54-61 Harts Pub/Melbourne/Canberra/Harts again

December 11, 2012
although it's part of his industry

No, not his…

Harts Pub is an old-fashioned place, situated in a big old private residence  in The Rocks area of Sydney. It’s been a pub for quite some time but went through a lengthy refurb process which ended in 2009. As well as being a pub it’s also home to The Rocks Brewery, and their beers feature on the pumps alongside other NSW craft brews. Pints are the order of the day here, at quite, ahem, exclusive prices ($11+). The ambience is more like an English pub than most in Sydney, with a labyrinth of small rooms, fireplaces and wood.

The first time I went here in 2010 I had two pints, both from the in-house brewer: 54. 1809 Pale Ale and 55. Cribb’s Porter. I don’t appear to have made any notes but I think this was on a visit with our tall friends, and I think we headed off after two for some cheaper beer that tasted more like Coopers.

Another work trip to Melbourne soon after meant another pit stop at Beer Deluxe, and this did produce some notes:

56. Temple Soba Ale made with buckwheat, nearly gluten free. Light golden colour. As warms in mouth fleeting wheat taste. Mostly citrus hops though. Brewed for Japanese festival, had Japanese garden outside.

57. Murray’s Punch and Judy English bitter ale. Warned that it is mid strength, 3.8. OK!! Has the look of a classic bitter. Doesn’t taste mid strength, as she said. Nutty, actually more bitter than most bitters, still taste that despite bitterness of prev beer. Citrus hops again! Curse you Murray’s and the Oz craft brewer obsession with mouth-puckering hops!

Temple’s a brewery whose products I generally like, but this one didn’t really do it for me. Murray’s get a lot of press and have a reputation (and charge prices) that I don’t think their beers deserve. Anyone who calls themselves ”Australia’s most extreme brewer” needs to grow up a bit, I reckon. There’s nothing big or clever about shoving bucketloads of Cascade and Amarillo hops into your beers – bitterness is not an end unto itself.

I was a busy flyer back in 2010 and ended up in Canberra (again) soon after. Canberra, of course, means The Wig and Pen, and as well as drinking some of the lovely beers I’d sampled there before, I had a snifter of 58. Wig and Pen Big Ass.  My notes read:

9 per cent only served in wine glasses. Handpump. Tastes like a really strong bitter. Errr that’s it. Bit fruity.

I recall being quite disappointed with this. I was expecting complexity, some warmth perhaps, but there was nothing. Oh well.

Back in Sydney I paid another visit to Hart’s Pub, this time in the company of Lorkers. We took out a joint mortgage and managed four pints each in here. The records don’t show what Julian drank, but I started with 59. Paddy’s Pilsener from Paddy’s Brewery at Flemington, next to Sydney Markets. My notes simply state:

tastes like Holsten!

This is a good thing. Next I tried another beer from the in-house Rocks Brewery,  60. Byrne’s Red Ale which I think has now been rebadged as The Boxer Red Ale. As I recall, this was malty and inoffensive. I then had another pint of the Cribb’s Porter I’d had on my last trip, so it must have been ok the first time, and finished things off with another one from Paddy’s Brewery, a pint of 61. Paddy’s Old Regret. My notes say

dark, sweet, 5.8.

I must get up to Flemington at some point and give the Paddy’s stuff another go.

I’ve been to Hart’s Pub a few times since and liked it less every time. It’s got busier, which isn’t a problem in itself (means it’ll stay around longer) but seems to have engendered a “who cares” attitude in the staff. Popping in for one on my own a few months ago I got the distinct impression from the barmaid that my order wasn’t important and that I was some sort of freak for having the correct change for my pint. The amount of credit cards behind the bar financing tabs told its own story.

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(Collapse of) Stout Party

January 21, 2009

A night at home alone, so time to try some of the bottles in the cupboard. Two stouts and a porter, from weakest to strongest. Yes, I know, a Sydney summer night is not the time to be drinking strong dark beers, but my internal season-adjuster-thingy hasn’t flipped over yet. Two summers in a row (if you can call what I experienced in London between June and August “summer”) have confused me no end.

The first contender tonight is Hatlifter Stout, from the Grand Ridge Brewing Company of Gippsland, Victoria. Grand Ridge definitely err towards the boutique end of things, with an interesting range which includes a very nice Scotch Ale (not on their website now) which I tried a while ago, a Belgian Blonde, and a premixed Black and Tan for those too lazy (or tight) to mix their own.

