Thirty-seven new beers. In five days.
I reckon you could say my recent trip to Brisbane was somewhat successful in terms of getting to try some local beers. Especially when my wife and daughter were along for the holiday as well. Which means a whole day spent walking around Dreamworld sweltering in the heat and another spent walking around South Bank when the temperature was 654 degrees (yeah, maybe not that hot, but hot. Okay?
But I still managed to hit up a few bars and breweries when I wasn’t doing things other people wanted to do. Here’s a bit of a rundown.
On the first night (which was also my birthday) the family rocked into Jamie’s Kitchen for dinner, not knowing it was that Jamie (Oliver, you heathen). The food was nothing too crash-hot and the decor made me think it was Hog’s Breath for foodies.
But they did have an interesting beer on tap – Green Beacon’s amber ale. Which I ordered of course.
Afterwards, the wife and daughter went home and there was a pub crawl of sorts with Brisbane bloggers Darren and Liam. I say ‘‘of sorts’’ because it’s never a good idea to get smashed on the first night of a family vacation.
We met up at Brisbane good beer icon The Scratch in Milton. Which was located in a strange place – around the corner from the XXXX brewery and amidst a strip-mall for take-away food outlets. The Scratch itself is far smaller than I expected – wouldn’t take too many people to pack the place out. And more ‘‘rustic’’ too, with old chairs and tables – some appeared to be made from packing crates. Still, I liked the place.
Next we hit up Brewski in Caxton Street, which was more upmarket in terms of decor. And includes a super-cool IPA light over the bar (beertographers take note – empty beer glasses on the bar throw tiny ‘‘IPA’’ reflections which would make for arty photos). The bar had a beer geek deal for that day where all bottled beer 500ml and up could be had for take-away prices. So Liam, Darren and myself split four or so bottles including Croft’s tasty Saison Grenade and a chardonnay barrel-aged saison from 8 Wired (I bought that one, because I was curious about what it tasted like. What a schmuck – it tastes like chardonnay).
Last up for the night was Cartel, just up the road. This is an odd-looking, tiny place – it’s all outdoor but with a roof and a picket fence separating drinkers from the footpath. Inside there’s odd mismatched furniture, including milk crates with cushions fastened to the top. If I were a local, with Brewski just down the road, I’d see little reason to go here.
The next day was my birthday celebrations with my family. That meant I got to pick where to go and what to do. First up was breakfast and book-shopping and then going to bottle shops to buy beer and visit Newstead Brewing Company – where Darren had arranged a birthday gift of a mixed six-pack of their beers.
They’ve got 12 taps there at Newstead – and I made sure I tried everything I hadn’t had before. That included their own range. The standout? The 21 Feet Seven Inches porter (I believe the measurement refers to the 1974 Brisbane floods). It’s a lovely mix of chocolate and coffee flavours – and when I drank the bottle from the mixed six-pack at my hotel later, I turned up the air con so it felt more like porter drinking weather.
The food at Newstead is pretty good. We ordered way too much – and somehow scored a plate of bonus onion rings as well – and I needed to head back to the hotel for a snooze. That meant I missed the chance to visit the nearby Green Beacon Brewing Company. Even though it was a few streets away, I felt like I’d done my dash. Which I regret, because I was seriously impressed when I tasted their beers later in the trip. Especially the kolsch which I’d only bought one can of because I usually hate that style.
The next day’s beer highlight was checking in a XXXX at Dreamworld. The lowlight was visiting Hipwood Brewery at the International Hotel for dinner. The food itself gets a definite thumbs-up – and the dining decor is well above what I expected from a hotel.
But I can’t say the same for the beers. I ordered a tasting paddle and, when the waitress brought it over, she couldn’t remember the order of the beers. She even picked them off the paddle and held them up to the light to work them out (here’s a tip Hipwood; how about placing numbers in each space on the paddle and having the same numbers on the beer menu?).
After tasting them, I was sure she’d gotten the order seriously wrong. Unless their pilsner really does taste like a hefe and their red ale and IPA are supposed to taste the same. Aside from the beer I guessed was their pale ale – which I ordered a schooner of – none of the others impressed me very much at all.
The next day was spent with the daughter in the heat of South Bank. Well, except for the part where we sat in the shade of the Tomahawk Bar for lunch. Maybe it was the wonderful respite the bat offered from the heat, but I developed a real soft spot for Tomahawk. If you’re in the area, you have to check it out – and they’ve got 13 taps. So there’s no reason not to make an afternoon of it.
The final beer stop of the trip was the Brisbane Brewhouse, on our way to the Gabba for some Big Bash cricket. I wasn’t expecting too much here but was surprised – the food was nice and their range of beers really quite tasty. Well, those I had from the range – there were eight beers on the menu but only three of them were on tap.
Which was a bit weird – they’re down the road from a cricket stadium where a match is being played that evening. I’d have thought they’d want to make sure they had heaps of their beers going for the punters dropping in for a few.
People have said the Brisbane beer scene is pretty good and I’d have to agree. I might even make it back there one day. Maybe in the winter – don’t care too much for those 654-degree days.