There’s been plenty of hype in the pointy end of the Craft Beer community about the release of Tusk, Feral Brewing Company‘s infrequently released Imperial IPA. The hype is due to the fact that Feral Brewing Company has won more awards that Ben Hur, the strict conditions under which outlets are able to take on this beer and its blink and it’s gone time frame. To be honest, I didn’t give it much thought because I thought that my chances of getting to a venue serving it in the short window foreshadowed were slimmer than Lamb0 after his return from Sri Lanka.
Low and behold, I found myself having to do in a fly-in-fly-out trip to Carlton – without any certainty of sneaking any visit into any fine Carlton establishment. Stars aligned and the next thing I knew, I was enjoying a quick lunch in a pub I’d been wanting to visit for a while. The Great Northern has been on the radar and whilst it was a fleeting visit, it ticks many boxes and I’ll be back as soon as possible. The Great Northern had clearly met Feral’s conditions in relation to Tusk and is one about 10 venues selling it. According to Crafty Pint, they are “venues who have guaranteed that there will be cold refrigerated transport from brewery to bar and that it will be tapped the instant it arrives“. Highly regarded US Imperial or Double IPAs like Pliny the Elder emphasise this need to engage in as immediate consumption as possible, so this isn’t hyperbole on Feral’s part. So what’s it like? This is as big a beer made by an Australian brewer as I’ve had. My companion for the day simply went “Phew!”. He immediately commented on the alcohol. Without prompting he reckoned it tasted spirituous. Interesting reaction from a bloke that doesn’t drink craft often. Tusk is a classic sipper, squintly so on the first taste – but one that works up to a magnificent crescendo as it goes on. I was actually keen for a second – but at 9.5%, on this instance, one was enough. Delighted to have had a crack at the Tusk
The Great Northern is putting on an event during “Good Beer Week“, where thirteen of their taps will be turned over to some of the USA’s finest. They are clearly warming up to that event. They have a good range of Bridgeport beers available in their bottle, there’s plenty of Brooklyn Beer paraphernalia up and they have an iconic beer on tap – Rogue‘s Dead Guy Ale. The tap head’s marvellous and the beer’s even better. The back stories of many of Rogue’s beers are pretty interesting – not surprising for a craft brewer that’s been around since 1989. Dead Guy was a private label for a Day of the Dead promo many years ago. It was so popular it became a perennial name for Rogue’s Maibock – and the tap handle is iconic as they come. Bloody fine beer that held it’s own despite coming after the Tusk. I will return to the Great Northern – if that could be during Good Beer Week – even better.
There is so much action happening on such a frequent occurrence in the Australian craft beer scene, that august journals like The Crafty Pint and Australian Brews News (can a journal be digital?) can barely squeeze all the news in. To be honest, I can’t remember which of these fine purveyors of beery info let me know first, but I recevied advance notice of Temple Brewing’s Oatmeal Stout launching last Friday. Despite the fact that I continue to regularly visit Melbourne, it has been very rare that I’ve been able to coincide a visit with a Melbourne craft brew event – but by hook and by crook I was going to make this work.
According to one of my Melbourne insiders a detour via Temple Brewing on the way to Tullamarine from the city was not a big deal. Grab a cab at 3pm, pull in to Temple Brewery and Brasserie, have a pot of Oatmeal Stout, jump back the cab and be on the 5pm back to old Sydney town. Sounded easy. The cabbie wasn’t so sure, but took on the challenge. Despite having the exact address, we actually drove straight past it, because Temple is in an unlikely building in between two light industrial factories. Once you swing open the black door though, you are in craft brew heaven. I only spent time downstairs in what is a modestly sized bar, but the backdrop is terrific. Gleaming brewing equipment is visible through floor to ceiling glass windows.
With the cab driver revving, I grabbed my Oatmeal Stout. I wasn’t the first beer blogger there – having been beaten to the punch by @JustBeer_NoBull – though I think I was the first Sydney based beer blogger. Great traditional stout – really solid. Nice coffee flavours and a lovely smoothness. Definitely worth the visit. I was so impressed that I decided to slip in another before the trip to the airport. I opted for the Smoked Weizen, which I sipped whilst waiting for the barman to grab three takeaways. The Smoked Weizen is top shelf. I don’t recall this combination before and it actually works. There was the brightness of a fresh Weizen with the smokiness of a mild rauchbier. Next time, I’ll be back for a run through the entire taprack.
