Over the years, the 4 Pines Keller Door has released some beers with some weird and wonderful ingredients. Chocolate Seaweed Porter, Porky Pig and Fig, Banana Bread and Espresso, Apple and Blackcurrant Crumble, Black Forest (cake) Imperial Stout and Cherry Pie Beer are some examples of the concoctions that have flowed from the taps both at the Manly base and around the country. It looks like they’ve let their imagination go beserk lately and they’ve promised a “series of ten cask ales each individually hopped to cocktail inspired ingredients”. The series is called the Spice Rack Cask Ales.
They’ve kept this pretty quiet and it was by accident that this correspondent pulled in last Thursday for a quick one and was able to partake in a pint of the first in the series. Now I’ve always ordered pints (unless someone can come up with a way to fit 568ml in a half-pint glass). I think, though with the challenging concoctions that the Spice Rack Cask Ales series will deliver, a half pint is the way to go. Number one in the series is Raspberry & Kafir (sic) Lime. From the first mouthful I was put off. Not sure if this was meant to be sweet or tart – I just found it in a no-mans-land and it was a struggle. A pint was just too much.
On my next visit, number two in the series had been tapped. I went for a half of Strawberries & Cream, which promised to be “just like the lolly”. I sipped with some trepidation – but this was a really pleasant surprise. There was a creamy sweetness – partly delivered by the smoothness of the hand-pull and partly by the essence of strawberry. There’s nothing cloying about this beer and it is extremely sessionable. One to get in for, as it looks like there’s only one keg of each variety. The kegs are lying in wait in a fridge at the 4 Pines and some of the names are intriguing (but I won’t spoil the surprise). Releasing ten hand pulled casks is a gutsy call by 4 Pines and good on them for challenging us. Looking forward to some more surprises.
In other Manly news, the Rubber Duckie Taphouse will be changing its name tomorrow night. From Thursday 28th, Murrays at Manly, which became the Rubber Duckie Taphouse, will become the Yardarm Taphouse. Unlike the previous owners of this venue, the new proprietors, Kevin and Jules, actually give a sh1t about their customers. They’ll give this a real crack, I reckon, and Manly will be the better for it. Would love to be there for the launch, but I’ll rustle up a couple of other correspondents to see if they can’t be there. One correspondent that won’t be there at the launch night did do a rather prescient write up a couple of months ago. Sandy – was this intentional?
One of the insular peninsula’s best bottleshops is Porter’s at Balgowlah – as we’ve commented often. Their Facebook page is often updated with their new arrivals and recently they announced a new permanent addition to the bottleshop. Their “Growler Machine” is actually a keg and tap system that enables locals to fill up a growler with fresh draught beer. I ducked there on the weekend and picked up a growler of Dad and Dave’s #1 Pale Ale. They’ve already had Illawarra Brewing Pale Ale, Rocket Science’s Mad Hatter and Moa Methode available via the Growler Machine. They’ll sell you an empty Growler or they’ll let you fill up a Growler regardless of whose brand is on it. A new meaning “To growl” is making a case to be included in the dictionary alongside the existing 4 definitions. I’ve seen that a few bottleshops are “growling XYZ beer”. Apparently a bottleshop at Terry Hills has put on 7 taps. It’s definitely becoming a growing trend and is moving beyond brew pubs.
The old Murrays at Manly venue had well intentioned plans to introduce growler fills, but came unstuck due to some peculiarities in the licensing laws. I popped in for a quick bevvie to Rubber Duckie and overhead a North American accented woman explaining to a customer that they had “recently taken over”. I then quizzed a North American accented gent, who was attentively serving me about when the changeover occurred. “Tuesday”. “Going to keep the name?” “For now”. In response to an Untappd check in, Doc of Doctor’s Orders Brewing advised that new management was indeed in place “they are really going to kick it. More guest taps and guys. Always a Doctors Orders beer too”. I deliberately use the word “attentively”, because for the first time in a long time at Murrays/Rubber Duckie a staff member cared. Early days, but if they rotate the taps (including Murrays) it’ll be a place worth visiting.
