Tag Archives: pub food

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

good times, good mates

A while back, I used to live in North Melbourne. I really loved it but due to health issues had to sponge off the ‘rents back in suburbia and we all know how Wordsworth feels about that.

I hadn’t seen a good fellow music school comrade-in-arms for quite some time and we decided to catch up. He’d remembered that the Town Hall Hotel on Errol Street was a great pub (still is, if you ask me) and so we decided to meet up for a casual pub meal.

the lovely sign

It hadn’t changed much – everything I loved about it was still there – the red-lit back dining room, the usual pub food suspects, the rad barman with the trucker cap and geeky glasses, the great rock music.

Dave deviated away from his normal ‘roo (which I highly recommend) and went the good ol’ faithful chicken parma. In fact, this is the pub that broke my chicken parma virginity. God, that was in…2007? Pretty embarrassing and very unAustralian. Don’t worry, I’m all assimilated now: I know what the baggy green cap is famous for.

faithful chicken parma

Embarrassingly for me, my body (body yes, not just tummy) is going through the stage where it’s wanting to expel its contents so no rich food for me, pout. It’s a bit irritating given that the body still wants to expel its contents even when there is nothing to expel. I suspect that I may actually be from the Elizabethan times and my four humours are out of whack or I have a sizeable amount of black bile. To be fair, the fairly constant nausea and/or vomiting is causing my levels of black bile to rise, duh. Thanks arsehole body.

vegetarian shepherd's pie, in medias res

The vegie shepherd’s pie was freaking delish, but of course I filled up on bread beforehand. Rookie-foodie mistake. Sadly, the pie conquered me. ‘Fess up, guys, why is your bread so damn good? I suspect they put mash potato in it but maybe I should one day just bloody ask.

beautiful bread baked on premises: what is their secret?!

Despite that, Dave and I were still considering the crumble of the day to share – till one of the staff members stuck a “N/A” sticker on it. “Nooooo!” I ejaculated, and said “I shake my fist at you, sir!” (said shaking of fist was performed – Dave can confirm this). His deft reply was “I quake in my boots.” Well played, sir.

After taking what was a humiliating amount of time to finish a pot of Coopers’ Pale Ale (oh the shame), both Dave and I had a soft drink before hitting the road.

Errol Street, I’ve really missed you. And crumble, you will be mine, oh yes. You will be mine.

Town Hall Hotel on Urbanspoon

what the funny foreigner brought for Show and Tell


I never had to do Show and Tell at school in England so when I first arrived in Australia, the concept absolutely terrified me. My dad didn’t have any cool stuff because he was a male nurse (explaining that to your racist and sexist classmates was a nightmare) and I didn’t have a photo of my Guyanese grandfather accidentally surfing a canal alligator (true story), which could have potentially saved me. All I had was a guidebook from the Greenwich Maritime Museum and most of the kids in my class didn’t like that history shit. Apparently, I was the only one who thought Lord Nelson’s single handle combined dining utensils contraption was cool.

Shandy luckily had no such problems last Tuesday at the Scottish ale themed Ale Stars. Back complete with jetlag, he had a damn fine Show and Tell in store for us. It all began with an adorable little keg of indiscrimate size. Let’s just say that there discrepancies between amount of liquid quoted and amount of liquid allowed. One could possibly argue that 2 + 2 = 5? Yeah, I’m being facetious, sorry.

The secret stash in question was Fyne Ales Highlander and it was indeed special. Not very carbonated as you can see for yourself in the glass – very little lacing. It felt very thin-bodied in the mouth. Slight hint of sweet fruit? I personally found it very hard to place but it was a very enjoyable drop. Cheers Shandy for the stash, it was most kind of you.

Fyne Ales Highlander

On this particular evening I drank a buttload of non-Ale-Star-specific beer and so decided to soak some of it up with some reinforcements from the bar menu – the chicken salad. Generous serving of chicken and leaves in a pastry case which you can then in turn eat. Pretty nifty idea. Incidentally, the last couple of sessions, Ale Stars has had more than just pizza on offer during the tasting – now we’re getting croquettes, bread and dips, some addictive chicken thingies. The nibbles have stepped up a notch ever since Feral Brewery came to town.

chicken salad

First official beer to start post-minicask smuggled treat was the Innes and Gunn original. It was mentioned that this might be similar to Young’s Christmas Pudding Ale. It smells very vanillary and sweet in the glass which is a natural flavour from the oak barrel the ale is aged in. If you like gentle notes of rum, raisin and toffee then this is the beer for you. This was very well received by the Ale Star crowd as it’s pretty yummy. I’d love to drink this again and will definitely get some in the future if I can find it.

Innes and Gunn original

But why the clear bottle? Surely they can’t be as daft as the makers of the much maligned (and rightfully so) Coldie? Not to panic, beer nerds – it’s too malty and doesn’t have enough hops for the beer to go stale.

The second beer was probably my least favourite out of the four – True South’s Wee Jimmy Scotch ale. We were warned to let it warm up a bit to experience its flavour at its best. It wasn’t unpleasant but the idea of smoked peat malt doesn’t get my mouth watering. It’s not bitter (it shouldn’t be due to very few hops present) but it’s savoury in a weird way. Rich-bodied and very dark. Please note, I don’t think this is a bad beer, it’s just not to my personal taste. It’s also not strictly Scottish (gasp!): True South is out in Black Rock in Melbourne. Woo hoo, another brewery fairly nearby to visit in the future.

True South Wee Jimmy Scotch ale

The third beer was BrewDog’s Paradox Isle of Arran, a Russian imperial stout. Phwoar. It smells goddammed awful but tastes anything but. I found drinking this to be a more satisfying experience compared to their equally monstrous Tokyo stout. This is pretty fecking alcoholic at 10% ABV but the alcoholic taste doesn’t detract from the rest of the flavours of the beer, which is why I think I prefer this over Tokyo. The Paradox has a rich, full body and is very pleasurable to drink with notes of chocolate and typical stouty goodness with spikes of whisky. More, please.

Brew Dog Paradox Isle of Arran

We end the Scottish ales showcase with another wee heavy beer…from Belgium: Brasserie d’Achouffe’s McChouffe. Sounds like a sneeze, innit? This one was an odd ball, as one might suspect from a Belgian-made Scottish-style beer. Its smell reminded me of a lambic (which is not a particularly pleasant smell) – sour. It’s alcoholic-strong and yet appears watery as if the flavours of the beer are diluted. I know it sounds odd but it was confirmed by at least one other person. Also, are gnomes Scottish?

Brasserie d'Achouffe McChouffe

Before I finish, one last beer – the Cascade First Harvest. I’m not quite sure why I was so enthusiastic about trying this because to be blunt, it was pretty bloody awful in a commercial beer kind of way. I had to look longingly while my partner in crime got stuck into a glass of Brewboys Ace of Spades stout.

Brewboys Ace of Spades stout & Cascade First Harvest

Thankfully, I also got to try: Brewboys Maiden Ale, Double Dog Double Pale Ale (phwoar, hoppy!), Murrays Sassy Blonder and even managed to cadge a Mountain Goat IPA off Shandy at the end of the night. Yes, it took that much beer to wipe the trauma of the First Harvest from my palate. Well, I thought it was a good excuse anyway. As always, Prof Pilsner had his report on the night up way before me, and you can take a gander here.