Saturday, January 12, 2013

Beer Down Under - Sydney

Ah, long term travelling.  It's great, don't get me wrong.  But sometimes you face dilemmas.  Such as when you want to sample a bunch of local craft beer, but you're in Australia where everything is unbelievably expensive for poor backwater Canadians, and you're on a tight budget.  What do you do?

For starters you drink a lot less beer.  :-(

The Aussie dollar is really strong ($1.06 CDN), and you have to use a lot of them to buy anything.  Fortunately, all taxes are included in prices, and there is not a culture of tipping, so that's like getting a 30% discount compared to eating out in BC (12% HST + up to 18% tip).  Even so, it's costly.

Also, craft beer in Oz is quite expensive relative to other products and even other alcoholic drinks such wine and mass-market light lagers.  A 330 mL bottle of "normal" craft beer will generally cost you $4 AUS.  Pints are $10-$12 for "normal", and more as the alcohol content increases.

Despite being in beer survival mode, I did manage to try a craft beer or two here and there.  Though nothing terribly exotic.

Red Oak Brewing

In the heart of Sydney's business district is Red Oak, and their theme is beer and food pairing.  They have tasting events and the like.  Cool stuff.

Like most Aussie pubs they don't do tasting flights - in order to get a taster you have to order a food pairing "tasting board", where they pair a gourmet tidbit with each small sample of 4 beers.

The food was excellent.  And the beer was well done, if not exceptional or overly adventurous.  I felt the pairings, while appropriate, were generally safe as opposed to mind-expanding.  The pairings worked, but none resulted in a dish that was greater than the sum of its parts.  (A bit like Den Dyver in that respect.)  Still, a worthwhile concept, and one that will hopefully help to legitimize craft beer as a proper beverage.

The beer is no longer brewed on-premises, so tours weren't available.


Walking past Lavender Bay, we spotted a major Diageo office.  You might remember them as the corporate overlords for companies (oh, I'm sorry, I mean "brands") such as Guinness, Jose Cuervo, Tanqueray, etc. as well as Bushmills and Oban which I toured in the British Isles last year.  I swear I felt the Eye of Sauron upon me as I strolled past.  (Or maybe that's just because I'm writing this from New Zealand...)

Lord Nelson Brewery

Dean, head brewer of Lighthouse Brewing in Victoria, also brewed for the Lord Nelson earlier in his career. Situated in the "Rocks" neighbourhood a stone's throw from the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, it has a solid lineup of British-style ales with a matching interior.  Unfortunately the brewer wasn't around, so we couldn't get a tour.

Some hoppy refreshment on a very warm Sydney day.  The Lord Nelson is definitely worth a stop if you're in town; and let's face it you're going to be at Circular Quay next to the Opera House at some point anyway, why not walk up the hill for 5 minutes and have a proper pint?

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