Amazingly 4 Pines to my recollection has never served anything other than 4 Pines beer from its taps. That’s never worried the punters who continue to flock in unabated to sample the 4 Pines offerings. They continue to offer small batches through its Keller Door range. On Sunday, I sampled their Spring Ale. Another beauty. I can no longer keep up with the number of Keller Door offerings, but they rarely disappoint. There was something that was made with seawater recently that was a little underwhelming but there’s been nothing completely unpotable. Oh – and there’s no problem getting a Growler filled as long as it is a 4 Pines growler.
Well, here is some breaking news from Back of the Ferry. Murrays at Manly is no more. That statement might be a little absolute, because I think that maybe their beer will still dominate the taps at 49 North Steyne – but a venue called Murrays at Manly has ceased to exist. One of the toughest sites in Manly (maybe Sydney) to make work is 49 North Steyne and another victim has been claimed. The new venue, complete with new fit-out, new management, new menu and new name is the Rubber Duckie Taphouse. Now before anyone has a crack at the name (no, I’m not sold on it either), it is geographically relevant because the surf lifesavers use rubber duckies as an integral part of their operations. The livery of the signage also matches the colour scheme of the volunteer surf lifesavers.
So what’s happened? Well, as mentioned above, the 49 North Steyne jinx has bitten yet again. Murray’s is not the first big name to go down in this venue. Miguel Maestre, the celebrity chef of Spanish extraction, had a high profile crash and burn at this venue before Murray’s and no-one seems to last that long. By my estimation Murray’s clocked just a smidge of two years. As a regular patron, as an attendee of both opening nights and as a regular visitor to other Manly drinking holes, I’ve got a few theories I’d like to share.
Everyone wanted Murray’s at Manly to succeed. Manly folk were very proud that Murray’s had chosen Manly as his Sydney outlet – but it never really took hold. Sure there were a couple of nights where it was cheek to jowl. The Gerry Lopez evening was a stand-out example, and it worked well for that type of evening. More often than not, however, it wasn’t at capacity. Put simply, Murray’s at Manly never got its act together consistently. The menu constantly changed and the staff changed more than Melbourne weather and whilst often willing – never really built up a rapport. No-one was there long enough! Contrast that with the 4 Pines – consistent from the get go, and their staff have relationships with their customers and are passionate about the joint.
I had some great times at Murray’s, but I also had some shockers. The 2011 Father’s Day fiasco still causes my wife cold sweats where a four course meal took four hours to serve up. There was the false start where a really enthusiastic front of house guy – who had the right attitude in spades – disappeared very suddenly. There was the re-fit, which again took time to take hold and ultimately there was the real lack of a manager who knew what was going on. Some of the menus missed the mark by a long shot with pricing just totally out of whack with reality. It pains me to write this because I wanted Murray’s to work, and my @Untappd account is testament to how many chances I gave it, but it clearly hasn’t. Bummer.
So new management is in, there’s a new menu and there’s a new attitude. As I write this, our twitter account has been informed this is the first of many Rubber Duckie Taphouses. Each one will have the full range of Murray’s on tap. So there you go – a new distribution point for Murray’s. An inauspicious start – Manly was deserted because the food and wine festival was on and therefore it was raining – but I genuinely wish the new management all the best. Keep up the Murray’s, but also keep up the guest taps. I really enjoyed the Illawarra Rust and Pale.
So, after a quick swim at Manly I popped into Murray’s with one of the bambinos for a quick spot of lunch. Now, whilst I love a good Murray’s, I also like how Murray’s has a couple of guest taps on the go, and it is almost always interesting stuff – Australian Brewery, Pinchgut Brewing or in today’s case Doctor’s Orders Brewing. In fact, the Doctor had done well, because he had two of his offerings on the go – the Zephyr Double White Ale and Night Nurse Stout White Stout. (There’s nothing straightforward about a Doctor’s Orders Brewing beer).
