Friday, October 29, 2010

Another Beer Bar Band weekend with added Brewery!

A quick heads up, looking towards another excellent few days beer-bar-band style.

Tonight a pseudo long-weekend beings in Melbourne, with next Tuesday's public holiday for the Melbourne Cup horse race leading many people to take a four day weekend.

Personally, that is not the case for me this year. However, it will certainly be another big weekend be beer-a-plenty flowing, a return to some favourite local bars, a band and a bonus trip to one of my favourite Australian microbreweries.

Today the weather in Melbourne is beautiful and must be taken advantage of, so the wife and I will be heading down to the Mountain Goat Brewery for goat beer and pizza to kick off the weekend.

Saturday night...I am eagerly anticipating an amazingly flavoursome experience with the "Fright Night" Halloween event happening at Biero Bar!

On tap will be the incredible and unique line up of:
  1. Murrays Pumpkin Ale
  2. Moondog Imperial Pumpkin Stout**
  3. Brewdog Dogma
  4. Be Molen Imperial Stout
  5. Voodoo Witchdoctor Nitro Stout
  6. 2 Brothers Taxi Blood Pilsner
  7. Brewdog 5am Saint
  8. Renaissance Stonecutter Scotch Ale
  9. Timmermans Kriek
  10. Weltenburger Asam Bock
**Moondog is a brand new Melbourne based brewery that hopes to open sometime next year, I believe, potentially with a focus on brewing extreme it will be super exciting to try this exclusive Imperial Pumpkin Stout! And keep your eyes out for Moondog in future...because Melbourne may just be getting our own BrewDog type team!

All I can say! More about this event can be found on The Crafty Pint's events page, as well as on the Biero Bar Facebook page.

Hopefully we will somehow be sensible enough to not go overboard with all these incredible beers, as we plan to kick on to Pony for a 2am gig with Sin City. Pony's late night shows are a live music institution in Melbourne...and have provided many historic nights of dirty pub rock. Going to one of their 2am gigs in on my wife's unwritten Fuckit List (not a Bucket List...but a list of "to do" stuff for the settled and domestic "young ones"...that is a bit extreme because it's kinda fucked and likely to leave you a bit rough). Being a Queenslander, she has never experienced the glory of Pony at 2am.

For Cup Day Tuesday, we will be joining follow bloggers from Eat Drink Stagger for a trip down to the lovely Red Hill Brewery and an afternoon of festivities, including a 3 course gourmet bbq lunch, sweeps and...of course...brilliant beer.

Looking forward to reporting back on this weekend...!

[rant] Beer vs Bar vs Bands - Becks Fesitval Bar, Melbourne Arts Festival

Ok, time for a somewhat unqualified and disjointed rant about beers at events. Please tune out if you are seeking to read something informative or professional...(although, this is a personal blog afterall!)...

Last weekend I spent two nights at The Forum, which was under the guise of the Beck’s Festival Bar, for a couple of gigs that were part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival.(MIAF).

Here is the MIAF promo text for these gigs - "Beck’s Festival Bar transforms Melbourne’s iconic Forum Theatre into a house of worship for a series of performances designed to respond to themes of Shamanism, cult bands and music as religious experience."

I'm sorry, but the the beautiful Forum Theatre was hardly "transformed" at all. There was Becks signage on top of the drink fridges behind the three bars, as well as some lame Becks-imaged spot-lights shining on the high roof between acts, but that was it.

But for the real issue...

...I fully understood that attending such a commercially-branded event will no doubt limit my beer drinking options to Becks and several other beers, which - as a craft beer lover - I would probably never otherwise drink. However, I was not quite prepared to be hit with the choice of ONLY two (shit) beers, which really do not deserve a place in the Melbourne music scene.

Those choices were, of course, Becks ($6.50 per bottle) and Kirin ($9 per bottle!!)!!

Both these beers are brewed by Lion Nathan (under licence for their parent company, Kirin), with Becks coming from Lion Nathan's Malt Shovel Brewery in Camperdown, Sydney, and Kirin from the South Australian Brewing Company in Adelaide.

