It’s been a long time between inductions. The stars aligned on this one and our latest inductee was welcomed by no less than 5 salty seadogs, including Lamb0 who’s
been absent from the BotF for some time.
Our latest member, Rhett, was treated to full blown BotF experience including beverages at favourite BotF haunts before and after the voyage. Frankie’s Pizza didn’t fail to disappoint with its usual eclectic range of tap beers including a Rhubarb Wit. The post voyage venues almost don’t need to be stated – but 4 Pines and Murrays got a run.
So to the questions.
Favourite beverage Tooheys New (seriously)
Favourite sport to spectate Test cricket
Area of trivial expertise War
Induction ceremony witnessed by Pommy_ch, Lamb0, Gerald, Oompaloompa and Bladdamasta.
The end of daylight saving generally coincides with the start of the Major League baseball season. Yep – we are an Australian blog, but a couple of BotFers are big baseball fans. If either illiards and I ever get the States – we leave no stone unturned to get to at least one baseball game, even if it is minor league (Wilmington Blue Rocks, anyone?). Some time ago, illiards went to a New York Mets game and wrote about being able to get a Hoegaarden at the game. As we’ve often commented, Australians are lamentably treated by the operators of our major sports grounds when it comes to amber fluid. Even if you are lucky enough to get into a corporate box, a macro brewery generally has a contract tighter than a piscine sphincter to ensure that all you’ll drink is something that would be improved by passing it through a sieve lined with 10 day old cabbage. So, when BotF’s great mate, Rachel, presented me with a bottle of Blue Moon Winter Abbey Ale, and I read a little of Blue Moon’s back story and realised that they serve this at the Colorado Rockies home field – I found another reason to want to visit the US. Blue Moon Brewing is owned by Coors, and if legend is to be believed, their flagship Blue Moon Belgian White was actually created at the brewery that is in Coors field. How baseball can a beer get? Rachel had bought me a seasonal, and it was a beauty. It was a little underwhelming at first, but grew on me as I got deeper into the bottle. Definitely would benefit by being poured, but we don’t often carry glassware on the Back of the Ferry. The caramel, malty flavours really came to the floor and the label’s advice to drink it on a chilly night would be worth heeding.
Denver, Colorado – now on the list (hopefully the Rockies are playing the Indians in interleague).
It has been a sodden week in Sydney. The cruise ships have left at the right time because Sydney has, in the words of Edmund Blackadder, been wetter than a fish’s wet bits. That didn’t deter two old salty sea dogs from assuming the position on the Back of the Ferry for the voyage home. For a while we thought we’d caught a break in the weather, but ultimately not even Warwick Armstrong’s umbrella was going to keep us dry.
Before we adjourned to the Side of the Ferry we enjoyed a 500ml drop of Old Fart beer. This is a truly English drop. Malt to the fore. This is probably a good beer for the style, but my palate has become so conditioned to hop overload, I struggled to adjust and appreciate. By no means unpalatable, but I found the caramel overpowering. Need to have another for sure.
This correspondent is lucky to be a member of two long standing traditions. 4 years ago whilst celebrating a birthday of one of tonight’s inductees, the idea of a regular tennis night was mooted.
A week later four middle-aged men were darting about a tennis court at the Neutral Bay Club. That tradition continues to this day with a solid quintet of players and much laughter and muscle strains to show for it.
Whilst not of the Christmas Party calibre of celebration, this anniversary needed to be recognised and accordingly a night out at 4Pines for dinner was agreed upon.
Of course the subject of transportation arose and that’s where the blending of these two traditions began.
A stunning night adorned us last Wednesday with fellow BotF member bladdamasta in attendance for the induction. As it turned out these new members’ paths had crossed with with said correspondent and plenty of conversation ensued as we navigated Sydney Harbour en-route to Manly.
Suffice to say a great night was had by all with stops made at Hemmingways, The Steyne (walk-through) and the Manly Wharf Bar. Looking forward to the 5th anniversary.
Below are the all important details:
Favourite beverage: Lord Nelson Three Sheets
Favourite sport to spectate: Rugby Union
Area of trivial expertise: Intricacies of C. Dickthorpe’s love life
Favourite beverage: Pinot Noir
Favourite sport to spectate: Rugby League
Area of trivial expertise: Manly Sea Eagles after 1975
Favourite beverage: Coffee in the morning, Shiraz at night
Favourite sport to spectate: Football (I think he means Soccer…?)
