Penny Blue & Moondog

If you find yourself in the CBD of Melbourne, in fact pretty much right in the middle of the city, just near the GPO building and you are looking for a place to have a few drinks then you can do much worse than popping into Penny Blue for a beer or two.

Now you won’t have too much trouble finding something interesting to drink, it’s more likely that you will struggle to narrow down the choice to just one beer. More than once here I’ve entered into a decision daze where I’m left staring at the fridge or beer list unsure of what to choose.

I did manage to make some choices when I was there a couple of days ago. I started the journey with Moondog Black Lung II. The first sign that Penny Blue is a seriously good beer bar (apart from the three hand pumps sitting on the bar) was that I was asked if I would like my drink at room temperature rather than from the fridge.  Seriously when was the last time a bar asked you that when ordering a stout? Also as you can see from the photo they then pour it into a wine style glass and give you both the glass and the empty bottle to take back to your oversized couch.

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Brewery Visit – Temple

Temple's very stylish bar

When Temple opened their doors just before Christmas it seemed that every beer wanker in Melbourne had some sort of collective epiphany, all of a sudden every person with an Untappd login and a Twitter feed were raving about the new Temple to beer in the inner North.
Because I don’t like crowds and I’m a little bit lazy it took me a couple of months before I got around to making the big trip up Lygon Street to Brunswick and I have to say I’m glad I did.
Temple is a slick operation, in fact I haven’t seen a schmicker (any chance that’s a word?) looking brewhouse and bar since I tripped down to True South last year. The bar is all concrete, the tables dark wood with stainless seats, behind the glass a brand new shiny brewhouse looking all technological, and interestingly, ready for expansion if all things go well. You can view the brewhouse from downstairs or head upstairs to a second ultra modern room with more glass and a balcony which overlooks the brewery.
I should mention here that if you have never been to a brewery that ‘viewing a brewhouse’ generally speaking is not that interesting. It’s not like going to sugar shak or Willy Wonka’s, there is a distinct lack of action and orange dwarfs and the magic happens within big stainless steel tanks away from prying eyes. You will get to see a brewer cleaning stuff though and maybe if you are really lucky a fermenting brew causing some bubbles in a bucket of water.
But it’s still worth going to Temple for two reasons 1. the food and 2. the beer. I’m going to start with the food. Quite simply it was amazing, even if you are just drinking and not looking for much you have to get the caramel/chilli popcorn, it will change your life and ruin all other forms of popcorn for you. If you are looking for something more substantial I can tell you the potatoes were fantastic and the Brunswick rarebit was gooey and rich and very nice.  

The shiny and new Brewhouse

And all the food goes nicely with beer. Now there were 6 beers on offer the afternoon I was there, I’m not going to tell you about all of them because, well I didn’t take particularly good notes and hell you should go along and find out for yourself. The highlights for me were the Soba Ale which is an unusual beer, it is completely sessionable, easy to drink and refreshing, yet complex and just a little left of centre all at the same time. It is slightly sweeter than I was expecting and had honey overtones. A nice little beer – Schooner.
Saison seems to be the style du jour, everyone has one and everyone is raving about them. In fact between Temple and Atticus Finch we had three different Saisons that afternoon and I have to say I think the Temple Saison was the pick of them. It was a very good example of the style (as I understand it) a gentle sipper, super refreshing and light, lively and perfectly suited to a sunny Sunday afternoon, or working on a French farm – Pint.
The third beer is another one that everyone is raving about, a black IPA called Midnight IPA. The way I see it IPA’s seem to go one of two ways, either the New Zealand/Australian big fruity hops direction, which means although they are bitter and hoppy they are still quite approachable. The second direction, and the way I think the Midnight goes is the American direction, big bitter, oily, resinous hops. I tend to prefer the first approach. I find it often takes me a little longer to get used to the American approach and it would be fair to say it was like that with this beer. I thought the first pot I had was okay, but nothing spectacular, but by the time I was finishing my second pot I started to declare ‘This is a very good beer.’ It was still very bitter, but the body was starting to come through, not roasted nuttiness that you get with many black IPA’s but rather a smooth, velvety almost oily mouthfeel. A challenging, but ultimately very pleasant brew – Pint.
So in summary, get out to Temple. With their range of beers there is something for everyone (the Bicycle beer is a weird little salty tart beer that’s worth a try and the Brunswick draught is a good quality simple beer that won’t scare your not beery friends) and even if you don’t like beer (although then why are you reading this blog?) the food is just outstanding.

