A few weeks ago, Mrs BotF and I took a couple of 5 year old rug rats to Wollongong. Not an excursion that I’d ordinarily write up on Back of the Ferry, but I snuck in a visit to the Illawarra Brewery and snuck a stubbie into the backpack for an unusual Back of the Ferry experience. The rug rats wanted to go to Wollongong because of the opportunity to ride on a steam train. There are no shortage of former railway employees that love nothing more than to don on the old uniform and relive the bygone era of rail travel. The carriages are polished, the buffet car is stocked and train enthusiasts come out in force. The train trip to the ‘Gong is a pleasant trip especially when the coast comes into view at Stanwell Tops.
A trip to Wollongong isn’t complete without a visit to the Illawarra Brewery underneath WIN Stadium. I love their beers, and had had a couple at Hart’s recently. Mrs BotF let me scarper a way for “just one”. My eye was caught by one the weirder looking tap heads with one of the more unusually named beers I’d seen for a while. “Slasher McKay .P.A is an “Australian Pale Ale”, which was only released on tap in October. It’s a powerful ale coming in at 6.6%. My UnTappd notes said “Almost a 5, spicy, bitter. Definitely one to try if you can there and it is still on. Ken “Slasher” Mackay was a test cricketer from the 50’s and 60’s. The Aussies could have used him today ashe was known for his ability to bat for long periods of time in difficult conditions. The “Slasher” sobriquet was ironic and he was dropped due to public demand despite scoring 86 not out, because he batted so slowly. Whilst hardly Brad Pitt, the portrait on the taphead does him no justice. As I was half way through my Slasher, I noticed BotF reader Pete and his lovely wife Sylvia walk in. I’ve probably bumped into Pete and Sylvia at about 5 different pubs since the blog started – so it’s no longer a surprise – even in Wollongong. Despite the Mrs BotF “just one” ringing in the ears – I had to have one more and opted for the Saison Rouge. This is even more powerful that the Slasher and is a 7.2% Farmhouse Ale/Saison. Absolutely brilliant – rich and earthy and holds its alcohol well. Glad I bumped into you, Pete!
As good as the Illawarra Brewery always is, what I was really looking forward to was the trip from Wollongong to Circular Quay by ferry. This would be a rare opportunity to see the coast line between Wollongong and Sydney. I was a little surprised to see that the vessel we were going to catch was the Manly Fast Ferry, but it doubles up as a whale watcher, so I gladly boarded it. My beer for the day was an unusual purchase from Porters Balgowlah. Kingdom Pilsener is made by Cambodia’s largest (only?) craft brewery. It is a passable pilsener, with a little bite. Kingdom Breweries also make a dark and a gold lager. The ferry trip was terrific, however some didn’t cope well. The crew were doing a great trade in sick bags and if you stayed inside the stench was pretty bad. The views are awesome, particularly of the high cliffs. What was mind-blowing were the whales. We stopped a few times along the way to see them and eventually we just had to pass them by because we weren’t going to reach Circular Quay in time. There were also some sick people that really couldn’t give a rats about whales. Amazingly the little iPhone managed to snag a shot of two whales breaching at once.