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.
A very clever stunt from a relatively small brewer in NZ. The idea is from one of the smartest ad agencies going around.
When consumers find a dead mouse or body part inside their food, it generally causes a lot of noise on TV, online and in social media. That got Colenso BBDO thinking about how they could get such attention for their client, New Zealand cider company Monteith’s.
In a stunt for the ages, the agency put a few twigs inside bottles of cider, and waited for the customer complaints to start pouring in.
Once enough buzz was achieved, the company issued an apology: Sorry about the twigs, folks. But that’s what happens when the fruit in Monteith’s cider comes from a tree, not a can.
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.
Before the BotF, BotF popped into a perennial favourite – the Occidental. The Occi has been serving a beer for a while now that is only available on tap – Balmain Pale Ale. If they could replicate this in a stubbie, this would be a staple on the BotF. Bitter and full of flavour – it’s a winner. This is made by the Balmain Brewing Company, which has been going since May 2010. THey’ve also got a lager – again only on tap.
Onto the BotF, which had the usual Friday night frustration of the security guards. We had an unreviewed beer to try, which gave the security guards the irrits, because it had a swing top. When they came past, you simply swing the top and say you aren’t drinking. All rather childish, but that’s the Friday ferry unfortunately.
The Grolsch swing top is the friend of home brewers everywhere, but like all brewers it seems – Grolsch is shrinking. Surely the Swingtop was 500ml? It’s now only 450ml. The beer itself is typically Euro – very malty and after getting used to it, very drinkable. Quite a contrast to the Balmain Pale Ale. Yet another brew taken over by a congromelate – SAB Miller, I’m not sure whether it still has links to the town of Groenlo where it was founded in 1615.
We also slipped a bottle of cider into the mix. Pipsqueak “Best” Cider is made by the makers of Little Creatures. Without cutting too fine a point – they should stick to beer. Too cloying for mine. Ah well, tick it off on the BotF Cider List.
Recently, we saw a boat delivering boats. Tonight, we saw what looked like a dry dock on water. Check out the level of the back of the boat. It is right on the water line. Cue a joke about American beer.
The growth of Cider cannot be ignored. Unlike the cooler craze of the late ’80s, there are significant indicators that Cider will be a more long lasting trend in Australia’s alcoholic beverage landscape. For example, did you ever hear of a “Cooler Bar”, being opened? Cider Bars are starting to open in Sydney. There’s a history to cider and natural produce is heavily involved. With coolers, grapes were allegedly involved, and the closest Wild Peach ever got to a peach was being sold in a liquorland next to a bottle of peach schnapps.
So with that predicted longevity, BotF has decided to create the BotF Cider List. The other good thing about Cider is that there are plenty of countries getting in on the act. It is doubtful that the list will get to 39 countries in a year like the BotF Beer List, it’ll get into double figures soon.
Currently the list sits at 8 ciders reviewed from 4 countries.
|Kelly Brothers Sparkling Cider||Kelly Brothers Brewing CoYarra Valley||Australia|
|Snowies Blonde Cider||Hunter Valley||Australia|
|Natch||Gaymer Cider CompanyShepton Mallet, Somerset||England|
|Katy||Thatchers Cider Company LtdSandford, Somerset||England|
|Pheasant Plucker Scrumpy Cider||Broadoak Cider CoClutton, Somerset||England|
|Thatchers Scrumpy Jug||Thatchers Cider Company LtdSandford, Somerset||England|
|St. Heliers Pear Cider||St.HeliersSt. Heliers||Jersey|
|Escanciador Sidra||Sidra EscanciadorVillviciosa||Spain|
|4 Countries||8 ciders|
Normal service resumed with BotF making the first journey home for 2011. Good crew tonight with the BotF darts team on board with their tried and true long necks in hand. All the big issues were discussed including the EPL, the Ashes, fishing, the Fast Ferry wars, Perisher in Summer, the 2011 prospects of the 2011 BotF darts team, security guards and Gerry Rafferty. Very sad to hear about Gerry who wrote two of the most enduring songs of the 70′s, including with one of the most highly regarded sax lines – Baker Street.
To celebrate the first 2011 voyage, BotF lashed out and bought a hitherto unseen cider and an often seen but avoided 4 pack of beer.
The cider tab was added some time ago but hasn’t really been populated since Charlie spent time in the West Country. The very attractively packaged Kelly Brothers Cider is from Wonga Park, Victoria and becomes the 6th cider reviewed on the BotF. Charlie had a swig and said words to the effect that for an Australian cider it wasn’t too bad. That is high praise from a West Country man. Its crispness was pleasing and it certainly wasn’t blighted by the sweetness that impacts many ciders. At 7% it also packs a punch.
