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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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.


47-50. Tasmanian Tetralogy

January 11, 2012

The unusual suspects

From here things get a bit easier, I think. Realising that I was not going to get around to blogging about these beers at the pace I was drinking them I started to take notes on a more frequent basis – and the purchase of an iPhone with handy “notes” feature helped facilitate this.

That being said, I think I made these notes straight onto the computer as I tasted these four Tasmanian beers I had bought back from Hobart. Just around the corner from the hotel I was staying in was the very decent  Gasworks 9/11 Bottleshop and I snuck over there in a few minutes I had to myself and snagged four local brews to take home with me. There now follows original notes and 2012 commentary.

47. James Boag’s Wizard Smith Ale

Photographing beer bottles isn't one of my strengths

Like a JS Amber Ale but less sweet. Aley aftertaste. Barley taste as it gets warmer. Not overcarbonated. 5% “special English Ale”. Pretty much.

“Pretty much” what? Pretty much a special English Ale I suppose. Who is or was “Wizard Smith”? There’s a (made-up?) legend that goes with this beer, of course:

“In 1929 the Great Flood swamped much of Launceston without warning. Wizard Smith, J. Boag & Son’s drayman, at great risk to himself sought to save the brewery horses. Riding his pushbike until he could go no further, he plunged into the rising floodwaters and swam into the stables, successfully leading the horses to dry ground. For his bravery Wizard was rewarded with a job for life.

Yeah yeah. This James Boags beer will apparently be available on the mainland in February 2012. I’m looking forward to tasting it again.

48. Moo Brew Dark Ale

This one's better though

Roasty, hints of coffee, slight (rasp)berry flavour as it warms, flintiness (cf. Old) too, ruby dark colour, just off-white head disappears v quickly. Moorilla Winery. 5.0%. V nice but too roasty to drink all night. Old grown up.

As in Toohey’s Old grown up, not as in someone’s grandfather. I mentioned Moo Brew in my earlier Tasmanian post. Very nice beer, available in very selected outlets on the mainland and worth the boutique price.

49. Huon Dark Ale

I'm not sure what effect I was trying for here

Skunked.

As in “off”, not any other weird Urban Dictionary definition. Which was a pity (the offness, not the potential for definitional confusion). I suppose I shouldn’t really count this as a beer I tasted, but I did pay for it and was disappointed to pour out a flat, vinegary liquid. Someone needs to sort out their quality control.

50. Iron House Porter

Sigh...

Skunked, but not quite so much.

Maybe it was the bottlo – or just bad luck. But this was undrinkable too.


24-31. What happened?

March 6, 2011

It’s been ten months. And I’ve been busy. Busy working. Busy travelling. Busy presenting.

George Martin is my mentor

Studio A at 2MBS, last week.

And busy drinking too. But somehow the list of beers I’d drunk overwhelmed me and inertia took over as far as writing any of them up properly. But I kept that list going, and made some notes along the way. Rather than attempt full-on reviews of all of them, here’s part one of a whistle-stop tour through that list, with the occasional comment/picture to shed light where it exists.  Eyes down for a full house…

24. Old Admiral

The Lord Nelson Hotel maintains that it’s the oldest pub in Sydney. It probably is, but it’s only been brewing it’s own beer since 1985. Does some good stuff too. Did I go in there in 2010? Not sure, but I bought a six-pack of their Old Admiral, one of the two beers they make available in this way, Three Sheets being the other. A thick, strong (6.1%) porter, Old Admiral is a nice way to finish an evening. They serve it too cold in the pub though.

25. Hatlifter Stout

I reviewed this in my stout taste test in 1999. My views haven’t changed.

A Friday at The Marly

The Marlborough Hotel, Newtown

26. James Squire Porter

27.  James Squire Mad Brewers Orchard Ale

I drank these both at The Marlborough Hotel (aka The Marly) in Newtown with Louise and her two tallest friends. You don’t often get the porter on draught outside of the James Squire Brewhouses, so this was a nice treat for me. Like a creamier, more vanilla-y Old.

The previous Mad Brewers release I’d tried was really awful, so I was pleasantly surprised by the Orchard Ale. I’m a sucker for a saison (which is the base for this beer), and the apple taste worked well. I’d like them to make this one again. I had it on draught (I think the Marly was one of only a handful of pubs to have it that way) but it was released in longnecks too.

A Friday at The Local Taphouse

Nude (1930) by Edwin Holgate (1892-1977)

28. Holgate Road Trip IPA

29. Feral Barrel aged Saison

The Local Taphouse opened in Darlinghurst in early 2008 and I’ve not been there nearly as often as I should have been. It’s on the wrong side of town for me, which is part of the problem, and if I went here frequently I’d have no money or liver left, but I think the main reason I haven’t been more often is that I don’t feel 100% comfortable in here. I like beer, but not at the level that these guys do. I feel a bit intimidated. Still, it’s doing really well and I’m glad it’s there. Maybe it’s me that needs to do the work.

Anyway, I was there with Lorkers, who’d just started his new job at UNSW so that dates it to early March 2010. I had a Trumer Pils to quench my thirst, German and so not to be counted. I’m sure it was fine. I have no notes on the Holgate Road Trip IPA or the Feral Barrel Aged Saison but I seem to recall being vaguely disappointed with the saison. They’re both breweries I’d like to visit at some point – I’ve enjoyed most of the Holgates I’ve tried, and Feral look like they do some interesting stuff.

A Monday at Beer Deluxe

Shirley Temple. Probably not drinking beer.

30. Temple Saison through a Randall
31. Temple Saison in a bottle

Looks like I was going through a saison phase. Beer Deluxe is in Federation Square in Melbourne, where I was on business. I was also just starting a bout of the genuine ‘flu, so my head was swimming even without the beer. Beer Deluxe doesn’t look particularly exciting from the outside, but it has a good selection of aussie micros on tap and a fridge full of bottled wonders so I always try to pop in here when I’m south of the border. They also have one of those randall things, a chamber between the barrel and the tap, usually filled with a beer-related ingredient, which the beer shoots through under pressure on its way to the tap and subsequently your glass. It was full of hops when I turned up, which they were putting the Temple Saison through. I had a schooner of the draught though the randall, and then a bottle of it au naturel, to see if I could tell the difference. I could a bit, but I was feeling rather unwell.

So unwell that when the barman had come over and showed me a 750ml $30 bottle of a rare saison and left it on my table, in my befuddled state I thought he’d given it to me to keep. As I staggered out of the door he came hurtling along to explain that it wasn’t a gift. I got in a cab, went to the airport and spent the next three days in bed.


(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.