Tuesday 23 April 2024

A Cracking Pub and Two Microbreweries

Did you know that Melbourne has more trams than anywhere else? Well, I think that's what was said.  I can confirm at least the place was hoaching* with them. A line on every corner, it seemed. Anyway, on our free day, we made use of them to explore. As well as walking our feet off, we visited one of the best markets I've ever been in - and I've visited plenty. The quality and range of the food was outstanding. We ate in one of the most Chinese Chinatowns I'd ever set foot in - we were the only gweilos in a very big restaurant. We also visited the oldest pub in Melbourne, the Mitre, where I enjoyed pints of Cooper's Pale Ale and observed, in the Central Business District at least, that lunchtime drinking was alive and well in this part of the world.

Of course, we went to the various tourist spots - and enjoyable they were too - but the lure of beer was strong, so we decided that a little train journey to a nearby suburb of Abbotsford was a plan. Two microbreweries were the aim and that required a visit to the fabulous Flinders St Station and the nearby Prince's Bridge Hotel, a large and handsome pub and just the place to people watch.  This had a fine front bar and a larger room to one side where some people ate and some simply socialised and drank.  The bar was basically full of drinkers of all ages and became so busy in our late afternoon visit that the main doors were closed and the less obvious side door were used to limit the ins and outs. This was a fab pub, and we left with considerable reluctance. 

We got on the wrong train. Well, not exactly wrong, but it was a limited stop which overshot our target station by one. We crossed over by going down to the road and amazingly a different micropub than the one intended was just over the street.  Be rude not to, we remarked. Bodriggy Brewery was quite small and very welcoming, and we enjoyed the banter with the barman and locals. I even won a free pint on a (free) scratch card - well, it was a half pint, but they gave me a pint anyway.  Going for a pee, I was shocked to see that behind the cosy front bar was a huge beer hall with the brewery at the back.  Blimey. How had we not noticed that?  Again, the staff were great - they even charged my mobile for me - and we had a fine time checking out the beers. Sadly - a recurring theme - none were remotely dark. 

We checked Google. Stomping Ground Brewery was only a ten-minute walk away. This was a much busier, more family oriented brewery. We ate there and enjoyed the beers and ambience.  We noted the age range of those visiting was more diverse than at home, and frankly all the better for that. Disappointingly, there were no dark beers again, but there was some shiny kit..

So, a successful day. No pint or schooner issues were encountered.  In the more southern parts, it seems imperial pints are fairly to very common. This didn't last, though.

More Aussie beer culture. Pints were commonly unetched nonics, even when lager was served, which was strange to this writer at least. Branded glasses seemed rare beasts though the pint barrel jug, sadly was not.  More of this soon. 

Next week I'll cover the outback and the North. Beer glass oddities will feature. In the meantime,I'm off to Dundee and the CAMRA Members Weekend and AGM.

* Look it up

Friday 19 April 2024

More Than Twenty Minutes Needed*

Moving on from Perth, which I really liked, via Kangaroo Island - hardly saw a one - the fair city of Adelaide was our next stop. On the way to Adelaide, we stopped for a too short hour in the German town of Hahndorf. It was a beautiful Sunday and the town with its German bakeries offering bretzen, streusel and more and dotted with bratwurst stands was very enticing. As we strolled around looking for pubs noting and enjoying the scene, we came upon the Hahndorf Brewing Co, so in we went. A reasonably German like large pub with a rammed bar greeted us. We were immediately attracted to typical German porcelain fonts offering Helles and Weissbier and ordered both, oddly served in UK style dimple mugs. Then we people watched until departure, being joined by several other soaks from the bus.  Birds of a feather and all that. Sadly, with one exception, it was the last weissbier we came across. A great shame as it is a style that certainly suits the Aussie weather. I wonder why?

On arrival in Adelaide, we had a rather long - too long for some moaners on the tour - trip round while the knowledgable driver described every building and statue. I kind of liked it as the city was a mix of Victorian architecture and new shiny buildings, with lots of green space and, I noted happily, plenty of pubs.  I was pleased that the driver had the enthusiasm for it all.

The trip had the advantage of giving a better sense of our surroundings, and thus we were able to nip out from our handily placed hotel onto the central Rundle Street and the last night of a carnival. This with the various street acts and the throng provided a great atmosphere. We drank some beer and ate some food in a place with a very boisterous character and a good beer choice. As a nightcap, we nipped into the Exeter Hotel on the way "home" with the intention of getting a beer to drink on one of the tables outside.

We didn't do that, though. Instead, we found ourselves in a proper public bar, with a central bar serving the room we were in and another room opposite. It was basic, unspoilt with wooden floors, a few bar stools, a handful of characterful locals and a couple of rather fearsome women serving. We immediately knew we were in safe hands. It was stunningly good. Even on a warm Adelaide night, indoors here was way preferable. This was smashing.

It turned out to be a Cooper's of Adelaide tied house, with a reasonable number of their beers on offer. I settled on Pale Ale - fermented in the keg as are all their beers - and took in the scene. It was amusing to see some people - tourists I assume - entering, looking round and leaving with a look of dismay and concern on their faces. This was a proper pub. Looking through t'internet, I note it hasn't changed much for many years, and good for them. It was immediately and deservedly catapulted into one of my top pubs anywhere. If you are ever in that neck of the woods, don't miss it.


The next day was free and after the Botanic Gardens, museums and more we had a drink in another pub, dominated by Cooper's beers. There (the Austral?) I sampled, Mild, Sparkling and Barrel aged stout, as well as an anniversary ale.  All live beers.

