Your correspondent has never been Captain Decisive and never more so when Mrs botf pounced on our current abode on Sydney’s lower northern beaches. The main reason was the proximity of a rather large industrial estate at Brookvale.
As I learnt of the benefits of having several score Hardware & General outlets within 90 secs of home I started warming to the idea but the relatively recent plethora of small brewery openings, culminating in Dad & Dave’s Brewing soft opening last Saturday, has radically changed my view. Industrial estates are a blessing.
Dad & Dave’s comes off the back of 4 Pines Brewing and Nomad Brewing having started great establishments in the local estate, opening their doors for punters to come and enjoy a bit of their product. Dad & Dave’s was just a soft opening, granted, and are just open 2 – 6pm Saturday currently. However, Dave promised big things ahead with a ‘hard’ opening promised…..at some point.
Dad & Dave’s Brewing
2/1 Chard Road
Brookvale, New South Wales, Australia (click for map)
We’ve established quite a rhythm on this China visit. Train into a city an hour before dusk, do an attraction at sunset, find a restaurant with local cuisine, then find a bar with local beer. In Pingyao and Kaifeng, the last step hasn’t been possible. Great places both, but just no bars (KTV doesn’t count).
Qufu, which is the first place in China I’ve been where I haven’t seen a single Westerner, actually has a bar strip. All three bars were built into the inside wall next to the eastern southern gate. Add the bar in the Youth Hostel and you’ve got yourself a tidy little pub crawl. Start at “Fixed & Coffee”. This is a great little den on the right of the gate. It is decorated with all manner of bike parts. Beer choice is limited to Tsingtao or Lu Beer (which I guarantee you won’t have had unless Tom K from @Untappd is reading this).
Next stop is the self proclaimed No.1 bar in Qufu since 1994 and I think is the bar mentioned in Wikitravel. Nice enough place with more Lu Beer and a full spirit shelf. The bar is called Yang Zi Bar, but appears on Four Square as N1 Qufu Bar. No doubt this place had longevity, but for mine the best of the three is the Last we visited.
Long Time No See or 好久不见 is another dimly lit bar with a quirky edge to it. There’s a mezzanine deck and funky tables and lighting. The barman put on some Ed Sheeran and some scrolling video with phrases exhorting you to basically get pissed. Beer choice was eclectic with Vedett, Delirium Red, Kronenberg 1664 Blanc and Gold accompanying the Tsingtao and Laoshan.
Ultimately, the place to drink in Qufu ended up being the bar in the place where we stayed. The “Qufu International Youth Hostel” has a great bar, with the best variety of beer. Impressive range of Tsingtao, but also a solid collection of European Beer (including the German oddity – in this case Schaumhof). As my brother played a game of chess against one of the staff, I quietly sipped a pungent can of “Strong Oranjeboom”. It was only the next morning I read the fine print “Imported Mega Strong 16%”. No wonder I had to ask my brother whether he won his game of chess or not!
Qufu – it is off the beaten track, but rewarding if you make the effort.
Fixed & Coffee: NanMadao West Street, Qufu
Long Time No See, Yang Bi Bar: NanMadao East Street, Qufu
Qufu International Youth Hostel: Gulou North Street, Qufu
One of the benefits of hunting down craft beer venues in various cities is that it often exposes you to parts you never ordinarily visit. And then when you are in a city like Rome you might pass some of the greatest architectural achievements in ancient history.
This was the case when I dragged Mrs botf and the family plus brother #3 to the Queen Makeda Grand Pub. The Queen was about two klics from our AirBNB apartment but on the walk we passed the Colosseum, the Forum, Palatine Hill and the Circus Maximus . I mean, wow. Not a bad list of to entertain the train of relatives.
Probably worth mentioning how I do drag family members to craft beer venues when they don’t quite share my passion for the subject matter. I call it the ‘Lead and Gap’ method.
Here are the steps to make it work.
- If venue does not have food options (or wine) that might entice Mrs botf and the kids be vague about the fact or just say that they always have something with pulled pork.
- It’s critical that only you know where the venue is – crucial for the next step to work.
- When underway always lead the group by a distance that is just out of hearing range from the main party. This ensures (a) that a cracking pace is maintained by all as they’ll get lost if they lose you and (b) any complaints or queries from the main party about where they are going can be conveniently ignored.
Well the Queen Makeda was worth it all. What a place. There were 40 crafties on tap (dubbed the ‘Beer Waterfalls’), a tapas train – modelled on a sushi train and great meals (yes including pulled pork).
There were also beer taps build into the tables with iPads integrated that displayed the beer and brewery and recorded glasses poured. Sadly the one on our table was out of action.
It is a very large venue that was only moderately full. It is also in what I think is an embassy district so the surrounds are leafy and residential – quite pleasant.
I only made the smallest of dents in the 40 available beers by trying the not-so-smooth Cabossa Stout, the touch brutal Gatta Nera Black IPA, the delicate chocolate goodness of the Punto G bock and I got smacked about by the aptly named Machete Imperial IPA.