So I opt for a Zephyr to accompany my calamari, and whilst sipping away on what is a cracking beer I enter it into Untappd. My daughter’s eyes roll, but we settle into enjoying the view and the beer (or in her case a pink lemonade). Zephyr is an Australian take on a “White Ale morphing into a Belgian Witbier”. As well as coriander, it uses Australian botanicals like lemon myrtle in the mix. It is very, very refreshing and so well made you wouldn’t know that it was a 7.5%’er. I was debating whether to order the Night Nurse, when a guy at the next table starts grinning at me. “Happy chappy – I thought”. As I summon the waitress another bloke from the table comes over and says “Are you Back of the Ferry because I’m the Doctor”. Turns out that the Doctor aka @DrsOrdersBrewin was on a little brewers day out with a couple of lads from Australian Brewery and saw my check-in. My daughter tried to find somewhere to hide and the Doctor and I got chatting. Turns out that the Doctor is a old mate of Shawn Sherlock, who is the head brewer of Murray’s. The Doctor is a self confessed “cuckoo brewer”, brewing his concoctions at other people’s breweries. He is currently brewing out of Australian Brewery at Rouse Hill and Young Henrys at Newtown.
And so to my second beer – Night Nurse Stout White Stout, which is a collaboration that the Doctor has made with Young Henrys. One of the good things about a Doctor’s Orders Brewing beer is its name. This is a fellow whose seasonal beers have been called “Defibrillator”, “Synapse”, “Iron Lung” and Plasma” in the past, so of course the name is unusual. Another good thing about a Doctor’s Orders Brewing beer is that they challenge you. When you order a stout – you expect black. As the Doctor told me, stout in this instance means strong, when stout was an adjective and not a beer style. He said think “Imperial English Summer Ale”. It’s another cracker – definitely strong and complex, but again refreshing. Loved it. It isn’t often you get to try a beer with a brewer in another brewer’s pub. Thanks for saying gidday Doc, and I’m looking forward to your next prescription.
Even on the finest of winter days, the twilight is chilly, the rugs come out and a big strong beer is required. Terrigal’s Vintage Cellars had a variety of Leffe (Vieille Cuvee) that I hadn’t seen before – and if a brewer can be relied upon for a big strong beer – it is Leffe. According to Beer Advocate, there are 11 varieties of Leffe – and the most common in Australia, whether on tap or in bottles, are Leffe Blond and Brune. Neither of these are for the faint hearted – both over 6%. This is wimpy, however compared to Vieille Cuvee, which comes in at a heart warming 8.2%. Another BotF correspondent – Cyril Dickthorpe – is on assignment in Europe (@Untapping and tweeting furiously, but not posting) and he tried a 8.5% Leffe Tripel. I’d imagine that was so chunky you could carve it. Whilst the Leffe livery points to this being an Abbey beer, it has been a while since Leffe was brewed in an abbey and it is now brewed in Leuven – the headquarters of Anheuser-Busch Inbev, its owner. The monks still make a good earn from the licencing and according to their own website – the Abbey Fathers keep on eye on things. Whilst the Vieille Cuvee is more solid than your average beer – it did leave me a little underwhelmed. The initial taste is rich and fruity, but it does die away quite quickly. The warmth of the alcohol stays, but it just didn’t hold for as long as I expected.
Now, a number of readers alerted me to the article in last week’s Sydney Morning Herald (and the Age I think), which you can read here Yeer in Beer. This article generated a little bit of a hub-bub on the beer blooger and twitterverse – (For example). Most of the comment centred around – “What? 366 beers in a year? Huh – piffle – easy”. On one hand, I’m inclined to agree. The authors found it hard to source beers in a five km radius of where they live and ran out of options within two months. The article doesn’t reveal their locale – but gees, even Sydney’s Hills District has a Dan Murphys within a 5km radius. Other duopoly owned bottlos like Vintage Cellars are starting to stock varieties from all over (Broome, US, Scotland etc).
