1

Mystery Pub: Silver Brewing

Claire indicated (always the preferred option) and swung our car into a narrow park next to that most generic of suburban motors, the Barina. We were on Gouger Street but on the western side of that boisterous, gastronomically-celebrated thoroughfare.

I had no idea where we were heading for winter’s final instalment (spring commences on September 22 as per the astronomical seasons) of Mystery Pub which, of course, is central to the concept. There was more puzzlement than an episode of Scooby Doo, set in an abandoned amusement park.

The bar/brewery/distillery/restaurant etc is located in a former warehouse with multiple rooms and an outdoor area. Despite the cavernous interior there was a cosiness. Adjacent to the bar is a Millard caravan and Claire and I spoke of this being Glenn McGrath’s first and best nickname, given to him when he lived in one as an aspiring young cricketer, down from the bush. The caravan was clearly a successful conversation starter and I anticipated circumnavigating the continent in our retirement and every single night for two years setting up our van in say, Wollongong, and without fail, telling Claire this cricketing factoid.

Claire had a pinot noir served in the now compulsory giant glass. If these continue to expand in volume Friday’s plonk will need to come with a yellow-shirted lifeguard. I had the pilsner and being five o’clock on a Friday, my enthusiasm compensated for its lack of crispness. A kindly man gave us his chair so we moved camp away from the door and the pesky (like the kids of the aforementioned Scooby Doo and especially Velma) late afternoon sun.

A generous crowd was assembling and they appeared to be in buoyant attitude. They matched our demographic and I wondered where the young folk were. And almost immediately, I didn’t care.

We dissected our days and spoke of our weekend. I was eager to get home and play my new (old) Jose Feliciano vinyl featuring the greatest cover of all time (alright, top 43) in ‘Light My Fire.’

Claire ordered another pinot noir and purchased me a pale ale, made on premises and cooked in one of the copper vats I saw near the caravan. Although there was initial disappointment that there were no chips (crisps for those playing along in the UK) we knew this was actually a good thing. The menu advertised ‘Viking Burgers’ but a recent blood test and medical discussion suggested I needed to reduce my consumption of Scandinavian seafaring warriors, so we declined.

A window behind us revealed a large room with DJ decks out the front. I imagined a late-night rave with impossibly youthful types dancing their evenings (and mornings) away whilst temporarily forgetting the global housing crisis.

Back at our car on Gouger Street the Barina had fled.

We did too.

0

Mystery Pub: The Largs Pier

‘After an afternoon on Brighton Pier they’d all race off for a feed of scampi,’ I remarked to my wife. We were discussing Brighton, the East Sussex version. Not the Adelaide or even the Melbourne suburb.

‘What is scampi?’ she asked, not unreasonably.

I paused and considered. ‘Fishy stuff. Crumbed.’ Piscatorial insights have never been in my (fishing boat) wheelhouse.

Claire was not about to accept such an enfeebled reply. ‘Right, but what is it exactly?’

‘Err,’ I mumbled. ‘Dunno. Scampi is just scampi.’

I gave up and opened my phone. Dublin Bay Prawn or Norway Lobster. Not only these but it’s also a ‘seafood delicacy,’ I volunteered.

The Largs Pier is a place to ponder big questions such as this. Even non-gastronomic ones. My wife, Claire and I were here for our monthly Mystery Pub excursion. It was my choice. I had an aged Sparkling Ale in front of me and Claire had a brandy.

We had wandered through the pub. It’s regal and opulent with high ceilings and views out into the flat gulf. There’s a restaurant and another bar named Dixon’s (being the middle name of Jimmy Barnes, the main screamer for Cold Chisel). It’s a popular wedding venue too.

Big question #2 then emerged as contemplating our current context I took my turn to quiz Claire. ‘What’s the difference between a jetty and a pier?’ Our relaxing hour in the pub was transmogrifying into an episode of It’s Academic. We should’ve worn our Kapunda High School blazers. That may have prompted comment from strangers.

I explored the question. ‘So, why isn’t this the Largs Jetty Hotel? And why isn’t the Glenelg pub called the Pier?’

