A short in situ post from the Back of the MV Freshwater. I picked up a trio of the newly liveried Cricketers Arms beers. I’m sure some of my check ins will be cancelled off @Untappd, but the Asahi owned Cricketers Arms label has updated their range.
There’s still a cricket theme. Keepers Lager – an El Blando lager replaces Mid On lager. Captain’s IPA is a straight relabelling of the Captain’s India Pale Ale. The new beer in the line- up which is apparently on tap is the Spearhead Pale Ale.
The Captain’s IPA is as useless as Michael Clarke’s hamstring. Pretty metallic and barely resembles the style it is claiming to be. Licky I’m drinking it in a beautiful part of the world.
The Spearhead is as penetrative as Ray Bright or any of the spinners that have had a turn of replacing Shane Warne. If this is your Spearhead – the opposition will be 2-400 at stumps on Day 1. Don’t like being critical, but this is an underwhelming trio. As I conclude this post the Spearhead is trying to break through, but it is a quaffer at best.
Manly’s northern neighbour is the suburb of Freshwater, formerly known as Harbord. Whilst Manly has been booming in the bar and restaurant scene of late, Freshwater’s been quietly accumulating new venues to the extent that you can now do a Freshwater pub/bar crawl. This corredpondent’s view is that a crawl is more than one venue. To do that in Freshwater, that used to mean the Harbord Diggers followed by the Harbord Hilton (see why I mentioned that Freshwater used to be called Harbord) or vice versa. Now the Main Street of the “villagey” Freshwater has three bars/cafes where you can grab a beer or cocktail and a nibble/feed – the crawl’s just gotten bigger.
The Bent Fork (not photographed), Two Ten and the relatively pioneering Stowaway are no more than 150m apart on the one side of Lawrence Street and offer their own take on the small bar/cafe bar concept. Anyway you look at it, Freshie’s offering up laid back options without the look-at-me-Manly approach to suburban drinking. My co-founding correspondent, illiards, has enjoyed dinner and an @untappd unique at Bent Fork, which ambitiously offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve had the brekky, which is just fine.
Two Ten is barely a couple of months old and offers breakfast and lunch. The booze list is tight, but you can’t go wrong with a couple of varieties of Endeavour. I’m a big fan of their Amber Ale – whatever the vintage. The complimentary olives will bring me back.
Both Illiards and I gave Stowaway a perusal in its early days. As has become an all to regular occurrence with BotF, neither of us blogged about the experience despite good intentions. Well, I’m blogging now and the rap on Stowaway is good. It’s a comfortable place for a quiet afternoon drink and chinwag (Obama’s expression de jour). The beer list changes and there’s a couple on tap. On the day of my visit Two Birds outstanding Taco was on offer. There’s so much that could be wrong with this when you read the label – but the two birds have nailed this. I think Sunset is a go-to classic, but if you want a treat – go a bottle of Taco.
Stowaway gets its food from next door (marilyna’s). It’s a good partnership. If the barstaff look like they’re leaving they’re just heading next door to get your food order. My daughter gave the chips a massive thumbs up and the daily specials should entice. The location of Stowaway doesn’t look glamorous, but once you cross the threshold you are in as good a small bar as any. If you are in the area – give it a go.
This week your correspond finds himself in Tavarua, Fiji.
Tavarua is better known for its surf breaks – think Cloudbreak – so for a Back of the Ferry correspondent the beer choices are thin.
There are several offerings from Carlton and United in the form of Fiji Bitter and Fiji Gold plus Vonu from Coca Cola Amatil. All beers are pleasant enough given the surrounds and the temperature.
So being a surfing botf contributor I’m here for the breaks. Cloudbreak has been massive and has induced the hershey squirts in all but the most hardened of surfers. I have been up to watch and saw it at 8 – 10 foot – far too big for my skill level. Kelly Slater was there but a foot injury had him relegated to saving others on his jet ski as they fell and were washed onto the reef.
I have had some excellent sessions however at Tavarua Rights, Restaurants and Namotu Lefts.
Surfing royalty abounds with Layne Beachley running a surf camp on the neighbouring island and regularly being spotted in one of the line ups.
