Tag Archives: craft beer

so a girl walks into a beer bar

I like to think that Melbourne’s good beer scene is progressive enough to know that the so-called fairer sex are just as capable as the lads of enjoying a damn fine beer. Thinking of the beery venues I frequent (The Local Taphouse, Biero Bar, Slowbeer), my gender has never really been an issue. The folks there talk to me as just another beer-lover who can benefit from their knowledge.

So when I do head into a specialist beer venue and attention is drawn to the fact that yes, I am indeed female, it’s unusual. One such evening, two of my favourite beery chums Jourdan & K headed out with me and Tristan to the fairly newly opened Josie Bones, an establishment set up by Chris Badenoch (oddly enough, I knew him as the blogger who cooks with beer, not as the hat dude on Masterchef) and partner Julia Jenkins, also Masterchef alumnus. Josie Bones brags a fantastic beer selection and accompanying nosh reliant upon the nose-to-tail philosophy. If you weren’t convinced of that, then the painting of the headless carcass above the bar would indeed make that obvious!

The first beer I ordered was the Burleigh Brewing Black Giraffe. The fellow serving who no doubt thought he was being helpful asked me if I was sure and didn’t I want to know what it was first. Um, okay, I said, a bit puzzled. He told me it was a black coffee lager and I immediately replied that yes I did still want it.

The glasses with their bone emblem are just gorgeous, but look at the beer! Frothy head and a smooth beer with hints of roastiness. If you let it warm up a bit, you can taste the coffee too. Thankfully, this beautiful drop is available in longneck bottles at most good beer stockists – I saw it at Slowbeer and Purvis Beer in Richmond along with Burleigh’s My Wife’s Bitter.

Sadly, the fellow serving didn’t seem interested when I tried to explain that the schwarzbier style is something I really enjoy (though this is strictly not a schwarzbier, so says Oz Brews News here). Apparently, girls don’t like dark lagers. I tried to engage in conversation by explaining that I did also like hoppy beers and was told that there is more to beer than the hops! Really?! No wai!

Ouch. Being talked down to when I’m trying to engage with a supposedly passionate like-minded individual.

The patronising attitude wasn’t just gender-specific as we all later learnt upon ordering a bottle of BrewDog Tokyo stout. The staff checked with us to make sure we knew that we were requesting to share a 330mL bottle (I’m not sure why when Tokyo’s ABV is 18% or so. We were basically sharing a fortified wine equivalent amongst four people). We were then asked if it was okay to be served Tokyo in wine glasses because apparently beer has aroma, didn’t you know?! By now the four of us were a tad put off.

When said ‘helpful’ waiter actually walked past all four of us having our dessert of kriek sorbet and honey ice cream Bombe Alaska with the Tokyo and said “Interesting pairing there…” at least one of us was hysterical with anger and one with mirth. The meringue looked picture-perfect on the outside but was a little melted. I think they could have used more kriek in the sorbet too, which was more like granita as it was grainy, slushy and watery, rather than being smooth and fruity like sorbet normally is. Of course, using more kriek depending on its alcohol content might not allow the sorbet mixture to freeze properly – I learnt this when making my annual ‘summer survival’ batch of lemon vodka granita (which due to vodka content was really more of a slushie). The honey ice cream was glorious – creamy and very sticky-sweet. I don’t care how daggy this dessert is: I love it.

But back to the beer: Tokyo paired with the dessert in question isn’t that ‘interesting’. If anything, I learnt at the most recent Ale Stars session I attended that kriek and stout blended together is a a sublime drink, akin to liquid Black Forest cake. Plus, it’s way more adventurous than the usual chocolate mud cake with stout pairing.

I have to admit that for most of the week when this story was related to friends, I was livid at its mention. Now I’m feeling more reasonable and one friend pointed out that the attitude of this self-styled beer sommelier (you have to get accreditation to become a cicerone – believe me, I checked) needs to be nipped in the bud because he’s likely to pass it on to the staff he trains.

In any case, it’ll be interesting to see if he tries talking down to me at the next Australian Beer Writers’ Guild meeting, which will be held at Josie Bones. In fact, we’ve booked out this stunning communal table for it (photo taken by the multi-talented Jourdan).

Now, in no way am I saying that people shouldn’t go. In fact, there are several reasons you should. The bar itself is just gorgeous and the tables sit a quartet. It’s quite intimate and the light directly overhead on each of the side tables assists in creating a booth-like feel when you’re seated. The wait staff are lovely and then there is the food. Oh yes, the food. And make sure you go with non-squeamish foodies! More food loveliness to share.

I absolutely insisted upon oysters which came topped with guanciale and Dubel jelly. We’re all still not sure if they meant ‘Duvel’ jelly? Or dubbel jelly? Duvel being an actual beer and dubbel being a Trappist ale. In any case, you could actually taste the beery bitterness in the jelly! Pretty cool.

