How do you say “beer” in Australia? Simple question, right? Some of you may be thinking of a marketing slogan, popular for its wit and funny commercials. However, “Australian for beer…” is not an easy question to answer. With 9 major brewery brands run by 2 companies, and about 100 microbreweries and 33 brewpub chains, Australia has quite a bid to offer the craft beer drinker.
So how do I try these beers? You could take a trip to Australia and tour the vast countryside on a month long brewery tour… wouldn’t that be great! On the other hand, many of us are feeling the pinch of tough economic times, so an expensive trip half way across the globe to drink beer may not be in the cards right now. You could scour the county looking for the few Australian brands that are imported in limited quantities. Or, you could head down to the definitive source of all that is Australian beer, Bondi in the Gaslamp.
While they don’t carry every brand in Australia, Bondi does have a unique selection of hard to find premium Australian brands. That fact alone draws me in. Couple that with authentic Australian fare to pair with, and we start to find our ever-elusive Australian beer answer.
Ms. Stephanie Nelkovski, Bar Manager at the time of my visit, took me on a culinary tour of their fine ales and entrees. We began with a suggested pairing right from the menu. Cooper’s Pale Ale paired with Salt-and-Pepper Calamari. The Cooper’s Pale has a fine cloudy appearance due to its secondary fermentation. A deep straw yellow color, this beer has a delicate malt flavor with a fruity character and finish. The calamari was enhanced by the generous salt and pepper seasoning and was tender and light to match the pale ale.
Next, we delved into the Brewer’s Plate, purposely crafted to pair with one of the best and oldest craft brews in Australia – Cooper’s Sparkling Ale. Cooper’s Sparkling Ale is “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” according to Bondi. It is golden in color and does not hint at the wonderful bounty of hoppy bitterness that waits. Your first sip and your palate is filled with a smooth bitterness that is steady in intensity and stamina. Hop notes permeate this balanced beer. What better compliment than the Brewer’s Plate, as this appetizer holds a wide variety of foods and flavors. From eggplant dip and liverwurst pate, to salami, marinated mushrooms, seasoned fresh tomato, cured meats and cheeses, there is a little bit of everything here. And it all goes perfectly with the Sparkling Ale. The bitterness helps to refresh the palate between different flavors and the while the hoppiness works to enhance the savory flavors.
From here we moved on to a pairing that typifies how a good beer pairing can truly make a meal more memorable. Stephanie brought out their Lamb shank paired with Cooper’s Best Extra Stout. Braised in its own juices, the lamb shank is succulent and savory. Served with red bee mashed potatoes and garlic wilted spinach, each bite was melt in your mouth delicious. The tender meat would fall off the bone and the flavors were earthy, robust, and reminded of a special holiday meal. Couple that with the huge coffee nose and subtle roasted flavor of Cooper’s Stout and you’ve got a meal that will make you a regular customer. The earthiness of the stout was accented with a flavor of semi-sweet chocolate. Truly a perfect pairing and my favorite of the night.
We decided to move back toward the lighter side of the spectrum. A classic British dish that has found a home in Australia, Fish and Chips had to be tried. The “chips” were real pub chips, and the fish was beer-battered in Blue Grenadier and served with fresh lemon myrtle aioli. A clean dish with a light batter covering, that surprising was free of an oily texture. The aioli was a fantastic alternative to traditional tartar. Cooper’s Vintage Ale was paired. The Vintage Ale had an amber/red hue and a nutty aroma. Caramel notes dominated my first taste and a big malt character dominated this beer. The seasoned beer-battered fish worked well with the maltiness and caramel notes of the Vintage Ale. Smooth hop bitterness lies underneath and helps to cut through some of the aioli flavors.
Lastly, we finished with one of my favorite dishes, steamed mussels. Bondi’s steamed chili mussels are light, spicy, and flavorful. Cooked with tomato, white wine, and grilled ciabatta bread, the classic earthy flavors all melded together nicely. With a light dish like this I tend to look for a beer that can reset my palate, and refresh my senses for each bite. James Boag’s Premium Lager fit the bill perfectly. A light straw color and strong clean head makes this beer visually appealing. Boag’s Premium Lager has a clean, crisp mouth feel, with a slight hint of lemon. Very delightful paired with the mussels as the white wine added some acidity to compliment the faint citrus flavors while the carbonation and clean characteristics helped to make every bite taste like it was your first. Every meal should end with the last bite as good as the first.
Overall, Bondi is a casual environment where you can belly up to the bar and try some unique beers as well as some local ones. Stone IPA, Green Flash Hophead Red, and Trumer Pils are all on tap, as well as a few other locals in the bottle. A beer bar at heart, Bondi also takes pride in the little things, from proper serving glassware and prep to a knowledgeable staff ready to help you pick a beer to suit.
So while it is still too early for me to answer the question, “How do you say ‘beer’ in Australia?” I do know where to find the answer. Just need to do a little more research! Maybe you should too…