Drowned pork sop
The discussion behind us was animated and opinionated. (And you thought wine experts could be overbearing.) The dialogue debated the merits of beer and its ability to pair with food, the importance of contrasting flavours and the roles played by both bitterness and carbonation. Later, it extended to the virtues of light beers served with spicy food.
But tucked in his slick, modern kitchen, chef Raymond Chang couldn’t hear a thing. He would more than likely be willing to listen and take it all in, but despite having spent months researching, emulating and experimenting with the foods enjoyed by beer-drinking cultures, he says: “We don’t take the food and beer matching too seriously here. There are no hard and fast rules.
“Our menu has been created to offer things that are fun and satisfying to eat while you are drinking and tasting beer.”
Chang (The Merri Table, Mrs Jones, Vue de Monde) met Temple Brewing Company’s owners, Ron and Renata Feruglio, at an agricultural society dinner several years ago.
The trio (among themselves they are R1, R2 and R3) found they shared many opinions on food, and beer.
Craft beer drinkers will know the name Temple, a boutique company begun by passionate home brewer Ron Feruglio in 2005 following his success on the home brewing circuit (VicBrew champion Brewer 2004).
For several years, Feruglio, with the support of wife Renata, brewed his brand on other people’s premises. Their success culminated in a gold medal for their Temple Special Bitter draught ale at the 2010 Australian International Beer Awards.
Two years ago, the Feruglios decided to build their own brewery. It took 18 months to plan, another six to build and it opened just before Christmas.
The impressive layout and stunning design has kept growth in mind. There are six stainless steel, copper-banded fermenting tanks capable of brewing up to 200,000 litres, and there’s room to double capacity.
The Brunswick East brewery will attract many as enthusiastic as the vocal crowd behind us. There are currently six beers on offer: the Brunswick Draught, which features the Australian hop variety Pride of Ringwood; Bicycle Beer, a tart, spritzy brew created with red wheat, spelt and salt from an ancient sea bed in the Grampians; Pale Ale; Soba Ale; Saison, a Belgian-style farmhouse ale; and a jet-black Midnight India Pale Ale.
Five of them are featured on a tasting wheel. There’s also a meticulous winelist of two sparklings, two whites and two reds from Victoria, France and Italy.
Chang’s menu, self-described as a “slow-food take on the junk-food classics” includes half-a-dozen snacking options from excellent almonds roasted in butter and spiced with salt and rosemary to a Brunswick rarebit (a take on the classic Welsh dish) that uses some of the brewery’s own Brunswick Draught.
There are also some divine pickled quail eggs, served with a selection of zingy, bright pickled vegetables and the already popular batata harra, a hearty bowl of crunchy-outside, fluffy-inside golden fried potatoes covered with lashings of dark mustard and mayonnaise.
I regret not trying the chilli bag, because the idea sounded entertaining. It’s an American-style chilli beef braise served with sour cream and a bag of organic corn chips. The menu suggests pouring the chilli mix into the bag, but the couple in front of us ate it more politely.
We chose the drowned pork sop and the goulash. The pork is a terrific dish – its meat slow-roasted, then shredded and grilled for crispness. It’s dressed with a sweet and spicy jalapeno broth and served on a delicate, airy tile of ciabatta bread that soaks up the juices admirably.
Eat it with your fingers if you’re game – a knife and fork if your companions are drinking less than you.
The goulash, a dish Chang says he researched for months, poring over hundreds of recipes, “retains a common thread and the integrity of the traditional dish” but includes a smokey paprika that he says better complements many of the beers. The night we dined, it was served with spaccatelle pasta and peas and, while the meat was well flavoured and of good texture, it didn’t fuse with the pasta well and needed more sauce. Chang is planning to use dumpling-style pasta in future.
I have to confess to not trying the house’s only dessert – a golden-syrup pudding, served with cream. To some, it might be beer food – but I’d probably start a debate about the merits of dessert wine.
Temple Brewing Company
122 Weston Street, Brunswick East
Cuisine \ Beer food Head chef \ Raymond Chang
Brewer \ Ron Feruglio
Prices \ Snacks $5-12; larger plates $17-$24
Open \ Wednesday to Thursday 5-11pm;
Friday to Saturday noon-11pm; Sunday noon-9pm
Phone \ 9380 8999
The Verdict \ Put on your list
This Weston Street beer-worshipping haven offers the thrill of discovery. Its elegant, clever interior design reflects both irony and reverence. Irony in the textured roof that represents a foaming head of beer and the meaningful words, phrases and images around the room, and reverence in the abundance of stainless steel and the vantage points from which it can be viewed. Glass panels etched with images of hops, stunning red gum benches and polished metal stools are eye-catching, but use of polished stone and metal at the altar – the well-appointed kitchen and sleek service area – indicates serious intent.