First - how Kirin, which I find tasteless and under-carbonated, can be worth $2.50 more than Becks astounds me (....I know I know, it was because Becks was the "showcase beer" of the night...therefore it was on "special"...but honestly?!?).

Second - why could Lion Nathan not provide one of there local brands, such as something from Boags, or a different style of beer...other than a premium lager, possibly something from the James Squire range? But no, it was just Becks or Kirin, boo.

So...*sigh*...on the Friday night, for The Drones, I drank Becks. I enjoy drinking session beers during rock gigs, especially when it is over 4 hours of standing, but I struggled to make it through a second bottle of Becks, as it was leaving my mouth dry and rough, with a tinge of metallic medicinal burn. WATER PLEASE!

On returning Saturday night, for Mariachi El Bronx, we had some time to kill before the first support began, so we grabbed a booth and considered the other (also limited) drink options available at the bars - Magners Cider, Jack Daniels and Coke premix, UDL premixes and a couple of other brightly coloured beverages which I do not care to recall.

No wonder there has been issues with crowd behaviour at large events that provide bars like this. Such a drink selection will make anyone violent on sugar and chemicals!

Deciding not to rape our mouths with bad beer again, we drank a glass of house red wine. After that first glass, I knew that drinking this house red was not going suffice for another 4 hours of live music. I moved onto Jack Daniels and Coke and WOW/OUCH...sweet sweet terrible sugar hit! (note: my diet has very little sugar in it these days.) I am afraid that I had to wash away the JD+Coke with a Becks...and once again I was done with drinking for the night.

But what's a Melbourne rock gig without beer?!? And I serious had to wash away that JD & coke.

Oh, and The Forum needs to learn from other bars at major venues, which provide an "express queue" for people ordering just beer. The bar queues were annoyingly long and slow, as many people tried to order drinks that were not available or mixed spirits that took time to put together. Since the beer option was so limited, surely there could have been a "Becks only" queue to streamline those wanting to place a simple order of one, two or four figures.

And whilst I'm ranting...LIGHTEN UP Crowd Controllers! Do security staff not realise how much their menacing presence and disdain towards the crowd really sours the mood in a room? People are there for a good time, not to make trouble! Yet the Crowd Controllers stand their and scowl, as though only bad can come of this gathering...and get they ready to jump at any flinch by someone to reach into their bag for a tissue. Joy killer!

But back to the lack of a good bar...

For an event that seeks to be cultural relevant, artistic and even bohemian, to be so bound by the corporate dollar is just sad! Any true artist would be appalled (...expect that all real artists are very poor and need the money. yeah?).

MIAF says "Melbourne Festival is quintessentially Melbourne's festival"...then give us some MELBOURNE BEER! Please? Hell...I'd even drink Melbourne Bitter during a Drones gig! Becks and Kirin is not Melbourne.

Awesome music, brilliant artists, excellent crowds...but terrible beers and bars in a venue that could be so much more!

Thankfully, both nights were ultimately rewarding due to kick-ass performances by The Drones and Mariachi El Bronx

Friday night was opened slowly by the uninspiring post-stoner new-wave hipster rock of The Twerps. The night turned for the better when almost everyone was surprised by the awesomeness of China's P.K 14 as they completely lifted the tempo with a high energy and thoroughly entertaining set! Rocking out, high kicks and love for the crowd...these guys were fun! All songs were sung in Chinese...but that did not matter a bit because they were just so fun! Closing the night was The Drones, who I have declared my love for previously in this blog.

At first I was concerned that their dark pub rock style would not fit the large venue...but that was soon put to rest as they easily engrossed the room with their beautiful mess and noise. The volume might not have quite been turned up to 11 for The Drones on this occasion, but it was definitely at 9 and the performance was nothing short of typical Drones passion and talent.

Saturday night was opened softly with The Ukeladies, with their mysterious Captain Manas - who received the biggest cheer of the night when he stepped up for vocals on one song - as well as Drones guitarist, Dan Luscombe, in a very different mode to the previous night's rock out. Local indie up-and-comers, Eagle and the Worm were next, with a big sound and possibly a little too much desire to be cool, but they were enjoyable enough.

