Wednesday 23 November 2016

Sweet, Sweet, Denmark

Denmark is another of those beautiful locations nestled on the south coast of Western Australia. We went for a day trip, with the intention of checking out Bartholomews Meadery, Boston Brewery, and scoping some of the scenery, coming to the conclusion that you could easily spend many more days in Denmark and we can't wait for our next visit!
Ever since sipping the godly nectar that is mead at the Michigan Renascence Fair, Jen and I have been on the lookout to find some more of the stuff here in Australia. Earlier on the year you may recall the “Game of Thrones” themed night we attended with the HEMA fighters. We did get our hands on some mead at this event, however it was more like a cider than the divine wine we were on the lookout for.
Bartholomews Meadery was our hope to find this beverage we sought, and they had quite a nice drop indeed! They brew a few different meads, but are waiting for the bees to complete their job so they can fill their shelves with all their varieties! We sampled three different meads, Sweet Forest Mead, Berry Mead and a Cinnamon Blend. The Sweet Forest Mead was pretty much smack bang on with what we were looking for, a nice sweet honey flavoured wine, so we grabbed a couple of bottles to enjoy later! The Berry Mead was interesting, similar but with a bit of a fruity flavour, and we decided to grab a bottle of that too! The Cinnamon Blend was served hot, and seemed like a very British type thing, would be a lovely night cap on a cold night. They also had a great variety of honey, which you are free to sample. They even had a chocolate honey, which was awesome! We also managed to grab some more tasty ginger honey which we have been missing since we visited the Honey Place over near Coffs Harbour.
To finish off a lovely morning of honey sampling, we found ourselves licking away at some honey based ice cream! Bartholomews Meadery is set in a beautiful spot, it is quite relaxing to just sit amidst the delightful smelling bushland. Inside the shop there is also a glass hive display, so you can watch some beers making their honey. They have 300 locations where they collect their honey from, and they are all located away from most farm land, canola in particular. This gives them a variety of unique and delicious Aussie blends. Margot and Finn gave us great customer service and we'll definitely pop in again for some more mead, and ice cream... and chocolate honey in the future!

Now that we were on a honey buzz we thought it was best to burn some of that energy! We went down to William Bay National Park, which is known for its artfully sculpted granite outcrops along the shore line and it's turquoise waters within its bays. Just like the rest of southern WA, there were plenty of wild flowers still in their spring bloom. First we went for a small walk to check out the Elephant Rocks, a collection of granite boulders that look like elephants playing on the beach (above). We then returned back over to Greens Pool where we decided to go for a bit of a dip. The warmer weather starts a bit later this far south, and quite often this western chunk of the south coast has quite a chilly wind blasting through it. When the wind isn't too bad and the sun is operating as it should on an almost summer day, it's quite enticing to ignore how cold the water is and just get wet! We weren't the only ones taking advantage of this delightful weather, there were plenty of people, and fish also enjoying the cleansing ocean water. I even had a starfish peaking out from under a rock to say gday.

Next we moved on to Willoughby Park to visit the Boston Brewery and it was a top location for a post snorkel feed! We grabbed a couple of beer paddles, which was a good plan, as all their beverages wouldn't fit on a single paddle! With two paddles, we had to double up on two beers, which we decided on the stout and nut brown, not a bad choice at all!
Boston Brewery had 10 beers to sample: Hefeweizer, Lager, Indian Pale Ale, Rye Pale Ale, Amber Ale, Maibok, Rauchbier, Nut Brown, Stout and a Ginger Beer. The Hefeweizer had a bit of a banana like flavour, which was odd, but tasted really awesome with the Pork Belly. Their lager was a bit too bitter and hop friendly for me to really consider a lager. The Indian Pale Ale was a pretty smooth for an IPA, yet retaining that fruity hopiness you'd expect. The Rye Pale Ale, smelt like passionfruit, very hoppy with a bitter aftertaste. I didn't rate the Amber Ale when I first tasted it, but returning to it after eating some calamari, I felt I could taste more in it, giving off a honeyish burnt flavour. The Maibok was quite malty and burnt, while covering the 7.5 alcohol taste.The Rauchbier had a smoky baconess about it, quite hoppy but not bad. The Nut Brown ended up being my favourite, it was a slightly burnt American style dark ale with, you guessed it, a nutty flavour! Jen's favourite was the Stout, burnt coffee flavours, slight hit of hops while remaining smooth and creamy. Lastly was the ginger beer, which tasted a little more gingery than a lot of other craft ginger beers, but still had the sickly sweet cordial taste over the top.
For our meal we shared a platter that goes with the beer tasting! It was a pretty cool idea, the only down side is they didn't have any notes of what goes with what, so we were pretty much winging it. This worked out fine, as good food and good beer usually go together without too many worries! The property also had a winery, but due to time constraints we weren't able to visit on this particular trip, but there's always next time!