Claire had an answer. ‘I think a pier has entertainments on it like rides and stalls and assorted amusements.’ I’m unsure why she responded in a grammatical style reminiscent of a Wikipedia entry.

‘Right,’ I nodded. Who knew that going to the pub could be so instructive? I vowed to do this again soon. Perhaps I should keep the drinks receipts and use them at tax time as a self-education deduction.

The wintry sunset slanted in across our table and outside under the wide veranda, some young tradies were making an enthusiastic start to their weekend. Dotted about the pub, faux 1920’s artworks gave the place an appropriately jaunty, seaside atmosphere.

Our second and final round of drinks included a Pirate Life South Coast Pale Ale or PLSCPA, as nobody abbreviates it. It was crisp and confident, while Claire had a white wine of indeterminant variety and style but she didn’t seem to mind. We didn’t want our visit to suffer from too much information.

The Largs Pier (Jetty) Hotel is an arresting, grand old esplanade boozer. It has mobs of beers on tap and offers a wide menu.

There’s no immediate plans to serve scampi.

0

Mystery Pub: El Cheeky Flamingo

‘As your attorney I advise you to have a beer,’ said Claire.

No she didn’t, but I just wanted to insert a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas reference given that I’m re-reading Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo journalism classic. Gonzo denotes an exaggerated and crazy and proudly subjective style. But you knew this already.

It’s a text that celebrates excess and ridiculousness and decadence which, of course, is entirely unrepresentative of the ideals we hold dear regarding the monthly excursion of Mystery Pub.

Parking at Claire’s CBD worksite we then galloped a mile or so to the East End. I had no insight into our destination and arriving at Vardon Street there were tables and chairs and fire pits all stocked and awaiting ignition. It was another episode in their Winter Weekends event.

Having secured a chardonnay and a draught beer we sat by a gas heater as event staff set the redgum ablaze. Microphones and amps were connected under a marquee.

Meanwhile music played and the acoustics meant we could only hear the bass. The vocals were terribly muddy. We thought one song the Shawn Mullins’ tune ‘Lullaby.’ You know the one that begins with an almost spoken-word style that’s a bit Jack Nicholson in tenor-

She grew up with the children of the stars
In the Hollywood hills and the boulevards.
Her parents threw big parties. Everyone was there.
They hung out with folks like Dennis Hopper and Bob Seger and
Sonny and Cher.

And then the chorus goes-

Everything’s gonna be all right.
Rock-a-bye, rock-a-bye.
Everything’s gonna be all right.
Rock-a-bye, rock-a-bye, rock-a-bye.

A one-hit wonder from 1998, we agree that it’s a good song.

But it wasn’t the one we heard. I don’t know what it was. Something with a similar bass guitar line. Good for the mystery to continue on Mystery Pub night.

Meanwhile a man cooked meat with Spanish aromas. None of that for us as we had some equally evil charcuterie treats home in the Frigidaire. Is there anything better than Friday night cheese?

I had a Balter XPA and Claire had an approachable merlot blend. All wine should be approachable. I’ve no truck with haughty plonk.

We made our way back to the car via the Illuminate Festival on North Terrace. A giant queue of kids and parents stretched outside the museum. Like blackheads on a teenager there were inky puffer jackets everywhere.

Inside was a Lego event. A gonzo occasion of tremendous proportions. We left them to it.

4

Mystery Pub: The Earl of Leicester

Puffer jackets.

We loathe them. I’m sure these are highly functional and sensibly priced. But to my poisoned eye they (and their owners) carry with them a sense of entitlement and an accompanying superiority complex. Yes, it’s an irrational hatred, and I suspect it’s incurable. But a pub review is surely a place for honesty regarding issues sartorial.

At the bar there’s two middle-aged men. Trim. Clean shaven. Quietly spoken. Enjoying a Friday afternoon wine. And they’re wearing navy blue puffer jackets.

The Earl of Leicester is dark and snug. We take our seats by the fire. It’s blazing away and the effect is instantly comforting. Australian pubs suffer often from too much light and white space. Think modern suburban taverns with a bland sensibility and fatal lack of intimacy. No such troubles here this afternoon. The pub’s timbers are warm of hue and homely and this is especially enhanced as it’s decidedly Arctic outside. Winter is icumen in. We could be in the Cotswolds or by the Thames.