Area of trivial expertise: New Wave 1977-85
Favourite beverage: West Coast Cooler
Favourite sport to spectate: Synchronised Swimming
Area of trivial expertise: Banking systems of Latvia in the early 18th Century
Note: Details above for inductee Mike may not be accurate…
It’s been a stellar season for cruise ships in Sydney Harbour this year. I can’t profess to be across the statistics of the cruise ship industry, but my sense is that it is booming. The slew of new boats with their amazing fit outs and features has been unrelenting. Not that the Back of the Ferry experience needs enhancing, but having a new big boat to look at on the way out is a welcome extra. Whilst it hasn’t gotten to the point that we are blasé about these mega-vessels, the Queen Mary 2 is one that definitely commands the attention. There’s something arresting about the colour scheme of a Cunard and the history that goes with being a “Queen”. Back of the Ferry has witnessed the Queen Mary 2 in the harbour before and even welcomed it through the Heads one day, but it is always worthy of a perve. Amazingly this boat has a planetarium. I think if I was going to cross the Atlantic, it would be on this boat.
Coincidentally (or so I thought), the beer I’d picked up on the way to the ferry had a good link to the Queen Mary 2. Lia Fail is a dark beer made by the Inveralmond Brewery that is based in Perth, Scotland. “Bewdy” I thought, “I’ll toast the Queen Mary 2 no doubt named after Mary Queen of Scots with a Scottish beer”. Good plan, but the Queen Mary 2 is named for present Queen Elizabeth’s grandmother, who was actually half German. I still toasted the Queen Mary 2 with what was a beer suited for a less balmy night. Really good, malty, rich taste. Tasted like it would more alcoholic than its 4.7% – but I’d nail a couple of these when it gets a little colder.
Over the years, Back of the Ferry’s great friend and member – Rachel – has bought back some remarkable beers from the United States. Her most glorious moment was when she bought back a Pliny the Elder, which was given the royal treatment on Sydney Harbour. Like most of the US beers that have been tried on Back of the Ferry, Pliny the Elder came from California – as did the most recent of Rachel’s offerings, Sculpin IPA. Rachel challenged a bottle-shop proprietor on her most recent trip to find something really out there – and there’s no doubt she delivered. Firstly, this beer is from the United States and not from California and secondly a Double IPA is not the most common variety found in Australia. Meltdown Double IPA is made by the Midnight Sun brewing Co. which is located in Anchorage, Alaska. They’ve been brewing since 1995 and make a solid range of all-rounders with suitably Alaskan names like Sockeye Red Ale and Kodiak Brown. There’s also the delightfully named Panty Peeler Tripel – enough said. Meltdown is one Midnight Sun’s annual seasonals and is designed for summer drinking. This is a meaty, meaty IPA. Sniffing it is half the fun, but drinking/chewing this down is even better. I was expecting some heat from the “scorchin’ hops”, (none there), but there was no shortage of bitterness. Meltdown weighs in a squinting 80 IBUs and it got the better of illiards, who retreated to the relative comfort of a Vale IPA. I loved it – a sensational sipper and one worthy of the Back of the Ferry full beerp0rn treatment.
The presence of an Alaskan on board, got illiards and I thinking about how many of the 50 United States we’d covered by beer since Back of the Ferry’s been going. One of these days, I’ll work out how to download our statistics from Untappd, but a quick perusal through the BotF archives would indicate that we’ve tended to be pretty bi-coastal, with the majority of beers coming from either California or New York. Other states have made only one or two appearances. So far, we would have appeared to have only covered 8 of the 50 states. According to this article from a great website called First we Feast, there is at least one beer brewed in each of the 50 states (and for good measure the District of Colombia). So the challenge is now there for us – 51 beers 50 states + DC. Eight down – 43 to go. For the record the seven states are: Vermont (Magic Hat), Pennsylvania (Victory), Oregon (Rogue Ales), Massachusetts (Samuel Adams), Missouri (Budweiser) California (plenty), New York (plenty) and now Alaska.
Now, how we are going to lay our hands on a tin of Narragansett?
