Over the years, the 4 Pines Keller Door has released some beers with some weird and wonderful ingredients. Chocolate Seaweed Porter, Porky Pig and Fig, Banana Bread and Espresso, Apple and Blackcurrant Crumble, Black Forest (cake) Imperial Stout and Cherry Pie Beer are some examples of the concoctions that have flowed from the taps both at the Manly base and around the country. It looks like they’ve let their imagination go beserk lately and they’ve promised a “series of ten cask ales each individually hopped to cocktail inspired ingredients”. The series is called the Spice Rack Cask Ales.
They’ve kept this pretty quiet and it was by accident that this correspondent pulled in last Thursday for a quick one and was able to partake in a pint of the first in the series. Now I’ve always ordered pints (unless someone can come up with a way to fit 568ml in a half-pint glass). I think, though with the challenging concoctions that the Spice Rack Cask Ales series will deliver, a half pint is the way to go. Number one in the series is Raspberry & Kafir (sic) Lime. From the first mouthful I was put off. Not sure if this was meant to be sweet or tart – I just found it in a no-mans-land and it was a struggle. A pint was just too much.
On my next visit, number two in the series had been tapped. I went for a half of Strawberries & Cream, which promised to be “just like the lolly”. I sipped with some trepidation – but this was a really pleasant surprise. There was a creamy sweetness – partly delivered by the smoothness of the hand-pull and partly by the essence of strawberry. There’s nothing cloying about this beer and it is extremely sessionable. One to get in for, as it looks like there’s only one keg of each variety. The kegs are lying in wait in a fridge at the 4 Pines and some of the names are intriguing (but I won’t spoil the surprise). Releasing ten hand pulled casks is a gutsy call by 4 Pines and good on them for challenging us. Looking forward to some more surprises.
In other Manly news, the Rubber Duckie Taphouse will be changing its name tomorrow night. From Thursday 28th, Murrays at Manly, which became the Rubber Duckie Taphouse, will become the Yardarm Taphouse. Unlike the previous owners of this venue, the new proprietors, Kevin and Jules, actually give a sh1t about their customers. They’ll give this a real crack, I reckon, and Manly will be the better for it. Would love to be there for the launch, but I’ll rustle up a couple of other correspondents to see if they can’t be there. One correspondent that won’t be there at the launch night did do a rather prescient write up a couple of months ago. Sandy – was this intentional?
|Your correspondent’s day job enables me to visit the birdcage at the thoroughbred races at Flemington in Melbourne once a year. For those who may be unaware, this is the annual look-at-me fest that occurs in a roped off section of the track full of sponsors marquees. There is little focus on the actual horse racing unfortunately and while the beer is free, it is bland. The birdcage is something to do once and, if you like to actually watch a race, I’d recommend you popout and watch from the rails.|
|Frivolity dealt with, we now come to the nub of this story. Two of the botf correspondents are regular visitors to Melbourne but rarely at the same time. The planets were in alignment with bladdamasta also at the races so after failing to pick a single winner we teamed up and headed to North Fitzroy. Like sweating gold sovereigns the botf correspondents extract the most out of every Melbourne visit by wedging in as many new venues and new beers as possible. First on the list this evening was the Fitzroy Pinnacle on St. Georges Road. This eclectic pub started life as Fitzroy’s land office, where locals would climb to the top floor and point out which plot of land they wanted. Now it stocks a small but fine range of Aussie craft beers, has a front bar like your Gran’s loungeroom and a homey, small beergarden. Standouts from the visit were the 2 Brothers Grizz Amber Ale and the Challenger English IPA by Mash Brewing. Definitely a worthy venue.|
|Next stop was The Gertrude in Fitzroy. On this correspondents last visit the venue was hosting ‘Dark Beer’ month and the hope was that something similar would be going on. We were in luck. It was ‘Weird Beer’ this time round and never was a title more apt. In a session over the pubs famous steak we managed a Killer Python Kolsch by True South, The Good Son by Dainton and, to top it off, a Blueberry Hefeweizen by Prickly Moses. The Hefe at first look could have gone either way, cringingly sweet or scowlingly acerbic. However, the scribes agreed and gave it 3 of a possible 5 stars. In our particular pantheon that is relatively high praise. I do believe we than proceeded to the well disguised Workers Club on Brunswick St but by then the weirdness had descended.|
It’s been great to get out into Melbourne’s inner-city suburbia again, and BotF’s occasional Melbourne guide and inductee Cam covered himself in glory with his latest two selections. His two choices on this particular evening really showed why Melbourne is still the place to go when it comes to bar and beer experiences.