This weekend, I discovered quite by accident that Milan has decided to build upon its mantle of “fashion capital of Europe” with its explosion of boutique beers – more than 600 now available from across Italy, according to Maurizio Maestrelli (Milan’s most famous beer journalist who I happened across in Lambrate pub). I was visiting with some friends because we thought it would be a nice City to base ourselves out of to play some bridge (yes, the card game), away from the British autumnal weather, to find a spot of culture and warmth – we were not disappointed. Two of us are CAMRA members, whilst a third invests in the CAMRA managed funds (exclusively in the beer market) portfolio – so it wasn’t long before we had done a search online for “craft beers Milan”. Much to our surprise, the city seemed to be swamped with potential venues. So amongst our sojourns to other cultural sites like the Pinacoteca di Brera art gallery, we managed to fit in a few hands of cards (30 rubbers actually) in the occasional specialist craft beer establishments. I completely lost the plot in a few games, but I blame Diablo for his midas touch…
There is a slight snobbery in the UK’s real-ale market, something to do with the fight back against the global lager players, when, since the late ’70s, beer with flavour served from kegs has been re-establishing itself across all quarters of Britain. Notwithstanding this fine British stance, the Americans were fast on the UK’s heels (40 years on, Sam Adams last year because the first ever beer billionaire), and started the global “craft beer” drive… also flavoursome beer, but fizzy and cold, unlike the flat, warm stuff the Brits so dearly love. However, as with my previous post about Sharps in Cornwall, what is very different about craft beers around the world (versus, say, an English bitter) is that you don’t quaff a craft ale in quite the same way as you do a lager or bitter. You sup it, gently – mostly because craft ales tend to weigh in at 6% plus (often stronger), and so they are genuinely now competing for the same wine-drinkers market: a fine alcoholic beverage to accompany the best cuisine. Unless, of course, you’re British by descent, in which case you skull it in exactly the same way as you would your beloved real ale (or indeed tasteless lager)… being Brits abroad, we obviously succumbed to the latter ruling and found ourselves quickly appreciative of even the sourest of beers.
The first bar we tried was in a most unlikely venue, on a main road in an industrial area – Dundas Cafe. The beers in the picture were a fine introduction to local Milanese cult beers. Four to select from, without hesitation, I tried them all – helpfully, there was a rather delightful platter or two of snacks to accompany the beer, which the Europeans do so well (and we need to play catch up). Moving right-to-left, “Seta” by Birrifico Rurale is a modest starter – blanche, cloudy in appearance with a subtle citrus, sweet flavour. “Reset”, however, from the same brewer was a marked change: honey, juniper, almost too sour, and with a sulphurous overture. “S Ambroeus” (named after Saint Ambroeus, Bishop of Milan in the late 4th Century) is a classic marmalade and hoppy number – not to be missed. Finally, last but not least, was the “Dahu Rossa” – a gourmet beer, full of strawberry, yet sour, misty through the glass. It was definitely time to see what else Milan had to offer.
We drove down the backstreets of Milan until eventually we found Isola della Birra – an international craft beer pub that has been running since 1994. Max, the proprietor, doesn’t speak English; we don’t speak Italian; but we settle for his suggestion of French (who’d have thought). I tell him about backoftheferry.com and he immediately points out the Australian beer awards that the Italian beers have been walking away with over recent years. The top local beer in the style of a trappist stout is the Scaligero Canus Magnus, which goes down very well with a large bowl of popcorn.
Finally, we end up in Lambrate (where I met Maurizio) – it turns out that we’ve missed all the other great craft beer bars in Milan, which gives me a great excuse to come back to visit LambicZoon, Baladin, BQ, and La Ratera (an excellent restaurant too). Again, there’s a smörgåsbord of Italian delicacies to accompany the plethora of Lambrate’s home-brewed keg and cask beers, which Maurizio reminds me is essential to the drinking experience. The atmosphere for a Sunday night (the bar is already packed 5 minutes after opening at 6pm) is incomparable, even to the 4 Pines in Manly on a Friday night, with loads of tables as well as standing room all taken – despite the crowd, you can still hear yourself think (about the 4 Spades you’re about to be defeated in) and there’s some cool jazz and rock playing all night. At 11pm, I take a breather outside on the street, and I’m flabbergasted to count 100 folk have also spilled out from the packed bar with their beers, all milling around, chatting, enjoying the 20 degree October evening. The beer? Well, it’s truly exceptional – I would take you through their line-up, but, then, what’s left for you to explore when you come here? All I can say is that their 8% double IPA was the pinnacle of a great evening – very smooth, slightly hoppy, with a typical citrus finish. On the downside, they only serve pints – that’s what we Brits like to see!
The wave of new places hitting the insular peninsula shows no signs of abating. The latest addition to Manly Beach’s burgeoning line-up of bars and restaurants is Daniel San, which is self described as a “Chow-down Bar & Beach-Side Dojo”. Daniel San is on the ground floor of what everyone knows as the Manly Pacific Hotel, which is on the corner of Raglan Street and North Steyne. Now I don’t think that Fraser Short (owner and Bar Baron) has a share in Frankie’s Pizza in Hunter Street – but Daniel San is kind of like Frankie’s with more natural light and a whole lot of Japanese thrown at you. There’s the pinnies, the rock’n’roll wallpaper, the music and the pricey beer – but there are plenty of unique aspects as well.
