For the last part of my Australian adventure we were heading away from the snow and towards the subtropical Queensland coast, which has honest to goodness rainforests and temperatures in the twenties in the middle of winter.
The Gold Coast is a city rather than a name for a locale and has quite a few breweries, perhaps the most famous being Balter brewing which is co-owned by shark-bothering surf champion Mick Fanning. Balter seemed to be closed every time we looked into going but I was lucky enough to be staying right around the corner from Black Hops Brewing, a three year old brewery founded by three men with beards. When I called in to their tap room it was a woman without a beard who served me and stayed for a chat about the brewery and their excellent selection of beers. Allie was relentlessly positive about the beers and she had a right to be because they were without exception very good. My personal favourite was the raspberry saison Pink Mist which won a national award, as did their other saison, Beach House.
Allie was also perturbed about the beer tax issue (see part 3 for more) and it seems that Black Hops are very upfront about their economic model on their extensive blog which hits on everything from the economics of selling their beers in cans to the multiple methods of financing they have used. In fact, if you’re looking at setting up your own brewery you could do worse than look over their very open blog which documents both successes and pitfalls.
The second brewery we visited in Gold Coast was the massive Burleigh Brewing Company. Founded in 2006 by a surf enthusiast and a lawyer, Burleigh are firmly entrenched in their community and aren’t shy about highlighting their successes. They are Gold and Silver medal winners at the World Beer Championships and have staged plays and exercise classes in the brewery.
Their big draw seems to be Twisted Palm, a tropical pale ale which they started brewing in 2016 and which can be found in a number of restaurants in the local area. My pick though was Daisy Duke, a flavour packed blackcurrant lager which doesn’t appear on their website and so may have been a limited edition, just like the other highlight from the beer flight, macadamia nut porter. It’s a shame that some of their more interesting and experimental beers seem to only be available in the brewery tap as it’s hidden away on an industrial estate. Although they do seem to make an effort to bring customers in, putting on live music and food trucks every weekend.
On our penultimate day in Queensland we headed up to the pleasingly named Tamborine (they dropped the U in 1926) and where you can do a platform walk into the rainforest canopy. On the way we saw a number of (poorly) hand painted signs saying things like ‘Traditional English Pub’ and ‘English Ales’ and indicating that these were to be found at the next turn off. In a horror film or Road Runner cartoon these would surely indicate a trap for yours truly, but on the way back from the Tamborine mountain village I pleaded to go and visit the Australian version of a Traditional English Pub.
I do receive mocking for enjoying an English pub abroad but I defend myself by reasoning that it’s just like wanting to hear a cover version of your favourite song. What will they do to it? Will it be awful or inspired? In the case of the Fox and Hounds English Pub I urge you imagine this scenario. You have been abducted by aliens, and they wish to display you in some kind of zoo in your natural habitat. They scan your memory banks with hopefully some sort of oral probe, and use the scattered images of every drinking establishment you have ever been to in England to assemble a Frankenstein’s monster of a pub. Then they are confused when the place makes you feel slightly queasy.
The Fox and Hounds had a red phone box outside, which still didn’t prepare me for the onslaught of faux-English nonsense within. I don’t think I have ever been into a venue with quite the proliferation of Royal Family memorabilia in my life, not even the Tower of London is this into the Royals. The ceiling was festooned with football flags and scarves, and everywhere I turned I was reminded of what pubs were like before they went beige and featureless in the 1990s. There were horse brasses, tankards, old beer memorabilia, random signs which say ‘Bus Stop’ in a style I never actually seen on an English street, more football paraphernalia, and, it being the winter in Australia, there were Christmas decorations everywhere.
There’s a part of the brain called the hypothalamus which controls your circadian rhythm, the internal clock which tells you that when it’s dark you need to sleep, and when it’s light you need to wake up. My hypothalamus was already going haywire because it was July but, being on the other side of the world, it was going dark at just after five pm. Add all the Christmas decorations to the mix, as well as the roaring fire and the pint of odd tasting Old Speckled Hen and my brain did not know what was going on and decided just to make me feel sick instead. I left the Fox and Hounds after one pint and felt like I’d just been beaten up by a tag team of Princess Di and Father Christmas. (The bar maid was also dressed in a sort of German-esque bar wench outfit for no apparent reason). Lord knows who would make this place their local, but having pestered to go there I never wanted to darken their door again.
In Surfer’s Paradise there was not much beer drinking to be done because we were on a tight schedule, but just to return to the oddities of the Australian beer measurement system, this picture demonstrates what I was given when I ordered a schooner of Blue Moon. This is quite clearly 500ml and not 2/3rds of a pint at all. The receipt even specified it was a schooner so either the barmaid fell in love with me or I was still looking haunted from my visit to the ‘Traditional English Pub’ and she felt sorry for me.
And that brings me to the end of my Australian pub adventures. Next time, I’ll be slightly closer to home – I’m off to Sheffield.