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New beergeek.TV Episode – Oz Beer Adventure, Part I

There’s more than good beer in Australia

Oz Beer Adventure, Part I” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.

In the first of three episodes from our two week Australian beer adventure, we quickly explore the area around Victoria’s capital. Beginning in Melbourne, we completed a loop in four days around Port Phillip Bay, finishing up back in Melbourne for an Urban Beer Hike.

So enjoy our latest beer adventures in Australia…

For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.

Melbourne Urban Beer Hike

Since our last visit to Melbourne a little over two years ago, a number of beer bars had opened in the city center (or CBD in Aussie). With one last day before flying off to Western Australia, we decided to spend the day checking out what was new in Victoria’s capital.

Ned Kelly's death mask

After arriving in Melbourne in the morning, we wasted no time in getting our day started with a bit of culture: a visit to the Old Melbourne Gaol, where we ducked in and out of numerous small cells once inhabited by some of Australia’s first residents. Prominently displayed throughout the jail were the macabre death masks of those executed, including the infamous Ned Kelly.

Although our entry also entitled us to “enjoy” the Police House Experience, we opted out of it. We weren’t quite up to re-enacting the process of being booked into jail. Instead, we headed to the first stop on our Melbourne Urban Beer Hike – The Court House Hotel.

The Court House in North Melbourne

Not a brewery but a craft beer café, the corner establishment felt like a 1920s supper club. I love the movie The Cotton Club and the music playing could have been straight out of that soundtrack. We chose a high table in the small bar area near the entrance. The first customers of the day, the bartenders had time to chat with us about Australian craft beer and the high taxes on alcohol that result in beer costing between $9-$14 a pint.

Lunch at the Court House

I enjoyed the Golden Ale from Mountain Goat, a brewery we had visited on our last trip to Melbourne in 2010. Of course Chris went for the McLaren Vale IPA as we snacked on a charcuterie plate and marinated feta. This was our first of five planned stops, so we took it easy and moved on to our second stop (or at least tried to).

We followed along the busy main streets of Melbourne dodging city dwellers as they went about their work week. We found Biero Bar without problem, but they were closed. As in, we’re closed indefinitely. We later learned that the owners are re-branding the place and it may or may not be a craft beer café any longer.

We continued on and ended up in the small lanes of Chinatown. The dirty and somewhat seedy back alleys were lined with yummy smelling dim sum restaurants but Penny Blue, the third planned stop on the UBH, was no where to be found.** Chris finally gave up and started looking for our fourth planned stop – Cookie.

We couldn’t find Cookie, either. So far we were one for four on this UBH, a disappointing (and frustrating) prospect to say the least. However, we popped into a convenience store with a 24-hour internet café in the back, looked up the address, and much to our surprise learned that Cookie was literally right next door to where we were.

The bar at Cookie

Up a dark staircase on the first floor, we found Cookie. The most striking feature of this place was the long white marble bar. We took seats at the bar and were served by an attentive young bartender.

Home to a large beer selection, we were a little disappointed in the lack of local beers on draft. Our well-meaning server even steered me to (what I found out later was) a pseudo-craft beer. However, they did have some good beers on, like the Temple Midnight IPA, a new brewpub in Melbourne that we wouldn’t have time to visit. Midnight IPA was a dark brew with a nice hop flavor and roasty character. They also had WiFi, so Chris and I barely spoke during our stop at Cookie.

The hip and modern Beer Deluxe

We finished up our UBH at Beer Deluxe, a slick and modern establishment in Federation Square. The first thing I noticed about Beer Deluxe was that California beers (and the Bay Area in particular) were well represented, including Bear Republic, North Coast, Moylan’s, and Sierra Nevada to name a few. Of course we weren’t there to drink our local beers, though. We wanted local Australian beers and they had a nice selection of those, too.

Enjoying a beer at Beer Deluxe

Chris started with Feral’s Hop Hog, while I drank the Pale Ale from Stone and Wood. Beer Deluxe had great nibblies, as well, and the Turkish bread & dips and red lentil cakes paired well with our beer. The atmosphere was nice and it wasn’t too crowded, which was perfect for meeting up with James, an emerging beer writer (beerbarband.blogspot.com), to talk beer.

James took us to a James Squire pub nearby to taste their limited release Mad Brewer’s Hoppy Hefe. Just as the name indicates, the beer was a hoppy hefeweizen a la HopfenWeisse. While it was short in the Hefe department, the beer had a pleasant hop bite. A nice ending to a challenging Urban Beer Hike.

