Newtown is Sydney’s Camden, sort of. Along and just off its main thoroughfare, King Street, lie funky shops, tons of places to eat and drink, and the mix of crazy crusties with a dog-on-a-string and middle-class students and DINKYS slumming it that made London NW1 such an interesting place fifteen years ago. It’s not quite on the tourist trail yet and all the better for it.
One of the first proper Australian (drinking) hotels I ever went into was Newtown’s Marlborough Hotel, but we gave that one a swerve this time for the even more, erm, straightforward Town Hall Hotel, right next to the station and so handy for meeting Louise’s friend Emma in. Over two levels the smell of stale beer and sight of dodgy blokes staring into space over a schooner is never escapable. Bar staff are nice though, and for some reason it’s one of the few places that has St Peters Pale Ale on draught, a beer the barman tried to put me off buying the last time I was in there (“Have you had it before? It’s a bit odd-tasting…”). It also has Carlton Black and, since it was on my mind from a previous blog posting and I’d been drinking dark beers all day, that’s what I ordered.
They reckon Carlton Black, or something like it, has been brewed since 1835 which, in a bit of Melbourne/Sydney rivalry that I’m getting used to, tops Toohey’s Old by about thirty years. The beers themselves are pretty similar, with Black being more roasty in taste. As I said before, a good sessionable beer and if I were a Melbournite I’d probably drink more of it.
After a couple (and some second-hand smoke) on the first floor balcony of the Townie, we walked up to The Cooper’s Hotel, no relation to the brewery of that name but sellers of their brews amongst others. We came here for the bistro, which provided very large portions of pretty good food and (we hoped) would help offset the reasonable quantity of beer already sunk. To wash my pasta down I went for an old faithful, Coopers Pale Ale. I would imagine that this is Coopers’ best-seller, a 4.5% hazy, slightly malty, slightly soapy brew. There’s a bit of citrus in there but it doesn’t knock you over the head with it. The biggest difference between this and the modern aussie pale ales is that there’s virtually no hop taste. For me it means it’s very drinkable but not very exciting. A good standby when the choice isn’t great.
After this night and before I wrote this up I’ve had the Pale Ale in the bottle a couple of times, once in great quantity at the house of our tallest friends. Goes down great with pizza and conversations about Sydney crims. Did I mention it’s bottle conditioned? It’s bottle conditioned. Drinking it out of the bottle mixes it up nicely but when they serve you with it in the Qantas Lounge the bar staff always give the bottle a roll to do this before the pour. They’ve obviously been told that you should do that.