I think what has added a degree of difficulty is the edict “One a Day” and no stocking up for a bender. If they live in a part of Sydney (Australia) where there is a dearth of pubs – that makes it hard. Let’s face – you can go to Murray’s at Manly for 18 days straight and have a different beer each time off the tap. Other side of the Corso and you end up at Four Pines and depending whether the Keller Door has been opened, you can drink for 10 days straight and have a different beer each time. By the end of that 28 days, there’s a fair chance Murray’s will have something different again.
Good luck to the Yeer in Beer crew. The hardest part of the challenge will be the discipline of writing each day. The challenge itself is easy, and I guess people were so surprised that such an easy challenge received such wide publicity.
The travel brochures advertising Manly and its delights will always show beautifully clear days with rolling surf, smiling happy people and a general vibe of perfection. Fair enough – quite often Manly is just like that. I haven’t seen any promotional materials for the Manly Food & Wine Festival or the Manly Jazz Festival – events that are held annually – but both would be misleading if they contained a hint of sunshine. We’ve previously commented on the shocking meteorological luck of the Manly Jazz Festival. A similar fate befell the Manly Food & Wine Festival on the weekend.
I thought I may have been a little harsh with my recollection, but infrequent contributor – l0der – confirmed my view that the Manly Food and Wine Festival is as unlucky as the Manly Jazz Festival. Perhaps the Manly Jazz Festival suffers more extreme weather – but it’s almost always overcast. Fortunately Manly is opening more and more places on the beachfront, so there’s plenty of options to get out of the rain. Murray’s at Manly is quite kid friendly during the day so after a soggy quick perusal of what the stalls had to offer it is a perfect place to seek shelter. The beauty of Murray’s is that you can watch the people parade along North Steyne and check out the surf.
My tipple of choice was a Murray’s offering that has been around for a while – Punk Monk. This is a beer not to be underestimated. Punk Monk weighs in a hefty 7.5%, but doesn’t taste as such. There’s plenty of powerful flavours and there’s the earthiness of his Libertine along with the yeastiness of a Belgian Ale. Nice and bubbly off the tap and maybe it was my pouring, but it produces a souffle-like head that lasts and lasts. Quite easy to polish off a couple of these – maybe that’s why Murray’s doesn’t serve stuff over 6%(?) in a pint glass.
By the way, there is a severe weather warning for Sydney for the next couple of days – mountainous seas and high winds. Unfortunately this correspondent will be in Melbourne, but if there’s a BotF salty seadog up for the journey – it’d be great to hear about it all.
About 24 years ago, I remember drinking a beer brewed specifically for Easter. It was, (I think – it was a long time ago), a chocolate beer made by Matilda Bay. It was in a 500ml swing top and it tasted not too different to an Easter egg. Fast forward a couple of decades and then some, and the closest I’ve come to an Easter beer is a chocolate stout or porter.
Now I wasn’t thinking, when I saw the label for Murray’s Easter offering which claimed his Easter Ale was “raisin’ the bar”. I was expected something very dark and chocolatey – and was completely surprised when I read the very helpful description. What’s been developed is a spiced beer enhanced with malt and raisins to create a version of a hot cross bun in a glass. Murray’s mum must have used plenty more powdered cinnamon and nutmeg in her Hot Croass Buns that I’m used to – but as with all Murray’s beers – there’s no shortage of action in the glass. I would have preferred less bitterness in the after taste – but I really enjoyed the unique experience. There was no shortage of other punters giving it a lash at Murray’s at Manly, which is great to see. Tourists and locals alike were giving it a whirl
Easter in Australia means two sporting events, the Bells Beach Surf Classic and the Stawell Gift (a handicap sprint race on a grass track. This year’s Bells is the first held since the premature death of Michael Peterson – the first winner of Bells as a professional tournemant. It was totally fitting that this year’s Bells was won by Mick Fanning who grew up not far from Kirra, which was Michael Peterson’s domain. Recently, BotF wrote a little about Kelly Slater and grudgingly acknowledged Slater as the greatest surfer ever. Well, for 3 years, Michael Peterson (or MP or the King of Kirra) dominated surfing like no other surfer ever – Slater included. His story, which is best told in the book, MP: The Life of Michael Peterson by Sean Doherty is quite hard to believe. After dominating so completely, mental illness took hold and he never won another tournemant after 1977. He spent time in jail and was fotunately diagnosed with his mental illness and he lived largely as a recluse after that. He started to make appearances after 2000, but as you can see from the photo – he wasn’t a threat on a board again.