**During our hike, we eventually found Penny Blue, but it was closed for re-modeling.

View all the images from our day in Melbourne

 

Port Phillip Bay Beer Loop – Part 1

While most of this trip is in Western Australia, we began our beer travels exploring breweries in the greater Melbourne area. Over three days, Merideth and I made a giant loop around Port Phillip Bay. Beginning our journey at Melbourne airport after a 15 hour flight from Los Angeles, we drove east for our first stop of the day.

Hargreaves Hill Restaurant in Yarra Glen

Hargreaves Hill Brewery, located in the quaint town of Yarra Glen, wasn’t  a typical first stop of a big trip. It didn’t count on The List, failing the brewed on premise requirement. Despite this, I wanted to visit Hargreaves Hill Brewery because I had heard good things about their food and beer.

Somewhat jet-lagged and tired, Merideth and I managed to sit down at an outside table and get a sample paddle, as they are called Down Under, ordered. It was nice to finally relax and soak in some of the summer sun after a long journey.

Pork belly and beer at Hargreaves Hill Brewery

There were six beers in Hargreaves Hill’s lineup, ranging from a Pilsner to a Stout. Given that it is summer in Australia, both Merideth and I gravitated towards the light end of the spectrum. The Hefeweizen was wonderfully refreshing with a delicate amount of banana and clove. The Pilsner was clean and crisp, with a pronounced hop bite.

Normally, I try to order a different menu item than Merideth. But neither of us were going to pass on the succulent Pork Belly on a bed of parsnip and apple mash. It was absolute heaven on a plate. Despite not counting on the List, Hargreaves Hill was a incredible beginning to our second Australian adventure.

Beautiful Victoria

Backtracking west, we drove through the rolling hills of the Victoria’s countryside. As I kept my eye on the road, Merideth intently scanned the fields for kangaroos and the trees for cockatoos and other birds. Occasionally, she would point things out to me, an activity that kept us both alert and awake. In a little over an  hour, we arrived at our final destination of our first day, Woodend.

Merideth in Woodend

Woodend was a typical Australian small town with one main street that was home to all the shops and businesses. Holgate Brewhouse, a brewpub and hotel, was located right in the middle of the main drag. It seemed like an eternity since we had left our house, so it was nice to finally not be on the move.

Holgate Brewhouse

Dating from early last century, the pub, with it’s warm and cozy feel, just exuded charm. Merideth and I settled in at the bar, joining a group of locals having an afternoon pint.

There were eight beers in the sample, including a Saison from Bridge Road in Beechworth. Merideth really liked the White Ale, a Belgian-style Wit and Temptress, a chocolate Porter. For being only 6% ABV, Temptress had a boozy nose, though, thankfully, not taste. It was really smooth and chocolatey.

The beers at Holgate

My two standouts were Road Trip, their interpretation of an American-style IPA, and the ESB, which they had on cask. Road Trip, made with Chinook, Centennial and Cascade hops, was more well-balanced, not from the hop assault school. I was just disappointed that they weren’t pushing it through their Randall.

After dinner, a few more pints and a game of Scrabble, Merideth and I decided we had stayed up long enough. We retired to our room upstairs for a well-deserved night of sleep.

View all the images from Yarra Glen and Woodend

What is a prickly moses?

We were up early on Saturday morning as we had a three hour drive to our first stop of the day. Heading south from Woodend in sporadic rain showers, we reached Geelong in a few hours then headed west. Despite the early departure and long drive, we arrived at Otway Estate Winery and Brewery in Barongarook somewhat bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

We were the first customers of the day, the only other activity was the setting up of a wedding in their function room. I think the staff person was a bit surprised by the fact that Merideth and I drove three hours to taste beer before 11am. But kudos to her for scrounging us up some breakfast.

Breakfast of champions
Raconteur IPA

We sampled eight beers, all of which were well-crafted, in two sets of four. The Pilsner and Wheat Beer, a Wit, were both delicious. The Blueberry Hefeweizen was deftly flavored, with a dry fruit character. The Summer Ale, Merideth’s favorite, was a really pleasant, light-bodied Golden Ale that made us wish it was more like summer outside. (The skies had cleared but the temp was still only in the 60s).

The beer I was there to try was Raconteur IPA, a creation of Hendo’s, one of the Otway brewers whom we know {Hendo has since moved on from Otway]. Raconteur, also made with Chinook, Centennial and Cascade hops, was much more an aggressive beer than the Road Trip of the previous day. Much more my type of IPA, Ranconteur could stand up next to any of the hop bombs I drink at home.

Things don't look so good for a ferry crossing...

From Otway, we drove back east towards Port Phillip Bay and the ferry crossing at Queenscliff. As we arrived at the ferry terminal, the wind began howling and the skies opened up with a deluge of rain. I immediately started thinking about our last ferry crossing in rough weather.

