girl + cow

Moody Cow Brewery operates under the loving care of Grant and Karen McClintock and is just one of two breweries operating in the Ferguson Valley. Grant brews the beers and they have won him a few awards including a Silver Medal at the 2011 Perth Royal Beer Show for his Gruntas Original Ale.

Ferguson Valley

I really like the Ferguson Valley. It’s situated about half an hour from Bunbury and whilst many may not know about it, they have probably driven past the turn off dozens of times. I’ve found the most efficient way I can describe the Ferguson Valley is to say it’s a mini Margaret River … but with more hills.

The Ferguson Valley is full of wineries, breweries and lots of natural beauty, she might not be as big and shiny as her Margaret River cousin but she’s just as beautiful and well worth checking out. I have particularly fond memories of the Ferguson Valley as it was one of the first places we explored when we moved here.

Moody Cow Brewery operates under the loving care of Grant and Karen McClintock and is just one of two breweries operating in the Ferguson Valley. Grant brews the beers and they have won him a few awards including a Silver Medal at the 2011 Perth Royal Beer Show for his Gruntas Original Ale.

Moody Cow - March 2013

My partner and I visited on a Sunday afternoon and, like when the music stops on a game of musical chairs, it was hard to find a vacant spot. We managed to snag a table outside and looked on as kids and adults kicked the footy around whilst others relaxed on the grass with their picnic rug.

When I first met Grant last year we talked a lot about the venue itself, not just the beers, and he was extremely proud to be running a family friendly place. It’s not just family friendly because they serve kids meals and have highchairs but it’s the cricket set, the footballs, the playground and the vast green lawn all within eye line from any of the outdoor seating. There was some live acoustic guitar and, at one point a sing-a-long to ‘My Girl’ followed by singing Happy Birthday to a punter, it all comes together to create an atmosphere where everyone is welcome.

It was evident the kitchen was working hard to feed a venue full of hungry people as plate after plate of food went past our table as we pondered the menu. The steak sandwich looked like a favourite purely based on the sheer number being served. Sadly by the time we ordered they were sold out of steak sandwiches and a few other items, proving the early bird catches the steak sandwich or something to that effect. So we went for the tasting plate for two since it was basically a list of all the food we love – bread, chorizo, cheese, olives, pate, squid, dips …

Moody Cow Tasting Plate

Thankfully Moody Cow weren’t sold out of any of their beers and it was nice to see another familiar face behind the bar in Tim, former Mash Bunbury manager. We started on the lighter scale with a pint of Kolsch and the Black Dog Pilsener. The Kolsch had lovely floral and citrus characteristics and I seemed to detect a little nuttiness too, all with a soft clean bitter finish. The Black Dog Pilsener, probably my favourite from the line up, with malty sweet aromas and medium  bitterness. We followed this up by jumping to the dark side with the Grunta’s Original Ale and Fergus Dark Ale with the latter standing out in my mind with an unexpected creamy texture.

Ah, just another wonderful afternoon in the Ferguson Valley!

Finished Lunch

girl + cheeky monkey

A visit to the newest brewery to call Margaret River home – Cheeky Monkey – with a brief stop over at the first – Bootleg – and that’s what I would call a pretty successful day!

4259 Caves Road, Margaret River
Open Daily from 10am – 6pm
(08) 9755 9555

I appear to be developing some sort of animal theme with this post and the earlier one about Mountain Goat but we won’t focus on that …

Cheeky Monkey Brewery & Cidery is the latest edition to the growing number of craft breweries who call the Margaret River, predominately known for being a wine region, their home. They opened in early May after a few hurdles regarding fears of yeast contamination with neighbouring wineries but judging by their Facebook page and the many happy smiling faces I saw, they have been a welcome addition to the region.

Last weekend my boyfriend and I decided it was about time to check it out so we jumped in the car and headed towards Margaret River. On the way we realised we were coming up on Puzey Road and the irresistible allure of a stopover at Bootleg Brewery was too much to refuse!

We couldn’t have chosen two more different Bootlegs to indulge in. Whilst my boyfriend opted for his favourite, Black Market IPA, I went for the new Bootleg Apple Cider (5% abv); it’s crisp and bitter and very Granny Smith apple and it might seem strange but one of the things I liked the most was the fact it wasn’t overly carbonated, making it easy drinking rather than feeling full from just a glass. The Black Market IPA, as always, was as good as ever.

The two extremes of Bootleg – Black Market IPA pint versus Apple Cider middy

With a visit to the first microbrewery in the Margaret River wine region under our belts we did a hop, skip and a jump to the newest – Cheeky Monkey Brewery & Cidery.

It was apparent when we drove in that we would need to park in the overflow parking. Having parked a fair distance from the brewery, a few things became apparent. There are a couple of compulsory items when you have a brewery in the South West – 1. A body of water and 2. A children’s playground. I don’t disagree with either of these – both make complete sense, it’s just funny how they have become mandatory items. Cheeky Monkey’s aquatic effort also has a little jetty that seems to attract kids out to stare down into the water. On this particular day it was also the home of just one little duck; we jokingly wondered if we would find that his friends had found themselves as part of the menu.  The Cheeky Monkey playground doubles as a landmark; its big and green (didn’t mean to make it sound Hulk-like) and easily spotted as you drive along Caves Road. Its a whole other world in there for the kids to get happily lost in.

Yep – that’s one big playground!

We hit the bar and were promptly served by a very friendly guy named Rob. We confessed to being first timers and a good chat about their beers started. I liked that he didn’t default into new-customer-tell-them-about-all-beers strategy, instead asking us about the beers we were keen on trying or wanting to know more about. It was a conversation, not a staff member talking at us.

Not the same sort of monkey bars I played on when I was a kid

We were going to be having lunch so I decided to start with a Hatseller Pilsner (4.8% abv), made with 100% New Zealand hops, to work my way into something bigger with food. Rob gave us a taster first and we were surprised at the big characters, much more going on than your regular run of the mill pilsner, a characteristic Rob put down to the beer sitting for two weeks on yeast, allowing it to develop more complexity and depth. It had some nice citrus and fruit notes with a strong crisp, bitter finish; I was very pleased with my first Cheeky Monkey brew. My boyfriend drove head first into the Hagenbeck, a 5.8% abv Belgian IPA; although considering he started on Bootleg Black Market IPA I guess it wasn’t that big a dive! Made with Belgian yeast and dry hopped, it was a nice divergence from the mostly American styled IPAs that have been dominating our fridge. There was some nice banana aromas and flavours, spices that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, and strong tropical hops.

Hatseller Pilsner & Hagenbeck Belgian IPA

Like the other breweries I’ve visited recently it’s a service style where the bar is for getting your drinks and there is a separate counter for ordering food. It does mean that the time between ordering your beer and taking a gulp is no longer than 60 seconds but the wait to order food, during peak times, is a much longer. Whilst I am not necessarily an advocate for this style of service, it’s not all doom and gloom as the short wait allows me the chance to look around and absorb other parts of the venue and check out the food specials. I did, however, feel sorry for the customers I saw who had not realised they needed to know their table numbers.

Inside Cheeky Monkey
So that’s what the inside for a monkey looks like …

I had placed our food order so it was now time to chose our second round of beers. I went for the Traveling Monk – a mid-strength Red Ale, and my boyfriend couldn’t resist the ‘Brewer’s Choice’ Souther Wailer, a Black IPA. It’s the most cheeky of the beers at a belly-warming 6.4% abv, with pronounced roastiness and hop bitterness without drowning out the tropical fruit and citrusy flavours. Having now tried four of the range we agreed the Traveling Monk was our favourite. At 3.5% the Cheeky Monkey’s have produced an ale they say proudly follows in the footsteps of beers like Rogers’ Amber Ale (3.5% amber ale) and other similar styles to showcase that a big abv isn’t a necessity. The Traveling Monk boasts aromas of orange and hops, it’s appearance is nothing short of gorgeous deep amber and flavours of sweet malt, marmalade and fresh hops are delightful.

Food arrived and we tucked in to the three dishes we’d selected to share; they were all seafood as we have been doing a lot of home cooking lately, and enjoying every minute of it, so it’s important when we go out we order food we couldn’t make at home. With that in mind we chose the Marinated Fremantle Sardines, Squid with Wasabi Aioli and the Crab Bocadillo.

The Marinated Fremantle Sardines were a special for the day that we had chosen because the Chilli Mussels had sold out and it fitted with our seafood theme. They were beautifully marinated; the sharp flavours of the sardines going well with crisp spanish onion and peppery rocket, served on toasted bread.

Marinated Fremantle Sardines
with Rocket, Cherry Tomatoes, Spanish Onion on Toasted Bread

We both love squid and we both love wasabi aioli so it’s probably not a surprise the Squid with Wasabi Aioli was our favourite dish and we would have happily added more wasabi to the mix. Crispy coated squid with fresh lemon squeezed on, I know it’s not an uncommon dish these days but it doesn’t make it any less delicious. The squid was perfectly cooked and it was nice to get two generous wedges of lemon to squeeze.

Squid with Wasabi Aioli with Fresh Lemon

The Crab Bocadillos were interesting with the contrast between the crisp coleslaw and tempura battered soft shell crab.

It was also a little funny to be eating what is very similar to a burger and having little legs sticking out the side of it! The lime and pickled yellow chilli aioli added a very subtle tanginess to the dish that went really well with the crab. Whilst we enjoyed the Squid with Wasabi Aioli the most, we had the most fun with the Crab Bocadillos because you’re never too old to play with your food …

Being silly with Cherry Tomatoes

We were comfortable sitting outside and being a couple of big kids and I guess that in itself says a lot about a venue. What also stood out was seeing a couple of kids kicking a footy around and, perhaps inevitably, it sailed up and onto the roof. Perhaps ten minutes, if that, passed before we saw a guy with a ladder prop it up against the side of the building and retrieve it. From where we were sitting it wasn’t clear if he was a Cheeky Monkey employee or just a punter, either way, I think it says something positive about the venue. If he was an employee, to take the time to fetch a kids footy on a Sunday afternoon is pretty decent. If he was a punter I think it’s nice that no manager stormed out shouting things about occupational health and safety (though the ex-bar manager in me might see the situation alternatively ending with incident reports and a set of crutches but that’s mostly due to my own disturbing level of incoordination).

Our first contact at Cheeky Monkey, Rob, was knowledgable, passionate and friendly; if you ran a bar you’d want as many Robs as you could get your hands on. They are produced great beers, tasty food and all in a setting with lots of different seating styles for your mood or occasion. I will happily be going back to Cheeky Monkey soon to try the Pale Ale ‘Old Reliable’ and the ciders that I missed tasting on this first visit. Oh and great name, love the name.

girl + beer … on location

Only in the South West could an attempt to catch up with a mate result in a day in a brewhouse. Mal is Head Brewer at Colonial Brewery in Margaret River and invited me to hang out in the brewery for the day whilst they brewed the next Limited Edition Colonial beer – a Baltic Porter. Due to release in late June/early July – start planning your South West getaway now!

girl+beer on location at Colonial Brewing, Margaret River

Friday 25th May 2012 …

Only in the South West could an attempt to catch up with a mate result in a day in a brewhouse …

I’ve spent many a happy conversation chatting with Mal, Head Brewer at Colonial Brewery at various beer events. At some of these events Colonial have been offering beautiful Western Australian oysters with their Kolsch and I’ve indulged in more than one (or five) at a time, shovelling them as elegantly as I could manage whilst standing up and juggling a beer.

Mal and I have been meaning to catch up over a pint for a while now so when I found myself with a Friday off I thought it would be a great opportunity. After all, who could refuse a Friday afternoon beer?! However my suggestion was nicely one-up-ed  by Mal’s invitation to spend a day at the brewhouse whilst they brewed the next limited release – a Baltic Porter. “Do you want to come and join in?”, he asked. I think my reply was “hell yes”.

I was excited … really excited. Mash in was scheduled for 8am and Mal gave me an open invitation to head over whenever. There seemed to be an understanding that 8am might be what I’d consider “violently early”. I really wanted to be there for the mash and my boyfriend pointed out that I’d be mad to miss it. I knew he was right so I set my alarm and dreamt a beery-sleep. It was still very dark outside when my alarm started making seriously unpleasant noises. It went off again after the factory determined “snooze” time was up and it was still dark and it was really cold and as you’ve probably guessed by now, I missed the mash in.

I arrived just after 9am after a quick read through my Oxford Companion to Beer to remind myself about Baltic Porters.

An English style, referring to strong Porter beers exported off to the Baltic countries such as Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Mal introduced me to his partner in brewing crime, Sorcha, and I proceeded to spend the day being either one of their shadows. I was encouraged to ask as many questions as I liked and, in most cases, needed because keeping up with brewer jargon in the wild is a little fast paced for this beer drinking gal. I’ve done a number of tours through breweries in my career – Matilda Bay, Gage Roads, Little Creatures, White Rabbit and Elmar’s in the Valley but it’s all surface stuff – here’s some equipment, here’s what is does, and so forth which is always great, don’t get me wrong, but compared to spending a whole day at a brewery … it’s the difference between listening to a CD and seeing the act live on stage.

The Colonial Baltic Porter will follow in the footsteps of earlier limited edition beers Keutebier and Mumme to continue the journey in old beer styles that have been a little neglected in recent times. Without concern for the latest trending styles or what Joe Bloggs is brewing down the road or on the other side of the Earth for that matter, Mal and Colonial are about beer styles that have captured their attention and, in turn, their desire to brew it for themselves. Colonial’s Limited Editions have gained significant momentum, flying out the door of the brewery, on show at sister venues The Royal and The Raffles and a few stray kegs making their way to like minded beer venues like Clancy’s Fish Pub Dunsborough and The Norfolk Hotel.

Having not brewed the Baltic Porter before the process was almost like baby sitting a small child, watching everything it was doing to make sure it was okay. It can’t be too hot or too cold or too thick and there was continuous testing. As the morning went on I had started to feel somewhat of a really incompetent stalker, following too closely behind poor Mal and Sorcha, so I volunteered to help with the testing. I was proud as punch as I stood in the brewery with a beaker of soon-to-be Baltic Porter in a small tub of ice water, swishing it around and watching the thermometer reach 20 degrees when it was ready for testing. I must have resembled some sort of mad Asian scientist, swishing a black liquid and smiling a slightly deranged smile. It’s a miracle I was invited back again or perhaps Mal was just being super polite.

The first step I got to see was the mash being transferred to the lauder tun. I peered in to see what was happening whilst the contents of the tank slowly rose as the pump worked diligently. That pump certainly had it’s work cut out for it with the Baltic Porter mash being a much thicker one than it had previously dealt with so we were on the look out for any signs of struggle. As the mash began recirculating Sorcha and I decided it looked a little like a cappuccino.

Now it was time for sparging. I used to think sparging was simply washing the mash with water from a thing that looked like an upside sprinkler. Whilst I’m not essentially wrong I did learn a lot more. Yes, it’s about washing the mash and basically making sure you’re getting the most good stuff that you can but it’s also a balancing act between too little, too much, too hot and too cold. There was more staring into the tank at this stage and without a functioning torch it was trickier but thankfully Sorcha had a back up – the iPhone Torch app. It was severely battery draining but turned out to be rather handy on this particular day. Oh and even now on reflection I still stand by my original thinking that the sparging bit looks like an upside down sprinkler.

Soon it was time for the almost-beer to move house again. This time from the lauter tun to the kettle, ready for the boil and the whirlpool. As it bubbled along I was once again struck by the intricacy of it all. Who’ve have thought beer was so sensitive? I mean I knew it was an art and I knew, in theory, that any number of factors could affect the final outcome but it’s really ANY number of factors, no matter how seemingly small. It’s crazy. As we watched the bubbles, monitoring what they were doing, Sorcha remarked it sounded like a babbling brook and from there we came up with the idea for a ‘Sounds of the Brewery’ relaxation tape. I think we were half serious; I’ll have to chat with her later to further develop the idea.

Now it was time for hops and so carefully measured doses of East Kent Goldings and Northern Brewer were thrown in for a nice hot bubbly swim in the kettle. I spent more time with my head in the tank and although I was blinking profusely as my contact lens’ struggled with the steam; I was also enjoying the aromas.

“Time for the messy part” I was told. Sorcha and Mal played around with the forklift and positioned a big white tub under the gaping mouth of the lauter tun. Then a slightly scary looking piece of machinery with spinny things was wheeled in. The process I am poorly describing is the removal of all the spent grain from the lauter tun, ready to be taken away and eaten by the local cattle or, sometimes, pigs. Apparently pigs go nuts for it. Those crazy, drunken pigs.

Mal started up the machine and it was damn loud. He declared himself to be a gentlemen as he handed me his ear muffs for my already slightly deteriorated ears. The spent grain overfilled two of these huge tubs, hitting home again just how much of a bigger style the Baltic Porter is going to be.

Time for the whirlpool. The whirlpool removes all the hop fragments and other bits and pieces that don’t belong by whirling it all up into one mass of stuff called the trub. We had to listen out for the gurgling noises and I remarked how it sounded like a bath tub being emptied. From here it was time to cool things down and the heat exchanger quickly went to work since yeast doesn’t really like to be boiled. Fair enough too.

The first Colonial Baltic Porter was now well on it’s way to completion! It was time to celebrate and unwind with a little more testing, this time of the tasting variety …

The limited release beers I’ve tried in recent memory have all been big, hoppy American styles and I’ve enjoyed them all but, as a category, pale ale is wider reaching than this and Colonial Pale Ale is a great reminder to this. Inspired by German ale styles the Colonial Pale Ale is an Altbier, a type of Pale Ale, that is beautiful with great biscuity malt, peppery spice and medium body. The background for Altbier evolves from older German ales, like the Keutebier style which was Colonial’s last limited release, with the name “alt” meaning “old” being a relative term to when lagers were gaining in popularity.

Next up we tasted the Kolsch and although by strict definition a true Kolsch is brewed in Cologne, Germany, there are a couple of great Australian breweries producing their own Kolsch style beers. I’ve enjoyed countless Colonial Kolsch pints and it’s always a sensational beer exhibiting great balance in spiciness, bitterness and hoppiness. I also love this style because it’s a great one to recommend to people who are tipping their toes in the water of craft brewing. When I was working at Five Bar we recommended it to a bunch of fellow hospitality folk and they drank us out of both the Sunner Kolsch, from Cologne, and 4 Pines Kolsch.

The final taster was the Colonial Porter, a fittingly dark number to end the day on with coffee and chocolate delivered with medium body.

I left Colonial with a massive smile on my face, as I normally do anyway, and a far better understanding of the beer making process. Mal and Sorcha were fantastic hosts, as well as Sarah in the bar for making me a great coffee and Adam in the kitchen for an epic fish burger for lunch. Be sure to look out for Colonial’s next Limited Edition – Baltic Porter – due to land in late June/early July. What a perfect excuse for a winter South West getaway, huh?

Colonial Brewing | Osmington Road, Margaret River
Open Daily 11am – 6pm

Brewery Update!

News from Bootleg Brewery – Listen Up folks!

News from Bootleg Brewery, Margaret River

April 2012

Bootleg Black IPA is currently in the tanks just in time for the colder weather. Put aside a weekend and head down to Margaret River, anyone who’s lived there will tell you it’s great in winter, and try (or get reacquainted) a nice big pint!

There’s also a cider in the works, can’t wait to see what comes out!

Stay up to date with Bootleg through their Brew News

Roaming – Ferguson Valley

Taking full advantage of living down south and exploring the beautiful Ferguson Valley – oh and finding a new brewery along the way along with rather a lot of gnomes

There are oh-so-many towns, wineries, breweries and random things to see in the South West so it’s to be expected there will be much spontaneous day adventures to be had. Yesterday was such a day. The intention was to drive to the Ferguson Valley, find one of the many walking trails and take a 10-12km walk though the trees and the sunshine. We did end up doing this in the end (just knock off about 8km!) but first … we stumbled across a brewery.

Ferguson Valley is another beautiful part of the South West, rolling hills (it might be a cliche but it’s still pretty) covered in various tress and vines and stuff, and it’s a mere 20 minutes from Bunbury. Well worth a trip and it’s a beautiful drive.

Roaming Time: 5 hours

Where We Roamed: Ferguson Valley – Wild Bull Brewery, Willow Bridge Estate Winery, Wellington Forest and Gnomesville

Wild Bull Brewery

A new discovery for us, it was one of those happy accidents. Thank God for green signposts that show us the way!

We arrived to Wild Bull Brewery to find we had to use the overflow parking, evidently many people connect beautiful sunny day with beer, and grabbed ourselves an Amber Ale and a Bitter. The Bitter was crisp with a refreshing bitter bite at the end and the Amber Ale held a great burnt caramel flavour. We found a nicely shaded table outside and plonked ourselves down. They had a bit of live acoustic guitar action being played which was nice, although a strange contrast to the fancy dress birthday party at the nearby large table. It’s not often you see Wonder Woman at a brewery. They had the obligatory (for those breweries in the South West) kids playground but the setting amongst Ferguson Valley is certainly a bit unique.

There is plenty of merchandise to immerse yourself in if you like, growlers and 5lt take home kegs, glassware and hats and bar mats and everything one might need to set up their back room to pretend you are actually at the brewery.

Wild Bull Brewery
Pile Road, Ferguson Valley
Amber Ale & Bitter
Wild Bull Brewery
And Some Other Stuff
Although not strictly beer related, ending up at Wild Bull Brewery guided the remainder of the day so I will prattle further (also, I took some more photos so I need somewhere to put them).

Wine Barrels
Willow Bridge Estate Winery

Willow Bridge Estate Winery was delightful and what you would want from a cellar door visit. Leona, who has been working there for 11 years, loves nothing more than to talk to people. In fact, we barely talked wine whilst we were there. But isn’t that lovely? To talk to a real person who gives a damn rather than someone who learnt some facts about wine from a sheet? We thought so. The Tempranillo was our favourite so we walked away with a bottle of that. We had gotten so caught up in conversation we totally forgot to ask about the many, many wine barrels out the front (full of what appeared to be wine?).

I’ll skip over Wellington Forest as it was mostly just us walking, chatting, kicking gum nuts and me walking through spider webs (and then looking like a crazy person as I tried to wave my arms about to free myself from them).

Jarrah Trail
Wellington Forest

Gnomesville was worth it just because you spend the whole time giggling. There are (as the name suggests) so, so many gnomes. For whatever reason people have started putting gnomes there, there are signs from sporting clubs and families and I even saw a hen’s night and a pretty decent size Welsh flag. The Gnome Detention Centre (i.e. gnomes surrounded by chicken wire) on the other side of a fence was a little odd but then again, the whole thing was delightfully odd.

Gnomes, Gnomes and the more Gnomes
Wellington Mill & Ferguson Road, Ferguson Valley

A Drive Down the Road

Colonial Brewing has a new limited release out – Keutebier – available only off tap and just happens to be a mere 60 minutes from my front door

If I get in the car and drive for just one hour I can be at Colonial Brewing. That small fact makes me very happy.

People Watching at Colonial during Easter

Over Easter, since we had a few days off, it seemed like a great chance to head down to try their latest release. I didn’t know what it was but Mal, the Head Brewer, had told me about it at the South West Beer Festival and he was damn excited about it.

We got there in the afternoon, hit the bar and grabbed two pints of Keutebier. Hanging around on the back verandah, we sat and had a good look around. Plenty of people, another small bar, a kid’s playground, a guy on stilts and Jerry Fraser shucking oysters. We’ve both worked with Jerry in Perth so wandered over for a hug and an hello. About then, the band came on stage. It was an 80s band and the spandex to fluoro ratio was about 50/50 and deliberately over the top. They were, I have to say, ridiculously awesome.

So there we sat, in the south west, a mere hour from home, enjoying our Keutebiers in the sun. It’s an old world style beer and it’s a wheat beer. I’ve always loved wheat beers and it’s normally the first thing I try when I go to a new brewery. But it’s not just any wheat beer, it’s kinda complicated, like it’s got a darker side.

I fetched our two Colonial Growlers from the car and had them filled, one with IPA and the other with Keutebier. 4 litres of beer to go please, it had to be done. We popped the growler of Keutebier when we got home and for a moment it smelled like someone had exploded an orange! It went down sensationally with a couple of home-made pizzas.

Keutebier with Homemade Spicy Chicken Pizza

where to get it

If you’re in the south west, head straight to Colonial Brewing and try it at the source. Be sure to waive to Mal if you see him in the brewery (incidently that’s basically how we met him one day – just looking through the glass and next thing we knew, we were standing in the brewery talking about beer and fermentation …how very rock ‘n’ roll). Also, be sure to read the flyer, it’s bright yellow and hard to miss. It’s also very wordy and I like that.

If you’re in Perth, stop by The Royal in East Perth and try it there.

Either way, don’t forget your growlers!