut, rum – we found this delicious rum, we have spent way too much money on rum –
Jacquie: It’s Diplomatico rum from Venezuela.
Deon: We tried a few different rums and when we tried this rum we were like ‘Yes, this is what it needs to be’. In the test batches I added a little bit of rum and I was like ‘This is good’, then I added a little bit more and I was like ‘That’s better’, and then I added a bit more and I was like ‘I’m just drinking rum right now’. So we added a lot of rum. With the coconut, it’s an ingredient that’s hard to extract the aroma and flavour out of, so we were very heavy-handed with the coconut. And then cacao nibs added that chocolate nose to it, but it hasn’t turned out like dark chocolate, it’s actually sort of a milk chocolate with a sweetness to the palate.
Maggie: I’m cutting in and I missed what happened earlier but it’s a really subtle rum, it’s amazingly flavourful, we didn’t use a truckload – we had two extra bottles but we didn’t put them in because it didn’t require it. It just gives the right flavours without overdoing it. And the porter base stands up to it really well.
What format is the coconut in? Did you toast it?
Deon: No we didn’t toast it, it’s just desiccated coconut.
Maggie: I did toast a lot of coconut, it set off a lot of alarms. And then I just ate it and it was delicious.
Deon: We tested different ways with the coconut, and when we nearly burnt down the house we decided to maybe just leave the coconut the way it is.
Maggie: As a side note, don’t walk away from the oven on high heat with coconut in it. It’s very oily, it will just light up.
Deon: The issue with coconut though is it actually puts a lot of oils into the beer, so we had to find a way to preserve head retention, because oils will decrease the head retention. So we had a few tricks to try to increase head retention. It seems like a simple beer to brew but there were a few subtle things we had to do.
Tell me about the name of the beer?
Deon: The beer is called Rumball in the Jungle. It’s a play on words on Rumble in the Jungle, a pretty famous fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. I guess the name works because we wanted the rumball element, and there is also a connection with the Venezuelan rum and the jungle. We also got our dog to fit into the theme – she’s a boxer and her name is Indy and we are indie brewers.
Will it be available after GABS?
It’s a very limited release, we’ve got nine kegs. Five went to GABs and there will be four that are released afterwards. So try it at GABs or try to find it afterwards!