Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Beer - Red Hill Brewery Temptation

"Another warm weekend in Melbourne makes for another afternoon perfect for relaxing and enjoying a quality cold ale" what I thought, as I walked into the Randall The Wine Merchant shop in Hawthorn.

Wandering to the beer fridge at the back of the shop, I found a decent assortment of local craft beers, but nothing new to me. Nevertheless, I selected a beer that I knew deserved a review...and would also match the day's weather. And this was Red Hill Temptation, a strong Belgian style Golden Ale, which I had first tried a few months back, enjoyed and was keen to drink again.

From the 330ml bottle, the Temptation poured a hazy golden colour with big thick pure white head that held very well, giving the appearance of a classic Belgian beer.

The aroma was light but excellent and the first taste confirms that this is a quality beer, well crafted with plenty to offer any interested beer lover.

Light in texture yet full of flowery flavour with beautiful hops, a touch of banana and a good hit of spice. Possibly the only thing letting it down (but not by much) is that the Temptation is a little too light in the mouth, maybe a bit watery. However, this is accounted for by the delicious flavour. Plenty of carbonation.

The 8% alcohol is initially very evident, possibly too strong on the first few mouthfuls. However, it actually becomes very well balanced the more you drink, disappearing into a crisp finish.

Sitting outside in the sun definitely suits this relaxing beer. I could have put away two (maybe more) very easily and have been extremely satisfied.

Clearly, the "Temptation" name comes from the strong desire to have another as soon as you finish one! A very dangerous temptation, given how easily drinkable the beer is with such a high alcohol content. I drank it too quickly...and wanted more.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bar & Band - SLAM Rally

S.L.A.M. is "Save Live Australia's Music", an independent entity made up of musicians and music-lovers who have formed to fight the excessive requirements placed on live music venues by Liquor Licensing Victoria (LLV).

Ill-conceived changes to the law made by LLV have had unintended consequences for the local music scene, with many small live music pubs and venues being categorised as a "high risk" location, simply because they play live music! This has forced an extreme financial weight and restrictive requirements on the venues that make Melbourne's music scene so brilliant. Many such venues are now on the brink of closing down...or simply no longer able to support local live music because of Liquor Licensing.

The biggest hit so far has come with the closure of the iconic Tote Hotel in Collingwood, one of the most loved, stickiest carpeted, long running live music venues in Melbourne.

Right now...the wonderful, music and Melbourne loving people of this nation (and beyond!) are gathering on the Melbourne city streets to protest again Liquor Licensing Victoria. Thousands and thousands of people making their voice heard...marching down Swanston St!

I really wish I could be there...but work commitments disallow me. (I'm there in spirit!)

THANK YOU to all the people who are there...helping SAVE one of the BEST things about this city - the live music scene.

Learn more at:

Something For Kate's Paul Dempsey and Steph Ashworth (along with Missy Higgins, Henry Wagons and others!) help lead the SLAM Rally.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Band - BugGiRL

Gig: BugGirl "Blood Sweat & Beers tour"
Supports: The Convulsions, The Scarlets
Venue: Cherry Bar, Melbourne – Free gig
Date: Sunday 7th February 2010

Heading into the city on a fine Sunday night, I was in the mood for a classic night of dirty heavy rock at Cherry Bar.

When you are handed a free EP by the headline act as you walk in the door, you know that you're in for a good night. Even more so, it's a clear indication that BugGiRL love what they do and are willing to give up their hard earned to advance their cause. Personally, I think it's the best type of marketing and will certainly always go a long way to winning my attention.

The Convulsions took the stage first and warmed up the crowd with 30 minutes of thumping rock. With plenty of energy but no desire for theatrics, they provided a solid opener for the night. It was their covers, however, that provided the best, most sonic, moments of their set.

Between sets, Nelli Scarlet (lead singer of the second support, The Scarlets) was spotted limbering up with a few yoga stretches. This set my expectations for a performance full of rock-chick high kicks and bended-knee stage poses. However, I was disappointed to witness no such thing, as Nelli stayed relatively static. Whilst nothing special, I enjoyed their songs, such as Dirty Rock Baby and Your Face, as well as a cover Creedence Clearwater Revival's Proud Mary, but felt that their music was maybe lacking the stage performance it required.

