Category Archives: craft beer goodness

an invite for a pint of cider

I’ve never felt comfortable with the decision to accept PR contact because, I don’t know why, it feels a little…dirty – but yes, I have done it (so before you slag me off, I am ‘tainted’, hehe). It feels like a bit of a slippery slope: once you start accepting freebies, at what point do you a) stop because free stuff is ace especially when you’re poor and b) does it impugn on the impartiality of your review of the product or the meal?

This feels like more of a concern in the food blogging world. Not so much for beer blogging: I know beer journalists (yep, journalists, not bloggers) that get free beer – how else are they supposed to review it and make a living? Reviewing and visiting breweries is a time-intensive exercise – and I only do it for fun. I imagine it’d be trickier for those in the biz.

Sadly, I’m not in that journo camp. When brewery owner Nick Strong actually contacted this here humblr blog via our contact form (like whut?! people use our contact form? awesome!) to offer us free Coldstream cider because we didn’t have many cider reviews on the blog, I replied and said that Tristan and I would be happy to visit but would pay our own way, sample the brewery’s wares and report accordingly. This occurred last Sunday.

brewery exterior

First things first. If you want to go to Coldstream Brewery for lunch, you’d best book. I’d erroneously made the mistake of assuming that it’d be perfectly okay for me and Tristan to just swan in sans booking as the owner was expecting us. Strike one Gem. The brewery was absolutely packed. So yes, if you visit, book. Plus, it’s just good manners. Shame on me.

beer pour

After finding an awkward table to sit at, two beer tasting paddles were ordered. Just the thing for frazzled nerves.

tasting selection

From bottom to top: the autumn porter, the chocolate winter ale, the pilsner, the naked ale and lastly the crushed apple cider. Unavailable on tap, as they were seasonal brews were the spring lager and the summer ale though we did pick up a bottle of the latter upon leaving.

We started with the pilsner, which is closest to their ‘draught’ ale. It is very clean, refreshing and sessionable. Next up the naked ale which I’m a fan of – again, very sessionable, flavoursome and well balanced. This is the kind of beer I’d want to buy a six-pack of if I were going round to visit a good mate.

Third in the sequence is the chocolate winter ale, ooh what scrumminess! Surprisingly bitter, or more so than expected but you can definitely taste the chocolate and its scent permeates the beer to the last drop. Do note that the bitterness is not at all unpleasant. Try this while it’s available, it’s lovely!

bottles on the windowsill

Our waitress informed us that this year’s version of the autumn porter was nicer than previous year’s. It was roasty, with burnt coffee notes, a smooth mouthfeel though quite carbonated. Perhaps a tad too thin for a porter? Personal preference, but I would have preferred perhaps less of the burnt notes.

Ah but what of the cider? Coldstream’s cider is made of red apples and no concentrate though the odd green apple sneaks in, cheeky whatsit. The one on tap was the crushed apple cider at 5% ABV (not to be confused with their regular cider) and it was gorgeously clean and clear, bubbly, not too dry or too sweet which made it freaking fantastic.

Now, onto the food. There’s an excellent selection of food but judging from the price of the mains ($25-35), massive. I wasn’t particularly hungry when we arrived so I opted for the caramelised onion, goat cheese and spinach tart with walnut, roquette and pomegranate molasses.

walnut and cheese tart

It was going to be obvious that I’d wallop said entrée above so to bulk that up a bit, I got a side of simple steamed vegetables. It did the trick, providing a substantial meal.

steamed vegetables

Tristan made his life nice and easy and opted for the ol’ faithful parma.

chicken parmigiana

Our Coldstream adventures didn’t end there – we ended up taking home a 750mL bottle of the summer ale (seasonal release), a regular stubby of the original cider (for ‘research’!) which stands at 7% ABV and seems more tart. You can definitely taste the alcoholic content in it and perhaps though I confess I’m sensitive to it, more of that cider sulphurousness was evident and so I prefer the crushed apple cider. We also bought a six-pack of the porter regular which went down a treat. Again, I liked this more than the autumn porter because I felt it had a thicker mouthfeel and just more depth of flavour.

Erm, I may not have any notes on the summer ale, but it was shared liberally between three of us and went down a treat during a True Blood watching marathon. ‘Nuff said.

Coldstream Brewery on Urbanspoon

just when you thought the Local could serve you no better

I always look forward to Ale Stars sessions at The Local Taphouse. If you’ve been reading the blog long enough you’d see that to be the case for they are sessions of much love, a place where you can talk about mouthfeel and not be verbally stoned, collectively bitch about Untappd being down again (regardless of what flavour of smartphone you have) and avoid ‘characters’ such as the one I am about to describe to you.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a friend’s birthday party dinner. One of her friends seems to derive enjoyment from mentioning how ace he is for being a useful(*subject to individual opinion) law student and shoot down others not in his ‘league’. I managed to cop an earful for very, very discreetly pulling out this gorgeous little beer nerd number to make a record of my drinking habits, the book for which I must thank Dave and Hollie of Innspire and the hipster capital of the world, Portland, Oregon…

33 Bottles of Beer notebook

Should you want to acquire any of these adorable beer-wanky whatsits, you are strongly encouraged to go to the website of the creator with whom I’ve dealt with personally and thoroughly recommend and will continue to keep on dealing. They also have versions of the notebook for cheese, wine, coffee and cigars. Wankers of all persuasions eat your hearts out!

In any case, I digest (my favourite Ali G malapropism of all time and remarkably apt for a food blog). The Local Taphouse continue to service (and protect!) beer nerds not just with the pub’s actual existence, but have now got a new shop next door for some takeaway goodness called The Local BottleStore & Provisions. Upon entering you will most likely see James Smith aproned up. It’s like walking into an old-school smallgoods store.

