Saturday, 8 June 2013

Pub Visit: Flat Rock Brew Cafe

After reading about a (relatively) new brew cafe opening in Willoughby, then hearing they'd recently tapped their first kegs of beer brewed on site, I knew I had to go and scope it out. A short cab ride later, we were at Flat Rock Brew Cafe.

The bar area and the millions of bottles surrounding
We scored one of the booths that run down the side wall, and set about ordering some drinks. First off, we picked up a couple of their brewed on site beers, the Flat Rock English-style IPA. 

Forgot to snap a picture, so here's the menu and the empty glass the IPA came in
The IPA was a clouded, golden yellow colour, pumped from a hand tap at the bar and hence covered with a thick, white, nitrogenous head. The aroma was fairly faint, but hints of caramelly malt and noble hops were there. The initial flavour was sublte and floral, with a body of slightly sweet, floral hop flavours and a slightly smoky malt, which mellowed out into a slightly grassy finish. The beer was medium bodied, with the creamy nitrogen head adding texture to each sip.

Next up, we grabbed tasting paddles, trying each of the three beers on tap that weren't made in house. 

Left to Right:  Badlands Pale Ale, Redhill Golden ale, Hopdog Massive Otter
All three were fairly great, very sessionable beers, with none above 5.3% ABV. I was left longing for something a little more... Intense. First off though, dinner was in order. We ate our way through two servings of mushroom and cheese naan, plates of tandoori lamb chops and chicken wings, and a big bowl of chips, before we decided we'd had our fair share of delicious food.

Next started the deliberations over what to drink next. The ladies settled on a bottle of french farmhouse cider, while Melo and I went for the fairly 'out-there' option of the Jester King 'El Cedro', a "Hoppy, Cedar Aged-Ale with Brettanomyces". 

The french cider in question
El Cedro, holographic label and all in front of the bottle wall

As soon as the bottle arrived, we knew we'd picked something special, with the holographic cedar demon on the front and every minute detail of the beer's production and serving written around the label. On first pour, the beer was clouded and golden, with oodles of cappucino-esque white head and a medium to full body. The aroma was slightly funky or 'sour', with hints of stone fruit and 'farmhouse', a word used to describe the odd, 'horsey' characteristic Brett imparts on a lot of beers.

Back at the table, awesome cap visible at the bottom
On the first sip, a sweet yet sour taste of peach and/or apricot comes through, leading to the body where there's an odd mix of sweet, bitter and sour flavours competing for your attention. Hints of phenol spice were also present, but hard to pick out amongst the explosion of so many other flavours. An intense flavour experience for sure, and definitely something we both thoroughly enjoyed.

After we'd polished it off, we were up at the bar ordering some of the Oatmeal Porters, the other beer brewed on site. There, we just so happened to meet Karl, the owner and head brewer, who offered to take us downstairs to see the brewery. We jumped at the offer, and descended into the brewery proper.

250L Brew Kettle/Mash Tun
2 X 230L Fermenters and a slightly smaller Bright Tank
Karl showed us around and talked to us about why he'd opened the brewery, as well as how everything worked and why he'd chosen to brew the beers he had. We got an insight into the kegging system, and how the tap system worked in the bar above. Far simpler than I thought it would be!

Pictured: Cold room full of kegs and tap lines
Following our tour, we headed back upstairs for our last beer of the night, the Flat Rock Oatmeal Porter. Again, I didn't take a photo, so we just get tasting notes.

The pour was dark brown/black and nearly completely opaque, with minimal browned head on top, and a very full, almost syrupy body. The carbonation was extremely little, but we let them sit for a while before we drank, so it may have been lost that way. 
The aroma was a mixture of bitter dark chocolate and dark roasted coffee beans, competing for which was more prominent. On initial tasting, the flavours matched the aroma, with an initial hit of nearly syrupy coffee/chocolate, which stuck around for as long as you had the beer in your mouth. The aftertaste was an intense flavour of black coffee, bitter but not overly so, and fantastic to just let linger for as long as possible.

Random photo to break up blocks of text

Overall, we had a fantastic night, with the food, the service and the drinks all being phenomenal. The prices were great too, with the bill for all our food and drinks coming out to about $40 a head (which considering the quantity of food and drinks was amazing). Will definitely be going back in a week or two to try their next release, an American Style Double IPA! Would recommend to anyone who likes good beer, good food and a great, local pub atmosphere!

Flat Rock Brew Cafe is in Naremburn, just off Willoughby Rd. 

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