For a blog based off the back of a Sydney harbour ferry, Back of the Ferry has a suprisingly diverse international readership. Recently, BotF was contacted by the Italian based distributor of some Italian beers, who’d actually spotted our stuff on the interweb. Despite obviously having read some of our posts, she was still prepared to meet us and offer us some samples for our consideration. Now, normally when we get a beer to sample we try to give it the full BotF beerporn treatment and tasting off the Opera House. One look at the beautiful looking bottle of My Antonia indicated that this should be sampled in a more contemplative surrounding with some fine food. The Caterpillar Pale Ale looked more conducive to a post surf settler at Byron, but we had different plans for it.
Collaborations between brewers are all the rage right now. We’ve written about Mountain Goat and one of their partnered offerings and barely a fortnight goes by without something on Crafty Pint or AusBrewNews announcing an upcoming collaboration. Both these offerings from Italy were collaborations – and damned fine ones at that, albeit completely different. The first (My Antonia) was a collaboration between a rockstar of US craft brewing (Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery) and a real pioneer of Italian craft brewing (Leonardo Di Vincenzo of Birra Del Borgo). The second was a offering from a Danish Brewer – Beer Here and another Italian Brewer – Beer Fist. My Antonia is a very serious, very well made drop. It is described as an Imperial Pilsner and is big in many, many ways. It’s a beer that should be treated like a good wine. Drink it slow, drink it with something that someone has taken an effort to cook. I took it to a dinner party where our hosts had killed the fatted calf – or in this instance a flock of spatchcocks. My Antonia is highly hopped (a fistful of hops added for every minute of a 60 minute a pre-boil period), but there’s also plenty of malt. The result is a rich, flavourful concoction, that one can enjoy sip by sip. There’s a story behind the name as well, but I’ve never been much good at literary study. Not sure on the retail price, but whatever it is, it is worth it.
I wish I could find the back story to the Caterpillar Pale Ale. The label is one of the more picturesque and enigmatic I’ve seen. A Jabba-the-Hut-meets-the-Mad-Hatter-Caterpillar smokes what looks like a a Captain GoodVibes sized scoob as he accepts a goblet of beer from an enthusiastic looking Alice in a hop garden in which the two brewers crouch. The contents contain a great tasting pwerful pale ale. It’s a lovely cloudy drop weighing at a nice 6%. There’s a classic long lasting bitterness that is as good as it gets. The humour of the label makes one under estimates the quality of the drop. Both of these collaborations are worth seeking out.
I took the Caterpillar Pale Ale to a couple of Club Rugby games on succesive weekends. Sydney Club rugby is a great Saturday afternoon activity, particularly when the afternoons are so fine. Manly and Warringah might be joined at the hip in Rugby League in the form of the Manly-Warringah Rugby League team, but in club rugby they are two fierce rivals. Manly play at Manly Oval which is a cricket oval in summer. I was lucky enough to watch the local derby between the two insular penisula rivals and naturally a rugged contest ensued. Manly won easily but the real winner was the traditional combatative atmosphere. The second Saturday was spent at Rat Park where the Warringah Rats met the once powerful Gallopin Greens of Randwick. Much to the sadistic joy of the crowd the Green Rats vanquished Randwick and consigned the “Green Slime” (the name many opponents of Randwick prefer to use) to an unprecedented 7th consecutive defeat. In fact Randwick haven’t won a game this year. The joy of club rugby is that you can enjoy the game without being cheek to jowl with fellow spectators, yet still enjoy good natured banter. It is almost sad about Randwick, but as someone who witnessed his childhood team thrashed repeatedly by the “Slime” it isn’t really that sad.