Now that’s he’s dead, his legend will grow bigger. In the 3 years he dominated, he pulled off feats of surfing brilliance that are still talked about. His legend is helped by the fact there is very little footage of him, whether still or video. Apparently he would be so deep in the barrel of a wave, that it wouldn’t matter if you had a camera anyway.
Happy National Beer Day – April 7 is when prohibition ended in the United States.
One of the benefits of getting the ferry home from work, is that on each journey you get to admire one of Sydney’s icons. Whether you travel on it, under it or pass it, you can’t help but look in awe. The Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened 80 years ago on 19th March 1932. For many years, the Sydney Harbour Bridge was Sydney’s tallest structure. It’s the centre piece of Sydney Harbour – and in my opinion, is a more spectacular structure than the Opera House. Happy Birthday – Coathanger.
Stout was just about coming out of my ears by mid-week. 6 new stouts in 6 days. Hart’s Pub can always almost be guaranteed to have a new beer on its taps – and this week they had a couple I hadn’t see before including a hangover from their St.Paddy’s day festivities. I’m still to get out to Paddy’s Brewery at Homebush – but I’ve heard that they do great beers. I snaffled literally the last half pint of the extravagantly named Paddy’s Thunderhead American Stout. Wonderful appearance, but a confused taste – this was a stout with tang. It starts off “stouty” but then finishes spicy. Would like another to make sense of it all.
illiards and I popped into Murrays at Manly hoping to try one of the beers they’d brewed for a beer dinner they’d had the night before – but had to settle for yet another stout. St Peters Brewery is a “artisan brewer” who prides itself on being as environmentally friendly as possible. For example most of its deliveries are made by bike. That means you don’t often see St Peters beer beyond the glorious inner west of Sydney (though I brought some back a while ago on the BotF). Murray’s gives a couple of non-Murray’s beers a run and Killagh Stout is the second of the St.Peters line-up he’s had available. The Killagh was the least polished of all the stouts tried in the last few days. Good roasted malt flavours but the finish and mouthfeel was a little “home brewy”
Before this blog was started, I would pretty much try anything in a bottleshop fridge or from a tap rack, but if it was a choice between a hefeweizen and something else – I’d have gone the something else. That’s changed now, and on a hot day – I’d go for a hefeweizen more times than not. Whether it’s the effervescence, the cloudiness, the wild aromas or the wheaty flavour, I’m not sure – but I’m a convert. Sydney turned on a rare hot Friday and I was able to duck down to the beach for a quick dip. I took a bottle of Bootleg Brewery Hefe for the post dip libation. Bootleg Brewery is a self-proclaimed “Oasis of a beer in a desert of wine” in WA’s Margaret River region. They’ve been going since 1994 and have a solid line-up of beers including one called “Raging Bull” that is well named. Hefe is a good example of a hefeweizen. It is not as agressive as some, and the aromas aren’t as pronounced – but it is a great thirst quencher. All the more reason to get to the West soon.
There are literally hundreds of saints Days, but none are celebrated with the gusto of Saint Patrick’s Day. Held on the 17th of March, which is the date of his death, St. Patricks actually becomes a long weekend of all things Irish when it is on a weekend. It is an opportunity to wear ridiculous items of green clothing without a tinge of embarrassment. In Sydney there’ll be a big parade tomorrow and there’s plenty of pubs (not even Irish pubs) putting on Irish themed functions. After gobbling a Guinness at PJ O’Briens in town, this correspondent met illiards on the Back of the Ferry, and we were eagerly anticipating the tapping of 4 new stouts at 4 Pines Brewery at Manly.