His first choice was inspired. I must admit when I hopped out of the cab, I was heading into a place called the Bouzy Rogue (which looks worthy of a visit in its own right), but instead we headed into what is essentially a bottle shop with a few tables to enjoy a sample or two. A beer store and café as Slow Beer’s website proclaims. Slow Beer’s shelves are overwhelming – I’ll be back another time to give these a thorough perusing – for now the taps. Slow Beer offers 4 taps, from which you can have a glass or fill up a growler. I’ve had a couple of great less than 3%ers lately. Boneyard’s Red Ale was a fabulous drop that I had recently at Mrs Parmas. As good as Boneyard was, To Øl’s Sundancer was incredible. Sharp, opaque, fresh and really intriguing at only 2.7%. To Øl means two beers in Danish and is run by two students of Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, one of the founders of Mikkeller. Like Mikkeller, To Øl is a gypsy brewer and Sundancer is actually made in Belgium. Bloody complicated, but bloody good.
The second beer we tried, which was ideal given the miserable cold afternoon Melbourne had laid on, was a Smoked Porter with as good a back story as the Sun Dancer. Smog Rocket is made by Beavertown Brewery, which is based in London and has as one of its co-founders, the son of the legendary Robert Plant (Logan’s story is told here). It commenced life in a pub, but has now moved into stand-alone premises. Whilst there is the temptation to sicker at the name, “BEAVERTOWN WAS THE OLD COCKNEY NAME GIVEN TO THE HISTORIC DE BEAUVOIR AREA, FAMED ACROSS VICTORIAN LONDON FOR ITS RICH CHARACTERS AND INFINITE REVELRY“. We’ll take ‘em at their word. The beer is beautiful. Smog Rocket pours black, but not too viscous. It is rich and satisfying, and eminently sessionable – despite its smoked quality (I often it a challenge to back up immediately on a smoked beer). The other two taps had great stuff including a 10% stout from Clown Shoes. Tempting – but Cam had another establishment to show me. Slow Beer – I’ll be back.
I love a bar with a non-descript entrance. The only thing that betrays that 72 Auburn Parade, Hawthorn East as a bar is a keg in the door. Up one flight of stairs are more kegs and a single piece of A4 paper blue tacked to the wall with “East of Everything” printed on it. Finally at the top of the stairs, you enter a very cool and classy establishment. Service was A1. We were given a quick intro the philosophy of East of Everything. 6 taps – turned over weekly – great food and a blast of a place to be. The six taps on our night couldn’t have been more varied. Beers from NZ, Canada, Japan, Germany and Victoria. 6 taps, 5 countries, 4 continents.
We launched straight into Garage Project‘s Day of the Dead. This was smooth, big and a little buzzy. That would be the agave and the chili, that they’ve put in the mix. It was a useful combo as we stood on the veranda overlooking the train line copping a cool breeze. We also enjoyed the Rauchbier, which was the discount beer for the evening. East of Everything is worth the trip from the city and I’ll be looking forward to another evening in its anonymous surrounds.
Most of the time, when this correspondent is in Melbourne, he schleps it down in whatever the opposite of the Paris End of Collins Street is. For a long time it has been a barren place, which has had the upside of forcing me into the ‘burbs of Melbourne. With so much development occurring in the Docklands district, however, there’s some cool places starting to emerge. A good example is Bar Nacional, which can be found at 727 Collins Street. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much (bars in offices have a negative effect), but after a solid 90 minutes of good beer and some tapas – I’m a convert. I’m grateful to new BotF inductee, Toby, for the introduction.
Bar Nacional is actually quite well appointed. Comfy stools and a warm fit-out make it a chillsome place. The beer list offers a range of tap beers and some really interesting stuff in bottle. It is run by a couple Aussies that have been to Spain and were inspired by their culinary adventures. The food is brilliantly presented and the staff are passionate about what they serve. The crispy pig’s head caught our eye – and came out looking magnificent. The felafel shaped parsley crumbed orbs were light, but not as meaty as promised. The olives were very solid – but the stand-out was the dish of the tastiest choricito, which swam in a very moppable cider sauce.
Whilst there was a good assortment of Australian craft beer (Hargreave Hill and Mornington), there was also a healthy range of beers from Spanish Brewer – La Zaragozana. Ambar Especial is the flagship, which is a typical malty Euro lager – but the other varieties held more interest. First up, we tried the intriguingly named Ambar Caesar Avgvsta. This is a beautifully packaged wheat beer. The banana is very prominent and it is a touch on the sweet side, but is very, very drinkable. Equally well packaged is the Ambar Negra – a Schwarzbier. There’s plenty going on in this beer. Again, I found it a touch sweet, but the mouth feel and the roasted maltiness make it a real pleasure.
