Tag Archives: Wine

Beers in Brisbane – 4 Pots at the Grand Central Hotel

It’s the weekend of the Jamie Oliver/Ministry of Food/The Good Guys event, and Jeri and I have just arrived in Brisbane courtesy of a very uncomfortable Virgin Australia flight.  We settle into the very lovely Hilton Hotel Brisbane (thank you very much, The Good Guys) and decide to burn the rest of the afternoon strolling around downtown.
In search of some amber refreshments in the late summer Brisbane heat, we find ourselves darkening the doorstep of the Grand Central Hotel, tucked up under the Grand Central Station on Ann Street, and the place is jumping.

It seems as though a Friday evening cleansing ale is quite the tradition for Brisbane City workers, and with numerous QR and QR National buildings close by, 3 in 5 imbibers are Railroaders.
After finishing a round of Fat Yaks, I decide to bring back 2 pots of something completely different, just to do a taste test.  It was then that Jeri had the brilliant idea to do a beer review.  With that light-bulb moment on the table I head back to the bar to get another Fat Yak and a 4th, more mainstream and international, choice.

Lined up on the table are: Heineken, Kosciusko Pale Ale, Fat Yak Pale Ale and James Squires Nine Tails Amber Ale.

Heineken, Kosciusko, Fat Yak, 9 Tails


First up is the Heineken.  The first thing I noticed was the head on the beer. The Heineken’s had all but disappeared.  Raising the glass to my nose, I get a sweet floral note that is the best of the four.  You could breath that in all day, and it would never get unpleasant. On a cold winter’s day, when the warmth of a long summer afternoon is just a distant memory, pour a “Heiney” into a tall glass and breath it in.  It’s very reminiscent of a sweet summer breeze.  Delivering a pleasant sweetness immediately on the palate, the Heineken also has a very mild creaminess that finishes with a moderate hit of bitterness across the back and sides of the tongue.  For me, this is the easiest of these beers to drink, and probably the best for those days where the sweat is rolling off your brow and you just have to down a quick cold one to refresh yourself.  Though milder than the other three, the mouth-feel and bitterness would mean this beer would hold up to a little spice.  With a meal, I’d serve it up along side a tandoori chicken, or a nice heavy German bratwurst. Heineken is obviously the most available beer of the three, for most people, and I think it is one of the better mass produced beers on the market.  I’ll give it 3.5 little piggies.

You can't buy my vote with gifts and baubles


Next up was the Kosciusko Pale Ale.  This one is probably the least available of the group, but was a nice change to the rest of the standards you see on tap.  The head on the Kosi was light, but longer lasting than the Heineken.  Peach and and citrus notes were delivered by the nose, and you get an immediate feeling that this is going to be a relatively light ale.  The sweetness is a little more than the Heineken also, though not overly so, and the cream punch is somewhat of a surprise.  This pale ale delivers the biggest mouth-feel of any I can remember.  Heavy, but not overly sweet, it finishes with a clarity that carries almost no bitterness at all, and is almost a beer you can swap for a chardonnay in the food matching parlance.  Definitely a good beer for a light bright pasta, say a pesto penne with a squeeze of lemon, or a nice feed of battered fish or crumbed calamari. I enjoyed it, but it is not a beer you could drink a lot of.  It’s a good cool autumn beer for times when one or two will do.  I give it 3 little piggies.

The Fat Yak is a beer I have been drinking for a while now.  If I see one on tap, I’ll usually get it, but not because it is great.  Mostly because it is better than most big brewery offerings, and it’s safe.  It’s a beer I am comfortable with…like those old sneakers in the closet that you just can’t throw away, even though you replaced them years ago.  The Yak held the best head of the four, with a full creamy top all the way to the last drop.  The light floral aroma masks the medium bitter finish that is the punchiest of these beers. Though heavier than most beers, it lacks the chewiness of the other pale ale offering, the Kosi, and the Fat Yak can be enjoyed in a hurry.  It really is a good all round beer, but can be a bit on the “tasty” side for many beer drinkers.  I rate this up with the Heineken, though for different days and different reasons.  Serve this with a big burger, or a meat lovers pizza.  The Yak will also play well with a lighter red meat, like a lamb chop or duck breast.  3.5 piggies

The James Squire Nine Tails Amber Ale certainly has the longest name of this group.  Rich caramel and chocolate notes on the nose are followed up by a hint of Shiraz on the palate and a moderate creamy mouth-feel.  I love big and bold beers, and this is one.  You will not drink a 6 pack of these, in fact you won’t drink more than 2, but they will be 2 that count.  Drink this full flavoured ale like you would a rich full bodied red.  Just the ticket on a cold winters eve with a fire in the hearth and an Osso Bucco on the dinner plate.  4 little piggies for this beer, but pick the right times to drink it.  Summer in Brisbane is not that time.

