Wednesday, 9 October 2019

THE CHEEKY PINT

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Gypsy
  • Region: Western Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 231 Barkly St, Footscray
  • Food: Gourmet Pub
  • Brewed At: Anywhere
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://thecheekypint.com.au/
One of a number of venues that I have heard of for the first time through this endeavour was today's review of choice; The Cheeky Pint. Located in the old Barkly Hotel, on Barkly Street in the middle of Footscray, owner Mitch Peacock had hoped to have a fully functioning brewpub on-site come opening weekend in September 2018.

Red tape ended up quashing that dream and saw Mitch act like a gypsy brewer of years gone past, brewing his beers literally wherever he could find tank space. He's now managing to keep a core range of 5, 4 beers & a cider, on tap at the Footscray pub alongside 5 taps & 3 handpumps serving either his own limited release beers or offerings from other small independent producers.

The venue has been massively renovated from it's former days as the Barkly Hotel. The new look is modern & what you'd expect to find at most new high end pubs. What you don't see everywhere is the five distinctive copper serving tanks behind the bar. They are particularly eye-catching with the light glinting off them, almost drawing you towards them.

Joining Mitch is chef Massimo Spedalletti, who's spent time working as head chef in both Italy & Australia. Massimo has previously worked at a hop farm & has reportedly mastered the art of pairing beer with food, utilizing the skills he learned in his homeland whilst combining them with craft beer & Australian pub staples.

I always struggle to pass up a hand pump offering; so when I saw Raspberry & Blueberry Stout on hand pump there was only one way this review was going! It's a really impressive beer, with a cavalcade of chocolate & raspberry flavour. There's no hint of blueberry that I could detect, although it may well be hidden under the sweet chocolate.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Monday, 7 October 2019

RIDERS BREW CO

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Yarra Valley
  • Tasting Room: Fulford Road, Wonga Park
  • Food: Charcuterie
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://www.kellybrookwinery.com.au/beer/
Andy Gargan, better known as Shandy or the guy who hosts Ale Stars in beer circles, was just like any homebrewer brewing in his garage in the inner Melbourne suburb of Elwood. Over the years a number of curious neighbors dropped in for a chat or a beer during his many brew days & before long his garage became something of a cult local Friday night hangout.

Unlike most homebrewers, he happened to have a neighbor by the name of Gus Kelly, of Kelly Brothers Cider & Kelly Brook Winery. This quirk of the universe eventually led to Andy & Gus starting Riders. Gus just happened to have the old Coldstream brewhouse stored in the Moorabbin warehouse where they bottle the aforementioned Cider, making it comparatively easy to start out.

The brand is named after the trio's (including the other Kelly Brother, Phil) shared love of riding - be it skate boards, snow boards, surf boards or mountain bikes. Over the years there's been a few changes; Michael Leslie, co-owner of Black Arts Beer, has been brought in as a full-time Head Brewer & is currently undertaking a revamp of the beer range.

If you've been to a winery in the Yarra Valley you should have a reasonable understanding of what you're walking into at Kelly Brook. There's picturesque views of grape vines, the tasting room is rustic & they serve some lovely cheese platters that pair beautifully with their beer/wine/cider.  There's no restaurant here so keep that in mind.

I'm reviewing their XPA, one of their beers I've never had before. I was quite impressed with the beer; though it's probably more in the style of an APA. There was good biscuity malt character, which was offset by bitey citrus hop notes - dominated by orange. There is also some resinous notes in there. It's beautifully balanced and a beer that I'd happily sit on all afternoon.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

TRUE SOUTH

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Gypsy
  • Region: Outer Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 298 Beach Road, Black Rock
  • Food: Argentinian
  • Brewed At: Blackman's
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://www.truesouth.com.au/
Grant & Suzanne Dow opened True South in 2009. They opened in Black Rock, a suburb about 20km S.E. of Melbourne, between better known suburbs Sandringham & Beaumauris. Their venue, when they opened, was a restaurant & with it's own microbrewery something that would not be uncommon now, but would've been almost unheard of in 2009!  2014 the kit went out with Renn to Blackman's in Torquay - where their beers are now brewed.

Since 2009 True South's identity has changed quite a bit. Firstly, they're now an Argentine restaurant - although that change happened very early. Secondly, and probably most significantly for this audience, they no longer brew their own beers. Their last on-site brewer, Renn Blackman, took the kit with him when he opened his own brewpub in Torquay in 2014. Renn has continued to brew the True South beers, which are available for onsite consumption at the restaurant & apparently wholesale, but I can't recall seeing their beer elsewhere for years.

The biggest obstacle I see for True South is it's location - it's very hard to get to by public transport & is a long way from anywhere, making it a reasonably expensive Uber/Taxi. Thankfully, I had Lizzie drive me down one Saturday afternoon. The building used to be an Auto Repair Shop & they've done a great job of transforming it into a pub/restaurant, with it's white paint job you would have no idea of the buildings history.

It's beachfront location is superb, they've got an open top deck which has great views & would be a great spot to have a drink on a warm summer's evening. The main dining area is open and light. There's a few high tables with stools at the front, whilst the rest of the seating is for tables of 2-6 people. The bar spans the whole of the left hand side as you walk in & is laden with 15+ CUB products, including Tank Carlton, & only one of their own offerings...

