Being a local …

More moving house fun, tasty wings and beer …

Moving house has been a mixed event – the dismay at just how many boxes were required for the accumulation of our stuff, the amount of sugar soap we have gone through to clean houses old and new and the delight in unpacking boxes and setting up our new house (well, the banks house but our names are on the papers!).

The first weekend was the actual moving part – cleaning of the old house, hiring removalists and multiple moments of thinking “where the hell did I pack (x) thing that’s quite important”.

Last weekend was about unpacking/finding spots for things/spending too much money at Bunnings so we decided Friday night would be a night off to check out the local pub.

Now that we are living in the east, Midland is our new stomping ground so we headed to The Principal Bar & Restaurant.

The Principal – 23 Cale Street, Midland – open 10am every day

First of all, it is a good looking pub. Second, the food servings are huge. We noted the latter whilst we watched big dish after huge dish go out from the kitchen, their waitresses much have forearms of steel! We thought we were being sensible when we decided to get a few of the small dishes to share but we ended up with this …

image

You are looking at, from left to right, is squid, Spanish marinated chicken wings, beer battered onion rings and three sliders. This is otherwise known as ‘way too much food for two people’, I would have also accepted ‘food that needs beer’, mostly just because there is an awful lot of oil and yum for the beer to play merrily with.

The chicken wings were my favourite, messy to eat and full flavoured with the magic addition of paprika. The sliders were a nice variety of chicken and avocado, BLT and good old fashioned beef. But again, seriously, way too much for two people.

We had The Principal’s beers on tap, their pilsner and wheat beer which the staff thought might have been brewed at Last Drop Brewing. I’m not sure but regardless of their origins the beers are pretty tasty. The pilsner was fruitier than I had expected but with a nice hint of spice and a clean, lightly bitter taste. The wheat was very sessionable, not too much banana and not overloaded with spice. My beer world gets caught up in beers that have words like “imperial”, “smoked” or “aged” or some sort of combination of all three so it is nice to have a pint of something clean and refreshing that I don’t have to think too much about.

All in all, not too shabby for a lazy Friday night close to home.

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.

deep fried everything

I think everyone gets the occasional craving for fish & chips; the golden deep fried, salty goodness calls out and combined with a nice beer in hand at the same time – bliss! That craving hit my boyfriend and I a couple of nights ago so we armed ourselves with some Mac’s Hop Rocker, two fillets of Gold Band Snapper from the local seafood place and set about making a rather unhealthy dinner

I think everyone gets the occasional craving for fish & chips; the golden deep fried, salty goodness calls out and combined with a nice beer in hand at the same time – bliss!

The above mentioned craving hit my boyfriend and I a couple of nights ago so we armed ourselves with some Mac’s Hop Rocker, two fillets of Gold Band Snapper from the local seafood place and set about making a rather unhealthy dinner.

I remember first trying Mac’s Hop Rocker about 5 years ago and loved it because it was a damn interesting pilsner; crisp hoppy bitterness and tangy citrus aromas in a smooth, medium bodied beer (5% abv). I think it may have been the first New Zealand beer I had come across and since then I have recommended it to friends and customers over the years. It was also a pretty good choice for the meal as the crispness of the beer cuts through the batter but doesn’t overpower the fish. The only thing I dislike, I have to say, is the pull tab cap to open. It strongly appeals to the degree-in-marketing part of me but it threatens to slice open the finger of the bartender part of me!

In order to make fish & chips we decided to each take on a section of the meal; my boyfriend took “fish” and I took “chips”. I think I did well in the delegation of responsibilities.

The batter was made as per normal and it was a case of some Mac’s for the batter and some Mac’s for the batter-maker and threw in some diced spring onions and garlic into the batter just for good measure. I, myself, had no excuse as no beer went into the potatoes, just devoured by me and honestly, I’m okay with this.

My first step was to slice the ruby red potatoes into wedges and then cheat by throwing them into the microwave for a little bit to save time. Next they were doused in garlic, paprika and olive oil and tossed into a hot pan. And honestly, that was about the extent of it.

It’s hard for me to say what effect adding Mac’s Hop Rocker had to the batter. I’ve had many versions of “beer battered fish” at several pubs and perhaps I don’t have the palate to recognise the differences. However, what I do know is that the meal was delicious. The Gold Band Snapper fillets were thick and perfectly cooked through, the batter was tasty and golden and didn’t taste fatty or greasy. The potato wedges, if I do say so myself, where fab but could perhaps have used more paprika. I should also add here that we got a little carried away once the fish was done and wondered what else we could deep fry since the oil was sitting there, begging to be used. I guess this is how deep fried Mars Bars came into being but we threw in sliced chorizo instead. It’s really not healthy and it’s really wrong … and it’s kinda right too. We threw on the rocket to add some greenery and also just to ensure the entire meal wasn’t fried! It also colour coordinates with the beer!

Locally caught Gold Ban Snapper from a little seafood shop beside Stratham Downs Roadhouse (clearly I’ve forgotten the name) which also has Forbidden Fruit – my favourite little fruit n veg shop

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.