Queen Makeda Grand Pub
Address: Via di San Saba, 11 Roma (click for map)
The pinnacleof this hit and run trip to China was always going to be Harbin and its legendary Ice Festival. So far it hasn’t disappointed and even though we haven’t hit the Ice Sculptures yet (that’s tonight), we’ve already had a blast.
In amongst crossing the iced over Songhua River twice, seeing the most spectacular snow sculptures, walking the cobblestoned streets and enjoying our best feed on tour, we also squeezed in a unique and unexpected beer experience. My daughter spotted the “Madieer Restaurant and Brewery” sign down a side street off Century Avenue. We entered a beer world like no other. No sooner had we grabbed a seat at the bar and gotten over the shock of the cultural mismatch of the waiters uniforms when the “Baltic” dancing start. Two very tall blonde ladies in “traditional” costumes starting twirling and doseydoing to some lively folk music. Now I’m no expert, but I reckon the routine had been worked out in a youth hostel the night before. The cowboy clad male staff whooped and hollered, whilst the dirndl clad females looked suitably unimpressed. I ordered a sampling rack, which took its time because the barman insisting on filling a 3 litre communal vessel in one pull. A Pilsner, a Wheat, an IPA and a Porter were presented in different glasses. The Porter was a real standout – solid body with good chocolate and coffee notes coming through.
As I was sipping my tasters, a Caucasian girl dressed in a shimmering silver skirt and an older Chinese man had an intense conversation in front of my daughter, who relayed that the discussion was on song choice. Music soon began and “Shimmering Silver” was joined on stage by two gents competently playing a guitar and bass. The first tune was an instrumental and “Shimmering Silver” shaked a maraca and showed as much interest as one of the models in a Robert Palmer video. She sang in the next and wove her way through a rather disinterested audience. In the meantime, “Older China” stood at the back staring daggers. It was like we were at an audition. Two songs later (sung by the guitarist) it was all over. Another intense conversation commenced up the back. A sizeable crowd of Chinese patrons were oblivious to all this and were concentrating on mowing their way through as many 3l containers of Pilsner. “Older China” (presumably the owner) should have been happy.
Just as we were about to leave, our two folk dancers reappeared this time transformed into very untraditional Vegas showgirls. They climbed on to the stage and threw their very long limbs about in some vaguely choreographed dance. Crowd didn’t care and went nuts. Afterwards the dancers were accosted by female patrons for their photos, which the dancers seemed rather uncomfortable about.
All in all it was a very odd experience. The beer hall’s been going about a year. The beer is brewed onsite in very traditional looking copper brewing equipment that Germans love using in Paulaner brewpubs, which are prolific in China. They’ve got some seasonals, which I might sneak in tonight.
Only in China.
On the surface, Shenyang is a big, hard and grimy Chinese City. Add snow and minus 5 degrees Celsius, and you wonder why you’re here. But pull on your thermals and have a plan – and Shenyang can be plenty of fun. It even threw up some surprises.
For history buffs, Shenyang offers plenty. The Qing dynasty started here, it has tombs and an Imperial Palace like Beijing. The Japanese really got stuck into the Chinese here, and arguably the war between 1931 and 1945 started here on 18 September 1931. I’m not a museum frequenter, but the 9 18 museum is a belter and gives a glimpse into the enmity the Chinese have for the Japanese. The largest wholesale market in North East China (including Beijing) sells everything from hardware to clothes to jade sculptures to fabrics and is extremely chaotic. Zhongshan Square features (allegedly) China’s largest sculpture of Mao. There’s a vibrant Korea Town nearby and that’s where we headed in search of a feed.
Fortuitously, on our way, I spotted a neon sign proclaiming “Beer Time”. We ducked in to very new and very well stocked bar. Beer Time’s fridges and shelves groaned under the weight of beer from everywhere, but predominant Europe. The kitchen was pumping out pizzas including one with “Golden Pomegranate Durian” topping. A crowd of Chinese blokes had gathered in their Man U jumpers to watch the FA Cup. A place that warrants further investigation.
After a great cheap Korean feed, we headed to the target for the evening – the Fat Dragon Alehouse. I had high hopes and every single one was surpassed. Caleb is a wonderful host and packs an amazing amount of beer pleasure in a small space. Burgers are available – but I was focussed on the beer. Most of his 12 taps featured Chinese brewed beer and he had 5 on from a Chengdu brewer. Our old mate from Devolution was represented with their IPA and Panda Brew also featured. My daughter and I met a couple of US Marines and had a great old time. The merch is solid and I am very proud of my t-shirt, which states “Confucius says Wise Men drink Craft Beer”. The Fat Dragon Alehouse must be on the itinerary for any visit to Shenyang.