For their 2nd Keller Door Series, 4 Pines has developed 4 types of stout. A Dry Irish Stout, an Oatmeal Stout, a Russian Imperial Stout and a Chocolate Orange Stout make up the range. This time you don’t have to be in Manly to enjoy this release as 4 Pines have been able to get to bars in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and WA with some kegs. I was particularly keen to try the Chocolate Orange. My favourite confectionary item is the Jaffa – the uniquely Australian and New Zealand lolly. That said, I was hoping the stout wasn’t as sweet as that. I needn’t have worried. It’s beautiful looking – sleek and silky black. THere’s plenty of orange on the nose, but the orange flavour (not jaffa) is far less pronounced that the aroma would suggest. It’s subtle, distinctive and just really, really pleasant. illiards and I had a chat to Jaron the GM and he told us that during the planning for the Chocolate Orange the brewers sampled a few orange flavoured dark chocolates – and that’s what they aimed for. Mission accomplished. We also tried the Russian Imperial Stout, which was a real sipper. I might be taking my growler down this arvo to get a top-up. Very rich, quite alcoholic and really suited to an after dinner plate of cheese.
Back of the Ferry is a big user of @Untappd . For the uninitiated it is like 4 Square for pissheads, but plenty of fun. As you check-in beers, badges are awarded. BotF was getting pretty excited recently when it was approaching the 500th unique bevvy and was hoping to mark the moment with something quite different. Unfortunately one the lads forgot and checked in something that didn’t match the occasion. Aah well, we didn’t get a badge for the 600th check-in – but a Chocolate Orange stout is a far better milestone beer. Off to Murray’s today to try his one-off Tinker’s Curse Dry Irish Stout.
One of this correspondent’s all time favourite films is the 1978 cult surf classic – “Big Wednesday”. I’ve seen it scores of times and it never fails to disappoint. It is one of those movies with many moments and quotes that groups of afficianados like to retell or repeat ad nauseum. “That ain’t no hobo, squid lips, that’s Matt Johnson”. A minor but pivotal role in the film is played by Gerry Lopez. He plays himself and is justifiably an idol to the film’s lead protagonists. Lopez has had one of the biggest impacts on surfing ever – tuberiding, pioneering Indonesian surfing and board design. His self designed lightning bolt logo is iconic. An interesting sideline for Lopez was appearing in movies directed by John Milius, who worshipped him. Many remember his more for his role in Conan the Barbarian.
Gerry is now an ambassador for outdoor clothing company, Patagonia, who’ve just opened a branch in Manly and last Wednesday night he appeared at Murray’s at Manly to talk about a new book and generally reflect on his life. It was a ticket only event, and it was only on a last minute whim that I decided to rock in with a mate, knowing that half the bar was still open to the public. I certainly wasn’t the only one with the idea, and there were plenty more than the 100 that had tickets ready to hear Gerry. Gerry didn’t disappoint and delighted the crowd with a wonderfully mellow rambling about what it is like to surf, how it contrasts to snowboarding (his passion now) and his modest recollection of his abilities. Any chance of bagging a decent photo of Gerry Lopez was dashed by a thronging crowd, but it was a privilege to hear him talk.
I’m not sure when Murray first launched Big Wednesday Pale Ale . It wasn’t for the Gerry Lopez evening, as I’d had it at Murray’s at Manly before. If you are going to call a beer “Big Wednesday”, it had better be big and it is. At a hefty 6.1% ABV, it is hefty all over – big nose, plenty of citrus and a squinting amount of hops. The finish is crisp and sharp – and despite the 6.1%, I could stick on this all night. That said, with a few pints under your belt – you’d be capable of some Leroy the Masochist stunts.