Though they are now readily available, I still marvel at the notion of BrewDog Punk IPA in cans.

The selection of beer is very well put together – admittedly, I couldn’t help but compare to another favourite purveyor of mine Slowbeer and notice that both will attract me as a consumer as their range combined does not double up much. Sadly, neither venues are particularly close to me but I suspect that will force me to be financially well-behaved…of a fashion.

Behold, the siren song of great beer calls from the fridges.

In that shot, you can also see a mixed 6-pack – there were a few about. Depending on your persuasion (say, if you want very hoppy beers, or porters), you can find a few themed mixed 6-packs thoughtfully put together. Naturally, do not hesitate to talk to James if you need any recommendations or help or information – several folks made use of his knowledge during our too-short sneak peek.

Then there are two consummate accompaniments to any good booze – cured meat and cheese. Do not go into this place if you are depressed and cashed up. You’ll end up poorer having consoled yourself with the culinary equivalent of lipgloss and books (oh, okay, that’s just me). The selection is small and there are very detailed notes about all of these offerings on a board. These folks have done their research! Tasty, tasty research. mmm.

If you want to read about what the owner, Steve Jeffares, has to say about this exciting little add-on, then there’s an article on Oz Brews News and if you’re social media stalky, um, I mean savvy, then check out the The Local Taphouse’s post about the The BottleStore here for contact details. Steve has said to me that they’re not quite finished and that growlers will be available soon – very exciting news! Takeaway fresh beer, yippee! Oh, and no nasties to ‘berate’ you for being an epic beer nerd. We’re all at home here.

an unlikely but brilliant combination

Breakfast and beer.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds, as amply demonstrated by the two beermen.tv breakfasts, one of which was held this year as part of Good Beer Week.

Having missed the Royal Mail Hotel’s breakfast offerings (first world sob!) and needing to hit the road after a late morning check-out, I suggested that Daylesford’s famous Breakfast & Beer might be a worthy detour before hitting the city life, where perpetual city kids like me can go nuts everytime they see ducks fly…

Daylesford is indeed quite the oasis, it’s picturesque, has an ample amount of places for rich city folks to spend their dollars at getting in touch with their inner selves and then finding charming trucs at charming antique shops, like this and naturally going ga-ga over them:

Enid Blyton's The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat

Oh, but the lovely little Beetle outside the shop was also very noteworthy – all beaten-up but still so colourful, literally and figuratively.

Oh, but we’re losing our purpose! Breakfast & Beer.

The two dogs in the stained glass window have some significance to the venue (either currently owned or formerly owned), but I forget exactly which – apols.

To say the owner was ecstatic at my beer choices (apparently, Tris had made the executive decision that I had to choose for both of us…pressure, yikes!) was an understatement. He even snuck a straw-sip of this beauty, the Beer Here Hopfix. I blame him not one bit. My beer strategy was to choose one beer that matched our food and one that matched the chilliness. This one was for the dishes we ordered. It is bitter, hoppy, weed-like goodness. I’ve smelt weed before…in fact just the other night at the Faust gig it was great to see some oldies enjoying a spliff or several?

Onto the food – if you want deliciously prepared comfort food, then this is the place to come and get it, truly. I chose a serving of the roasted Lancashire sausages with bread and butter pickles, with a fried egg on toast, garnished with some rocket. Hop-strong beers are well suited to fatty meat-type things like sausages and pork belly (as well as curry) – a good tip I learnt from Ben Kraus, Bridge Road’s brewer: a tip-off I’m forever grateful for. Also, juiciest sausages ever!

Tristan chose the honey baked Istra ham, Brussels sprout bubble and squeak with horseradish. My mouth is watering, just looking at the photo.

Our season-appropriate beer was the Emerson’s London porter. Whinge as you all may about the unusually cold snap in Melbourne’s late autumn before the onset of winter proper, you cannot deny that it is consummate porter and stout enjoying weather. Drink up that liquid roastiness! I love the glass they served it to us in too. Reminds me of some of my parents’ 70s Cristal d’Arques wine glasses which are probably older than I am and made the migration from England to here!

If you were really in doubt on just how extensive the beer range is at this delicious, quirky little place, I beseech you to view the photographic evidence below. There’s an excellent range of good local and international brews to whet your whistle and I can assure you, deciding what to order was not particularly easy.

The owner and staff are passionate and enthusiastic and scores of locals known to them came in and out as we dined. An excellent sign, I’d wager! My lit nerd curator girlfriend keeps ‘threatening’ to take me to Daylesford next time I visit her in Ballarat and I dare say I will let her next visit and truthfully, Daylesford is not too far from Melbourne either.

When possible, Breakfast & Beer support local causes and produce. When chatting to the staff and owner, I got the impression they love to be active within the community and not necessarily related to just food or beer-specific activities. Their coffee is a local Coffee Basics Arabica blend, roasted in Castlemaine despite my being obsessed with their otherwise branded coffee cups: simple things do indeed amuse simple minds.

Before…

Map coffee mug & saucer

And after – an obsessive-compulsive sufferer’s* worst dream:

an out-of-line Map coffee mug & saucer

I much preferred the beautiful old world ceramic glasses used for lattes, as modelled by a very dapper albeit slightly tired-looking Tristan.

an unusual but gorgeous ceramic latte glass as modelled by a man of the same calibre

What a wonderful bookend to a fabulous weekend away in the country.

Breakfast & Beer on Urbanspoon

*and no, not to make light of any such mental illness, OCD is hard shit, folks