Mutianyu has graced the pages of BotF on at least one other occasion. It is simply a great escape from the metropolis and just perfect for a casual Sunday lunch at The Schoolhouse that also has a wonderful glass blowing exhibition.
This north Asia correspondent actually took the wrong exit that enabled a bit of further exploring of the surrounding locality. On the edge of quite large and well know city of Hairou still within the municipality of Beijing we happened across what appeared to be a special development zone complete with new office buildings, apartments, shopping centres, a new highway in other words another fine example of China growth or dare I say possible excess-capacity. I attempted to Google “Light and Shadow Town of Fame in China” but surprisingly found not a single search result. I guess they haven’t started promotional initiatives as yet.
The short sojourn to Mutianyu is via narrow country roads that are littered with small stalls selling stone fruits and mellons from the surrounding locality. The people have a happiness about them that is rare to find in the big cities of China. On our way back we stopped and bought some fruit. My Mandarin is now at a level that I could explain to the local fruit stall business owner the concept of BotF as a growing Global NGO, the progressive attempts of its members to review the beers of world and all that encapsulates what it is to love and be loved about BotF. Actually that is crap (about my Mandarin) – he was totally confused and the young BotF’s kept reminding me how bad my accent is. Having said that Mr. Zhao (his alias) was happy to assist in a photographic escapade but only after I had paid for the fruit.
Old Bobby Ale is another Jenny Wang’s newby and I was surprised to learn is owned by the large Russian Brewer Baltika based in St Petersburg. Baltika describe Old Bobby a special beer brewed fermentation method with the use of English malt, Pale Ale Malt. It is dried at high temperatures and has a slightly roasted malt aroma, ideal for light ales. Horse’s yeast, used traditionally in the production of British ales, fruit beers imparts essential tones. To be honest it was a little too fruity for me but nonetheless was good to wet the whistle with after the day’s escapades.
This correspondent’s latest trip to Melbourne took me to a part of Melbourne that I’ve never really been to be before. I had to attend a conference at the Park Hyatt near the Victorian State Parliament House. I stayed at my regular hotel on South Wharf and took the opportunity to walk along the Yarra as far as the Yarra Pedestrain Bridge (which is the one beyond the Sandridge Rail Bridge as you head East along the Yarra). When you cross this bridge you go over the top of one of the funkier bars I’ve been/seen for awhile.
Ponyfish Island exists literally under the bridge. I don’t how much of island previously existed, but whatever there was has been utilised brilliantly. The photography is schizenhausen, but they’ve wrapped seating all around the perimeter of the island and then put some benches in the middle as well. Directly under the bridge is a bar and kitchen that looks and feels very Mexican cantinaesque. Very impressive. I didn’t stay long and didn’t get a look at the menu, but the drinks were eclectic. I would have launched into a longneck of Abbotsfod Invalid Stout, but I had a long evening in front of me – so I opted for a simple Matilda Bay Bohemian Pilsner. I’ll be visiting again – but despite feeling very underpierced, won’t be subjecting myself to any needles before hand.
After a better than average conference dinner (Coopers Dark all night), a couple of attendees were keen to have a cigar. I wasn’t up for that, but when the guy rated the bar as one of the best – I tagged along. He was a bloody good judge this fella. The entrance is modest and anonymous. A heavy wooden door opens to a flight of stairs that leads to a wonderfully old fashioned and well appointed lounge/bar/dining room where the Eastern wall consists of a wonderful round window. I would have lingered longer, but my colleagues were keen for their cigar – which we were able to enjoy on one of the better roof-tops bars I’ve been too (up another flight of stairs). The chill was taken away by an array of mushroom gas heaters and the view across to the golden lit parliament house was brilliant. In trying to find a link to their website (there isn’t one), I noted that this place tends to polarise because of price and service. No dramas – I wasn’t paying and the staff answered any question – and met any request.
Now apparently this place does a pretty good wine list (that’ll be for others to judge) and their cigar and spirit collection looked comprehensive. I didn’t, however expect to find 1) a beer I’d never seen before and 2) a beer that wasn’t on the @Untappd database. Hix Beer comes from the intriguingly named Hickinbotham of Dromana. Dromana is a town on the Mornington Peninsula and is home to a number of vineyards. The Hickinbothams are 3rd generation winemakers, who decided to get a bloke to brew some beer to serve in their restaurant at the vineyard. The whole back story can be found here – and is well told by Rick Besserdin. There’s a few varieties available, including a pilsner, a brown ale and what I was able to try – the Pale Ale. This was a beautiful beer. The first went very quickly and the second was also quaffed enthusiastically by my buddies who eschewed their whiskey for my beer. A light, honeyed but wonderfully bitter beer. Looks like I’ll be heading to Dromana soon.
