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Archive for the ‘drink’ Category

During their first Melbourne Comedy Festival, Bruce and Fran, as part of their crash course in experiencing all things Aussie, were considering going to see Chris Franklin’s show. He’s the mulleted, VB-swilling uber-Bogan who’s been responsible for such musical delights as his ‘Bitch’ parody ‘Bloke’ and ‘Jack Off Australia’. It never happened and, following a trip to Adelaide at the weekend, now they needn’t bother.

In town for a mate’s 30th birthday festivities, the opening night rapidly descended from free drinks and nibbles accompanied by the odd speech into wild, debauched karaoke at La Sing. In the cab on the way there, Bruce thought he’d heard “La Scene” or “La Singh” and pictured somewhere with either a) a modicum of faux 70s chic or b) somewhere they’d be able to tuck into some late night curry if the singing became too unbearable. Instead, it was the sort of place you leave without hesitation: dirty, bordering on sleazy; splashes of fading neon; odd men in booths; smashed harpies overcome with a misplaced self-confidence. Oh, and two men were being thrown out by security as they walked in, an incident that led to the police arriving ten minutes later.

Still, it took approximately ten minutes and the first enthusiastic efforts of fellow party-goers for Bruce and Fran to realise they had La Sing wrong. In reality, it was a fantastic nightspot, easily the sort of place you could spend three hours, fight over pens for the chance to get up on stage and dance wholeheartedly to your friends’ efforts. That, or the free booze kicked in just in time.

Still, the woozy 5am finish was nothing compared to the sights that welcomed them to the following day’s birthday part II bbq. Walking into the kitchen to unload a slab of Coopers, Bruce and Fran were welcomed by the sight of Chris Franklin stumbling in the other direction. In his hand, a tumbler of Wild Turkey swung violently, sloshing over the rim and onto the cupboard walls.

“Who the fuck are you?” he asked. “I’m Chris. Is that your missus? She’s hot. If you wasn’t here I’d have a fair fucking crack a it.”

And they say chivalry is dead.

It transpired he’d flown down from Queensland for the previous evening, got too drunk and not made it, instead arriving at the bbq house many hours early, waking those who’d not been in bed long, and getting back onto the Wild Turkey. What followed was several hours of trying to get everyone to punch him, cooking a bbq with his cock out, falling off his chair repeatedly, wandering around with some form of pickaxe, getting his cock out, sticking his head in an oven, drinking more Wild Turkey with his cock out, singing a new song he’d written, then finally passing out with the axe in the host’s bed, although not before declaring:

“What’s wrong? It’s only a fucking cock.”

He returned soon afterwards, hit the whisky some more and started over. It was clear the stage persona was not a hard act for him to portray.

Several hours later, Bruce decided it was time to walk home and rejoin Fran at the motel. Franklin escorted him out.

“Come on. Hit me. Go on. As hard as you can,” he said.

“Only if you’ll fight back,” said Bruce.

“I’m not going to do that. I’ve been in prison, you know.”

“Well, I’m not going to smack you unless you fight back. May as well test myself.”

Suddenly, he turned serious, explaining that it really wasn’t a good idea. Awakening the following day and recalling that Franklin had slept with an axe and that Bruce’s martial experience was confined to various sporting fields (none of them involving any legal fighting) he was glad that he did. And that he and Fran no longer needed to fork out $20 a head to see his show; after all, what was left for him to reveal? Certainly not his cock.

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Bruce behaved himself last night, despite Fran’s fears he might succumb to fame haggery. She should have known better. After all, it was her who clasped her hands over her face in that gobsmacked manner when she spied smiley Gary Bourgignon at Taste Melbourne recently, not he, so why should an unexpected invite to spend the evening in the company of Masterchef Chris be any different. What’s more, in their own ways, Bruce and Chris have the same mission at heart: converting Aussies from the horrors of Carlton Draught to the wonders of good beer. And, when you’ve shared the Albert Hall stage with Wayne Coyne, there’s little to get starstruck about.

And so it transpired, Bruce the model of good manners while several other attendees at the Lort Smith Animal Hospital fundraiser posed for pics with fellow Mastercheffer Julia. He got to sample miniature versions of some of Chris’s dishes, with the salmon tartare, roast pig cheek with crackling, offal balls and duck neck sausages going down a treat. He won’t be hurrying back for bone marrow spring rolls, however.

