Just last week I was sitting at Chapel Street Cellars – the best god damn bar on Chapel Street – enjoying one of their huge selection of beers from around the world and locally. I went for a bottle that didn’t have a label and instead was packaged in a brown paper bag. I bet many of you know the beer that I am talking about, but it was new to me. I looked to see where it was brewed and funny enough it was just down the street in Prahran.
I took the liberty of tracking down the office and found out a bit more about the hyper-local brew. Tucked down a street behind Coles is a large warehouse space that is shared with a few production studios and artist management companies, and hidden in the back corner is the office of East Ninth Brewing Company.
Ben Cairns set up the company just under two years ago. Having a history in big company booze for 10 years, he thought it was time to strike out on his own and to make the venture ultra-personal all brews are based around an individual idea, outlook or ideology. I love a good story to go with either my food or drink and East Ninth has them in spades.
The labels for Doss Blockos are pulled straight from the graffiti-covered walls of a Fitzroy sidestreet. The name comes from an underground New York movement in the 90s, which involved a hidden brewery lurking beneath the railway system. Just recently they took a couple of lucky Doss Blockos drinkers to NY to search for the remains. I bet a Blair Witch-style video tape emerges.
I like the story behind Lick Pier the most. The pier it refers to is found on Venice Beach and was built by Henry Lick in the early 1900s. In the 20s it was where the first movie stars strutted their stuff – it was the place to be seen. In the 60s and 70s, artists such as Pink Floyd and Jimmi Hendrix had residencies at the main bar on the pier. And then by the 90s it was where Dogtown and the Z-Boys launched the skateboarding revolution. In the neighbourhood around this pier all the houses brewed their own version of ginger beer, which is where Ben took his inspiration.
One of my favourite alcoholic ginger beers is Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer – but previously I had only seen it sold in the UK. I have friends who are able to send out a few bottles every so often and I had heard whispers that they are trying to break out of the UK. I was quite shocked to see it being stocked just recently in a few good bottle shops. This is a boozed-up British pop that I used to enjoy over summer and can still do so now. It’s sweet but not overly so, and the alcohol is dangerously well integrated – It doesn’t taste like ginger beer with alcohol added; it tastes like a better version of ginger beer.
Over the last few years there has been an emergence of decent cider, which Ben pairs with the label Fog City. The name comes courtesy of San Francisco and the fog that is notorious for rolling in over the bay. In keeping with the city’s love of upcycling, the team take fruit that supermarkets would consider unsellable and turn it into something better.
Currently a cloudy cider is one of the favourites, but Fog City Red Sangria is in the process of being released in selected bars right in time for spring. I have it on good authority that the new brew should be popping up in E55, Workshop, Thousand Pound Bend, Ponyfish Island, Las Chicas, The Evelyn, Bridge Hotel, McCoppins.