Published in the City Hub and City News.
A wise man told her that beer should be enjoyed with food, cherished on its own and appreciated like fine wine. To find out why, Alex Harmon ate and drank her way through Sydney, searching for the Holy Ale…
Tommy’s Beer Café, Glebe
Beer lovers are clinking their glasses for this little piece of Eastern Europe that has sprung up in Glebe. It’s a mini-beer hall with long wooden tables and pretzels in the window, with warm Slovak hospitality within. They make their own duck sausages, which should be dipped in chili mustard salsa and matched with one of their dark Czech lagers. I’ve seen even the daintiest of customers eat a whole Camembert circle here, washed down with a Belgian Florist fruit beer. The mixed platter of duck, schnitzel and pork belly with sauerkraut and red cabbage is ideal for those suffering beer-goggle greed. Top it off with their Beeramisu - bitter beer-soaked sponge fingers covered in mascarpone. They may sound like strange bedfellows, but it’s a match made in beer heaven.
The Local Taphouse, Darlinghurst
Beer aficionados of Sydney need no introduction to this place, but for learners like myself it was a crash course in my search for enlightenment. Owner Guy Greenstone assured me that beer “is down to earth and doesn’t take itself too seriously.” Even so, it shouldn’t be underrated. Their menu of Feral Brewery Beers currently on offer in their tap takeover month seemed like the beer periodic table, (beeriodic table?)
But we made our way through their Tasting Paddle ($15/5 beers) quite smoothly. The “Boris” Russian Imperial Stout with hints of chocolate and coffee impressed me, as did their Funky Brewster Booster, a Gose infused with caper berries. There’s passion, creativity and joy for beer in this 1930s style tavern. Guy hopes to create a “bar where everybody knows their style like they do with wine.” With over 220 beers on offer each year, you’d better pull up a pew and get to work.
The English aren’t known for their food, but they’re good with combinations - fish and chips, peaches and cream, and of course, beer and curry. Kumar, the Head Chef of Aki’s, has taken a leaf out of Brick Lane’s book and teemed up with beer expert and blogger Mark Chipperfield. They’ve created a ‘Spice & Hop’ dinner experience that showcases contemporary Indian cuisine as you learn about how the different beers alter and enhance the flavours of the dishes. This is only on for two nights, Tuesday 6th June at Aki’s and Wednesday 7th June at Abhi’s in Strathfield. At just $85 a ticket you’d better book your tickets fast.
La Boheme, Balmain
If their restaurant is an opera, this bohemian European classic has four acts. First up, a tasting tray of four tap beers - a dark and a cloudy wheat beer, both from Germany and two Czech lagers, each served at their appropriate temperatures. An entrée of steak tartare is a nice match with the light Czech lager, the coldest of the tap beers - somehow it seems important when you’re eating raw meat. Their schnitzel mains are matched by a beer of their home country, so a Hungarian veal schnitzel with spicy gypsy sauce comes with a bottle of Dreher classic. If you have room for the closing act, they do a tasting tray of European desserts with crepes, chocolate mousse, and strudel with raspberry coulis. Encore, I say.
4 Pines, Manly
Pine trees may be part of Manly’s history, but the 4 Pines is going to be part of its future. It’s a place where Manly residents (and us ferry people) can get a handcrafted and naturally brewed beer. This microbrewery make their own Pale Ale, Stout, Kolsch, German Wheat beer and Extra Bitter, plus they put on a specialty beer every month just to keep it interesting.
They do daily “sip n chew” specials where they match beer with meals like mussels, curries and parmigianas. If you’re still not impressed, they’ve even teamed up with some astronauts and created a beer that can be drunk in zero gravity. It seems the sky wasn’t the limit for the 4 Pines guys.
Helm Bar and Bistro, Darling Harbour
This quintessential Sydney hot-spot is running a “beer & fare” special, pairing a boutique beer with a meal during the cooler months. They’re capping this off with a Boutique Beer and Cheese event on Wednesday 29th June. For $40 Mark Chipperfield will take you though an informal but educational lesson on this unique but compatible pairing. He’ll show you how some of the best beers around - Pilsner Urquell, Redback, Alpha Pake Ale and Schwartz Porter - can be expertly matched with cheese. Move over Merlot, cheese has a new de facto…
While Alex was at Helm Bar she took in a meal, and this is what she thought:
Typical Sydney- keeping the dream alive! It’s a cold April evening but Helm’s magnificent overhead heating means I can enjoy my meal on their wooden deck overlooking Darling Harbour and still feel like it’s summer. A similarly salubrious menu, their Thai Mussels ($19.50) with ginger, chili, coconut milk and strands of lemongrass are swimming in flavour. Have a nautical affair with the Seafood Paella ($25) with generous helpings of prawn, mussels, octopus, prawns and chorizo. The 300g Black Angus Scotch Fillet ($26) is char-grilled and cooked to your liking, with a green peppercorn sauce and humble shoestring fries. And if you’re still not feeling on top of the world, a rustic Moroccan Lamb Salad ($17) with whole chunks of pumpkin, chickpeas and lashings of mint yoghurt is a generous accompaniment. If Europe does mulled wine in winter, contemporary Sydney does beers in the cooler months. In May and June, they’re celebrating specialty beers to lure you out from hibernation. Chef Frederic Booms is decking the halls with a ‘beer & fare‘ special, pairing a boutique beer and a dish, with that dish also using the beer as a key ingredient. Combined with the radiant panel heating, your cheery spirits will say good riddance to indoor weather.Helm Bar & Bistro
Aquarium Wharf, 1 Wheat Road, Darling Harbour
Ph: (02) 9290 1571 www.helmbar.com.au