Bridge Road Brewery

So last week you went came to a country wedding with me. When we left the story we were still at the Stanley pub drinking Carlton Draught. The day after saw a huge change of track though. We dropped the most macro of macro brews for some micro love.

That’s right we wandered through a dirt car park into the Bridge Road Brewery in Beechworth.  We were confronted with a beer garden in full sun, a hundred or so people seated along long tables being shaded by huge market umbrellas. We secured a spot and then walked inside.

In one corner of the converted stables were a series of smallish wooden vats. In these wooden vats is where the Bridge Road brews are born. In front of them a cluster of small tables (you would really want it to be a sunny day for this place to offer seating for more than about 30 people), a shelf selling all sorts of merchandise and most importantly a bar.

Now the problem with brewery visiting (particularly in the country) is that eventually you’ll have to drive (for us all the way back to Melbourne town), but you also want to try as many beers as possible. This is where the tasting glasses come in handy. They are little glasses of about 120 odd mls, They come in ‘packs’ of four, six and eight.

Myself and Jord were spiting the taste fours. So I returned to the table feeling like a giant with two tasting glasses in hand.

First up was the Bling IPA. It’s one of the growing range of ‘Pale’ ales which ain’t pale at all. Rather this is an amber colour, so amber it almost has a red tinge. It pours with minimal head. It’s a very bitter beer, almost acidic apple flavours coming through. The bitterness lingers as well, lingers for a good 45 seconds.

Next up, the couldn’t be more different Porter. It poured dark with a tea coloured head which sticks around for the whole drink. Lovely and smooth in the mouth. Malt flavours at the front of the sip and then roasted coffee tones coming through (how beer wanker did that sound hey?) overall a very nice beer.

Between rounds we went to order some food. Now locally the brewery is known for its pizzas, and they were doing a roaring trade (and looked really good) but I have to recommend the Ribs. They are on the ‘To Share’ menu, but don’t be fooled by that, keep them for yourself. The meat actually falls off the bones they are that succulent. Dip them in the pepper and rosemary sauce and you have yourself the best meal this side of the Stanley pub.

But then it was back to the beer. It was time to move onto Bridge Road’s more specialised European style range – Chevalier. Selecting the Bier de Garde and Saison I headed back to the table.

The Bier de Garde was a fantastic beer. It was a red amber colour, with no head and very little carbonation. It was an unusual beer, almost gingery and very refreshing. It was sweet at the beginning, and then spices come through in the mid sip and a slight hoppy aftertaste. It almost tastes like a baked apple with the sweetness of the apple and then the spices (particularly star anise) coming through.   

The Saison meanwhile was a pale yellow colour, almost the colour of apple cider. It had a wispy white head that stuck around. It was quite soft in the mouth. First comes the yeast flavours, like a rustic sourdough bread, and then the hoppyness kicks in, although it’s quite friendly and gentle. There are fruity overtones with a slightly acidic taste.

Jord and Myself at the Brewery

Moving back inside I saw another beer that looked interesting. A Chestnut Pilsener It wasn’t on tasting though, so I bought a bottle and wandered back to the kids outside in the sun. This beer was the only real disappointment for the day. It poured a pale orange colour with next to no head, being only lightly carbonated. The problem with this beer was that it was largely tasteless. I was not getting a chestnut taste, or hops, or malts or really anything. It tasted to me like nothing more than a thin bodied pilsener.

But this was a small blight on an otherwise brilliant day. If you find yourself up Beechworth way, I would recommend skipping the bakery (which is massively over rated) and instead heading to Bridge Road, sit in the sun, have a few beers and for God’s sake, have the ribs.   

Rankings:

Bling IPA : Let’s have a Schooner

Porter: I’ll have a Pint thanks

Chevalier Bier De Garde: I’ll have a Pint thanks

Chevalier Saison: Let’s have a Schooner

Chestnut Pilsener: Maybe just a Pot.