The Beer Engine — Update

Sadly our involvement with the Beer Engine is over after only four months.  Sara and I have resigned from the partnership, leaving Andy and Johanne to run the business in their own way.  We wish them every success.

The Beer Engine


So, we’ve bought a bar…

As of Monday 18th November, Andy, Johanne, Sara and I jointly own a place called The Beer Engine Bar & Grill which was formerly a restaurant called The Hillz.

Located just outside the town of Monbulk, Victoria, it’s about a 20 minute drive from where we live and is one of only a handful of restaurants in that area. Our plan is to offer a good range of beers, including hand-pumped cask ales (hence the name of the place) and simple, good value food including wood-fired pizzas. We’ll also have live entertainment on at weekends.

With the help of friends and family, we’ve spent the past week gutting the place, throwing away most of the junk that previous owners accumulated over the years and properly cleaning the kitchen and food storage areas.

Our liquor license application was approved yesterday, so we’re aiming to open sometime next week. Seven kegs of beer were delivered yesterday (Guinness, Heineken, Carlton Draught, Fat Yak Pale Ale, My Wife’s Bitter, Bighead “Diet Beer” and Bulmer’s Cider) with a couple more to follow. So we need to build a proper beer cellar, install the fonts on the bar and get everything plumbed up and working this weekend.

A new website will be appearing over the next few days and you’ll also be able to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

My last day in Bavaria

My week in Germany is just about over, I fly back to Melbourne tomorrow.

I’m spending my last afternoon pottering around Munich, hopping on and off the U-bahn with my €5.60 all-day ticket, finding interesting new places.

I’m currently sat in the Hirschgarten, the largest beer garden in the world, apparently. Set in the middle of a beautiful park, only 5 minutes walk from the station, it’s a lovely place to spend a few hours.

Germany play Greece in the Euro 2012 Quarter Final in a couple of hours time, so the place is already filling up and the food kiosks are selling sausages and roast chickens by the thousand. The place is so large that empty glasses are collected from the benches by a small electric truck, although interestingly the Hirschgarten tradition is that guests must wash their own glasses before going to the bar for another drink.

I have staked my spot beneath a shady chestnut tree with a good view of the giant screen, enjoying some Leberkäse (which translates as “liver cheese” but is actually just meatloaf), a big bretze (pretzel) and one or three Maß Helles tapped straight from the huge wooden keg. Prost!

Goodbye Manchester, Hello Munich

Well my UK holiday is over for another year.

It was great catching up family and friends again. There’s always too much to do in not enough time, so I missed meeting up with quite a few people this time.

Highlights included:

    • A fiery “Phaal” with Brendan and Colette on the famous Curry Mile in Rusholme.
    • The usual Saturday night out around Lees with Max, Diane, Rob, Lynda, Stu and Phil.
    • A day out on the trans-Pennine Ale Trail with Rob, catching the wrong trains twice and ending up in Manchester instead. We finished the evening by taking the newly launched tram service back to Oldham Mumps which, to be honest, just seems a lot slower and more expensive than the perfectly good local train service which it replaces. We must try the Ale Trail again next year as we didn’t manage even a quarter of the official route.
    • A Friday all-dayer with Adrian and Dunk. The weather was appalling but that didn’t stop us having a great time around Manchester.
    • A day out at the Science and Industry Museum with Sara’s dad, which was fascinating and educational (but fun and interactive). Charlotte loved it.
    • Superb Saddleworth Brewery beer and real pork scratchings at the Church Inn at Uppermill, my favourite pub. Sunday lunch with all the trimmings at the Printers Arms in Denshaw.

Best of all was seeing how well Charlotte gets on with all her family, especially Granny who she sticks to like glue. She’s happy to spend the day with any of them and encourages Sara and I to go out and leave her. (I suspect bed time is a lot later when we aren’t around, not to mention all the sweet treats).

I’m now working in Germany until next weekend, flying back to Melbourne on Saturday afternoon (arriving Sunday night).

So, to end the fun part of my trip, I’ve walked to the English Garden for a few Maß Helles beside the lake at the Seehaus. The weather is fantastic, Euro 2012 is being shown on a giant screen soon and I’m tempted by the smell of steckerlfische from a nearby stall. About 2000 people (and an Oompah band) are having a good time.