Beer Time: 45 Shifuda Lu, Heping Qu, Shenyang
Fat Dragon Alehouse: Wuhui Street, 100 metres
Long story short, there’s a few Sinophiles in my family – my brother, my daughter and me. They’re travelling in China so I thought I’d pop over and join them for a little while. My trip is centred around the Ice Festival in Harbin, but before and after, we’ll be knocking off a few Chinese metropoli. First stop, Dalian.Despite this being winter, and winter in Dongbei (North Eastern China) gets bloody cold, we arrived to a balmy 8 degree, hazily sunny day. In summer, Dalian teems with Chinese tourists that pack its beaches. These beaches aren’t a patch on Manly, but for a Chinese, Dalian is the French Riviera. A highlight is a drive along Binhai Lu, which is a coast road that soars along cliffs giving panoramic views and wraps behind the beaches, which are becoming increasingly surrounded by resorts and apartments. Along the road, is the world’s longest boardwalk at 32km. Maybe I’ll do that the next time I visit.
The other thing for which Dalian is famous is the world’s largest public square – Xinghai Square (more an elongated oval). In winter, nothing is in bloom, but at the moment the centre is shrouded in builder’s cape. The centrepiece used to feature the world’s largest huabiao statue, but the authorities tore it down at 3am one morning, much to the locals chagrin. Not sure why, they are features of Tianenmen Square in Beijing. Dalian is also home to an elusive craft brewer – Devolution Brewing. A great internet reference for anyone wanting to embark on a China trip and drink beer after the sightseeing has been done is a Great Hop Forward. I emailed the author before I left with my itinerary and he mentioned Devolution Brewing. Devolution’s web presence is miniscule – even on WeChat and Baidu – and my only tip for a place to find it came from Untappd. I found the Brooklyn Bar (which looks like a great little pizza joint), where it was last served, but it was shut. Undeterred, my daughter, fluent in Mandarin, knocked on the door and got us in. The cook pulled us a decent IPA, but couldn’t be convinced to part with a glass (even for RMB). I wasn’t going to push my luck for a second (plus there’s a venue in Shenyang that may serve it). Mission accomplished – Dalian made craft beer drunk in Dalian.
We squeezed in a visit to another good venue for beer drinkers in Dalian. Strollers is a classic dive bar, which is in the shadows of Hotel Nikko. They have a solid range of European and US bottled beer, and VB. They also serve Dalian Dry (made by Snow) and a range of Panda Brew, a craft brewer from Beijing.
Now I lived as an expat in Beijing for 8 months in 2009 and bar hopping was a favourite past time. An occupational hazard was that you got used to heavy passive smoking – particularly in bars like Strollers. My last visit to Beijing and Shanghai made me think that this practice was well on the way to being eradicated. This hasn’t reached Dalian. After 20 minutes in Strollers, my daughter was looking for an oxygen mask and the atmosphere was thicker than inside Cheech and Chong’s Kombie. We experienced similar in a wonderful seafood restaurant (Dalian’s specialty) – but they at least had exhaust fans.
Strollers: 4 Jiqing Jie, Zhongshan Qu, Dalian (behind the Hotel Nikki)
Brooklyn Bar & Restaurant: 184 Luxun Lu, Xigang Qu, Dalian
When last in Venice your correspondent spent every waking minute either fighting of the cold – it was December – or attempting to make 20 Aussie bananas last a day (including accommodation). Unfathomable now. This place is pricy. If I remember correctly, when last here with inductee Geoff Larb, the big trick for a cheap meal was to turn up at the University Venezia cafeteria pretending to be a student. As long you handed over the exact change – 1500 lira springs to mind (about AUD1.50 back then) – and didn’t open your mouth so as to give away our Aussie strine, you got a feed. We never tried it as I reckon our smell and chattering teeth would be a dead give away – Aussie backpackers.
Given the focuses I had back then I had either missed, or forgotten, just how wonderful Venice is. Round every corner there is new view of a stretch of canal, a palace or snatch of local life. Passing alleyway openings you get a brief glimpse of a distant island, another fetching bridge or church tower. Venice is beguiling.
Sure, I’d never come in summer. Even in winter the crowds are claustrophic in parts. Sure there is a slight whiff of effluent in the canals. And as mentioned bring your money with you. All these are easily trumped by the positives.
One of these is Italian craft beer and the brewpub Il Santo Bevitore (translated it means ‘the holy drinker’). The Italians claim to have been first to start the craft beer movement. I’m not going to debate this point, just enjoy the fruits of this stance.
As always my AirBNB apartment was fortuitously close to the venue and after completing family travel duties I nicked out to give the Il Santo Bevitore tap list a good workout. The pub was off the beaten track, thru a small church square then across a small bridge. It’s cold at the moment, about 0 degrees, and the Il Santo Bevitore was small and cosy. I found it buzzing with Italian families enjoying crafties and the Venetian version of tapas. The 20 taps had a range of Italian, UK and Belgian crafties. While I have been a super Dad lately I hadn’t bought quite enough time to tick off all 20 taps.
This place is well worth a visit both to escape the tourist horde to visit another beguiling part of Venice.
Il Santo Bevitore
Address: Cannaregio 2393/A – 30121 Venezia (click for map)