On 9th November 2009, the Back of the Ferry blog came into being. To celebrate still going after 3 years a number of members spent the evening doing a few of our favourite things. A fore runner to Back of the Ferry was a bar review map that tried to keep a record of bars between the place of work of a couple of BotF founders and Circular Quay. The map has not been maintained for some time, but where possible it is still good to slip in a quick pint before the voyage. Whilst some of our membership prefer the Occidental or the Concourse, this correspondent’s go-to-bar is Hart’s Pub. It has been a mighty contributor to our Untappd uniques tally over the last year. They didn’t disappoint and we enjoyed a fine pint of Hop Vintage Growers Ale (2012) from Endeavour True Vintage Ale. Fresh, hoppy and sessionable. Our first Melbourne inductee – Cam – popped in to join the first leg of the celebration before heading back to Mexico.
A Back of the Ferry birthday cannot be celebrated without a voyage on the Harbour. Joining correspondents illiards, oompaloompa and I were members Jeroen and Don. The weather was cracking and there was action aplenty on the Harbour with plenty of army and police vessels out and about to protect Charles and Camilla. Twilight yacht racing had begun in earnest and the Friday night security guards did the right thing and stayed indoors (probably forgot their suncream). illiards brought another unique onboard and we enjoyed a bottle of Skull Splitter from the Orkney Brewery. This wouldn’t be the first choice for a warm spring afternoon – but we were on a uniques mission and it was all Mick could find at the bottlo. Skull Splitter is a wincingly strong 8.5% with a rich, fruity taste. A meal more than a drink – one for another time.
Back of the Ferry has enjoyed many a 4 Pines beer and so the third leg of the celebration was to be had at the home of 4 Pines opposite the Manly Wharf. No uniques on offer so I went for the always superb 4 Pines Hefeweizen. We were joined by a very early member – Kieran and his lovely beer drinking wife, Natalie. With the sun shining on the 4 Pines balcony, the celebration could have ended there – but we had one final stage to complete.
My cantina has been the scene of much Back of the Ferry discussion and along with the Back of the Ferry has been the scene of the consumption of the most Untappd uniques. As we entered the cantina, our tally stood at 997 uniques and in my fridge were more than enough to reach our goal, but our 1000th was going to be special. After ripping into a Bernard Celebration Lager (not sure what it was celebrating) we opened a bottle of Ballast Point Black Marlin Porter. This was a terrific porter and a great accompaniment to the Halloumi that was flying off my barbecue. Ballast Point will get a fulsome review later. By now another of our earliest members, Josh, had joined us along with our technology correspondent, Cyril Dickthorpe.
It needed to be a special beer for the 1000th. I’ve had a bottle of Murray’s 6th Anniversary Ale for awhile now. Murray’s has been an important part of Back of the Ferry. We’ve been to the opening and re-opening of the Manly Murray’s and enjoyed plenty of new and wonderful beers there and on the ferry. The 6th Anniversary Ale is a Belgian style Barleywine and comes in at a massive 15%. It is simply massive. Amazingly the alcohol content didn’t dominate. Yes, it was boozy, but it was hops that stood out for me. If I get my hands on another, I will. We toasted the 1000 and the 3 years and agreed that there couldn’t have been a better beer to mark both occasions.
The boys at Vintage Cellars at Wynyard continue to lob in the occasional new beer into their fridges. They’re exploring the English and US beers and tonight’s @Untappd unique came from Yorkshire. We’re big fans of single entendre humour on the Back of the Ferry and Daleside’s Old Legover is a worthy contributor to that genre. Lovely label, 500ml bottle, t-shirt on offer on the neck – plenty to like. To be honest, though, we were both underwhelmed. This isn’t a bad beer, it is just – well – mediocre. Could probably drink 1000′s once on a roll, but at $8.99 a pop – it isn’t good enough.
