Tag Archives: gastropub

and we have in the red corner, beer – in the blue corner, wine

It seems only fitting that at a pub called The Courthouse one should deliberate upon the merits of both good beer and good wine and so one evening a large contingent of the Australian Beer Writers’ Guild found themselves at The Courthouse in North Melbourne to do just that at the invitation of Scott, the manager and the newly appointed (at the time) head chef Julian Hill.

Now what on earth was a gastropub manager doing, inviting a bunch of self-confessed stinky amber ale lovers to a dinner where there would be wine?! Conversion, of course! Did it work? We’ll see…

I have nothing but deep admiration for wine nerds: there is so much to learn and as much as I would love dearly to be as wine nerdy as I attempt to be beer nerdy (for I also have bucketloads to learn in that area too), the truth is, I’ve no idea where to start. Yes, it is that simple. It also feels more intimidating. It might sound stupid, but this is not a thought process exclusive to foodie-drinkie aspects of my life. I’ve been a classical flute player for half of my life and absolutely terrified of learning jazz because I never felt I mastered classical.

However, as if to ease us in, we were given a canapé that had only a beer match: an ocean trout cornet matched with the Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus. It looked beautiful and tasted delightful and got the table talking excitedly in promise of what was to come.

The first proper course, the entrée, was crumbed pork head with sauce gribiche and remoulade.

It seems any meat on the pig’s head is prized for its porkier-than-usual element and the course was matched with a whopping three beverages: two beers – the Stone and Wood Pacific Ale (formerly known as their Draught Ale) and the Weihenstephaner Kristall Weissbier, a beer from the oldest brewery in the world. The wine chosen was the Max Ferd Richter Brauneberger Juffer riesling from 2008.

To my palate, the best match was the Kristall Weissbier though even that was not entirely perfect: I felt the course needed something along these lines style-wise but more ‘beefed up’. The Stone and Wood beer oddly enough got too hoppy: not usually an issue I would raise with this particular beer as I find it quite fruity and enjoy its passionfruit notes.

For the next course of venison shanks en crepinette with sweet potato and horseradish, it was the same deal – two beers and one wine and left up to us to nominate the one that best matched the course.

The meal had a distinctly French slant to it and this largely reflects what The Courthouse do, both in their dining room menus and the pub fare available in the less formal area.

From left to right we have the Bridge Road Bière de Garde, Three Ravens Dark Alt Noir (a Melbourne microbrewery out in Thornbury!) and the Alpha Box and Dice ‘Enigma’ Barbera-Cabernet Sauvignon blend from 2009.

The liquid match here was no contest: it was the Bière de Garde (god, am I forever jealous I missed out on imbibing this confessed favourite on hand pump at the Tanswell pub in Beechworth. The Three Ravens I had sampled prior to dining and the Barbera-Cabernet Sauvignon I found too rough on my palate. Yes, I emphasise ‘my’ palate and fully disclose that it is not one developed for adequately judging wines.

Usually, French-influenced dining gives you the choice of a cheese or dessert course. Scott and Julian exceeded our expectations by spoiling us with both: to finish, we were treated to ‘textures of chocolate’ and raspberry sorbet. It sounds like a standard dessert but the treatment of chocolate in its various iterations ensured it stayed interesting.

The two beverages served with this were the Hargreaves Hill Abbey Dubbel and the NV Sanchez Romate Cardinal Cisneros Pedro Ximenez, the latter of which won most of the hearts around the table as best suiting dessert.

But Hargreaves Hill was yet to come back to a triumph for the last course of Isle of Mull cheddar, beating the De Bortoli Melba Reserve cabernet sauvignon 1999 vintage with their humble English Special Bitter. I confess I am very partial to a good ESB though I seem to recall that this was one of the pairings that divided the table the most.

The excellent news is that you do not have to be an Australian Beer Writers’ Guild member to come along to such a dinner as the folks at The Courthouse have decided to host one for the general public! Simply head on to The Crafty Pint for booking details – several ABWG members will be there and we’d love to say hello and hear your thoughts on whose alcoholic beverage reigns supreme!

Crafty on the right, Champion of Beer. Chris McNamara on the left, Reformed Wine Nerd ponders his defection to the dark, beery side. Could it be that he is thankful for his defection when beer was named the winner on this very night…?

BYO boxing gloves, shorts and boots in your chosen colour, of course.*

The Courthouse on Urbanspoon

*we encourage responsible drinking. Please don’t brawl. Bruises and the like will hurt when you’ve sobered up.

Please follow and like us:

northside gastropubbing antics

Thanks to the font of beery information that is The Crafty Pint, the Australian Beer Writers’ Guild convened at the Terminus Hotel in Clifton Hill recently. Good god, the menu is superb, as is the massive dining room.

Most of the folks went burgers and the like but I wanted to be difficult and test out the specials. They had a few asparagus dishes to celebrate its return to season. However, the first dish I chose was the house-made black pudding with pigs’ trotter sauce and kipfler potatoes. This is a rich dish and was perfect for the chilly not-quite-spring evening. Apparently as a (British) kid I loved black pudding. Thought it was about time I tried to reconnect with the childhood love.

As my main, I decided upon the asparagus baked in prosciutto, with pinenuts and feta. You might think not substantial as a main, but after the black pudding, it was just what I was after. Might be something I can try reproducing at home too? Divine.