A roadie is normally a beer before one hits the road. I ripped into a Bicycle Beer in the back of the cab on the way to the airport. The cabbie – a very tolerant chap – advised that it was illegal to drink in a Melbourne cab. That sounds similar to my regular mode of transport. The Bicycle Beer, whilst still good, was the least impressive of the three. Maybe the Smoked Weizen had made such an impression that the subtle Bicycle paled in comparison. I reckon this is a perfect summer beer – and hopefully it’ll be available in bottles in Sydney in about November (hint, hint). I subsequently enjoyed a Soba Ale and a Pale Ale a couple of days later at home – and they were quality. So, all in all get thee to the Temple.
The postscript to this tale is that all flights to Sydney were delayed by a number of hours and I ended up spending a ridiculous amount of time in the Qantas Club – when instead I could have actually had a run at the Temple tap rack.
It was an antarctic night last Thursday in Melbourne, so much so that I almost opted for the warmth of my hotel room, but you just never know whether the regular visits to Melbourne will stop – so every opportunity must be taken. Penny Blue Bar is at the end of short laneway (Drivers Lane) in the heart of the Melbourne CBD and I was delighted to see no shortage of heating devices on display. Penny Blue Bar is really well set up, with luxurious inside and outside seating. The bar is in the back right corner and looks deceptively small, but contains one of the more comprehensive beer collections I’ve seen for sometime. The beer menu is pages long and to photograph one page would do it a disservice. As Tipples promised, confusion really sets in and that would explain ordering a beer called Breakfast at 8pm at night.
Moa Breakfast beer is quite unusual. Designed to be a summer beer (I really was very rattled by the choice), it has a very distinctive cherry aroma and taste. It’s not overpoweringly sweet like a fruit beer, and I’d go it again, but not on such a cold dark evening. Next up was a Midnight IPA, by Temple Brewing. This was a much better choice given the conditions. The jet blackness matched the sky and the heavy hoppiness and high alcohol content crashed head on into the chorizo and warmed the heart. This is a cracking beer, but things were going to get better.
There doesn’t look like much room for taps at Penny Blue – most of the action is in the fridges, but there’s a small range of hand pulled beers available and I’ve never been let down by anything from Mornington Brewery – so I opted for a Mornington Porter. Nice choice – very smooth and soothing. I could have stayed on this all night.
As I was about to leave this fine establishment, I received a tweet from @tipplesblog providing another tip – “If you are at Penny Blue, try Black Dog IPA”. Well, his tip on Penny Blue was that on the money – I was sure I could rely on this one. Never in doubt, this IPA is an absolute ripper. Made by Black Dog Brewery in the small town of Taminick, which is 250kms NNE of Melbourne, Leader of the Pack IPA is a stand out of this variety. The brewery is within a winery and the brewer is also a winemaker. Might have to try his wine after this beer. Leader of the Pack IPA is resinous, sharp and gloriously bitter. It is one to drink slowly and revel in the wonderful aftertaste.
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.
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″
For the last year or so, this correspondent has been making regular trips to Melbourne and more often than not has stayed at the Hilton South Wharf. I’ve never really been a fan of hotel bars (unless someone’s paying) and the paucity of venues nearby the Hilton and an aversion to Crown has forced me into the inner city ‘burbs for drinking adventure. Recently, though, there’s been a gradual increase in the number of South Wharf venues – so much so, that it’s almost become a bit of a precinct. I’ll still always prefer to venture to the ‘burbs, but if I’m dog tired I at least know that there’s a handful of places to sip on a couple.
In addition to the BoatBuilder’s Yard (previously reviewed), you can also enjoy a bevvy at the Common Man, the Melbourne Public Bar and the Meat Market. It also looks like there’s plenty of room for some future openings with lots of unfinished builder’s business all around. I’ve yet to visit the Meat Market. It looks worth a pop – in with a promising meat menu on offer. Beers are served in a Butcher’s (200ml), which sounds a little silly. It’s not like Melbourne’s the Top End where your beer can get warm instantly. I did pop into the Melbourne Public Bar. Gees – this place is huge. I think it’ll be my sports watching venue – though there’s plenty more to it than that.
I also dropped in on the Common Man and enjoyed a bevvy there whilst the sun was still out. This is a very comfortable looking place and whilst it has views of the river it is set further back that the Boatbuilder’s Yard. The beer list is another eclectic one and the presence of a growler on the bar looks like they might offer that service to patrons, which would be good. The grazing menu looks really affordable and diverse – and I’ll give that a go next time.
The Common Man did offer me a beer that hasn’t graced the pages of the Back of the Ferry. Sünner Kölsch is from Cologne which proclaims itself as the home of the Kölsch style of beer. There is a thing called the Kölsch Konvention, of which there are 23 signatories, and if the had their way the only people that could call their beer Kölsch, would be brewers from Cologne. I’ve drunk plenty of Kölsch style beers in Australia and they were quite different to the Sünner. The Sünner was really quite malty, whereas the Orstryan Kolshces were quite citrusy and bright. The ad that I’ve knocked of the Sünner website is quite amusing if you speak German. They are very excited to import Sünner to Australia, but aren’t sure whether the head would be at the bottom or the top of the glass – given “Down Under”.