We returned to the Exeter for our last drinks that night. Dark for me this time. All Cooper's beers were just fab, though in fairness, it was best to knock an atmosphere of CO2 out of them first! But the real winner was visiting the Exeter Hotel.

*Adelaide is known as the twenty-minute city, as nowhere is more than twenty minutes away from anywhere else. Confession: E was on local wine by the Exeter Hotel.

Pub culture fact. This was a schooner area. Next - more pub culture, less tourism.

Thursday 18 April 2024

The Lucky Shag

I'd previously been advised by a friend who visits Perth fairly frequently, not to miss the Lucky Shag pub. Not that you can miss it really, as it sits in a prominent position at Perth's river front, just where all the cruise boats set off from and return to.  So, having just returned to the river front from a cruise, it would not have been easy to miss as we more or less disembarked into it.  The ornithological amongst you will gather it is named after a seabird.  Those of a dirty mind may not.

This is quite a big pub with a very large river terrace which was well filled by workers enjoying a post work happy hour drink.   Incidentally, in most parts of Australia, happy hours between five and six o'clock are common. Sadly, very few seem to move much outside that time, though we did find the odd one, so best find one you like at six and settle in. The format varies. Some offer reduced prices on certain drinks or all of them, some give a pint for the price of a schooner and so on.  Some don't at all.  I think in this case it was around 3 dollars less for a pint, which was the most common measure in Western Australia, I'm told this is because of the proliferation of Poms in that neck of the woods.

So, a pint it was.  The unfamiliar nature of the beers had me settling for a locally brewed pale ale, Nail Brewery Pale was hazy and tasty in the New World style. At 4.7%, it slipped down well. E began her on/off love affair with Northern Crisp as we chatted to our travelling companions and watched the very busy staff fly up and down the bar. Our hotel was only a reasonable walk away and had a sort of Irish Bar next door, where we ate and finished the night off. It didn't seem very Irish to me, but given that it was called Fenians, I guess that was the kind of clue as to the aspiration if not the actuality. It was a decent enough pub though and there, usefully, I realised that I don't care for James Squire Lashes, a beer which seemed to crop up everywhere.

I also learned in Perth that Castlemaine XXXX is still a thing, that every bar has an XPA (Extra Pale Ale - An Extra Pale Ale is a beer style similar to a Pale Ale with a larger amount of pale malt than a conventional Pale Ale, which gives the beer a paler, brighter colour and crisper flavour) and that draft alcoholic ginger beer is very much an Australian thing.  I also increasingly observed - and this is a very good thing - that hazy beers are very much the exception, but available.

So, how much does it all cost? Despite being ticked off on Twitter by the Beer Police, I can reveal that pints were generally around AUS$13/14, with schooners being nearer $10.  There were more or less two dollars to the pound, so broadly halve it. This did vary, but two schooners could be relied on to be around £11 though like anywhere, it varied.

No worse than London or even Manchester City Centre pricewise really.

We returned to the Lucky Shag the next day and enjoyed a bit more room, but this is one busy and friendly pub and very much worth a visit.

 As I go through this sojorn, we'll learn a bit more about Australian pub culture, some great pubs to visit and beer measures. (Which aren't as striaghtforward as you might think.)

Wednesday 17 April 2024

A Pub With No Beer

Oh it's lonesome away from your kindred and allBy the campfire at night where the wild dingoes callBut there's nothing so lonesome, morbid or drearThan to stand in the bar of a pub with no beer
Lyrics - Slim Dusty 

Well, you have to start somewhere with your first Australian pub, don't you?  In my case, it was in Fremantle, the port city of Perth in Western Australia. A neat little town I observed as we trundled through it on our tour bus on the first full day of our Australian adventure.  Now, being on a guided tour has advantages and disadvantages. You do get to see things you wouldn't otherwise see. Of course the flip side of that, for the dedicated beer man, is staring disconsolately at very fine pubs or breweries you'd nip into in an instant should we perchance stop to examine a nearby view or statue. Thus, Little Creatures fine brewery and Tap Room came and went as we sailed past. It looked good. 

We did stop though in a small park just outside the main drag, and being unsure of the score cash and card wise, and processing no Aussie dollars we spent 20 minutes of the allocated 45 minute stop seeking a cash point.  We decided therefore that the nearest pub to the departure point would have to do and the boozer itself, the Ball and Chain didn't look bad at all, with its colonial style verandah and corner location.  Inside was a fine wooden floored open plan building with a large bar and a couple of rooms off. At around two in the afternoon, it was pretty much deserted, but it would do.  I surveyed the unfamiliar pumps, and before I could decide, the barman, somewhat morosely, pointed me to a notice. "All Tap Beers are Out of Order". What?  It transpired that there had been an electrical fault in the cellar and all draft beers were off. This was accompanied by a jerk of his thumb to a well stocked fridge full of cans.

I nipped back to the seated E to explain. We had no time to go elsewhere, so a couple of reassuringly expensive cans were bought for cash, as we now had money. Others from our coach wandered in. It gave us a chance to get to know them and in fact the beers chosen were local and very good, but it wasn't a great start to Australian boozing.

Our next excursion was a Swan River cruise back to Perth, where things looked up at a really great pub just where we disembarked. I had previously been advised not to miss it, so we didn't.

In fact, I had been drinking Little Creatures in the Qantas Lounge at Singapore's Changi Airport, so I didn't miss out entirely.

Next: A Lucky Shag.