"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Beer in Australia: Sydney

A little over two weeks ago I was perusing the statistical data of my blog e.g. how many hits per post, when they’re being read, and, most interestingly, which countries are reading them.  Of course, being located near the geographical center of the United States, I draw most of my readers from America.  A distant second (but also a mile ahead of third place) is Malaysia.  God bless ya, Malaysia; I have no idea what intrigues you so about alcoholic beverages in an internationally obscure U.S. state but I appreciate your readership nonetheless.  Somewhere towards the bottom—below Germany, U.K., Canada, and even Iran—were our dear mates from down under: Australia.  Something had to be done about this lack of Aussie readership.  So, Nicole and I packed our bags and flew south to become ambassadors of beer by tasting the local brews and spreading the good word of beer in Colorado.
First stop: Sydney.  If you’ve never been then an analogous American city might be San Francisco: a bay, a famous bridge, and a few hills in the city.  We putted around on a harbor cruise, took a walking tour with a local guide, and just generally moseyed about the city and took pictures of the local landmarks.  Well, we did those things the best we could seeing as it was raining harder than Noah’s deluge.  Given that we were walking everywhere, we sought out indoor activities to escape the meteorological Niagara Falls.
Our first brewery (and asylum from the weather) was The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel—Sydney’s oldest hotel and brewpub.  Located in The Rocks (with its hip residences and trendy bars, The Rocks is sort of like Denver’s LoDo), Lord Nelson exudes Olde World charm: gray stone walls, timbered ceilings, and a crackling hearth.  We cozied up to the bar and I ordered Three Sheets Australian Pale Ale (4.9% ABV). 

Before I get into tasting notes, a few words on what it means to be an Australian pale ale as opposed to an American pale ale.  An American pale ale is very much in-your-face with explosive hop aroma and flavor.  This is due to the excessive amount of hops as well as the ultra-bitter American style of hops.  Conversely, an Australian pale ale is much more aligned with an English pale ale; the hops are slight and the flavor doesn’t linger like those in an American.  There’s also a perceptible dry finish to a lot of Aussie pale ales.  Matilda Bay Brewing Company’s Fat Yak (4.7% ABV)—the go-to craft beer in Australia like Fat Tire is in America (I never made the “fat” connection until just now)—is the most ubiquitous of the style.  It’s also the beer I had when I’d had everything else on tap at restaurants and pubs.  Now, back to Lord Nelson.

Three Sheets is colored like a typical pale ale: clear and darkish yellow.  It has a powerful lemony scent and there is a quick hop strike at first sip but it quickly subsides.  An underlying sweetness rounds out the flavors and a typical-for-the-style dry finish completes the drinking experience. 

The next beer I ordered was Victory Bitter (5% ABV), a golden beer with a malty aroma that overshadows the hoppy hints.  The flavor is quite peculiar.  It is spicy but not hot spicy: spices like those you’d find on the spice rack in your mom’s kitchen.  To me, it tasted peppery.  It’s like black pepper and hop bitterness. 
Three Sheets (I forgot to take a picture of Victory)
The day after Lord Nelson was even rainier.  It was absolutely torrential at times.  Nonetheless, we walked around the bay, through the botanical gardens, and into the Woolloomooloo suburb.  There, we got some yummy, yummy meat pies from Harry’s Café de Wheels and we popped into the Catholic church to admire the architecture i.e. escape the weather.  Doing anything outside was out of the question and the other brewery we looked up prior to departure—Redoak Boutique Beer Café—was on the other side of the city.  So be it.  We ran from one overhang to the next, enjoying our moments of dry respite, and walked into the place sopping.
When you hear a name like Redoak Boutique Beer Café what words and images come to mind?  Chic?  Fancy?  Country club?  French?  That’s what you get at Redoak.  It’s just so metrosexual and not at all what I think of when I think of a brewery.  Personally, I like my breweries with stickers slapped on the walls, raucous customers, and the bartender in a wort-stained t-shirt.  At Redoak, you get chandelier lighting, uniformed wait staff, and a Gordon Ramsay wannabe yelling at his employees in the kitchen.  Still, this is a brewery and its merit should be assessed on the beer it makes and not aesthetics.

First up was Belgian Pale Ale (4.5% ABV) which is a clear, light copper in color.  The fruity esters are obvious; it definitely has the quintessential Belgian beer smell.  The bitterness of the hops hit not just the back but everywhere in the mouth.  At the same time there is a fruity undertone that is not too difficult to notice.  This beer is aptly named; it is very much a bitter pale ale and it is also very much a fruity Belgian.  It’s an equal mix between the two.  If you’d like to try its American counterpart, try a Raging Bitch from Flying Dog Brewery and imagine it a little milder.  You’ll then have some approximation of what Belgian Pale Ale is all about.

Belgian Pale Ale

Next in line was Belgian Chocolate Stout (5% ABV).  In its round snifter glass, this dark beer almost looks like a plum with light brown foam on top.  It is pitch black all the way through until most of it has been drank.  Then, when there isn’t so much beer for the light to penetrate, brown highlights start to appear.  The aroma is absolutely exquisite: so rich, so flavorful.  It’s like melted dark chocolate in a glass.  They ought to concentrate this stuff and make cologne out of it.  The taste is equally scrumptious with its smooth, mocha flavor and nutty undertones.  I would almost have proclaimed this the best stout I’ve ever had until Nicole reminded me of one thing: the mouthfeel.  Indeed, Belgian Chocolate Stout is much too thin for the style.  The viscosity just isn’t there.  A stout needs to feel like a milkshake; this one was a little watered down.  Still, it’s a tasty beer and worth a try for anybody stumbling in from the rain.

