Whenever your correspondent visits Melbourne the first thing I do is check Crafty Pint. As always the recommended pubs are spot on so, after a hard day adding shareholder value at my day job, your correspondent found himself at The Gertrude Hotel in Fitzroy.
I have a pretty simple maxim when judging a pub. If, and this is a big if, I was single and sans kids, would said pub be suitable as my local on the corner? In the case of The Gertrude the answer is a resounding yes.
On the night that #hipstergeddon struck the counter culture hotbeds of North Fitzroy and Northcote I was at the bar at the Gertrude in the middle of ‘Dark Beer’ month and 16 rotating craft beer taps. The service could not be faulted and the lass behind the bar was enthusiastic and knowledgeable about all the beers.
In short the Gertrude is a brilliant, warm little pub definitely worth a visit if you’re into your craft beers. The take away selection is also top notch.
Last Sunday saw this correspondent on the sun dappled back deck of fellow correspondent – illiards. Sydney had turned on a great Sunday on the last week-end of Autumn and illiards decided to turn the hospitality and his barbecue. The least I could do was raid The Cantina’s fridge for a few uniques to sample. We were joined by the always loquacious Fergus – whose appeared more than once on these pages.
First cab off the rank was the latest offering from Stone & Wood. If this doesn’t finish in the top 20 of Hottest 100 beers contest in 2013 – then I’m a poor judge. This is a ripper in all respects. The colour is particularly fine. According to beer label hyperbole, the colour is reminiscent of the red volcanic soil of the Byron Bay hinterland. The boys are well read, because “Jasper” means “a compact, opaque, cryptocrystalline variety of quartz, usually colored red” – didn’t know that!. This is a beer to be savoured. It’s wonderfully malty, almost earthy to start with a subtle but growing hoppy finish at the end. I’ve seen this on tap as well, and I hope that this gets into more than a few pubs. Could be a go-to beer. In sort of related trivia, the team name for the Manhattan College is the Jaspers. They’re named after Brother Jasper – a legendary figure from their early days – who is credited with creating baseball’s 7th inning stretch – there you go.
The second beer we tried was a collaboration that has been one of the stars of the Australian twitterverse lately. The Gypsy and the Goat is made by Mountain Goat and Mikkel Borg Bjergsø of the “gypsy” brewery Mikkeller. Mikkeller is an idol of world brewing. There is no brewery – they just brew with other people. This drop is an outstanding collaboration – a black pepperberry IPA, which is intense from head to toe. The colour is an opaque black, black. There’s a wonderful spice to the sip, but it is the bitterness that is the king. I had it with a steak, and the pepper in the beer compliments the meat well. One to snaffle if you can.
The last @untappd newbie was one from a range of Schneider Weisse beers that has infiltrated Vintage Cellars recently. The website indicates that there are at least 8 varieties and Vintage is stocking at least 3 of them. “Tap 1″ is a vibrant, fragrant wheat beer. The colour is awesome and as the sun set over the insular peninsula, this wheat beer lit up like an orange. It is a really fine example of a wheat beer with plenty of fizz and aroma. Better in summer, but not bad for an autumn day.
For a blog based off the back of a Sydney harbour ferry, Back of the Ferry has a suprisingly diverse international readership. Recently, BotF was contacted by the Italian based distributor of some Italian beers, who’d actually spotted our stuff on the interweb. Despite obviously having read some of our posts, she was still prepared to meet us and offer us some samples for our consideration. Now, normally when we get a beer to sample we try to give it the full BotF beerporn treatment and tasting off the Opera House. One look at the beautiful looking bottle of My Antonia indicated that this should be sampled in a more contemplative surrounding with some fine food. The Caterpillar Pale Ale looked more conducive to a post surf settler at Byron, but we had different plans for it.
Collaborations between brewers are all the rage right now. We’ve written about Mountain Goat and one of their partnered offerings and barely a fortnight goes by without something on Crafty Pint or AusBrewNews announcing an upcoming collaboration. Both these offerings from Italy were collaborations – and damned fine ones at that, albeit completely different. The first (My Antonia) was a collaboration between a rockstar of US craft brewing (Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery) and a real pioneer of Italian craft brewing (Leonardo Di Vincenzo of Birra Del Borgo). The second was a offering from a Danish Brewer – Beer Here and another Italian Brewer – Beer Fist. My Antonia is a very serious, very well made drop. It is described as an Imperial Pilsner and is big in many, many ways. It’s a beer that should be treated like a good wine. Drink it slow, drink it with something that someone has taken an effort to cook. I took it to a dinner party where our hosts had killed the fatted calf – or in this instance a flock of spatchcocks. My Antonia is highly hopped (a fistful of hops added for every minute of a 60 minute a pre-boil period), but there’s also plenty of malt. The result is a rich, flavourful concoction, that one can enjoy sip by sip. There’s a story behind the name as well, but I’ve never been much good at literary study. Not sure on the retail price, but whatever it is, it is worth it.
I wish I could find the back story to the Caterpillar Pale Ale. The label is one of the more picturesque and enigmatic I’ve seen. A Jabba-the-Hut-meets-the-Mad-Hatter-Caterpillar smokes what looks like a a Captain GoodVibes sized scoob as he accepts a goblet of beer from an enthusiastic looking Alice in a hop garden in which the two brewers crouch. The contents contain a great tasting pwerful pale ale. It’s a lovely cloudy drop weighing at a nice 6%. There’s a classic long lasting bitterness that is as good as it gets. The humour of the label makes one under estimates the quality of the drop. Both of these collaborations are worth seeking out.
