Despite oppressive heat, I am loving Victoria. It is an easy State to drive around and for a first-timer other than Melbourne, there is so much to see. For the last couple of days we’ve been doing the Great Ocean Road and the Otway Ranges. We’ve seen some wonderful things, but I’ve also left plenty on the table making a return trip mandatory. Part of the lost opportunity was merely a function of time and children. Part was also poor planning and ignorance.
My two faux pas were not to phone ahead and to not even be aware of a venue that looked really cool. I’ve been a fan of Prickly Moses and knowing I was in the Otways, I was always going to pay a visit. After dropping the girls at Les Mis in Lorne, I set off for the Otway Estate in Barongarook, where the brewery is located. This is a 60km drive through forests and fields and dirt roads and by-ways. Not too tough, but bloody disappointing when you’ve navigated through back-roads that only locals use and the sign declares – CLOSED. D’oh, d’oh, d’oh.
I consoled myself, marginally, by visiting the Gellibrand River Hotel. This pub is a little like the Tardis. The front bar is minute, but the dining room is expansive and must have a reputation with a $33 surf and turf on the menu. Photos of when Gellibrand had a large population (maybe the 30s) adorn the walls and it was clear this place had some grandeur.
After doing the Otway Fly, I stopped at the Beech Forest Hotel. This is as simple as it gets. One beer on tap (VB) and a simple, single large room. Interestingly it’s for sale. Very remote. Beech Forest’s claim to fame is the Cliff Young, the inaugural winner of the Sydney to Melbourne running race came from here.
The frustrating thing for me was after finding some of the more obscure back roads and hamlets of the Otways, the one place I didn’t visit was Forrest, which it turns out has a microbrewery. D’oh. The way my luck was running, it would have been shut, if I had passed through. Self described as equal parts microbrewery, eating place and mountain-biking hang out – the Forrest Brewing Company looks really intriguing, and a must-visit next time.
As I reflected that evening over a couple of very sessionable Bellarine Heads Ales, I thought about all the things I would have to do the next time I visit this wonderful part of the world. Do the Gibson Steps next to the 12 Apostles, see Johanna Beach at Sunset, go to Cape Otway and of course call into Prickly Moses and Forrest Brewing Company. Hopefully it won’t be 40 degrees the next time.
I think I have another must do for any tourist to Sydney. The Island Bar can be found on Cockatoo Island, which is west of the Sydney Harbour Bridge between Birchgrove and Woolwich. Not only is the bar in a terrific location – the only way there is by boat. The most affordable way to get to Cockatoo Island is by Sydney Ferry (12 minutes from Circular Quay). We caught the Sirius, which is a member of the First Fleet fleet (all the ferries are named after ships that were in the First Fleet that arrived in Sydney in 1788). There’s always the old water taxi and for the well heeled, private boats can pull in as well.
The bar is self-described as a “European Beach Resort Style Bar”. Hmmm. I reckon it’s just so unique. The actual bar resides in some old shipping containers and there are a variety of chairs and stools to sit on. The best option is to grab one of the many picnic rugs and just lie in the sun. The views look east from Cockatoo Island and on a day like we experienced, there are few better places to be on Sydney Harbour or indeed in Sydney. The drinks menu concentrates on cocktails. The beer menu is very skinny offering only Peroni or Fat Yak (which made one of my companions – Illiards) very happy. Magners has stitched it up nicely and have their Original and Pear ciders as the exclusive ciders. These were flying from the bar, and I helped in that cause. One of my @Untappd followers was critical of me drinking cider made from concentrate – but really there was no choice. The Pear was as plain as, and the Original was functional for a warm day.
I hadn’t been to Cockatoo Island before. We were camping for the night with 3 other families, including fellow correspondent illiards’ brood. What a find! The camping was extremely easy. You simply turn up with all your food and sleeping bags, unzip the entrance of the already erected tent and remove the two camp chairs and you are done. illiards opted for the Glamping option where two raised beds are provided – but really if you nail the candlelit drinking properly, aided by some sherbets at the Island Bar in the afternoon, then sleeping is a doddle. Cockatoo Island is an 18 hectare large island that has been variously a penal settlement and a shipyard. There’s plenty of evidence of the latter activity left, and it’s possible to circumnavigate the island. When you sit on the island, you just realise how much maritime traffic Sydney has. I’ll definitely be back to Cockatoo Island, but I might see if I can get the house on the hill next to the Tennis Court.
