Well it’s been a while since I sat down and wrote and I thought it was about time again and this time about an ongoing passion of mine. Beer. It seems like I’ve been passionate about beer for about as long as I can remember.
I can remember back to 16 years old, I seemed to be particularly passionate about Guinness, thankfully (no offence to Guinness) that phase has now passed. In my last few years in the UK before I left to come out here, I was a member of CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) and loved nothing better than going round assorted Norfolk pubs trying whatever was on their hand pumps or doing CAMRA train pub crawls out into small Norfolk villages, enjoying both the beer itself and the old pubs I got to explore.
I don’t know what I expected when I got to Australia back in 2005 but there certainly weren’t and continue to be very few hand pumped beers here. I’m sure we all paint the past in strange ways and overplay either the fondness of it or the awfulness of it. It seems we have to have an extreme reaction one way or the other and in reality it was probably never that bad or never that good. It’s all about a simple comparison that we make with the present.
In my mind when I came to Melbourne in 2005 the beer landscape was barren and bare. It seemed to be dominated by the big major beers and there wasn’t really too much in the way of craft beer options. Oh how this has changed. As some of you might know a few years ago a series of yearly challenges took place with a very good friend of mine and one of these extreme challenges was to drink a different Australian beer every day of the year. Being a leap year that year, it equated to 366 different beers and from there the passion for Australian craft beer developed.
What may have appeared as a struggle at the start soon turned into a joy. After a while we both realised the challenge was really more logistical than it was about drinking beer and we’d set off to various breweries and bottle shops to find seemingly exotic beers that we’d never tried before. In the end and with hindsight, it was relatively easy. And having gone from drinking 366 in that year, 4 years later, my total is now up in the 1700s. This was majorly aided by a bar I now refer to as home (and considering I’ve moved home 7 times in 11 years its probably a good description). That bar in question being Mrs Parmas. I don’t know exactly when it opened but I remember it from its beginning. Only because I remember drinking there when it was called something different, Cheers.
I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent there over the years. It’s been host to most of my birthday dinners, a place where myself and my best friend have spent many an hour discussing beer, trying some ridiculous parmas and some equally crazy beers. Another mainstay of the last few years has been the Ballarat Beer Festival, I’m proud to say (maybe I shouldn’t) that I’ve now attended every single one, a record that I don’t want to lose. From its humble begins with a small crowd on half an oval, it would now be one of the biggest beer festivals in Vic with train loads of people arriving from Melbourne to enjoy a day in the sun listening to some pretty good live acts enjoying a craft beer or twenty. Unbelievably they have managed to have amazing weather every year and not once in its 5 years has it been rained out.
Of course the Melbourne bar scene has expanded and from seemingly just having Mrs Parmas as a beer oasis in the Melbourne CBD desert, we now have a host of bars. However I retain an affection for Mrs Parmas and its somewhere I plan to continue going back to for years to come.
As I ever edge closer to the 2000 mark, I promise myself when I get there I will stop this quest of seeking out new beers and actually settle on beers I like and enjoy instead of constantly trying the weird and wonderful. I’m not sure how realistic this is, as humans I think we like to set and achieve goals and it wouldn’t surprise me if I’m still trying new beers most weeks until the day I final leave this mortal coil.
The craft beer scene in Melbourne is an amazing place. The people are amazing and lovely, at times it feels like one big family with a shared knowledge. It’s a welcoming scene, people are readily accepted into the family without any entry criteria. We now have a couple of newsletters and websites to help us navigate around with the Crafty Pint and Australian Brew News. And currently a craft beer magazine in Froth which is something I feel has been sadly lacking. We now have restaurants that beer match a menu instead of just wine match.
Good Beer Week in Melbourne has grown over the years and we now see an incredible amount of events ending in the amazing GABS festival when over 100 brewers produce a one off beer to try and win the ‘People’s award’. It seems to encourage the weird and wonderful and over the years we’ve seen Christmas Pudding Ale, Milk and Two Sugars, Trifle beers, Coffee beers, Lamington beers and a host of other things you would never have traditionally associated with the medium.
In my spare time when I find any, I continue to homebrew. It’s something I’ve disappointingly found little time for lately but I’ve resolved to make more time for a passion I enjoy in spite of the hard work that goes into producing a relatively small amount. It always nice to create something whether it be something as simple as a meal or as complex as a beer. It’s something I definitely wish to indulge and something that is aided by a very supportive partner who encourages me to indulge my many passions.
Where to from here? Onward and Upward on my quest towards 2000 beers. Of course the reason I can keep count is because of a pretty awesome app called Untappd. My current count is 1746 a number I make light of but it’s incredible to think I’ve had that many unique beers in the last few years. For anyone who is interested my Untappd name is Simmo and I readily accept friends. You can’t have enough of them I say.
I’m hoping to write more as well. I’m not exactly what you’d call prolific but when I get passionate about something I do tend to feel the need to write and I hope to use this website for that purpose, to write about what excites me in this craft beer scene, the people I meet, the things I see and the experiences I have.
Well that’s enough for now and it’s goodbye for now, but not for long.