One thing I love about Good Beer Week, is that it helps me discover just how deep craft beer goes into old Melbourne town. I like to consider myself an expert on where to get good beer around the city but both years Good Beer Week has thrown up a surprise place. Last year I made it to the Royston Hotel for the first time and was very impressed, not only with the beer, but the food and the general cosy feel of the place. This year we are only a couple of days in and already I’ve found a gem that I never considered to visit for a good beer.
It turns out Deco Wine Bar (St George’s Road, North Fitzroy), is one of the rare wine bars that looks after us beer drinkers as well. Steve, the owner, is enthusiastic about craft beer and this week hosted a Good Beer Week event called “Land of the Rising Ales”, featuring beer from Japanese breweries; Kiuchi Brewery Hitachino’s Nest and Baird Brewing. Food was prepared by James Wilkinson, chef at the recently opened “Meat Market” in Southbank. Talking us through the beers were the distributors for Hitachino and Baird, Craig Jessup and Adam Betts, respectively.
The Hitachino beers have been a favourite of mine for a while now and having them paired with some amazing food just showed how versatile and unique they are.
The first, the Classic Ale, is aged in cedar barrels and is a lovely hoppy ale with a slight hint of the cedar coming through. I’m normally fairly cautions of matching like to like flavours, so was unsure about it being paired with Salmon barbecued on cedar with miso and pickled ginger. I was gladly proven wrong. The rich smokey meltingly soft salmon and a floral hoppy ale, with plenty of cedar flavours humming along, was a real delight.
Second up was the Hitachino XH, a belgian strong ale, and another brilliant beer. Dark fruits, prominent hops and a big malt profile means this beer was a perfect match for pork, marinated in the beer and served in a bun with spring onion, seaweed, salt and chilli. Rounding out the food was pear poached in the Hitachino Commemorative Ale, vanilla and topped with fruit cake crumble, paired with the Commemorative Ale. The beer and food became a rich combination of vanilla, spice, dark fruits and sweat pear. I’m not going to lie, I slurped the juice off the plate and I’m not ashamed to admit it… and I would do it again too.
Finally, we tasted three of the Baird Brewery beers, the Jubilation, Saison Sayuri and Morning Coffee Stout. I’m constantly impressed with the Baird beers and trying all of these for the first time was a real treat. By that point in the evening it was quite late, people were starting to drift away and we began wearily eyeing off the three big bottles, knowing we probably wouldn’t get through them all. That changed fairly quickly and much to my regret (this morning), we finished them off with enough time to have a quick chat to Steve, who is looking forward to getting more craft beers to add to Deco’s small, but great lineup.
If I was to make some points about the evening, I will say that while we definitely got our money’s worth, I do think the serving portions of the food weren’t substantial enough for an event that started at 7pm and kept going until after 11 (was advertised to finish at 9). Drinking 6 beers with higher than average abv is dangerous for any beer drinker and while the food was fantastic, there just needed to be more of it. So little food, with a late finish, meant my 5.30am start this morning was a little rough, to say the least.
As a whole, some great beers, delicious food and discovering a new place that I can get a quality beer means the night was an enjoyable one. The day after however, not so fun.