I’m all for a steak and ale pie and I’ll never say no to fish and chips (whether beer battered or not), but beer as an ingredient is underrated. It’s changing with the work of pubs, bars, restaurants, brewers and of course chefs. With Good Beer Week coming up in Melbourne I wrote this piece for The Guardian, which I feel is a mere dip of the toe when it comes to beer and food. You can read it here.
Recently Published: The Guardian, Australia Culture Blog, Does MasterChef Australia need to change its ingredients?
For some of us, the lure of the Box is just too much. We have our pleasures, guilty or otherwise. For me, MasterChef Australia is somewhat on the guilty side. When it first started we caught the show in the UK. I’m a sucker for food TV, but the added draw of blue skies and Aussie optimism were too much to resist. Over the years, the show has continued, spawned competitors but for my money is still the best around, of its type. As it retruns for its 6th season I’m now an Australian resident, living under those blue skies. I wrote about the new season in The Guardian, Australia Edition. You can catch it here.
The love of beer has a strange progression. You make your first forays into good beer and gradually or abruptly eschew the bland beer of your past. Then comes the ever growing fundamentalism. You try to convert those around you to your hoppy doctrine. To join the revolution. Easily the most annoying part of the process for those around you.
Then in time comes the dream of brewing. You’ve drunk the work of others and it creeps into your addled brain that brewing your own wouldn’t be a bad idea. In fact hey, maybe even a brewery of my own one day. I’m not quite at this stage yet but I’ve been reading pieces recently about folk at those stages in the road to a brewery. The guys at Boatrocker talking about it with Crafty in Australia and a new series of posts from Broadford Brewer on his move from homebrew to pro as he sets up the Northern Monk Brewing Co., in the UK. For now I can idly dream. That’s the dream that doesn’t involve hours and hours of cleaning, scrubbing and sanatising.
As I write I’m taking a break for scrubbing, scraping, painting, wrenching and banging. Renovating is thirsty work but in the absence of beer I’m working out where my next step on the beer path will fit into our small apartment. Yes you’ve guessed it, I’m finally taking a crack at some homebrew. I’ve had books on the shelf for years, trawled the internet for blogs and even interviewed a few homebrewers but now it seems like the time has come. There’s no garage, spare room, under the stairs or cellar… so for now it’ll be one gallon at a time in the Brew Cupboard.
Last year I spent Easter in Belgium. I blogged at the time about taking a clutch of Kernel beers for tasting and the trepidation of introducing these beer lovers (and connoisseurs in the truest sense) to some of London’s best offerings.
A year on and I’m here in Western Australia wondering what they’d think of Raging Flem. From the Feral Brewing Co’s new Brewpub Series I was sent a sample which arrived hours before the trip to the South West. The label tells me to treat it like milk, to keep it refrigerated. They’re serious about their cold storage at Feral and I was worried that it’s trip to me and then down south may have an effect.
It’s pitched as combing the traditional ferment driven Belgian style with the new world movement for floral American hops to create a blend of new and old… brewed using a mixed bag of specially selected Australian and European malts, a truck load of American Hops including Amarillo, Cascade and Chinook with a special addition of Belgium candy sugar to round out a unique brew.
The verdict? Well I didn’t have any Belgians, on hand but did have present a Dutchman, a Mediterranean and an Honorary Belgian (with a keen palate for Flemish beers). The panel like the beer is a bit of a bitsa. It takes those brewing styles and mashes and melds them together. The result a resounding success. It’s a bold IPA, those hops coming through loud and clear but has a degree of subtlety which I guess is driven by the malt and that candy sugar. I’m thinking this would be a winner for my real Belgian panel but they’re unlikely to see it make the trip to Europe. Stocks of the series are limited at present to trusted suppliers of Feral. There’s more to come from the Brewpub Series so keep your eyes peeled.
If there were a Beer Festival 101. A lesson in how to create a programme of events that draws in ticker, beer geek, dabbler and novice alike then Melbourne Good Beer Week would be it. I love beer, but I’m a bit non-plussed when it comes to beer fests. I’m much the same with music festivals. I listen to music year round, like to get to gigs year round, not tick the boxes in one weekend and declare myself a music lover. There’s one exception. All Tomorrows Parties. I’ve been only once and crave the next. Melbourne Good Beer Week to me is the beer equivalent. I’ve not actually been but I covet that experience. Everything from the branding, ads with no frothing pint of beer, to the teaser video draw me in. Then the actual programme of events. An innovative mix to educate and intoxicate. Check it out but be prepared to consider a long flight if you’re anywhere other than the east of Oz.
Perth. The dullest place on Earth. 2000KM from Adelaide, which in itself is a big country town. Melbourne, is the epicentre of Aussie cool… or a second class London... All statements leveled my way in the last few months and all complete bullshit. This isn’t so much a full on defence of Perth more a few points to those who aren’t sold on this city. I obviously have a bit of a thing for this place, otherwise I wouldn’t have moved 14500 km (9000 miles in old money) to live here. I’ve got to say the city on the Swan River – the most isolated developed city in the world – has thrown me a few beautiful curves that I didn’t expect.
Perth’s summer festival season is in full swing with the Perth International Arts Festival and Fringe serving up a programme that is sure to meet the cultural needs of even the most ardent Perth detractor. My main festival picks are still to come but the Rachael Dease show, City of Shadows, was an unexpected joy. If a show about a grainy black and white world of murder, suicide and the darker side of human nature can be a joy. It works for Nick Cave I suppose. A hit with audiences in New York and a winner of last years Fringe, I was lucky to get a chance to see it. The clip below gives you an idea.
