One of Back of the Ferry’s most loyal correspondents, members and readers is returning to New Zealand, and so began the first leg of his work farewell. Another loyal BotF member was up from Melbourne, and we couldn’t mark the farewell on the ferry, the next best thing was to go to a local pub and try some thing new. I used to be pretty dark on the Slip Inn. My primary reason was quite irrational, and that was that it was in the opposite direction to the ferry. I’ve gotten more used to it over the last couple of years (though only if I visit at lunch, knowing I have to return to work – rather than the end of the day. The food wasn’t bad either, but the beer list never challenged.
So, when Cam suggested a quick farewell beverage to Kiwisinoz, it was about convenience more than anything new. Well, surprise – surprise, the Slip Inn’s had a Mexican makeover (day of the dead wallpaper) in the front bar and the menu’s been updated to match. There’s a Mexican cocktail list and plenty of tacos, quesadillas and churros as well as some main courses – featuring grilled meats with various Mexican sauces. The menu’s hardly haute cuisine, but the hot dogs we all had and the Chorizo and Jalapeno quesadilla I snuck absolutely hit the spot when speed and substance were key. I’ll definitely be back for another crack at the menu including some of the more substantial specials featuring ribs and the like. It’s all under the name El Loco at Slip Inn, and is apparently the brain child of one of Merivale’s star chefs – Dan Hong.
As mentioned above, Slip Inn’s beer list is pedestrian, so I’ve had to reach back to the weekend for this post’s unique beer. I tried this blog’s first Colombian beer on the rooftop of the Glenmore Hotel. The highlight of Aguila Beer is its label. Aguila is made by the Cervecería De Barranquilla, which is now part of the SABMiller group. It probably is made in Colombia, but tastes like any old macro that SABMiller flog around the world. Colombia – ticked off.
I don’t need a reason to get to the stationary spiritual home of Back of the Ferry, but extra incentive has been provided by the arrival of 3 new beers to the Keller Door family. Photo says it all really.
Before the local derby, I tried two of the three – the Mosaic Amber and the Belgian Dubbel. Mosaic was the slight winner on the day. A brassy, sharp amber with more hop than malt. Great finish and very sessionable. That’s it next to the chalkboard The Dubbel knits a good beer coat. It holds its alcohol content well and it is a big complex mouthfeel. Big fan of both. Might get to the Oatmeal after the game.
There’s been plenty of hype in the pointy end of the Craft Beer community about the release of Tusk, Feral Brewing Company‘s infrequently released Imperial IPA. The hype is due to the fact that Feral Brewing Company has won more awards that Ben Hur, the strict conditions under which outlets are able to take on this beer and its blink and it’s gone time frame. To be honest, I didn’t give it much thought because I thought that my chances of getting to a venue serving it in the short window foreshadowed were slimmer than Lamb0 after his return from Sri Lanka.
Low and behold, I found myself having to do in a fly-in-fly-out trip to Carlton – without any certainty of sneaking any visit into any fine Carlton establishment. Stars aligned and the next thing I knew, I was enjoying a quick lunch in a pub I’d been wanting to visit for a while. The Great Northern has been on the radar and whilst it was a fleeting visit, it ticks many boxes and I’ll be back as soon as possible. The Great Northern had clearly met Feral’s conditions in relation to Tusk and is one about 10 venues selling it. According to Crafty Pint, they are “venues who have guaranteed that there will be cold refrigerated transport from brewery to bar and that it will be tapped the instant it arrives“. Highly regarded US Imperial or Double IPAs like Pliny the Elder emphasise this need to engage in as immediate consumption as possible, so this isn’t hyperbole on Feral’s part. So what’s it like? This is as big a beer made by an Australian brewer as I’ve had. My companion for the day simply went “Phew!”. He immediately commented on the alcohol. Without prompting he reckoned it tasted spirituous. Interesting reaction from a bloke that doesn’t drink craft often. Tusk is a classic sipper, squintly so on the first taste – but one that works up to a magnificent crescendo as it goes on. I was actually keen for a second – but at 9.5%, on this instance, one was enough. Delighted to have had a crack at the Tusk
The Great Northern is putting on an event during “Good Beer Week“, where thirteen of their taps will be turned over to some of the USA’s finest. They are clearly warming up to that event. They have a good range of Bridgeport beers available in their bottle, there’s plenty of Brooklyn Beer paraphernalia up and they have an iconic beer on tap – Rogue‘s Dead Guy Ale. The tap head’s marvellous and the beer’s even better. The back stories of many of Rogue’s beers are pretty interesting – not surprising for a craft brewer that’s been around since 1989. Dead Guy was a private label for a Day of the Dead promo many years ago. It was so popular it became a perennial name for Rogue’s Maibock – and the tap handle is iconic as they come. Bloody fine beer that held it’s own despite coming after the Tusk. I will return to the Great Northern – if that could be during Good Beer Week – even better.
via Cool Material
We can’t help the fact that we’re sometimes attracted to bright, shiny objects. It’s why we do occasionally judge a book by its cover, and it’s also why we may order a beer we don’t know based on the really awesome tap handle associated with it. This doesn’t happen all the time, but we’re pretty sure it would be hard to pass up the suds coming from these guys.
Gun Tap Handle
Video Game Controller Tap Handles
Dogfish Head Steampunk Tap Handle
Deer Antler Tap Handles
Fixed Gear Tap Handles
Beer Ingredient Tap Handles
Lightsaber Tap Handles
Sapporo Sword Tap Handle
Taps at Fette Sau in Philadelphia
40mm Grenade Tap Handle
Mason Jar Tap Handle
Piranha Plant Tap Handle
Vintage Tools Tap Handles
Dirty Robot Hand Tap Handle
50 Caliber Tap Handle
It’s only a 45 minute bus ride from the skyscrapers and constant noise and motion of Hong Kong’s Central District to a place that feels a world away. Stanley is on the south side of Hong Kong Island and is well worth a visit. In one respect it can be microcosm of Hong Kong in that there’s a market with stalls and haggling and a bar street that can probably get pretty raucous, but it’s in a lovely setting overlooking Stanley Bay with a promenade, a pier and a beach nearby.
The bars all line up along Stanley Main Street and whilst there might be a couple of classy restaurants hidden here or there, the majority of these places look like watering holes and party places first and foremost. It would be a great place for a pub crawl, particularly if you want to minimise walking. Like LKF, the beers lists aren’t challenging – but Vern’s Place looked like it had a decent range of British Bottled Beer. Many offer outside stools where you pitch up and have a good session of people watching. The sunset would probably go off as well.
I couldn’t go past The Smuggler’s Inn. It’s low ceiling is covered with business cards and currency signed by visitors over years. It was eerily similar to a bar I visited in Mexico in 2007 that inspired much of the internal decoration of the Cantina in my backyard. There’s a jukebox, a tight range of tap beers and plenty of spirits. Even though it was only 4pm in the afternoon – a crowd of tattoed younger folk decided it was early enough to start ripping into a few shots. The bathrooms had some of the more tasteful door signage to indicate who goes wear. Clearly a trademark, as this signage also features on their souvenir t-shirts – a painting shirt I think.
They did offer a unique on tap, which Edelweiss Weissbier Snowfresh. Poured beautifully, it was also ice cold. Now, you’ll often see a wheat beer being described as having a banana nose. No doubting that on the Snowfresh – but this was like sniffing and tasting a bag of Allens Banana lollies – which I don’t mind, just not in a beer.
It’d be fair to say that most of the bars in Lan Kwai Fong and Soho tend to focus on pints and pints of macro beers and shots, shots and more shots of spirits. Asahi, Carlsberg, Kronenberg 1664, Heineken, etc dominate the taps and the craft beer culture hasn’t really taken hold here. If you look hard enough though, some hidden gems turn up. You really have to look hard to find the entrance to The Globe, but once armed with the address (45A Graham Street, Central) – it isn’t hard to find. The door belies how sizeable this great beer pub is, which it needs to be as its reputation spreads.
The beer menu is broadest in its bottles (upwards of 75 beers) and there was a random range of brewers and nations offered. I think that the list changes all the time – and the paper menu didn’t list the 4 varieties of Stoke Bomber that were scrawled above the men’s urinal. I hadn’t tied the Smoky Ale before – well worth it. Nothing like a Rauchbier, just a very pleasant lightly smoked flavour balancing good malt. The food menu is pub classics with some slight nods to more modern fare (Pork and Peach something or other). Big pies are a speaciality with about 8 varities being available.