Finally, the usually angry punk rockers of LA's The Bronx were simply joyous in their Mariachi El Bronx persona! They had so much love to share with the Melbourne crowd, engaged the audience and were all class and quality with their punk roots never too far away. They ended the night in authentic Mariachi 7-man lineup mode, singing live rarities such as "My Love" and, crowd favourite, "Sleepwalking". Great stuff...want more!

So my wrap up of the Becks Festival Bar is as follows:
  • Beer - Fail
  • Bar (in this incarnation) - Fail
  • Bands - WIN!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Beer - Fed Square Microbreweries Showcase #2

My weekend starts tomorrow evening...and I am excited to be attending the Fed Square Microbreweries Showcase for the 2nd time, after first experiencing this event back in March (which I blogged about here).

Beginning in 2009, it is the forth time this twice-yearly event has been held...and I can not recommend it enough to anyone and everyone who is even slightly interested in beer!

For newbies to the craft beer scene, this Microbreweries Showcase is a brilliant way to discover what craft beer is all about. Right in front of you, within Federations Square's Atrium, you can see, taste and compare the diversity and difference offered by craft beer. Many will also be captivated by the characters and passionate people behind these beers and breweries, who are doing excellent things for Victorian culture, tourism and beer in general.

For those craft beer lovers who are well versed in the Victorian microbreweries industry and may be wondering why they should bother - when looking at the list of Breweries attending, you may think you've tried them all - disregard that thought because there is plenty of new and/or rare brews on offer, as well as exciting news to learn and insights to gain. Further, the events provides you with a brilliant opportunity to mix and mingle directly with the people creating those beers you love...and may want to know more about.

I actually went along to the March event in the frame of mind that I would not discover much that I did not already know. Thankfully, I quickly discovered that I was wrong and pleasantly surprised by the unique and diverse offerings from breweries I was already very familiar with...and a couple I had never experienced before.

For example, this occasion will mark the first appearance of Beacon Brewing Company (the reborn microbrewery from the Scottish Chiefs Tavern Brewery in Geelong) and Brunswick's Thunder Road Brewing Company.

I am particularly looking forward to trying this year's batch of the Bridge Road Brewers Galaxy Single Hop IPA, which I feel in love with last year (and Bridge Road were sadly missed at the March Showcase, due to liquor licensing, so it is great to see them back this time round), as well as the new Imperial Pilsner from my local, Mountain Goat...I have never tried an Imperial style Pilsner before!

As there is so much happening within the local beer scene at the moment (new beers and bars left, right and centre!), I suspect my pending weekend may also involve a few beers at Beer DeLuxe (who are offering beer cocktails for those looking to kick of - if possible - after the Microbreweries Showcase next door), whilst I soak in the Melbourne International Arts Festival, and maybe even a sneaky trip back to Biero Bar.

At home...I also have 3 bottles of this season's Red Hill Brewery "Temptation" Belgian Strong Golden Ale waiting to be consumed on a warm and sunny Spring day...and this weekend is looking promising for that! After reviewing last year's release of the Temptation back at the start of this blog, I am awfully excited to finally be able to compare personal notes on a seasonal release.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bands - Melbourne still LOOK OUT, Summer!

With Summer approaching, the pages of the local music street-press magazines are growing peak live music season returns...and it is shaping up to be another fine Summer of rock in Melbourne!

Live music venues and bars are certainly buoyed by the prospect of a bumper Summer music season after the mess of last year's Liquor Licencing fiasco, which saw many small venues under threat from conditions that restricted their activity. This was due to an unjustified link between live music and violence, which was suddenly being enforced like never before. However, in the last month - through the great work of Music Victoria, SLAM and Fair Go 4 Live Music - the Victorian State Government has now removed the link between live music performance at licensed premises and crowd controller licence conditions, with the Live Music Agreement!

You can read more about that on the Music Victoria website.