There was a cheerful but reasonably sedate crowd, notching about 50 in number, as BugGirl took the stage. Beers in hand, the majority of the crowd gathered a few meters back from the stage.

Opening with Rock'n'Roll Hell, followed by Dirt in Skirt, it was full power all the way as BugGirl ripped out their no fuss rock with the highest energy level of the night. Their energy began to flow into the crowd and with beer(s) in hand, I was having a great time feeding off said energy and rocking along to the setlist. Their EP songs, such as title track Blood, Sweat & Beers and Motor City Lover, where highlights and just plain fun.

Whilst the song rocked, hearing V8 Motor live provided the most evidence that BugGirl really could do with a solid bass line to give it the oomph that song needs.

With local bands like The Cheats and The Fumes doing well with the Guitar/Drums concept, it's not the easiest style to pull off without the right synergy and voice. BugGirl are the first such act I have encountered with a female vocalist/guitarist...and not only can Amber hold her own against any such acts on the guitar...this girl can sing! However, being not quite as diverse as the aforementioned acts, BugGirl's pub rock would clearly benefit from the power and kick of a bass guitar.

Their sound and vocals clearly channels their classic rock heroes - Motley Crue, AC/DC, KISS – so if you're not a fan of such guitar rock, you're unlikely to become a BugGirl disciple.

They filled their set with a number of covers (maybe one too many), which clearly indicated their influences. First was the KISS anthem, Rock and Roll All Nite, a song which I specifically hate, primarily due to the excessive repetition of the one line chorus ("I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day...") but, thankfully, Buggirl's punked up version was much shorter and definitely bearable in the live setting of Cherry Bar. The next cover was the highly predictable but ultimately forgivable TNT from AC/DC - the coming week marked the first Melbourne AC/DC concerts in a decade...and being guitar rock band at Cherry Bar it would be impossible not to pay tribute, as per BugGirl's rendition.

The Angels' Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again was their final cover (and "the best one", according to drummer, Clinton). The song also ended their set, as they found themselves out-of-time in the noise-restricted bar.

Ultimately, BugGirl (and the supports) provided me with exactly what I wanted, a quality night of rock...and for FREE! I will be definitely be back for more from these acts.

Lastly, this night at Cherry was also a perfect example of why the local live music scene needs to be protected from ill conceived Liquor Licencing laws. There was not a moment of aggression caused by tonight's live/amplified music...just a happy crowd of considerate rock loving randoms.

Rock on Melbourne!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bar - Cherry Bar, Melbourne City

Cherry Bar's short and "famous" history is no secret around Melbourne. From the many celebrities and big-name bands that frequent the bar whilst in town, to claims that Noel Gallagher offered to buy it in 2002, Cherry has often threatened to become exclusive by association. Thankfully, however, it never has.

Set up ten years ago as an outlet for live rock and roll when the genre seemed to be dying in Melbourne, Cherry is as popular today as any small Melbourne venue has ever been.

Wandering down the steep laneway that is ACDC Lane, those not familiar with the entrance may need to look twice for the door, which is somewhat camouflaged into the poster and graffiti adorned brick wall. Stepping through the door, you will probably feel out of place for a moment if you're not dressed predominately in black or covered in tatts. Fortunately, this is not an issue, because the Cherry crowd is rarely a pretentious one and the vibe is super casual and friendly. Cherry's patrons are music loving randoms. Sure, you see the occasional poser, pair of stupid high-heels and that guy who knows everyone, but that's just the city for you.

Often referred to as "grungy", I suspect that label often comes from the people who spend most of their time in the DJ clubs and Euro pubs...and not in the depth of the live rock scene.

Despite its hard rock reputation, Cherry is by no means grungy. With a low-lit red and black interior and low-light, the "authentic rock character" factor inside can seem a little forced. Cherry is clean, well maintained (in part helped by the smoke&water damage of the fire in the overhead buildings back in 2008, which required repairs to Cherry’s roof) and sparsely but carefully decorated. Here it is more about "that conversation we had with that guy" or
that gig when the band played/did that". Head up the road to Pony for grunge.

The clearest indication that Cherry is a lot shinier than it pretends to be is the lack of a draught beer tap. There is currently only one beer tap and it was pouring Stella Artois ($4.50/pot) when I was there recently. This premium import lager gives away the bar's desire to appeal to a "higher end" city crowd. I'm sure the true rock patrons at the bar would much prefer $4 pots of VB/CarltonDraught/BoagsDraught (yes...if you're gonna have a shit been on tap...then have a shit local draught on tap).

Nevertheless, the crowd dictates the bar's priority, with Melbourne Bitter stubbies proving the choice drink for the majority, keeping the beer's reputation as Melbourne's dirty pub rock beer.

Fortunately, the bottled beer selection is much better and generally superior to most equivalent bars in the area. Looking up to the roof beam which is used as the beer menu chalkboard, you find a list ranging from local stubbies for $5.50 to boutique local and international beers for $8, the bar has a useful range. The best value is Matilda Bay's Beez Neez for $6.50/bottle. However, this honey-infused Pale Wheat Ale is a niche beer that won't be to too many peoples liking.

I was happy to see at least one guy nursing a Little Creatures Pale Ale, the clear pick of choice beers to suit this venue...if money is not an option. Unfortunately for me, as often the case, my money situation restricted me to stubbies of VB, which I was quite happy to suffer for the $5.50 price...reasonable enough in the middle of the city (these days you'd expect to pay a least $6 at most CBD bars for their base lager).

As for the rest of the drinks selection, behind the bar you will find the usual selection of spirits and some wine...plenty to suit practically everyone.

Cherry's split level layout is perfectly suited to the acts the venue showcases. The lower level allows those who just wanna rock out to fill the floor in front of the stage, with bench seats/steps running around the perimeter of the square for those who need to relieve their feet or want to see the stage action over the tall heads in front of them. Others can choose to hang back on the upper level against the bar or relax a bit on the couches, with a couple of low tables to rest your drinks on.

The sound is top quality throughout the venue, maybe a little understated at times (not always a bad thing!).

I think that the best time to go to Cherry is generally on the "quieter" nights (any time other than Friday and Saturday nights), when a modest crowd will allow you to move freely and enjoy some couch time. Although, there's always something special about being jammed in for a hot and heavy night of rock at Cherry Bar...just get in early, because you shouldn't have to queue for a venue like this and will find yourself doing so on the popular nights.

Cherry is a great venue and a fairly rare breed around Melbourne's CBD. It can be hard to leave once you've settled in. Just don't be fooled to think that Cherry is the essence of authentic Melbourne rock...because it does not yet quite have the blood, sweat, sticky carpet and tears behind it that some other venues possess...(or maybe I still slightly jaded by the recent closure of The Tote!).

The backlit graffiti-scratched bar at Cherry

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Beer - Mountain Goat Fancy Pants Amber Ale

I headed back to the Mountain Goat Brewery on Friday night, once again with the aim to try the Fancy Pants Amber Ale.

This time I had confirmed via Twitter that I would succeed in my mission, to sample this special small-batch brew, because it was "Fancy Pants and Peking Duck Friday".

Joining a big crowd for end-of-week-drinks at the Goat Bar, I ordered a pint ($9) which poured a deep amber colour, copper tones, with a solid head of just under an inch. The beer looked good sitting on the bar in the pint glass, but the smell didn't give too much away. I was expecting much from this beer, maybe too much. I knew it had a very good reputation and I had wanted to try it out since Summer began, more than two months ago.

The first taste provided a solid hoppy taste, sharper than your standard Amber, but was lacking the complexity and depth that I was expecting. In my mind I had interpreted the "fancy" as "smooth and light but full of flavours". However, it was quite the opposite.

The Mountain Goat team explain that this beer is made with Vienna and Crystal malt, plus plenty of Cascade hops which are used throughout the boil, hopbacked with Galaxy and Riwaka flowers then dry-hopped it in tank with more Riwaka flowers. "It’s rich, malty and fruity", a statement I certainly agree with, but not to the extent that it made the beer overly special.

