I had been down to do an event at the Boatrocker tap room but it was cancelled due to poor ticket sales (its a crowded week and the ticket price was at the higher end). So I had the day to myself. I wondered down to a nearby cafe that did Rumble Coffee which is owned by my mate Joe. When I came in 2005 I remember how far ahead of NZ Melbourne was in regards to cafe food , and how far back they were in regards to coffee. Well on this morning in this cafe the coffee was fantastic and the brunch merely average. Actually the bread was amazing, perfect flavoursome , crusty , soft crumbed sourdough. I then continued down to the St Kilda foreshore. As I got closer to the coast things got more and more derelict. Shops sat empty , rough sleepers sat despondently on the sides of the footpath, an unhappy fellow had a loud argument with himself as he trashed a greasy takeaway bag against his own thigh. I emerged onto the coast and suddenly everything was gentile again. The Sunday market was in full swing and attractive young couples wandered the stalls filling the air in their wake with the smell of expensive perfume and aftershave. Here is something that doesn’t seem to have changed about Melbourne , you can be in run down squalor one moment and walk a block or two and suddenly you are in leafy affluence. I walked past the Espy which I had fond memory’s of , once a grimy multi bar music venue now well and truly gentrified . I cast an eye over Luna Park then headed back in land for my room and a wee late morning Sunday nap. After regrouping I decided to head for Stomping Ground. As it seemed like a pretty simple straight route and Melbourne is not exactly known for its hills I decided to walk. I stopped at a little liquor store near my hostel and bought some Rodenbach cans and drank one as I wandered up the road. By the time I had reached South Yarra I was ready for a sit down and another beer so I stopped in at a Hotel. The outside signage proclaimed VB however I couldn’t see it on tap so I opted for a 4 Pines Kolsch instead. An Aussie Rules game was playing on the big screen, a handful of people watching the game. An old man was propped up at the end of the bar, he eyed me disapprovingly. I don’t blame him , my tattooed bearded figure probably summed up everything that was going wrong with his local. Or perhaps Im just projecting and he had heart burn.
I continued on up the road, across the river , and spied the outline of a massive old maltings. I wandered down the lane amongst the malting buildings and saw that one of them was the offices of Barret Burtson Malting Co while the large part of the plant was to be turned into housing.
I continued on past some wonderful old ornate houses and to a Cricket Ground where there was a pub called the Cricketers Arms. Looking inside it was empty with one armed bandits and sports screens flashing everywhere. I decided I would chance the next pub up the road instead. I walked on the 50 or so meters to the next one to discover a wonderful looking Art Deco pub , it looked promising but as I got close enough to read the signage I saw it proudly boasting “Topless Bar Maids” and house music surged out the door onto the pavement. I pushed on.
It was getting dark as I approached Stomping Ground. Its an impressive large brewpub with a hidden understated entrance , I felt like I was entering through the back door. I’m still not convinced that is was the front door to be honest. I had a pint of brown ale from the handpump which was good but not as good as straight from the cask the night before. I then had a pizza and a dry hoppy pale ale and set out across a few blocks in search of Catfish the NZ Pint of Origin base. As I navigated across the inner northern suburbs I crossed Smith Street , the now gentrified main drag that when I was last here was known as Smack Street due to all the junkys and whose lamp posts were covered in porn film job adverts. I headed to Catfish, met up with the Goldings crew, John and Doug from Better Beer, and Soren who was there doing a vertical tasting of 8 Wired Feijoa. A few beers , some banter, a kebab, this time 100% recognisable to the kebabs of home and as such much less interesting to write about and my first ever Uber back to The Windsor.