A pleasant ferry crossing

In the spring of 2009, Merideth and I took the ferry from Wales to Ireland and things didn’t go so well for me. As we sat in the car waiting to drive on, Merideth tried to calm my nerves, assuring me that it was only a short trip. Luckily, the storm quickly passed over and the ferry ride to Sorrento was quite pleasant. Thus began the Mornington Peninsula portion of our Port Phillip Bay Beer Loop.

View all the Otway, Queenscliff and Ferry Ride images

 

Rainy Day Victoria Brew Tour

Apparently, it sometimes rains in Australia. After almost a week of glorious weather, we awoke Thursday morning to the threat of rain. But we wouldn’t let a little bad weather get in the way. Our plan was to visit some breweries south of Melbourne. After a farewell pot of beer with Ute and Wolfie, we hit the road.

Red Hill’s hop field

We had already heard good things about our first destination, Red Hill Brewery. Mentioning their name to several Australians produced the same positive reaction. Thus, as the rain started to fall, we were eager to get to Red Hill South located on the Mornington Peninsula, about an hour from Melbourne. For a brewery out in the country, Red Hill was pretty easy to locate. Pulling into their car park, we took the large number of cars to be a good sign.

Red Hill’s sample paddle

Finding a seat on their patio as the rain pelted down on the roof, we ordered a sample paddle and gazed at the food menu. Ogling the Stoemp Cakes (potato croquets) on a nearby table, I had a feeling this was going to be a good meal. However, I didn’t expect it to be the best meal of trip. Using ingredients sourced from the Mornington Peninsula when possible and their own garden, Red Hill would do just that. We started with the aforementioned Stoemp Cakes followed by Pork Belly with Mashed parsnips and Red Cabbage. Absolutely delicious.

The Wheat beer and the Scotch Ale

The beer complimented the food very well. Three beers on the paddle are always on tap at Red Hill: Golden Ale, Wheat, and Scotch Ale. The last beer was their Christmas Ale, our first encounter with an Australian holiday beer. All four of these beers included hops from their own field, the only one on the Mornington Peninsula.

Despite the weather being of the holiday brew variety, the wheat was the star for me. A Bavarian-style Hefeweizen, the Wheat had a nice banana nose, though it was a bit under-carbonated for my tastes (which can be said for all the Hefeweizens I tried in Australia). The holiday beer was not forgotten. A Belgian-style Abbey Ale, we purchased the last 750ml bottle to bring home.

The taps at True South

After our great lunch, it was time to head back towards Melbourne. A few days prior to our departure for this trip, I read on one of the beer forums that a new brewery opened south of Melbourne. Located in Black Rock, a small town on the coast, True South had only been open for a few weeks the day we visited.

True South’s brewhouse

My visions of tasting beers on a sun-splashed deck overlooking the ocean were dashed not only by the weather but also a holiday party had taken over the upper floor where the deck was located. Finding a seat outside downstairs, we ordered samples of the beers. No paddle this time; I don’t think they had arrived yet.

Four tasters sans paddle.

There were three Ales, Summer, Pale and Dark plus a Pilsner. There also was a low alcohol beer. All were a little light for our American craft beer trained palates. But for a brand new brewery, the beers were pretty good. I look forward to visiting True South on our next visit to Melbourne to see how they develop. Maybe then I’ll get to sit on the sunny deck overlooking the ocean.

Merideth at 2 Brothers Brewery

Just a dozen or so miles up the road and probably easy to find if we knew where we were going was 2 Brothers Brewery. Located in an industrial park along a main road, we arrived just in time, not only to beat the heaviest rain of the day, but to also join the local post-work crowd for a beer.

The tap handles in front of “Hell’s Kitchen”

First thing we noticed while we were enjoying our second paddle-free sampler; the conditioning tanks behind the bar had New York City nicknames. Turns out the brewing kit comes from Times Square. I assume from the Heartland brewpub that no longer brew on site.

The samples at 2 Brothers

2 Brothers had four beers to try, including two ‘firsts’ of the trip: a Brown Ale and a Märzen. (We also had our first cider, a Perry, but this isn’t cidergeek.com.) The Märzen was the star of the group with a nice malt backbone that one expects from the amber colored lager.

2 Brothers seemed like a cool place to hang out but unfortunately we needed to get back to Melbourne.

The Local Taphouse in St. Kilda

Like in the States, Thursday is the new Friday in Australia, too. We found this out when we went to the Local Taphouse in St. Kilda, a few kilometers south of Melbourne’s city center. The Local was packed with young professionals just off work. Luckily, we were able to squeeze into a spot at the bar.