Away from the Festival, there’s Street Art, Street Food and… Beer. Which as some will know are a few things that make me tick. A city where people write on walls is my kind of place. The street food movement is taking off and there’ll surely be a further boom in this area.
The beer… sure, it’s $10 upwards a pint but it’s good beer and that’s worth paying for (I’m half way to not flinching when I get the bill). Mainly drinking the likes of Feral, Nail, Little Crteatures and the brewers of the Eastern states I’ll give a particular mention to the pint of 5AM Saint I had recently. On keg, it was easily the best i’ve had… anywhere. Whether this says something about consistency, how a beer copes with travel, I’m not sure. It was just a nice reminder of home. One day it’ll perhaps be a keg of Magic Rock or The Kernel, but maybe this is a hop dream too far.
There’s a mass of alternative names for this post and alternative ways in which it could go. I’ve struggled to get down exactly, the essence of the night of 31/01/13. The night Richard Hawley came to town. I’d booked the tickets back in the UK, months ago, days before departure for a new life over here. I’d hovered over the buy button for an age, weighing up whether $75 per ticket was a wise buy when in effect you’re voluntarily unemployed and unsure when you’ll next work. Thoughts of gigs at the Roundhouse and Royal Festival Hall got the better of me and I knew that if i didn’t buy them i’d regret it.
Months later and an email drops to say that due to a lack of ticket sales the gig was to move from the Astor, an art deco cinema to the Rosemount Hotel, a smaller pub venue. This frankly boggled the mind. Richard Hawley. Not sold out? It still puzzles me, especially as it was the greatest gig i’ve ever seen and a night impossible to forget.
This isn’t hyperbole. This was Richard Hawley on a small pub stage, no barriers, no security. Just Hawley, his band and small crew. As their set got closer the excitement grew. A lump in my throat and feeling choked up. Thoughts of life back in the UK and people we miss. If there is a soundtrack to your life, then Richard Hawley is in mine, some way or another throughout. It’s hard to explain. Whether it’s gigs i’ve been to, his Indie connections back in the Longpigs or Pulp days (when I first obsessed over music) or simply his Northern roots. It’s all in the mix.
We took our position at the front of the stage, without any elbowing or jostling. The voices around me predominantly British. Many Northern. Any thoughts that $75 was misspent banished as Hawley and Co. took to the stage and launched into the back catalouge. I can’t tell you what they played in order. I was in an awestruck daze, accompanied by a grin that is only starting to subside. I may have looked a tad sweaty and manic… a good look?
I’d expected that it may be a set dominated by Standing at the Sky’s Edge and a dollop of what the fuck am I doing here – Perth temperatures hitting the high 30’s, it being the end of tour and a change of venue. But, I shouldn’t have doubted. Thanking the crowd while throwing back a liberal amount of banter he was the epitome of the humble musician. If you’ve witnessed him live, you may have heard his seagull quip. If not… go and see him and you’ll doubtless hear it.
A gig can catch you at the right time. Like all great music you can be lifted for days on the thought of a line. When thoughts of home flood in I think back to the encore and remind myself the world is fine, by the ocean.
The small bars of Perth are the closest thing for me to the pubs I love back home. Characterful, independent and not a bottleshop or TAB in sight. The Stanley in Wembley typifies what I like. It’s mismatched chic and indie soundtrack are perfect for Sunday drinking. If we didn’t have dinner plans the option of a Flipside burger delivered from next door would take the edge off working through their small but well formed beer list.
The bottled choice seems more interesting to me than the German draught option and by far the highlight is the Endeavour 2011 Reserve Amber Ale.
It’s described as “rich and full with slightly toasted caramel and spiced resinous aromas that combine with sweet brooding dark fruits to deliver a layered and complex bouquet… The palate is malt driven and full bodied. Layered with herbs, cinnamon and a warm earthiness, it is balanced by assertive bitterness and fine minerality. Complex and refreshing, herbal, whilst still retaining the citrus and passionfruit acidity”… And my verdict? Yeah what they said.
The background of Endeavour seems to be mainly wine based which in a country with such an industry you can see the natural move that people would take from grape to grain.
The experience of drinking beer at The Stanley is more akin to a winery as well with the stemless wine glasses making me savour not swill. On my returns to Perth it will be a regular haunt I’m sure.
From the delirium of my mid transit Singapore blog post I’m coming to you at 3am, awake, as everyone else is sound asleep.
I’m sat on an observation deck, looking out across the blackness, the Southern Ocean in the distance, above me the Southern Cross and a chalky haze, smudged across the sky. Our host A, casually told me earlier that it was the Milky Way; as I looked up open mouthed in awe. I feel that I should be writing about the meaning of life rather than beer.
Having arrived on Sunday I seemed to have slipped into the Perth way of doing things seamlessly. Barbecues and meat pie have been consumed with the promise of more to come and with 5 days “down South” the obligatory visit to the bottleshop. A case of Little Creatures Pale Ale is a given. It’s easily in my top 5. If there is a beer that takes me back to good times it’s this.
Looking at the fridges we also go for some Gage Roads Atomic. Another Perth brewer, based in Palmyra, I’ve had their Wahoo and Sleeping Giant the day before at a welcome lunch and I’m eager to try more of their offering. This American style Pale Ale sits well between the Kolsch (Wahoo) and the IPA (Sleeping Giant) on their roster and stands up well to the Little Creatures. I would do more of a considered comparison but the 6 pack got polished off hours ago. As we stood around the chopping block eating bread, olives and dukka it gets the seal of approval from the soon to be inlaws. I have a small sense of accomplishment that I’ve introduced J & A to something distinctly Perth in origin. Granted it’s not quite the Milky Way but one small step for this pomme.