Aside from supporting a good cause, eating new body parts and sampling some of the Courthouse Hotel‘s fine range of Victorian craft beers, he got to see firsthand what Chris does when he’s not on TV or appearing in tabloid gossip column – the Beer Masons Beer Appreciation Society. The raffle’s first prize was a Beer Masons’ pack – a mixture of great beers from all over the world with a guide on how to enjoy them and become a true beer lover – and what a beautiful thing it was. It’s a great thing they’re doing and hopefully will help swell the growing tide of appreciation for proper beer rather than “yellow fizzy stuff” in Australia. After all, what better to wash down a mouthful of trotter than a gobful of exquisite ale?

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It’s not that often that Epicure, in Tuesday’s Age, dips its toes into the ever-giving world of Australian craft beers. Despite there being around 30 independent brewers in Victoria alone (comprising those with their own breweries, those that contract out and a handful of brewpubs), lovers of the grape can look forward to being indulged every week while those who prefer their booze formed from malt, hops and barley get little more than something with which to get the kindling burning in the open fires in the caves in which the editors must believe they still dwell.

After much banging of Bruce’s head against walls, a spot of attempting to wring blood from a stone and the loss of several pigs in doomed aeronautical experiments, a chink…

Pumping Randy at the Mountain Goat Brewery

Pumping Randy at the Mountain Goat Brewery

It’s not possible to link to the story as Fairfax, in their continued misunderstanding of the way the internet has changed journalism – despite their plummeting share price acting as something of a constant reminder that they’re clearly doing something wrong – continues to want to charge $2.20 each time you want to view a story on their website.

The story is, however, that Mountain Goat have installed Victoria’s first “Hopinator” – a cylindrical machine fastened to the bar that can be filled with anything from fresh hop flowers (as above where their organic IPA is being poured through a load of fragrant Galaxy hop flowers) to cinnamon sticks, coffee beans and fruit. Any of their beers can then be directed through Randy (short for Randall the Handle, apparently, after they stopped calling it the Hopinator out of deference to Holgate Brewery’s not-for-the-faint-hearted 7% Double IPA of the same name) for a last minute burst of extra flavour.

It’s only available at the brewery, in North Street, Richmond, where they also serve tasty pizzas and one-off brews, often matched with appropriate nibbles. It’s open to the public on Wednesday and Friday evenings, with one of the head brewers offering free tours of the brewing process on Wednesdays.

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“There’s a couple of specials on this evening as well,” explained Pelican’s Kiwi waiter, before launching into lengthy and detailed descriptions.

One was a salad containing quince, roquefort cheese, walnuts and leaves, the second a rather fancy fish platter featuring lightly battered oysters with a rich aioli, scallops and a couple of slices of sashimi topped with roe. Both sounded the equal or better of the dishes on the menu – and would compliment Fran’s favourite Pelican dish: the Moreton Bay bugs with hot chilli and garlic oil dressing.

Soon afterwards, the Kiwi returned to take our order.

“We’ll have the Fisherman’s Basket,” said our companion.

Everyone stopped. The waiter looked at him in mock horror.

“Did you just ask for ‘the Fisherman’s Basket’?,” he asked incredulous, as the table conjured images of rubbery, deep-fried, heavily battered and breadcrumbed, unidentifiable fish pieces on a mound of chips.

“Er…” replied the companion, chuckling with embarrassment. “I ust heard ‘cheese’ and ‘fish’ liked the sound of both.”

As he cleared away the last of our plates (by this stage emptied of meatballs, saganaki, bugs, quince, oysters, baba ganoush and the rest, all of which went down a treat), the waiter was still shaking his head.

“Fisherman’s Basket indeed.”

Still, by this time three bottles of wine had been polished off (the Sauvignon Blanc proving superior to the Reisling, much to Bruce’s surprise) so Mr Pub Grub enjoyed the ribbing. What’s more, he and his partner were extremely grateful to have been introduced to the Pelican, in Fitzroy Street, something of a St Kilda institution with its scattergun approach to tapas, wide selection of wines and great location close to the promenade – one of the few places Bruce and Fran miss since moving north (Banff pizzas, Mart 130 and the Taphouse pub in Carlisle Street the other major notables). And, come 2.45am, he wasn’t the one dropping his trousers on the Big Mouth dancefloor like a grinning 16-year-old leaving Fran to explain to the very friendly, but thoroughly bemused bouncer that, yes, unfortunately this man was indeed her husband.