So back out the back, a couple of beers, a dry journey despite the overcast skies, a couple of lightning bolts, plenty of political and sporting conversation – it couldn’t get better, right? One would have thought so until a rather large pod of dolphins started to surface off the port stern. As we peered out to the side, we started to work out that there were about 20 or more dolphins in Manly Cove. They were spread from the point off Fairlight Beach to the waters on the south of the Manly Wharf. As I walked from the ferry home, the dolphins had moved to 20m from the shore next to the Manly Aquarium. Simply bloody fantastic.
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.
The weekend before last, Illiards and this correspondent attended the 20th anniversary of Eurofest 2012. Despite having lived on the insular peninsula for over 12 years now, I’ve never been to Eurofest. Each year I see the signage – I think “I’ve got to get to that”, and then it all gets too hard. This year the stars aligned, and illiards and I had to find a distraction for half a dozen children so our debut at Eurofest was ensured. (That, and the Manly Daily confirmed that there would be beer there).
Ararat Reserve is a large place, but there was barely a bare spot with a proliferation of large performance tents, food-stalls, jumping castles, rides and over a thousand people of all ages wandering around. Our half dozen companions immediately began clamouring for turns on various rides, but the quid pro quo was a stroll through the food stalls and a reccy of the beer tent. A terrific feature was seeing so many people dressed in a national costume just strolling around – blokes in lederhosen, women in intricately embroidered tunics and dresses and plenty of kids in wonderful dance costumes. On each half hour there was a performance by a national group. Whilst my little fella was riding Thomas the Tank Engine, I stuck my head into a performance tent to hear a bunch of Georgians sing a lumberjack song. It must be a pretty gloomy profession in Georgia.
Artistic cultural experience ticked off it was back to the food and drink. There was no shortage of culinary experiences not easily found on the insular peninsula – Czech, Dutch, Turkish (not counting Kebab shops), Armenian, German and my selection – Serbian. I’ve always been a sucker for a mixed grill and the Serbian menu offering pork neck, pork crackling and Cevkapi just couldn’t be passed up. It was barely midday on the first day and already the second pig was being carved up. The welcome surprise for me was the generous addition of a chili and herb sauce – a new taste sensation. The standout was the pork neck – but it was all good.
As popular as the food stalls were, there was no doubt the beer stall had the most constant throng. No wonder – it was getting warm and a good mixed grill or sausage etc needs something amber to wash it down. illiards wasn’t driving and managed to cover off Poland, Belgium, Germany and Portugal in pretty short time. Austria, the Czech Republic and Holland was also represented. I enjoyed a bottle of Erdinger Oktoberfest, which was surprisingly an @Untappd unique. Erdinger proclaims itself as the largest brewer of Wheat Beer in the world. I’m not sure if the Oktoberfest version is a special brew or just an Oktoberfest branded bottle of the standard Weissbeir. It didn’t matter, it was a fine example of wheat beer – nice banana aroma and quite earthy. A real sessionable drop. I think hefeweizen will be my drop of this summer.
Whilst we were sipping away, my daughter spotted a young lady in national garb doing a quick spot of beerporn. We got the happy snap off a little late, but I can assure you that she was doing the whole @Untappd check in and accompanying photography. Magnificent.
A short sharp post from the Back of the Ferry, literally. This photo gives an idea as why we love travelling home this way. The view is from the Turn Bar or off Bradley’s Head as the Manly Ferry gracefully turns left for the run to Manly. The bridge, the Opera House et al are silhouetted by the red sky and it is just magnificent.
You are on standard pace if you are draining your first as the ferry lurches port side. My beer is not a BotF blog unique, but is an @untappd unique which is a good thing. 900 is in sight. Due to meet @illiards at @4Pinesbeer for Oktoberfest in half an hour. This may not be the last post of the evening. BTW, Windhoek – Namibian Lager – not unpotable, but plenty better malt drops around.
Another week and another new bar in West Wynyard – and what a bar. Uncle Ming’s Bar has very recently opened under and next to a suit store in York Street. It is tricky to find (and I walked straight over the top of the very helpful chalked directions), but persist because you will be rewarded. Uncle Ming’s Bar was the subject of a little bit of a serve from Rachel Olding in her Tuesday Bar Hop review – but I’d ignore that.
