The final night on Lord Howe Island was spent picnicing on the Lagoon watching the sunset – aaaah. If you are on the water at Lord Howe, it is impossible to find a dud view. The lagoon typifies that. You look south to the twin peaks of Lidgbird and Gower with their cloudy crown and north to North Bay and Mt. Eliza.
The best view on Lord Howe Island was from the top of Mount Gower, and I probably matched the best beer of the trip with that vista – Sleeping Giant IPA. To be fair to the Dos Equis Ambar -I probably didn’t give the best opportuniuty to shine, and will give it a repeat tasting. By now I don’t remember much about it – it didn’t leave much of an impression. Nothing wrong with it – nothing memorable about it. Dos Equis Ambar was the subject of a very amusing entry to a blog that BotF enjoys. A Great Set of Tipples is worth a read, and his Dos Equis Ambar experience is a classic example.
Unless a BotF correspondent gets back to Lord Howe Island (which wouldn’t be a bad thing), that’s it for the LHI posts.
Being an island 600kms off Port Macquarie, Lord Howe can be a fisherman’s paradise. All the restaurants, the bowling club and the golf club advertise regular fish fry ups and the fish that is generally fried up is kingfish. Our first feed on Lord Howe was the most magnificent grilled kingfish seasoned lightly with lemon pepper.
Unfortunately, the week we were there fishing was pretty hard work because of the wind and there weren’t many journeys taken. Even when you did get out, there was fairly strong competition for your bait – or your catch – from Galapagos whaler sharks. The boat in the background of the second photo belongs to our intrepid guide up Mount Gower – Jack Shick. Despite motoring around for 6 hours and covering over 50 miles, Jack only caught fish for about 45 minutes – but in that 45 minutes he caught 50 kilos of Kingfish. I was at the wharf when he arrived, but unfortunately the fish had already been claimed by two of the resort restaurants on the island.
Fishless, I went home to enjoy a beer that I’d been waiting to try all week. Despite being owned by the Fosters Group and moving from its spiritual home in WA, Matilda Bay is still producing really good beers. Illiards goes on and on about Fat Yak (quite rightly), and Alpha Pale Ale could be regarded as Fat Yak’s tougher big brother. Both are made in the style of a North American Pale Ale – which is sort of a misnomer because as you can see from the photo – it is quite a copper colour. The “Pale” in the name refers to the use of pale malts that are used in the brewing. There also tends to be plenty of hop action in a pale ale, and Alpha Pale Ale has, in my opinion, more hoppiness than Fat Yak. It is a really enjoyable beer and on worth checking out.
One of the great challenges of any trip to Lord Howe Island is the climb up Mount Gower. Mount Gower is 850m tall and stands next to Mount Lidgbird, which is 777m. Both Mountains dominate the backdrop of many a Lord Howe Island photo. BotF took on the challenge with two of his daughters and barely lived to tell the tale.
Our guide, the laconic yet loquacious Jack Shick (legend), has done the walk nearly 1300 times. You cannot climb Mount Gower without a registered guide – I now know why. The ascent took our party of 20 odd around 5 hours, and at about the two and a half hour mark – your correspondent felt he was about to draw his final breath. Some of the walk is along narrow cliff ledges where holding onto a rope prevents you falling 100m into the Pacific. Some of the walk is hauling yourself up ropes to climb slippery tree root infested paths. The real killer is the 300 or so metres of unrelenting ascent up a muddy rocky track before going above the tree-line at 500m. Only pride kept me going. That and the thought of the wonderful beer porn I could capture at the peak. However at the moment my lungs felt they would emerge through my throat, I questioned the wisdom of the extra weight of the two stubbies I was carrying.
Eventually after passing through 4 forest types, we emerged from the cool, mossy, ferny forest on to the 52 acres of summit plateau to be confronted by the most wonderful panorama imaginable. The varying blue hues of the lagoon, the beatiful crescent of Lord Howe Isand, the majesty of Mount Lidgbird, the ribbons of waves on the reef and the Admiralty Islands are laid out below. To top it all off a Lord Howe Island Wood Hen, down to about 40 birds in total at one stage, emerged from the bushes. There’s now about 400 (I think).
