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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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.


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.


22. White Rabbit Dark Ale

May 4, 2010

Phooey

Over at a certain Australian homebrewers’ forum people got very excited towards the end of last year about White Rabbit Dark Ale, a newish product from Little Creatures’ Victorian arm. I’m here to tell you that it’s nothing to get excited about. The brewery website may well go on about it not being “born to follow” and being fermented in open casks so that the yeast can “party” but really, it is not appreciably better than Toohey’s Old. And at $20 a six, compared to $14 or less for Old, I shall not be drinking it again, unless I find it on draught and there’s nothing better on. Most underwhelming.


Aussie Hot 100

February 2, 2009

The Local Taphouse, Melbourne’s best pub (and soon to open a branch in Sydney), has compiled a list of the 100 favourite Australian beers as voted for by “hundreds of people… from around Australia”. I’d suggest that this was not a sample worked out to adequately represent every beer-drinking person in Australia, otherwise the list would have been very different. Still, it gives me a few names to conjure with, and something to argue with in due course.

The full list is here, but, to aid the lazy, here’s the top twenty without the need to click:

1 Little Creatures Pale Ale
2 Murray’s Icon 2IPA
3 Mountain Goat Hightail Ale
4 Knappstein Reserve Lager
5 Little Creatures Bright Ale
6 James Squire Golden Ale
7 Coopers Sparkling Ale
8 Coopers Pale Ale
9 Holgate Mt Macedon Pale Ale
10 James Squire Amber Ale
11 Jamieson ‘The Beast’ IPA
12 Murray’s Nirvana Pale Ale
13 Holgate ESB
14 Hargreaves Hill ESB
15 Murray’s Grand Cru
16 Nail Stout
17 Matilda Bay Alpha Pale Ale
18 Holgate Hopinator Double IPA, Red Hill Imperial Stout
20 Moo Brew Pale Ale

Looks like I picked a winner to drink on my first night out here, then! I’ve drunk 9 of those top twenty and, the Little Creatures Bright Ale apart, wouldn’t argue that they were decent beers.  I’d argue that James Squire Amber is superior to the Golden though. But anyway…

I think I run to 23 of the hot 100. Plenty of work for me to do then. Nice to see my session favourite, Toohey’s Old, sneak in at 99.  Oh look, no Cascade beers at all!

First Aussie Beer

November 6, 2008

Well, obviously not my first Aussie beer ever. I have been here before, and I’ve sunk the odd pint/stubbie of the stuff back in England over the years too. But this was my first beer as a visa’d-up resident of Sydney.

It made sense to make it a good one, so Louise took me to The Australian Hotel, deep in the heart of Sydney’s The Rocks. The Australian has a good range of draft beers, runs a beer festival (which I somehow missed despite being in town both days it was on) and attracts a good mix of tourists and locals. It’s also quite old, but don’t let’s start working out if it’s the oldest pub in Sydney or not as there are at least three others that claim that title and we’d be here all night. 

What to have? For some reason I chose Little Creatures Pale Ale from the eight taps in front of me. I’ve had the stuff before, but only in little bottles in the UK and I’d remembered being pretty unimpressed. But the only other beer on tap at the time that wasn’t a lager was Scharer’s Bock, and despite a recommendation from Louise I wasn’t in the mood for slightly sweet German-style beer. I wanted a bit of bite.

And boy, did I get it. Little Creatures Pale Ale smacks you round the chops with hops, and the grapefruit follows closely behind. It’s bitter and refreshing. You couldn’t drink it all night (especially not at $8 a pint) but it was just what the doctor ordered and worked well alongside an excellent chorizo pizza. Perhaps the one I’d had before was a bit old. 

tentative tasting

tentative tasting

Little Creatures is a Fremantle, Western Australia, brewer and their wares are widely available in Australia and elsewhere. They’ve also started putting their Pale Ale into pint bottles, which is a sure way to win my approval. Read more on Australian beer quantities at Aussie Beer 101.