Hatlifter Stout

Hatlifter Stout

The Hatlifter poured a dark ruby colour, with a yellowy head which dissipated quite quickly. There was a caramel smell with a definite whiff of alcohol, which as this is only 4.9% (1.3 standard drinks/bottle) was surprising. The first taste was vanilla, followed by maltiness, a bit of licorice and a definite coffee flavour in the aftertaste. A smooth taste and one that did not grow tiring as the glass emptied. Worth drinking at cellar temperature, I’d say. I’d definitely drink this again.

From a micro to a macro for the next bottle – Cascade Stout. Cascade is the oldest surviving brewery in Australia, originally founded in Tasmania in 1824, but since (I think) the late 1980s part of The Fosters Group (CUB). Despite now being part of the evil empire (and from the sound of it, they weren’t exactly innocents in the old days anyway) they make decent enough beers, which I’d take over a New any day.

none more black

Cascade Stout

To the bottle in question then. Cascade Stout is part of their “Craft Collection”, so I’d expect it to have something a bit extra in the taste. Advertising has misled me again. The main taste I got from this was a metallic, bitter one. There was a slight creaminess to it and it had quite an attractive roasted smell, but otherwise it was pretty dull and quite a bore to finish. As you can see from the picture it was the darkest of tonight’s brews, an opaque black with an attractive tan head. Quite strong, at 5.8% (1.5 standard drinks/bottle), so useful for getting drunk but not a lot else. Rather a disappointment.

And to finish it’s back to Murray’s Brewing Co for Murray’s Best Extra Porter. A birruva monster at 8% (2.1 standard drinks/bottle), Murray accepts that’s it’s only “vaguely” in the porter style, and throws the “imperial” * word around too. I was reminded of a Belgian Dubbel, but not a great example of that variety. It didn’t smell of a great deal, had a bittersweet taste and, again, I felt bored with it by the time my glass was empty. Head stuck around though.

Murray's Porter

Murray's Porter

And another thing. For the third time with Murray’s beers, part of the bottle has come away with the crown cap – that’s twice with Pale Ales and once with the Porter. Not good.

Another reason not to drink straight from the bottle

Another reason not to drink straight from the bottle

At least all the glass stayed in the cap...

At least all the glass stayed in the cap...

So, the clear winner of the night was Grand Ridge’s Hatlifter Stout. I shall be getting some more of those some time soon, probably from Dan Murphy’s (Willoughby Branch), my new source for vaguely interesting beers. Meanwhile, as the temperature hits 35 degrees celsius, I think I’ll leave Stout Party 2 (Cooper’s, Sheaf, Abbotsford…any other suggestions?) a few months.

*Originally used on some nice strong brews sent to the Russian royal court, “imperial” is now the word American microbrewers affix to their stupidly-strong stouts when they want to give their expensive tramp juice pretensions.

Murray’s Nirvana Pale Ale

January 10, 2009

I’ve been drinking a lot of this recently, since the nice lady in the bottle-o next to Waverton Station recommended I try it one warm November evening. Murray’s Craft Brewing Co are a Northern NSW brewery very much in the North American mode, with a strong emphasis on hoppy IPAs and (their word) “extreme” beers, and all that matching-beer-with-food malarkey. Set up in 2006 by Murray Howe, they’re already winning awards, including one for the beer I’m drinking tonight: Murray’s Nirvana Pale Ale won Bronze in the American Style Pale Ale class at the 2008 Australian International Beer Awards.

head disappearing already

head disappearing already

It’s a lovely golden colour in the glass, with a head that doesn’t stick around as long as I’d like.  There’s a pleasant hoppy bitterness, initially quite striking but one that subsides quite quickly. A definite orangey hint to the aftertaste but not so much as to be off-putting. Towards the end of the glass it seems a bit ho-hum, but the hit of a new one is most welcome, and at 4.5% (1.3 standard drinks) it’s sessional enough that you can do that.

Murray’s is available in more bottle shops than you might imagine in NSW. It comes in 4 packs rather than the usual sixer, which is perhaps a way of cushioning the drinker from it’s rather, ahem, boutique price – $16 for my last fourer. It’s available on tap in an increasing number of bars, which is a good thing. I had a schooner of the Nirvana in the Albion Place Hotel the other day and it was just as good as it is in the bottle. Those of you passing through Northern NSW can go to The Pub With No Beer in Taylor’s Arm, which despite it’s name is the Murray’s Brewery Tap. I’m sure the detour will be worthwhile, as long as you’re not the designated driver.