4 Pines Brewing are certainly making maximum use of their new brewing facilities at Brookvale. Since the start of the year, I reckon they’ve released 7 beers in their Keller Door series. In fact they’ve released so many beers since they opened that it is getting blody hard to find the latest beer on Untappd, because the list is so long. In keeping with tradition, 4 Pines is again marking St.Patrick’s day with a couple of new stouts to go along with their award-winning regular stout (renamed Dry Irish Stout for the occasion, and occasionally known as Space Beer).
Their two new stouts are both crackers. The first is a Milk Stout, which is very British in that it is mild in alcohol, but I reckon it tastes quite Australian in that it was quite dry and roasty. I didn’t get the “sweet lactose” finish, but thought it ended with a pleasant crisp bitterness. The coffee aroma makes it a pleasure to smell, whilst drinking. It’s been some time since I gave a beer 5 on Untappd, but the Black Forest Imperial Stout was a worthy recipient. From sniff to sip to swallow, this is an end to end winner. The aroma is spirituous and head-spinning, the sip is complex, rich and unctuous (a good way, not a Christopher Pyne way) and the after taste delivers the promised cherry effect. Not sure how many pubs around town will get a crack at this, but if you can to Manly to try this – it will be worth your while. Truly a Black Forest cake in a glass. Hides its high alcohol content well.
As has previously been mentioned on this blog, 4 Pines love celebrating National Days and this year has already seen Waitangi Day and St. David’s Day marked with a special beer. The NZ Pale Ale that was made for that day was probably my favourite 4 Pines one-off this year (until the Black Forest Imperial Porter that is). The Welsh Ale was also very enjoyable. It’d fair to say that the day that 4 Pines staff goes off on more than any other is St Patrick’s Day and this year they’ve decided to party for 4 days from today to St. Patrick’s Day itself on Sunday. I’m looking forward to see all and sundry in green on Sunday (wear something Irish and get a free pint!).
In addition to the National Series, 4 Pines also did their second(?) series of single hop beers. This is a great initiative, though not unique, and enables drinkers to try different hop varieties. illiards and I tried the set on launch and ranked the three in a completely different order. Beer preference is truly a personal thing. The thing about the Keller Door series is that they generally don’t last very long – so if you want to have a crack at the special stouts – get your skates on.
It’s been a long between drinks for a classic BotF post that is simply about a beer drunk on the Back of the Ferry. That’s what tonight’s post is. On the way to Circular Quay I pulled into Vintage Cellars on Carrington Street and spotted a 2012 vintage of the Northern Hemisphere Harvest made by Sierra Nevada. This is a special beer that is deserving of the full Back of the Ferry beerp0rn treatment. That includes the iconic Opera House shot, which on a blue Sydney day like today just doesn’t get any better. Normally the yacht frenzy occurs on a Friday evening, but tonight the stiff breeze had all sorts of yachts beating, tacking or whatever it is that they do. Happy to sit on the stern and watch.
The effort to which Sierra Nevada goes to for this beer is pretty exceptional. There’s plenty of “paddock to plate” stuff going on in restaurants at the moment and this is the beer equivalent of it. 24 hours after these hops are picked- they are in the kettle brewing away. The Sierra Nevada website will explain more technically than I can – but this is as fresh as it gets. Globalisation means that we are drinking the Northern Hemisphere Harvest in the Southern Hemisphere and it tastes great. This is seriously good beer. Love the big bottle. The hops are lipsmackingly good – there’s a piquantness that lasts and lasts. Even as I sniff the bottle, which I’ve kept to monitor beer label hyperbole, the fresh, grassy hop smell lasts and lasts. Don’t pass this up. It might be $12 a bottle (don’t get that given the Aussie peso’s strength), but it’s worth every sip. Jam it in an ice bucket, have it by the table and just enjoy it slowly.
After a what seemed like a Napoleanic period of exile, we made it back out to traditional home of the Back of the Ferry. It was worth the wait as the twilight delivered a picturesque evening and we tracked a regular visitor to Circular Quay on its journey out the Heads. It’s great being up close to one of these great boats and seeing its retinue of a tug boat and pilot boat.
