The Crafty Pint is one of my go too sites for the lowdown on the Aussie Craft Beer scene. I caught up with Crafty ‘s James to get the lowdown on his view of beery Heaven and Hell.
Favourite place to enjoy a Crafty Pint?
In the UK a Bass from the jug at my folks’ local.
In Australia pretty much any Barbie, anywhere with the right people and a well-stocked Esky.
Can you define the perfect pub?
Good beer selection that’s well looked after and understood by everyone from owner to bar staff – ideally with a bit of rotation and some craziness in the fridge – plus good music (but not so loud you can’t talk), comfy chairs (but not necessarily sofas – can be too relaxing for proper beer enjoyment) and a well conceived beer garden. Food optional if everything else is up to scratch.
What’s your idea of Beer or Pub hell?
In the UK, Yates’s (do they still exist?). Possibly the very definition of hell full stop. Shit beer (and wine), clueless staff, bonehead security, dickheads slamming Jagerbomb’s to a backdrop of extremely loud R ‘n’ B and flashing disco lights at 5.30pm on a Wednesday. At least that’s how I remember them!
In Oz, sadly, the most common format: TAB (sports betting), pokie room (gambling machines), monochromatic beer selection, design based on the Woodall Service Station canteen. Thankfully, times appear to be a-changin’.
What’s most likely to be heard while writing Crafty?
Currently, John Grant’s Queen of Denmark is getting a good run with The Lemonhead’s It’s A Shame About Ray; but usually it’s iPod on shuffle, with the Flaming Lips, Alabama 3, Super Furry Animals, Paul Kelly and Aphex Twin having the greatest probability of appearing.
What was the last thing you got excited about – beer or otherwise?
This message from a Mountain Goat brewer: “Just bottled 400 cases of IPA. Tasting great.” Hopefully, he’s mislabeled a few for the staffies pile.
Taking The Crafty Pint interstate one step at a time. Persuading the mainstream media to give what’s happening with Aussie craft beer more column inches. Getting more Aussies to wake up to what they could be drinking rather than what they’ve been forced to drink for so long. More hand pumps and quality real ales in Aussie beer bars. And working out how to lose weight while doing what I do.
If you weren’t writing The Crafty Pint?
I’d be writing about something else with a fatter wallet and a slimmer gut.
Get your daily top up at www.craftypint.com
Floods, cyclones and fire… Australia has been positively biblical of late. For many Aussies watching from the UK, thoughts of home can’t be far away. For Dave Pocock (AKA the Punch Tavern’s “token Aussie”), these thoughts have turned to action and a special fundraiser.
The Punch Tavern will be opening it’s doors, on the evening of Saturday 5th March, in aid of the Red Cross (for Victoria) and the Premiers Disaster Relief Appeal (for Queensland).
As well as an ample supply of Aussie inspired finger food there will be a Raffle, Auction and an “Australian music marathon”. Tickets are just £10 with 50% donated. To buy in advance contact firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively buy on the door (if there’s any left).
The Punch Tavern, 99 Fleet Street , London, EC4Y 1DE
A visit to Perth without venturing to Fremantle and Little Creatures would, could or should be grounds for deportation. Their citrus packed Pale Ale became my go to beer throughout my time in WA and the chance to visit the mothership was one that I wasn’t going to miss. Established on the site of an old Crocodile farm the brewery has gone from strength to strength. Yes, I said Crocodile farm. Lou, Col and Elise told me of the Crocodile farm they once visited on the site as children. Only a week later they told me of the “Drop Bears”. A marsupial that drops from low hanging trees, biting and and scratching the unlucky sod below. They exist purely in fiction, to torment tourists and in particular Poms. I looked up into the trees for a matter of seconds, but that’s a minute long enough for its still to be brought up. I’m pretty sure that the Freo Crocs did exist unless that’s all an elaborate conspiracy as well. It’s quoted on the Little Creatures site so I thinks it’s a safe bet that they did exist. Anyway, what is left is a great experience for the beer lover and foodie alike. For the Beer Geek in us all you have the breweries inner working around you and plenty of space to enjoy the finished product, great food and in the heat of WA.