Wednesday 16 November 2016

A sunny weekend in Albany

Not long after arriving in Esperance, I started an evening job and have been working really hard on writing more on the Necrosanguin series during the day. Because of this I haven't been exploring this beautiful region as much as I could be, I also haven't been dedicating any time to the Trooprock blog either!  But just recently, after completing a productive week of writing, we decided to take a weekend trip to Albany to catch up with Jen's parents, who were also visiting Albany.
With a population of  about 34,000 Albany is much bigger town than Esperance. It has what you'd expect from a town of this size on the southern coast of Australia, plenty of shopping opportunities, cafes, bars and nice attractions just on the outskirts.
One of the first destinations we hit, was Torndirrup National Park. Here you can find some magnificent granite like rock formations by the wild waves of the southern ocean. It is all easily accessible by a raised pathway, which runs direct from the car park, to both viewing platforms.
One of those platforms shows off the Natural Bridge, the fruit of an artistic display of erosion, giving you a window to the wild waters. On the way to the Natural Bridge, we saw a turtle, a giant turtle! He was made of rock, and we may have been using our imagination a little, but I'm sure with a little imagination you could see many different things in these rock formations!
The second platform is known as the Gap, and this is absolutely amazing! The raised platform continues slightly over the edge of the cliff, giving you an amazing view of the ocean crashing against the cliffs, sending giant explosions of water into the air, while you stand comfortable 40 metres above. We stood here just staring for quite a while, and I think this view could obliterate ones stress with ease!
There was also a lighthouse in Torndirrup National Park, we never got around to checking it out though, as there were a couple of people who had recently had their cars broken into and it deterred us from leaving the car behind in a secluded location. It is really sad to see this kind of activity occurring in these places where people go to relax and get close to nature, but it made me realise how lucky we are to have not been broken into. Also one would need a truck to steal all the junk out of our Troopy, and even if someone did, I doubt selling all our clothes, bedding, pots and pans would cover the cost of fuel for the truck! Regardless of what you do travel around in and where, I'd just like to remind you to take your valuables with you, or at least keep them out of sight while you are not with your vehicle.
The last destination within the National Park we visited was a set of blow holes. It was a nice walk out, however the tide was too low to shoot water up and out. Standing close though, did blast you with one heck of a hit of air!

Returning to town, we decided we wanted to sample some of the local beverages. We had heard of the Wilson Brewing Company, a new brewer in WA, but we later discovered they won't actually open until December. Instead we ended up at a distillery called Limeburners. They do not offer samples as such, more of a bar, where you can buy nips of each of their spirits. The nip prices ranged from $5-$15. I sampled a few of their beverages, but found them a bit rough for my liking, a little more time in the cask could have made them a bit more pleasant. In the end I did enquire on the price of a bottle, as I do like to support local businesses while I travel, but at over $100 a bottle, I decided I'm much happier to buy an aged, smooth Scotch or Irish Whiskey at a somewhat lower price when I need another bottle!
Next we went in to The White Star in Albany where they had a few beers that were made in the pub under the banner of Tanglehead Brewing Company. They had 4 beers on tap which we grabbed a paddle for, stout, wheat, lager and a ginger beer. They were refreshing and mild beers. It more feels like extra beers on tap, rather than a brewery though. The brew room is at the heart of the pub, with glass windows, which is pretty cool. The brewer actually lives in Perth, not Albany, so I assume he just comes down to setup and keg etc. while keeping the batches relatively simple.
Later we did find ourselves at a pub called the Hybla Tavern, just down the road from the caravan park we were staying at. They had a beer called Rough Seas Pale Ale, which happened to be from Wilson Brewing Company, so we bought a couple of pints. It was a much refreshing hit after the other drinks we had sampled. What you'd expect from a clean crisp pale ale, a little cloudy and bitter to call perfect, but the publican informed us the recipe is being changed to perfect the Rough Seas! It wasn't too bitter though, I ended up with another pint... and a full growler! While we sat on the deck of the Hybla we watched a bunch of Black Cockatoos flash their bright yellow tails about the sky, while the clowns of the sky continued to galah about. One particular galah was pretty adamant it was a Christmas ornament.