I took the Caterpillar Pale Ale to a couple of Club Rugby games on succesive weekends. Sydney Club rugby is a great Saturday afternoon activity, particularly when the afternoons are so fine. Manly and Warringah might be joined at the hip in Rugby League in the form of the Manly-Warringah Rugby League team, but in club rugby they are two fierce rivals. Manly play at Manly Oval which is a cricket oval in summer. I was lucky enough to watch the local derby between the two insular penisula rivals and naturally a rugged contest ensued. Manly won easily but the real winner was the traditional combatative atmosphere. The second Saturday was spent at Rat Park where the Warringah Rats met the once powerful Gallopin Greens of Randwick. Much to the sadistic joy of the crowd the Green Rats vanquished Randwick and consigned the “Green Slime” (the name many opponents of Randwick prefer to use) to an unprecedented 7th consecutive defeat. In fact Randwick haven’t won a game this year. The joy of club rugby is that you can enjoy the game without being cheek to jowl with fellow spectators, yet still enjoy good natured banter. It is almost sad about Randwick, but as someone who witnessed his childhood team thrashed repeatedly by the “Slime” it isn’t really that sad.
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.
Most Sundays are quiet affairs spent at home with family and friends with perhaps a sojourn to the beach with the kids. But this past Sunday wasn’t just any old run-of-the-mill Sunday.
There was a game of Rugby going on in Auckland, the V8 Supercars swapping paint on the Gold Coast and in the quiet enclave of Burrawang a bunch of men ranging in ages from 15 to 60+ were recovering from the 2011 edition of The Burrawang Cup.
Played since 1994 the Burrawang Cup is an annual golf day run by the proprietor of the Burrawang Village Hotel – Ed Woolfrey. With a eclectic collection of locals, “The Cup” has gone from strength to strength with the number of participants growing as the years roll by.
Unfortunately this correspondant was unable to play in the 2011 edition, but I was able to make it to Burrawang in time for the formalities and to see the presentation of the Cup to this years winner.
There was another upside to my visit to Burrawang and this was in the form of the local brew – Pigs Fly Pale Ale. Recently consumed at a long and indulgent lunch with Mrs D at the McVitty Restaurant, the Pale Ale is a delightfully refreshing brew made locally by the Bowral Brewing Company. This drop is very drinkable with familiarity creeping in from the Matilda Bay and Monteiths breweries that have been very well documented on these pages.
Pigs Fly is tricky little one to pick up in the big smoke but a little digging will see a 6 pack in your fridge in no time. Do yourself a favour though – head for Ed’s pub and have one there in the beer garden on a balmy Summer’s eve.
Another brew sampled over the weekend was the Mountain Goat Hightail Ale – fellow contributors bladdamasta and illiards sampled the Cross Brew on recent trip to Rylstone – the Hightail Ale is another deserved of a follow-up and consumption on a warm day. Delightfully drinkable, this ale will not fail to refresh and replenish.
All in all a pretty good Sunday…
illiards and bladdamasta’s weekend in the wilderness was not completely spent scale rocky outcrops and a journey to Rylstone was called for to collect supplies and refreshments. Rylstone is 240kms North West of Sydney and has preserved the look of 1800s NSW town. It’s done a pretty good job of building itself into a tourist destination both for the town itself and the access it gives to the Wollemi National Park, Dunns Swamp and Ferntree Gully. There’s 10 different places for a feed including the bistros/restaurants of the two fine pubs that still exist in Rylstone.
It might be a short pub crawl, but it’s one well worth doing. As we were accompanied by kids, we weren’t able to linger at either establishment, but both provided facilities that at least able to blow the froth of one schooner without being too pestered. The Globe Hotel claims to be around since 1855, which is quite possible given Rylstone has been around since the 1840′s. There’s a main bar and a very smart separate bistro called the Shed. Enjoying a schooner with the sprogs is easy with an expansive beer garden that surrounds the bistro.
A 100m crawl brings you to the more modern Rylstone Hotel. This place has had a fair bit of coin dropped on it recently. The front bar is relatively small, but there are expansive areas out the back. There’s been extensive landscaping and the creation of a very impressive beer garden. For a couple of blokes with a tribe the discovery is a very large trampoline at the side of the hotel. This wouldn’t pass muster in Sydney – not because it wasn’t fun or wouldn’t keep the kids amused for hours – but simply because I haven’t seen a trampoline without side netting this century. The Rylstone is backing the theory that a higher protects drunks and kids – this trampoline is evidence of that. A great child-minding facility.
The beer we had upon our return home was a rare concoction that involved two brewers – Thornbridge Brewery of Derbyshire, England and Mountain Goat of Richmond, Victoria, Australia. The guys from Mountain Goat love making one-offs and have started an occasional series of collaborations that they call their Cross Breed beers. This one came out in March 2011, and I was very forunate to uncover a single bottle in the back of a fridge at Porters Balgowlah. It is an optical illusion of a beer because it is so black, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you are drinking a Stout. In fact, it is a Black IPA. It was a wonderful mix of hoppiness and chocolate malts and even though it had the long bitterness of a great IPA, there was a real maltiness lurking as well. I look forward to more Cross Breeds.