On a weekday afternoon it was busy with a mix of locals, and tourists alike. Service initially was slow but the promise of a cold Pale Ale, a light sea breeze and Lou’s favourite White Rabbit and that can be easily forgiven. I am reminded of a Sunday afternoon at the Brooklyn Brewery with English, which I always thought would take some topping. As the food is served I think it has. It would be easy to have the great setting and beer and fail on the food but the food ranks up there with the beer. The Chilli Squid I could eat all afternoon and writing this from a cold London my mouth is watering with the thought. If there is a perfect chip it’s at Little Creatures and then there is the wood fired Lamb pizza… I should stop before I drool too much!
- Croc Free Sand Pit
Little Creatures, 40 Mews Road, Fremantle WA 6160
Before I had even reached Western Australia I’d had Craft Beer recommendations from friends in Perth and via Twitter. Out in front was a visit to Fremantle and in particular the Sail & Anchor, so it seems fitting that’s its my first Aussie post.
Many see Fremantle as a part of the Perth sprawl but it’s got its own character beyond the mix of colonial and industrial architecture. Freo has a feel and pace different to Perth. Perhaps the presence of 3 great Craft Beer destinations has something to do with it? As much as I loved Little Creatures and The Monk (keep your eyes peeled for these posts soon), the Sail & Anchor spoke more about how you can take an appreciation of Craft Beer and the Aussie pub and put them together to create something great.
Firstly it’s a proper pub. Looking around on a busy Saturday, it’s a real mix of drinkers, all enjoying the 43 taps, 25+ beers and 3 bars. We head up to the first floor and the wrap around balcony where we are meeting friends. Its my last day in Australia and as we sit in the warm afternoon heat with the sound of the buskers below i’m thinking of ways to not get on the plane. A great pub with great beer (which I confess I took a note of and subsequently lost) will do that to you.
It doesn’t stop there as with Iron Brew and Febrewary, the Sail & Anchor shows that it’s is run by beer lovers for beer lovers. Febrewary offering punters the chance to travel the world in 28 days, with a mix of imports and Local Breweries’ international-styled beers. Iron Brew steps beyond celebrating commercial brewers and tips its hat to the humble homebrewer; pitched as an Australia wide search… to find an amateur brewer game enough to clone brew an old school Sail & Anchor brew, the Iron Brew English Strong Ale. The concept of Iron Brew fires my imagination and sat in the departure lounge has me looking for homebrew recommendations. An Iron Brew fermenting as far a field as South East London.
Sail & Anchor, 64 South Terrace, Fremantle, Western Australia, 6160
Facing Shepherds Bush Empire I have a choice to make. O’Neills or Walkabout? Neither would be a choice I’d usually make but we’re meeting before a gig and its one of the two, set either side the venue. So is it the Craic Den or something reminiscent of a Shearing Shed? With a chill passing through me I take a deep breath and head towards the neon of Walkabout.
Am I being unfair to this employer of hundreds of Aussies and Kiwis? This purveyor of quality student night outs, supporter of drunken hen and stag do’s? I don’t think so. Every Aussie I know has a healthy disregard for it and those who don’t I would seriously questions as suitable company. Tolerating it only for AFL coverage and familiar beer. They would doubtless choke on their VB if they saw the claim that its an “authentic Australian bar chain”. Authentic 1920s Drovers Station possibly.
On my last visit to the Upper Street outpost (to watch AFL with Meister) a psychotic customer took off his shirt and beating his tattoed chest screamed at his barfly companion that he was going to “rip his face off”. The manager, without a moment of hesitation said “look mate. I’ve told you before… Do it again and your barred”. What would you have to do to get barred from a Walkabout? Actually rip his face off?
There’s the dubious appropriation of aboriginal culture and iconography in the name and the design, there is the use of the word “dunnie”, there is the full size ping pong table which makes me think I’m in a hostel or a sanitorium, there’s the Steinlager which the barmaid could only describe as being from New Zealand, with an expression on her face that said “look it tastes like piss but what do you expect for £2”. There is the use of the word “Awesome” on their website, the over use of which is anything but awesome. There is…. Well I could go on for hours.
Is there a plus side? Erm…. Well. This is difficult. I did see Alan Fletcher sing to a Freshers week crowd. Although this should be in the against argument the combination of numerous bottles of VB and Tooheys New, being neither a Fresher nor a student and seeing Dr Karl himself was a heady mix.
With the doors to the gig open and our party complete we headed out past the ping pong table to watch Angus and Julia Stone, who incidentally were excellent. They also hail from the land down under, where beer does flow and men chunder… Possibly at the thought of Walkabout? Bet they went to O’Neills.