A big deal of Daniel San is the food. Gees – it’s even had a review by Terry Durack in its first month of opening (12/20). The kitchen is open for all to see, and a cook (chef) was holding court for a number of customers explaining how things are done. The menu is a broad offering of Japanese themed share plates, platters and snacks. Everything we had was very tasty, but if I hadn’t wolfed down my son’s kid’s meal I would have been still more than peckish. That’s the tip. Borrow someone’s kid and order the Chicken and Soba Noodle Salad off the kid’s menu, and you’ll get a decent feed. THe chicken karrage was crisp on the outside and succulent on the inside. Kicking myself for not at least trying one of the Robata Skewers – that’s for next time. These blokes can cook – just cook more.
The neon themed bar is loaded with spirit and sake bottles. The fridge is loaded with predominantly gold labelled Japanese beers including Orion Draft Beer. I casually ordered a stubbie, but then needed to be revived when the barman equally casually said – “$13, mate”. Was I in Singapore or Manly? I can comprehend a stubbie of <Insert Craft Brewer’s name> IPA mixed with coffee beans passed through a civet – but a macro malt bomb for $13. I can’t believe the Pacific Peso v the Japanese Yen comparison is that bad. Orion is a nice enough quaffer, but it isn’t a $13 beer. I retreated straight to the domestic macros on tap, which included Tooheys New, Super Dry (Hahn – not the t-shirt) and 150 Lashes (surely James Squires’ most available drop by now).
Plenty of attention has been given to the fit-out. I haven’t been past this place in the evening (and I’ve never been to Japan), but I’d imagine if all the neon were on, it’d look like a concentrated version of Ginza. The cushions on the long bench are particularly funky being made out of old jeans. The bar staff all wear rock’n’roll t-shirts, which they have to pay for. How they found the retro shirt from the Karate Kid is beyond me – but I guess you can find anything nowadays. Frankie’s still rules the roost for music paraphenalia, but Daniel San has had a go, even if some of it feels a little try hard.
I’ll have to visit in the evening and get a look at the roof-top bar, which will provide terrific views – but the well heeled have a new place to go in Manly.
Boat Quay is stretch of bars along the Singapore River. It is conveniently located next to the CBD of Singapore and absolutely heaves on a Friday night. The proximity to water gives hope of cool breezes, but there is little respite from Singapore’s ever present humidity. As one of my colleagues said, you never really get used to it.
With it being so hot, there’s only one option – drink and drink lots. Boat Quay provides an endless range of pub options. When I was in Singapore 6 years ago I was struck by the homogeneity of the tap lists. It was pretty much Kronenberg, Carlsberg, Heinken and of course Tiger. That’s still the case in plenty of places, but now there are brewhouses and craft beer. Illiards tipped me off to Archipelago beer, which I chased down the previous evening. I also paid a visit to the world’s “Highest Urban Microbrewery”, which is up to its 16th seasonal. Occasional correspondent – KiwibackinNZ – had previously written about it here.
For my last night in Singapore, I opted for the RedDot Brewhouse, which is in the heart of Boat Quay. Again it uses a pricing mechanism based on the time. Best to drink early in Singapore. Amazingly I bumped into another Back of the Ferry inductee on the night who took care of the bill. So whilst there was little fiscal pain this time, there’s never really a cheap drink in Singapore. If you look at the price list in the photo and do the math, the cheapest option is the 1500ml jug, which still works out at $10 a pint. There were a few blokes giving the 3500ml tower a shot. A number of Asian blokes go red when they drink and one of the fellas tackling the tower of Green Monster was shining like a traffic light. Still, he and his mates made short work of their tower.
The RedDot range is broad and interesting. Along with the usual Kolsch, Pilsener, Weizen etc – there are a couple of oddities. The Lime Wheat and the Monster Green Lager are unique twists for this drinker. The Monster Green is a lager that is coloured green by the addition of spirulina (blue green algae apparently). It really looks like GI Lime cordial, but is an inoffensive, smashable lager perfect for Singapore drinking. The Vienna Seasonal, brewed for Oktoberfest was a real corker with a deep, rich malty backbone. Probably beer of the trip. The back story to RedDot is one worth reading. Next time I might find my way to the actual brewhouse, but I certainly look up RedDot again.