Brisbane’s become cooler than me

Everyone always digs on Brisbane. Even when I first moved to Australia it was all “it’s too small; everything closes early; there’s nowhere good to eat.” Compare it to likes of Sydney or Melbourne, and yeah, I get it. But guess what haters, at some point since moving away a year and a half ago, Brisbane’s upped its ante.

I always said if I could have the culture of Melbourne coupled with the weather of Brisbane I would be set for life. Now, I’m not going to go as far and say it’s been accomplished but seriously Brisbane, you’re picking up your weight.

On my most recent visit I was blown away at the duck liver parfait served at James Street’s trendy Gerard’s Bar. In fact, I added it on my “best thing ever” list and that was even after devouring truffle salami and mackerel tartare. Could the Brisbane dining scene be creeping in Melbourne’s wake?

And as for Fortitude Valley, the once seedy and still may be but only if you don’t know where to go now that Brisbane is cool, nightlife neighborhood, I didn’t go out ‘in’ the Valley but rather ‘under’ the Valley. Greaser, an American themed bar is housed in the cellar of a 130-year-old heritage building offering craft beers, American imports and a stellar whiskey list on the side of classic hot dogs.

Sure, I was still living in town when the hippest thing was old Queensland cottages being converted into uber-chic bars like Alfred & Constance, Kettle & Tin and Sixes & Sevens – as they all have uber-cool names too, but I hear even ‘hippie-haven’ West End has transformed itself upmarket with some new additions in its pocket.

I think it goes without saying another area where Brisbane hasn’t failed us is the craft beer front. From my old hang The Scratch to Tenerife’s Tippler’s Tap and their recent Southbank prodigy Tomohawk Bar and let’s not forget the micro-brewers Green Beacon and classic Bacchus Brewing, Brisbane is where its at.

What’s still not cool is having to leave an establishment to go find a bathroom somewhere down the street rather then in the bar/restaurant/café, but over time you may just get that right too, Brisbane.

In the meantime, I recognize there’s all the extra stuff that even made Brisbane cool back when I was living there. An awesome music scene, a laid back life style and pristine beaches in an arm’s reach, so yeah Brisbane, maybe you were cool all along.

Read more about my adventures in Brisbane here.

Goodbye Brisbane

Southbank skyline

Australians say Brisbane is a big country town. Despite being the 3rd largest city in the country, its small town feel is what makes it fit perfectly in Queensland culture. It’s the sort of city where your bound to know someone who knows someone – where its easy to get wrapped up in the social scene – be invited to opening launches of new restaurants, follow a local band from their early days to making it national, and enjoy the sunshine and moderate weather year round. It’s as far removed from New York as one could imagine and after I swore up and down I’d never love again – both London and New York are unbeatable to me – I find myself with a tear and sorrow saying goodbye to my home in Brisbane.

I’ve fallen in love with New Farm – a neighborhood of trendy, delicious cafes, a luscious park with river views, and thriving nightlife at my doorstep. It’s the type of neighborhood that I like to say that if I didn’t live in New Farm, I’d desperately be envious of those who live in New Farm.

New Farm

Sure, the CBD (Central Business District) is minimal, and I can walk from one end of the city to the other in an hour – but on these Sunday afternoon ventures I would come across giant lizards called Goannas blocking my path, weekend markets selling trinkets and fresh produce, and healthy people just enjoying the outdoors. So what if I was the only one in the park tanning in my bathing suit – only NYC dwellers know that when there is no beach or pool – a park makes the perfect spot to show some skin.

I’ve left my heart in my local The Scratch – although its not local to my apartment, it is to my work and the boys work hard to make sure that my pallet is tempted by craft beers from all across Australia. I’ve left my head at nearly every bar in the Valley – from the backyard of Rics to the mismatched couches of Kerbside. I’ve left my stomach to the avocado smash and roasted tomatoes of Ponycat – and to the pork belly fries of their sister Kettle & Tin.

The place I called home for the last two years is no longer. My bright blue kitchen, convenient en suite and balcony overflowing with plants now are someone else’s. My Brisbane family, Sam and Jake and Quentin will always be special to me, and although I can no longer call them my flat mates, I know that we will be lifelong friends – along with all the other beautiful people who have entered my life these last two years.

It’s time for me to say goodbye Brisbane, hello Melbourne.



Scratch This

Listen all of y’all this is sabotage! Listen all of y’all this is sabotage! Apparently this popular Beastie Boys song was on repeat all day last Thursday at The Scratch, craft beer bar extraordinaire, in preparation for the Yeastie Boys event held that evening.

Spell Check is on mind you. That reads Yeastie Boys, the boutique New Zealand brewery specializing in taste bud exploding, nostril flaring nip.  Brew master Stu made a pit stop in good ole Brissy, somewhere he hasn’t been since the late 80’s, to share with us beer loving folk a tale or two to compliment his flavorful science experiments.

Now picture yourself in a basement. Start with four walls, hanging from are oddities like a horned animal skull set above an unpolished piano and an oversized old-school brass record player speaker cut in half. Now, in the far corner add in your grandmothers chez lounge, only it’s been in the garage unused for a few years. Then there is the green couch from your Aunt Myrtle’s tea room, complete with a plush velvet finish. A makeshift table is made from a solo snare drum; don’t tap too loud now. Toward the back of the room a miniature Asian table sits about two feet from the floor, with tiny chairs to go around it, to give your back an awesome hunch.

This is no basement. It sure feels like one to me though. You know, like where you hung out as a teenager sneaking beers and talking gossip with your friends. (Mine was actually a shed out back of a friend’s house, instead of underground but you get the point). The place gives you a sense of…I feel good, I’m with my friends, this furniture has seen its day, good times!

This is the best new bar to hit Brisbane, and of all unsuspecting suburbs, Milton. Upon walking in you’re greeted by what can only seem like old time buds, three dear friends who opened the place just a few months back, with a sampler of what’s on tap today. See that’s how it works here, there’s no fancy nitrogen tap system installed by big name distributers. The boys themselves wheel in the kegs of local microbrews from the alley out back, hook them up to one of the four taps, and when they go, they’re gone. Scratch one off the list and bring in another! I mean, that’s what the chalk board is for, right?

Clearly this is the new local for obvious reasons.

The Scratch

The boys were selling tickets to the Yeastie Boys event weeks in advance, and for $35 we couldn’t refuse their beer loving enticement.  The ticket included 5 healthy samples of Yeastie Boys offerings, including a surprise beer on the newly installed hand pump, in addition to a full crisp beer on arrival. Add to the fact that the boys were around making sure our complimentary shelled peanuts, a Scratch staple, we’re fully filled in between rounds of local cheeses being shared throughout the bar. They’re smart these boys, they’re cute too, but they’re damn smart.

The beer on arrival was the American style, super hoppy, Digital IPA from the tap, and so I was shocked when the first beer of the tasting was the Pot Kettle Black from a bottle. This delicious black IPA, or what others would describe as a hoppy porter, is Yeastie Boys’ biggest seller, bringing in 50% of sales. Mmmm, it’s fantastic, but why so dark so fast? What I had no idea in advance was that Stu himself had received hate mail in response to some of his brews being so alarmingly potent, and therefore, we were starting with the easy stuff. Yikes! I’m glad another advantage of this place is that you can bring in outside food, and with the number of takeaway joints lining Park Road, arriving early to snag a seat and munch down on some Thai was a good choice.

A quick rinse of our glasses and we moved on to the Red Rackham, named after the first movie Stu took his son to go see, which was a fruity Belgian style. You’ll notice a theme of pop culture reference to many of the brew’s names. This was a limited release, and more or less only exists because the wrong yeast was added to an already established beer they were trying to brew, however in the end they got this. Muah, it’s good. Stu tells us New Zealander brewers are more experimental then Australians. As he said this statement, I looked around the crowded bar as I was curious if anyone had taken offense.

Stu from Yeastie Boys telling us what we need to know

In between nibbles of goat cheese, oh my gosh, I question people who don’t know the value in a delicious goat cheese; we transitioned to His Majesty 2011. Served out of a magnum bottle, only one batch of both His and Her Majesty are brewed a year, and His is a more traditional, English IPA, more mild then the American style IPAs that tend to lean heavily on the hops.

It’s about time to get serious. And I mean serious. Up until this very moment, even the boys at The Scratch didn’t know what the mysterious beer in the hand pump was. It was about to be revealed, and I was a bit apprehensive. Whew, thank god the fresh Brie made its way around because holy tomato! All of 50 patrons, which is 10 people less than capacity mind you, however fit into the bar quite comfortably, lined up at the tap to get their taste of Rex Attitude. Even at first pour the smell, whew, the smell, made its way around the bar. To quote dear friend Jacqui, “if a hospital tasted like beer, it would taste like this”.

Aged for 12 months in a chardonnay barrel, the beer itself was only 7% alcohol however is made from 100% pure peated malts. It’s definitely an acquired taste. Interestingly enough though, the final beer of the night was the Imperial Rex; still had the potent, medicinal touch however was more drinkable, at least to me. It was obvious that the two were so intense, yet different enough from each other, that typically one will have a clear preference of one over the other. I think my nostrils still have that stench lingering on them.

The Outcome

So that was it, another great evening at The Scratch and a successful event that has inspired more like it to come. For those that could actually swallow down the Rex Attitude they were encouraged to drink the keg dry, awesome for them. I just can’t wait to see what gets put on the hand pump next. It took longer then I would have liked, but am damn happy to have found a place to call my local.