The night was kicked off by a Fat Yak as the chatter got louder. The Ugly Bartender gave a brief introduction to the night and told us about what we were drinking and why we liked it before running us through the tried and true Sydney on Tap beer rating formula: Look, Smell, Taste, Mouthfeel, Overall - a method that had been passed down across generations of beer enthusiasts and has never failed to gain an accurate result. Ever the gentleman, ol’ JJ expressed his gratitude for our attendance and threw in a few snappy remarks before it got too sentimental - we were here for beer after all (and charity of course).
Understanding he held all the power tonight and could withhold and deliver that golden liquid to the masses of his own free will like some sort of benevolent god, Jack sauntered to the bar and emerged with a Big Head Lager and our first course - a tangy salt and pepper squid served in individual oyster pails (a fancy word for Chinese food box which I definitely did not just Google) that the lager perfectly complimented, counteracting the saltiness of the squid with a crisp, aromatic taste and feel.
Each time a new beer was served Jack would take to the stage and give us the rundown, providing us with a complementary history of the beer we would be drinking next. Drinks, history and free hats (did I mention there were free hats?) and we had only had two beers so far. Just as we began to get the “so, another round?” vibe, beer #3 made its appearance. Cricketer’s Arms IPA was the beer of choice and with it came its accompanying meal: a pub classic, an Australian tradition, none other than a chicken parmigiana. As soon as the words left his mouth, a stream of waiters emerged with our meals and beers. There would be no waiting around for a meal here. As soon as we found out what we’d be eating, we’d be eating it. The geniuses behind the night really knew their stuff: every beer we paired with food was the perfect fit - everything complimented everything else. Even though I’m not a big fan of IPA’s I found myself marvelling at how much I enjoyed the pairing.
Jack then decided to break up the night a little and host a small round of pub trivia - all beer related questions of course, with each correct answer being rewarded with some fitting prizes: footballs, beer coolers - the kind of stuff you’d take to a place where you’d be drinking. Not only was this trivia engaging and lively, but we all learned a thing or two. For example, Russia decided to finally recognise beer as an alcohol in the year of Our Lord…2013. The lowest guess was around the 1910s. Little off.
With the trivia winners satisfied with their prizes and those without cursing themselves for not researching more before they came, Jack announced a raffle with a shroud of mystery as to what the prizes would be (beer). Many a guest would inquire as to the nature of the prizes (beer), and yet Jack remained as elusive as ever, telling us we would have to wait and see what we would be getting if we were to be so lucky (it was beer).
Beer #4 was on the horizon, a White Rabbit Dark Ale paired with a slice of chocolate mud cake. Never having had a beer with a desert before, I found myself pleasantly surprised at how nicely the bitterness of the ale complimented the sweetness of the chocolate - an experience I never thought would work. It goes to show how important getting the right beer is in really enhancing a meal.
Before our final beer of the night, Jack took to the stage to declare the raffle winners. Out of 70+ tickets purchased, Jack seemed to give away what seemed like 30 prizes (they were all beers). Almost everyone came out a winner, including Sydney on Tap’s Emma Campbell, who upon purchasing 12 tickets finally came away with a single 6 pack of Big Head Lager.
With their newly earned loot sitting in front of them, the guests were treated to one last beer of the night - the unique, dark, coffee-infused beer Seedy Goat by Mountain Goat. Upon Jack’s insistence that this beer did not keep him awake, he signed off with a huge thank you for attendance and money raised. A huge round of applause followed and then Jack was straight back to work, leaving everyone else to reflect on the success of the night whilst finishing off a great selection of beers left over.
Of course we couldn’t talk about the night without a big thanks to the H&J staff for hosting and preparing the food, Jack for choosing the beer pairings, and the Leukaemia foundation for the all the wonderful work they do and for finding such a cool way to do it (we love charity, we love beer, let’s do this again sometime).
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