Back of the Ferry has now been going for a sufficient amount of time that it now can safely say that it has annual traditions. To qualify as an annual tradition, a event must be re-visited or repeated at least three times. Traditions include celebrating the first day of daylight saving, the last day of daylight saving, the winter solstice, the darts team’s GF appearance and, in the latest event to become a tradition, 4 Pines Canada celebrations. This correspondent and our latest member got to partake in the 4 Pines Canada celebration, but not before we had visited Harts Pub to celebrate (a little early) 4th of July.
Harts Pub‘s celebration of 4th July will become a tradition if we get along there again next year. Like last year’s celebration a special menu of US culinary classics is put on for the day. Chili cheese fries, chili cheese dogs, pulled pork rolls are the go. The bucket of 20 buffalo wings for $12 is a particularly good deal. Last year, Rocks Brewing did a Red, white and blueberry Ale for the day. This year the beer choice was quite different. Seven top line US beers from 3 of the best craft brewers (Sierra Nevada, Green Flash and Bear Republic) were available in bottles.
Having sampled a Sierra Nevada and a Bear Republic in the past, I opted to open proceedings with a stubbie of Green Flash West Coast IPA. This beer is simply packaged and is distinguished by a complete lack of beer label hyperbole – with the exception of the words “Extravagantly Hopped”. That really is an understatement. This beer is as sharp as a Chinese chef’s cleaver. Just breathing in the aroma gives you head spins. An amalgagum of pine forest and lemon zest – it is full, full tasting beer, and an absolute pleasure to drink. Let it linger to really enjoy it. Not that you need a reason to get to San Diego – but these guys will get a visit.
We’ve already talked about Bear Republic on these pages, and it was the flagship Racer 5 that we tried. The Red Rocket Ale is self proclaimed as a “bastardized Scottish style red ale…and breaks all style molds”. It is another ripper. Better suited to the cold weather we are tolerating here in Sydney, it is less hoppy than the West Coast IPA – but there is still plenty of conical action. The colour is beautiful and indicates plenty of malts that also provide the toffee like flavours. An outstanding bevvy.
We could have stayed at Harts all arvo, but the kids were getting antsy, so it was back onto the ferry for the traditional Canada Day fare at 4 Pines – pancakes, bacon, maple syrup and the one-off Canadian Ale. This year, the brewer (who is apparently of Canadian heritage) has changed the recipe markedly. Whereas the 2010 and 2011 Canadian Ales was quite red in hue, this year’s version was as dark as a dark ale can get without being black. This was a fine winter ale and one with which I’d love to fill my growler. Described as “malty and sweet”, it isn’t cloying, but rather warming and rich. Unfortunately I’ll miss the annual 4th of July celebrations, but hopefully there’ll be plenty left of the 4 new varieties for weeks to come.
The conditions in Sydney were perfect for another jaunt on the harbour on the MV Pastime. Cap’n Ferg took us another scenic trip and we were able to get up close and personal with some more of Sydney’s inner harbour rock forms and get a perspective only possible by boat. Middle Head is in the harbour, but lies latitudinally between North and South heads. It features wonderfully eroded cliffs which have a multitude of colours, as well as some man made stone lookouts designed to protect Sydney from invasion. On the north side of Middle Head is one of Sydney’s 3 nude beaches – Cobblers Beach. Whilst it was cloudless, sunny day it was still a brisk 17 degrees. That didn’t deter some hardcore nudists from getting out and about.
The weather was perfect for a couple of dark beers. I’ve had this stubbie of Coedo Shikkoku sitting in the fridge for some time. Coedo is a beer that you tend to buy only one of – based on the price of a case, as can be seen in the attached. $154 – $164 a case is steep in anyone’s language. Still, I’m happy to part with $6.99 for a stubbie of Shikkoku. This is categorised as a Schwarzbier – and is a delicious yeasty dark drop. If it wasn’t from Japan, I’d swear the brewer stirred this repeatedly with a spoon coated in Vegemite. A beautiful black colour, Shikkoku is named for Japan’s black lacquer work. I wish this stuff would turn up in Japanese restaurants.
Next up was a bottle of Moa Imperial Stout. You can’t really call a bottle of beer that has a champagne style cork in it a stubbie. This is an absolute corker (pardon the pun). Part of this beer’s charms is its texture. It is sleeky smooth and almost oily – but in a good way. Then there’s the richness of the taste – plenty of coffee and liqueur, but that said it carries its beefy 10.2% alcohol really well. Thank heavens I wasn’t driving. The colour is as black as lights out in an underground cave and the head was like a flat white coffee with not much milk. This is a really special beer and perfect for an after dinner drink (if you haven’t gone hard early). Thank heavens I wasn’t driving the boat.
