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.


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


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.

Bloody oath it’s a custom

March 22, 2010

This’ll make it’s way over onto Aussie Beer 101, but I wanted to draw attention to a wonderful clip from They’re A Weird Mob, the 1966 Powell/Pressburger film of the 1957 Nino Culotta (aka John O’Grady) novel. So now you know what a shout is. Great film, by the way, which I recommend wholeheartedly to those about to visit the country for the first time. It’s a man’s country, sweetheart.

Apparently the Marble Bar, where the scene was filmed, is now in the Sydney Hilton. I must go. And yes, that is a young Helen Daniels off Neighbours serving the drinks. There are only 12 Australian actors, you see, so they have to play whatever roles they’re given.

More clips from the film here.

New Beer Resolution

January 1, 2010

Someone asked me yesterday if I had any new year’s resolutions for 2010. No, I replied – there’s nothing I want to give up, I’ve just been through a whirlwind of a year where I’ve got a new job, got married, gone on an overseas honeymoon, moved apartment, got promoted and travelled the length and longth of Australia for work and am pretty happy with my life in general. I’ve got a couple of things lined up around my musical sphere of interest to pursue this year so that’s enough for me.

But then I was trying to think of my favourite ten aussie craft beers for the Local Taphouse‘s Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers of 2009 Poll and, though I’d sampled many an aussie craft beer this year and liked some of them enough to put into a top ten, I found myself struggling to remember names. Wasn’t there a Saison from Victoria I liked? And the Holgate beer I had on hand pump…was it their ESB? Was the Moo Brew I had one rainy night in Hobart their Dark and was it any good, or was it the cool bottle that made me think it was? And what on earth had I been drinking at the Sail and Anchor in Fremantle?

As I was walking across the road to the bottlo this afternoon I thought of a way to make sure that I’m not in a similar position this time next year – I’m going to blog all the beer I drink this year. From the schooners of swill to the pretentious premiums, they’ll all be here.  Join me.

A note to those reading this on Facebook – I’m going to delink this blog from my account so that you don’t get inundated with daily posts. If you want to follow my adventures you’ll have to pop over to the blog on a regular basis or put it into your favourite RSS aggregator (like Google Reader, which I find very useful). Those of you who feel it necessary to use your Facebook status updates to tell everyone about the state off your offspring’s nappies might want to return the favour and spare me that information too. Quid pro quo and all that.