It is the last weekend of what has felt like a pretty cold winter in Sydney. Fortunately for the organisers of the first annual Winter Beer Festival, Sydney brought on a little piece of spring early and a cloudless day transpired. Two of your correspondents managed to convince their respective Mrs BotFs that a fun family day could be had whilst simultaneously drinking beer and a trip to Thirlmere commenced early on Saturday morning on the Back of the Ferry. The harbour was a pond and due to recent rain, the sky was as blue as could be.
Thirlmere is 90 kms southwest of Sydney and is home to the NSW Rail Transport Museum. The Museum has extensive grounds and it was in these that 25 brewers, 2 cider manufacturers and some food stalls set up shop and waited for the invasion. By the time we arrived with our kids in tow, the beer tents were already in full swing and busloads of beer lovers were pouring in. Now I’m not much for museums, but given the hour and the fact that I had a 4 year old to amuse for a period, I went and had a look at what the exhibits had to offer.
The museum has done a great job of preserving trains from as far back as the mid 1800s. As a high school kid, I spent plenty of time on NSW trains – and seeing and being able to walk through an old double decker train that I used to ride brought back plenty of memories. Despite the fact that these trains were discontinued a long time ago, it seemed like only yesterday that I was jumping out of them. Even the old signage had the train route that I used to catch on display. The Silver City Comet that I caught once in the ’80s to Broken Hill was there as well. Well worth a visit.
Once paternal duties were complete, it was time to get stuck into the beer stalls. With illiards and eight cans alongside me we paid a visit to the Riverside Brewing Company. I was keen to introduce the lads to the delights of Forty-Four American Amber. Also bumped into Plasticine Pete and his missus Sylvia and we all drooled over what is a very special beer. It was clearly a great day for Dave and Riverside as they apparently won the people’s choice award on the day.
There were 77 different brews to try and illiards and I were keen to up the BackoftheFerry @untappd uniques count. After saying gidday to Jaron and the crew at 4 Pines, we hit up the boys at HopDog Beer Works. HopDog consistently pushes the boundaries and always has some great names for their beers. They’d brewed an English Brown Ale style over hot rocks especially for the festival, which they were pouring off a hand-pump. Steinpunk had very mellow caramel flavours. I could have spent all afternoon on this. The Redhopulous was less instantly impressive, but grew on me as time went by. The other stand-out for me was the offerings from the Little Brewing Company of Port Macquarie. We’ve previously reviewed the Mad Abbot Tripel, but until now I hadn’t seen the Mad Abbot Dubbel or my @Untappd unique beer of the day the Wicked Elf Porter.I always thought the Little Brewing Company was named to reflect its size – but it’s actually the name of the husband and wife owners. The Dubbel was a wonderful Belgian style beer. Very complex and warming with plenty of spiritous fruit flavours. The Porter, however, was the real blow away for me. The aroma of vegemite hit me, but the coffee flavours were the winner. A healthy 6.2%, if winter has one last kick in it – this is the beer to ward it off.
The organisers of the Winter Beer Festival deserve hearty congratulations. The venue was a ripper and being able to laze around on the lawns in the sunshine whilst alternating between watching the kids on the jumping castles and strolling over to the beer tents was the most pleasant way to spend a Saturday arvo. It was a real pleasure to meet the Beer Diva and her family, as well as catch up with some of the brewers. Bring on the 2013 version.