A busy night on the botf with a few new members to be inducted and a botf takeover of the full aft deck. Our first inductee;
Our second (very excited) inductee;
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.
It’s been a wild Melbourne like day in Sydney. Sunny, cold snap, drenching rain and now sunny and becoming warm. Now perfect conditions for an early trip home.
Vintage Cellars at Wynyard has the odd unique and BotF’s great friend, Pete (yet to be inducted) tipped us off to a couple. Not too sure what to make of the Ruddles. Starts bland, but kicks, but not with the coffee/caramel that the label suggests. One for an open glass another time.
It’s still windy and some big yachts are out. There’s a chill in the wind, but the sun’s taking the edge off. One of these days I’ll do Two Birds Sunset Ale with the classic BotF sunset, but for the time being it still looks pretty good. One of the best beers going around and good to see them in Vintage Cellars.
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 the weekend, I sampled two “Summer Ales” that couldn’t have more different backgrounds. My brother had muled a couple of cans of Narragansett Summer Ale (and a great pint glass) from the US for me. I then spotted a rarity in Aldi – a single bottle of Storm Brewing’s Summer Dayze (TM) Ale – from their “Artisan Collection” and their “Handcrafted Collection”. I say rare because when it comes to beer normally all Aldi will let you buy is a six pack at minimum.
Narragansett comes from Rhode Island. It was a dominant brand in New England in the 1890s and early 20th century, but closed down. It has subsequently been revived with a pretty significant nostalgia play. The flagship Narragansett Lager isn’t even brewed in Rhode Island any more. It was the beer of the Boston Red Sox for over 30 years, so the nostalgia play makes sense. Whilst the first Narragansett Lager was made in 1890, the Summer Ale is a recent innovation and is actually brewed in Rhode Island. It is as sessionable as they come. Whilst on 24 IBUs, there is a pleasant little tang at the end. Definitely case worthy.
I ripped in to the Summer Dayze (TM) Ale, without looking at the beer label hyperbole. Expecting a mildly hoppy ale, I instead encountered a potpourri of ginger, pineapple and malt. Beer label hyperbole explains that it does indeed contain ginger – but I don’t that they were intending this to be a straight ginger beer. Whatever they intended – just avoid this. Can’t believe they went to the trouble of trademarking “Summer Dayze Ale”.
The saddest news of the week was the passing of Lou Reed. He toured a few years ago and performed his Berlin album in Sydney – still kicking myself for not getting off my arse for that one. Naturally, Lou’s been on high rotation at home in the last few days. The last track I heard before Lou’s death was Last Great American Whale (off of New York), which was being played at Frankie’s Pizza. I thought – “I’ve really got to listen to that album again”. Very few artists make classics 20 years apart and it’s a testament to Lou’s durability that New York came out more than 20 years after The Velvet Underground and Nico. New Sensations, with its upbeat songs like Turn to Me and I Love You Suzanne, was an album that was played relentless by me and mates whilst we were at University. I’ll never tire of hearing that dead-pan voice – see ya. Lou.