BILL WATT finds calm in a brewery named after an ancient school of philosophy dedicated to "peace of mind".
"Happiness is a good flow of life", Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, said around 300BC. Regulars at the Stoic Brewery in beautiful Gerringong reckon "happiness is a good flow of beer".
And, at the Stoic Brewery you can be sure that the quality and variety of beer available is formidable.
I popped into Stoic during a day trip to the Illawarra town of Gerringong with my wife Marie, my mate Mark and his wife Leanne. Mark had discovered Stoic through Google (as you do) and suggested we give it a shot.
It doesn't look much chop from the road. A bit warehouse-like and very understated, but, who knows, maybe Zeno would have liked that.
Step around the corner, past the food truck out front, and your little piece of paradise finds you. It's not big, but by god the variety of beer makes up for it.
With one of the 'wives' happy with a cappuccino and the other settled with a glass of a tasty local pinot grigio, us two blokes set about the task of sampling a few beers.
MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE STOUT
We started with a beauty ... Stoic's Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout. Now I've tasted a few stouts in my time - good and not so good. This was one of the better ones and to the brewer's credit, they've steered clear of creating a faux Guinness.
It lacks the creaminess of the Irish style stout, but makes up for that with a beautiful coffee flavour enhanced by chili peppers. I was struggling with what else I was tasting until the bartender explained the beer also had a dash of cinnamon. Aaaah, it all makes sense now.
Easy does it on this stuff though ... it comes in at a potent 7.4% alcohol content.
THE TASTING PADDLE
A successful opening beer convinced us to extend our stay and try a few more brews. The best way to do it was the $20 tasting paddle with four generous samples of the beers of your choice.
PADDLE BEER 1 - KIA ORA NZ IPA
Made from Kiwi malt and hops, Stoic's NZ IPA is a fruity, hoppy delight. On the brewer's website ( www.stoicbrewing.com.au ) it is described as "light and bright like the smiles of our neighbours". You need to be careful with that description, though. "Light" doesn't describe the alcohol content, which is a far from lite 6.2%.
PADDLE BEER 2 - WALLY WATERCART LAGER
Named after the brewer's grandfather Wall, who drove a watercart truck, this is also very drinkable ... and at 3.5% alcohol it definitely has session potential. It is light in colour, light and bright in taste, with just a hint of Coopers sparkling ale, a long time ago favourite of mine.
PADDLE BEER 3 - GETTIN' BUZZY WITH IT HONEY WHEAT BEER
Now, because this is a wheat beer, I would have put money on it being my least favourite drop of the day. But, it turns out it was a surprise winner. I absolutely loved this beer. According to the website ( www.stoicbrewing.com.au ) it was "made to celebrate a mate's wedding". Lucky bride and groom, I say! There is loads of honey in this beer (sourced at the place the wedding reception was held) and it makes for a pretty unique weiss beer. Sweet and drinkable. I never thought I would say it about a weiss beer, but it has session potential. 4.6% alcohol.
PADDLE BEER 4 - G'DAY MATE AUSTRALIAN IPA
This hazy, golden coloured all-Australian IPA, made from only Oz sourced ingredients, is another winner. With a very pineapple nose (smell) its pleasant to approach and even better to drink. A complex, fruity IPA with a bit of zing. 5.8% alcohol.
CHOC O BOCK DOPPELBOCK
Well, I couldn't leave Stoic without taking a four pack of something different away. I went for the Choc O Bock Doppelbock, and it was a very good selection. Doppelbocks are a German dark lager which were invented by monks in the 17th Century and dubbed "liquid bread". They acted as a meal replacement during Lent, when the monks were fasting. No fasting here, I can assure. I enjoyed my take-out Choc O Bock with a roast dinner! It is a seriously good beer with a rich, malty, chocolate flavouring and some dried fruit overtones on top. Absolutely first class but careful, it comes in at a dangerous 7.9% alcohol.
AND NOW FOR THE REALLY GOOD NEWS ... A sign at the venue proudly announces that Stoic Brewery is getting bigger. Well, I can't wait.