32-34. Perth

March 13, 2011

Picture actually taken in Sydney in December. But the attitude to the beer stays the same.

32. VB
33. Carlton Draught
34. Platinum Blonde

Perth’s a funny place, probably my least favourite of the Australian state/territory capitals. It just feels so…soulless. When I’ve been there for work I’ve always tried to spend my evenings in Fremantle, Perth’s port town, which has something approaching life in the evenings and a couple of good book/record shops plus a couple of worthwhile breweries. But more about those in a later post.

The first time I went to Perth in 2010 (which appears to have been in late February so I have got my beer chronology slightly out of order) I had other plans for the evening, which involved being driven into the inner suburbs by a man I’d never met who would only answer to the name of MegaMike. It was all to do with a music-related project which has stalled slightly (must get it back on track) but it involved a very pleasurable evening in the company of MegaMike, his mate Dion, and a strange Welshman. A mysterious man with only one hand made a brief appearance too.

When in MegaMike’s house, do as MegaMike does, so the beer drunk that night was a succession of longnecks of VB, Carlton Draught and Platinum Blonde. VB is the biggest-selling beer in Australia, but I’ve yet to find anyone who has a kind word to say about it. Even Victorians: I went to a wedding in the Dandenongs where VB was the only choice of beer and everyone else on my table, Victorians all, declined to drink it, declaring it “piss”. The only real difference between VB and Carlton Draught is that the VB is slightly darker in colour and has a slightly stronger taste. On a hot night in a room full of heat-emitting technology, both of them did the trick.

Platinum Blonde was launched by Woolworths (owner of Dan Murphys, Liquorland, BWS and probably many more bottlos) in 2008 as a cynical attempt to take the “low-carb” market away from Pure Blonde and its imitators, and therefore increase their already frightening hold over the entire retail scene. “Low-carb” beers are huge in Australia, sold to gullible fools as somehow less fattening than normal beer, and easier to session drink. Some even maintain that they give you less of a hangover too. It’s all bollocks. There may be less carbohydrate in the beer, but that’s not what makes you fat – it’s the calories in the alcohol that make you fat. And “low-carb” beers are not low alcohol beers – Platinum Blonde is 4.6%, the low end of full-strength. If it’s easier to drink and less likely to make you feel bloated, that’ll be the relative level of carbonation. Or all in your head. Like the fact that your hangover is less strong.

Anyway, after the VB and Carlton Draught, this tasted crisp and even a bit citrussy, a pleasant surprise. I tried it again a few days later, with a clean palate and a clear head, and it tasted horrible. Sometimes context is everything.

Her milkshake brings all the boys to the yard


23. Resch’s Draught

May 10, 2010

League player in condoning drinking shock

I was on my way somewhere else.

That’s how you usually end up at The Paragon Hotel, one of two pubs at Circular Quay and the only one you’d really want to go into. The downstairs bar is pretty utilitarian but fine for a swifty when you’re waiting for a ferry, or as a starting point for a crawl through the Rocks. Upstairs is a bit posher but only just. Food’s standard but comes in enormous portions.

For some reason I’d forgotten that The Paragon does Coopers’ (but only on a tap around the corner) so I thought I’d go for a Resch’s Draught, which I’d been surprised to see Louise pick last time we were in here. “I want something thirst-quenching”, she’d said, and she certainly made the right choice. A 4.4% lager, crisp, bitter and with an overpowering taste of barley, it cleanses the palate beautifully and gets you ready for the next beer, whether it be another Resch’s or something more trendy.

Which is, let’s face it, pretty much anything on the taps.  Resch’s is the Toohey’s Old of lagers, in that it’s generally thought that no-one under the age of eighty drinks it by choice. It may be because the last time anyone spent any money advertising it appears to have been 1947, or it may be that it’s the last remaining beer from the old Resch’s Brewery, which officially took that name in 1906. The history of the brewery goes back to 1874, when the owners of West End Brewery in Adelaide set up premises in Waverley, Sydney. For the first two years it was called the Adelaide Brewery but they rather sensibly changed it’s name to the Waverley Brewery in 1876. Edmund Resch joined as manager in 1895, having run breweries with his brothers in rural NSW in the preceding years, giving the brewery (and the beer) his name eleven years later, moving it to Redfern in the bargain. Three years after his death in 1926 Resch’s was taken over by Tooth & Co. Of course, Tooth’s were taken over in their turn by Carlton United (Fosters) in 1983.  Why exactly (and where) Carlton keep brewing Resch’s is anyone’s guess – and you can get it in bottles too, both stubbies and longnecks – but I’m glad they do, not just from the heritage aspect but also because it’s a decent enough drop, one I’ll drink again.