Before returning to Esperance, we did check out a little beach, called Little Beach, in Two Peoples Bay National Park. This place, like a lot of the southern coast was spectacular! It was also possibly the warmest day this summer. Actually it definitely was, we discovered this with a 5 hour drive with no aircon! We went for a walk with Jen's parents around the beach, said our goodbyes, then grabbed our snorkelling gear for a bit of an explore! We found the main beach a little rough, but if you walk all the way down the end, over a small hill and through some rocks, you will find a really calm and stunning spot to spend some time. It was almost our own private beach, with private waterfall and everything! We saw a nice variety of small tropical fish and abalone, nothing too exciting, but it felt amazing getting back in the salt water after what feels like the longest winter of all time!

Sunday 6 November 2016

Lucky Bay Brewing

This week's post is another about beer. 'Why is Jeni writing another post about beer?' you may ask. Beer is for blokes. Well if you knew what I knew you would perhaps change your mind on that fact. More on that in a moment, but the simple answer is that I enjoy the taste and variety of beer. Do what you love is something us here at Trooprock Aussies do best and just because females usually like wine better than beer doesn't mean there can't be exceptions.

Currently we are basing ourselves at Esperance. We are hoping to stay for the summer. During the first couple of weeks here we had some shocking weather. We did venture out to some of the national parks and beautiful beaches of the area but we would like to visit again before we write a blog post about them. Today's post is about a local boutique brewery in Esperance. I wasn't actually searching for one, but someone had posted something once on the Esperance Community Facebook page about it, so I did some research. It is called Lucky Bay Brewing, is opened 2-5:30 Friday, Saturday and Sunday and is located on the west side of town near where we were house sitting at the time. One Sunday afternoon we were on our way back from town after having visited the local markets when we decided to stop in. We were early and couldn't find where it was despite having the address for it, but we learnt later that the sign only gets put out the front when they are open. It is owned and run by two locals Nigel and Robyn.

For a brewery that has only been up and running for 11 months, it certainly has some good vibes about it. Tastings for $10 per person which includes a tasting of the brewed beers that are available. Each beer tasted is not quite a full middie, but in total about a pint will be consumed (and extras if Nigel happens to be changing over a tap), $15 for tastings and a tour of the brewery. Nigel and Robyn are the owners and both are lovely people who like to have a chat in between pouring you a beer. Both are great at customer service, know their product and have some good information and background knowledge on it. They also stock 2L Growlers from Keg King that can be refilled by them, and most of the pubs that stock their beer.