It really must be the highlight of any cruise to sail out through Sydney Harbour and twilight is the time to do it. It’s the risk of a cruise to run into the type of weather we had last week and miss the sunset behind the Coathanger and the Opera House. The passengers were lined en masses out the back of their on “ferry” and with the height of the Solstice they probably got a great perspective.
The Celebrity Solstice is another of the slew of ridiculously large cruise ships that have been built in the last decade. The Solstice’s defining feature is a large natural lawn that exists on the top deck. Apparently another defining feature is the glass blowing factory on board – but for mine, that is less exciting than a fully manicured lawn. I can’t imagine I’d go on a cruise to check out glass blowing, but I guess they have to cater for all types. The bars look outstanding.
We’ve reviewed Hawthorn Pale before, so I’ll dig into the vault for a beer that was tried recently, but didn’t make it on the blog. Special Block 6 is a quite unusual and I found it at the highest bar in Australia – The Eagle Nest at Thredbo. It’s a Belgian Ale with two of the more unusual ingredients – pomegranate and elderberry. It’s made by the Brouwerij De Block, who also make Satan. Not unpotable.
Back of the Ferry’s North-East Asian correspondent, Tony from Toowoomba, is on an all too infrequent visit to Australia. Even when TfT does make it back to Australia it is not often that he gets to Sydney, but he makes the most of it when he’s here. TfT is an enthusiastic spruiker of the delights of the Back of the Ferry – and he was very keen to share its delights with 3 of his Swiss work colleagues. I made the trip across to meet TfT and the Swiss trio and it was a rocky old voyage. I hoped that our three inductees – who come from a landlocked country – could hack the swell.
We attempted to make our way out the back, but for the 3rd day running the stern was barricaded and the crew wouldn’t even let us down the side. So we took our position on the upstairs veranda bar. As we posed for the obligatory induction shots – beer in hand – we received the unfortunate news that the trip would be dry. Nonetheless, the voyage was eventful. The rollercoaster through the heads was exciting. The sight of the Manly Ferry coming the other way launching itself out of the water to such an extent that its propeller was visible. TfT and our Swiss inductees caught the ferry back later that evening and advised that ore than few passengers had been unable to cope with the swell, judging by some of the pavement pizzas that were visible.
Overseas guests always get the full blown Back of the Ferry treatment. It is not just about the Back of the Ferry or bars before or after the ferry journey. The full blown treatment also involves a trip to Sydney’s North Head, which provides one of the best free views of Sydney Harbour and of the path of the Manly Ferry. On this particular afternoon, it was blowing an absolute gale, but that probably served to enhance the experience. The height of North Head is vertigo inducing, but that is what provides such a wonderful perspective of South Head, the ocean facing properties of the Eastern suburbs, the city skyline and the Harbour. Naturally, after North Head, the traditional post ferry induction continued at induction favourites, 4 Pines and Murray’s at Manly. It’s got to be said that Murray’s latest menu is actually pretty at the moment – and a good feed and plenty of beers were had by all.
And now to our inductees and the all important questions.
Favourite beverage: Cuba Libre
Favourite sport to spectate: Ice Hockey
Area of trivial expertise: All Ice Hockey
Favourite beverage: Caipirinha
Favourite sport to spectate: Downhill skiing
Area of trivial expertise: Travelling (Daniel had recently 2 weeks on the West Coast of Africa)
Favourite beverage: Red wine
Favourite sport to spectate: Football (the round ball variety)
Area of trivial expertise: European cars from 1970 onwards
The boys loved Manly so much they returned the next day (by ferry, of course). Induction ceremony witnessed by bladdamasta and Tony from Toowoomba.
And now to the obligatory new beer. The boy’s at Porters Balgowlah had a new beer in the fridge. This beer had a very distinctive and clear label. A closer examination of the label reveals that this is not a boast of being the best pale ale going around, but rather that it is the first beer from Dad & Dave’s Brewing. Back of the Ferry is proud of its insular peninsula origins and we are delighted to see a new brew from the suburb of North Curl Curl. Whilst #1 Pale Ale’s creators are from North Curl Curl, I’m pretty sure that this is a contract brew. They’ve come up with a pretty good recipe. The number 1 theme comes through with the revelation that there is one hop and one malt used in the mix. Very sessionable, and I look forward to seeing it in a kegs in a few local haunts.