There’s been a number of beery birthdays of late. Back of the Ferry is a big fan of @Untappd – a website and smartphone app that enables people to drink socially. It’s sort of Facebook for pissheads, with links to FourSquare and Twitter as well. Whilst I’m not Back of the Ferry’s technology correspondent, I will proffer the view that I don’t know if Four Square has legs – I don’t get it. Untappd seems to be going from strength to strength, though and they celebrated their second birthday with a birthday badge. Appropriately, Back of the Ferry obtained their badge on the back of the ferry with a Feral White, which wasn’t an @Untappd unique. There’s a few social beer apps out there – Beer Buddy, Kenny the Beer Dog – but @Untappd looks like it has the front running. Happy Birthday to the @Untappd creators.
A BotF obsession is to reach the 1,000 unique beers on our Back of the Ferry @Untappd account. We are getting close. A place that has been particularly helpful in reaching that goal celebrates their 3rd birthday today.Porter’s Balgowlah is located on the corner of Sydney Road and Woodlands Road Balgowlah. 3 years ago they became an independent bottle shop and their ability to turn up weird and wonderful beers is pretty remarkable for a suburban bottlo. Lately they’ve turned up some absolute rippers and the Black Chocolate Stout made by Brooklyn Brewery was one the finest I’ve had for some time. I’m also a fan of their support of Southwark Stout. To celebrate, they put on a beer and wine festival. Stone & Wood, Badlands and Hillbilly Cider turned up and Porters offered tastings of some of their new beers including one from Cambodia, that might get a run in a separate post. A very happy birthday and a very good idea.
It was also this correspondent’s birthday this week. As previously mentioned, my birthday coincides with Halloween, and it’s always been a muted affair as I try and avoid the faux Halloween celebrations. I did manage to slip over to a favourite BotF venue for one of the few pumpkin beers I’ve seen this year. Illawarra Brewing loves making this type of beer and their 2012 variety is a good ‘un. Whilst it proclaims to have pumpkin and yam in the mix, I reckon the dominant story of this beer was the use of spice. This was a warming, rich, spiritous beer whose spiciness comes from the bourbon barrels in which it was aged. Happy Halloween to me.
Rather than endure the nightmare of Halloween on our street, I spent the evening at a charity dinner for Accessible Arts. The dinner was held on a single long table that pretty much ran along the length of Pier 2 at Sydney’s Walsh Bay. Spectacular views of the bridge last all night. I loved the fact that the fishermen weren’t squeezed completely off the wharf. I also slipped in a quick visit to Baxters Inn in between the end of work and the start of the dinner – but that’s a story for another day.
There were big crowds at Manly today to see surf legend Kelly Slater do the honours dedicating Manly-Freshwater as only the third World Surfing Reserve. It’s an odd designation in my view. The best way to describe its purpose is to quote from the website. World Surfing Reserves proactively identifies, designates and preserves outstanding waves, surf zones and their surrounding environments around the world. The program serves as a global model for preserving wave breaks and their surrounding areas by recognizing the positive environmental, cultural, economic and community benefits of surfing areas.
Whilst I’m understandably biased, Manly and Freshwater are two iconic surf spots in Australia and of all the beaches in Australia – they are the most deserving. What’s unusual is that Manly and Freshwater are really quite separate and distinctive, but pragmatism would have seen them join forces to gain World Surfing Reserve designation. The ceremony was relatively short, however that didn’t stop 5 pollies/dignitaries rabbiting on whilst the only people the crowd wanted to hear were Kelly Slater and Brad Farmer (the bloke largely responsible for Manly-Freshwater’s designation). Kelly was there in his capacity as World Surfing Reserve Ambassador. The extent of Kelly’s public speaking is probably limited to the hundreds of acceptance speeches he’s had to make over the years. He came across as an extremely likeable bloke, can put on a half decent Orstrayan accent, knows and respects Duke Kahanamoku and genuinely loves the Northern Beaches.
There’s always been a part of me that has wanted to dislike Kelly Slater. An American, he is the most dominant surfer ever in a sport that Australians (rightly or wrongly) think that it is our right in which to be dominant. When he passed Mark Richards’ record of 5 world titles, it was like he’d killed a bird (an Aussie is no longer the greatest). His record of 11 World Titles is Bradmanesque and he’s denied Aussies like Taj Burrow and Joel Parkinson the crown. I now find it impossible to dislike him. He’s just a really talented surfer, who also happens to be extremely humble about his achievements and clearly enjoys what he does and shares that joy with others. Officially a legend.