Belgian Chocolate Stout
  I had a third beer to fortify myself for the next wet leg of the journey: Special Strong Bitter (5.6% ABV).  Special Strong Bitter’s color is clear mahogany or a deep cherry red and the aroma is that of caramel malts and hops.  The hop aroma is, however, somewhat misleading since the flavor of the beer hardly features any bitterness.  Instead, toffee and cherry flavors predominate.  The cherry flavor is similar to the flavor gained through oak aging but I saw no indication that this beer underwent that process. 

Special Strong Bitter
We slogged from Redoak to The Hero of Waterloo, a pub that is said to be the oldest in Sydney.  Like Lord Nelson, Hero is located in The Rocks and it, too, has the Olde World charm.  It feels like an old pub on a dark, English moor (the adverse weather certainly helped create this ambiance).  If Hero was anything other than a bar, I wouldn’t go in it; it looks like a dungeon.  However, jovial blokes and sheilas enjoying a pint and wood burning fireplace made the atmosphere festive and welcoming.  Hero isn’t a brewery but I did enjoy some Aussie beers namely the Four Wives Pilsener from James Squire.  You’ll hear a lot more about James Squire in later posts but all you need to know now is that it is basically the Aussie version of Rock Bottom.  That is, they are a chain brewery but each link in said chain brews small batches that are unique to that location.  Four Wives is one of the flagship beers found at all locations.

We had dinner at The Opera Bar that night and took some night photos of its namesake landmark.  While there, I enjoyed an Opera Bar Organic Pale Ale which, at the time, I didn’t know was brewed by Redoak (actually, I didn’t know until ten seconds ago when I looked it up).  Honestly, I didn’t take meticulous notes on this beer because we were seated outside (under an overhang, of course) and it was dark.  Plus, I was captivated by the bayside scenery.  The notes I did take say that this beer is clear gold in color like a good pale ale ought to be.  The aroma is light on hops and considerably yeasty.  Like most Aussie pale ales (RateBeer calls it an American but I don’t believe it), the hops are mild and fleeting.  The yeast gives the beer a pretzel-like taste.

Opera Pale Ale

Australia is a big country and it necessitates big updates.  I’m going to separate my posts by city so check back soon for the word on Melbourne beers.



P.S. Thanks to our networking with Aussie beer geeks, Australia is now home to my third largest base of readers.  Thanks for reading, mates.

P.P.S. Foster's is not Australian for beer.  It is Australian for "cheap crap we export to America."  You won't find that swill at many Aussie bars or liquor stores.

From the moment I started walking around Sydney, I had a feeling that I would really like the city. Chris said it reminded him of San Francisco but to me it feels more like Seattle. Of course, the gray, rainy weather made it feel like the Pacific Northwest. We walked to the King Street Wharf, the Rocks, the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the Circular Quay, Mrs. Macquaries’s Road, the Government House, a couple of breweries and bars, and some good restaurants.

We did our best to find fun things to do indoors that were not too touristy. But, we did go to Sydney Wildlife World and the Sydney Aquarium. We saw a bunch of spiders including the most poisonous spider (Funnel-web) in the world. The glass between us and them was really not enough. Look up the Huntsman spider and the Redback spider. Let’s just say that I am still having nightmares from staring at those eight legged creatures. In addition, we saw several snakes including the most poisonous snake (Inland Taipan) in the world. They also have a 5-meter male saltwater crocodile. Because it is winter he is being starved so we didn’t get to see a feeding.  And, of course, they have traditional Australian wildlife: koalas, kangaroos, wombats, and cassowaries. The excessive amount of rain made the koalas look especially grumpy. However, there was only one smart enough to sleep in the tree that was under the overhang. The aquarium had two areas with underwater glass tubes that gave a great view of sharks, rays, colorful fish, and a manatee. They had some of the biggest rays I have ever seen.

I used my navigating skills to get us around the city. We made our way to Woolloomooloo—with a few stops to avoid being washed away by the deluge—where we enjoyed a lunch at Harry’s Café de Wheels. Chris told me about the meat pies he had when he was studying abroad in New Zealand so I wanted to see for myself what meat pies are all about. I enjoyed my chicken and veg meat pie so much that I bought a cookbook full of pie recipes.

I did a little research on breweries before we left. One that I came across was Lord Nelson’s Brewery. After a tour of the area of Sydney called The Rocks, we asked our local guide to drop us off at Lord Nelson’s. After looking through their list of brews, I decided on Nelson’s Blood (5% ABV). Nelson’s Blood is a robust porter that is advertised as a cold weather porter. After walking in the rain for the last two hours, this sounded like a great beer. The color was a really deep mahogany red with a tan/beige foam. The description says that espresso and dark chocolate flavors dominate. However, I only found hints of these flavors. The aroma had a light roast aroma, with light roast and malt flavors. The mouthfeel was slightly creamy. Although the flavor didn’t match the description, Nelson’s Blood is quite enjoyable. We snacked on some crisps (what we call chips) until we were hungry enough for a lunch of fish and chips made with barramundi. This is the fish they usually use to make fish and chips and is quite tasty. Lord Nelson’s also has a beer called the Quayle Ale that was named in honor of Vice-President Dan Quayle’s visit.

Overall, I really enjoyed Sydney. I wish we had more time to explore, especially without the rain. There were a lot of parts of the Sydney that I would have walked to but wet shoes, wet clothes, and chilly weather is not too comfortable. I would have also liked to take the ferries to other harbours. For example, we could have taken the Manly Ferry to a suburb of Sydney called Manly or perhaps a trip to Bondi Beach.

The Harbour Bridge AKA The Iron Lung AKA The Coat Hanger

If you don't know what this is then you need to get out more

Yes, that is Col. Sanders eating above Nicole's head.  The whole wall was of famous people who ate at Harry's.

No comments:

Post a Comment