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“How would you like your coffee, sir? Rabbit? Swan? Pig?”

“You what?!?!?”

A Canberra barista lays down the gauntlet:

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Dave McCormack (r) and friend

Dave McCormack (r) and friends

Custard never made it in the UK (at least they never made it into Bruce or Fran’s headspace) but apparently there was a time when Dave McCormack played venues somewhat bigger and busier than the dining room of the Edinburgh Castle, in Brunswick. Apparently, he had a number of hits in the 90s and was a regular on radios across the land come Australia Day. Not anymore.

Instead, he wanders onstage in front of a few dozen people, a red velvet curtain, some wallpaper that’s seen off more appropriate decades and the sort of fake candle / chandelier-type light fittings your parents once thought added class to their family home back in the day.

At first, his uncontainable sense of humour – introducing and outtroducing his guitar solos, pausing midsong for comment, layering self-deprecation on self-deprecation – threatens to descend into end-of-the-pier parody. Thankfully, his joie de vivre, knack for a jaunty melody and witty way with words soon overrides any early misconceptions.

“Imagine how much better these songs would sound if he had a full band,” says Bruce’s companion – shortly after McCormack’s finished singing a number about sacking his band – revelling in a chance to see a performer he’d last watched as a 17-year-old.

Lo and behold, he invites a drummer and a couple of bassists from the audience onstage (consecutively, not concurrently) and they muddle their way through a few of Custard’s hits. Crowd participation ensues in the form of singing and clapping; one chap seated at a table in front of the stage is barely able to contain himself and spends much of the latter part of the gig on his feet punching the air as a one man moshpit.

McCormack, meanwhile, seems to be having a ball, even if an air of ruefulness punctuates everything – lyrics, demeanour, the acclaim – profusely thanking a friend for arranging the gig, which appears to have been set up at the last minute as he was passing through town (one can’t discount the possibility it was to raise the funds to get back to Brisbane).

But there’s something glorious about watching faded stars trying to keep their faint glow burning, fighting with humour and a reluctant acceptance against a dying of the light; not in the “Let’s reform a load of shit 80s bands and go on an arena tour for blue rinses and pot bellies” manner but in the “I’ll play any two bob hole just to keep on playing” sense (it’s working for Tim Rogers, after all, with people splurging $120 on this).

Talking of two bob holes, Bruce is rather enamoured with the Edinburgh Castle. On their first visit on Melbourne Cup Day, Fran won $77 on the sweepstake and they did their best to drink the pub dry of Little Creatures Pale. They failed (majestically) although were helped by the fact the staff had underestimated the thirst of their regulars over that weekend, which meant most of their interesting beers (3 Ravens, Buckley’s, Mountain Goat) had sold out by the big race day. They’ve now got far less interesting beers since doing a deal with the devil and replacing several with the likes of Carlton Premium Blonde (involuntary shudders again) although, to make Bruce feel at home, the Mountain Goat almost ran out.

With a large front bar where bands often play, a nice, big beer garden, the dining room-cum-venue for fallen 90s Triple J stars and auxilliary dining room where cards were being played – not to mention a table tennis table as well as a clientele that mixes the grungy with an element of Melbourne hipsterism, but without the “Look at me!” attitude found in many of the northern suburbs close to the city, it’s a great reason to head to the top end of Sydney Road (well, for those few for whom the Hustler strip club or the Lebanese pizzas aren’t reason enough already).

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A while back, Bruce and a barman at Fitzroy’s Black Pearl entered into a late night / early morning conversation about creating a cocktail inspired by the Elbow single Grounds For Divorce. It went on to win Best Whisky Cocktail in Australia and will see its creator head to London later in the year to compete for the Best Cocktail in the World title at Diageo’s World Class event.

Said creator and the cocktail have now made it to the pages of the current edition of Beer and Brewer magazine. Hurrah!

Grounds For Divorce1

Could have mentioned Bruce by name...

Now to come up with one for The Flaming Lips’ Talkin’ Bout The Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues (Everyone Wants To Live Forever)…

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