On my way back to England

Now that all that Diamond Jubilee nonsense is out of the way, I can begin my annual trip back to the UK. <):) I'll be heading off to the airport in about three hours time, catching the 22:55 flight to Munich (via Doha). This will be the first time I've travelled with Qatar Airways, so I'm looking forward to a bit of their advertised 5-star service, especially on the first 14-hour leg of the journey. Hopefully I'll manage to get some sleep along the way. |-) Once I reach Munich tomorrow afternoon, I'll hop on a BMI service direct to Manchester and then pick up a rental car from the airport. I should hit sunny Oldham at around 18:30 tomorrow evening -- just 32 hours after leaving home. (:| I'm looking forward to catching up with the usual suspects, indulging in some good food and drink and taking in Euro 2012 in the right time zone. I'm only in England for 8 nights before I have to return to Munich. If you haven't done so already, drop me an email if you want to organise something. :)]

Road Trip. Done.

I’m back home after completing my 2,200km circuit of eastern Victoria and the southern New South Wales coast. I’m glad that I decided to take the winding coastal route, even though it added at least four hours to the journey.

I left the office in Sydney on Friday afternoon, hoping to get at least as far as Bateman’s Bay before dusk. Luckily traffic was pretty light after Wollongong and I managed to reach my planned stopover point, Narooma, by around 7pm. I had already booked some lovely beach front accommodation online, a real bargain at $99 per night. It was too dark to appreciate the location when I arrived, although I could hear the ocean from the bedroom as I drifted off to sleep.

Next morning I hit the road early, knowing that I still had at least 8 hours drive ahead of me. I had a quick look at the beach and town centre before continuing the journey down the Sapphire Coast, heading inland briefly through Bega, famous in Australia for its cheese. The highway rejoined the coast at Pambula and then, after the town of Eden, veered west across the Victorian border. I was hoping to grab some breakfast in one of these places, but decided I could wait for the next one — however I didn’t realise the next town, Orbost, was around 200kms away!

I was running low on fuel when I hit Orbost so had no choice but to pay an extortionate $1.69 per litre. Orbost felt like a real country town, where everyone comes from the surrounding farms at weekend to stock up on provisions at the local shops. I grabbed a coffee and a sandwich and planned the last part of the journey, already realising that I wouldn’t have much time to explore anywhere if I wanted to get home before dark, but I definitely wanted to see Lakes Entrance so decided to make a slight detour at Nowa Nowa. I’m glad I did, it looks like a really nice place to spend a few days. I couldn’t spare the time to explore Ninety Mile Beach, unfortunately.

It started to rain as I entered Bairnsdale which made progress through Sale, Rosedale, Traralgon, Moe and Warragul a bit slower than necessary, even though these were the best quality roads in the whole journey. I was soon passing through Pakenham, familiar territory at last, and reached Berwick by 4pm. At this point I ran out of MP3s, having listened to four audio books, a dozen podcasts and a couple of recorded radio series along the way, so I tuned into UK TalkSport radio and listened to the build-up to the England vs Norway game for the final half hour of the journey.

I’m pleased to have done this road trip, but it’s not something I’ll ever do again. Undoubtedly there are lots of lovely little places to see along the way but, at the end of the day, there’s just far too much monotonous driving in between with not enough varied or spectacular scenery to make it worthwhile. Being limited to 100km/h or 110km/h doesn’t help, either. I’m sure other parts of Australia offer a better driving experience, but I’m not keen to find out anytime soon!

Road Trip

It’s the CeBIT Business Technology Exhibition at the Sydney Convention Centre this week, so I’ve travelled up to New South Wales to pay a visit and will be working out of the company’s Silverwater office for the rest of the week.

Usually I fly up to Sydney but, with Sara and Charlotte being overseas, I thought I’d take the opportunity to put some miles on the new car and see a little bit more of Australia along the way.

As you can see from the picture above, Australia is bloody enormous, so this little trip is going to be around 2000 kilometers — about the same distance driving from Manchester to Rome. Here’s my planned route:

I set off yesterday lunchtime, heading North along the Maroondah Highway through the Yarra Valley wine region and winding through the Kinglake National Park.

This route took me through a little place called Yarck (population 223) which I was curious to see, mainly because half of the utes in Melbourne seem to have a “Where the fark is Yarck?” bumper sticker. Pub? Check. Post office? Check. Grocery shop? Check. Anything else? Nope.

I then joined the Hume Highway, the 880km direct freeway route between Melbourne & Sydney, at a town called Euroa and set the cruise control at 110km/h (68m/h) for a while. Ready to stretch my legs after three hours at the wheel, I took a short break at Glenrowan which is the town where Ned Kelly, the infamous Australian outlaw, was finally gunned down in 1880. I also took a short detour off the freeway to visit Beechworth, a former gold rush town, which added 20 minutes or so to the journey.

