Tuesday was the day I was most knackered in Melbourne, only 3 hrs sleep despite being exhausted can only be a result of jet-lag confusing my brain into not knowing what timezone it should be in.
East of the city where the posher clothes shops were, I'd actually found a brew pub so it obviously needed to be visited.
6. Crafty Squire, Melbourne
Despite the constant championing of the hopelessly optimistic Outdoor Roof Terrace, it was a freezing cold day and a porter in front of the fire was more the order of the day, perhaps not the kind of image that a Brit would get of Melbourne but if it works for me in Knottingley on a Tuesday night, it works for me here too. Plenty of James Squire ales were available of all style, and the chap who looked like he could be called James Squire seemed happy to run through the selection even if I had made my mind up pretty quick about the porter. For Alanna, it was lemonade time and a look of bemusement that beer can be black - not sure I'll be converting her to ale any time soon. Two businessmen were enjoying a 17 hour lunch break over a few dozen pints, and a woman who'd lost her child was propping up the bar with an air of Prisoner Cell Block H about her, but all was quiet otherwise. We had a 4pm work start and wanted a coffee to wake us up so even I didn't linger to try a different beer.
|At least 11 ales on, I'd have tried them all if I'd not been working!|
|A not very real but still welcoming fire.|
|Me in front of the brewing equipment, very Sheffield Tap|
After a better night's sleep, Wednesday was probably the highlight of my time in Melbourne. A bright sunny morning, a nice breakfast, a walk around Southbank, a terrifying trip to Eureka Skydeck 88 and most importantly, the Neighbours tour. Just two regrets of the tour, sadly I didn't get to meet Carla Bonner, as I could have told her I once described her as being like Reading. Travis Burns seemed a nice chap, but I guess he's probably more Newbury. Just don't ask me which character Maidenhead is.
|A pigeon shat on my head just as this photo was taken - it is a sign of good luck!|
|More Newbury than Reading.|
7. State of Grace, Melbourne
Despite being on auto-pilot to find bar, ales and drink (and then ask awkward questions about dining later), Alanna made sure we were shoehorned into a back room where a sullen waitress with a British accent served me some crazy Oz fish and I'd just about remembered the name of one of the ales I'd seen, something about a rabbit I think. The place was quirky, highlight being a giraffe head sticking out from the wall, a hidden underground cocktail bar, and the doors disguised by so much decor, it was impossible to find the toilets. If you've been to the Duck & Drake in Leeds with the acoustic guitar as a door handle, you can understand what I mean. All this quirkiness made the miserable staff attitude harder to take, when you think how generally amazing the customer service is in Melbourne. Whilst i gulped down my amazing fish risotto thing (meal of the week) and drank my weird dark ale, Alanna moaned about goats cheese so I listened to the "power business couple" next to us who seemed to be champagne and wine bloggers, the absolute scum. Very clumsy too, dropping glasses and pepper pots at any given opportunity. I thought beer bloggers were annoying, but at least their attitude was 'people are allowed to like what they like' which was refreshing. Weird place.
|I kinda wanted a pint of Fosters after seeing this|
|A very nice meal indeed, no idea what it was!|
By Thursday, me and Alanna decided to separate so she could go shopping and I could have what was more of a 'traditional' BRAPA experience, albeit in a very untraditional way. After brekkie at favourite 'go to' place The Bank on Collins, I did some touristy shopping of my own before 12 noon opening time.
Down a little snicket, I was nearly mown down by an Aussie Iain Duncan Smith (AIDS) but managed to circumnavigate so very enthusiastic smokers outside to find this little cracker .....
8. Penny Blue, Melbourne
This was a dimly lit but very classy little bar with some amazing furniture, a "World of Beer" wall like a bookcase but with bottles, and a periodic table of beer styles in the gents, perfect for someone struggling with Chemistry A-levels as I did. The welcome I got from the young chap was verging on "manic", but in a good way and when he said "let me start you off on this beer", I was quick to say "woah, hang on, you say 'start me off' as though I'm staying for more!". Bad mistake, he was sulking with me after that and joined the others in smoking aggressively though the open window, whilst the ghost of Steve Irwin wheeled in a beer barrel and nearly ran over his own feet. In other news, my emergency beermat was required for this first time this holiday which shows how well Aussie bars/pubs do for beermats. But it was a mere blot on a good experience, one of the most relaxed I'd felt all holiday - errrm, I mean "business trip!" As a postscript, I brought Alanna here on the Saturday knowing it was more her style, an equally manic barmaid played a good selection of 00's ska-punk before letting herself down with an Aqua double A-side! Got chatting to a really passionate beer man half working behind the bar, and after a couple of bottled recommendations went well, he casually mentioned he had a CASK ALE PUMP ON! What? Well, it was hiding at the far end behind a menu ala the Deuchers in Largs JW Sharps Bar, with a grimy ink blotted pump clip. It was a german style, but unmistakably cask, chocolate, smooth, nearly room temp, not fizzy. Heaven. Cask ale in Melbourne, it can be done!
|An amazing bottled ale from NZ I was recommended on the Saturday.|
|Emergency beermat gets an airing, but where is Coton?|
|The Museum of Beer.|
|The Periodic Table of Beer Styles|
|Peculiar furniture was a big feature.|
Buoyed by this experience, I hot-footed it down to the Flinders Street area which I hadn't really seen - it was the best weather so far, almost roasting in the 23 degree sunshine!
