18 months ago I made a trip up to Sydney to see a mate and check out the beer scene up there (here is the link to that post). This time I saw my brother and his wife, a different friend, and also an improving beer scene.
While it was sad to see Coogee After Dark is no longer trading, it was nice to see some other small bars picking up where they left off, even if they still may not be appreciated by the locals as much as they should. Case in point is Yulli's, a fairly small bar in Surry Hills, that was my first beer target for the trip. Walking in to be greeted by Carl with a casual vibe and a big bushy beard made me feel at ease this wasn't going to be a wanky Sydney bar, then this sense was upgraded to excitment to see Thirsty Crow on all 4 of their taps, and the Vanilla Milk Stout was one of them. Carl said as soon as he saw my reaction to the taps, he knew I wasn't from Sydney, as the beer snobs they tend to get only seem to comment "It that all you have?". Anyway, with that disappointing fact made, it was time to enjoy my first beers, and my first chance to taste some of the other beers Thirsty Crow come out with.
Next was the American Pale, which was only slightly bolder in malt and hop character than the previous, which was a bit suprising for the style. The bitterness was not as much as I was expecting to get, but the balance seemed quite good, so a good starter for anyone looking to get introduced to this style before going into IPA's. I am not sure whether I was just quenching my thirst or just wanting to get to the Vanilla Milk Stout quicker, but it was not long til I was giving Carl the nod to bring the next beer to the table.
After my first taste of this beer nearly a year ago, there of course was a high anticipation coming into it. On this occasion I was first drawn to the slightly roasted/dusty character coming from the malt I did not think I had tasted in it previously, but then remembered to let it warm up, and then all of what I had enjoyed with it previously came back. I suppose the other thing I remembered was that I have just come off the back of brewing my own Milk Stout with vanilla in it, and probably boosted the sweetness for my own taste (and it seems, most other people that have tried it and enjoyed it), so was maybe expected that to be more in this as well. Speaking of other people, getting a glass of this for Hannah to try was funny as with a face that looked like she had just swallowed a lemon she said she had liked it, but I am still not sure.
From here it was a big step up to the Road 2 Ruin Imperial Stout, which I really noted the dark fruit character from the midpalate which helped mask a bit of the 10.2% alcohol going on in it. Still, like many of the beers on show, there is still a cleanness coming from the flavour so it doesn't become too overbearing on the palate, and a smooth but light texture to let it slide down the gullet nicely.
I started with the Coffee and Fig from Epic, which I have to say was fairly dominated by coffee, and like our own homebrew Coffee Nut, was not able to get much else from it. Their Portamarillo was much more my style with the light bodied brown malt with a nice soft smokiness the held well across the palate but did not leave you with a dry mouth in aftertaste, and definitely not the smoked ham character the Bamberg, or my own Hickory Stickory Bock, came out with.
This was closely followed with the Prickly Moses Tailpipe Imperial Brown that for me came off as a Nut Brown, but with a bit more sweet malt aroma, that had me holding onto this one til the end as my last sip from the paddle.
The 4 Pines Mexican Adobo Rudy was neither here nor there for me, as apart from the slight chilli heat, was not getting much else that was interesting me. Unfortunately I have to say I was also a bit disappointed in the Marin White Knuckle Double IPA. But that could be explained by the lack from freshness seeing it had travelled from the US. Sticking around for one more, I had to make up for the DIPA and go a Murray's Icon2IPA which fit the bill of a DIPA much better, especially seeing it is a more local beer.
After that Mick took over proceedings with dinner at his place, and with a pregnant wife, took the opportunity to crack open a few wines while he had people to drink with. Still, they did indulge my beeriness by bringing back a bottle of an Italian Stout (fermenting in a wine bottle just so he could keep some wine aspect to it) from their recent trip to Europe.
Seeing I was there for one night only, and had drunk a fair bit of alcohol on that night, wasn't til lunchtime before I was ready to re-engage with beer. After experiencing a small bar, and and old favourite, it was time to hit a Sydney pub and see if this was being affected by the influence of better beer coming into Sydney. I am happy to say, the response is in the affirmative. Ok, the Empire Hotel may have just been refurbished, so is a good time to make some changes to the drinks available, but on tap and in the bottle, there was enough there to keep me interested and find beers I thought might engage the taste of Hannah and her friends. Seeing Coopers have some dominance, not just with the Green, but also one of the Thomas Cooper's Selection beers on tap was a surprise, but then also seeing Two Birds Sunset, Balmain Pale, Murray's Whale was also a good sign of the changing scene for beer in Sydney. Ok, the Balmain didn't do a whole of a lot for me, but is still much better that the standard brews I was only expecting to see (I didn't trust Hannah when she said there were 'fancy beers' at this pub), and then happy again to see a different selection of beers in the bottle, including the Two Birds Golden and Hopworks Horns Up IPA (the former having some butterscotch character that I don't think is intended, and the latter being a bit over carbonated).
Anyway, thanks to Mick and Nic for hanging out for dinner and brekkie, and Hannah for willingly hanging out for all of my beer journey, and giving me some beer shampoo. I now have somewhat more anticipation as to a continued improvement on the beer scene in Sydney after this trip...still, nothing on Melbourne!