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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51-53. The Wig and Pen, Canberra

June 25, 2012

Who’s the clown sitting outside? Oh…

The Wig and Pen, in Canberra’s happening (sub – check this) Civic district, is probably my favourite pub in Australia. It’s pretty nondescript from the outside, so nondescript that on my first attempt to find the place I missed it entirely. When you get inside it’s nothing much to talk about either – it looks like a dull suburban English pub and it’s not particularly huge. But the beers. Oh, the beers.

Richard Watkins brews 10 “regular” beers and a bunch of seasonals out the back of the pub (you can see some of the workings around the corner from the kitchen area) and they’re some of the best beer I’ve tasted since I’ve been here. Don’t just take my word for it:  its recently been named the best small brewery in the country at the annual Australian International Beer Awards. There’s always a couple of beers on handpump, and they’ve also got one of those Randall things to infuse beer with extra hops, fruit, fudge, you name it.

On this particular trip, which I think was my first and in the company of Louise, I drank three beers. Original notes, and 2012 commentary.

51. Wig and Pen Hopinator

5.2%, very  light coloured, hand pumped, subtle hop flavours, like a summer ale in Uk. Nice.

I recall drinking a pint of this in about two minutes. It had been so long since I’d drunk a pint of low-carbonated, English-style ale that I just couldn’t stop myself. It made me think very much of my last beer in Blighty, although a bit hoppier.

52. Wig and Pen IPA

lovely

Another pint, another from a hand pump, and another winner. This one is a bit stronger and I think I was feeling the double effects of finding great beer and it marking the end of two days with in-laws. Twin waves of relief flooded over me and I was lost for words.

53. Wig and Pen Cream Stout

(not hand pump) smooth, roasty. Like Guinness should be but never is.

Well, almost lost for words. But the words I did come up with were straightforward and to the point.

Whenever I’m in Canberra I try to make a pilgrimage to The Wig and Pen. Worryingly, they’re likely to be moving later this year and who knows where they might end up. Get there while you can.

(The Wig and Pen used to have a home-made website that was charming and informative. I think they let the domain name lapse, as this looks a bit dodgy)


35-37. Back home

July 24, 2011

Crazy Horse, The Cat, Sniffer and pals

Well, back home in Sydney, not Blighty, but it’s always worth posting a picture of the 1970 England World Cup Squad playing “Touch The Truck“. Or touch the Ford Cortina in this case.

35. Coopers’ Extra Stout

An old favourite, thick, black, roasted barley taste. 5.8% so don’t drink too many in a row. I’m sure it used to be 6.2 or 6.3% when I first drank it back in 2006, but I may have imagined that. I think these bottles were drunk at home, based on the scanty evidence to hand. When Old is just too light, get yourself one of these. Never seen it on draught anywhere, although I’m hopeful I might do somewhere in Adelaide when I finally get to spend some time there.

36. Mildura Wee Heavy

I have no memory of this. I probably bought it at Dan Murphys’ on a whim. It appears this has now been rebadged as Mallee Bull. The brewery looks like an interesting place to visit, being as it’s in an old cinema, so if I’m in Mildura at some point (unlikely, I know) I will drop in and remedy my omission.

At Redoak

37. Redoak Oatmeal Stout

Ah, Redoak. A brewery that never misses an opportunity to say how many awards it’s won and yet still can’t actually get beer right. It has two main problems: 1) it tries to brew too many different styles, but masters none, and 2) it serves them all too bloody cold. Now, this isn’t an Englishman abroad’s usual lament about getting his bitter too cold – it’s a serious point.  Serve your german lager styles cold, that’s fine, but ales and stouts need to be served at 10-12 degrees Celsius. Stout should not be served at 4 degrees as if you do that you can’t taste it, and all the roasty flavours you spend half a paragraph going on about in the tasting notes can’t be discerned. One of the blokes at the Brewery says that they serve them cold as that’s how Australians expect their beer and you can always let it warm in the glass if you prefer it that way. This is wrong on all counts. If an Australian is going to brave the copper shrine to beer and beer/food matching that is Redoak’s swanky bar/restaurant in the heart of Sydney, they’re likely to either be someone who knows about beer or someone who is open to being converted. And if they’ve been dragged in against their will there’s three or four cold lagers on tap to keep them happy. In 2011, in the middle of the most culturally savvy city in the country (ok Melbournites, we’ll fight later), don’t treat your customers like philistines. And, more importantly, if you let your Oatmeal Stout warm in the glass before drinking you notice that it’s rather thin and uninspiring. Give me Samuel Smith’s version any day, which you can buy in discerning bottlos (Jim’s Cellars in Crowie has it) in pint bottles for less than the cost of Redoak’s “award winning” brew.


10. Hargreaves Hill Stout

January 31, 2010

actual stout not pictured

A sunny Saturday afternoon found Louise and I in Darlinghurst with her brother and his wife, and I managed to persuade them to stop into the Local Taphouse for a quick one. The Local is the Sydney sister to East St Kilda’s original, which Louise and I stumbled upon by accident back in November 2008. Both places are beer meccas, keeping a rotating selection of interesting draughts from home and abroad (16 taps!) plus a good selection of bottled stuff. They also – and this is important – have a nice atmosphere and knowledgeable and friendly staff. If only the Sydney branch wasn’t in the Eastern Suburbs…

In deference to our visitors we shared a paddle of samplers of pale-aley locals so that they might find something they liked. In my 2010 beer odyssey I really don’t think I should be counting little slurps as “beers drank” so we’ll pass over that – and mention what is technically beer 9aKostrizer Schwarzbier, a light (4.8%) black ale with a sweetish tinge which I had drunk in Germany a couple of years ago and was, on this day, one of only two dark beers on tap (well, it is summer).

The other dark beer was part of a brewery showcase for the Hargreaves Hill Brewery. This Victorian brewery was destroyed in the bush fires of February 2009 but has risen, phoenix-like, to be brewing again and doing very nicely. Three beers were on display – their pale ale, their hefeweizen and their stout, which was my choice.

At 6.7% this is a strong brew, chewy, very black in colour, with good licorice and coffee flavours. Worth checking out. Not sure if Hargreaves Hill are up to bottling this yet, but if you find it on draught you should definitely give it a try. Might be worth the 50km trip out of Melbourne for a visit to their brewery tap.

I mentioned above that the staff at The Local were friendly. Well, as we were supping up and about to leave one of them came over to us and, very politely, told us that the table we were sat was reserved for a group in about twenty minutes time, would we mind moving to another? Just as we were about to say that we were leaving anyway, he continued to say that he’d shout us a free beer each for our inconvenience. How good is that? Louise and I had another, and because we felt so welcome we bought another beer after that, what is I suppose 10b, Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen, the smokiest beer on the planet and one of my top three beers of all time. The memories of Bamberg came flooding back with every sip. It was about this time, Mark and Deanna having long gone, that we started phoning Louise’s friends to see if they’d be up for a beer over in Newtown…


(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.