To celebrate my ascent, which at one stage seemed quite unlikely, I produced a stubbie of Sleeping Giant IPA – a relative new release from Gage Roads. After 5 hours in my back pack, the beer had warmed up, but it was still bloody fine. The euphoria aside, the Sleeping Giant would still be a great beer and I look forward to giving another crack in decent surrounds. A genuine IPA that is a worthy Australian addition to this competitive category. Seriously bitter and deeply hoppy – this is a definite contender. I was biased because a KB strained through my sock would have tasted good, but I anticipate keenly my next tasting.
The only regret about the Lord Howe Island trip was missing the wedding of BotF member, Ramesh, which occurred in NZ on Saturday. In his honour I carried a stubbie of Steinlager Pure with me. Ramesh has asked me to review this for some time. I am sure your wedding was better than this beer. Maybe the bar for my palate had been set too high, but this was just el blando. The beer label hyperbole suggested it was the right beer for the surrounds, but it just didn’t had enough for me. Again the warmth counted against it, and I’d better stop there – as I’ll get unfairly harsh. Congratulations Ramesh and Janessa – BotF hopes your day was great.
The most reliable place for a beer on Lord Howe Island is Humpty Mick’s. This fine establishment is given a full description on the BotF Bar Review Map. It is very versatile opening at 8am for breakfast and shutting when it needs to. Live music happens from time to time and lunch and dinner is served as well. You could probably get a beer at anytime if you wanted, and the good thing is that there is plenty of choice. The Pure Blonde, VB and New is complemented by Asahi – complete with the Asahi schmiddy.
The bottled beer selection totals probably 20 or so and BotF was delighted to see that two varieties of Kozel were available, including one that hasn’t graced these pages – the extremely fine Kozel Dark. Whilst drinking at Humpty Mick’s is a great experience and any beer would taste good – Kozel Dark is excellent. 500ml of pure dark pleasure – even though the alcohol strength is 3.8%. Lovely colour, really malty – but not too sweet. A belter of a beer, and would taste good in the shitest of surrounds.
BotF had to bring some new beers with him to drink on LHI, not being sure what would be available. Turned out to be a good move, though one surprise popped up later in the week. I’m pretty sure that Cascade Blonde is a relatively new addition to the Cascade line-up. Can’t help thinking that Cascade’s confusing the issue with the name here. If you look at the back label, and indeed the website, you are drinking a wheat beer, and that is what it tasted like. Perhaps the Cascade marketers felt more people would try it if it was labelled “Blonde” instead of “Wheat”. It is definitely a Wheat Beer – and a pretty decent one as well.
I drank it on Old Settlement Beach, which is a great place to be with or without a beer. This beach is so picturesque. No buildings can be seen on the beach, only a dune, some fields and then forest. A sanctuary is up one end, where a wonderful reef containing (when we went) sting rays, wrasse, double heads, clownfish etc can be found. The end where the kids go as safely as anywhere is famous for its frequent visits of turtles. Every time we went we saw at least one turtle, and you swim along side them. Phenomenal. My photo-assistant daughter tried to capture a photo of the Cascade with a turtle, but was unsuccessful.
This BotF correspondent has just spent the last week on Lord Howe Island. One of the attractions of Lord Howe Island is that there is no mobile phone contact (a deliberate vote by the LHI Board). There is limited internet available also, and the two public terminals operate at the speed of an old 56k modem running through a Commodore 64 computer. So – there’s a few blogs backed up.
First evening was spent at the Lord Howe Island Bowling Club, which sits next to the Lord Howe Island football field. The permanent population of Lord Howe Island is around 350 people and amazingly a bloke that toured with the Wallabies (but never played a test) grew up on the island. Adrian “Moose” Skeggs still visits his many relatives and there is a tribute to him on the walls of the bowling club.
The LHI Bowling Club is a fine establishment. The green is in good nick (not surprising as it rains often on LHI). 4 beers on tap, where the taps have to travel about 3 feet to the kegs on the other side of the wall. $4.30 a schooner, which is a good price for LHI , where very little is cheap. The LHI Bowling Club copped a flogging during BotF’s stay.
In addition to the tap beer, the LHI Bowling Club had about 10 stubbies available including Cascade Stout. This is a great stout, which lives up to the promise on the label of being “Smooth and Rich”. Pours nice a dark – not black – but a deep, deep brown. Straight up and down stout, with a clean, lingering after taste of roasted bitterness. Nice strength too at 5.8%. I’d love to try this on tap. Big fan.