I pulled into @bierobar for a beer that had been tipped to me. I bought it (a magnificent hoppy) beer called @victorybeer HopDevil. It was magnificent, as tipped.
But as I looked around I saw a bar in decline. Chandaliers in boxes, empty glass kegs and it was hotter inside than outside. I wasn’t wanted there,
Turns out @bierobar is changing hands. It will become Dejavu “bar and Lounge”. They will add spirits to the menu. Sign changes in a fortnight. So Adieu to Biero Bar. You were great. Some bargains may be there in the next week. BotF – you heard it here first.
Melbourne’s inner suburban pub scene is simply sensational. On a recent visit, this correspondent was able to do a quick sprint through Richmond and the next day, visit a couple of pubs in North Melbourne next to the Queen Victoria markets. I’m slowly building up a list of pubs that I look forward to spending much longer times sessions.
According to my source of Melbourne pub truth – MelbournePubs.com – there are 47 bars and pubs in the suburb of Richmond. That’s not a bad effort. Of the 7 I visited, the Great Britain Hotel is the one I’d return to for a decent old session. There’s a good range of beer on tap – both White Rabbits, a couple of Little Creatures, a couple of Coopers and McLaren Vale – and amazingly no Carlton Draught, but I’d just return for the surrounds. Plenty of old couches, plenty of nooks and crannies, plenty of interesting paraphenalia and a good beer garden make it a place that simply good to drink in.
The Great Britain Hotel is also the birthplace of Piss Lager. Piss lager started life as the house beer for the GB and doesn’t pretend to offer anymore flavour than Fosters or XXXX. Piss just has a sense of humour like its light variety – “Piss Weak”. It’s totally inoffensive stuff and would be a fine session beer. I don’t think I’ll be able to resist and I’ll be getting a Piss Pak soon (t-shirt, stubby holder and a stubby of Piss and a stubby of Piss Weak). There’s a pub in Greensborough that also sells Piss.
The next day I found myself in another pub painted black. The Victoria Hotel is diagonally opposite the northeast corner of the Queen Victoria markets. With its black paint job and white portrait of Victoria, it looks like a big Penny Black. It is part of the Bev & Mick’s backpacker empire, which comprises of a handful of pubs that have been turned into backpacker places. They’ve retained the drinking part and added accomodation. They’d be plenty of fun when packed, but I think I’d prefer to be in the Drunken Poet down the road.
So second black pub and like the Great Britain, the Victoria offered a house beer – Bev & Mick’s Draught. I asked the barman for a pint and he looked at me and said – “Are you sure?”. I changed my order to a pot. Like Piss, it wasn’t unpotable. It was pretty cheap and would do a fine job if you were a backpacker. This isn’t a widely reviewed beer, but our trusty mate, Tipples, comes up first in a google search for Bev & Mick’s Draught. Difficult to draw a different conclusion to the sagacious Tipples. The barman reckoned Bev & Mick’s Draught is made by Southern Bay Brewing, but they don’t own up to it on their site.
Had an opportunity to meander back to Melbourne Airport. Chose Carlton as the pub crawl location.
First stop was the Corkman, an Irish pub that has taken over what used to be the Carlton Inn. This is deep in Uni territory and should do well. Roomy and a good feed looks to be available. White Rabbit Dark on tap, which is welcome.
Next stop (choosing to bypass the University Hotel) was Percy’s. Formerly the Astor, Percy’s is a real locals’ pub with a curator’s wet dream of Carlton Football Club memorabilia. Had a stubby of Abbotsford Invalid Stout. Great beer. Looks like a good feed. Parma & Pot – $14.
Next stop, Pugg Mahones. This is a beautifully appointed Irish Pub. Yep, it’s clear that it is a fit out, but it looks really good. Only one Irish beer on tap that I could see but the Guinness was fine.
Across the road was a completely different bar to the previous three. Markov PL is a very trendy modern reno of what was probably been an old building. Not a corner bar, but a street frontage. Really good tight Spanish Beer list. I had a beer I hadn’t had before – Alhambra Negra. Nice drop, not as big as the Invalid which was the standout of the 4 darks that I tried. Good caramel, slightly burnt taste and it is worth trying.
This is an epic beer. A very long name. Grand Ridge Mirboo Madness Limited Release American Red Ale. Almost no room on the label for anything else.
A 6% treasure full of hops, great colour, great taste and simply a fine, fine beer. Beer label hyperbole is totally justified here. “be sure to clear the rest of your day when starting on this one”. Yep.