Whilst there are US, NZ, Australian beers available, I think that British beers are the most prevalent. I really love a good British IPA. Proper Job IPA is classic example of a well hopped beer that isn’t squintingly so like its US cousins. The Americans would probably have a giggle at the label – which boasts that it “is a strong golden ale that’s been powerfully hopped”. I’d say exquisitely hopped with a very pleasant light aftertaste that has a touch of sweetness. I’d could see a six pack of this disappearing very quickly. Proper Job IPA is made by St Austell’s brewery, which is located in Cornwall.
Quite unintentionally, I had reasonable crack at a Lands End to John’o'Groats of craft beer with my next selection coming from the north of Scotland. Fyne Ales Brewery is from Cairndow and makes it beer using the waters of and around Loch Fyne. Avalanche is one of eight varities they make. This has a beautiful straw colour and another really pleasant light but well hopped beer. The Globe is definitely a bar that deserves a visit if you make it to Hong Kong. The feed’s great and the beer list is as good as it gets.
Wanchai has a deservedly dubious reputation, but it also has some gems. I visited during the day and stumbled across Trafalgar – a pub on the 5th floor of a building – that specialises in British Beer.
The lifts are rickety and not all go to the 5th floor, but persistence pays off as you end up in a bar with great inside and outside ambience, high above the sordid going-ons of the Wanchai main drag.
Their speciality is a wonderful selection of British bottled beer. I’ve hankered after Sneck Lifter ever since I saw it on a website. Worth the wait. An absolute belter. Advertised as strong, but just a touch over 5%. Still had that warming spiritous flavour. Outstanding beer.
The second beer I tried was a delightful golden ale named for a travel author Alfred Wainwright. Very finely made, with an uncloying sweetness that made for a very pleasant sip. Nice happy hour times as well.
A quick post from almost the highest bar in the world. The Ritz-Carlton advertises that it’s Ozone Bar on the 118th level of the ICC building in Kowloon is the highest bar in the world. (Also has the highest indoor pool). It’s shut, so I’m slimming it on the 102nd floor Lounge and Bar.
The views are simply stunning and almost surreal. Boats, cars, barges look like toys. The beer list is compact, but features the surprisingly tasty Hong Kong Beer. Dark gold with a pleasant tang, it is going down a treat. I can’t see any evidence of another HK craft brewer in action, so it’s becoming a favourite. By the way, check out the art work in the photo below.
If you want to get a sense of the explosion in China’s wealth, visit Zhujiang New Town. This is a part of Guangzhou that will blow your mind even if you aren’t aren’t a connoisseur of skyscrapers. They’ve just gone berserk here and the variety of glass covered behemoths gives Shanghai a run for its money. There’s some quite exceptional buildings including the remarkable Canton Tower.
This is the expat part of town (apparently) and the giveaway is a place like The Brew. It’s a Canadian sports bar with a good range of burgers, wings and beer. It also shows all sports (I’m watching Super 15 now).
There’s a range of bottles from a group called Brewers & Union. The Steph Weiss was a seriously good Hefeweizen , but I can’t tell whether it is German, Belgian or South African. Still, the labelling is cool and the beer’s better. Check out the website and Untappd and make up your own mind. So there you have it. Drinking a beer made in Europe by South Africans in a bar run by Canadians in Guangzhou watching two NZ teams play rugby.
Most of the bars on this list are rubbish, but one caught this correspondent’s eye – the Mos Eisley Cantina (official name Chalmun’s Cantina) from Star Wars. Yep, “Cantina”. They were all the go on Tatoonie.
via Cool Material: “You go to the Mos Eisley Cantina for the smokey cool vibe and the ridiculously catchy live music (by Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes). We have no idea what their craft beer list looks like, but we’re sure there are some wild drinks being served up. As with a lot of movie bars, the atmosphere can get hostile at times, so make sure to bring a few friends (or one Jedi master). Just make sure you leave your droids outside because, unlike killing someone, they’re a no-no.”