A table or two along a task-oriented couple is attacking their early pizza dinner (it’s before 5pm so they could be holidaying Queensland pensioners) and bottle of red. They’re sharing a comfortable, loud-munching silence. Eating here seems like a good choice for the dining area is big and visually charmless, as is sometimes the way. I pop my head into the beer garden and it’s more obligation than destination. Folks expect one and this one presents as a concrete afterthought. But the front of the pub is excellent.

It’s Claire’s turn to order and I opt for an XPA. Like the tomato and me, we share a complex relationship for I often find it disappointing in the application but continue to subscribe to the concept. Today the Balter XPA is sharp and spiky, and I approve. Claire has an Angove’s red and finds it agreeable. Late Friday afternoon is always an agreeable time, and The Earl of Leicester reminds me of what King Duncan said (ironically) of Macbeth’s home

This castle hath a pleasant seat. The air

Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself

Unto our gentle senses.

On our way out to the dark car park I suggest to Claire, ‘For every puffer jacket I spot in the bar, I’ll buy myself a longneck of Sparkling Ale.’

0

Mystery Pub: Jimmy’s Bar and Grill

When I worked in the city I walked past it often but dismissed it.

The problem was that I have a stereotypical image of a bar in my head and it’s not entirely complimentary. A bar is pokey and dark and found in Brooklyn and this is great if you happen to be in New York but I’m predisposed to a pub. For me, Jimmy’s Bar and Grill isn’t a label that fills me with curiosity or optimism. So, imagine my joyous surprise when we wandered in last Friday.

There’s something incurably exciting about meeting your wife in the city and being led by the hand up Adelaide’s grand boulevards in the fading autumnal light. There’s a bustling energy and frisson as people wind up their working week and make their escape. There’s mystery and romance and promise to be had on every street corner.

The ground floor room is called Harry’s Bar and it is forgettable. We made our way up the stairs to the Tattersalls Room. It’s remarkable and I was instantly agog. The ceilings are high and ornate while the space is massive and cloaked with history and elegance. There’s blue curtains and big Chesterfields. If Harrison Ford sought hotels and not antiquities this instalment would be called Indiana Jones and the Opulent Pub.

Claire bought a glass of red and a pint of mid-strength for me as I was driving. Mid-strength beers are like hearing the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. but played entirely on kazoo. The melodies you love are there and it works at a fundamental level but ultimately it’s a parody, a mocking of the very thing it seeks to imitate.

We decamped to the balcony bar for our second and final beverage. Down on Grenfell Street the sounds of traffic floated up with an exhilaration that was irresistible while there were loose groups of young people exchanging lively quips and waving their hands about as can happen on the forth chardonnay.

Confronted with a decent walk to the car and then a taxing drive along a clogged arterial, we decided that a loo visit would be sensible, like an elderly aunt’s footwear. It was a comfort stop invested with occasion and theatre. The toilets, no these are not restrooms or bathrooms, were both intimidating and statesmanlike. It felt like I was carrying a terrible responsibility. I hoped I didn’t let anybody down.

As we exited onto the street, the air was already crisp.

0

Mystery Pub: Brightstar Brewing

Like a compulsory compensation within the water cycle it needed to happen in Thebarton. The recent closure of both Coke and the West End brewery meant the local refreshment industry required replenishment and last week it occurred with the opening of Brightstar Brewing.

Ahh, the water cycle. I knew being a Year 9 Geography alumnus/survivor would come in handy.

The gentrification of this compelling inner-west suburb continues apace as the old industrial landscape is transformed. Attractively set in the old University of Adelaide building the brewery’s red brick façade is simultaneously modern and emblematic of a sepia generation.

We claimed our booked table on the deck and began working on our beverages: a gin for Claire and a pilsner for me. My beer was fruity (no, not in that way) and approachable as one might expect for 4.45 on a balmy Friday.

