Friday, September 21, 2012

Feral-ly Delicious - The Best Breweries in WA

At one Australian company I worked for, we needed to buy the perfect gift for a big client. The Managing Director had a great idea - we would buy them a six-pack of Swan lager, which the client loved. The only issues were:
  1. we were in Sydney;
  2. the beer was in Perth, 4000 miles away (same distance as London to Tehran for the sake of comparison); and
  3. the visitor was German, and now safely at home with his bratwurst and weiƟbier.
Feral Sunset, from Flickr/Anthony Georgeff
We couldn't find a drop of Swan in Sydney and due to various licensing laws you can't just post alcohol from WA to New South Wales. We had to bribe a member of our staff who was in Perth - on holidays - to take a cab from Perth airport and buy some, and bring it in their clicking hand-luggage on the plane.

So, between the cost of the beer (plus another six pack for the Director, who was using this as an excuse to get some himself), the taxi fares, a small bribe for the buyer (which was also a six-pack of Swan lager), and the secure wrapping and courier to Europe, I reckon those bottles came in at around $25 a pop each. Expensive, but - given the delighted reaction from the German when he received them - worth it.

This round-about story is my way of sharing with you a simple truth – everyone knows that Western Australia does some of the planet's best beers. The Germans are no slouches in this area themselves, and they recognise a great brew when they drink it (or indeed, wrapped in approximately 40 square kilometres of bubble wrap). If you make it to WA, you have access to the fruits of some of Australia’s best breweries. It would be a crime not to partake in a tipple or two.

Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Everyone knows about the big guns, such as Little Creatures and the Old Brewery, but also deserving of a mention – and multiple visits - is Feral Brewing in the Swan Valley, which brings both dry Aussie wit (its slogan is “undomesticated but sophisticated”) and a wide variety of excellent beers to the market.

My favourites are the Hop Hog, an American-style IPA with strong and sharp beer with a dry finish, or the Belgian style Feral White, which comes laced with coriander and orange peel. Fantapants is another winner, and not just because I'm a wannabe redhead, but because the contrast between the initial sweetness and lingering sharpness has you going back asking, “Did I really taste that?” right until the bottom of the glass. 

Drivers can enjoy a glass of the Mild Child, which weighing at just 3.5% alcohol by volume, and would be well advised to steer clear of the English-style barleywine Razorback and the jet black Russian Imperial Stout called Boris, which at 10.0% and 11.5% respectively will have you barred from your car.

You don’t have to drive to the brewery, of course, as you can catch the ferals at many pubs and bottle shops in both Perth and further afield, including in NSW. But really, why pass up a perfectly good excuse to go there?

This was originally written for WA site, Perthwalkabout, but I worried you people might not be drinking enough beer so here you go. :D

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Perfectly suited - making "casual" office work

Ripped jeans, micro-minis, offensive t-shirt slogans and far too much cleavage on display (from either gender) - researching my recent piece for Executive PA magazine brought me plenty of information on how office casual dress-codes can work, and how they can go horribly, horribly wrong...

Mark Zuckerberg wears a hoody, Tim Cook continues Steve Jobs's casually dressed CEO tradition, and Sir Richard Branson is rarely out of denim. While the office maxim is "copy the boss", what if they start dressing down? 

Are CEOs really ditching the suit and, if so, should you? What with company leaders in jeans, increasing informality in many industries and the omnipresent casual Friday, it looks like business wear is going out of fashion.

But how casual is too casual? One office found itself writing endless guides to clarify what business casual code means. "We had juniors in mini-skirts and new hires in ripped jeans and thongs," says their MD's PA. "We ended up with a three-page guide - with pictures - before we decided to just stop casual Fridays."

Another PA rapidly tired of seeing too much cleavage - from a male manager,
who usually left his shirt open to the third button...

See the whole piece at in the issue at Executive PA online, page 60.

I had a blast researching this one, even if it did uncover a few memories of office-workers and my own outfits best left forgotten. What's your ultimate "oh no, they didn't" office-wear story?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Today in MX, I tell a million Australians how I got stuck in a vending machine.

This was published in MX, Australia's free daily newspaper, and yes, it did actually happen. Not in my current job, thankfully, but back when I was back-packing: working by day, drinking like a fish by night...

Stick Your Job

I’m tired and cranky and falling over when I try to put on my trousers. Not really an ideal state to go to work in.

Drinking with friends until 4am always seems like a great idea at the time. Not so much the next day, and even less when you have to work. So, what’s good for exhaustion and hangovers? Caffeine’s always good - for everything. But unfortunately the killer hangover means coffee is not an option. The mere thought of it makes me feel sick.

So, I decide I can probably handle a cup of tea. Tea has anti-toxidants or anti-oxidents or something. I'm unsure which, but I am figuring that it will either kill the toxic stuff (good) or the oxygen in my system (bad, but at least I'll be too dead to be hungover).

Picking up my MP3 player, I head to the kitchen to make myself a nice cuppa. Humming along happily, I realize that my player has hit the South Park bit, and Chef is starting his thing.

Oh, I love Chocolate Salty Balls. I start singing along with music on my headphones.

One cup of tea is made, and due to my total lack of depth perception (always tricky when you are hungover) I fill it far too full. I’m feeling peckish and decide to head over to the snack machine to get a nice bag of cheese and onion crisps.

Darn, I have nowhere to put my tea down. It keeps spilling burning liquid over my hand and soaking my trousers. Well, the quicker I get the crisps...

I put the cash in the machine and hit buttons and the spin-y thing spins and ... oh dear. It hasn’t gone quite far enough. The bloody crisps are teetering indecisively there on the edge like acrophobic on a bungee platform.

I prod the machine. Nothing. I rattle the machine. My tea spills. I’m getting annoyed now, and interspersing my humming along with my player with threats.

“Gimme the crisps… Chocolate Salty Balls… Gimme them!”

No joy. I look at the machine. I figure, if I stick my hand into the slot, I might be able to wiggle...

Ow! It bites me. The drawer falls forward and nips my skin, giving me a long thin bruise. It looks like a lovebite from a tape-worm. This is so not worth it. But it is. I need those crisps.

“Crisps. Criiiiiiiiiisps. Crispy crispy. Come to me...”

I figure, if I tilt the machine back a little, it should hold the door open so I don’t get injured again. If I can just get my hand into the slot...

Oh nuts. My sleeve is caught. Now I can’t get in or out without ripping my top. This is ridiculous.

Not actually the image I wanted at work.
…suck on my… GIMME THE CRISPS… salty balls let my sleeve go and suck ‘em…

Okay. If I kneel, and keep my hand level so the tea doesn’t spill, I can push the base of the machine to a tilt angle. Then I can move my shoulder right, which means the top should slide OFF the hook and then if I move left I should be able to get the crisps down. Then if I just give the machine a little push and a jerk, I should be able...

So, to summate, I am crouching underneath a teetering snack machine, with an overflowing cup of tea in one hand and the other firmly stuck in the machine itself, looking like I have a bathroom accident as I alternate between cursing, cajoling and singing about my chocolate salty balls...

...and that's when I realise that my boss is standing behind me.

Never. Drinking. Again.

And this time, I mean it.