This was a piece originally intended for Oz Brews News but got lost amongst the hustle and bustle of Good Beer Week. While it’s about 2 months after the dinner, I figure I should post it up here anyway.
A while ago, early on in my forays into beer writing, I wrote a fawning review of Melbourne’s craft beer restaurant, Josie Bones. Since then, I’ve gone a little cold on the place. This boils down to one thing; their prices. While I’m not averse to paying a few extra dollars for great food and beer, it’s hard to stomach beer prices that are 4 or 5 dollars higher than elsewhere and the fairly small tapas style food.
So it was with slight trepidation that I booked tickets for their Good Beer Week “Beeralicious” event. At $85 I was unaware of what that would get me. My girlfriend and I only half jokingly discussed the possibility of having to get a burger down the road afterwards. However, as we shuffled in the door and out of the wind on a cold Melbourne day, found our seats and peaked at the folded menus awaiting us, I was more than relieved. In fact, all fears of value for money were instantly squashed by the prospect of a 6 beer and 6 course feast awaiting us, with the last beer being the exceptionally rare “Black Ops” from Brooklyn Brewery.
If you are reading this, I can only assume you are a beer and food fan so I’ll bore you with the details. If you are vegetarian, you may not want to read on. Any vegetarian that has visited the restaurant will be well aware that the approach to food here is generally not vegetarian friendly. Also, the nose to tail ethos that Josie Bones whole-heartedly supports is also one that many people also find uncomfortable so if you are one of those crazy people that doesn’t like eating tongue, you might want to stop now too.
First course was a duck neck sausage with braised lentils and duck crackling, matched with a Mornington Peninsula Brewery Saison. While the saison seemed far from being at it’s peak (whether it was age or mishandling along the way, I can’t be sure, but having tasted the beer in the past, there was something amiss), the duck, lentils and crackling were superb.
Second course was quail with celeriac and pickled quail egg, matched with one of my favourite beers, the Nogne O/Bridge Road India Saison (Norway version). This was a stunning match. The big juicy hops and spicy yeast profile of this beer really cut through the fat of the crispy fried quail. Some sweet celeriac and pickled quail egg on the side also helped this dish shine.
Thirdly we had pork belly stuffed baby squid with Temple Brewing’s Saison de Miele, which is their honey version of their regular saison, and is fermented with three different yeasts along the way. Again, a fantastic pairing, with salty pork belly, firm but not rubbery squid and lovely crisp honey flavours in the beer.
At this point we didn’t think we could be more impressed with the food and beer matchings. Turns out we were horribly horribly wrong. Fourth on the list was a “Hop smoked ox tongue reuben” – basically smoked tongue in a sandwich -paired with the HopDog BeerWorks Sticky Figgy (yes, that is a beer). This is a brown ale that was run through roasted figs at the end of the boil. The figs give it a big belgian dubbel style aroma, while the beer is full of rich malty flavours. The beer and the food here were just brilliant. To me, and others around, this was definitely the highlight of the day. HopDog BeerWorks is still very new on the scene but everything I have had so far is nothing but impressive.
The last savoury course was beer braised beef ribs with a Pedro Ximénez glaze, which came out with lovely golden roast potatoes and a whitlof and candied walnut salad. The beer was the Renaissance Tribute Barley Wine. Meltingly tender ribs, sweet walnuts, and bitter whitlof were all lifted by the huge (10.8%) rich barley wine. A big combination of rich decadent flavours and a perfect way to set us up for desert.
As mentioned, the final beer was the rare “Black Ops” Imperial Stout from Brooklyn Brewery that was paired with a pear tarte tartin and American Whiskey and raisin icecream. The Black Ops is aged in bourbon barrels and has a huge bourbon characteristic on the nose, so pairing it with rich whiskey and raising icecream was probably not a great move. It all felt too rich, particularly after the previous course. Some sort of citrus cheesecake and the Black Ops would have been ideal… but this wasn’t exactly a subtle dinner so why finish that way I guess?
At the time of my first review, I said that dinner at Josie Bones was one of the best dining experiences I ever had, and this 6 course feast re-iterated that to me. The beer prices may be high, and the food servings small – but to paraphrase Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster; It’s not an every day treat, but a sometimes treat. Or as my girlfriend put it “we have to come back again”.