BEST LOCAL BEERS (Honan)
Built for refreshment, not for thought, and perfect for summer in the Hunter, this Lovedale Lager might be brewed 60 kilometres from the ocean, but it’s clean, crisp, and very refreshing. So, you're going to want to grab a box of salty fish and chips and head down to where the water meets the sand to enjoy this one properly.
The Dark Knight, by local heroes Murray's, is a bittersweet brew of dark chocolate, burnt toffee and roasted malts that will make a loyal sidekick out of a plate of slow-cooked beef brisket and gravy-soaked vegies, or, a hunk of dense chocolate mud cake.
The crew at FogHorn Brewhouse makes beer and food matching a bit of a no-brainer when everything is made within its four walls on King Street in Newcastle. Their Roaring 40's Best Bitter makes for a raucous pairing with theirs, or maybe your own, Philly Cheesesteak. Just be sure it’s bursting with braised beef and melted cheese.
Sweet ruby Tuesday, this 3 Son’s Red IPA is a tasty local drop. Think roses and clove, earth and peppery cherries. It’s brewed by Novocastrian Lachlan MacBean of Grainfed and named after his three young blokes. I hope they like a spicy curry, perhaps a tasty vindaloo from Darby Raj, because that’s what I reckon this beer requires, food wise.
Beers for breakfast is usually frowned upon. And yet, due to its overabundance of toffee, coffee, and caramel flavours this here Celtic Fusion by our Central Coast cousins, Six String, commands to be slugged after a chocolate croissant, a bowl of Coco Pops, or a stack of buttermilk pancakes topped with raspberries, sliced banana, bacon and maple syrup.
BEST LOCAL WINES (Lewis)
Here’s my high five, all easy on the pocket:
The Little Wine Company 2016 Vermentino $24, a zingy, refreshing white perfect for a salad of baby octopus and squid. It’s at Small Winemakers Centre in Pokolbin, and was made by Suzanne Little from grapes grown on the former Rosemount Roxburgh vineyard at Denman.
Dimbulla Estate 2014 Tempranillo-Shiraz $25, a 75 per cent tempranillo-25 per cent shiraz blend that last August made Hunter Valley Wine Show history by becoming the first non-shiraz-dominant wine to be the champion red. Dimbulla is owned by Dilip Kumar and the wine can be bought at dimbullaesttate.com.au and the Clarendon Hotel, 347 Hunter Street, Newcastle. Try it with duck a l’orange.
Wombat Crossing Vineyard 2014 The Creek Flat Semillon $25 is a vibrant, refreshing classic-style Hunter semillon that would be perfect with Port Stephens rock oysters and black caviar. Buy it on wombatcrosiing.net, at the 530 Hermitage Road, Pokolbin, cellar door (or call 0419 229 551).
Andrew Thomas 2014 Synergy Shiraz $25, from a superb Hunter shiraz vintage, this great-value, multi-faceted 13.7 per cent alcohol red is at the cellar door at Tuscany Wine Estate on the corner of Hermitage Road and Mistletoe Lane, Pokolbin. It would go beautifully with beef burgundy.
RidgeView 2015 Impressions Chardonnay $35, is a chardonnay of great elegance. Find it at ridgeview.com.au or the 273 Sweetwater Road, Rothbury, cellar door. A fine match for Atlantic salmon with celeriac remoulade and baby herb salad.