After rejoining the Hume, I floored it — as much as you can with so many speed cameras around — and crossed into New South Wales. After nearly five hours on the road passing through tiny one horse towns, Albury, the first major town in NSW, seemed really industrial and featureless.

About 45 minutes later I stopped to refuel at Holbrook — $1.67 (£1.03) per litre for 98RON unleaded, the most expensive I have bought in Australia! Strangely, Holbrook is famous for having a full-sized submarine on display in the middle of the town, despite being more than 400kms away from the ocean. I didn’t bother with a visit to the maritime museum.

As daylight started to fade I was still more than 400kms away from Sydney. Driving on the interstate freeway really isn’t pleasant at night; you see plenty roadkill — foxes, possums, wallabies, kangaroo — all along the hard shoulder and, unless you’re driving one of the many road trains, stray wildlife could cause some serious damage to your vehicle. There’s no street lighting whatsoever, so when there’s no traffic ahead you have to rely cat’s eyes in the road (or Sat Nav in my case) to warn you of upcoming bends; it requires a lot of concentration.

It was pitch black by the time I reached the town of Gundagai — the traditional half way point in the journey — but it’s really not a place I wanted to stay, so I persevered in total darkness for another two hours and eventually reached Goulburn (population 20,127), allegedly Australia’s first inland “city”. It’s also home to the Big Merino, a giant concrete statue of a sheep.

I’d had enough for one day. I checked into a flea pit motel, found the nearest pub for a bite to eat and planned the last 200km push into Sydney the next morning.

I’ve learned that driving interstate in Australia is incredibly boring. Fortunately I had numerous podcasts and audio books to keep me entertained along the way — I even gave the “Teach Yourself German” CDs another try. The inland route is extremely tedious with virtually nothing interesting to see along the way (including the submarine and giant concrete sheep), so I’m looking forward to taking the more scenic coastal route on my way home on Friday.

Sara and Charlotte are on their way

By the time you read this, Sara and Charlotte should be almost half way back to England. :-h

They’re travelling with Virgin Australia this time, mainly to avoid having to transit through London Heathrow. They fly Melbourne->Sydney->Abu Dhabi->Manchester.

It’s been a long day, they’ve already been on the road for 17 hours. According to the Flight Radar website they are currently flying over Malaysia, about midway through the 14 hour flight to Abu Dhabi. Hopefully they’ve both managed to get a few hours sleep. (:|

So I’ve got four weeks here on my own before I fly out to join them briefly in June on my way to Germany for work. I’m missing them already. :((

Tonight I thought I’d put together a short movie clip (50Mb, right-click and choose “Save As…”) to make up for the lack of posts in the past six months. I’ve got a few household DIY jobs and some interstate travel lined up while they’re away, but I should definitely be able to find time to update the blog a bit more frequently for a while. Honest. :-@

Back from Queensland

We’ve just returned from another short break on the Gold Coast. b-)

This time we stayed at a child-friendly holiday resort at Surfer’s Paradise, which was fantastic. As part of the package, we were able to pack Charlotte off to Kids Club for four hours each day, giving Sara and I some time to relax by the pool or go out for a nice, quiet meal. With a couple of water play areas on site, we didn’t even bother visting the main Theme Parks this time:

The hotel is pretty central, just five minutes walk from Surfer’s Paradise and only a block away from Southport beach:

And, to make sure we all got a good night’s sleep, we tired Charlotte out by “night swimming”:

We hired a car and drove up to the Sunshine Coast to visit Australia Zoo, about an hour’s drive north of Brisbane.

Founded by the famous “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, it’s a fantastic place; small enough to be able to see everything properly in three or four hours, but large enough to have a good selection of animals in generously sized, natural enclosures:

They also encourage interaction with the animals. Why watch a zookeeper feeding an animal when you can do it yourself? Charlotte had a great time feeding fruit and veg to Siam the elephant, but she wasn’t happy when we wouldn’t let her bring a real baby giraffe home (even though she explained where it would live and how she would look after it) — she had to settle for a stuffed toy instead.

On the way back home we took a small detour and visited Spice Avenue, an English-owned Indian Restaurant in Brisbane that we’d seen on a TV programme recently. It was absolutely brilliant, just like back in the UK, we’ll definitely go back next time we’re in the area:

Sadly the holiday was over all too quickly and I’m straight back to work. Hmm, I wonder if Spice Avenue will deliver…