A seagull eye-balled me from the pub sign, but it was time to go in......
9. Beer DeLuxe, Melbourne
Finding the entrance was weird, it felt like some kind of arts centre cum cinema cum burger restaurant with an astroturf 'red carpet' style walkway and a digital sign welcoming you, not quite the Anchor Anchor it has to be said. A stressed out looking bearded chap tried to remain patient as I tried to take in the huge amount of beers, and I got the impression that this is a small chain pub, perhaps like a Market Town Taverns of Oz. I had a pee and went to sit outside next to a huge group of Asian suit wearers who were making such a lame attempt to finish their burgers, even I was annoyed and I'm the smallest eater ever! They'd only left a matter of seconds before seagulls, sparrows and some weird foreign birds with curvy beaks were all at the table, feasting themselves. It was appalling, it felt unhygenic, but it was properly fascinating. Not since I saw a rat steal a chip at the Horniman at Hays by London Bridge have I felt so revolted in a pub. A sparrow struggling to take off as it took a huge slab of tomato covered in mayo back to it's nest is one of my abiding Melbourne memories. The beer was amazing, the sun was great, and Flinders Street was chaotic with lunchtime commuters but it had a real vibrancy about it. I felt very Melbournian.
|"Tipping not just for cows" errrm, what? Aussie humour.|
|Hello Mr Pink Star toilet cleaning block thing!|
|Can just see pub 3 across the road.... not far to walk then.|
In some ways, this was the most satisfying pub visit of all eleven. I think the reason was it not English themed, not touristy, yet still an actual fair dinkum boozer. As I said at the time, you could really have mistaken it for a Holt's pub in Greater Manchester's finest. Carpetted, beermats, nervous looking men watching horse racing and then placing hurried bets at some contraption just over my left shoulder, a good range of ales served by bored staff, and an old man with one eye even used his stick to wave me away from his table because it was occupied by a "soon to be arriving group of Sheila's", though not sure that is a direct quote as he just gargled at me. This felt like BRAPA - possibly my only issue being that they treat it's 1860's opening date with huge pride, very much like we'd afford a 9th century church. Anyway, after singing "you've got no history you silly convicts" under my breath, I settled down to watch a bit of Perth Glory v some team with Coast in their name, and it may have switched to Melbourne Somebody v Wellington Sheep (which I think is in New Zealand so not sure why they are in the same division!) Very confusing but a cracker.
|I assume Princes Bridge Hotel is it's old name|
|A pleasing pub view in any country|
11. Charles Dickens Tavern, Melbourne
You enter down this staircase, but it was a very modern soulless one which made me think they'd missed a trick with the whole Dickensian theme, they could have at least had a few cobbles, drips of water, urchins laying in the gutter, and a youthful Aussie pickpocket who brandishes a switchblade knife but returns your wallet at the bar with a chuckle saying "I was only kidding mate!" I walked in drenched, brandishing two huge boxes of doughnuts in a huge green jacket with a hood up. The staff clocked me, and a friendlier place would have made a joke out of this spectacle. Well, it was heaving with lunchtime drinkers and diners, reminded me of a York tourist pub such as Ye Olde Starre Inne on a summer weekend raceday when they can't cope with the amount of trade. Dirty plates everywhere, the smell of grease, just awful. I tried to defend it to Alanna at first as being "properly pubby" but once I'd sent her away with the doughnuts (put her out of her misery) so I could get an unbiased picture, I realised she was right, this simply was a shithole. So much so, I almost started to enjoy it. The highlight being an old bloke, who looked EXACTLY like the type you'd see propping up the bar in Rochdale Spoons at 8am, he actually OWNED the place despite looking extremely Dickensian with the snarl and face to boot. My out of date (Dec 2015) Oakham Bishops Farewell was lovely, Alanna correctly identified my glass was filthy (not since Blacksmiths Arms in Naburn have I seen one so bad) so I supped from the bottle. "THAT IS THE LAST BOTTLE OF THIS!" snapped the Eastern European lesbian, what was I supposed to say? 'I'm honoured to be drinking your 10 month out of date ale?' I went back for a Sam Smith' s Pale, and sensing this made me a regular, the two barmaids started being civil to me, and then someone came along with a cloth and actually cleaned my table. The magic had gone! I drank up and left.
Saturday was our last day, we revisited Sherlock Holmes and the Penny Blue as mentioned, then it was about a 2 day journey home. Fantastic experience, the whole week.
|Plane home in my regulation Qantas pyjamas.|