On the first of February 2011, illiards and I downloaded the @untappd app. @untappd is a great beer drinking companion, and whilst the Back of the Ferry blog ebbs and flows, BotF’s @untappd usage has remained constant. It’s copped a flogging recently with trips to Europe and China providing no shortage of uniques. But there’s no finer place than the Back of the Ferry to drink a unique.
Lamb0, pommy_ch, illiards and bladdamasta founded this blog in 2009. Over the years our gatherings have become more and more sporadic as work interrupts our BotF time more and more. Amazingly and without any planning, the founding four just happened to assemble on the evening illiards and bladdamasta checked in the 4000th @untappd unique.
Cyril Dickthorpe, who has contributed to the 4000 pulled out at the last minute and sent his apologies. We also missed oompaloompa and Tony from Toowoomba – who are presently far away.
In the old days (the pre 1000s) it was possible to visit any bottlo and pick 3 @untappd uniques (a beer not checked in to our @untappd account) for the voyage home. Those days are long gone and for a three trip unique you’ve got to plan and visit a champion bottlo like the Oak Barrel.
There was some careful selection for 3999 and 4000. Nomad’s an insular peninsula brewer and one we’ve seen develop since this whole thing started. Saltpan Desert Gose (3999) sums up the variety that craft beer now. For 4000 though (given no unique 4 Pines were available), we couldn’t go past a Doctor’s Orders Ronnie. We love Doc and he loves us as has been documented. His Tonic Witbier was a perfect way to knock off 4000. We are holding the Tonic tins the second photo.
Great voyage and here’s to 4000 more. About February 2023 I reckon.
One of my favourite Beijing haunts was the 12SQM Bar, self proclaimed as “Beijing’s smallest bar”. It was to be found near the southern end of NanluguoXiang, but as I’ve discovered on return visits has bitten the dust along with numerous other great watering holes.
Imagine my surprise when I popped into a hitherto undiscovered hole in the wall in Melbourne to see an old sign on the wall – 12SQM Bar/Cafe.
Through the wonder of Google Photos, I was able to drag up a photo of a 2009 pub Beijing pub crawl and send it to the owner of the Whisky Den. “Is this sign from Beijing?”. Sure enough, he confirms that it is. He also confirms 12SQM’s demise or demolition to be exact. I am so glad that a little piece of Beijing history has been preserved – even if it is 9000km from its original spot. The owner of the Whisky Den just needs to get a pie warmer installed and it’ll be like being back in Beijing. Aaah – nostalgia…
Whisky Den: 2b/27 Russell Street, Melbourne.
My favourite beer writer is a bloke named Aaron Goldfarb. Right at the beginning of Back of the Ferry, I discovered his now retired blog – “The Vice Blog“, which contained hilarious articles about beer – including a savage, but very funny sledge on Foster’s. He now moves in more sophisticated circles and writes about beer for Esquire, Playboy and Punch, which is an awesome online journal about all things alcoholic.
Aaron’s most recent contribution is a fascinating and detailed story about the “World’s Worst Beer”. It is well worth a read, and he interviews the guy that created it and sold it to a macro brewer a number of years ago. BotF wrote an article about it in 2011. We were comparatively generous in our views.
The photo at the top of Aaron’s article is of the author grimacing as he swallows a sip of the World’s Worst Beer. That photo is very similar to an image captured of this correspondent the moment after he swallowed a mouthful of XXXX Summer Bright Lager with Mango. I can assure readers that the reaction is entirely spontaneous and visceral. Surely a candidate for the world’s second worst beer. It is hard to avoid fruit in beer these days. In January alone, I drank at least three beers where blood orange was involved. In China, they are everywhere – but none were as rank as this. It simply made me shudder and grimace involuntarily through a combination of sweet and sour. We joke that we drink some beers so you don’t have to. This is a classic example. Run a mile.
A trait shared by your BotF correspondents is our ability to eke out the maximum number of craft venues visited in the smallest time available on every trip and at each destination. Often at the expense of stability on the home front. Take my visit to Open Baladin in Rome recently.
I had marked down this brilliant craft beer destination on my map prior to visiting Rome. But with a small tribe and Mrs BotF to escort round the sites of Rome, it was a venue too far. I had snuck a few in already and I was getting a very definite ‘don’t push it’ vibe from the offspring.
So there we were, luggage packed for the 21 hour flight home, kids in bed in readiness for the sparrow fart dash to Fiumicino & all nerves frayed as only those who have packed for three kids have experienced. Then my phone goes ‘ping’. Message received. I open it to see my brother and sister-in-law parked at the bar at said Open Baladin. 35 taps of liquid gold. Bugga. How do I play this?