One of the other waiters politely twisted our arms into ordering a special cherry tomato salad.

Jourdan was pretty excited about the notion of having trotters, so we got that too. They are fritters with romesco sauce though reminded me more of croquettes. I think I’m all croquetted out this year so wasn’t too excited about these but still ate my share.

The octopus and bone marrow ‘cigar’ with a side of green mango salad and nam jim was freaking fantastic. You could see the cubes of bone marrow spilling out of the cigar – an excellent contrast to the zestiness of the salad. I’d probably order this again next time I go!

Next time, I might try to make sure that I have some of the Red Duck Bengal IPA to drink with the above dish. It’s an approachable, satisfying malt-driven IPA.

Let’s continue: how about a serve of black pudding, white sausage, peas pudding and madeira jus? The black pudding was a tad salty but the white sausage was heavenly. The serve is too damn small, oh yes.

Jourdan and Tristan had tried it the day before, so I pretty much got an extra portion of the rolled pig’s head sauce gribiche with crackling served on top. Definitely not as confronting as it sounds, it was delicious and richly flavoured.

We did bulk up our meaty selections with some vegetably sides. I love enoki mushrooms and barley, so insisted upon the pearl barley, enoki and cucumber salad with walnut dressing. A palate-cleansing accompaniment to our rich morsels.

K liked the sound of the pink fur apple potatoes with grilled Swiss raclette cheese. I personally think our table could have done with two serves of this, it was very moreish. You can’t really go wrong with good potatoes and cheese together, can you?

As mentioned above, all four of us fatties ended with the Bombe Alaska coupled with a tipple of the Tokyo stout by BrewDog.

The beer list is extensive and fully supports the national craft beer industry which is excellent to see. It is pricy: this will ensure that Josie Bones remains a place to get some excellent bar food with equally high-calibre beer but might it also discourage would-be beer neophytes?

Regardless, Smith Street in Collingwood is becoming quite the foodie street. Despite the experience with the head beer sommelier, I’m still keen to revisit. Hopefully the man will have learnt some manners by then and I can retire the #beergirlrage hashtag on Twitter. Besides, when Duplo cow wants your money, your money s/he must have.

the bill guardian

Josie Bones on Urbanspoon

Update: we’ve heard back from James, the beer manager at Josie Bones. He’s kindly given us permission to publish correspondence sent to us as follows:

Hi Gem,

I’m James, the beer manager at Josie Bones. Let me start by apologising if I came across as gender biased or patronising in any way. I’m here to assist on the customer’s beer journey and unfortunately there are many people who don’t possess your knowledge and are very shy about sharing what they do know. I fear for people ordering by name or label and finding themselves challenged beyond their tastes and thereby spoiling what could be a beautiful beer relationship. I have had this happen in previous roles and it breaks my heart to see anyone become excluded from the magical world of beer.

Secondly, I do not call myself a beer sommelier. As you mentioned, this is a title that must be earned and I’m very conscious of how far I am from wearing this title. I was hired just as much for my ability to discuss beer with a wide range of people as for my ability to source and arrange a list such as ours. We have had endless conversations regarding an appropriate title and so far “Beer Guy” and “Beer Manager” are the ones that seem to suit. Believe me, I’m no beer sommelier and to call myself such is doing no favours for anyone.

Whether the customer is male, female, educated or naive, from Collingwood or Taylor’s Lakes, I am here to assist them on their beer journey. My passion for beer, food and good times is boundless and I appreciate any constructive criticism that will help me to help others. Perhaps next time you’re in you could introduce yourself as it seems we share many common passions and we could both benefit from a drink and a yarn. And maybe a pig head or two.

Thanks you for the great review and I look forward to making your acquaintance.

Cheers,

James Greenfield
Beer Guy

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biking it to a brewery

Do you remember that Saturday in Melbourne where it rained bucketloads? I do, all too well. A bunch of us decided that we’d ride our bikes from the CBD to Black Rock-based brewery True South. It’s a 22km ride or so and the ultimate reward at the end of a ride is the promise of good beer and nosh. Yep, undoing all the good work you just rode.

true south signage

Our beer-and-bike crew for the day was Brenton, Caz and a former workmate of Tristan’s, C. I was easily the least experienced rider on this trip. Still, I recommend trying it – Beach Road is pretty flat and not too nerve-wracking.

Seeing as we got in pretty early, some folks hit up the breakfasty offerings. Brenton went the toastie, which looks distinctly un-toastie-like. Pretty, nevertheless!

toastie

Caz went with the granola, which tempted me initially. Everything came in separate bowls and you mixed it about to your personal preference. Mmm.

granola

The rest of us tackled the lunch menu. C went with a serve of the salt and pepper squid. Quite a classic: when it’s done well damn does it hit the spot. C seemed to enjoy it.

salt and pepper squid

Tristan went with the True South signature burger. Look at those hand cut chips and that massive patty!

true south signature burger

I went with the local footprint tasting plate – it had all sorts of things that you could get on the menu in greater quantities, such as the salt and pepper squid, the parfait and scallops. There was also crackers, olives and cured meat. Absolutely delicious, really loved it.

local foot-print tasting plate

By the time we were finished with our food, it was most definitely beer o’clock.

beer

Caz doesn’t really drink beer and was delighted to see that the new Little Miss Muffet cider was available. It’s crisp, very clear but I’d personally like it with a little more of a pronounced apple taste. When Melburnian summer finally arrives, this’ll go down a treat!

