Wizards of Oz part four: cider with Aussie (and other fruity tales)

My experiences of pubs and bottle shops in Melbourne and Sydney have certainly whetted my appetite for a return visit. But they also opened my eyes to a parallel but even less explored phenomenon: the even newer vogue for alcoholic cider and even its pear equivalent, perry.

Many of the establishments I visited during my 10 day stay in the country had at least one cider on sale, often on draught, with unthreatening imports such as Ireland’s Magners and Sweden’s Rekorderlig being extremely widespread. Of greater interest, several of the products available came from native producers.

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Wizards of Oz part three: Sydney back to Melbourne

Two days and one full evening in Sydney before returning to Melbourne for a few more days saw me dragging my Australia-domiciled German colleague Carsten to the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel in The Rocks area of old Sydney, not far from our hotel.

While Victoria is perhaps the spiritual heart of the Australian beer renaissance of the past few years it isn’t the only part of the country to partake of the “craft” beer revolution. The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel is a great example of the new beer diaspora the country now enjoys. Indeed, it’s one of the longest standing emissaries of fine beer in the country, having begun brewing in 1986. The pub itself apparently dates from 1841, making it the oldest licensed hotel in Sydney. That it primarily makes British-style beers seems only appropriate. That it makes among the most convincing facsimiles of British beer styles I’ve yet encountered overseas makes it doubly worth visiting. Continue reading “Wizards of Oz part three: Sydney back to Melbourne”

Wizards of Oz part two: chilly draughts and burning wallets

The transformation of the beer scene in Australia over the past few years appears to be even more evident in the pubs and bars of Melbourne than it is in the bottle shops. Even the most resolutely conventional pub seemingly offers at least some small concession to new wave brewing, if not necessarily to micro brews and brewers.

This often takes the form of Matilda Bay Brewing Co’s recently-introduced, American-syle Fat Yak Pale Ale (4.7%, actually owned by Fosters) and Coopers Brewery’s straw-coloured Pale Ale (4.5%, not actually a newcomer but perhaps the brewery that inspired the Australian beer renaissance). Both beers were available widely, including at my Melbourne colleagues’ “local”, the Mitre Tavern on Bank Place off Little Collins Street.

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Wizards of Oz part one: Hawthorn bottle bonanza

Tokyo had provided a tantalising view of how far the Japanese craft brewing movement has come in the last few years. But ten days in Australia prior to that had given me a much better opportunity to appreciate of how good beer can inspire new devotion and put down new roots.

Despite being a beer-loving nation Australia had, until recently, largely forgotten (or perhaps ignored) its brewing traditions and past. But as one of my first blog posts on The Alternative Tipple implied, that has now changed.

Going back to Australia after a gap of thirteen years proved just how much the situation has altered for small brewers. On my previous visit to Melbourne, what had looked like becoming an entrenched if fairly small scale part of the overall brewing scene (if Michael Jackson’s Pocket Beer Book was to be believed) was in fact petering out. Only a handful of new wave breweries looked like making it into the new millennium. On top of this, many of the more interesting old brands were fighting a rearguard action to stay alive in a country that had rewritten its brewing history around endless bland – if perhaps fuller-bodied than many – interpretations of international lager.

Be aware of Australians gifting beers: four from down under

One benefit of my day job is that it constantly brings me into contact with folks from around the world, whether as colleagues or through business. One downside is that many of those who I’ve worked with eventually choose to go home. But my work being what it is, our paths may well cross again. And if I’ve done my job of boozy education properly, such meetings may well see my tonsils crossed with exotic liquor.

Such was the case a few weeks back when a company “global summit” brought my Australian colleague and chum Tim back to Blighty with a brown paper bag full of micro brews from the land down under. As I’ll no doubt find out for myself when I return the favour and head to Melbourne and Sydney this autumn, it seems the Oz brewing scene has undergone a revival since I was last there in 1998.

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