Once you’ve negotiated the stairs and passed by the suits and step through the door – you are as close to being in China without being there as you can get. As has been recorded on these pages many times, I’m a real Sinophile and standing Uncle Ming’s made me yearn for a pub crawl down Nanluogu Xiang – Beijing’s famous bar alley. The back story claims influence from a Shanghai speakeasy – but I felt it was much more Beijing hutongesque.
When we returned from Beijing, all of our belongings were shipped home in a container. As we had some notice, I was able to fill the spare space with some Chinese kitsch, much of which Mrs Botf detests. High on her council clean-up hit list are my “duck buckets”. which come out at parties and are receptacles for ice and beer. To see exactly the same duck bucket on the bar at Uncle Ming’s warmed my heart – and I’m glad I retrieved them yet again from the street. All the shelves, lights, tables and doorways are genuine Chinese gear and the ambience is just splendid.
Equally splended is another unique West Wynyard beer list. Spirit drinkers are the ones really looked after (apparently), but there’s nothing wrong with 4 beers from China, 4 beers from Japan and one from the Phillipines. They range from a bland macro lager (Yanjing aka Chinese VB) to Tsingtao Stout and a couple of Japanese Craft beers. Having had a couple of thousand Yanjings before I opted from a couple of @untappd uniques. Yebisu Black is more dark than black and taste quite European. It is very malty, quite pleasant and very easy to drink without knocking your socks off. Always interesting are beers from Hitachino Nest. The Japanese Classic Ale is a self proclaimed English style IPA. The best word to describe this beer is subtle. It pours a lovely colour – almost orange instead of amber. The aroma is hoppy, but the actual taste is muted. There’s hops in there, but it is very understated. There was something else going on, which made the beer quite sweet. Perhaps another visit to Uncle Ming’s Bar is called for to find out.
As mentioned in a recent blog, this correspondent went on mini pub crawl – ending up at the Hart’s Pub trivia night. As mentioned in another recent blog, a couple of blokes are looking at doing a different beer a night for 366 consecutive nights. Well had these blokes maintained the pace set on particular Tuesday night – their task would have been over in 61 nights.
BotF had some Melbournian visitors in town and we proudly showed off a small bar that wouldn’t be out of place in Melbourne. We popped into the Mojo Record Bar, and ordered a round of Dalgety Red Ale. A couple of us had tried the Dalgety Pale Ale previously, and were underwhelmed. There was nothing underwhelming about the Dalgety Red Ale. The lads were seriously impressive with the malty goodness and big flavour. Magnificque.
This correspondent slipped in a unique, whilst the rest of the shout doubled up on the Dalgety and went for a Goose Cider, which is made by Gilbert Family Wines. This is a winemaker from Mudgee that’s decided to pop out a cider. This is a blend with more apple varieties than you’ll find at your local grocer. Foxwhelp or Kingston Black anyone. This was crisp and good – but I know I prefer a cider over a beer.
Our second stop was West Wynyand and York Lane, which has been well and truly covered as was our third unique for the evening – Orion Beer. So, off to our final destination – Hart’s Pub and the trivia quiz. The great thing about Hart’s is that they have 12 taps going at any one time. Even though four or five are permanent Rocks Brewing beers – they do a remarkable job of turning over varieties. One brewer that’s been quite helpful to maximising tap turnover is Young Henrys. Launched in 2012, they’ve already punched 8 varieties – 5 of which I’ve now tried – all of which have been sampled at Hart’s. The Black Hart Weizen was purchased in a round and the quintet rated it fine. The promised banana was agreed to be prevalent and this is a beer to re-visit. Looking forward to actually visiting Young Henrys onsite.
This correspondent then made a fatal error, and like a pole vaulter at the Olympics – starting upping the ante. That’s fine if you are pole vaulting or high jumping, but if you are drinking and competing in a trivia quiz to step up through the alcohol strengths is not really pulling the right rein. After the relatively benign Black Hart Weizen, we stepped up to Illawarra Brewing’s Abbey Brune. The sign claimed that this was a sessionable beer. Whoever heard of a 7.6% sessionable beer. A beer brewed in the style of a Belgian dubbel just isn’t sessionable – bloody good – but 3 of these and you’d be face down mumbling flemish.
