Some professional background for you – I work in marketing and communications for JDRF, a charity that focuses on funding medical research into type 1 diabetes, a lifelong autoimmune disease. People who have type 1 diabetes have to test their blood sugars with a fingerprick test around six to eight times a day, and either inject insulin regularly (four or more times a day) or be connected to an insulin ‘pump’ that delivers insulin into their body continuously via a cannula.
It’s a difficult disease to live with, especially as most people will confuse type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes and accuse people with type 1 diabetes of having brought the disease upon themselves due to eating too much sugar – an accusation that is completely incorrect. To help combat this, my organisation not only raises funds for research into this disease, but also runs general awareness campaigns as well as community events where people with type 1 diabetes can get together.
Last month, I went along to one of these social events for adults with type 1 diabetes as the activity particularly piqued my interest – a beer tasting at Flat Rock Brew Cafe in Naremburn. The small nano-brewery has only been open for about a year, but is already doing a roaring trade, offering a casual dining and drinking location for the locals. The owner and brewer Karl, who also has type 1 diabetes, took our small group of a dozen through a small selection of beers, matched with some food.
Karl is very passionate about beer – a banker by trade and by day, Flat Rock Brew Cafe is very much a passion project for him. He’s there most nights, if not running the bar and greeting locals by name, then out the back in his brewery working on another batch of the Flat Rock’s custom brew. His passion and layman’s knowledge of beer brewing principles works really well for our group – he’s able to explain the process to us in simple lay language.
The first beer we try is a Kenyan beer – Tusker. Karl explains to us that Tusker is so ubiquitious in Africa and even in the UK where they sell it in Tesco’s, it’s almost like the Tooheys in Australia – everyone’s drunk it before, and a six pack will show up at any backyard barbecue. It’s an incredibly light beer, and it reminds me of the incredibly drinkable Asian beers like Tiger or Tsingtao – designed I presume, to match the climate in its country of origin! The beer goes incredibly well with the barbecued garlic prawns that we are served, and definitely has the potential to become a new summertime favourite.
The next beer we try is a Pale Ale from Swell Brewing Co, located in South Australia. This is definitely a heavier beer compared to the Tusker, and isn’t dissimilar to some American beers I’ve tried before – think Budweiser in particular. The interesting thing about this beer is that it’s been ‘bottle-conditioned’, meaning that the final stages of the brewing process have been done in the sealed bottle, rather than a large brewing vat. It definitely lends a certain rustic taste to the beer!
For our third beer, we try an Endeavour Amber Ale, from a small boutique brewery in rural New South Wales. I’m going to confess now – I’m not much of a beer drinker and this beer was definitely too strong for me to drink alone and enjoy. However – our host chose to pair this beer with a spicy curry dish that we were served, and that made all the difference. When you drank the beer after a mouthful of curry, it really enhanced the flavours of both, and made it very drinkable. This got me thinking – if only I knew years ago to pair heavier beers with curries, I could have drunk a lot more!
While I thought the previous beer was heavy, our last taster beer was definitely challenging! Moo Brew’s Dark Ale is thick and bitter, not unlike a Guinness. I found it hard to even sip the beer, until Karl suggested pairing it with chocolate. I pull some chocolate out of my bag (don’t ask why I carry chocolate around with me…) and hey presto, the sweet chocolate cuts through the bitterness of the dark ale and the two go perfectly together.
If there’s one thing I learned during our beer tasting, it’s that you often can’t consider beer on its merits alone – you have to consider it in tandem with different foods as flavours will change and improve with the accurate pairing. It’s really not unlike wine in that regard. Overall, I rate the beer tastings at Flat Rock Brew Cafe an 8.5 out of 10. I really enjoyed our beer tasting evening, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who has an interest in beer.
If you’re interested in organising your own beer tasting evening at Flat Rock Brew Cafe, Karl and the team can cater for up to twenty five people in a private room upstairs. They can work with you to customise the tastings (e.g. do you want to theme it around ‘American dark ales only’), and find a package that suits you. It’s very affordable as well – we paid $15 per person to taste the four beers with some food as well. Well worth a visit!