Some quick mental calculations. 10 mins in a cab, let’s say 3 unique crafties, 10 mins back…..1 hour tops. So here goes. Opening gambit to Mrs BotF. “Jeez my brother’s at that place I mentioned, the one with the 35 taps?”. No response. “Would have loved to have got to this one. I guess there’s no time now”.
Silence. I was going to have to earn this one.
Silences are just waiting to be filled. You just have to wait.
I got a response but you must remember I am dealing with a master.
“I guess you’d better go” partnered with the stink eye. How do I read that!?
A lesser correspondent would have got back in his box. I chose to take the ball and charge through the meagre gap offered – straight to a cab and the joys of Open Baladin.
What a place. Innocuous entrance off a nondescript street. But an Aladdin’s cave of craft beers await, including a great takeaway list and some quality merchandise. It was hiding amongst the takeaways that I saw a few offerings from Brookvale’s own Nomad Brewing. These boys are long way from home but then again we shouldn’t be suprised given the distinctly Italian backstory of how Nomad came into being.
Open Baladin was a full as a tic and the menu looked pretty good. A top tip might be to book if you want to eat. As for me, I parked at the bar with my brother and tried my best to choose 3 beers from the 35 on tap that adequately represented the range on offer. It was a tough ask but I had a crack.
Open Baladin is a must if you are after a great craft beer venue in Rome. Maybe just leave yourself a little more time to enjoy it than I did.
Open Baladin Roma
Address: Via degli specchi, 6 (zona Campo de’ Fiori) – 00186 Roma (click for map)
In situ post
It is always a very exciting day when Mr Liquor at Circular Quay introduces a unique for Back of the Ferry. Even more exciting is when we are the first to check it in on @Untappd. Untappd is BotF’s equal favourite app (along with TripView, which is critical for next ferry – particularly during the confusing summer timetable).
Dam Burg is brewed by Brouwerij Martens of Belgium. These guys have been around for 255 years and must brew something good, but in Oz (and at Circular Quay), we’ve only been exposed to Martens Pils. Martens Pils used to go for $10 a six pack at Mr Liquor, but was lamentable at best. Martens beer list on Untappd is looong. There are a couple of listings for “Damburger” beer, but none for Dam Burg.
I wonder whether the contents of Martens Pils are the same as Dam Burg. There is that malty EuroSwill aftertaste, but it isn’t as rank as I remember Martens Pils.
Great afternoon on the harbour with two big boats in. Great to chase one down the Harbour and pass it.
Even the Friday night federales have left us alone. Friday Ferry Finery.
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)
My trip to China ended on a visit to an old home town. I truly love Beijing and its beer scene continues to evolve. I took my brother to some old favourite haunts (Great Leap and Slow Boat). Together we confirmed the sad demise of NanluguoXiang – a former great pub crawl. We opportunistically met a drummer in a cab line and ended up seeing MDC (summarised in Wikipedia thus “They play fast hardcore punk music espousing far-left sociopolitical ideals, with singer Dave Dictor expressing his animal rights, gay rights, transgender rights, pro-racial equality and anti-capitalist convictions.“) at the School Bar. Haven’t been near such a moshpit like that anywhere and two of the 90% Chinese crowd were carried out unconscious when some crowd surfing ended up in headfirst wipeouts on to concrete.
Between NanluguoXiang and the School Bar, my brother and stumbled across a bar in an alley. We spotted a cocktail neon out of the corner of our eye and discovered Chilli Crush. What a surprising beer oasis! It is probably better known as a lesbian leaning bar that serves very hot food, which only became apparent when I took a photo of a unique beer from Spain (see above). A conversation with a lovely but puzzled bar maid confirmed what the bar’s posters were indicating. They admired our enthusiasm for a fridge that stocked Tuatara, Garage Project, Rogue, Founders and Euro stuff to name but a few. Well priced too. A worthy detour before going to the Dongsi 8th Slow Boat venue.
The next night we visited Arrow Brewing’s new venue in Liangma. Slow Boat and Great Leap definitely dominate the Beijing craft beer scene, but Arrow expanded to its second venue last year to be a clear up and comer. They’ve done a great job. There’s working brewery equipment on the ground floor. There’s a rooftop bar which would overlook a pleasant tree lined river in summer, but it was -3 and I’d had enough of the cold on this trip.
The first floor is where the action is. 14 taps – all Arrow (I think). There’s bar seating, high benches and stools and tables. Good sound system and wifi as well. When I visited their first venue in 2015, their range was tight. Now Arrow’s stepped it with barley wine, Rye PA and Imperial Amber amongst the new types. The merch is the most reasonable in Beijing. Great thought has gone into the label designs for each beer and the price is right.
Aah Beijing – too short this time, but still great fun.
Chilli Crush: Zhongjianzi Xiang, Beijing
Arrow Brewing Factory Liangma He: 1 Xindong Lu, Beijing (but in LiangmaHe San Lu)