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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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)


43-46. Canberra

January 3, 2012

Bear with me.

What Canberra is and how it relates to the rest of the country can only be understood by someone who has lived and worked in Australia for a while. The basic facts are that it is the federal capital, conceived in 1908 but not properly functional until the late 1920s, sitting in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and forming the seat of the federal government. Around that government an infrastructure has been planned and developed based on public servants and good works. It has a reputation for being worthy but a bit boring.

Those are the basic facts. Explaining how it affects everyday life in Australia, how Australians respond to it and how it functions is much more complex. If you were to think of Australia as a basic family property, including a house and outside space, I would suggest that Canberra is Australia’s garden shed.

The garden shed traditionally is the domain of the father, the head of the household. Consider him to be the federal government and the public servants who work for it. It’s where he goes when he wants peace and quiet to consider the matters of the day. It sits within the garden area of the property but is a self-governing territory, much like the ACT within New South Wales. The rules there are also slightly different: for example, it’s fine to store pornography and fireworks within the shed but they are frowned upon, and indeed legislated against, in the rest of the property. Often the father will come out of his shed and inform the rest of the household that he has made decisions that affect them all. There may have been consultations but these are usually just an exercise in public relations and have no bearing on the final decision. The father has spoken.

The house and the garden are the domain of the mother. Consider her to be the state governments. She actually runs the property on a day-to-day basis, making sure essential services are running (cooking, washing, cleaning, homework, sports, pocket money). However, the father in the garden shed considers that he knows best and will proclaim laws that the mother does not think are in the best interest of the rest of the family (her constituents).  There is therefore a constant battle between the mother, who really runs things, and the father,  who thinks he does, over how the property will be run. And who can come and stay in the spare room.

The father, although he makes sorties into the rest of the property when he has to, is under the impression that the garden shed is a fantastic place to be and, if he had his own way, he would be happy to stay in there all the time. Everything is within easy reach, he’s built all the facilities he needs – indeed they’re often of a better quality than their equivalents in other parts of the property – and while it can be a bit cold on winter mornings, it soon warms up in the sun.

The mother and the rest of the family, although they pop their heads in when they have to, would prefer to spend as little time as possible in the garden shed. You have to walk down a long path to get there, its character – clean lines, dull efficiency – reflects only the father’s view of things, and all the exciting toys are back in the house.

Garden sheds often house homebrewing facilities and Canberra is a big enough garden shed to house two forty gallon plastic bins and their associated plethora of tubings, in the forms of the Zierholz and Wig and Pen Breweries. The Wig and Pen is quite possibly the greatest brewery in Australia, certainly my favourite, and I will discuss it in a later post.

The Zierholz Brewery is not too shabby either. Based out in the only suburb of Canberra I know of that has two porn warehouses, Fyshwick, Zierholz is run by German-born Christoph, a man who knows how to make Bavarian beer and make it well. The Brewery runs as a small-scale industrial-chic beer hall (with an excellent pork-based menu) but also supplies a few favoured outlets within the ACT, one of which being The Pork Barrel Cafe, located just around the corner from Parliament House. I was in Canberra for business and took the chance to have a beer with my brother-in-law, one of the people who help Dad create the Garden Shed rules (I may be stretching this imagery too far: he’s a public servant).

My first drink on this rather warm evening was 43. Zierholz German Beer, which despite it’s rather generic name is a version of the classic Kolsch from Cologne. Dry, appetising, and just the thing to quench a thirst but get the tastebuds raring for more. I then moved on to  the intriguingly-named 44. Zierholz Swill, which they don’t appear to make any more, but from memory was a sessionable english bitter-style beer, probably close to their amber ale. Having now exhausted the establishment’s Zierholz taps, I thought I’d give Redoak another go, given that (at the time anyway) one rarely saw their beer on tap outside of their own premises. 45. Redoak Bitter was malty, biscuity and perfectly ok, but probably no better than the far less pretentious Little Creatures Rogers Ale, which I thought it closely resembled. I finally got to the actual Zierholz brewery in early 2011 and can highly recommend it. They are now selling five-litre kegs of six of their beers to take home. I’m wondering if I would be able to take one on the plane back to Sydney as hand luggage. The little Dash-8s that usually do that route aren’t pressurised: would this cause a mid-flight beer explosion?

Speaking of flying back to Sydney, the next day when I did so I apparently drank 46. Cascade Light in the Qantas Lounge and in the plane. Why, I’ve no idea, as full-strength beers would have been available. Perhaps I was poorly.