On the positive side, the absence of any initial surprise or impact from this beer was offset by the increasing enjoyment for it as I drank more and more. Yes, this is definitely one of those beers that gets better the emptier the glass becomes. Further, the 4.9% ABV provided an excellent balance for this beer.

Although not quite what I was expecting in terms of deep flavour, the Fancy Pants is indeed another great brew from the Mountain Goat team, but they have produced better beers. I'd actually recommend enjoying this beer by the pot.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Beer - Mountain Goat Riwaka Pale Ale

It has been a warm and very humid week in Melbourne. Therefore, I was very much in need of a thirst quenching beer after work on Wednesday. I made my way to the Mountain Goat Brewery in Richmond for a quick one at their Goat Bar.

My original intention was to sample their well-regarded Fancy Pants Amber Ale, but that is only available on tap on Fridays. So instead I opted for the Riwaka, a one-off small batch of a "NZ style Pale Ale".

Served on tap into a 380ml glass ($6), it poured a very nice even pale amber colour with good depth, there was a good head on pouring, but that didn't last too long. The smell was soft with a light malt aroma but not too much else.

The Mountain Goat tasting notes say "Vienna and Munich malts give it biscuity and toasty characters and Riwaka flowers add citrusy, marmalade-y aromas." I caught the citrus and marmalade, but couldn't really find the biscuity/toasty characters. I enjoyed the medium body with low carbonation, soft bitter touch, which held well in the mouth.

Great beer for a Pale Ale, definitely easy to drink and thirst quenching (mission accomplished!). I would have been quite happy to have a few more, but time and money prevented me from making it a session.

I'm keen to head back to the Goat tonight and (finally...maybe?) try the Fancy Pants.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Welcome...time to explore beers, bars and bands!

Hello blog universe. Welcome to the thoughts and reviews of a random guy from Melbourne, Australia, who loves exploring the tastes, sounds and locations that make the world so flavoursome.

Here is what you can generally expect from my blogs about these three passions of mine:

Beer - I'm no connoisseur and am relatively new to the world of boutique and craft beers. I was challenged to try "something different" (from the regular macro lagers) by a friend a few years ago and I have not looked back since. With a booming craft beer industry in Melbourne and across Australia, I have spent my weekends exploring as many different beer varieties and brewers as possible, from across this great land and beyond. I now have a collection of well over 400 unique empty beer bottles sitting on top of cupboards in my kitchen to show for my "research" and ongoing hunt for Australia's best beer. About 95% of this bottle collection are local craft beers, with a small number of international and macro brews as well...because they still count as beer! Further, no "Aussie collection" of beer could ever be complete without a stubby of Melbourne Bitter or a XXXX Gold throwdown. However, after drinking so many good beers over recent times, these days I really find it difficult to drink any mass produced, chemical/preservative filled lager that the large corporations churn out without a second thought of flavour, complexity, length and balance. Bring on the REAL beer!

Bars - I have labeled this category as "bars" to stick with the B theme, but this generally means: "pubs, live music venues and other places to enjoy a good drink". Melbourne is full of pubs, bars and venues that are full of character and history. Many have been reviewed thousands of times already, so when I visit a place and decide that is worth of a blog, I will be focusing on the things that tickle my fancy when visiting such the beer selection available (say NO to bars with beer taps pouring only the same-same bland lagers of a macro brewery!), eclectic objects on display behind the bar, toilet graffiti or just the "the vibe" you get when you walk in the door.

Bands (as well as various music bits and pieces) - I wish I was a rock star...haha...but I'll just settle for enjoying the show from in the crowd. I love gigging and checking out a local rock band. I am especially a sucker for random "dirty pub rock" at a little pub venue with talented bands who are often just starting out or still waiting to crack some big time. They are the bands that rarely get reviewed because they are too small or simply do not have a manager/publicist.

Since I don't travel too much, the primary focus of these thoughts and reviews will be on the Melbourne area, my home city that I love deeply, and sometimes around wider State of Victoria.

Enjoy, drink up and rock on.

Find me on twitter @jayelde

Disclaimer: This blog is purely personal opinion. I may often make completely unqualified and unquantified comments, with my only claim to validity being experience. And's a blog afterall! Walk on.