2010 Resch's tap. See what I mean?

Thanks to ‘The Breweries of Australia: A History‘ by Keith M Deutscher (Lothian, 1999) for the above history lesson.


11-12. Carlton Black, Coopers Pale Ale

January 31, 2010

don't fancy yours much

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.

none more black

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.

that's a very unmanly glass

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.

4. Tooheys Old

January 11, 2010
thank you, beerstore.com.au


Once upon a time all Aussie beers were like this. Before the Foster brothers (Americans!) and German immigrants and the introduction of refrigeration, lager was unknown in Australia – too bloody hot and no handy caves near the breweries.

Tooheys have been brewing Old, or something like it,  since 1872. Malty, vanilla-y, and with just a hint of burnt ash and coffee, this is my favourite Australian session ale. There are two other mass-produced dark ales that run it close, but Kent Old is more like a brown ale and Carlton Black is more bitter, and both are more difficult to get on draught in Sydney (although the St Leonard’s Tavern, a short walk from my place, does serve Black). Old has become my default draught in pubs that cater for the older generation. Yes, Tooheys are now part of Lion Nathan,  evil megaswill brewers, but as long as they remember at least a little bit of their history they’ll just about be ok by me.

Details: These were my first draught beers of the year, drunk in two places. The first two schooners slipped down at the Coogee Legion Club. One day I’ll have to do a separate post on Retired Servicemen’s Clubs and their influence on the community in Australia: there’s nothing quite like them anywhere else. Louise and I had been swimming at Coogee and snorkelling at Clovelly (hello British readers, wiping the snow off your keyboards) and popped in here for a couple after some excellent barramundi and chips from the hilariously-titled (sarcasm)  Chish and Fips on the beach.

Getting into one of these places usually entails either becoming a member (generally not that expensive, but Groucho’s rule applies) or proving that you live at least 6km away so that you can sign in as a guest, thanks to NSW’s oddly antiquated licensing laws. The guy on the desk didn’t both to ask us for any ID, which won the place a few points in my book, having had my protestations of “but I’m on holiday from England!” fall on deaf ears at the North Sydney Anzac Club a few months ago. Clearly Gallipoli is still an issue for some.

The beer selection is all the usual suspects (Louise had Resch’s) but, and here’s why we go into these places, the schooners were $3.80 each. And if I’d been a member they’d have been even cheaper.

Wanting to get away from the man/woman duo doing Lionel Richie/Fleetwood Mac covers in the corner, we slid across to the infamous Coogee Bay Hotel. Not being on the pull and not wishing to get glassed in the face, or made to eat their chocolate ice-cream, we only stayed for one and then used their bottlo to get a longneck of the beer of the evening to take home. Lovely day.

Lion Nathan have been bought up by Kirin recently: I wonder if the Japanese, with their love of dark lagers, will get a chance to try Old?

Photo Essay: Kent Brewery

December 29, 2008

Kent Brewery 1

Kent Brewery 2

Kent Brewery 3

Kent Brewery 4

Kent Brewery 5

These are pictures of the Kent Brewery site on Broadway, Chippendale, just down the road from Central Station, taken earlier this month.

The Kent Brewery was opened in 1835 by Sydney’s original big brewery, Tooth and Co. In 1983 Carlton & United (CUB) took over Tooth’s and brewed VB and Foster’s (amongst other things) here. In 2003, it was sold to developers and finally shut in 2005, the beers formerly brewed there now being brewed in Victoria and Queensland on cheaper real estate, I’d imagine. It will eventually be the usual mix of swanky apartments and retail/office space. Details of the closure announcement are here and more history than you might ever need to know is here. You’ll be pleased to hear that the gates (pictured in the last two pictures above) will remain, although I bet they wash off the residue on the tiles from the original “Tooth & Co Limited Kent Brewery” lettering, which you can still just about see.

The last picture above was a prize-winner in the second annual A Good Beer Blog / Stonch’s Beer Blog Xmas Photo Competition. Thanks Alan and Jeff! I’d never heard of Beaus’s All Natural Brewing Company before but I’m looking forward to receiving their t-shirt and hat in due course.