 

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Mussels with White Wine – Recipe

Here is one of the very simple seafood preparations I made for Christmas Eve and Lunch.

MUSSELS

Ingredients
1 kg Fresh Mussels, de-bearded and cleaned (Clams or Pippies can be substituted or added)
1/2 Bottle White Wine (Buy a reasonable white wine)
2 Tablespoons Fresh Chopped Garlic
1 Tablespoon Fresh Chopped Ginger
1 Cup Water
2 Tablespoons Lemon or Lime Juice
1/4 Cup Butter
Fresh Herbs of your choice
Good Crusty loaf of bread (sourdough is a treat)

Method

Using a wok, dump in all of the Mussels.  Pour the rest of the ingredients, down to and not including the lemon or lime juice, and toss together.  Put the heat to the wok and cover.

As soon as the liquid comes to a rolling boil, take the Wok off the heat and remove the lid.  Toss everything together to loosen up the mussels, and they should be opening up.  If none open, give them another 1 minute of boil and steam (with the lid on), but no more.

Start sorting the mussels and putting the opened ones into one bowl, while the closed ones get discarded (tap the closed ones first, as they might spring open).  Ones that are just opened slightly can be used.  If you want, you can separate the meat from the shells, but I prefer not to.  I like to use the shells as tongs to extract the meat while I am eating, and love the sauce that gathers in the shell.

Strain the remaining juice (called liquor) and put it back in the wok.  Add the lemon juice, then the butter a small piece at a time, stirring until melted.  Yep, you’re making a sauce.

Add the sauce back to the mussels with the herbs and toss one last time.  Serve hot with the loaf of bread and the rest of the chilled white.

As with all seafood, the key here is not overcooking.  the mussels will continue to cook in the bowl with the residual heat, so better to undercook them slightly.  If you could, you’d be tossing the mussels in the wok and removing them the instant they crack open.  The other key is the wine.  Do not use a wine that you would not drink.  Don’t spend more than $20 either (I try to keep it at just over $10 if I can).

Scorched Calimari – Recipe

Here is one of the very simple seafood preparations I made for Christmas Eve and Lunch.

CALAMARI

Ingredients
1 kg Large Squid Tubes
1/3 Cup neutral oil (I like Light Olive Oil)
3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Sesame Oil
2 Tablespoons Fresh Minced Garlic
1 Tablespoon Minced Chili (Mild Chili if you like, but add the Chili)
Good heavy pinch Salt and Pepper
Extra Lemon Juice
Fresh herbs of your liking (I like parsley and basil, though curry or lime leaves are also delicious).

Method
Cut the squid tubes along one side and open them out, removing any quills and loose skin.  Using a very sharp blade (I use a utility knife with the blade locked on the smallest setting so you can’t cut too deep) score the calamari on the inside of the tube, being careful not to cut all the way through, in a pattern of 1/2cm squares.  Then cut the squid into quarters, each roughly the size of a credit card.

Toss the squid into the rest of the ingredients, down to and not including the extra lemon juice, and let sit for an hour or two.

Heat up a wok or hot plate until it is very hot…smoking hot.  Then with the full heat on, dump in all of the squid and marinade, tossing and turning everything quickly.  After about 90 seconds begin removing the pieces that have become curled tubes, and turn those that haven’t on to their other sides.  They will instantly begin curling up, and should then be removed immediately.

Toss the cooked calamari with a squeeze of lemon juice, and some salt and pepper to taste.  Before serving, toss in some fresh chopped herbs of your liking, and enjoy.

The key here is DO NOT OVERCOOK THE CALAMARI.  It is ideal to remove the Calamari from the pan whilst it is just a little under done.  It will finish off in the bowl with the residual heat.  The result will be fork tender, I promise you.