There’s been a number of beery birthdays of late. Back of the Ferry is a big fan of @Untappd – a website and smartphone app that enables people to drink socially. It’s sort of Facebook for pissheads, with links to FourSquare and Twitter as well. Whilst I’m not Back of the Ferry’s technology correspondent, I will proffer the view that I don’t know if Four Square has legs – I don’t get it. Untappd seems to be going from strength to strength, though and they celebrated their second birthday with a birthday badge. Appropriately, Back of the Ferry obtained their badge on the back of the ferry with a Feral White, which wasn’t an @Untappd unique. There’s a few social beer apps out there – Beer Buddy, Kenny the Beer Dog – but @Untappd looks like it has the front running. Happy Birthday to the @Untappd creators.
A BotF obsession is to reach the 1,000 unique beers on our Back of the Ferry @Untappd account. We are getting close. A place that has been particularly helpful in reaching that goal celebrates their 3rd birthday today.Porter’s Balgowlah is located on the corner of Sydney Road and Woodlands Road Balgowlah. 3 years ago they became an independent bottle shop and their ability to turn up weird and wonderful beers is pretty remarkable for a suburban bottlo. Lately they’ve turned up some absolute rippers and the Black Chocolate Stout made by Brooklyn Brewery was one the finest I’ve had for some time. I’m also a fan of their support of Southwark Stout. To celebrate, they put on a beer and wine festival. Stone & Wood, Badlands and Hillbilly Cider turned up and Porters offered tastings of some of their new beers including one from Cambodia, that might get a run in a separate post. A very happy birthday and a very good idea.
It was also this correspondent’s birthday this week. As previously mentioned, my birthday coincides with Halloween, and it’s always been a muted affair as I try and avoid the faux Halloween celebrations. I did manage to slip over to a favourite BotF venue for one of the few pumpkin beers I’ve seen this year. Illawarra Brewing loves making this type of beer and their 2012 variety is a good ‘un. Whilst it proclaims to have pumpkin and yam in the mix, I reckon the dominant story of this beer was the use of spice. This was a warming, rich, spiritous beer whose spiciness comes from the bourbon barrels in which it was aged. Happy Halloween to me.
Rather than endure the nightmare of Halloween on our street, I spent the evening at a charity dinner for Accessible Arts. The dinner was held on a single long table that pretty much ran along the length of Pier 2 at Sydney’s Walsh Bay. Spectacular views of the bridge last all night. I loved the fact that the fishermen weren’t squeezed completely off the wharf. I also slipped in a quick visit to Baxters Inn in between the end of work and the start of the dinner – but that’s a story for another day.
No it’s not a typo. For reasons unknown the Manly ferries have gone arse about. For efficiency (a word not usually associated with NSW public transport systems) the ferries have engines at both ends. So you sail in to the Quay and sail into Manly without having to do a 3 point turn. So far, so good. The ends of the Manly Ferry are different. One end is the expansive area we’ve come to know and love. The other end is cramped and filled with anchors and chains and other natural equipment. For whatever. Reason the Back of the Ferry heading to Manly has always been the expansive end.
For the last 3 weeks, things have changed and the cramped end has been at the Manly bound stern end. So tonight we face into the breeze with two uniques. This is an in situ blog so now i’ll be terse. Mountain Goat IPA – phenomenal newbie aka an @untappd unique. Very bitter – but in a beautiful sharp way.
Aspall cider – love a 500ml
Manningford trout fishery is situated near the village of Pewsey in Wiltshire. The lake is fed by the chalk stream, river Avon, which runs from nearby Salisbury plain. Salisbury plain is home to a number of military bases and the distant rumbling of artillery guns was very audible in the afternoon. I have fished this lake many times before, it is a picturesque and the water is gin clear. Fishing is not too difficult and it is often a matter of trying not to catch, a good place for a day out and a young fly fisherman.
A walk round the bank, we spotted a pod of rainbow trout, hare’s ear nymph on 8lb tippet and floating line soon had their attention and the fish were charging towards the fly. We pulled fly quickly away, decided we would look for something bigger. Kept walking the bank, plenty of casting practice and we hook up, not a big one but a short fight and 1st fish is on the bank. The ticket we had was to catch a limit of 3 fish, and we ended with the best trout being 3 ½ lb (with two others about 2lb each). All flies seemed to interest the trout, but nymphs, hare’s ears, green damsel and black buzzers were the pick.