As Bladdamaster can attest one of the truly great things about living in Zhongguo is the wonderful selection of International beers that are of offer. A visit to Jenny Wang’s almost always will reveal a previously un-sampled morsel. On the afternoon that I bought this beer I was in a bit of rush and quickly picked what looked like another Belgian brew and headed for home. Later that evening in a more relaxed atmosphere I took my fist sip and was taken aback by the fruity explosion that tasted much more like a cider than a beer. I looked at the label again and despite my Dutch not being as good as my Portuguese (which is non-existent) I was able to clearly make out the words “beer” but further research was needed. The and despite the difficulties of YouTube access in China I was fascinated to find a Rolf Harris lookalike with a very scientific but fascinating documentary on the beer brewing process from what looks like to be the mid 70’s. Anyway back to the beer itself Pecheresse is certainly a different style of beer and probably not typical of what’s expected from a Belgian brewer; having said that though it has a refreshingly different taste.
|gouge [noun] – an act of extortion; swindle; [verb] – to extort from, swindle, or overcharge.
Something that really irks me about the fine country I live in is the gouge mentality of its commerce. I know it’s most likely a worldwide phenomenon but it’s seems especially prevalent in Australia which is meant to be the land of the fair go and egalitarian principles. The gouge, I theorise, is the reason our tourism industry is failing. For years it has relied on ‘fresh meat’ from Japan, Singapore and, now, China. So why, I guess, would you as an Aussie tourism operator provide value for money when you can gouge unwary travellers who are unlikely to return anyway?
|For locals the archetypal gouge is ATM fees. These absolutely sh*t me. I know, I know these are like $2 per transaction but its the principal of the thing. a) I am accessing my own money and b) the buggas pay zero interest on it. The banks claim they are simply passing on the fee that bank x charges for bank y customers to use the ATM. But don’t all these cross bank fees pretty much cancel themselves out? It’s worse when your a customer of bank b (for blue) whose ATMs are rarer than hen’s teeth hence pretty much forcing me to pay for each and every ATM transaction.|
|Whatever I paid for the 3 Monts from La Brasserie de St-Sylvestre in St-Sylvestre-Cappel, France it was most definitely not a gouge. This superb beverage came attractively bottled complete with a cork. The beer is named after the three mountains that surround the brewery in Flanders. The Mont des Cats, The Mont Cassel and the Mont Noir. It is one of the brewery’s specialty beers and is drawn from wooden barrels. These lads are right into their beers and even provide the technical detail sheets for each beer.
The 3 Monts poured a very light gold colour with a strong head. It had rich taste that only got richer as you drank more. It packed a satisfying 8.5% ABV. This is no Euro mass produced lager with the associated astringent taste. Will definitely be enjoying this again.
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of seeing the appearance of another Rare Breed from the Mountain Goat team appear all of a sudden in the fridge at my local bottl-o, tucked away in a corner. This time it was the Surefoot Stout. More on this in a tick. First my curmudgeonly rant.
While I was busy browsing the interweb I came across an article claiming “Sydney’s George St rated in world’s top shopping spots“. I could not believe it. It could not have been ‘rated’ by anyone who has actually been to George St. For those who are familiar with Sydney’s main thoroughfare also know that it’s famous (notorious) for it’s trashing souvenir shops, takeaway food chains and gridlock traffic.
A quote from the article states “…It made the cut because of its friendly department stores and brightly lit boutiques, along with quirky shops at the southern end and top-end fashion stores and cafes in the Queen Victoria building“. I reckon these muppets did not leave the Queen Victoria building. As for “quirky shops at the southern end”…..south of Market St has to be one of the most execrable parts of the city. It’s pretty much melange of cinema complexes, trashy bars and subterranean internet cafes (who actually uses these anymore?). At least 20 years ago it had army surplus stores every 50 metres (remember those?!) and it was worth a visit.
As for being rated one of the world’s top shopping thoroughfares..bollocks.
Now for something far more pleasant. The Surefoot Stout is an all-too-rare Rare Breed beer from Mountain Goat Beer. It was great drinking and as black as the ace of spades. Held to the light not a photon got through. It tasted beautifully smooth with a hint of coffee and a slight roasted flavour. There was no after taste bitterness. More please.
|A botf correspondent finally made it to a venue that’s long been on our bucket list. Josie Bones on Smith St in Collingwood. Even better, it was done on a bit of corporate largesse. It was no mean feat leading the small crew of colleagues from the Melbourne CBD up to Smith St as there is a surfeit of fine pubs on the way that could have easily waylayed our journey to my intended goal.
