By Nick Simpson-Deeks
I love Friday afternoons in the Quiz Meisters office – and not just because they herald the arrival of the weekend. Friday is also beer-tasting day, and there's nothing I enjoy more than sending Steff or Pete out to pick up a six-pack of whatever I feel like sampling, and messing with their stuff while they're away.
So much do I look forward to this little team-building ritual that when Steff returned last Friday with a half-dozen William's Pale Ales I was waiting, bottle opener in hand, at the top of the stairs. I've been having a touch of the old writer's block lately (and I'm not referring to the big cube of ice you might find floating in a Whiskey Old Fashioned), and I was hoping that a couple of quenching brews might oil the gears and replenish my waning, er – what do you call it? The thing with the words – vocabulary.
I popped the caps off a quartet of beers and passed them around. Hayden was the first to come up for air and offer his critique. "You know, I expected it to touch parts of my mouth that it didn't touch".
Now, it's fairly common for Hayden to say something stupid in the office and leave himself open to a whole host of jibes and insults, but this was almost too much even for me. I'm not sure how long I stood, stunned and in silence, behind the small divider that separates my working space from his, but eventually I found my tongue (buzzing as it was from my first sip of the same beer) and demanded that he explain himself.
He stuttered a little, and began to panic – probably because he's learnt over the years that me raising my voice often portends some act of unjustified violence, but with my writer's block in mind I calmed myself and approached him cooingly, hoping to extract something I could use to fashion the beginnings of this article.
I never thought I'd say this, but I'm really glad that (for once) I resisted the urge to snatch up a nearby Stanley knife and wave it madly in his face. Because it turns out his observation, bumbling and inarticulate as it was, does actually make sense. Sort of.
You see, Hayden has something of a love / hate relationship with Pale Ales. He'll more than happily down his first swig of a new beer without stopping to read the label (in fact we sometimes have to pry the glassy pacifier from his hands and remove the bottletop for him, so blind is his need) but he often doesn't like the finish, or the aftertaste that a new Pale Ale leaves on his palate after those crucial few seconds in which the beer's true character fully reveals itself.
What makes William's Pale Ale stand out from a slew of other local boutique drafts, is its perfectly crisp, clean finish. Whereas some pale ales can leave you with the slightest niggling uncertainty on the palate (like there's a party in your mouth and everyone is slightly unsure of whose place it is), this offering from the William Bull Brewery is not only pleasingly bright, bitter, and sharply carbonated; but the subtle, clean citrus notes it leaves you with are more than enough to get you coming back for more – in fact the brewery's tasting notes go so far as to describe the next stage of the flavour progression as "the sound of another bottle being opened".
The William Bull Brewery is the yeasty offshoot (let's leave that one alone, shall we?) of the De Bertoli Winery in the Yarra Valley where, years ago, the De Bertolis put their wine crafting skills to new use, and began producing keg beers intended for consumption by winery workers. From these humble beginnings the William Bull Craft Brewery was born, and serious beer drinkers everywhere can now enjoy two best-of-breed offerings from Australia's "smallest big brewery" (the second being the exponentially popular Red Angus Pilsener).
The brewing process is overseen by Amanda Oades who, besides possessing a lovely phone manner, has over 30 years of experience in the field. Speaking of fields (a flawless segue, I know) it's worth mentioning that Willam's Pale Ale is 100% certified organic – meaning that no artificial processing aids or additives are used in the beer's production.
You can pick yourself up two whole slabs of this excellent beer just by entering our Panda Goes competition this month (well, obviously not just by entering – you have to win it too). So log into The Vault and caption this month's panda pic, while I go and shout Hayden a beer. I think he's earned one.