That evening visited the Coronation Tap (Cori tap) in Clifton for a couple of jars with my brother. This pub is famous, at least in Bristol, not sure why we had not visited in quite a few years, as it has a great atmosphere and unique range of ciders. Clifton is one of the oldest parts of Bristol with a lot of Georgian and earlier period architecture. This pub dates back to the 1700’s, close to the Down’s (a large common land area in the centre Bristol) and is a favourite with locals and students (Clifton is in the heart of student land) . A venue for bands, Chris Jagger(Mick’s brother) was playing later on, but we were not hanging round. On to the beers, a number of real ales including Bath Gem Ale and good range of ciders, with my favourite’s Thatchers Traditional on tap – described on the board as the 1904 recipe, hazy and uncarbonated. There is also a cider, the Exhibition which is only available at the Cori Tap. The barman told me this cider is also from Thatchers brewery and is sold in half pints as its strength is 8.4%.
A couple of ciders and we each decided to take a couple of pints of Thatchers home, filled from the keg, and for me unique carry out vessels (recycled plastic bottles, but I am not complaining).
Recently I wrote about the proliferation of bars and dining places in South Wharf, Melbourne. Work took me down there again and I got to experience more of their charms. They’ve actually started to name the new lanes and walkways along the South West side of the Yarra and the stretch East of “Yarra Edge” that ends at the Melbourne Convention Centre is called Dukes Walk. There’s at least 5 bars and one restaurant along this stretch, not counting what’s in the Hilton. Some of these places are having a real crack.
I’ve become quite partial to the Common Man ($7.50 pints of Hoppy Hefe will do that), but found myself visiting Bohemian on consecutive nights. Bohemian is a bar/restaurant that offers a great range of latin beers and Spanish food. I had the Chupa – Chups De Codorniz aka Quail thigh lollipops in honey and soy that were just wonderful. There are nightly specials as well as a standard menu of tapas, mains, paella and desserts. In addition to the Quilmes, Estrella Galicia and Moritz there’s a smattering of other beers and ciders. I decided to have a crack at the Fog City Cloudy Cider. This is made by the East 9th Brewing Co that have previously graced these pages as the brewer of Doss Blockos. It’d be fair to say that BotF was disappointed by Doss Blockos, but they’ye done a far better job on this pear and apple cider. The picture on the label is quite nice, but the hyperbole is illegible due to the colour scheme – white on light mint – probably a good thing. The cider is quite tart and over ice – which is how it was served at Bohemian – was a great opening drink. This a real contract brew as East 9th Brewing are based in Prahan and the cider is a product of New Zealand.
I was in Melbourne at the time of the “Earthquake” – but maybe because of the rambunctiousness of the function I attended – it was not noticeable. The earthquake wasn’t actually in Melbourne – the epicentre was in Moe, which is 135kms west of Melbourne. The demands of the 24 hour news cycle meant that there was some initial hysteria – but the attached photo which was widely circulated on work E-Mails is probably the most realistic impression of the scale of the “Melbourne Earthquake of 19 June 2012″
This is the first belated blog of 2012 for me and the January round of the HB club fishing competition.
Weather that weekend was poor (worse weather than an English summer ? ) – particularly if fishing from a kayak in the middle of Sydney harbour. Easterly winds howling from the SE on Saturday and E/NE on Sunday – the seas where bumpy and skies mainly cloudy.
Having noted the increase in bird activity in the southern end of the harbour when travelling home from work on the ferry, hopes were high for a few fish.
On both Saturday and Sunday launched at Balmoral at around 5.30’ish, as the sun came up was greeted with sporadic splashes of fish activity. Senses were finely tuned scanning the water and listening for that tell tale splash. Once activity was spotted it was a matter of racing over and then slowly creeping up wind of the pod of fish. My favourite tools of the trade 9ft 8#weight fly rod, intermediate line, 10lb fluoro carbon and a small size 8-10 fly.
Fish torpedoing across the top water and with bait fishing flying out in all directions, a quick cast in, strip the line back fairly quickly and bang you were on. Line screams off the reel and now for a 20-30 minute fight (well it seems like a long time). Not every time did the fish make it successfully to the net, a couple of pulled hooks, a broken leader and plenty of cursing my luck.
All sounds easy? Not really, the fish were finicky. My mate fishing conventional lures on a spinning rod caught nothing on Sunday. Along with boats flying around the harbour putting the fish down, or fish going down as I approached a school or just being plain fussy. My favourite pattern, a gold headed white marabou fly accounted for a few and others caught a similar fly with a clear silicon body. Final score 5 bonitos and 1 trevally making a wet bum worthwhile. Other fish caught of note in the club comp – a 13kg mahi mahi with interestingly a cookie cutter shark bite on the side. Never seen a cookie cutter shark but worth looking up in wiki, looked to me like a lamprey bite.
Now for the cider, I could not believe my luck when on holiday in Forster, I wandered into a BWS store to find a bottle of Thatchers cider on the shelf. The Thatchers farm is on the outskirts of Bristol, renown in the West Country and is my favourite brand of cider. This particular one – Green Goblin – could have been designed for those a bit more upmarket (compared to a pint of rough) was very smooth and sweet and unfortunately I have no more left .