Josie Bones has one of the finest beer lists that botf has come across. It focuses on Australian craft brewers but has a large international contingent also. The food is pretty epic also though you need to be a fan of the ‘entire beast’ school of cookery. That is, pretty much every bit of an animal is present in the menu.
|Being a Monday night the place was pretty empty but the atmosphere was still pleasant and I got the barman’s full attention. Josie Bones has 8 rotating taps in addition to the 250 or so beers in the menu. Where to start?
While grazing on a few plates of fine pork crackling we tried the tap offerings to start with. From this point I have to try and reconstruct my opinions from my @untappd check-ins as things may have got messy and I forgot to save my notes. In any case, all the beers were spectacular and only a few words suffice.
|First up was the Belgian Lawnmower by Hopdog BeerWorks. This is Hopdog’s summer seasonal release and it had a thirst quenching quality perfect for the crackling.
Next it was a Red Duck Amber Ale by Red Duck Beer. All my untappd check-in has is ‘ahhh’ so I think I enjoyed it. The Red Duck tasting rooms look like a must visit destination in Camperdown in Victoria.
The next beer was from the menu and in the bottle. The label on The Raconteur by Prickly Moses states the beer is a “A love story about hops”. And it was. Beautiful amber colour that delivered those hoppy post-beer burps I am most fond of.
|By now my colleagues were getting bored with my beer menu delight and had moved to wine. I persisted however with a Beast IPA by Jamieson Brewery. This blew my socks off. My untappd has entry ‘Wow. Caramel. Malt. Toffee.’
Now is was back to the lads from Red Duck Beer and their Porter. This was brilliant. Rich n nutty. Perfect with whatever dessert I had.
|Finally to put a fullstop after the evening I finished with a Tom’s Amber Ale by Bootleg Brewery. By this stage it is probably unfair to review any beer given the flavours and tastes that had gone before it. Given this, Tom’s was complex and lively. A great cleanser to finish the evening.
botf will be returning to Josie Bones. Much work left to do.
Here at backoftheferry we love our untappd [ @untappd ]. This app/website celebrates ones consumption of orange whips and lets you simultaneously tweet the world about a new found beverage and annoy your wife/DSE/life partner over dinner.
The lads at untappd also reward you with ‘badges’ for your patterns of consumption. One of these highly sought after virtual gifts was ‘IPA Day’. Simply enjoy an IPA on a given day and receive the badge.
With IPA Day looming bladdamasta promised a rare IPA for the day’s botf trip. Alas. Your correspondent was called home early for some reason or other so I called past the local and also got a cheeky, new IPA. In such circumstances, a botf member will quickly snap some beerporn, review and then tweet the world via untappd of their conquest. Well, bugga me, I’d stolen bladdamasta’s thunder and quite by accident picked up the very same brew, the Badlands Brewery Man Singh IPA. bladdamasta kindly deferred the review but had a rewarding botf nonetheless.
Badlands Brewery is one a growing band of craft brewers coming out of NSW. The Man Singh is rich and not too bitter. It has a rich dark honey colour and the taste has some nice fruity undertones. As the good beers do, it got even better with drinking. I’ve had a few more longnecks since (points awarded for a great bottle with the swingtop lid) and my first impressions remain unswayed. A great IPA for IPA Day.
This correspondent is a long suffering northern beaches (Sydney) commuter. The bus services from these here parts to the city are third world. At least we have the beaches ’cause the commute is suicide-inducing. The buses are infrequent and, while there is a timetable, its treated as more a random number generator.
The local member up here, @mikebairdmp, recently announced a ‘pre feasibility’ study into improving bus services. Pre-feasibility, I love it, woooah there Mike, best not move too fast.
The normal experience for the northern beaches bus commuter (and most of the north shore at that) is to end up queueing across the deck of the Sydney Harbour Bridge as York St turns into bus gridlock. Luckily, this forms part of the view from the office of our state premier, @barryofarrell. I always use all the spare time I have while sitting in this bus graveyard to send Barry a few choice tweets about his management of Sydney’s transport system. Though he’ll probably blame the previous Labor government (or at least the pimply, self important young Liberal member who looks after his tweeting will).
Anyway, on to the monster. Little Creatures claim on the label “…for our next Single Batch release we couldn’t wait to make a massive hop fueled double IPA….it’s about the biggest charge of hops ever seen in the Creatures brewhouse”. And, boy oh boy, they are right. It’s very hoppy, both in smell and overwhelmingly in the first taste. It’s a little bitter in the follow up and this turns sweeter as tasting went on. But it’s the hops that impress. I was burping hops hours later.
It pours a beautiful deep amber and has a mule kick of an ABV at 7.8%. As the guy on the till at Porters, Balgowlah said as I paid, “well spotted”. Indeed.