Realising that Kelly Slater was going to do the honours, I rummaged through the bar fridge and turned up the only US beer I had. Victory Brewing Company has started to appear in a small number of bottleos in Sydney and Melbourne. Judging by the number of check-ins on @Untappd for Prima Pils , they are hugely popular in the US. I tried their Hop Devil at the soon to be relocated Biero Bar – and immediately snaffled this stubby, when I saw it a Porters at Balgowlah. Pilsners are regarded as the poor cousin of IPAs, I reckon, because they tend to be more subtle, but there is nothing subtle about Prima Pils. Bright, hoppy, resiny, sharp – it is an outstanding beer. Great label and a great drop. Victory Brewing Co have been going since 1996 – practice makes perfect.
Stone & Wood has made a couple of appearances on Back of the Ferry. That’s as many as they’ve been able to make as they keep it pretty simple up in Byron. Generally Stone & Wood make two beers – Pale Lager and Pacific Ale (formerly known as Draught Ale). These have both been reviewed and both were enjoyed immensely – particularly the Pacific Ale.
It’s been way too long since I’ve been to Byron and the lads have come up with another reason to go – their Stone Beer. Now the S&W boys reckon that early brewers used to use stone and wood to make beer before the invention of steam power. Stone Beer is made using some of those pre-steam techniques as homage to the pioneers. The technique is to add “wood fired stones to the kettle to rouse the boil and caramelise the brew”. Hmmm – very Byron – but gees it works. Stone Beer is so special that it’s launched each time with a festival at the brewery. The latest launch (the 3rd) featured bands, pizzas, arty stalls and a surf flick. I think this’d be one beer launch the missus would join me at.
So, was the effort worth it? Well, the hardest part was getting my hands on some. This is pretty limited, but Porters at Balgowlah had a couple of the very attractive 500ml bottles lurking in their fridge. Helpfully, there was no paraphenalia accompanying their presence so I was able to snaffle one. I drew the short straw on the weekend and had to drive to a boozy lunch on the North Snore. I took my Stone Beer with me as my one tipple and waited until the wonderfully cooked Scotch Fillet arrived. It was a magnificent match – the complex, dark hued Stone Beer had plenty of hoppiness, but there was also a molasses flavour to it, without being sweet. It was big and handled the heavy marinade well. It’s worth waiting once a year for this beauty – and don’t hesitate if you see one – grab it.
Thursday is #IPADay, a US instigated day for people to drink IPAs. BotF will be joining in with a special IPA from Orange. See you out the back.
Porters at Balgowlah can always be trusted to offer some new beers to try. This particular offering would appear to be a gimmick but has actually been around for some time. The http://www.chilibeer.com/ tells an amusing story of a bloke who started a brewery in 1989 in Cave Creek, Arizona. He got sick of “yuppies” asking for pieces of lime to add to his beer, so he started adding a serrano chili. People liked it and whilst it isn’t being made in Cave Creek anymore, it is still being produced. It is now made in Tecate, Mexico.
I’m a fan of hot foods, but I’ve got to say I really struggled to get this down. There is no escaping the chili at any stage. The strong aroma of chili hits you from the moment the bottle is opened. I poured it into a glass and I was overwhelmed by the smell as I took my first sip. The chili flavour overwhelms any beer taste – and this is simply a hot, spicy drink.
I enjoy a jalapeno on a pizza, in a Quesqadilla or even in a Mexican pie – but in a beer? There was no unbearable pain – it just wasn’t that potable. An acquired taste, maybe, but not by this drinker – I just couldn’t go a second.
BotF recently purchased the third of Mungo MacCallum’s Federal election reviews. He has previously released “Run, Johnny, Run” (2004 election), “Poll Dancing” (2007 election) and now “Punch & Judy – The Double Disillusion Election of 2010″. I have it on good authority he wanted to call “Run, Johnny, Run”, “The Unflushable Turd”, but the publisher refused.
The relevance to the normal subject matter of BotF is that the name and artwork of Mungo’s latest book (which I am yet to read) is remarkably similar to a brew released in Easter 2010 by Murray’s Craft Brewing Co. that’s been in the Cantina for awhile. Picked up from Porter’s Balgowlah
Punch & Judy’s Ale is a terrific beer in a Bitter style. As said, it was released in Easter and commentary from Murray himself at the time said he wanted to show you could make a beer with taste without a high alcohol content (presumably like his Icon 2IPA). Well, he’s done it. Pours a rich amber colour and keeps its head for some time. Plenty of hop flavour in this beer and I’d love to try this on tap. Murray’s released 22 beers since he started 4 maybe 5 years ago, and I’ve yet to have a dud.
