62-65. Perth (again) and Fremantle

December 12, 2012
Wha'ts happened to your face, Warnie?

The one in the middle owns Burswood Casino. The other two are his guests. That’s all you need to know.

I’ve said it before, but Perth’s a weird place. I’ve never really got on with it and as my trip involving staying at Burswood Casino for three days it didn’t look likely that my attitude would change. I’m not a big fan of casinos in the first place, and this one is frustratingly located midway between the city and the airport so offered no easy escape of an evening or even during sessions of the conference I was attending that I wanted to swerve. I think it’s fair to say that I went a bit doolally over these three days.

The first evening I ventured into the Perth CBD by train to check out whether the English pub I’d been into on my first visit to Perth (in 2009) was as horrible as I remembered. It was.

Wonder if there's a Perth branch of the BNP who meet here?

I could have sworn I’d taken a picture of the male toilet door with its oh-so-funny “Squires” sign, but I can’t find it. Anyway, this really is Perth, not Benidorm. Honest.

The Moon and Sixpence offers an “authentic” carpeted, wood-panelled idea of an English pub, complete with dartboard, football on the telly, and amusing names for the toilets.

The beer choice is a mixture of the English lagers you’d expect, a couple of Aussie ones just in case a local pops in, and some keg bitters shipped in from the UK. Which, on the whole, taste horrible. When I came here before I left half a pint of something which described itself as Charles Wells’ Bombardier, a perfectly passable pint in London but undrinkable after 10,000 miles in a highly-pressurised container. I don’t think I’ve ever left half a pint before, and I’ve drunk Old Wallop (allegedly rebadged past-it’s-best Courage Directors’) out of a pewter tankard.

You’d think I’d know better, but I decided to try again. Bombadier wasn’t on this time but there were other UK alternatives. Despite these not being aussie beers, and therefore not part of the 2010 beer blogging challenge, I made notes anyway:

Belhaven Best – cold. draughtflow, fruity, cold, 9 bucks, have I mentioned it was cold?

Sharps Doom Bar – on handpump but still freezing cold! And 10.50 a pint… Taste? Sort of bittery. Had it in the UK, very nice pint. No wonder foreigners don’t like English beer if this is what they think it is.

Two from opposite ends of the UK, a session ale from just outside Edinburgh, and a slightly stronger bitter from Cornwall. My first experience of Sharps’ Doom Bar came on a trip to see an old girlfriend in the early 2000s, and I went back to London raving about how good the beer was. Before long it became available outside of Cornwall and it didn’t taste quite so good, although still perfectly drinkable. Transported half the way around the world and served cold, it was rubbish.

shit burgers not pictrued

It’s an Irish pub…inside a casino!

The second night I stayed within the Casino complex as I had to do a presentation the next morning and I didn’t want to tempt fate by exploring too far. The “dining experience” I chose called itself Paddy Hannan’s. You can guess what kind of effect they were going with in this one. Nevertheless, non-Guinness options were available, as my notes from the evening show:

Paddy Hannan’s – my email to Will refers. James Squires Amber (Golden also available) then 62. Swan Draught. Purely for research purposes. Went off after he poured mine. Hmm. Clear and golden though. Inoffensive enough. Not as cardboardy as some. Reminds me of (UK brewed) Fosters. Ha!

Swan is WA’s equivalent to Toohey’s New, Carlton Draught, NT Draught, etc – the basic beer of the state. I’ve had worse.

But what did I mean by “my email to Will refers”? On coming to write this, I had no recollection. So I searched my emails for “Paddy Hannan’s” and stared back into the abyss…

Evening

I am in a fake Irish pub in the Burswood Entertainment Complex, just
outside Perth, WA. Here for a conference, the rest of the dead-eyed
hordes are here for the casino. I have entered hell and it is a
leisure “experience”. My humps my humps my humps. my lovely lady lumps.

I’ve just noticed that the beer of the month is Guinness. In a place
called Paddy Hannan’s. Amazing. Aargh, Coldplay.

Ooh, Good Girls Go Bad. Leighton Meester.

Vote Clegg, get knotted.

Clever word play about the then-still-up-in-the-air UK General Election aside, the effect of two days surrounded by conference delegates and old ladies throwing their pensions into poker machines has clearly taken their toll.

The next day, after I had delivered a presentation on something I knew very little about to a room of people who didn’t really want to listen to me (as I was from the Eastern States and therefore did not understand what makes WA unique), I rewarded myself with an evening in Fremantle, Perth’s redeeming feature. A short train ride out of the city, Fremantle has a lovely vibe, full of cafes, a couple of decent pubs, bookshops and a great second-hand record shop where I scored an original copy of The Flying Lizards’ first LP before heading down to the Little Creatures’ Brewery for a couple.

Wins no architecture prizes

Wins no architecture prizes

I was still taking notes, which probably helped give off a bit of a “weirdo” vibe. If anyone had read what I was writing they would have had their suspicions confirmed. The place was starting to get to me.

Little Creatures. Rogers. Had before in bottle in Melb with Lisa, but. More of a bitter, still quite aggressively hopped with those LC american pale ale hops though. Biscuity. (What does that mean? I myself am partial to a Garibaldi and it sort of describes the dead-fly-less Garra. Malted milk might be a better comparison. So it’s really just another silly phase for a bit malty then). LC smells slightly sulfurous. Industrial chic and a sandpit for the kiddies out back. Blah.

It was my second trip to Little Creatures and it’s not really the place to go on your own. Once you’ve got over all the pipework and so on the place is rather dull and the layout doesn’t really encourage the solitary drinker. Good for the kind of person who enjoys drinking in numbers though. I don’t think I saw a group of people smaller than eight in there.