Looking down towards the Torrens is a lush lawn functioning as a village green and the owners’ licence extends there. They’ve plans to host live music too and I can already hear a Sunday jazz quartet. A gaggle of high-vis enthusiasts was gathered under a marquee waiting for the nearby barbecue while a steady liquid stream was maintained between bar and grass. A staff member rolled out a couple of colourful picnic blankets by the ancient chimney.

Wine’s a curious omission from the grog menu but there’s beer-based cocktails for the suitably brash. Across this fetching scene they pump plenty of sixties British music and this adds appreciably to the festive feel. I hear two Rolling Stones’ songs and this always enhances my current cup.

Inside are more generous tables and a swanky bar that’s imposing and inviting. There’s fresh paint and energy and we’re told a chef will soon take charge of the kitchen. Of course, a rack of souvenir t-shirts and hoodies waits in the corner.

Later, in search of the euphemism we see that the building’s other spaces are ready for conferences and artisans and start-ups. It’s exciting. Oh, to be a twenty-something entrepreneur with pants rolled up well north of my ankles.

I also learn that those on the beer taps have completed the Cicerone Certification Program which ‘elevates the beer experience.’ I’m sure it does and my session ale is also zesty fun and straw of hue. Investigating the CCP I note that a point of instruction is defining a clean glass as being free from ‘soil and oil.’ This factoid is pleasing but a little voice tells me that regardless of international beverage pouring education, it should be a given. To my knowledge the pints down at the Broady have never housed any ‘Bay of Biscay’ or Castrol.

On the deck Claire and I speculate on the future of this part of town and conclude that being proximate to the tram and CBD and with an array of eclectic architecture ripe for apartment conversion it’ll hold increasing appeal. Brightstar Brewing will exaggerate this.

And with our Year 9 Geography homework done (Claire- A+, me- C: it was always thus) we point our motor at South Road.

0

Mystery Pub: Brighton Metro

The sixteenth edition of Mystery Pub was underway.

Claire was this month’s pilot and we flew down Tapleys Hill Road and as always neither Tapley nor his/her hill were anywhere in sight. Still, the hill was alive with the sound of Friday afternoon. As always I had no idea where we might be destined. It’s an intoxicating concept.

Being within a particular demographic Escape to the Country holds a curious appeal and we’re often flopped on the couch on a Saturday evening taking in this perennial property porn. In each episode the couple are shown three houses in their county of choice (rarely Shropshire) and the final one is always described by the smug host as the ‘mystery house.’ And most weeks, I’m sure to Claire’s silent dismay, I holler at the screen, ‘Great. The mystery house. Aren’t they all mystery fecking houses?’

For the first time we welcomed guests to accompany us. Old friends and former Kimba residents, Mozz and Kath were in town and had long expressed an interest in the MP notion so we popped them in the back of the motor and before we knew it Claire had skidded to a balletic stop at the Brighton Metro alongside an old Jaguar.

Once we had conquered the maze involving the pokies room, Charlie’s diner, the Sports Bar, Tutankhamen’s tomb, and various other antechambers we burst out, blinking and bordering on dehydration, into the delicious sunlight of Adelaide’s latest beer garden. That it sits on what was once the northern part of the carpark matters not for it’s a big and inviting space and there was a thrilling hub-bub as we claimed a table. It was reserved at 6pm for Bev/Jody/Sue/Matilda or some such as the laminated sign on the table announced.

We had forty minutes. We set to work.

We chatted of folk we knew and as Mozz and Kath have been to the US of A a few times and spectated at pro-golf tournaments they shared stories of encounters with the sport’s elite such as Stuart Appleby and concluded that most were generous and receptive. As you’d hope.

This contrasted sharply with my experience of a former Australian cricket captain who I crossed paths with one morning at Adelaide Oval. It was only he and I and I simply nodded acknowledgement, as decency demands, when he ambled past. I only expected a nod or a quick smile in return. I asked not for an autograph or a tip in Dapto Dogs. Instead, he glared at me as if I’d just done something unspeakable in his shoe. I was aghast. His nickname may have rhymed with ‘Tubby.’