The beer selection at the Local Taphouse

Which Local did we like better? I would have to say the Sydney location… and for only one reason. When we were in Sydney, everything was new. At that time, we hadn’t been to any breweries besides Paddy’s. But at the St. Kilda location, the beer selection was a bit of a disappointment for me. We had already tried many of the Aussie beer selections they had on tap. If we had gone to St. Kilda first, I am sure I would have liked that one better. I was able to try one new beer that was very nice; Brass Monkey Stout from Sail and Anchor Brewery in Fremantle.

This ended our Melbourne portion of the trip. Melbourne might be Australia’s second city, but as craft beer goes, they might be second to none.

 

STOEMP CAKES

Three Ravens and a Goat

After three great days in Victoria’s High Country, it was time to move on. Our next destination was the capital of Victoria, Melbourne. There we would part with Ute and Wolfie who were flying home to Germany the next day. We had heard that Australia’s second largest city had a better beer culture than Sydney and it was time to find out for ourselves.

Three Ravens cool logo

Our first stop was Three Ravens Brewing Co. in the northeast Melbourne suburb of Thornbury. With Merideth diligently navigating, we successfully negotiated the congested city streets and found the brewery in a industrial park. Stooping to get under the partially raised warehouse door, I searched around for my contact, Marcus. The Three Ravens brewer, Marcus graciously took time out of his busy schedule to fit into ours.

The wall of awards…

Three Ravens began as a lunchtime homebrewing hobby for several guys at an engineering firm and eventually blossomed into a full fledged production brewery. In business for six years, Three Ravens has a wall full of brewery awards to mark their success.

Beginning with the now ubiquitous Wheat beer, in this case a Wit, we were treated to seven brews that constituted the most solid lineup of beers we had tried to date in Australia.

Our beer tasting at Three Ravens

The highlights for us were the Golden Ale, 55, an American-style Pale Ale, USB (Über Special Bitter) and Dark, a Rauchbier.

I never expected to try a smoked beer on our trip to Australia. Our group that split on the world famous Schlenkerla in Bamberg (the other three against me) agreed that Dark had the right amount smoke to please all of us. Very satisfied with with our introduction to Melbourne beer, we left Marcus to continue on with his day while we headed to the city centre.

Flinders Station in Melbourne

Central Melbourne was hot and humid this Wednesday afternoon. Abuzz with all manner of people, tourists wandered about while Melbourn-ites scurried to and from work. Finding our hotel, we had just enough time to check email and get organized before it was time head to our next brewery. Catching a tram to the eastern suburb of Richmond, we were on our way to Mountain Goat Brewery.

Ready for some Goat beer…

Wednesday was one of the two days, the other being Friday, that Mountain Goat’s tasting room is open. Opening the heavy door, we walked into the tasting room (a large warehouse space) to be confronted by a what looked like an office holiday party. But it was no ordinary office holiday party, it was a costume party with a multi-cultural theme. No one told me to bring a costume to Australia!

After the initial shock subsided, we ordered a taster set and found a seat on the fringes of the party. We tried to guess which country people represented as we sampled the beer.

The Steam Ale being “randalled”

There were four beers in our sample tray but I will focus on two. The first was Steam Ale. This brew was the reverse of what we know as a California Common. Instead of being Lager fermented at Ale temperatures, Goat’s Steam is an Ale fermented at Lager temperatures. A very nice beer.

Then there was Randy, the Steam Ale passed through their version of a Randall. The only other time we have seen such a device was at Trinity in Colorado Springs. Sitting proudly on the bar, Goat’s Randall was  much more impressive. Most  impressive was the giant wrench uses to unscrew the top. Filled with Riwaka hops, a New Zealand variety of Saaz lineage, the nice Steam Ale was transformed into maybe the beer of the trip. As a hophead, to have little hop floaty bits suspended in my brew was a dream come true.

Randy – The beer of the trip?

I could have spent all night at the Goat drinking Randy and trying to figure out the country the woman with the duck bill was portraying. But I had forgotten Scrabble and we had to meet back up with Ute and Wolfie and some of their friends. Meeting up with them at the Fitzroy Pinnacle, we would spend the evening drinking Goat’s Steam Ale. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a Randall.

Postscript: Down the street from the Goat Brewery is the Royston. A dive-ish bar that has Aussie craft beer on tap, it looked like a cool place to hang out. Unfortunately, there tap system was on the fritz during our visit. Our next time in Melbourne, we will be definitely going back to the Goat, and hopefully everything will be operational at the Royston.