Toby and I were I initially underwhelmed by our first couple of mouthfuls of the next beer we tried. 1906 Red Vintage is made by Hijos de Rivera, the makers of Estrella Galicia – another malt bomb. 1906 Red Vintage is a marzen with a beautiful red colour. Even though it was a big 8% and had a very yeasty smell, the first couple of sips were underwhelming. But this beer grows on you and the malt became bigger and bigger. By the end of the glass it was having a powerful impact. I’ll be back just to try this beer again. As good as the Spanish beers were, I had to have a glass of the Mornington Imperial Stout. This black beauty is just dribblingly good. Black as pitch, velvet to drink and massive in flavour. Doesn’t get much better than this.
It was with much regret that I left Manly a few weeks ago after 13 months working in Sydney, on a daily basis being inducted to the fascinations of the growing boutique beer industry in Australia. I am indebted to bladdamasta and chums for their ceaseless enthusiasm for the craft, especially the tasting part of it, and the introduction to a veritable affluence of hoppy beverages on the 6pm out of Circular Quay. It was with tremendous pride, as a card carrying member of the Press, that I presented myself at GABS in Melbourne as a representative of the maritime BOTF crew, as well as one of their ambassadors in numerous new pubs and old hotels from Hervey Bay to Hobart – spreading the good news to anyone willing to listen (or read), of which there were many.
Beer drinking has always been a passion for me. As I left Sydney, it was the start of the Craft Ale Week, and as I landed back in the UK, I was unsurprised to walk straight into a multitude of CAMRA sponsored beer fests, including “IPA is the Only Way” at the real ale pub, the Hollybush (just outside Duffield in Derbyshire, if you’re ever passing), as well as the age old annual Norwich Beer Festival, which, with an unprecedented 40 or so seasonal dark ales on offer, even I had trouble sampling them all – not to say I didn’t give it a go, of course, thanks to the innovation of the third measure mark on their 1 pint glasses… the consequence being I’m unable to recall or scribe upon the merits of those I sampled (probably just as well, as it would make for an unreadably long post). Suffice to say, with another 3 times as many other ales also on offer, including a healthy injection of international beers (sadly none from Australia), a good time was had by all; not least because of the traditional pub games on offer – your intrepid reporter is happy to declare earnings to the tune of one fez for winning a bout of Shut the Box. I should say that the flavours available at GABS were more diverse, interesting, and superior to those on offer in the UK – refer to my previous GABS posting to whet your appetite over an espresso beer, for example.
But to me, yes, beer festivals have their place. I’m a lifetime member of CAMRA, and these events are a critical way to promote the wonders of the amber bead, despite the ludicrous amount of these public gatherings you now can choose from. However, the real festivals are those which are serendipitous – informal gatherings of friends, brought together for no other reason than to socialise over a pint or schooner, hell bent on trying out new, exciting concoctions in the alchemy world of brewing. And that’s where we come back to the unique BOTF concept – I mean one can hardly introduce Back of the Clapham Omnibus group to Londoners going home after a day in the office – for starters, the driving’s so atrocious you’d spill your beer everywhere.
No, with the kind permission of the committee, I will attempt to spread the BOTF gospel in wider fields around the world – I shall endeavour to take pictures next time and limit the length of my contributions – and I’ll push for a world that is exposed to great Australian beer… just the reverse of olde England shipping IPA 200 years ago to Australia, let’s leverage the modern distribution network to bring real flavour to those who have now lost the plot (but not the enthusiasm). Let the spirit of BOTF – all about bringing the idea of impromptu beer festivals to any gathering – spread it’s wings… Let the global Australian beer festival commence!
The 2013 edition of the Melbourne Cup was shaping up to be a shocker. I was crook, there was no free lunch to be found in these expense challenged times and we couldn’t even get the television to work on our floor. So, for the first time in my memory – I bailed early and went home. The ferry was a solo trip, and as I’d volunteered for driving duty – a light beer was the only option.
I wasn’t going to let the whole day go to waste and I at least used the time on the Back of the Ferry to have a half decent read of the form. Melbourne Cup is a mug’s race. There’s 24 horses and plenty haven’t even run in Australia in anger before they put hoof on Flemington turf. Basically it is a crap shoot. The good thing is that because there are so many mugs having their once a year flutter – the pools are huge and favourites pay good odds. If you jag an exotic it is generally happy days. Well, that is what happened to this correspondent. The trifecta was claimed with a modest wager and there is nothing to lift a malaise like a juicy trifecta pay-out. There’s also nothing more satisfying than declaring “Bugger cooking, love – I’ve won on the Cup” and taking the family out for a big feed (even if I wasn’t really up to it).