With Mozz sporting a more free-flowing, Woodstock-inspired hairdo and goatee-beard combo talk then moved to who his fashion inspiration might be. I confess it appeared a little unruly and foppish and Kath declared that she calls her husband, ‘Boris.’ Both enjoy a party. Subsequent suggestions included Billy Connelly and a superannuated Dude from The Big Lebowski.

The Happy Hour included beers and wines at $6 and assorted cocktails at reasonable prices. We noted with pleasure that dogs are welcome too and spotted a couple canines perched by the tables. This is emblematic of a pub keen to impress and if I had a choice of buying a Pale Ale for a Golden Retriever or our 39th Test captain, the beer would be poured into a bowl.

1

Mystery Pub: The Beer Smells Like A Microphone in John Doe’s Local Bar

The bookshelf’s stocked with crime novels and old Lonely Planets. I’m an incurable bibliophile so have a quick squizz. There’s also a stack of board games including, to my surprise, Twister. This is a tiny bar and I reckon if the plastic, colour-dotted mat is rolled out the writhing tangle of arms and legs might give some sizzle to the meaning of Happy Hour.

John Doe’s Local Bar is a welcome addition to the grog-scape in this southwestern nook of the CBD. It’s home to some great pubs such as The Duke of Brunswick and the Gilbert Street Hotel but provides an appealing contrast for passers-by and residents. I continue to struggle however, with the notion of “local.” Can a bar or pub be anything but local? A remote or distant bar might really squeeze on the drinking handbrake.

On the surrounding footpaths are wine barrels converted to tables with a sprinkling of brave punters bunched about. It’s a frigid spring afternoon so Claire and I sprint inside and secure a spot. Like the Star Gate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey when the astronaut Dave Bowman hurtles through a psychedelic rush of things galactic and trippy, there’s much visual stimuli in this cosy boozer.

A quick scan reveals walls of beer coasters; a footy tipping chart; an old technicolor juke box; posters advertising the meat tray raffle on Fridays, live music, comedy nights and above the bar a small TV is set to Sky Racing with the gallopers in the dusk at Scone and Coleraine. My vista could also be a deleted dream scene from the Big Lebowski or an exhibit in the Tate Modern or Hobart’s MONA.

Approaching the bar there’s a man leaning dangerously into his drink and I wonder if he’s, “Makin’ love to his tonic and gin.” He might be making unwise preparations for Twister Night and mumbles something about buying some shots to which I can minister no helpful advice other than, “Good luck with that.”

I order a Prancing Pony Session Ale for me and a white for Claire and then spy a large wine rack under the big TV. All upright, there’s dozens of bottles shoulder-to-shoulder as if they’re ready for some grim but vague battle. It’s a phalanx of Cabernet Franc. At the end of one shelf is that most celebrated vintage: Coopers Sparkling Ale (750ml). Close inspection reveals these are the highly drinkable 2021.

Claire is most smitten because dotted throughout and in the centre of our table are lit candles. These contribute significantly to the bonhomie. The atmosphere is welcoming lounge room and surely, this must be the aspiration of every small bar. Pubs in Melbourne’s Fitzroy do this well but it’s rare in Adelaide.

On the TV screen next to the orangey, dancing fireplace a cricket match flickers green and gold. It’s Australia v India from Mackay and bowling with O’Reilly briskness is Kapunda’s own Darcie Brown. A couple of days’ ago she took 4/33 and became the youngest Australian female or male to grab four wickets in an ODI. Claire and I comment that Darcie looks like her Uncle Paul and grandfather, Bernie.

Three portly chaps have dropped anchor at the bar and appear as if they might be moored in the marina against an approaching storm. The bar does seem to attract folks from neighbouring homes. They could be here for the BBQ that’s soon to a-sizzle on the footpath or maybe there’ll be karaoke later. It’s a busy, ambitious place. I wonder if they have Macrame Mondays or if I’ve missed Sonnet- Writing September. Minimalism isn’t part of the strategic plan here.

Glancing again at these chaps I’m sure one is Paul and a real estate novelist. And his friend is Davy, who’s still in the navy. He probably will be for life.

Or maybe they’re all professional Twister players.