Tue May 31 2011 by Crafty Pint
When you have the likes of Sierra Nevada’s Steve Grossman saying the craft beer scene here is as good as that in the States, it could be easy to get carried away when in reality there’s still a long way to go. It’s great that by parachuting him into Melbourne for the first Good Beer Week he can leave with that impression but you wouldn’t have to take him too far into the country for that impression to be dispelled. That’s why it’s always exciting to speak to people taking up the craft beer cause in places that remain good beer deserts. Such as Phil Coorey at the Spotted Cow in Toowoomba, who is preparing to hold his first ever Milking The Cow craft beer festival at the pub.
Over the Queen’s Birthday Weekend, he’s lined up more than 50 different beers from microbreweries across Australia for what he says is a statement of intent as to the pub’s direction. It’s not just a case of turning over pretty much all of his taps to craft beer for there days, however. There’s a creative lineup of events ranging from brewer panels and a home brew comp to educational sessions and even the Sunday brunch pairing of Bridge Road’s Brew 500 Dog’s Breakfast beer with bacon and egg sangers.
“There’s a ceremonial turning over of the taps on Friday night,” says Phil. “With 51 kegs so far lined up for the weekend, I’m going to need pretty much every single one. We’ve got a home brew competition on the Saturday where we’ve asked people to brew an English style IPA with the winning beer being brewed at Bacchus in Brisbane and then sold back here over the bar.
“Ian Watson’s coming back up to talk about the advances in beer in Australia in the past few years and where he thinks it’s heading in the next two or three years, then there’s a ‘Pale Off’ with Matt Kirkegaard [founder of Brews News] hosting a panel of brewers talking about different pale ales and we’ve got someone from White Rabbit talking about open fermentation.
“We called it Milking The Cow as we want people to milk the brewers for information. There’s experts and brewers on the go the whole time. We want there to be an educational aspect as we hope people will become better customers as a result.”
The list of breweries on tap over the weekend includes:
plus Queensland’s first collaborative brew. There is also a special menu for the weekend and live music throughout.
“I just love the feeling when you speak to microbreweries that you don’t get with the big breweries,” he says. “The collaborative brew came about with just a couple of phone calls and emails. There’s just this real camaraderie – I love the fact that everyone gets on so well.”
Phil has been at the Spotted Cow since 2000, when he established its bottleshop and began stocking the few quality imports he could get his hands on, having been turned onto good beer while living overseas. From there, his knowledge of good beer grew, particularly when they took on Ian Watson (now brewing at Murray’s) as a beer sommelier in 2004. Now, while he admits to taking a Foster’s contract as a business decision two years ago that means most of the 21 taps are normally taken up with the company’s beers, he has as many of the likes of Matilda Bay’s Alpha Pale Ale, Leffe and Hoegaarden on those taps, plus three guest taps that rotate through beers from brewery’s such as Murray’s, the Sunshine Coast and Stone & Wood.
“In Queensland, we’ve got a little bit of time before we’re where other parts of Australia are, but this festival is a signaling of the direction we want to take,” he says. “There’s been an explosion of interest in craft beer and I’m gradually pushing people that way.”
Milking The Cow runs from June 10 to 12 at the Spotted Cow. For ticket prices, head to the pub’s website.
We’re giving away passes to Friday night’s opening ceremony as well as a handful of day passes in this Friday’s Crafty Pint newsletter so if you love craft beer and will be in the area for the long weekend, make sure you read it! If you haven’t signed up, you can do so here.
Image © Leigh Wright