For those that have participated in a trivia night and been close to the lead the excitement is palpable. Often there’s a frenzy of drinking that accompanies this excitement. Many things were going through my mind including the fact that I was one beer away from an @Untappd unique sixpack in an evening and I ordered a pint of the last unique (for me) on the board. Doctor’s Orders Brewing is a BotF favourite – great names and great beers. I really did the good Doctor a disservice by ordering this last. This was like Steve Hooker starting at 5m and then stepping up to a world record height. Whilst I completed the beer on the night, I figuratively crashed though the bar and collapsed in a screaming heap, moaning. I achieved the single night @untappd unique sixpack – but barely. To give the fantastically name Defibrillator the credit it deserved I went back to Hart’s and tried it again. Interestingly, Hart’s has taken away the pint option so I opted for the schooner. This is a complex beer. Advertised as a “Weizen Doppelbock …aged in American Bourbon barrel oak” – it has plenty going on. It hides the 8.1% well, there’s definite banana and a spice I can’t place and it is a real sipper (no sessionability here). Couldn’t really spot the bourbon – but it is spiritous. Try it and judge for yourself. Thanks Doctor. BTW, we came second in the trivia by half a point.
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.
QR Codes are a funny thing. Personally, I think done right – they’re very useful. Problem is, most brands don’t know how to use them and often they fall very flat.
The upshot for the 253 year old brewer is a very clever blend of good old-fashioned consumption and 21st Century marketing. The really clever thing is that unlike most FMCG marketing campaigns that require you to consumer before you can enjoy – this campaign only works when your chalice is full! How beer brand is that!
The possibilitites are endless with this sort of marketing as the QR Code can link to any website and with geo-location now a very real and powerful marketing tool – connecting 1 on 1 with your consumer is a doddle.
Click image below to view.
On this day last year, pommy_ch, lamb0 and this correspondent were the 3rd, 4th and 5th person to have a beer on Hemingway’s first public opening night. A year later, this correspondent and BotF most infrequent correspondent – aka l0der – snuck in for a quick anniversary bevvy. The Hemingway’s boys have done well. The place thrives and they have stayed true to their original formula.
As was wrote at the time, the boys had a pretty simple approach to beer – two taps with two quality beers. The Little Creatures Pale Ale remains the house beer, but they turn over the other tap from time to time. Luckily for manly drinkers their current second tap is the latest in the Little Creatures Single Batch range – “The Quiet American”. More on that later. The food is quirky and a hark to older times – but is damned tasty. It is great to see a small business survive the first 12 months and Hemingway’s was packed tonight. Free Little Creatures Pale will do that – but the crowd looked like kicking on.
The Little Creatures Single Batch series has produced some absolute rippers. The Big Dipper was probably the highlight – but they’ve all been good. They might have topped everything with their latest – “The Quiet American”. According the “Brewers Scribble”, LC have combined the best of a Trappist style with US style hoppiness. As an aside, I was travelling in Italy with a great mate in ’89. We were in the Sistine Chapel looking upwards at the famous ceiling when the awestruck silence was cut asunder by the strident tones of an American tourist who asked “Hey Walt – do you think they originally built this as a tourist attraction?”. Quiet American indeed. This is simply awesome, it is Trappist and Hoppy at the same time. It is a meaty sipper and beer hyperbole aside – actually lives up to the Brewer’s promise of being “thought-provoking”.
I enjoyed the Quiet American on tap at Hemingway’s and it was the 700th unique for BotF on @Untappd. Now in cricket, a fast century is applauded. We passed 600 on St.Paddy’s Day. It’s taken less than 2 months for us to hit the 700 mark. That is Gaylesque in speed (amazing what a trip to a new country will do). Some boys at Good Beer Week in Melbourne may have done 100 in a day – but 100 uniques in less than 60 days is pretty cool. Our first century was quicker – but that was like shooting fish in a barrel. We might struggle to keep this pace up.