It’s worth subscribing to his blog as well. Much of it is about what is going on at his brewery, but there’s often a good spray at the mainstream brewery industry. That’s why the label for Punch & Judy’s Ale says “Ain’t no one pulling our strings”. Murray marches to the beat of his own drum (gladly).
Victoria is the clear leader in hand-crafted beers in Australia. There are plenty of options when you visit pubs in Melbourne, but the wide variety is not reflected north of the border. Fortunately the boys at Porters Balgowlah are rectifying that a little bit, by stocking a new one (for this BotF correspondent anyway) to try. Holgate Brewhouse has been around since 1999, and they’ve developed a thriving business out of a restored pub in town called Woodend in Victoria. 45 minutes from the Melbourne CBD apparently.
There’s 4 varieties available all year round, including the one I tried last night. Mt Macedon Ale is described as an American Pale Ale. It certainly has that hoppy flavour that the US microbrewers love. Pours a little darker than I would have expected. In addition to the permanents, there are seasonals in bottles and on tap during the year. BotF looks forward to doing a lap of the taps at the Holgate at some stage.
Whilst Victoria leads the way, there are some notable brewers in NSW doing some very good things. There’s just not as many as in Victoria. 4 Pines, who have featured a couple of times on these pages, have expanded their range of take-away beers and are penetrating the shelves of insular peninsula bottle-shops well. Their latest and 4th stubbie is a flavour laden Hefeweizen. BotF loves a cloudy beer, and even in the amber bottle, you can see the opaqueness clearly (that’s got to be an oxymoron). Get into this – it’s bloody good.
Both brewers are worth many visits.
One of BotF’s favourite bottlos is the Porters on Sydney Road at Balgowlah. The fellas there always seem to get something weird and wonderful for us to try. I’ve got to say that they came up with one of the most unusual looking and tasting beers I’ve had for awhile.
BotF also received a present for his birthday. “1001 beers you must try before you die”. I am pleased to say to say that BotF has tried a percentage of the beers in this book. I am also really pleased to say that BotF has also tried a number of beers that aren’t covered by this book. In addition the amount of overlap between the book and the Cantina bottletop collection is small.
In short the Hitochina beer is in the book and in the Cantina. I wouldn’t put in the top 1001.
It is an unusual beer. It has an unusual flavour. It felt like a ginger beer on first taste, but we were mistaken. We were puzzled and mislead by the combination of coriander and nutmeg, with orange peel. When a beer is brewed by a Sake brewer, it isn’t going to be normal. Anyway, good luck. We’ll try the other Hitochina variety that is available.
Fortunately, BotF had been up to the Balgowlah Porters and picked up a couple of British Beers that were later found to be relatively low in alcohol.
First cab off the rank was “Landlord Strong Pale Ale” – brewed by Timothy Taylor, a brewer from the town of Keighley in Yorkshire, England. In most countries, “Strong” used as an adjective to describe a beer refers to the alcoholic strength. At a 4.1% strength – Landlord doesn’t qualify – but on a flavour basis, this beer makes the grade easily. Even out of the bottle, it has a taste that is very similar to an English Bitter out of the tap. Long lasting bitter taste really hits the spot.
The second beer was an even weaker drop – alcohol wise (3.4%), which is close to a mid-strength in Australia. Brakspear Bitter is the signature beer from Brakspear, a brewer from Oxfordshire. Brakspear goes on at great length about how it makes this Bitter, with Double Dropping fermentation. Primarily a tap beer, but it has recently been produced in bottles and cans. The Poms reckon it is a great “session beer” and actually talk up the 3.4% alcohol strength. It is distinctively flavoured – more so than an Australian mid-strength. I found it a little thin, and the Timothy Taylor was the better of the two.
I think the real test would be in an English Bar having a pint of each to compare.
Wow. THe Belgians certainly know how to produce a complex drop. Yet another unusual stubbie from the Porters’ bottlo on Sydney Road, Balgowlah – the Bourgogne de Flandres was one of the most enjoyable drops I’ve had for some time. Packing a powerful 6% punch, this is a beer for savouring. A really yeasty (but pleasant) nose and a broad rich taste makes this memorable. I really wish I had some vintage cheddar to go with this.
The origins of this beer are hard to find. There is plenty of info on the bottle, but the 1765 date doesn’t look to have any basis in fact. The beer belongs to a weird collection of beers under the label – the Anthony Martins Finest Beer Selection – which includes Guiness(!?). In any case – it is a genuinely good drop. Prepare and have something good to eat with it.