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.

Advertisements

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.


40-42. Tasmanian Trilogy

July 26, 2011

In Hobart

cricket ground behind me

I’ve been lucky enough to get to Hobart twice with work, but unlucky enough for both times to be in the dead of winter. Winter in Tasmania means daytime temperatures of 10 degrees celsius and the nights reaching freezing point. Mind you, the summers are hardly the blazing hot sunfests that are seen as typically Australian, so it doesn’t make much difference really. The small corner of Tasmania I’ve seen leads me to believe that it’s a very pretty island, with geography not unlike the softer parts of the north of England. Hobart itself is more like a regional town than a capital city, but it has a pretty harbour and the mountains form an attractive backdrop, laced with snow both times I was in town. When I visited for the first time, in June 2009, I was lucky enough to have a meeting at the Bellerive Oval, which has one of the most beautiful backdrops of any Test cricket venues in the world. It also has a very ugly oil painting of Ricky Ponting and a statue of David Boon in its grounds, proving that for each positive there’s at least one negative.

I don't think this is how Moo Brew is produced. But you never know.

In late May 2010, heavily delayed flights on Boganair had caused NFFEF and I to arrive at our harbourside hotel, the Grand Chancellor, tired, cranky and too late to face walking out into town for food, so we hunkered down in the hotel bar for a couple of stress-relieving beers and whatever snacks could be provided. I was really pleased to see that one of the beers on tap was 40. Moo Brew Pilsener. Moo Brew is a range of beers from the Moorilla Vineyards in Berriedale, Tasmania, some of which I’d seen before on my travels as they come in very distinctive bottles. My impression of their Dark Ale, drunk a year previously, had been good and the draught Pilsener didn’t disappoint either – not overpoweringly hoppy but nicely bitter and refreshing. Moo Brew’s range is becoming easier to find in NSW but is still a bit of a rarity up on the mainland. However, it’s worth a taste if you can find some.

Once we’d finished moaning about budget airlines and finished our respective beers (she drank Corona, you won’t be surprised to hear) we headed off to our respective rooms and I decided to hit the minibar for a nightcap. The best choice in the fridge was 41. Boags Draught (erm, in a bottle), a reliable if dull 4.6% lager from one of Tasmania’s duopoly of brewers. Boags (independent until 2000 but now part of the Lion Nathan conglomerate which in itself is part of the Japanese Kirin company) is brewed in Launceston, Tasmania’s “other” city and home town of the only Tasmanian I know well enough to call a friend. The other big brewer in Tasmania is Hobart’s own Cascade (independent until the nineties and now owned by Fosters) and there’s quite a rivalry between the two. My Tasmanian friend ducks out of all this by drinking only Coopers Pale Ale. A wise choice as far as taste goes, but he may find himself in trouble next time he goes home. Mind you, he is as big as a house and knows martial arts. I think he’ll be ok.

Anyway, the Boags Draught was a bit of a let-down after the Moo Brew, being only a notch above Tooheys New, but it did the job. I was relaxed enough to sleep.

The next day we went to our meetings and then endured the long cab ride out to Hobart airport, which appears to have been built far enough out of the town to allow for a lot more development than has actually happened. It’s a funny old airport too, in that the Qantas Lounge is actually situated before you go through security, which means that when the flights are called there’s a flurry of businesspeople trying to get through the metal detectors in time while normal people, who’ve had to pay for their beer and newspapers in the normal departure lounge, get to the front of the queue to get on the plane for a change. The other odd thing about the Q Lounge there is that it’s the size of someone’s front room and has no bar staff – there’s a fridge with beer in it and you can help yourself. Still on the quest to get something I couldn’t get elsewhere I chose 42. Cascade Draught (erm, in a can) as this is not available on the mainland. I can report that residents of the other five states and two territories are not missing anything, despite it being Tasmania’s biggest selling beer.


39. Little Creatures Rogers Ale

July 25, 2011

Look ! Melbourne Hipsters!

On my travels again, accompanied by NFFEF again, this time to the trendiest place in the world, Melbourne, where if your jeans aren’t tight enough and your haircut isn’t of just the right asymmetrical design they openly laugh at you in the streets and suggest you push off back to Surry Hills where you belong.

In order to avoid open ridicule we went for dinner to Lygon Street, the heart of Melbourne’s Italian community and therefore a haven of timeless style and good food. But for some reason I fancied an English-style beer with my dinner and, luckily, Little Creatures Rogers Ale was on the menu. Hoppy, biscuity and only 3.8% abv, if this wasn’t so fizzy it’d be an ideal session ale. I’m pretty sure NFFEF drank Corona, but then it’s pretty much a 50% chance on any given session that she will do. After a couple of bottles each we dodged the fashion police and went to the James Squire Brewhouse in the middle of town for a cheeky last pint (or two). Nothing I hadn’t had before though.


38. Pure Blonde

July 25, 2011

Google "Darwin Beer" and this is the number one image you get

In Darwin

38. Pure Blonde

I’ve said it before, but one of the perks of working where I do is that I get to travel around Australia quite a lot, and get to places that I wouldn’t ordinarily get to. Having said that, doing Darwin in 24 hours (get in at 2pm after a five hour flight, leave about the same time the next day) is a stupid thing to do and shows a lack of foresight. I’ve now done this twice, but to my credit, the third time I visited I went up for four days. I got much more out of the trip, the people I saw hopefully thought I was less of an east coast blow-in, and I didn’t feel like death when I got back to Sydney. Well, actually I did, but at least I had the weekend to recover.

This particular trip was my second visit, and also my second in the company of a nearly-famous female ex-footballer. NFFEF likes a beer, but tends to restrict her choice to either Pure Blonde or Corona. The bar we found ourselves outside, Monsoons on Darwin’s notorious Mitchell Street strip, advertises itself as a “restaurant and party bar”. Well, at early lunchtime there was no party going on and the menu looked basic, but they served beer very cold and in pints and we were building up quite a thirst walking the 400 metres from our last appointment to the cab rank so we decided to make a pit stop.

I chose Pure Blonde for three reasons (1) it was advertised as being dispensed at virtually sub-zero temperatures, (2) I thought I should meet another low-carb enemy face on, and (3) NFFEF would have called me out if I’d have ordered anything approaching “boutique”.

It was cold and wet and gave me a slight buzz. It went down in no time flat and I had another before we ventured out into the sweaty heat.


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.


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