Over the years, I've spent quite a bit of time in Balmain.
I remember with particular fondness one New Year's Eve on Darling Street, helping a young but jaded looking sergeant (assigned, the poor thing, to traffic control duties for the evening) to understand why my carload of friends and I should be granted access to the limited and much sought after residential street parking, by making sure our nominated spokeswoman, my mate's then-girlfriend, who was riding shotgun, had her singlet top hoiked down just the right amount to assure that our argument was taken seriously. Largely, "our argument" consisted of repetitive pucker-lipped appeals like "Pretty please, officer" delivered with complimentary breathiness, and interrupted only by a strategic giggle or two and some well-placed batting of the eyelids. I'm pleased to be able to tell you that the young sergeant was easily swayed (so much so that we had to forcibly turn down his offer of a police escort), and that we all enjoyed a smashing view of the fireworks from our rock star park on the water's edge.
I also spent quite a good portion of my mid-twenties rehearsing for various Shakespearian productions at the Balmain PCYC, replete with musty blue gym mats so full of hair and dead skin cells you could clone your own army of disenchanted young people (in the event that most or all of Generation X is suddenly wiped out); and, more recently, shooting a musical film about the death of Andy Warhol in the now-iconic (and very creepy) abandoned hospital off Church Street — though technically that's in Rozelle.
As all of the above have little or nothing (with the needle leaning strongly towards "nothing") to do with our Beer of the Month for October, bar transpiring in and around a specific locale, it's probably best we leave these anecdotes for another time and focus on Balmain Brewing Company's splendid Pale Ale, which is garnering a bit of a rep not only in the beautiful rolling waterside Western Suburb of its inception, but in pubs, bars, and bottle-os all around greater Sydney.
It's a rep well deserved.
As is the case with many micro breweries, Balmain Brewing Co. was launched in honour of the simple pleasures in life: namely good mates and good pub culture. The brewery is owned and managed by a handful of just such mates (Balmain locals, as you'd expect) with grand plans to re-open the old Balmain Brewery of the eighties, and convert it into a microbrewery and restaurant, coupling great food with quality local beer, right from the tap.
There are two sterling ales already on offer from BBC (not to be confused with the British public service broadcaster which, to my knowledge, offers no beer, sterling or otherwise) — a lager, and the aforementioned Pale Ale. There's also a new apple cider that's just found it's way to the Forest Lodge in Glebe, where it can be enjoyed on tap along with a nice big hearty pub meal and a round of darts. (I may be making that up — I have no idea if the Forest Lodge offers darts. It just seemed like something you would do after a pint of cider and a big hunk of meat.)
And while I'd love to talk incessantly about all of BBCs offerings, I only have so much room for this column. I've already had to increase the maximum word limit twice to cater for my sprawling and incoherent "reviews", so let's stick to the Pale Ale this time around, shall we? Good.
Unfortunately, this little amber number isn't yet available in Victoria (fingers crossed for a hasty rectification) so rather than flying to New South Wales for the sake of a couple of sips of beer — which seems slightly excessive even by my standards — I sent the word out to a few of my colleagues in Sydney, and had them send through a few tasting notes using that marvel of modern technology, the sometimes-reliable iPhone.
The consensus seems to be that this is a damn fine beer — rich in flavour, while still maintaining the subtlety and complexity that you'd expect from a good pale ale. Three hop varieties are used which, apart from giving the brew a good deal of bite and bitterness, help to introduce lovely caramel overtones and plenty of citrus. All natural, unfiltered, and beautifully balanced, this is a beer made for discerning beer drinkers and critics alike.
Even Steff was impressed, and summed up his experience of our Beer of the Month with characteristic eloquence, expressing, foremostly, his appreciation of the fact that the flavour profile lacked "that soapy, dishwatery thing you get with pale ales".
It's a good thing we're mates. Otherwise I would have laughed derisively at him, and then he would have fired me.
Yeah, who am I kidding? He would've fired me long before now.