The sun is approaching the Yard Arm

I found my way this evening to the Rubber Duckie Taphouse (RDT) after my disappointment in finding that Manly Cinema is temporarily and inexplicably closed. I take my pew, awaiting the start of the Manly Sea Eagles playing their semi final. I’m supping on a pint of hand-pulled Punch & Judy, which I like because it’s not the usual overly strong Australian boutique beer at only 3.8%. I’m also sampling their brand new food menu – it’s priced reasonably from $6 through $27, but the middle ground $12 quesadilla is superb, made by an Aussie chef who’s just returned from Japan- his salsa of red peppers on top is excitingly novel, whilst its Moroccan spice overture gives it an unexpected twist that more than compensates for it’s traditional lack in Mexican chilli heat… in fact, it’s more akin to a chicken pastilla (pronounced and sometimes spelled besteeya in Morocco), the only difference is that it’s not filo pastry.

As you know from the previous BOTF posting, RDT has only just come under new ownership and management a couple of weeks ago, run now by an American team (Kevin and Jules) passionate about making a difference. What immediately strikes me is the encouraging sign that this small industry is sticking together – the obvious strategy would be to compete against other local craft ales… after all, you don’t want customers to eat and drink just around the corner – however, amongst their extensive and growing range of great ales and beers on tap, they’ve got the flagship Kolsch from local Manly micro brewery 4 Pines.

When I tried to visit RDT a month ago, I was disappointed to find it shut at 7pm on a Thursday night – tonight it’s positively alive… in one quiet corner, there’s the only TV screen in the joint showing the 2nd of the first round of the Rugby League Finals, complete with 10 or so avid boutique beer swilling supporters, who prefer the less crowded space than the other sports bar venues (the other option being next door at the Steyn Hotel that boasts nothing special, except maybe a bunch of ego megalomaniac security guards that enjoy kicking you out for drinking beer – I love the fact that RDT, Hemingway’s, El Beau Room and 4 Pines don’t attract clientele that require bouncers). The rest of the bar has some 20 or so punters, primarily ladies and couples, enjoying a Friday night out. Refreshingly, the opening hours are 11 a.m. through to midnight every day, and last night boasted a whopping 200 punters!

The landlord, Piet, is friendly, approachable, enthusiastic, and helpful – you don’t get the feeling of him ‘being on the other side of the counter’… he’s genuinely interested in what you like about both the food and the beer. As I slip down Murray’s massively flavoursome 2.8% “driver’s beer”, Retro Rocket, Kevin & Jules would be more than satisfied with the exuberance that he exudes as he talks enthusiastically about a selection from tonight’s beers on offer. Out comes a sample.

The aptly named “Butcher Porter” from Rocks Brewing is a burnt midnight offering to the Spring gods – ideal for cool nights like tonight as we transition out of Winter.

“Plasma”, a white IPA from Doctors Orders, has a citrus bitterness, an ideal accompaniment for supping whilst watching a tense mediation session in an acrimonious divorce case – the pinnacle of bitter sweet.

“Red Hopulous” is uninventive in my opinion, perhaps too subtle a flavour after the more robust tastings. I take a break and try it again – this does not deserve to be 5% as the only purpose for such a mellow tasting beer would otherwise be to introduce beer to a child.

“The Pale Ale” is a ‘Pacific’ pale ale – what witty marketing guru dreamt up this contrast to the IPA, where ‘Indian’ is an important part of the message… where the brew had to be sufficiently strong to last the journey to the Indies? It’s only 4.8%, so given the size of the Pacific, I’d be more expecting a 9%. However, despite its name, I’d recommend it. It’s floral overtones would go down well at lunchtime overlooking the ocean in the early summer noon sun.

The timing of the new couple in taking over this establishment is notable – they have the warm then the hot weather over the next 6 months to draw out the locals to their pub… they’ll need to find that vibe the El Beau Room recently found, not to mention creating that buzz that sums up the 4 Pines amongst locals. Whereas 4 Pines is exclusively their own extensive beer, Hemingway’s has 2 guest taps, and the El Beau Room is close to securing a drinks-only licence for its limited but encouraging range of 3 tap ales, RDT has a staggering 17 taps, 2 hand pumps (only 1 pulling tonight), and a cider, not to mention a dozen bottled beers, including 2 Italian ‘champagne’ beer.

RDT also competes strongly on the menu front with some Australian favourites (Wagyu burger) as well as a healthy dose of Moroccan delights, pizzas for children with mature palates, and an unsurprising kids menu for the normal child. The only thing they’re missing is a Manly parma. Piet tells me they may well be doing a brunch on Sundays, which will compete well with their neighbour, Hemingway’s.

Finally, don’t visit their website yet, which still needs to be updated to reflect the correct beer and food menu. However, their Facebook page is definitely worth a ‘Like’ – especially to keep up with news about Happy Hour beer during the footsie finals.

Verdict? Excellent all around. Great beer. Exciting food. A venue with real promise that’s already starting to deliver. The sooner they change the name, the better.

Now to sample that other local familiar ale ‘to compare and contrast’ – as the barmaid correctly advised, “4 Pines Kolsch is really light, and goes down really well.” “Yes, it does,” I reflected, especially since it’s cheaper here than at 4 Pines, and the double whammy was I got it for Happy Hour prices since the rugby was on… the Sea Eagles won.

The sun is definitely approaching the Yard Arm.