Our usual haunts were still well packed with now well soaked punters. Girls’ fascinators were either crushed, askew (hard to tell actually) or gone. Heels were off and champagne fuelled hangovers were still being worked on at a furious rate. “Perhaps we should give the Phoenix above the Steyne a go,” opined Mrs Bladdamasta. I wasn’t so sure. Whilst the trifecta divvy was a health one, the Phoenix has very good form at parting laowei from their hard earneds without you really realising it. Plus I’ve had an unofficial ban on them since the Phoenix charged me for tea at Yum Cha at the old site. Well, have no fear. The Phoenix above the Steyne is an absolute winner – particularly if you take the advice of the two gentlemen in the photo and go on a Tuesday. That’s double dumpling and pancake day, which sets you up well to only order modestly from the Mains menu. The menu isn’t extensive. If you want seafood – you pay for it, but there’s tanks of fresh fish and Pippies in XO sauce goes well anytime. My Honey Pepper Beef Cubes were awesome and the Peking Duck pancakes (when 2 for 1) are a great entrée. This family will be returning to the Manly Phoenix.
The tap beer range is uninspiring (rarely is that the feature of a Chinese restaurant. There was however a surprise. White Horse Lager is a revival of an old Tooth’s label, that Carlton have launched in limited release. Rather than repeating the whole story, it is best that you read this article by The Shout. The white horse is the symbol of Kent, UK, from where John Tooth, the founder of Tooth & Co, comes. Hence Kent Brewery, Kent Brown Old etc etc. It could just be Carlton Draught to be honest. Very same old, same old lager, quite pale and inoffensive. I am a fan of a more malty Tsingtao with a good China – but with a raspy throat, anything easy to swallow and provide anaesthetic qualities was welcome. A novelty at best.
So – a memorable 2013 Melbourne Cup. The trifecta, a decent China, an Untappd unique and sober.
On a recent work trip to Perth managed to visit the port of Fremantle. Fremantle is roughly 45 minutes by cab from the Perth CBD.
The first port of call was the Little Creatures brewery which is situated on Fremantle Harbour. We sat out the back of the brewery in what could be described as beer garden on the water’s edge. Interestingly there were a number of patrons in the beer garden where a large sandpit kept a number of small children entertained whilst their parents could have a quiet couple of beers. We had a great view of a variety of yachts and all type’s of boats coming and going from the harbour, the beer of choice for me was pale ale, my colleagues (Rob and Yardy) opted for the Pilsner and the Rogers. All beers where of excellent quality and a trip to the brewery is one of highlights of a trip to Perth.
We walked a short distance to Freo’s cosmopolitan “Cappacino Strip”. This area is full of restaurants, bars and as the name would suggest cafes. We visited a microbrewer called the Monk Brewery and Kitchen. A great variety of beers, the Kolsch beer was very good, Yardy and Rob both tried out the tasting trays – the Chief was strongest at 6%, but Yardy preferred the Kolsch. Interestingly we were asked not to stand and drink beers at our tables as the Monk is licenced as a restaurant (apparently you should not stand). Good place, friendly staff, good beers on the main strip in Freo and a place to watch the world go by.
We flew home to Sydney on Friday and with it being the last weekend of the month, it was Harbord Bowlo Fishing Comp for me. Not the best time of the year for fishing, the water still has to warm up a bit and the weather and sea conditions were less than ideal (onshore winds with a reasonable sea bump). Fished Dee Why beach on Saturday and Sunday mornings to catch 15+ whiting of which 3 were legal (over 27cms) and 1 bream. Flogged Curly beach from 10pm to 2am Saturday without getting a single bite. (Un)fortunately most other anglers also struggled.
Sydney Craft Beer Week is over for another year, and BotF’s attendance was quite frankly pathetic as cricket matches and work et al conspired against any real boots’n'all attendance. This correspondent’s only real experience of what looked like a wonderful week was an all too brief visit to Hart’s Pub, where Doctor’s Orders Brewing had taken over a number of taps. Well, if this was to be my only Sydney Craft Beer Week experience, at least I’d be able to do two of my favourite things – drink the Doc’s beers and drink at Harts Pub.
I brought a trio of work mates with me, none of whom are shy when it comes to trying something new. That was a good thing – because all of Doc’s beers challenge the palate, and with such a wide range on offer – some palate challenging occurred. I had the good fortune to bump into Doc during our all too brief session, and he’s definitely developed a loyal following. At 5.30pm, when we popped in, there was quite a crowd. Apparently there were people waiting at 12 to get in. That meant that I missed out on a couple that I hadn’t tried including the wonderfully named “Morning After Pill”. No matter, there were still at seven of the Doc’s prescriptions to try including two off the hand pump.