Esperance is considered to be in the gold fields region, but that also means it is in a region that grows wheat, and barley (used to make malt). The brewery here is one of the few in Australia that is genuinely local, and the only one currently to use up to 75% raw barley. Their beers can be found in a number of pubs in Esperance, and even expanding to some pubs in Albany, and Kalgoorlie. They have a variety of 7 different beers, (currently, but with more on the way in the new year), ranging from 3.4% alcohol – 6% alcohol. The beers are even named after local beaches and landmarks. Sandy Hook is a Barley Pale Ale and is their most popular beer. It is also Cameron's favourite. Thistle Cove is a Scottish Ale and is one of my favourites as it has sweet hints of malt. I think being Australian and growing up drinking Milo accounts for my love of malt flavours. Skippy Rock is a Kolsch which is a German style Pale Ale. The Homestead is a Belgian farmhouse style ale. Just watch yourself on this one as it is 6% alcohol but very easy drinking. The Tanker is a dark ale that has a tempting coffee aroma. Cyclops is an Indian Pale Ale, (commonly shortened to I.P.A), usually very strong hops flavour but Lucky Bay Brewing have done well to make it more balanced. Burnt Sticks was brewed as an accident with incorrect quantities that was supposed to be made into the Black Jack Pirate Porter, which now won't be brewed until the New Year, but it is an accident that turned out well. It has a beautiful coffee colour in the foam head when poured, with a delicious, smokey (not burnt) flavour. This is my other favourite, but they are all delicious! You will notice that of the pubs that do stock Lucky Bay Brewing that it is all different. Market Research has been done at these pubs to see what kind of beer is consumed the most, and such beer has been supplied to match the demand.

Our, (mine particularly), interest for tasting a variety of beers and learning about general history of beer began in 2012 when Cameron started home brewing. We didn't have the blog set up back then but in June this year, (2016), Cameron wrote a post regarding home brewing. Since the beginning of 2013 we have been travelling on and off and it would be difficult for us to brew in the troopy as we already have very limited space. In 2014 we briefly visited Ireland where we did a tour at the Jameson and Guiness factories. These two tours were both very interesting and informative. For Christmas last year my mum had found some Beer and Brewing magazines so gave them to us. There were many interesting articles in these about different beer styles, different ingredients, the history of beer in different countries. The article that I remember the most was about women and beer. You may be interested to know that women were actually the first beer brewers, and it goes way back to ancient Egypt times. Over the time it went hand in hand with baking bread which makes sense as similar ingredients are used. Women were the main drinkers of it as well. At weddings a bride-ale was created and sold at the wedding and the profits were a gift to the couple. For centuries it was brewed and sold entirely by the women, and each household tended to have their own recipe. It was only when men saw the commercial value and profit in it that it started to change hands.

In recent years perhaps you have noticed an increase of variety in the dockets you get on the end of a Woolies or Coles reciept: Little Creatures, Matilda Bay, James Squire, Coopers. Microwbrewing, homebrewing, and craftbrewing have been on the rise in Australia for at least the last 15 years and will only continue. However there are some craft beers thats are claiming either 'craft', 'microbrewery', or 'local', that may have started this way, but have now been sold in the mid nineties to the bigger companies. Whether you know this or not most pubs you visit will either stock Lion Nathan's branded beer or Carlton & United Breweries. Local microwbreweries hardly stand a chance. Here's some common Lion's brands: XXXX, Tooheys, James Squire, James Boags, Hahn, EMU/ Swan (originated in WA and still says it is WA is now actually produced in SA), 5 Seeds. Here's some common Carton & United Breweries (CUB): Victorian Bitter, Corona, Carlton Draught, Matilda Bay, Cascade. Depending on which major company owns your particular local watering hole will depend on what is served. After talking with Nigel and Robyn about how their beers are in some local pubs we found out it is an interesting and sometimes painful process to get it there. The beer taps/ pubs owned by the 2 major companies are not allowed to have any other branded beer flow through the taps. If a local or craft beer is of interest to the publican, they are allowed to stock it (some of the time), but they must provide separate beer taps and lines. More often than not the pub does not have separate taps and lines so they just stick with what they are allowed to serve. Other times they are more flexible and have their own taps and lines that they can put in what ever they want or they tell the local brewer that they will have to supply their own taps and beer lines. If you are lucky enough to find local beers, it will usually be in a separate part of the bar, or you will have to ask for it specifically and most of the time the label/ tag is not on the tap either.

(Please note that the photo of where to find the beers was taken from the Lucky Bay Brewing Facebook page, there is a slight error, Skippy Rock is available at Taylors not Sandy Hook, this is all open to change in the future too.) 

Happy Travels