For me, it will all kick off again next weekend with the Melbourne International Arts Festival, celebrating music passion and diversity with cult bands, through two nights of big gigs held at the beautiful Forum Theatre, which will be transformed into the "Beck's Festival Bar" (ug, Becks...I do hope I have time to enjoy some quality craft beer at Beer DeLuxe before and after the gigs...!)
  • First up will be next Friday night (22 October) with The Drones, supported by China's P.K.14 and The Twerps.
  • On Saturday night (23 October) we will be back for The Bronx in their mexican-alter-ego-mode, Mariachi El Bronx, supported by Eagle and the Worm and The Ukeladies.
Looking ahead, other gigs that are locked in include The Drone's frontman, Gareth Liddiard, showcasing his debut solo/acoustic album at The Thornbury Theatre on Friday 5th November (which will actually be my first ever gig at The Thornbury Theatre)...and some little band that I liked when I was a kid, called U2, who are playing Etihad Stadium on Wednesday 1st December.

A couple of my favourite little Aussie bands will be kicking around too. I recommend checking out The Jezabels at The East Brunswick Club on Friday 26th November. The Basics at Northcote Social Club and Papa vs Pretty at East Brunswick Club during October are gigs that I have on my radar as well. Also, if the Collingwood fans have stopped celebrating at the Grace Darling Hotel, it may just be safe to return to catch Blackchords play a Thursday residency.

December will also be a good month for the "old guys" who are still doing good things...especially at The Corner Hotel where you'll be able to catch gigs with Colin Hay, Hoodoo Gurus and Peter Combe! Now that is serious fun!

And for the ultimate experience is Melbourne dirty rock...catch Sin City play the Pony late show (2am) on Saturday 30th October!

Bars - Lessons from Melbourne's beer bars, Spring 2010

Apologies (again) for the recent sparsity in my postings, readers. Recent distractions have limited my time to actually sit down and spill out a decent post beyond the 140 characters of microblogging. Nevertheless, plenty is brewing and I have started to expand my writing endeavors with contributions to the online magazine - Australian Brews News.

Also, to ensure my health is maintained whilst exploring the wonderful world of beers bars and bands,  I have recently entered the world of competitive (or "fun") running, completing my first ever run last weekend with the The Coffee Club 10km that was part of the Melbourne Marathon Festival. Hence, training takes up plenty of necessary time. Next up is the Run Geelong 12km in November (therefore, in preparation...a fair chuck of November may be dry for me)...with the scary outlook of working towards a half marathon later next year...maybe!

As for this blog...there is more than ever to share. Over the past several weeks I have had some incredible experiences, with a whole new side of the local beer and bar industry opening up to me as I delve in deeper to my passion for communicating such things.

Therefore, here are some lessons I have recently learned about navigating some of Melbourne's best beer bars...which I share in hope that it will help make it easier for all who come by here to find and enjoy good beer:

Biero Bar, Melbourne city - ok, Biero is an awesome bar...when you know how to work it! The key to drinking at Biero is to engage the bar staff....although...that is not advertised anywhere, which is a serious flaw because the average patron will not know this - as I found on my first visit, when I struggled to find an available beer that I was interested in. They do need to work out a solution for this...even something as simple as writing "looking for a different beer to try?...just ask us!" on their menus or on the mirrored display wall, which would go a long way to opening up the bar's intent to new customers. And whilst I'm kicking up the negative...they need to work on their website...because it is promoting the wrong information about the particular their opening hours, which I recently discovered when I rocked up on a Sunday - after checking the hours on the website - and found it closed. Disappointed! In case you're is a pic of Biero's current trading hours:

I am also a little concerned for the temperature conditions inside the small confines of Biero during the warmer it is already noticeable.  Sure, that will keep you drinking...but the ventilation provided simply by small windows and doors may need the support of serious fans or air con to keep the bar comfortable on crowded hot nights.