For those of you who can’t decide what to try, why not go the whole range and get a tasting wheel! This had four of the brewery’s regular suspects, plus a very special taste of their seasonal single batch whose name is debated…I personally like the idea of it being called Mervyn, giggle.

The regular brews are the New World pilsner, a dark ale, a pale ale and their summer ale. My faves out of the tasting wheel were the dark ale (probably because it was such a cold day!), the single batch and the summer ale. We’d just missed out on their wintry Wee Jimmy which I’d previously sampled at an Ale Stars session.

tasting wheel

I wish True South weren’t so far as I’m really wanting to visit again. The brewery is spacious and modern and the food is absolutely to die for! Choosing items from the menu was quite difficult. Of course, you should definitely go for the beer too! I was actually lucky enough to be served by the head brewer Sam but didn’t give her the Spanish beery inquisition as we were all there to just chill out (or I was too exhausted from riding, you choose).

Eventually, Melbourne cracked the shits and a torrential downpour hit us when it came time to leave. To give you an idea of just how wet it was, we cycled 3km to the nearest train station and everyone’s shoes leaked all over the train carriage floor.

Thanks so much to C, Brenton and Caz for their lovely company and not minding having their food photographed by some food blogging wanksters. Incidentally, Brenton and Caz are very with it when it comes to the whole photographing thing being passionate live music photographers. You can catch them on We Shoot Bands. If you don’t believe me, check out this fantastic interview Caz did a while back for FasterLouder: these kids are a big deal!

True South on Urbanspoon

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support the pub that supports you…

…by giving you a fantastic selection of craft beer!

The Royston Hotel is located in Richmond and is a mere hop, skip and a jump from the Mountain Goat Brewery, many of whose brews we’ve discussed on the blog aplenty, and imbibed even more.

It therefore made perfect sense to hold the second meeting of the Australian Beer Writers’ Guild at the Royston where we could not only have awesome local craft brews, but some damn fine pub grub too.

It was bloody freezing the night we went and I hit the stouts early under the notion that it would warm me up a little. On tap, was the delicious Mountain Goat Surefoot Stout (though if you wanted, they did also have longnecks of it in its Rare Breed incarnation, yum!).

As soon as we moved into the dining room, we pored over the menus and even more imbibing began – this time, mainly going with what was available in bottles. It wasn’t easy to choose what to have for dinner but I went with the braised lamb shanks with mash, barley and vegetable jus. Just perfect for the chilly winter’s night! The meat fell off the bone as it should have and it was a very generous serving. Indeed, I didn’t end up finishing my mash.

braised lamb shanks

To drink, I chose a Renaissance Stonecutters scotch ale – a brewery from across the waters in New Zealand. Haven’t had a bad drop from this lot once. Mmm. Really, really sorry about my crappy mobile phone pics – my phone had just enough charge to take bare minimum of photos required.

Renaissance scotch ale

The T-dawg ordered a very satisfying looking seafood claypot. It was humungous!

seafood claypot

Both him and I agonised over a good beer match with his dish – he eventually decided on a passable Emerson’s 1812 pilsner. Nothing to write home about, I’m told. Fellow guild member Jourdan supported this assessment, having drunk it on its homeland New Zealand.

Emerson 1812 pilsner

Personally, I wish the weather had been warmer so I could try out some of the ciders they had on offer. An excellent excuse for a repeat visit. The other diners went with the burger and the big-arse steaks on the menu. While the menu has many delectable options, I was a little disappointed to see that there wasn’t much in the way of vegetarian options that looked as equally delicious as the meat and seafood ones.

Then the ABWG got down to business, not before The Crafty Pint and probably Beer Blokes‘ Prof Pilsner managed to get us all a round of Stone and Wood’s draught ale with their beer gravitas. There was a glint in every punters’ eye at tasting the oh so familiar passionfruit note that the S&W draught ale is famous for! All Ale The Big V was indeed a most excellent secretary, reigning in us young roustabouts and unfurling the guild’s official logo.

The night finished with a blissful pot of Moo Brew’s stout for just about all of us. Well, when we could finally get Crafty and Prof out the door, those old timer beer folks do love a good natter. And rightfully so, as the staff are very sympathetic to the craft beer cause, and know quite a bit about it. It’s a wonderful pub and worth the trek even if you don’t live in the area.

Royston Hotel on Urbanspoon

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