I then headed back into the middle of Freo (as the locals call it) and made a very odd decision.

Time out for poor Mexican (Zapatas) with carafe of margarita. With a straw. I increase the average age of the clientele considerably.

Why I thought a poky Mexican place called Zapatas with plastic menus and garish-coloured walls would be anything other than a red-sauce, cheese-encrusted nightmare is beyond me. It was the kind of Mexican that the family in the Old El Paso commercials would go to if they ever went out. Except that there seemed to be some sort of age bar going on, as all the other diners appeared to be high school students.

And yes, I ordered a carafe of margarita and I assume, as it was only me drinking it, they decided to save on the washing up and give me a straw and no glass. Could I be bothered to ask for a glass? No.

That's better

That’s better

Thankfully I knew my next port of call would bring the evening to a satisfactory close with some good beers. The Sail and Anchor has been a pub (under varying names) since 1884, and has a range of its own beers once brewed by the Matilda Bay Brewing Company (now owned by Carlton Fosters) but now brewed, so far as I can tell, in-house. They’ve just (late 2012) launched a range of bottled beers that have made it to Sydney, which I’ve yet to taste.

So, here are my notes of the two beers I tried, plus the annoying Aussie tradition of letting clueless duos with guitars play in pubs as a form of “entertainment”.  Bear in mind I’d already had a couple of pints plus a carafe of margaritas. Through a straw.

63. Sail ESB on handpump. Pint glass from the fridge. Hmm. At least it’s not fizzy… Licorice hop taste. Slightly odd.

Man woman guitar duo disemboweling “Proud Mary”. Is John Fogerty dead? I can hear him turning in his grave either way. Dead Moon. Only worse.

Help! No, that’s what they’re playing. Badly. Jesus. It’s amateur hour. And now I Need You. Better but still awful. Be even better if you could remember the words.
64. Brass Monkey Stout. Looks convincing. Oatmeal variety.

Jumping Jack Flash. Help me I am in hell.

Great beer though. Roasty. It’s just *right*. Which is more than you can say for the music. They missed out all the interesting verses! Where’s the spike right through my head?

Best aussie stout of the year, I think. Porty aftertaste. Head sticks around. He did the Guinness thing of pausing the pour. Not sure if the squggle on top of the head was some nautical symbol.

I’m reminded of Janine, David St Hubbins’ wife. If only she’d stick to reading his horoscope. Oh, they’ve stopped. Was it only twenty mins? Felt longer.

Second set! Aaargh!

Less! Less!

Less! Less!

I staggered to the station.

——

Almost as if I’d planned it (but this was not the case) the first new beer I drank on my return to Sydney was 65. Little Creatures Single Batch India Pale Ale, one of the first (if not the first) of LC’s limited edition 500ml bottles of experimental beers. I had to give it a go, and here are my notes.

At first like LCPA [Little Creatures Pale Ale], but a more rounded bitterness sticks around. Slightly heavier than LCPA. Pint bottle 5.4% ABV. 55IBU. Single batch, only Cascade hops used, at all stages of brewing. So now I know -they’re definitely the aggressive ones I can do without in Aussie PAs. Or perhaps should be used in a more balanced way.

I was finally learning.

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19, 20. James Squire Amber Ale and Matilda Bay Fat Yak Ale

April 2, 2010

The real "Amber Nectar"

Recognise that picture? It’s the full version of this blog’s header.

I took the picture in October 2008 at the James Squire Brewhouse, on one of my first forays into Sydney on my own. The first Amber Ale I drank in 2010, however, was in company as our friend Beccy was visiting from London and we met up with her in the Albion Place Hotel on George Street, a handily-placed pub for meeting folk in. A bit trendier than I usually like, it nevertheless scores high in two categories – (a) a short but good selection of local and international beers, and (b) it’s right next to the main cinema drag. Food’s not bad either.

Getting there early, I plumped for the old Amber to wet my whistle.  The picture up above shows you its beautiful colour. The taste is malty, pleasantly hoppy, has a touch of nutty spice and a slight metallic/fruity finish. Very drinkable. Heavier than the Golden Ale, and boozier – 5% against 4.5% abv. One that English people looking for a beer that’s similar to a Bitter back home might like.

I was then distracted by the foreign lagers on display, the best of which being 19a Budweiser Budvar, which was served in a proper 500ml glass and, as usual, was about a million times nicer than that dreadful American pretender (King of Beers my arse).

A quick one before we headed off for food was required. I plumped for Matilda Bay‘s Fat Yak Ale, a brew that’s only been on the market for a year or so and one that’s aimed fairly and squarely at the American Pale Ale lover. Cascade and Sauvin hops smack you around the head. You get the picture.  It makes me feel hungry, somehow, so our trip to Capitan Torres immediately afterwards was most welcome.

Matilda Bay started off as a  microbrewer out of the excellent Sail and Anchor pub in Fremantle, WA before setting up in their own right in 1989. Alas, it wasn’t long before Carlton United Brewers (i.e. Fosters) bought them out, so like James Squire, Matilda Bay is, despite what they’d like you to think, merely a boutique arm of one of the big two. They also brew Dogbolter (good but alas not the skullsplitter of the same name beloved of those who drank in Firkin pubs in the 1990s), Beez Neez (honey beer – never a good idea imho), Alpha Ale (even hoppier than the Yak)  and a Bohemian Lager, some, all or none of which may turn up on this page at some point.

The original brewers at Matilda Bay set up Little Creatures in Fremantle in 2000, still independent today and, without a doubt, the subject of an upcoming post here.