Beer aside, the wine list is impressive & the food menu is wonderful - making it particularly hard to choose! Lizzie & I eventually settled on an array of starters which we shared. The highlight of which was, at least in my eyes, the snapper cerviche or the tuna tacos. Considering we'd just got back from Hawaii, & the freshest seafood I've ever eate, that's high praise!

So I only had one choice for the review, although it's one I may have selected in any case. The New World Pilsner is a really nice example of the style. The base beer is clean grains and is free of any major faults, while the hop profile gains the grassiness & bitterness of the Saaz hops they've used as well as the unique gooseberry note from the Nelson Sauvin. It's a lovely beer that I would quite happily have several pints of.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

RED DUCK BREWERY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Ballarat
  • Tasting Room: 11a Michaels Drive, Alfredton
  • Food: ???
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://www.redduckbeer.com.au/
Red Duck is one of the more misunderstood brewery's in Victoria. It was initially founded in Lake Purrumbete, near Camperdown, in 2005 by husband & wife team Scott & Vanessa Wilson-Browne. For a number of years, the Red Duck facility at Lake Purrumbete was the only brewery between Adelaide & Geelong, a distance of over 700km!

Issues at the Purrumbete Homestead, where the brewery was originally based, saw the Red Duck team pack up and head ~100km to Alfredton, on the outskirts of Ballarat in late-2011. There they found themselves in a much more suitable, light industrial warehouse with plenty of room for expansion & for the first time a cellar door.

The expansion didn't go as many would've predicted. Rather than installing a bigger brewhouse and add fermenters, in 2016 Scott opened Kilderkin Distillery, in the same facility as Red Duck, with Chris Pratt. Since then a number of barrels (pictured left) have found their way into the brewery, while a lovely copper still takes pride of place on the right hand side of the back tasting area.

Scott's beers, and I think this is where the misunderstanding comes in, have always been weird. Sure they have a core range with a Pale, an Amber & a Porter (alongside others), but that's not what the majority of craft beer drinkers know Red Duck for. They've become known for brewing beers with any number of adjuncts, & of course who could forget their Gruit's & Egyptian Bread beers? At one stage, 4-5 years ago, the brewery had 50+ beers available now it's a far more manageable 15-20.

It's this sort of eccentricity that made my visit to their tap room seem somewhat underwhelming. The venue was pretty normal. There's a small office that has been built into the warehouse for tastings & takeaway sales. A window looks through into the brewery & distillery where there are more tables, alongside a wall of barrels filled with spirits & beer as well as plenty of heaters to take away the cold that Ballarat is known for.

I was intrigued by their decision to not have taps at their tasting room. All beers you try are from a bottle or a can. I didn't get a good answer on why, although I assume it's something to do with install cost or licensing. I saw them crack all 4 beers for my tasting paddle, which makes me wonder if they then hold those beers for the next person? Or whether they only pour the taster...

The beer I'm reviewing is their Passionfruit Kettle Sour Saison. It's a really interesting little beer, which has the added bonus of clocking in at only 4.2% ABV. There's plenty of passionfruit, I'd hate to know how much went in to get this much flavour, & it's reasonably sour. In one of the cans I had I noticed some Saison-esque funk, however that wasn't apparent in the other two. It's a really refreshing little sour!

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Sunday, 29 September 2019

CLIFTON HILL BREWPUB

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Inner Suburbs
  • Tasting Room: 89 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill
  • Food: Gourmet Pub
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttp://www.cliftonhillbrewpub.com.au/
The Clifton Hill Brewpub is located in Clifton Hill, a small wedge of a suburb in Melbourne that many wouldn't know that sits on the juncture between Fitzroy, Collingwood, Abbotsford & Northcote. The building the Brewpub is now housed has quite a history; having served beer to the Clifton Hill community since 1884 as The Clifton Hill Hotel.

At the end of 2013, the same family that has owned the hotel for 30+ years decided to rip out the TAB & the band room and replace it with a brewery. The Clifton Hill Brewpub was installed and commissioned in 2014, which is far later than I had recalled - I must've first visited within weeks of it opening.

The venue appears to be a classic Melbourne pub from the outside, complete with drive thru bottle shop at the rear. The bottle shop is pretty well stocked, with a wide array of craft beer in addition to a good wine & spirit selection across multiple price points. 

Inside the pub still has some features showing it's heritage, although most of it has been replaced by a more contemporary vibe. There's plenty of exposed brick, so very Melbourne, some predominantly white funky wallpaper, which really lightens up both the bar and the dining room at the rear of the building. The decor is quite modern in the dining room, whilst showing come character with bright yellow metal tables and stools in the front bar.

Throughout the venue there are a number of windows through to stainless steel, so that you still know you're in a brewery. Speaking of the stainless steel, they currently run a 600L custom designed system, which allows them to keep their taps stocked with their core range offerings as well as a number of limited releases. In the last year or so they've started to package a small number of their beers into 750ml bottles for takeaway consumption.

