One of the joys of my job is that I get to travel within Australia on a reasonably regular basis. By the time I’d been in the job six months I’d been to all the states and territories at least once and was a Gold Qantas frequent flyer pretty soon afterwards.
My first trip this year was to Brisbane. After a busy day shuttling between state government offices and, erm, someone’s kitchen in Taigum, wearing a suit in 32 degrees heat, I needed a big, cold, thirst-quenching beer. So off I went to the Grand Central Hotel, which I’d had a fun night in last year and which bucks the trend of station pubs usually being dire on every level.
I knew what beer I’d start with. The Grand Central is one of the growing number of bars to carry Stone and Wood Ale, brewed by three blokes from Byron Bay. Stone & Wood also do a couple of bottled beers, their pale lager and a stone ale, both of which I’ve tried in the past and are becoming available across the country. The draught ale is unpasteurised, and unfiltered, a real live ale which at 4.4% tastes fresh and pleasantly bitter. It’s light in colour, zingy, with huge grapefruit and passionfruit flavours. The perfect first beer on a hot sub-tropical summer’s night. And Grand Central serve it in pints, which I’m always in favour of.
That one having barely touched the sides, despite trying to pace myself, I moved from the main Fihelly Bar (once the refreshment room for Queensland Rail, history buffs) into The Platform Bar, perhaps (feel free to contradict me) Brisbane’s most interesting beer bar. Their eight taps usually showcase a mixture of local micros and craft beers from around the country, but the night I went in the selection was a bit disappointing – Little Creatures I can get anywhere, for instance – and I was actively dissuaded from trying one by the English barmaid. I settled for a Burleigh Heads Hefeweizen, which turned out to be a good choice. This is a limited edition release from this Gold Coast-based brewery, and a fine example of a Hefe it is. Unfiltered and cloudy, it looks the part, and it also has that banana aroma and taste you’d expect. I could have drunk more than the schmiddy I had, but I was alone and fancied watching football (round ball variety) on Foxtel on the huge set in my hotel room, something I can’t do back home. So I prised myself up from the very comfortable sofa I’d reclined on and headed next door to the bottle shop…
A PS on Burleigh Heads Brewery: they put out a no-carb beer last year. I had a bottle and I have no memory of what it tasted like, of whether it tasted of anything at all. I suspect it didn’t.
And a PPS: According to BeerMatt, “Burleigh is a bit of an anomaly for a brewery of their size. They have set a limited distribution area for their beer with brewer Brennan Fielding wanting to ensure that his beer is delivered as fresh as possible. Brennan won’t deliver further north than Hervey Bay or further south than Coffs Harbour and ensures that so long as it is in his control the beer stays refrigerated, not warehoused.”