My plan was to conduct a quiet reconnoitre of the sprawling Beer and Brewer Expo in the Melbourne Showgrounds. There were a lot of brands that were unfamiliar to me and, after I had run my three beer and cheese sessions, I wanted to ensure I used my seventeen or so hours on site effectively.

I was doing a rather unconvincing impersonation of someone scurrying sneakily and casting furtive glances left and right. Remarkably, it seemed to be working or it may have simply been too early in the day for anyone to care. I slipped past Temple Brewing, past Grand Ridge and was heading towards Feral Brewing, the Western Australian outfit that had dominated the Australian International Beer Awards the night before. Suddenly, a voice boomed out “right, that’s it, you made eye contact, now you have to come and have a beer!”

The voice in question belonged to Richard Moroney from Colonial Brewing Company, also in Western Australia. Even the booth arrangement was done geographically. He was already pouring me a glass of Colonial’s rather excellent Kolsch which, sadly, is not yet stocked at the Malthouse. Literally within nine seconds of meeting he launched into the “Sexpo Story.”

It turns out that Colonial Brewing Company had a stand either at or just outside a big Sexpo in Australia. The staff had pooled their collective intuition and decided that a fruit beer would appeal most to the customers that would pass their stall. He recounts offering Sexpo attendees a free fruit beer and receiving an inordinate number of condescending and slightly offended looks in response. I can’t quite do his delivery justice on the blog medium but the gist of the tale was he had these people looking at him like he was some kind of freak for offering them a beer and seconds later the same people were rummaging through the nearest bargain bin of assorted sexual novelties.

It’s fair to say Richard captured my attention pretty quickly. Actually, the continued use of “Sexpo” in this post is probably doing our Google ranking no harm either. Anyway, the point of the “Sexpo Story” is that in a crowded beer marketplace it is important to stand out. Colonial further achieved that at the Beer and Brewer Expo by being the only stand to offer food. They had over 100 dozen fresh plump Tasmanian oysters served with truffle salt or their secret sauce. I couldn’t get the recipe but it was outstanding. They attracted great numbers at an event where there was a lot on offer.

Back home, the six Malthouse fridges, each cleverly set to a different temperature, are packed with a veritable cornucopia of beers. Despite our best efforts, some of those beers are not listed in the fabled Malthouse beer list. As a result, it is important that they stand out and attract drinkers to them.

One of the most distinctive bottles in the world is King Cobra (8%), now available in 375ml and 750ml bottles. It is a jet black bottle with a champagne cork and two very cute golden elephants on the front. While standard Cobra is a supremely ordinary light Indian lager, King Cobra is a very different beast. This “double fermented, superior strong lager beer” is actually brewed in Belgium by the famous Palm brewery. A bottle conditioned lager (where the yeast is left in the bottle) is rare indeed.

King Cobra pours a slightly cloudy gold with a lovely, lively, finely bubbled head. Those bubbles bounce happily off the tongue and convey the subtle hints of apple, orange and Belgian yeast. In terms of food, King Cobra would compliment a white fish well or perhaps could be served in champagne flutes with an assortment of canapés.

Finally, a reminder that the Saint George’s Day celebrations at Malthouse kick off at 10am on 23 April with new English beers (London Pride and Old Speckled Hen) and traditional English fare.


Neil Miller
Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine