An in situ (ie on the BotF) posting.
On a day when very strong rumours have emerged that AC/DC have played their last gig – news of a new bar at Circular Quay is small beer. However, given it’s a cloudy night and the red moon rising can’t be seen, I may as well write about the new addition to Circular Quay’s bar scene. Fred’s Bar is conveniently positioned next to the Australian Wine(o) Centre, a preferred beer supplier to BotF than Mr Liquor because of their penchant for quality uniques. (As opposed to the contents of a stray container that Mr Liquor might find at La Perouse or Botany).
Fred’s is an intimate but friendly place. The proprietor noticed me photographing my Asahi Dry Black and we had a chat about Untappd and his beer range. Being a three tap venue, Fred’s chosen well. 4 Pines continue their quest for world domination and two of the three taps are Kolsch and Pale Ale. The other is Asahi. There’s a maslin of stubbies and I had to have a lash at the Asahi Dry Black. Didn’t do it for me – but i’ve got the mother of all flus so I’m possibly being harsh.
Fred’s will get a repeat look in as a middie of 4 Pines before the voyage is always a good thing. This trip has been an astronomical disappointment because the rarity of a Red Moon Rising has failed to emerge from the mist and rain. Ah well, I’ll let Lamb0 tell us when the next red moon rising might occur.
Big seas, and as I sign off we’ve almost sailed out the Heads and we making the big left hander to ride in the swell.
When you hit your local liquor shop in search of some new beers to try, there are a few that are worth keeping an eye out for. Some of these are brand new and some are seasonal offerings just hitting the shelves. So next time you’re out scouting potential fridge-dwellers, keep an eye out for these.
Mint Chocolate Stout – Flying Dog Brewery
Opal – Firestone Walker Brewery
Go To IPA – Stone Brewery
Habanero Sculpin – Habanero Sculpin
Monk’s Blood – 21st Amendment
Ryan And The Gosling – Evil Twin / Crooked Stave
Agave Maria – The Lost Abbey
Endless IPA – Goose Island
As Dorothy once said “There’s no place like home”. Too true, and it was wonderful to Back on the Back of the Ferry with a full turnout of the Foundation members – illiards, Lamb0, pommy_ch, oomploloompa and yours truly. It might have been dark, but the air was mild and the view as always spectacular. The Rhapsody of Seas let off a few blasts and for a moment it looked we’d be blocked for a run, but the MV Narrabeen claimed home town privileges and we were given an inside passage. We were rewarded with a marvellous view of the cruise ship silhouetted by the coathanger. Great to catch up with the lads – with my first Australian beer in 11 days – the go-to Coopers Green Pale Ale.
This latest trip to Hong Kong was my best yet. It was longest trip I’ve done, during the week I had great night time buddies supplemented by the local knowledge and I’d done some research to make days as a tourist pretty interesting. A highlight of the trip was a visit to the centuries old fishing village of Tai O, which on the far west of Lantau Island. Lantau Island is best known for the Big Buddha, its cable car Hong Kong Disneyland and that Hong Kong airport adjoins it. There’s plenty more to it than that. Despite the towering apartments of Tung Chung, the majority of Lantau Island is mountainous forested mountains with a number of beaches that apparently go off in the hotter weather. There’s a few villages and larger towns like Mui Wo and no shortage of Westerners live on Lantau and do the daily commute to Hong Kong Island. Despite its relatively isolated location Tai O is easily accessed by bus or taxi. Tai O is a village where a view of the water is key. There are tight little lanes, lined by restaurants, dried fish shops and souvenir shops. The smell of fish pervades the air. For $25HKD ($4ish aussie) a covered, elongated punt takes you up the river past the stilt houses and then out to sea to look for pink dolphins. You also see planes coming into land and the start of the Hong kong-Macau-Zhuhai road bridge. Despite being surrounded by the modernity, Tai O retains a lovely quiet charm.
The more times you visit HK, the more there is to discover. The ferries and the islands to which they take you will be re-visited. The New Territories are a little piece of China without having to get a visa (just need to co-incide the visit with bar opening hours). There’s more to Honkers than Central, Wanchai and LKF. Causeway Bay will be re-visited and the dark-side of Kowloon offers plenty of adventures. Best bar of the tour had to be the Roundhouse. Looking forward to taking a crowd there. Made it back to the Hong Kong Brewhouse for a third time and enjoyed a very good Sevens Stout. Best beer was Young Master Ales Rye Old Fashioned. Worst beer – Watermelon Wheat. Most unexpected beer – 961 Red Ale from Lebanon. Best feed was the Beijing Restaurant. Worst feed. No such thing as a bad feed in HK. Funniest moment was going to X-Bar – four floors above the Beijing Restaurant, getting into an intense game of darts and then realising that we were in a fairly intense gay bar. Still – I doubled out on 16 – so I was happy. Best view – Sugar. Best island – Cheung Chau.
Back of the Ferry was delighted when HKBeerGuy offered a couple of tips about where to try some good beers in response to one of the recent missives from Hong Kong. Both tips were followed with some gusto and both tips proved to be on the money. I’ve already written about Young Master Ales. By the time I left Hong Kong, I tried three of their range – the Classic, Hong Kong Black and Rye Old Fashioned. The latter two beers were part of the Robust Series and both weighed in at a hefty 6.5%. Stunning beers, with the Rye Old Fashioned, being particularly meaty. I tried the Rye Old Fashioned at the sibling establishment of Black Bird, which is the Black Star on 81 Win Lock Street, Shueng Wan. Not only did they serve the Young Master on tap – there were bottles and branded glasses of two varieties of 961 Beer from Lebanon. Globalisation at full pitch and a smart little joint.
HKBeerGuy’s second tip was the one that I followed up on the most. In the end, I visited the Roundhouse Taproom on three separate occasions and thoroughly enjoyed each time. It claims to be Hong Kong’s first ever taproom, and even though Tipping Point has a nice collection of taps – there’s no doubt that the Roundhouse is Hong Kong’s largest taproom. There’s a staggering 25 taps available and the range and quality of the beer is stunning. It’s staggering because the Roundhouse is not a big venue. The Roundhouse is in a cul-de-sac at 62 Peel Street, Central and patrons can spill outside on to the road with much more safety than some of the bars on Staunton or Elgin Streets. But, gees, if it was raining it wouldn’t take much to fill the joint. I had a quiet dinner on the Sunday night after the Sevens – and I think most of the action was down in Lan Kwai Fong or the lower reaches of Central or Wanchai. The food is Texas Barbecue style and the Combo is the sensible order. There’s a choice of 3 meats – brisket, pulled port and the third escapes me, whilst there’s a choice of sides including cheesy squash and beans. It’s filling and hearty – though for mine the pork needed longer.
I’d missed the visit to Hong Kong by Beijing’s Great Leap Brewing by a couple of days. As a result, the taps had no shortage of varieties from Beijing’s first and most prodigious craft brewer. There was everything from the flagship Pale Ale #6 to a Chai Masala Stout. American Brewers and the ubiquitous Mikkeller are also well represented on the tap range as well. In addition to a Chai Masala Stout, there’s also the weird and wonderful from Lost Coast Brewery with their Watermelon Wheat. The whole experience is very slick with the waitresses carrying iPads with the beer selection on them, but I prefer to read the lovingly maintained chalkboard and look at the tapheads. The Roundhouse will always be on my list if I visit Hong Kong. They do need to think about their merchandising approach. The t-shirts look great – but the XXL would have been tight on Kylie Minogue and $120HKD for a souvenir glass is a little ridiculous – particularly as you are paying $88HKD for a pint.
Just down the road is on the few alternatives to 7-11 for buying takeaway beers. The Q Club, which is on the same side of Peel Street as the Roundhouse sells a range of US beer including Kona and Gordon Biersch. Open ’til late also.
It was my last night in Hong Kong and I was wending my way through Central to pay my final respects to the Roundhouse (more on that later) when I stumbled across Cochrane’s. It’s on a pedestrian part of Cochrane Street between Wellington and Gage Streets. The place was packed tighter than a fat fellow’s sock and it was only that I was travelling solo that I was allowed in.
Like the Hong Kong Brew House, free peanuts are always available and the floor is crunchy with shells. There’s the unusual sight of seeing pigeons fossicking under patrons’ legs without bird or Homo sapiens caring too much.
What drew me into Cochrane’s was the sign trumpeting Seafarer’s Ale on tap. What the pleasant surprise was was a fridge bulging with British Ales. Before grabbing a Seafarer’s, I tried a bottle of Marshmellow, a stupendous ale from Oxfordshire Ales. That was a mistake. The Marshmellow was big, and malty caramel. It completely overwhelmed the Seafarer’s Ale, which was insipid in comparison. I’ll reverse the order next time. Loved the history of Thomas Cochrane.
After being blown away by Azure, the rooftop bar on LKF Hotel, I thought it’d be hard to top. Well, another rooftop bar on another hotel has done it. To be honest, there’s an element of dead heat given the completely different perspectives of Hong Kong that are offered. Whilst Azure is all about the skyscrapers, Sugar on top of the East Hotel is all about the water. That said, the view you get when having a slash is also pretty remarkable as you look down upon a cluster of apartment towers.
For mine, the water is the star. Cruise ships look like bath toys against the Dark Side’s skyline. The Dark Side is what our local mate calls the Kowloon side. Tai Koo is 8 stops from Central on the MTR so it is mainly locals that patronise the joint. There’s an annoying membership form to complete, but once in – it’s a treat. Bar opens at 5pm and we snaffled a cane couch against the glass. I’d imagine it gets a little doof-doof later in the evening as the DJ warms up.
Sundowners Happy Hour(s) occurs between 5 and 7pm. For beer drinkers that means cheap Heineken. I dodged the Heine and opted for the intriguing Kawaba Sunrise Ale. Great choice. This was a warming Japanese Amber Ale that was a well rounded classy biscuity drop. Sunrise with the sunset (not that we saw it with the cloud).
Got the bit between the teeth now and decided to get the ferry to Mui Wo, which is on the verdant Lantau Island. Had I put any sort of planning into my trip, I could have caught an inter-island ferry from Cheung Shau to Mui Wo – they are infrequent and didn’t suit my timing on this occasion. Lantau Island adjoins Hong Kong airport is popular with hikers and tourists. It is famous for the Big Buddha, which is accessed by Cable Car, but that’s not my goal. I’m off to Tai O, a traditional fishing village on the western extremity of the Island.
It goes without saying that the ferry ride is cracking. My German beer (Munchenal) wasn’t but no matter. You are allowed out the Back of the Ferry, and no-one blinked as I took my beerp0rn. Munchenal is made by Kaiserdom, who make some pretty fine Hefeweizen. Kaiserdom don’t even acknowledge the presence of Munchenal in their line-up.
It looks like plenty of people live in Mui Wo and work in Hong Kong, including Westerners. The bike station at the ferry terminal probably had 500+ bikes parked there. I looked around and discovered two bars. Deer Horn doubles as a bar sand restaurant. The owner has run it since 1996 and he gave the tip on Tai O.
China Bear is a belter and is run by a St Mirren supporting Scot. Reminded me of the Cantina with all sorts of memorabilia on the walls. Edelweiss SnowFresh on tap which is a fine beer.