The dreaded 4 pack came into play again, but fortunately the Endeavour 2010 Reserve Amber Ale does plenty to almost justify the double whammy of 330ml bottles in a 4 pack. (No beer will completely overcome the double whammy of the 330ml and 4 pack). There was also the issue of beer label hyperbole. In the instance of the Endeavour, they claim that “Fresh Rain Water was purified” as part of the concoction. There’s also 3 references to cellaring. Please.
Despite all of this, I recommend getting your hands on some Endeavour 2010 Reserve Amber Ale. This is a fabulous beer. The advertised use of chocolate malted barley is evident with great big sniff before drinking. The taste is phenomenal. Complex, bitter, long-lasting – everything is good about this beer. Great to start the BotF year with such a fine beer.
The one line on a packed lable that resonates – “Great beer is not only determined on where its ingredients come from , but how you enjoy it”. Enjoying this on the BotF helps, but this is a great beer nonetheless.
This 640ml longneck (a schmiddy version of a longneck) was lurking on a shelf in an Avoca Beach bottlo.
Research reveals it was launched in January ’10 by a side label of the Malt Shovel Brewery, the makers of James Squire.
Mad Brewers is a great idea that gives free rein to a hardworking brewer to make a beer that doesn’t have immediate commercial appeal. I haven’t seen any version before until now.
20% of this beer is made from unfermented apple juice supplied by a cider maker. There’s wine yeast involved as well as a beer mash. Technical name is a Saison.
A long neck (even a schmiddy style long neck) gives you plenty time to taste this and give it the fairest chance. Pours like a beer but looks like a devondale fizzy apple drink.
Despite the presence of fruit, I found this tart at all times. There’s a cider feel big time to this beer. This could be a really good session beer. Don’t know if it was a one-off, but if you see it grab it.
Sharp-eyed readers of BotF will notice the unannounced introduction of a new category to BotF – Cider. There’s four ways to access BotF – the website, the E-Mail subscription, Twitter and Facebook – so it has been difficult to notice this evolution to BotF – but consider this the announcement.
There were multiple influences for adding Cider, with none as a main driver. The number of female BotF members that like cider, the visit by Charlie to his Bristol Cider roots and the explosion of cider as a beverage of substantial preference in bottlos and pubs around Sydney. The explosion of cider reminds BotF of the late ’80s explosion of Coolers. What will differentiate the Cider explosion from the Cooler explosion is that Ciders are potable whereas Coolers were an insult to tastebuds. Within 3 years of the Cooler peak (over 100 brands) you were back down to 3 or 4 survivors. I think the Cider explosion will be more longlasting as there is actually a cider tradition to which Charlie has introduced us.
To be honest, I struggled after the first couple of sips the debut cider tried literally on the BotF. Escanciador Sidra is an extremely traditional cider. It is from an area of Spain – Asturias – that is regards cider as its drink over and above wine or beer. It even has its own way of pouring. Try this at home.
“When Asturian cider is served, it is poured in a particular way, El Escanciado: since it is natural and bottled without gas, the bottle must be held above the head allowing for a long vertical pour (requiring considerable skill and accuracy) which causes the cider to be aerated when it splashes into the glass below. This gives it a pleasant “zingy” taste. The glass is passed around and everyone drinks from the same glass. After drinking most of the glass, it is customary to splash a little out onto the ground, as a way to clean the glass of any lees for the next pouring.”
Hopefully, we can get fans of cider to write about their positive experiences and start to open the BotF’s readership’s minds to the joyous juice of Apples and Pears and other fruits.
Welcome Cider as our new category.
On the way home, having been tipped a tenner, we stopped at a working man’s pub (nice way to describe it), the Robins pub, near Ashton Gate football ground. Recommend not stepping into this establishment wearing any other football shirt than Bristol City. The pub is named due to proximity to the City ground and you guessed it, the football team’s nickname is the Robins. This place would have and probably still does see some serious football fans.
The decor is fairly basic, 2 rooms, 1 with a pool table, noted a plaque on the wall in memory of a former City fan, the main clientele would be football fans on match day and on weekdays local tradesman stopping for pint on the way home. We stopped off at lunch time, it was not too busy with probably a dozen other patrons.
It is not the most salubrious of establishments but served a reasonable variety of the standard tap beers including John Smith, Courage’s Best, Fosters , Carling, Guinness, Blackthorn and Thatchers.
Settled for a pint of Thatchers Golden, a light and smooth cider, not too fizzy …. as it name suggests the beer is very golden in colour and I would suggest designed more for the mass market, than the Thatchers ciders of old.
This afternoon at the local off-licence purchased a 2 litre of Natch cider for £3.20, not historically one of my favourites but in the interest of variety decided to sample - a very dry cider, a bit more bitter than I like, but still very drinkable and 5.2% proof.