Published in the Inner West Independent and City News.
Fresh off the back of seeing the incomparable Christa Hughes ‘Do Bowie’ in Ziggy at the Enmore Theatre, it should come as no surprise that I’ve been swilling amber ale like nobody’s business. In fact, with the Christa’s earlier renditions of Cold Chisel’s Cheap Wine and Memphis Slim’s Beer Drinking Woman to spur me on, you might think I’ve started early on Christmas. This little lush would of course prefer it if all your seasonal paper bag purchases are made at independent bottle shops - my local favourites are Amato’s Liquor Mart and Annandale Cellars.
So far this month I’ve been expanding my beer repertoire. If you’re a novice like me, try Cascade Pure [RRP $15.99/6pack]. It’s the least beery beer I’ve ever tasted, and I finally get that thirst-quenching element you’ve all be talking about. The end of my beer-drinking novitiate is nigh though, because I actually reached for the Cascade Pale Ale [RRP $15.99/6 pack] because I wanted more flavour! It’s dramatically different – think malt, fruit and crisp hoppy bitterness. If I hadn’t recently tried the Four Pines Kolsch I’d buy a pack.
All beers aside, I’m pegging cider as the drink of Sydney’s 2011 summer. One of the first brands that made me revisit it as a drinking category was the Swedish brand Rekorderlig. They’ve trotted out a new semi-sweet Apple & Blackcurrant combination that’s hitting stores right about now. I’m told the only way to throw back this baby is over ice.
As if to prove cider has has come a long way, I was gifted with a six-pack of the new Strongbow. When I was a teenager, cider was synonymous with Strongbow; but as I recall, it was best avoided. Well nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, and funnily enough nor is Strongbow! My guess is they’ve adapted the formula to compete in this new cider rich market. They've got a bit hipper too, so maybe you'll get to revisit at a music festival like Stereosonic?
Of course I’m all for the responsible service of alcohol, so here’s my token effort: head to Eveleigh Market on either Saturday 29th October or Saturday 5th November, and hunt down the Matilda Bay Brewing Company. They’ll have some free tastings of local produce matched to their craft beers like Fat Yak or my personal favourite, Big Helga. She'll be served with a pork, seeded mustard & cabbage mini pie.
Alternatively languish with a lager at Essen Restaurant & Beer Cafe. Geert Elzinga dishes up northern European cuisine in the type of space you can comfortably let your hair down. Moving on from classic schnitzels of his Una’s days, this summer he’s going lighter and more produce driven with cured salmon and Dutch croquettes. Though Geert has an extensive selection of beers, he’s also predicting a Sydney summer of cider, so expect to find some on his extensive list. You’ll also be pleased to note that many of the premium tipples he sells are sourced from local bottle shop hero, Ultimo Cellars.
If you prefer loftier lager settings, how does one built in 1856 sound? New kid at The Rocks, Bar100 is set in a restored heritage space, complete with cathedral ceilings and bespoke chandeliers. It’s actually four bars in one and can hold up to 850 beer drinkin’ women (and their assorted hangers-on). While I’m yet to give it a whirl, I have heard the food selection will include both Middle Eastern flavours and French technique.
If I still haven’t sold you on beer or cider, I also was impressed by what I found last week at the 2011 Citibank NSW Wine Awards. I must confess to writing off most of NSW because of poor experiences in the Hunter Valley. I feel a bit ashamed for throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The winery I would most like to apologise to is Mount Majura Vineyard who produced a beautifully balanced 2010 Tempranillo ($40). Sit back and let it seduce you soon. You also might want to visit the Southern Highlands - what I tried was surprising, and it's close enough to visit!
I end this column after tripping in from Time Out Bar Awards. Before the Absinthe hangover sets in, I would like to offer my congratulations to at the team at Eau-de-Vie who took out the Time Out Bar of the Year. No surprise to me, as Luke Redington made the most memorable cocktail I’ve drunk all year – a Bloomsbury Bitter. It captured the essence of a beer, in look and flavour, using house-made Knappstein Lager syrup. If only all cocktails could be that good… I promise to persevere with them regardless.