At the back of the building is a lovely little beer garden, which continues the more modern/contemporary vibe. It's a restoration that's been done really well, without taking away all the character of the old building. The food at Clifton Hill is well worth trying, they've got one of the more extensive brewery menu's I've seen!

One of those limited releases was their Russian Imperial Stout Aged in Bourbon Barrels. As an indicator of just how limited, I had bottle 125/408. It's also one of the better Imperial Stouts I've had this year. There was huge notes of chocolate, roast & bourbon barrel, as well as notes of caramel & dark fruits underneath. It's beautifully integrated for such a small release.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Saturday, 21 September 2019

THE PUBLIC BREWERY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: Yarra Valley
  • Tasting Room: 13 Lacey Street, Croydon
  • Food: Gourmet Pub
  • Price: Average
  • Websitehttps://thepublicbrewery.com.au/
The Public Brewery is located in Croydon, a suburb of Melbourne that certainly wasn't known for its plentiful craft beer offerings. It's at the doorway to the Yarra Valley approximately 40 minutes drive East of Melbourne. It's a brewery which offers a number of services that many others don't - it's a one stop craft beer stop.

In 2013, local cafe owner Dale White & his wife Bek dreamt of bringing craft beer to their neck of the woods. They teamed up with local homebrewer Brendan Guild to make it a reality. The idea came to Dale when he noticed the local grain store & auction house had fallen into disrepair and plans were being made for its demolition.

Rather than let that happen he set about attempting to secure the site, with the idea to have a brew on premise facility with a good hospitality offering. They were successful & then spent several months dealing with planning & building issues before slowly opening the various elements of their business.

The bottle shop, which is still there today, opened first at the end of 2013. This was soon followed by a bar, complete with kitchen & beer garden. The 8 x 50L brew it yourself kits, where anyone is able to learn to brew,  followed before the brewery proper was installed. The kit at Croydon is only slightly larger than the brew it yourself systems at 250L & it quickly became apparent that they would need more capacity. A larger production brewery was installed at 100 Acres in Warrandyte in 2016.

It's a really nice venue. It's a old brick warehouse that they've done significant restorations to. As you walk up to the building you're struck by the amount of plant life there is, in planter boxes & all over the walls of the warehouse. You enter through the small, tidy bottle shop that proudly stocks only independent products, before continuing past the small batch kits to the main bar area. The bar area has an array of timber tables of varying heights & sizes and has been nicely fitted out.

Not much has changed in here since my last visit 4 and a half years ago - there's still plenty of exposed brick, aluminium & greenery. The staff are friendly & thankfully they had more of their own beers on! My favourite part of The Public Brewery experience is the little outdoor area, with a couple of tables & a small grassy area it's a great place to relax with a beer in hand. The food is also really good & changes with the seasons, again focusing on local produce.

I've ended up with Funky Town, their American Brown Ale, to review. It's a style I love and one that isn't seen anywhere near enough in this country. This one is probably roastier than I'd expect for the style, with bitter coffee & roast flavours overpowering the underlying caramel sweetness. It's quite an easy sipping Brown Ale & one I'd happily enjoy by the pint, next to a fireplace in winter.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

RUTHERGLEN BREWERY

2019: The Year of Local

STATS
  • Brewery Type: Physical
  • Region: High Country
  • Tasting Room: 121C Main St, Rutherglen
  • Food: Gourmet Restaurant
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
  • Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/RutherglenBrewery/
Gavin Swalwill & Fiona Myers opened Rutherglen Brewery at the back of their award winning restaurant, Taste @ Rutherglen, in 2015. Both had a passion for beer & thought that Rutherglen would be the perfect place for a brewery. They figured they had enough room for their brewery at the back of their restaurant & with the help of Simon Bardhill, ex Red Hill & Mornington head brewer, they got up and running. Before long Fiona took over the brewing operations, a role she continues in to this day.

Many of their beers take their names from the history of the local area. Rutherglen, the town, supposedly got it's name when John "Seven Stars" Wallace, a Scottish immigrant in the Gold Rush, entered the bar and offered the constituents of Barkly, as it was known at the time, a round of drinks for the naming rights to the town. The legend goes they accepted & Wallace named the town Rutherglen after his home town in Scotland.

The venue certainly isn't your traditional brewery. It's much more reminiscent of a cafe/restaurant, which I guess it is. The stainless steel is hidden away out the back & a few chalk boards advertising the beer gives the only indication you're in a brewery. The outside space is a little more brewery-esque. There's an undercover brick courtyard, as well as a wooden decking area draped in vines which I can envisage being lovely on a warm summers day.

We were taking advantage of earlier opening time of the brewery and so didn't partake in the food, having just finished breakfast. If you're looking for somewhere to eat in the High Country, Taste @ Rutherglen is highly regarded. Gavin & Fiona also own Buller Wines so there's excellent wine on offer if your significant other doesn't like beer.

One of the beer names that references the history of the area is Wallace's Pilsner. The beer is quite a traditional tasting German Pilsner, with some sweetish malts contrasting nicely with bitter grassy hops. It's a really refreshing beer and one that I imagine sells very well up in Rutherglen.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!