First up was Electrolyte, which is Doc’s take on the Gose style of beer. Predominantly a wheat beer, this also has salt and coriander in it. For me it started off like a hefe, but had a very tart crisp finish. Want to drink this in the sunshine. With not much time available, I vaulted straight from the Electrolyte to Intravenous. Intravenous is a “Barrel Aged Belgian Black IPA” (try saying that after a pint) and quite simply it is a sensation. The Doc reckons it’s “boozy”, but whilst it is big in many ways the 7.7% ABV is handled really well. It has plenty going on, but I really love its jet blackness and back bone of bitterness. An outstanding beer. It’s always a please to drink with the Doc. There is one of Doc’s creations I didn’t fall in love with at that is the green version of Cephalopod. Watchin my most adventurous mate try a tulip of this was almost the highlight of the day. It starts off ok, but it didn’t end well. I recorded the facial expressions, but have decided to protect my mate’s grimacing from public consumption.
After the quick scamper down the hill to Circular Quay, we had a treat on the voyage home. We were able to witness the departure of the Radiance of the Seas and all that that entails. Tugs are great things and I love seeing these little boats push 90,000 tonnes of boat on its way. The Radiance of the Seas is ridiculously opulent with 4 lifts operating in glass cylinders on the side of the boat. The Radiance is apparently one of the first cruise boats to have pool tables that have gyroscopically operated surfaces that provide a constantly horizontal surface. Like I said – ridiculous. Cruise season has started.
Son has a school history project to complete when we get back to Oz. He decided the topic would be the Roman Baths. A trip round the Baths with audio guide was required and we learnt all about Aquae Sulis and the Roman goddess Sulis Minerva.
After the trip we went to the nearby Westgate pub for lunch. On the beer front there are plenty of cask strong ciders which caught the eye, but not wanting anything to strong I picked the St. Austell Tribute Cornish Pale Ale (4.2%). A very easy drinking beer, you could easily have a few of these, a very good session beer. The pub itself dates back to 1677 and was originally a coach inn, it now has a modern decor, larger interior than you would expect and friendly staff. The pub has a reasonable food menu, a large array of different lagers, beers and strong ciders; being close to the Baths there was a mixture of tourists and locals.
The following day spent I time chasing trout on boat in Blagdon Lake, in the Mendip Hills, with my brother. Weather has been mild on this trip home but on this day the wind was a bit raw and from the east (summer wind usually from the south west). It was hard work on the oars but we managed to eek out six trout all around 2-3lb, mainly on floating lines, nymphs and I managed 3 on dry flies, a claret fly called Bobs Bits. With family and friends already stocked up with trout, we stopped off on the way home at the Winford Arms. I have blogged this before but we managed to exchange trout for beers. I chose one of my favourite beers the Bath Gem Ale. I expect Blagdon Trout will be on the specials board.
This is my final blog for this UK trip, one of my favourite pubs is the Hunters Rest which is a great country pub with favourite beers and ciders on tap. I have been playing around with the iphone camera, not sure how the panorama shot looks but here it is anyway. Whilst typing this up I have just watched some TV footage of Sydney and the Naval festival, weather looks good and will back at work (great!) and on the back of the ferry shortly.
After almost five years living in China one develops a respect for the ingenuity of the Chinese people. If there a dollar to be made and an opportunity to be exploited they will do their best.
None of the bar staff spoke English and my Chinese is only just sufficient to glean basic information. They were new and indeed were serving Australian beer despite the fact it was being brewed on premises. There were two brews (despite three taps) a Lager and a Stout.
There is no mention of Brigalow Australia Beer on the net and a second visit will be necessary for a more detailed investigative process.
BotF sampled both the Lager and the Stout. To be honest initial tasting of the Lager was an immature beer with absolutely no gas but improved upon further sampling.
The Stout was very gutsy and a meal in itself.
BotF is intrigued by the name “Brigalow” which is a tree mainly found in the outer Darling Downs of Queensland. For those with an agricultural slant prevalence of Brigalow trees is normally an indication of good quality soils. The tree itself is a legume and deposits nitrogen over time. Hence Brigalow country is also synonymous with good farming land. Somebody has done some research or it could indeed be that there is an Aussie patron somewhere in the background of this establishment.
By the way the BBQ was fantastic Xinjiang style lamb kebabs with lots of spices. Absolutely delish and any beer is a good compliment.