Beyond the bad stuff (which I'm sure will be ironed out, because the bar is still only very young), Biero can be a brilliant place to enjoy good beers.  Their tap beer pricing policy is fantastic - $5 for pots and $10 for pints - no matter what the beer - is the way it should be done, making life really easy for a need to count your pennies when you know it's simply $5 or $ well as providing some serious bargains for the small-batch beers that you will find on tap! Recently, I was in Biero drinking $5 pots of 2 Brothers Voodoo and James Brown...and was in awe of the taste sensation and value! Joy.

When the bar is not crowded, it is indeed a very nice spot for enjoying a beer and a if that if your desire, try and avoid the general peak times of Friday and Saturday night.

Biero Bar Manager, Ray Kent, is an impressive bloke, who will blow you away with his beer knowledge and passion for good and better beer, plus excellent things in general! A chat with Ray has truly converted me to a Biero Bar I gained a valuable insight into the perils and joys managing a venue like Biero (...although, such a chat it is not an experience that every customer will have the pleasure of, so Ray's passion still needs to be conveyed through all the bar staff).

Ray has had to work super hard to bring in some incredible product and keep out the boring and bland macro-beers, as well as establishing an excellent independent profile for the bar, in a very tricky city market.

The Biero team has a beer mission that I fully agree with...and they are here to serve genuine craft beer to anyone willing to try. They are not trying to dump on anyone or keep out/fight against the big beer business...but are offering an alternative to showcase the amazing diversity in the beer world.

If Biero Bar is going to survive...and I really want it truly needs our support. So please, pop along soon and try a new beer. I am definitely looking forward to my next visit...and revisit...and more and more visits!

Beer DeLuxe, Melbourne city - don't be afraid to ask for a taster or sample of a tap beer if you're not sure about it. I have recently found the Beer DeLuxe bar staff to be more and more accommodating for patrons seeking to try something new or wanting to know more about the beers. Further, good things may be on the horizon during the Summer months, as the Beer DeLuxe staff consider exploring supper offerings for those enjoying a warm evening and night out in Melbourne city.

I just wish Beer DeLuxe has a clearer pricing policy for their taps...or, preferably, displayed prices for their tap beers...because you never know how much a tap beer is until you pay and many of the bar staff don't actually know the price until they check the register.

The Royston Hotel, Richmond - there is something about the beer taps at The Royston that makes the big dark beers extra deliciously smooth and creamy. For example, over the past several months I have drunk the Moo Brew stout, Holgate Temptress chocolate porter and Bridge Road B2 Bomber black Belgian IPA and Little Creatures small batch Oatmeal Stout on tap at several bars...but each one has tasted best and had the most amazing soft thick texture when poured at The Royston. Yum!

James Squire Brewhouse at The Portland Hotel, Melbourne city - I have seriously been neglecting this bar, my is essentially a macro-beer bar, owned and operated by big business (Lion Nathan)...and my quest at the moment is really focused towards the small players in the local industry.  However, last week I rediscovered that the small-batch beers brewed in the Brewhouse microbrewery are still worth trying! I enjoyed their Highwayman red ale and the Two Centurions American IPA. However, I did suffer a hangover the next day...which is generally chemicals, preservatives and adjuncts NOT found in craft beers.

The Local Taphouse, St Kilda - as always, there is PLENTY of awesomeness going on at The Local. Unfortunately, my visits there are very few and far between simply due to its difficult proximity from my home. Nonetheless, it is worth keeping a close eye on their blog and Twitter to make sure you don't miss out on some incredible events, beers and entertainment. Their website has also been tweaked a bit recently, which has definitely improved its usability and the information is still far too flashy, graphic-rich and tricky to navigate in an online world which is being optimised for mobility and speed.

Great Northern Hotel, North Carlton - I am yet to visit Great Northern, but I keep hearing fantastic things about this I'm keen to get there soon.

And as a random side, if you'd like to read about some of the beer and food matching events that seem to be popping up at pubs everywhere these days...keep your eye on the Eat Drink Stagger blog, such as this post about the beer and cheese matching event recently held at The Court House Hotel in North Melbourne.

Finally, for online information and resources about Melbourne beer bars, no one currently does it beer than The Crafty Pint website at: