Neon Lights + Burgers

I like surprises and I like burgers so imagine my delight when I’m surprised by a burger. Allow me to elaborate …

I like surprises and I like burgers so imagine my delight when I’m surprised by a burger. Allow me to elaborate …

We had a couple of days of “wild weather”, as the term goes despite you never hearing about “captive weather”, in Perth and the South West. To look at the trees was as though Mother Nature had taken a chainsaw and decided most of them were just too tall. Big trees were ripped out like pesky weeds, fences went a bit further down the road and some basketball hoops fell down too. You get the idea. So with all this storm stuff going on it was only inevitable to lose power.

One of the many trees that fell down during the wild weather

On the first night without power my boyfriend cooked 4 packets of 2 minute noodles on the gas stove and that was fine. On the second night, whilst trying to empty the entire fridge into a borrowed esky, we decided it would be a whole lot easier to head to the pub.

We drove towards Bunbury and decided on The Highway Hotel. The fact neither of us had been before seemed like a good enough reason to go. The fact it is owned by one of the two supermarket giants in this country, Woolworth’s, seemed like a good enough reason to counteract the first one but we went anyway.

The side entrance was locked and looked closed; a drive to the front revealed unlocked doors under a neon sign of the letters HH. We walked in to find a handful of tables in the restaurant area and the bar dotted with blokes and pints. They were yelling helpfully at the bartender as she tried to get to the Foxtel channel they wanted, displayed on 3 screens above the bar.

We were very pleased and somewhat surprised to find Nail Ale Australian Pale Ale on tap given the venue doesn’t hint to any sort of craft beer culture. It’s also not a common beer to find  on tap, though this is set to change with Nail Ale and Perth’s other well known brewery, Feral, sharing a new brewhouse in Bassendean, so it’s great to see it around. With a credit card behind the bar, two pints in front of us and the tennis French Open on the screens our Monday night was going fairly well.

Like most Woolworth’s owned ALH (Australian Leisure & Hospitality) pubs the venue was littered with promotional posters, one of which was the Monday night special “Burger n Beer Deal” for $15. We thought, what the hell, its almost alliteration and it makes ordering easy, and got the deal x 2.

I must admit our expectations where not high because a) Its Woolies b) Its a meal deal and c) You don’t normally associate neon lights with good food. Not that we were expecting bad food but we were not expecting a very tasty burger with lots of nice extras.

The burger presented nicely in a focaccia bun and the patty was thick, a good start so far and to see all the little extras was a delightful surprise; finely diced beetroot, cheese, bacon that hadn’t been fried to within an inch of its life, rocket and cherry tomatoes were all big ticks from me! And the chips, though most certainly bulk purchased frozen McCain, were crisp and yummy.

We each got another pint of Nail Ale whilst we finished off our burgers; Pale Ale and Burgers are such a good match! I think it’s the fruity elements of the beer bringing out sweetness in the meat, tomatoes and beetroot but enough bitterness to make sure it doesn’t get slapped around by a big juicy burger! We watched the end of the tennis and then went to pay the bill. I had been expecting to have to pay over and above the “meal deal” because we had chosen Nail Ale instead of something more mainstream but it was included and for four pints and two burgers, I thought $50 was a pretty decent asking. The service had also been good, the girl behind the bar was friendly and checked to see if we wanted more drinks and had clearly away our plates promptly.

Just goes to show you can’t judge a book by its cover or, more accurately, you can’t judge a pub by its massive neon lights.

The Highway Hotel

Corner Forrest Avenue & Spencer Street, Bunbury | (08) 9721 4966

Open Monday – Friday 11am – late

Open Saturday & Sunday 10am – late

Burger n Beer Meal Deal available all day Mondays, just $15

Coopers + Busselton Jetty

But there are beers that you happily return to time and time again, that you’ll take a 6 pack to dinner at a friend’s house, that you’ll reach for in the bottleshop safe in the knowledge you’ll get something you will really enjoy. Coopers Pale Ale most certainly falls into that category for me.

A clear and beautiful winter day at The Jetty

I love the Busselton Jetty, it’s intriguing, romantic and historic all at the same time.

It’s a lovely stroll along 1.8km of timber which apparently makes it the longest timber piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere; apparently you can’t have a major tourist attraction unless it’s the biggest, longest, tallest, something-est etc. Whether record breaking or not, the walk will take you past people casting lines out into the ocean; there’s significant black splotches on the timber to indicate it’s a good spot for catching squid. There’s a fair few tired looking kids with parents full of encouragement who just want to convince the kid it’s worth getting to the end of the Jetty; always funny to see a temper tantrum in full action. Outside of the great people watching there is, of course, the Jetty itself with the walk taking you along beautiful blue water and the Underwater Observatory going 8 metres below sea level to reveal hundreds of species of marine life. As you walk the Jetty there are stories to be found, bits of history to take in and sections of the old jetty linger as more tangible reminder of what used to be there.

One of two weather vanes on Busselton Jetty

Every visit is a little different. Sometimes I will do the Underwater Observatory, sometimes it’s just a walk to the end and back and sometimes it’s just a quick look before heading into The Goose for some breakfast. I can go and visit the Jetty time and time again and it’s always enjoyable … just like your favourite beer.

Now I should probably scratch those words “favourite beer” because they don’t mean much, I can’t pick a single favourite beer. Hell, I can’t even pick a single favourite beer style. It depends on mood, time of day, the people you’re with, what you’re eating, what music you’re listening too …

But there are beers you happily return to time and time again, that you’ll take a 6 pack to dinner at a friend’s house, that you’ll reach for in the bottleshop safe in the knowledge you’ll get something you will really enjoy. Coopers Pale Ale most certainly falls into that category for me.

Coopers Pale Ale is brewed without any artificial preservatives or anything nasty like that and it’s bottle conditioned, meaning yeast will go through a secondary fermentation in the bottle after it’s been capped. This processes creates carbon dioxide for natural carbonation rather than using an injection of CO2 to force carbonation. This mean lots of great things for the beer such as longer shelf life, more complex flavours, finer carbonation and better head retention and, all in all, a happier beer.

I might not have spent the weekend trying to cook up some sort of Masterchef inspired dish to match it and it’s not a limited release or a collaboration brew. What it is, however, is a damn fine beer that is fruity with light malt and a pleasantly bitter finish; it is consistently good quality, all Australian owned and with a rich history and all of this for a good price. It’s the beer my boyfriend and I have been enjoying this weekend and it’s nice to remember that great beer isn’t just the one-off cross country collaboration brews but also the home grown, well crafted beers you’ve been drinking for years.

Fried Mice + Fresh Fish + Local Beer

I love the Clancy’s Fish Pubs, the food is always tasty and fresh with a great range of tap beers with a local focus. When visiting any of the Clancy’s Fish Pubs – Fremantle, City Beach, Applecross and Dunsborough – it should be compulsory to order a minimum of one serve of Fried Mice and a pint of something local.

It was my boyfriends birthday over the weekend so his folks came down for a visit and we thought a Sunday lunch would be a nice way to spend an afternoon. We wanted to take them somewhere they hadn’t been before and if that place happened to have some fantastic beers on tap, well, that was just a cheeky bonus. Clancy’s Fish Pub Dunsborough fit the bill nicely, and since they don’t take bookings it was an easy exercise of rolling up at our leisure.

I love the Clancy’s Fish Pubs, the food is always tasty and fresh with a great range of tap beers with a local focus. When visiting any of the Clancy’s Fish Pubs – Fremantle, City Beach, Applecross and Dunsborough – it should be compulsory to order a minimum of one serve of Fried Mice and a pint of something local.

Fried Mice
Battered and deep fried Jalapenos stuffed with Persian Fetta
Served on Red Capsicum Rouille with Sour Cream
(gotta have something to ease the burning heat!)

It was just after 12noon when we arrived at Clancy’s Fish Pub Dunsborough and plenty of other people had clearly had the same idea; not surprising since it was a sunny long weekend and the last one West Australians will get for a few months.

We hit the bar and delved head first in a diverse list of tap beers with a lot of local representation from Little Creatures, Nail Ale, Eagle Bay Brewing, Bootleg Brewery, Cowaramup Brewery, Tanglehead Brewing and Feral Brewery. With so many great local beers to choose from, it makes for a delightfully hard choice! We selected an array of beers to start with so we could do a little tasting of our own …

  • Nail Ale Australian Pale Ale
  • Eagle Bay Kolsch
  • Mountain Goat Steam Ale
  • Cowaramup Pilsener
It’s always a pleasure to have a pint of Nail Ale Australian Pale Ale, it’s consistently delicious with a great balance of bitter and fruit. It uses pale and crystal malts with Tasmanian Pride of Ringwood hops, for earthy, strong flavours, and Hallertau for floral aromas. Since Clancy’s are the only venues I see Nail Ale on tap it almost seems mandatory to get a pint.
Pint of Nail Ale Australian Pale Ale
They may not be the biggest brewery but Nail Ale do make headlines – Antarctic Nail Ale was a very limited release of 30 bottles in 2010; Nail Ale Pale brewed with Antarctic ice brought back by the Sea Shepard from an anti-whaling campaign. A single bottle sold for $800 in a fund raising auction for the Sea Shepard Conversation Society. If anyone tried it, I’d love to know the result!
I was given the responsibility of selecting beers for my boyfriends parents, a task that I happily took on. They enjoy lagers and pilsners and shared in a few Coopers Pale Ales we had the evening before. With this in mind I picked the Eagle Bay Kolsch and Mountain Goat Steam Ale.
I’ve said it a number of times but Kolsch is one of my favourite styles both for flavour, and as a style for recommending to lager enthusiasts. Eagle Bay Kolsch is light bodied with lovely hops and a little spice and stone fruit. It’s bright and looks gorgeous in the glass.
The words Mountain Goat Steam Ale conjure up images in my mind of a goat driving an old steam train. As for the beer itself, it is delicately herbal and fruity with a bit of wheat malt for extra refreshment and Cascade and Citra hops. Coming in at #37 in the 2011 The Critics’ Choice: Australia’s Best Beers, up from #47 the previous year, it’s also 100% certified organic.
Thankfully both beers were enjoyed; there’s something sweetly rewarding when you pick a beer for someone and they like it and order another.
It had also been almost a year since I’d tasted the Cowaramup Pilsener from a tasting paddle on a visit to the brewery almost a year ago. During my day in the brewhouse of Colonial Brewery with Mal, Head Brewer, he had been singing the praises of Jeremy and his Cowaramup Pilsener so when I spotted it off tap I was keen to have a pint. The family owned and operated Cowaramup Brewery lies on the edge of Margaret River in Cowaramup, a town that is affectionately known by the locals as “cow town”, and they grow a few hop varieties on site that are used in their beers. Their Pilsener was awarded a Champion Lager trophy at the 2011 Australian International Beer Awards and made its first appearance in latest The Critics’ Choice Australia’s Best Beers at #58. It’s a German style Pilsener conditioned for seven weeks and using Perle and Tettnanger hops, both of which originate in Germany.
Perle Hops were breed from the English variety, Northern Brewer and an undisclosed male parent at the German Hull Hop Research Institute. Whilst that may bring up a kind of Frankenstein inspired image of producing hops, the result here is not disastrous. Perle has great versatility for bittering, flavour and aroma. Perhaps this sort of versatility, combined with a resistance to common hop diseases, is why it’s the most widely planted hop variety in Germany.
Tettnanger, a Southern Germany hop variety, possessing similar characteristics to Saaz hops (most known for their presence in Pilsners) and considered a bit of a “classic” hop. In wide demand from all over the world, it’s traditionally used to produce German Pilsners for it’s citrus/grassy flavours.
We soon noticed the line for ordering food was starting to grow so we grabbed our beers and headed for the queue. When we first joined the line our intention was to order one serve of Fried Mice and one serve of Grilled Sardine Fillets. By the time we reached the counter we ordered 2 serves of Fried Mice, the Grilled Sardine Fillets and 2 serves of Tempura House Fish & Chips. I wonder whether that happens to everyone standing in the line which just happens to be right where the food comes out of the kitchen.
Soon it was time for another round and my boyfriend and I opted for something different again and something darker.
  • Bootleg Black Market IPA
  • Tanglehead Stout
The Black Market IPA is one of my favourite offerings from Bootleg Brewery which has been operating in the Margaret River region since 1994. The happy harmony between dark malts, creating richness and darkness, and aromatic and floral hops, makes for one of my favourite brews. It was also an interesting match to the Fried Mice, acting like an IPA would to the heat of the dish on top of dark malt richness adding a contrasting rich sweetness. The Black IPA, India Black Ale, or whatever you want to call it, has been surfacing in popularly in recent years and if you’re keen you’ll find a great article on the style on ‘Australian Brew News’.
Bootleg Black Market IPA + Fried Mice + Tempura Fish & Chips
The fish was caught and delivered that day!
Tanglehead Brewery is located in Albany amongst the Great Southern region of Western Australia, the town is most commonly associated with whale watching, the Stirling Ranges and Bluff Knoll. I have not visited Albany since I was a kid (and the only thing I remember is being car sick and throwing up in the hotel) so I will have to make a point of returning soon. They had the Tanglehead Stout on tap, which is an Oatmeal Stout, silky and rich and dominated by chocolate and coffee notes. It was a rather strange follow up to the Black Market IPA and played a bit of havoc with my palate but certainly a nice velvety drop.
The food arrived in good time considering the place had filled up very quickly and we wondered just how many serves of their Tempura Fish & Chips would have been pumped from the kitchen over the long weekend. The fish tasted fresh and flavoursome and was perfectly cooked; the Fried Mice were great (as always) and thankfully didn’t burn your palate to the point of numbness and the Grilled Sardine Fillets were a great tangy little bite to start on.
Grilled Sardine Fillets with Chargrilled Ciabatta and Scorched Lemon
Tempura House Fish and Chips with Green Salad and Tartare Sauce
The atmosphere at Clancy’s is always a bright and bubbly one with yellow, red and blue seats scattered throughout the venue. The grass, having seen a decent dose of rain recently, was healthy and green with parents and kids running around, kicking a footy (despite seeing West Coast lose to Brisbane on the big screen TV inside) and enjoying the open space and sunshine. The staff are friendly and it speaks volumes when you see the bartenders having a laugh and a joke with each other and their customers; it looks like a great team with Jane (formerly of the Clancy’s Fish Pub Fremantle) running the show. Combine this with great fresh food (their fish is caught and delivered fresh daily) and an impressive representation of local beers and ciders and it really captures what the South West is all about.