On Saturday and Sunday at the Australian Hotel in Sydney’s Rocks, the 7th Australian Beer Festival was held. Now Mrs Bladdamasta (and doesn’t she like that sobriquet!) doesn’t make many appearances on these pages. It would be fair to say that she is not the world’s biggest beer fan. However, with the promise of a smorgasbord of cider, Mrs B (that sounds better) made the trip on the ferry with me and we enjoyed a fine Saturday afternoon in the Rocks.
It’s a good value afternoon (so long as you can resist the temptation of t-shirts and other beer related trinkets). $5 for a tasting glass and $10 for 10 tasting tickets. A tasting ticket gets you probably 50ml of beers. If you liked something, you could use two tickets for a double shot. There was a couple of Macro brewers in amongst a sea of craft brewers. For example, the South African-Anglo brewer Cascade was there. As my @Untappd account revealed, it was an opportunity to try many beers that I hadn’t seen let alone sampled before. For Mrs B, she was pretty happy as a number of tents had a cider available as welll. Our first beverage of the day was a glass of Aussie Cider (I think the only only-cider stall). This drop ended up winning cider of the day.
Mrs B proceeded to rip through a few ciders – Pipsqueak Pear Cider and a Rocks Brewery Pickpocket Apple Cider amongst them. She declared the Pickpocket to be her favourite. Also sampled was a newcomer to the Australian Beer Scene – Shady Lady Beer. This is a highly distinctive beer – self proclaimed as “Lightly perfumed refreshing lager beer”, Shady lady is a rose infused lager “designed by women for women”. Mrs B tried some and said “It’s like drinking a liquid Turkish Delight…I’ve never really liked Turkish Delight” I had a sniff – you either like that scent or you don’t. Not for me.
The two highlights were 1) trying a number of beers that I hadn’t had before. Roadtrip IPA by Holgate Brewhouse, Porter by Illawarra Brewing Company, a Pilsner and a Bock from the Balmain Brewing Company, Raw from Pinchgut Brewing Co, anything from HopDog Beerworks and Vale IPA (please bottle that baby and send it North).
The second highlight is meeting some of the people behind the beers and putting faces to the twitter accounts and webpages. It is great to have a yarn to Jaron from 4 Pines, Gerard from Pinchgut, the jovial fellas from Balmain Brewing and the guys from Holgate. It’s a long day for all these guys – the set up, answering the same questions, dealing with pissheads etc – but they all seem to love it. The good news for us beer drinkers is that the brewers are universally positive about their businesses and what they do – long may it continue. Cheers to you all.
I will cover a bit of ground in this blog literally from north west to south west of England.
The family went on a trip up to the Lake District this week for a few days. A university veterinary reunion for mum in Keswick was the primary reason. So after a decent drive, the first stop was at Lake Windermere, the largest natural lake in England. Stunning landscapes and lots of walkers (may be too many) …. the home of poet William Wordsworth (“I wandered lonely as a cloud” …… you know the rest ). The weather was superb, a barmy 28C, hired a boat and sailed out on to the lake. Not quite Sydney Harbour and no long necks in sight went for a thirst quenching beer after the boat trip. At the top of Windermere is the village of Ambleside and the Wateredge pub, we found a good spot in the beer garden on the edge of lake. I went for a pint of Collie Wobbles beer which had a good tangy fruity taste. This beer was fairly light in colour and not too heavy at 3.8% and ideal on a hot day. This beer is from Ings which is on the road between Kendall and Windermere. A very good thirst quencher.
After a fair amount of driving we found the pretty village of Sedbergh in the Yorkshire Dales (although not far from the Lake District – cannot be far into Yorkshire). Looking for a meal for the kids, we ended up at the Red Lion, lots of pubs with this name in England. On the beer front went for a pint of Laughing Gravy by the Jennings Brewery. Dark copper real ale, looked a bit like gravy you would have with your roast beef, although not tempted to pour it on the food. Good taste, pretty smooth and creamy. Apparently named after Stan Laurel’s dog.
Next a detour to Blackpool saw a trip to the PleasureBeach – rollercoasters, ghost trains … kept the kids entertained, unfortunately no beers only fish and chips on the prom.
Ended the weekend back home in Zumerset at the Blue Bowl pub near Chew Valley lake. A bit of favourite for food, and being close to Chew, lots of fishing pictures and the odd stuffed trout to look at. Aside from the food went for an old favourite which don’t believe have done on the blog – Thatchers Gold (and is as good as gold). Hopefully the photo tells the story.