This meant room for dessert…again on the specials menu: baked Alaska. I begged to share one with Tris as it was $9 per person, but meant for two. A little bit pricey for its size and not quite as much finesse as the one at The Lincoln. No matter, it was baked Alaska, squee! It had banana ice cream inside, and none of that fake-tasting banana either. I actually chose dessert over beer too!

In what seemed like an excellent balance, Tris tested out some of the offerings on the standard menu. You have your parmas, burgers, salads and many types of steaks but he went with a carpaccio of beef, rocket, caramelised vinegar, truffled pecorino. Quite refined for a starter!

For mains, his selection was the English cheddar souffle with radish, frisee and pickled onions. If not for my wanting to sample the specials, I would most likely have chosen this as a main too.

While the service was always courteous and friendly, it was a tad haphazard. There were a few mix-ups with our drinks orders, being the craft beer-swilling wanksters we are. They never seemed to give any of us who ordered the True South dark ale that when asked! We did also have to wait quite a while and despite indicating that we’d prefer entrées and mains to come out separately, they still came out together. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to other foodies despite this.

Craft beer aficionados should definitely put this pub on their radar to visit – there’s a damn fine selection of good beer on tap. I’m currently in the process of persuading my parents to have a long overdue family dinner here one evening!

Terminus Hotel on Urbanspoon

Please follow and like us:

spring hops and curd you say…

It’s pretty much a match made in heaven: I know that when I’ve had a bit too much beer to drink, I start to crave cheese pretty badly. So when I read about North Melbourne’s Court House Hotel having some sort of beer and cheese matching called ‘Spring Hops and Curd’, I asked a fellow beer nerd @injerarufus, if she’d like to check it out with me.

I’d been to The Court House before for a beer dinner and decided not to do a post about it because…well, it was pretty damn average. Three courses of croquettes (one course errantly called a fritter) does not a degustation make. The best thing about the whole evening was unexpectedly bumping into my good friend Colin and getting to chat personally with the head brewer Jamie of Stone & Wood Brewing from Byron Bay. Even if it did mean having to suffer through the meal thanks to some old bird’s rudeness. Apparently some people don’t like food bloggers or new media. AYHSMB.

Before beer and cheese, we had meals off the front bar menu. This was some freaking fab pub grub. Oh, and we were in food blogger friendly company! Mr Rufus got a steak and didn’t mind T taking a snap.

T-dawg and Ms Rufus got the corned beef with mash. I nearly went for this myself! I was quite surprised when T said he wasn’t overly impressed by the corned beef. I think he found it…wanting.

I had no such complaints with my lamb, rosemary, honey and feta sausages with mash. Yeah, feta in a sausage, weird eh? But it freaking worked. As did the honey! Seriously, I could have done with an extra sausage. Generally speaking, the serves were a little on the small side.

The time came to fork over $25 for three cheeses matched with three beers. I’d been chatting to Ben Kraus, head brewer of Bridge Road Brewery on Twitter and he had informed me that their saison would be one of the beers served so I was fairly excited.

When we got there, no one could really tell us what beers were going to be served…till they were served. We ended up with glasses of Stone & Wood draught ale, the Little Creatures pale ale and the Bridge Road B2 Bomber. I’ve waxed lyrical about the B2 Bomber before: it’s a damn fine drop and was easily the most suited to cheese pairing.

While the Stone & Wood draught ale is a good session beer, I don’t think it was really a suitable candidate for any of the three cheeses we were given. I will happily drink pints of it come summertime – the passionfruit note in the beer screams summer! – but this was a disappointing beer choice.

The Little Creatures pale ale was more suited to the cheeses but still not fantastic. I have to confess that beer-wise I wasn’t confident the pub knew what it was doing.

This was further backed up by us being told that we were to taste all the cheeses and beers and ‘decide’ which beer went with what beer best. Erm…is that how it works? I certainly didn’t think so. This approach was a little too open-ended for my liking.

I spoke with someone in the beer industry who suggested that this might have been the pub’s way of getting rid of unwanted or excess stock (the beer, not the cheese). UGH.

Don’t get me wrong, the cheeses were delicious and the manager very kindly supplied me with full details of what we gorged ourselves on upon request.

From left to right: Locheilan Mundoona cow’s milk cheese from the Goulburn Valley; Shaw River Buffalino buffalo milk cheese from Yambuk; Strzelecki blue goat’s cheese from Gippsland. I used to love the stronger, more pungent cheeses but found that I finished the Locheilan Mundoona first then the buffalo. Don’t think I’ve forgotten that you nicked a good chunk of my blue, T!

Best pairing would be the Bridge Road B2 Bomber with the buffalo milk cheese – the B2 Bomber is a tad smoky and went a treat with the smoothness and occasional ‘bite’ of the buffalo.

Of course the night didn’t end without the new guy trying to charge $18 for a Mad Abbot tripel…poor kid wasn’t having an easy run (he’d managed to stuff up our orders quite a bit that evening).

Overall, I have mixed feelings about the Court House. I love the food, but I’m not convinced they know what they’re doing with beer (and believe me, it pains me to say that). I’d definitely go back for a meal though would steer clear of their beery events. Having said that, their beer dinners are excellent introductions for those who don’t have much craft beer exposure.

T wagered that the beer and cheese do would be a bit of a cock-up and sadly he was right. I was very stupid indeed to bet my sherbet fountain on it. Don’t you make the same mistake, y’hear?

In any case, all four of us did eat, drink and stagger. Kind of inevitable when one of your awesome dining companions sports the following badge.

300920102654

The Court House on Urbanspoon

Please follow and like us: