Monday, December 31, 2007

“Merry Noo Yeer!!”

2007

As we prepare ourselves and, in some cases, our families to see out the old and welcome in the new this evening I thought I should pause to share some final thoughts of the year with our loyal beer friends.

Here in fair Melbourne town we are also preparing for the fact that the maximum expected temperature is 42 celcius (that’s a rather balmy 107.6 f for our American friends) and when you factor in the three little Pilsners and their general lack of quality sleep resulting from various Christmas outings ... well, you can feel my trepidation.

Not that my trepidation extends to the fact that I will be sharing some very pleasing lagers and such with some old and dear friends in very convivial surrounds. Bill is all geared up to present his much anticipated and very festive melon/rum/pineapple Party Punch. It is so called, not because it is served in a big bowl like punch, but because if you have too much you feel as if you have been. Punched.

Big Bad Bob will, as always, play the gracious host with flair and aplomb – even if he doesn’t know what aplomb is – and the Jack and coke will flow freely because he is too soft to drink with me. Unless it is the deliciously honey-smacked Beez Neez from Matilda Bay Brewing Co. in which case he may keep pace with me for anything up to two beers. Just kidding.

Wal will bring his quiet, gentle nature to the table and sit listening intently to the various to-ing and fro-ing of increasingly bawdy and puerile conversations and then, when you least expect it, he’ll nonchalantly toss in a witty and biting comment to floor us all. Sed will just be Sed. What you see is what you get and it all stays pretty much at the same volume for the whole time. Nothing fazes him and a stranger would be hard pressed to tell if he was wallowing in misery or rolling in cash. Just don’t get him started on bureaucratic incompetence and Government red tape type issues. Then you’ll see different side to the bloke.

We will have absent friends and family in our thoughts and will raise a glass to Pix whose health has been a little less than factory fresh of late. And that glass may contain any of the following. Sed, if he’s on the beers will go with the crisp refreshing chill of Hahn Ice, Wal tends to be either a Cascade Light man if he’s driving or he may lean towards a special occasion brew like a Premium – Hahn, Boag’s etc. – or, working as he does for a large concern who purveys serious quantities of plonk, whatever nice beers are on special. Bill will have his mitt wrapped around a VB or a light. Simple as that. Although I may be able to tempt him with a Beer Blokes very own homebrew. Then most of the boys will get into the bourbons and the night will disintegrate fairly swiftly. In a good way.

I will bring some Beck’s and a couple of Boag’s Draught – ice cold they are just the thing for a night fit more for camels and kangaroos than polar bears and penguins – and maybe even a Weihenstephaner Kristall Weissbier. Again, just the ticket for knocking a parched throat back into the present. The beer will lubricate the conversation and there is just sometimes a bit of youthful reminiscing of New Years past and adventures shared.

In a suburb nearby, Dr Lager and his clan will be doing similar things and spreading the Beer Blokes gospel to another group of close friends. At both venues the gentle pitter-patter of little feet will be heard echoing through playrooms and outdoor areas, creating their own special brand of poorly supervised mayhem. Thank God for Playstation.

The tribe is now into its third decade together and this year marks the 30th year since we all began secondary school. Some of us went to primary school together as well and yet others go back as far as under 5’s basketball, kindergarten and even pre-school. Some of the ‘new arrivals’ – sorry, wives are still not sure why we all get together and talk about the same old shit, year in, year out. All I can say is this. A) It’s just like the native indigenous tradition of upholding history through the oral story telling and; B) At least the stories don’t keep getting embellished and added to each year! They started life as complete and utter bullshit, and they still are! Plus; C) You all love us.

So Beer Blokes everywhere, enjoy the night and drink some good beer, well, keep yourself nice and don’t make the copper’s lot any more difficult than it already is. They really, seriously don’t get paid enough to put up with the drunken, boorish, immature and unimaginative violence and pissed drivel that some cock heads toss about after disrespecting the beer. By all means, however, give them a wave and at least offer them a beer. They won’t take it, but they might remember you down the track.

All the best for the rest of 2007 and the Beer Blokes look forward to seeing you all safe and happy and ready to do it all again in 2008. Bring it on and Beer it up – large!!


















Cheers,
Prof. Pilsner.

Monday, December 24, 2007

We Wish You A Beery Christmas


A little beer gift to pop under your tree. Sing it with the kiddies to the tune of
“We Wish You A Merry Christmas”. You will sing it better with a few of the mentioned
beverages under your belt. That’s how I wrote it. P.P.


“We wish you a Beery Christmas
We wish you a Cheery Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And lots of good Beer”

It’s Christmas, my mate, and I hope yours is great
With beers representing all territ’ries and states

Sitting down on you arse, have a cold Carlton Draught
Or a nice Melbourne Bitter ‘fore the season is past

If Toohey’s your brew, try an Old or a New
Or a Malt Shovel Pilsner and I’ll have me one, too


“We wish you a Beery Christmas
We wish you a Cheery Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And lots of good Beer”

For our friends in the West, Emu Bitter is best
But don’t be like Cousins, give the Coppers a rest

Cooper’s Pale is the way, if you’re in Adelaide
But stay away from West End, and try Woody’s Lemonade

“We wish you a Beery Christmas
We wish you a Cheery Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And lots of good Beer”

If you’re a tourist or old, and you’re not feeling bold
Head north for the sunshine and any-thing ‘Gold’

NT is a hoot, get full as a boot
On a big Darwin stubby from the back of your Ute

“We wish you a Beery Christmas
We wish you a Cheery Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And lots of good Beer”

In Tassie the go is a Cascade or Boag’s
Just have two or three and then one for the road

If you happen to be in the Aay-CT
Just pull a big U-Turn and piss off quickly

“We wish you a Beery Christmas
We wish you a Cheery Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And lots of good Beer”

Wherever you be, find your own Christmas tree
And fill underneath it with Crown or VB
For a Happy New Year, find a good Aussie beer
But not Carlton Cold or I’ll smack ya in the ear

Beery Christmas from The Beer Blokes

Professor Pilsner & Dr Lager

Friday, December 21, 2007

Beery Christmas 2007






As the year draws to a close the time comes ‘round again for The Beer Blokes Christmas message.

And here it is.

As we did with Mo-vembeer, the Blokes are attempting to link their Chrissy tipples with the Chrissy theme. Not too difficult to achieve, wouldn’t you agree? There are so many beers out there that it shouldn’t be too tough to find a dozen or two that fit nicely with the Yuletide spirit. In case you are having trouble thinking some up, here are some starters. Some are so obvious they stick out like Warnie at a church picnic, others are so twisted they stick out like Murali’s chucking bowling arm.

Stella Artois was first brewed as a celebratory Christmas beer, with the Stella part meaning the Christmas star, and Artois after Sebastian Artois, the brewery founder. You could also sneak in a Heineken or Bintang or Spain’s Estrella Damm as these also share the use of the red Brewers Star. You could also rustle up a Carlton Sterling but don’t forget this is a light beer.

Or what about trying a Weihenstephaner this Christmas? If you are ready to drink beer engineered with real German brewing know-how and centuries of tradition, you could do a lot worse than a Kristallweissbier, a pilsner or a Hefeweissbier Dunkel. As I discussed in the Weihenstephaner post, the brewery has a strong Christmas link with good King Wenceslas bestowing the right to sell Weihenstephan beer as he looked out as the snow lay ‘round about, cool and crisp and even. These beers also go really well with BBQ meat and seafood so if you can’t enjoy one over Christmas, when can you?

Some of Australia’s craft brewers are putting out some terrific beers at the minute and many are designed as easy drinking, summer, barbie kinda beers. Some of the real blond beers around (as against the pretend blond beers which are low carb and blond only in that they are lighter in colour than a rich lager) are perfectly suited to the drinker who wants refreshment from the heat as well as a good shot of flavour and aroma which will not get lost in the food. Try a Murray’s Sassy Blond, a lightly carbonated, Belgian style pale ale, or a Grand Ridge Natural Blonde.

When it comes to Kiwi beers there are some crackers from across the ditch like Mac’s Hop Rocker Pilsner with a great kick in the finish that balances the warm malt well or a Monteith’s Radler which has a really interesting citrusy zesty tang due to the addition of lemon juice which makes it a great foil for charcoal-y grilled food or dishes with a bit of spice. It also shows up ‘lemony beers’ like Corona for what they are. And what they could be if only the manufacturers would add some beer to them.

If you are out and about and need to drive home, instead of going light or having just the two or three, why not try a mid-strength? Tasman have just put one out through Cole’s supermarkets. It’s made by Boag’s out of Launceston and you could do a lot worse for the price. VB mid is OK but seriously overpriced. Toohey’s Gold is a better tasting beer and more reasonably ticketed.

On a more serious note, something to be aware of this festive season is another of those cruel and sneaky hoaxes which is being perpetrated upon unsuspecting beer drinkers by a computer cockhead pretending to be the Beck’s Brewery.

An e-mail congratulating the recipient on winning half a million Euro in a Beck’s New Year promotion is followed by a request to send personal details and an up front fee in order to collect. I reckon the fact that the Brauerei Beck’s Promotional Officer’s e-mail address is @yahoo.co.uk should probably have sent up a warning flare, but I guess some people see the $ signs; sorry, the € signs and get a bit blinded to the details. How dare these fraudsters hide behind beer to commit these heinous acts. If only they could use their vast computer geekiness for goodness instead of evil. How very dare they!

Speaking of dickheads, this time last year a beer named ‘Santa’s Butt’ was banned in some parts of the U.S. But not because of any fear of degrading Santa or the Christmas spirit but because it was deemed to be a risk of “promoting underage drinking”. What!?! Santa’s arse?! “MUMMY, I just saw Santa’s arse, can I please have a beer?” Spare me.

On a happier note, The Bluetongue Brewery in the Hunter Valley, NSW, has just been sold to Coca-Cola Amatil. I don’t mean this a happy thing because another Australian business has been sold off to the evil multi-national corporate conglomerate monster, but because it now means that there is a player in the market to rival the big two. At the moment about 90% of the Australian beer market is Foster’s or Lion Nathan with the remainder made up of all the little independents and craft brewers and the inclusion of CCA is a welcome bit of competition. CCA has a foothold in the market already, but only in distributing a couple of foreign brands. Hopefully a full scale price war will ensue. I only hope that the drinker is the winner.

So let’s all have a very merry and Beery Christmas and a safe and happy New Year. Take the time to appreciate friends, family and other assorted loved ones, and grasp the opportunity to sample a beer or two that you’ve never thought to try.

I don’t need to remind you all to be careful and responsible over the holidays but, please, be careful and responsible over the holidays. We all need to be aware of the irresponsible behaviour of the louts, slap-heads and knob-ends out there who don’t read these pages so we can all make it back safely for more beer fun in 2008.

By the way, watch out for our bumper Christmas edition of Beer Blokes which, as always, will be chock-o-block with beery entertainment to get you through the holiday period. Look out for a huge review of the Mo-vembeer experience, a ripping piece on stubby caps, beer reviews a-plenty and a special lift out souvenir special thingy on the Beer Girl of the Year. All this and MORE. It’s our Christmas gift to you!!

Cheers,
Dr Lager & Professor Pilsner

Monday, December 17, 2007

Coming Soon


The Blokes are currently preparing a list of ‘The Best & Worst of 2007’ and we would love for you to help us make it a cracker.

You’re probably familiar with the concept, it gets a run around this time every year in most national newspapers, and they are all pretty straight up and down. We aim to create a more memorable journalistic masterpiece to remember the year by. All linked, hopefully, by the theme of beer.

The categories are, in no particular order – and feel free to submit your own suggestions;

SPORT
CELEBRITIES
TELEVISION ADS
BEER
SERVICES TO DRINKING
ENTERTAINMENT

Have a crack and see what you can all come up with. I will collect and collate them all – but not censor – and publish the results in the middle of January. Have your suggestions in to us by the first week of Jan. If you are struggling for ideas, do what I do and crack a coldy or three and see what the old thinking bit can come with.

Cheers,
Prof. Pilsner

Friday, December 14, 2007

Brew Update December


Our first brewing year has come full circle and I thought that this would be a good chance to review the last twelve months and take a look at how the brews have travelled so far.

The Beer Blokes managed to produce a stock of fifteen brews comprising six lagers, three pale ales, two pilsners, a couple of draughts, a blonde and a wheat beer. We would have made lots more but Dr Lager was a slack tart. We have successfully stockpiled enough to last us through a long, hot summer and we hope to rip back into full scale production once the frenetic silly season is complete.

I am pleased to report that none of our batches exploded, soured or caught fire and that, despite a few small hitches, the brewing has all gone wonderfully to plan. Mainly because we didn’t have a plan to start with so, whatever the result, it was all expected. Of course, as with any new venture, the Blokes have had a couple of batches that haven’t quite gone to plan with the last two suffering a bit from under carbonation due to the yeast chilling down a bit for too long. Still full of hop and malt character and very drinkable, just not as fizzy. The pale ale can wear that but the lager is left lacking here and there.

It’s interesting to taste the few leftovers from our first four batches that were brewed when we were young and dumb about the whole brewing thing. We thought they tasted so good - and they did – for a first up effort. It’s only down the track when you taste a more professionally ‘constructed’ beer (still from kits and cans) that you realise how good the first ones WEREN’T by comparison. It just means we need to finish off the old stock before we get into the good stuff. Then we will play the same game with the brews we produce in the next twelve months. Provided our beers keep getting better. I reckon they will.

Some brews have been more pleasing than others and for different reasons. For example, the Australia Day Lager was a Toohey’s can with a bit of sugar and was our third effort. Looking back now, I guess we hadn’t expected a lot from it. It actually developed quite well as time went on, to the point where I have held a handful back to save for later. Very pleasing. The other particularly pleasing batch was the brew known affectionately as ‘The Beast’. It fermented out really well and strong and finished up with an alcohol content of 6.66%. This makes it a stronger brew than your average lager but still short of many Belgian specialty ales.

The Beast was a bit difficult to tame in the early months; a bit too harsh in the ‘warm alcohol kick’ department, so we pulled it out of circulation until it was tamed. And tamed it now is. It has mellowed and matured to the point where the ‘homebrewedness’ of the aftertaste is almost undetectable and the malt and hops are well balanced.

As we have become more attuned to the effect of the hops on the finished product we have become better able to judge the depth of the flavour and the strength of the bitterness in the final drink. As we have switched from sugar to all malt brews we have seen the later brews take on a more mature flavour. Some have even come close to imitating commercial beers in the main body of the taste with just that sneaky aftertaste the giveaway. Luckily we have also learned to put the beers aside to mature and develop.

We have added a couple of pieces of equipment to our list of brewing assets including a nice old banger of a shed fridge and a Magic Box. This last piece will be explained in a post next week. An over abundance of empties (from working our way through a large stockpile of fullies) means that the production line will need to crank up quickly regardless of how busy the Christmas season gets and I will keep you posted on the results.

The next few beers planned are a Bavarian Lager, a Canadian Blonde and a more full bodied wheat beer. Hopefully the New Year will see an attempt at a lager yeast fermented lager and some more adventurous creation beers. I also have a couple of ales planned including a Mountain Goat style flavour driven ale and a dark ale. We want to get these going soon because the warmer weather obviously makes the health of the ale yeast easier to ensure and then we get to store it to smooth out the edges by the time the wintry ale drinking nights come around.

Thanks again for visiting the site and for the support you have shown us through the year. In the New Year I might post a Hall of Fame listing all the ‘famous’ contributors we have heard from. From the worlds of sport and from old school yards and my personal favourite, ‘anonymous’, they have been the glass into which we have been able to pour the Beer Bloke’s special brand of lagered lunacy.
Cheers,
Prof. Pilsner
P.S. I had a table of good Blokes in at the restaurant last night and these boys are very receptive to trying new and different beer tastes and flavours - even if one still insists that Corona is an OK drop - and last night was their first opportunity to try some of the new beers on our list. Lucky these are good blokes, and patient, becuse the kitchen took about the same time to cook five meals as Dr Lager and I take to brew 23 litres of soon to be award winning lager! As promised, here in public, I am promising that the first round is on me next Thursday night - unless you choose Corona in which case you can pay double. See you then.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Beer Music – Christmas Edition

As we approach that special time of the year I thought it appropriate that we all pause for a bit to be thankful for the fact that we have been so blessed throughout the year with beer related entertainment on these pages.

Back in September we looked at beer music and the ways in which the amber nectar has influenced our song writers and musicians and here I figured we should research how the brew may have snuck into Christmas songs and Carols.

Your traditional Christmas Carols are pretty thin for beer references unless you count the word ‘spirit’ but even then, it’s not really beer, tho’ I have had more than one experience of the Christmas spirit overtaking the mind and body as a result of one too many lagers.

Now, the more modern songs lend some note space to drinking and some are even specifically beer related mentions. Others are sort of ‘implied’ in that they talk of getting together with family and friends and this is a fairly straightforward picture painting of folks sipping chilled lagers in the hot Australian Christmas sun. Our family has a tradition of playing Australian Christmas songs and reworked carols pretty well non-stop from the last weekend in November through to the middle of January. The kids just love them and they have the advantage of keeping at bay all the questions about snow and sleds and white things that northern hemisphere songs inevitably throw up. Listen to enough of them and, inevitably, I throw up, too.
Pull up a comfy chair, crack a beer and sit with me as we listen to some of my favourite Christmas beer music.

Aussie Christmas with Bucko and Champs is the product of master songsters Colin Buchanan (Play School, 10 time Golden Guitar winning country music performer and ‘top bloke’) and Greg Champion (Couldabeen Champions, ABC Radio, countless solo country and comedy recordings and ‘top bloke’).
Volume 1, the original, is an absolute cracker which was pulled from sale due to copyright issues. I still have a copy and it is the only CD I will ever burn copies of for friends. You’d reckon Warner Music would be big enough to have a laugh at Santa Claus has got a new Truck, Frosty the Yobbo and Robert the red nosed Reindeer, but there you go. (Volume 1 was re-released with the ‘offending’ numbers excised and a few bonus beauties replaced them).

From the opening line of the opening number, ‘Aussie Jingle Bells’;

Dashing through the bush
In a rusty Holden ute
Kicking up the dust
Esky in the boot

you just know the boys are tuned into that mysterious connection between Australia and its beer. And you surmise that maybe the boys had a close connection with some beer when they were writing and, certainly, performing some of the songs.

In “Deck the Shed with bits of Wattle” the third verse rips in with;

Say G’day to friends and relies
Wave them off with bulging bellies
Kids and babies, youngies oldies
May your fridge be full of coldies #

as well as an invitation to ‘whack some gum leaves in a bottle’ and we all know what kind of bottle you’d whack gum leaves in for Christmas, don’t we? I have had a big sprig of gum leaves each Christmas for years now sticking out the long neck of a Hahn Premium bottle. Well, it’s pretty hard to find Australian themed deccos anywhere, so sometimes you just have to make your own.

“Frosty the Yobbo, as everybody knows
Is a snowman with an attitude and a carrot for a nose.”
Need I say more?

From Volume 2 there are plenty of veiled allusions to sharing a joyful ale in songs of BBQs and get togethers in Australia for Christmas as well as a cracker of a tune titled ‘Christmas Bob’.

‘Here comes Christmas Bob
Sellin’ cheap pressies in the pub
If you’ve got the cash then you’re in luck
Get a cheap VCR off the back of a truck.’

But the song which really taps into the intrinsic value of the shared beer and the cultural significance it holds in the Australian psyche is the first in the ‘serious’ section of the CD. ‘Good Old Wally King’ is a beautifully crafted and touching reworking of the Good King Wenceslas Carol* as well as tapping into the Jolly Swagman legend at the same time. Wally King is the archetypal Aussie battler farmer looking out over his crop on Christmas Day and sighting an old mate in the distance.

Now, Wally’s crop is none other than barley – the very building block of the brewing process – and his old mate, Charlie, appears to have fallen upon hard times. Wally wastes not a second in beckoning his wife, Agnes, to make another place at the table for his cobber on this Christmas Day where he can share a meal and the true spirit of the Season. Without saying as much, you can bet Foster’s to a can on that the first words out of Wally’s gob would’ve been something like; “Come in mate, ‘ave a beer.”

I truly hope that as the years roll on some of our prominent and talented song writers can come up with similar songs that so eloquently capture the unique nature of the Australian Christmas experience and especially the role of the shared glass over a meal or while sat out on the porch in the fading summer light. Beer is just such a part of sharing special times and I personally would love to see its place in our culture given the respect that it deserves. I’d also like to see these tales told in opposition to all the negative press that beer gets whenever a dickhead or dickheadette lets loose with the brain in neutral and the amber cops the blame. But you already knew that.

Next time you’re out and standing by the racks of Christmas Specials, see if they have Aussie Christmas with Bucko and Champs Vol 1 or 2. If they don’t have it, ask them why they don’t have it and then suggest that they DO get it. OK? Or find them for sale online at Gumtree music. Have a listen and a laugh and a beer and let me know how it all turns out.

Cheers
& a Beery Merry Christmas
Professor Pilsner

Click on the link thingy at the end of the post and it will pop up the full lyrics. Colin and Greg, if you’re listening, I don’t mean to infringe copyright or anything – we all know what happens when you pull that sort of caper – it’s just for our Beer Bloke mates to have a gander at. Cheers.

*Pop back to the article on the Weihenstephan brewery for the full story of how King Wenceslas slots into the history of beer. December 4.

#This line is also the title of one of Champs’ solo offerings.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What’s better than Movember?

As you well know, The Beer Blokes are well and truly at the forefront when it comes to raising awareness of health issues on behalf of other blokes through such beery initiatives as Mo-vembeer and the time has come to balance the ledger. We don’t wish to be seen as ignoring the many health issues facing our gentle fellow Blokettes and we want to help to promote the various fundraising initiatives that support them.

You are all by now aware of the Movember initiative where Blokes can grow a ‘mo for the month of November to raise money for and awareness of prostate cancer and men’s mental health issues. Many of our loyal Blokes have participated before. And you must be aware by now of the Mo-vembeer initiative begun this year in these very pages and which has been well received and hugely popular judging by the quantity of ‘MO’ beer that I got through. This threatens to grow even larger next year, so get on board, OK?

So what’s next? What’s better than Movember? Or Mo-vembeer? How can the Blokettes among us contribute within this framework of charity months? Why, by participating in Fanuary, of course!

‘Fanuary’ is the brainchild of our Kiwi cousins on the MyJobSpace website – although it was pulled before it began due to the threat of legal action from the charity slated to receive the funds raised – and was to be supported by, among others, the surfing fraternity. It seems the hole thing, sorry, WHOLE thing was too risqué. We don’t give a muff, sorry, stuff, we are all over this thing! Too late to celebrate Muffember, so we’ll stick with Fanuary.

And like Movember, it’s as simple as doing nothing! Just let the turf grow in the lower paddock! And the money you would normally put aside for January waxing you can donate to a medical research charity of your choice. Now, you will not be alone in this, Ladettes, The Beer Blokes will be right there supporting you.

First, because Fanuary falls right in the guts of the summer beach season, December will need to be a big month for waxing salons. I mean, let’s face it, none of us wants our pristine shoreline to resemble a carpet sampler’s convention, do we? And we can’t have kids being confused and asking if, when the Wiggles sing; “Here comes a bear, A hairy scary Bear” they mean the front bottom of that lady over there, can we? Must maintain a bit of decorum. But fear not, The Blokes will be there, offering assistance when you can’t get an appointment at ‘Brazillians ‘R’ Us’ or ‘Trim Ur Trim’ or wherever you usually go.

Let us rally then, Blokes, and clear a space in the shed or the den or the lounge room for a trestle table and put on some nice ‘waxing’ music before you stick a sign out the front saying; ‘I support Women’s Health! Ask Me How!’ then stand back and prepare for the busiest month of your lives as we welcome the inaugural Fanuary celebration.

It’s our duty as Blokes.

*note to Blokes, get down to Bunnings this week and stock up on gaffer tape, fly paper and that gooey stuff that cleans chewing gum off fabrics.

P.S. The original plan was for TOTAL waxing to start Fanuary and then the idea is to grow, shape and ‘coiff’ the region in discussion. The Blokes out there might like to come up with ‘beer’ variations on the theme. For example The Landing Strip, The Burmuda Triangle etc were suggested. I’m sure we could come up with better – The Pint Glass, The Long Neck ... whatever!

P.P.S. No suitable illustration available for this post.

Cricket and Beer

As the summer approaches, a young man’s thoughts turn away from football and Rugby League and draft picks and salary caps and turn gently towards rolled pitches, long hot days and baggy green caps. The cricket season is upon us and the sporting landscape seems just a little flatter and dipped in more subdued tones.

That is not to say that the summer is more boring – although those who have sat through a day and a half of England batting on a glass top may say otherwise – but it is certainly more relaxed. Like Ian Botham on an Indian tour.

Cricket and beer have been partners for some time, from the sponsorships by breweries of teams, tournaments and tours to the merchandising. And, of course, a few brews made the long and sometimes tiring procedure of five days of test match cricket a little more bearable. We haven’t always had an Adam Gilchrist or Mike Hussey and others to produce sparkling displays of boom-boom cricket like today’s crowds have.

The most recent beer - cricket product gimmick has been the talking dolls series. Little famous cricketer figures that sit on your telly and are prompted by secret frequency messages to say things at certain times. Beginning in the summer of 2005-06 with the Boony Doll and continuing last season with the Boony/Botham opening combination, this year it will continue when we see the introduction of the Warnie Doll. Seems a bit odd that a bloke who has got into more shit than a Werribee duck every time he articulates thought would allow these same thoughts to be distributed around the country in the form of three and a half inches of moulded plastic. Having said that, mine is on order and I can’t wait.

Beer has also been an integral piece of the cricket landscape inside the ground. From the many and varied ways in which cunning drinkers have attempted to smuggle grog into the ground to the ritual ‘drink-until-you-chuck’ dance and finishing with the group chorus of “You’re goin’ home in the back of a divvy van”, beer and the usually unsuccessful attempts to master it, have coloured the canvas of a day at the cricket. Many have coloured the canvas of their trousers and the ground beneath their seats as well in the course of disrespecting the beer.

As part of our misspent youth, Dr. Lager and I, along with anything up to twenty mates, partners and hangers on, would trek to the G’ during the Boxing Day test match or to a One Day International. Far from being the uncontrollable delinquents who seem to have taken over the gentile confines of Australia’s greatest sporting Mecca these days, the Dr. and I were students of the craft, admirers of the skill and custodians of the history and the traditions. We also drank a bit. But we took the train and we never got silly or kicked out. By which I mean we never got caught. I did say misspent.

We really did study the game and discuss the various merits of the tactics and field placements but this didn’t mean we couldn’t enjoy ourselves as well. We also learned that there was much to be learned from observing the tactics and movements of those inside the hallowed stands of the MCG and in particular, Bay 13. Like the blokes in front of us, one sunny day, who sat down, settled in, popped the lid off the Esky and turned to us young uns’ saying; “Youse blokes wanna few drinks?” Now, we were as poor as a pensioner in the pokies car park at this time and not too proud to accept freebies – even if they were only softies. After all, even back in 1980 a Coke at the cricket cost about the same as a train ride to the ground and back. “Cheers mate.”

The unexpected charity of these erstwhile strangers was soon explained. This is brilliant. The pre-game preparation for these blokes was to load up the Esky with four layers of beer, followed by a layer of soft drinks and finished off with a single can of Vic Bitter on the top. At the turnstile, where they were checked by an aging MCC gate attendant, they would ‘own up’ to wanting to take just one VB in with their lunch – “Come on cobber, just the one, Ay?” To which old Jack would say, “Sorry fellas, appreciate your honesty, but I’ll have to take that.” “Orright, digger, no harm in trying.”
All that was left was to clear the Esky surface of the alluvial deposits of Coke and Fanta and reach the amber mother lode. Like I said, brilliant.

This was in the era before mobile phones. Had he had a phone I would have got his number early in the day so that I could ring him and thank him for his generosity and commend him on his ingenuity. I would also have been able to tell him how the last three hours of play panned out as he was escorted from the ground, along with his ingenious mates, by the local constabulary before the tea break. More on that situation later.

Of course this cloak and dagger stuff was going on all around the place. Well, probably not in the Members Stand and the old Olympic Stand which was a dry area but pretty much everywhere else. Those who couldn’t sneak cans in were resigned to queuing for long periods at the old style bars around the G’. For the younger folk, these bars were fewer in number than they are today and they didn’t have the fancy computerised multi pour conveyor belt system at their disposal. The beers were poured lovingly and painfully slowly by, I think, the same Old Jack from the turnstiles, and then you had to pay him. The crowd behind you had to wait for this theatre to conclude. Today you walk up, grab a four pack and take it to a register pay, piss off and then sit down and piss on.

The inherent danger in the old system was that one poor sod had to miss part of the action. If you waited for a break in order to miss no action you also got no beer because the queue was so long. We had the problem solved by nominating an ‘A’ Team and a ‘B’ Team. The ‘A’ team would head off and hit one or several bars, each man buying the maximum number of beers permitted and returning without missing much at all. The ‘B’ would then repeat the process later in the session. It was obligatory for the team staying in their seats to claim that the girl in the row in front had shown us her tits while the other team was buying beer.

Another method for relieving the tedium was to watch as an ‘ice fight’ broke out. Because you never knew when an ice fight would actually break out, the sensible thing to do was to start an ice fight. It was not sensible, however, to get caught starting or joining in an ice fight. Security was usually quick to react to this sort of buffoonery. Our tactic was to create a diversion; something along the lines of “Look over there, TITS!!!” would do the trick, at which point you would go with a swift, no-look lob of an ice block over the head, then sit back and watch the fun.

One day the fun went a little bit south when we started (and then got right into) a very large and energetic ice fight. Beginning with a small but steady to-and-fro of frozen fun, the trickle soon became a storm of ice. And not just front to back was this skirmish – you had a barrage coming in from both sides of our bay as well. When the ice ran out things just got hilarious. Plastic bottles, fruit, wrappers, BBQ chooks and empty cans. It was all going well and in good spirit until someone lined up a guy in the front row of the second deck with a Pie!! A PIE!!! Nailed him good, too.

Nobody actually saw the pie-chucker but as Dr Lager and I fell about laughing at this poor Kiwi supporters plight, Dr Lager turned to me and said; “Can’t believe I jobbed him from that far out!”
I should point out at this stage that in no way do I condone this sort of anti social behaviour, no matter how funny it is at the time. This stuff is inevitably funnier for some than for others.

Remember the bloke with the Esky earlier on? Well, in his lagered state he takes a while to catch up to what’s going on and just as the ammo is running out, the Police are moving in and things are starting to cool down, he turns and attempts a repeat of the hit on the now irate Kiwi supporter with the pie flavoured shirt, only to be politely escorted from the game. Karma is a funny thing sometimes.

Looking forward to sitting in front of the telly, sippin’ a couple of coldies and watchin’ the cricket while listening to Warnie carry on with some sort of guff or another and reminiscing about a gentler, more subdued era of cricket. That was around 1898. I wasn’t there. When I went to the cricket, we had real fun.

Cheers,
Prof. Pilsner

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Weihenstephaner



Some of you may have gathered from my posts that one of my all time very favourite brewers is the one which is considered – at least by themselves – as the oldest brewery in the world and which makes some of the gosh-darned best beers a man can sip or skol. Or skull. Or scoll.

Weihenstephaner is a brewer of German origin and is situated on a hill called Nährberg in the south of the country at Freising in the region of Bavaria. Just north of Munich. Map 175, G6. The former monastery lays claim to the title of ‘oldest working brewery in the whole wide world ever’ and can trace its brewing origins back to 1040.

The whole monastery movement was founded in Italy by St. Benedict and, as it spread north into what is now Germany and Austria, it saw the removal of grapes and wine in favour of barley and beer. The alpine snows wend their way down into the Munich basin and it is here that the good Lord has seen fit to provide a great source of brewing water and a perfect spot for barley cultivation. Nice job, Lord.

The naturally defensible terrain lent itself as the perfect site for a monastery. The naturally natural nature of the hops, water and barley lent itself as the perfect site for a brewery.

Around 725AD a Benedictine monk named Korbinian founded a little chapel on a little hill called Weihenstephan. This means ‘sacred Stephen’ and its significance in this story is really cool and will be revealed shortly. By 1040AD the chapel had graduated to the status of abbey and was granted the right to sell its beer. This was a big deal because the retailing of beer was strictly controlled by the government and it wanted to protect its tax revenue and to ensure that the beer sold was of a good quality.

The dude who bestowed upon the Weihenstephaner brewery the right to sell beer was none other than the King of the day, Wenceslas. As in ‘Good King Wenceslas’. As in ‘Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen’ – you know, the Christmas Carol? When he was looking out he was probably downing a large glass of Hefe Weissbier or maybe a Bayerisch Tradition or even a hoppy Pilsner*. Next Christmas when the kids start singing that one, smile knowingly and raise a glass to the church song about beer. Cool.

Hops have been grown in this area since around 700AD and so it made sense that Weihenstephan would enjoy a long and rich association with the region and with beer. Its beer history continues to this day. The brewery is now state owned and there is also a kind of Beer University attached as well as a restaurant and a library. Not the book kind, but the yeast kind. A veritable Aladdin’s cave of every conceivable strain of brewing yeast. I think that they may even do a kind of mail order yeast service for the big brewers.

Today, Weihenstephaner makes and distributes some ripping beers around the world. I have hosted a few beer dinners at restaurants and at nearly all of them I have managed to sneak in a ‘Steph. They range from the Original which is lagered for an extended time and is pale golden and refreshing, to the naturally cloudy and revitalising Hefe Weissbier and the dark, strong Korbinian, a double bock made for matching with roasts and smoked meat or fish. They make one of the finest Pilsners I have had the pleasure of downing as well as an award winning Kristallweissbier, made using a secret fermentation process, and an aromatic and malty Tradition.

The brewery/monastery has gone through a bit in the last thousand years. It was burned to the ground completely on four occasions between 1085 and 1463, was depopulated by three plagues and crumbled under an earthquake. Despite furious devastating raids by the Huns, the Swedes, the French and even their own Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian, those tenacious Benedictines not only refused to be beaten, but they also managed to perfect the art of brewing and improve their techniques each time they rebuilt. Good on them!

But in 1803 the State did what a thousand years of pillaging and raiding could not. With a flourish of a quill, the Weihenstephan Monastery was secularised, or religiously decommissioned. Every brewery possession and brewing right was transferred to the Bavarian state. Fortunately the brewery was taken over as a working brewery and not sold to a cheesy moustached developer with non-pleated slacks and carved up into a thousand pokey little lots with pissy two storey townhouses on them. The tradition was to continue because the drinkers of Bavaria deemed the beer too good to lose.

In 1852 the brewery the Central Agriculture School moved to Weihenstephan and all the brewing students came with it. In 1895 the school became an Academy and in 1919 was elevated to a University. It became incorporated into the Technical University of Munich in 1930 and soon developed into the world centre for brewing and brew technology.

So, if you are out and about and happen upon a friendly retail outlet with a friendly shopkeep who is a purveyor of the finest malted beverages, stride to the counter and confidently request a Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel or a Festbier and give them a try. If you can only find a Dan Murphy’s just go with an Original, a Pilsner or one of the wheat beers. Then go home and drink them and wish your companions a Merry Christmas from Good King Wenceslas.

(You will know from these pages that Weihenstephaner also pulled off the title of Grand Champion at this years beer gongs, the Beer Awards. I mentioned then that the reviewer who wrote the little piece on the awards referred to the beer as Weihenstephan – perhaps I even had a little crack at him – well, I stand by it. Yes, there is an overseas version bearing this moniker in some markets, but I don’t see how that would be any different from the one judged by Australian judges in Australia where the label contains the ‘er’ ending bit.)


*Well, not a pilsner probably, as this style was not invented until October 5, 1842 but you get the drift?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Media the Beer and the Bullshit –Part One

Hopping Mad

My interest was pricked by the promo for A Current Affair to be aired in Melbourne that Wednesday night. The all-too-serious voice over boomed out a warning to potential viewers that the show would expose the most heinous of corporate crimes, a well organised and overtly dishonest campaign aimed at misleading and ripping off the consumer. Bring it on, I says.

The bit that made me take notice was the self righteous condemnation of the evil doers responsible for this latest big business scam- the beer brewers – ripping off the poor old average aussie working-and-drinking average man. And how were they conning the drinker, you ask? Well, here’s the bit that really paled my ale.

I watched and waited to hear the apparently damning evidence against the breweries. ‘Hopping Mad’ was the headline – at least they are edu-ma-cated enough to research that hops are an ingredient of beer. This made their witty pun all the more attention grabbing. You see, it appears, according to A Current Affair, that those nasty money grubbing liars down at Foster’s and Lion Nathan – that’s Carlton and Toohey’s – are tricking the drinker into paying top dollar for IMPORTED BEERS that are really made HERE IN AUSTRALIA! (Cue dramatic music) DAH – DAH – DAH – DAHH!!!


Now I don’t think that I am an especially smart sort of bloke, and I don’t have any inside brewing information that the average bloke doesn’t have access to, but I knew that many ‘international‘ beers have been brewed under licence in many countries for about ten years. I just assumed that everyone else knew it, too. The report featured sound grabs from ’average’ drinkin’ blokes standing around the barbie and in the pub. I tell you, average is a generous label. These plonkers were dumber than a bag full of hammers. A Current Affair must have had a shed full of leftovers from the last dole bludger expose.

For a start, I can’t imagine any of these mental microbes being able to spell UK, let alone know of, or drink beer from there. They looked like VB and XXXX kind of guys. And I reckon that they might have struggled to spell those, too. But let’s give them a break and pretend that they have actually ever bought a Stella Artois or a Beck’s or a Guinness, a Kingfisher or a Carlsberg.

The first complaint against Big Brewer was that he was pretending that these beers were imported. But were they really being deceptive? The bit on the label that says Made Under Licence; right next to the bit that says MADE IN AUSTRALIA. Wasn’t that just a bit of a give away? "There it is in the FINE print", said the earnest reporter, as if there should be a law that states the country of origin must be in bold font at least twice the size of the brand name. "They’re trying to fool us", said Braniac #3. That wouldn’t be a three point play. On and on these whingers went, lamenting the fact that we are led to believe that "they’re from Europe", plodded Dufus #2. "They taste watery, like they’ve been topped up." What!?

Complaining about the brewers 'charging full import prices for stuff made with Sydney water’ these people need to ‘do a Kylie’ and take a step back in time. The primary reason that international beers like those listed above are being advertised, marketed and sold to Australian drinkers is that the licence brewing has made them cheaper!* Fair dinkum, how about complaining about the fact that you have to fork out the best part of forty bucks for a slab of VB! It’s VB, people! Or close to sixty dollars for Corona! CORONA! It’s Mexican for snake’s water! Wake up.

‘Ads say that these beers are from Europe etc, etc ‘, the reporter continued. No, they don’t. They say that they are European beers. Do we really believe that Lebanese cucumbers can only come from Lebanon? Does Chinese five spice become Wyong five spice if it is made by Masterfoods in NSW? Brewers have developed the technology to produce beer to almost the same taste using local water and highly developed yeast strains so that a Beck’s brewed in Pyrmont, NSW is a pretty good copy of the Beck’s brewed in Bremen, Germany. I stress that this is not always the case, but how many drinkers could honestly say they can taste the difference anyway?

Will ACA now run a similar story telling the Brits that Foster’s Lager has been brewed in Great Britain since around 1980 – no, they won’t, because CUB at the time spent a kabillion dollars and twenty cents on equipment to filter and adjust the water so that Foster’s tastes just like the one at home and took a yeast sample handcuffed to the executives wrist on the plane over there so that the strain would be pure and genuine. And because the poms know that the stuff is brewed over there, too. And they don’t care because it is cheaper than it was when it was shipped from Aus.

And let’s see if next week ACA can expose the fact that the Australian drinker forks over a ton of tax for every slab that he carries home – and we’re still better off than many European countries in this regard. In the mean time run some stories about all the blokes and blokettes who drink beer and DON’T drive home and DON’T beat their kids or who CAN find and keep a job and stop creating stories – in particular, anti beer stories – for the benefit of the four people who can’t exercise basic compulsion control or who don’t know how to read a beer label or who can’t remember how much imported beer used to cost? Hmmm?

*I am researching the price movements of local and imported beers over the past decade – vey slack of me to go in with all guns blazing and not be fully armed – but what the hey?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Beer Games Part Two


I was reminded, while reading over previous articles, about great drinking games. I was somewhat mortified to realise that I had omitted the most interesting and action packed drinking game ever invented. Well, that may be a slight exaggeration, but when I was playing it I was fairly lagered and it was very, very funny. The game is called ‘The Beer Hunter"’

This drinking game is based on the Academy Award© winning movie of the same name which starred Robert DeNiro, Jon Voight Merryl Streep and John Savage. A cracker of a film and one which I would recommend to all Blokes and Blokettes. It centres on a group of friends from a small American steel town who are sent to Vietnam. The story focuses on their return to the States and the difficulties they face in re-entering the real world after what they experienced as prisoners of the Viet Cong. The ‘key’ scene involves the men being forced to participate in tournaments of Russian roulette for the amusement and gambling fun of their captors. It’s a pretty dark and moody piece of cinema and I don’t want to spoil the plot or bring down the mood too much here so we’ll move on.

The Beer Hunter is loosely based on the Russian roulette theme. You will need about six players, a table, some hand towels and beer in cans. They must be cans. And there must be as many cans as there are players multiplied by the number of rounds you want to play. The game play is simple. Half a dozen cans are lined up in a neat line on the table. One player is selected, voted or volunteers to stay behind in the room while the other players, or Beer Hunters, leave the room.

While the Beer Hunters are away, the remaining player, the ‘Viet Cong’ officer, selects ONE of the cans and vigorously shakes the bejesus* out of it until it is fit to pop. He then returns the can to the line and calls the Beer Hunters back into the room. If you have the movie soundtrack it would help the mood enormously if you hit the play button now. Some discipline and military timing is required at this point as well. The Beer Hunters must approach the table without stalling and choose a can each. Without any hesitation they put their chosen can to their ear and ‘pull the trigger’ – open the can.

All but one Beer Hunter will then sip sweet, sweet amber nectar from their cans while one Hunter will reach for the hand towel and realise that one side of his head looks like the hairdressers model for a 1980’s electronic poofter band. The other players may find it difficult to enjoy their beers as they will possibly be pissing themselves at their mate’s plight. And the fact that he looks like the keyboard player from Kaga Goo Goo.

It would also assist in creating a veil of realism to the game if the person playing the Viet Cong officer could yell at the Beer Hunters excitedly in an exaggerated high pitched Vietnamese accent. "You play, you play" and "Diddi Mao!! DiddiMao!! should work well. If he is OK with it, get him to wave a revolver menacingly as he shouts, though if you are in a public place, say a picnic ground or well attended international sporting event, this may need to be revised. And stick to aggressive movie Vietnamese expressions like those I have suggested. The mood will crumble if you channel the wrong movie and come out with "Me lub you long time soldierboy!" or "You likey me, Mister?"

It may seem odd for me to be promoting a game in which beer is wantonly sacrificed for the amusement of others but I don’t do it very often and, as I said, it really is pretty funny. You could always overcome this dilemma by using a can of cheap and nasty beer as the ‘shaker’ (no, neither Carlton Cold nor Corona come in cans) as long as you mask all the cans in the same fashion. If you don’t disguise the cans and you choose to use crap beer, then you will all have to drink it. And that would be irresponsible of me.

If you know of any other beer games you know where I hang out.

Cheers,
Prof. Pilsner

* You won’t believe it but when I first drafted this piece I used the word ‘shite’ and the spell check had a fit, yet when I changed it to ‘bejesus’ it let it through. How the fricken’# heck does that work?

# It didn’t like fricken neither. I have added this and shite to my computers dictionary and I suggest you make a stand for real language and do the same.



Monday, November 19, 2007

And the best cold beer is...

So went the iconic declaration by the late great John Mellion in the advertising campaign for Victoria Bitter – or Vic, as it was known – or VB, as it became – or ‘a wife beater’ as it has become in more recent times in some drinking circles. The ads are still memorable and are some of the most loved.
The question around the bars and barbeques of Australia has often come up; what really is the best beer, cold or otherwise?

I have spoken before in these pages of ‘occasion beers’; that is, beers suited to the time and place and company. I have always drunk to the motto, "The best beer is the one in your hand, second only to the beer in your hand that was bought for you by someone else." I am asked continually to name my favourite beer and I have taken great delight in the opportunity to explain my drinking philosophy.

For, you see, beers ain’t beers – as the old Castrol advertisement went – except it was about oil. Tho’, if you think about it, beer has been the oil, the lubricant, if you will, for our mateships, our pub arguments and sporting debates, our social and sometimes sexual unions. It is the fuel for our BBQ’s and picnics and dinner party conversations. It is also the glue which holds together many of our cultural traditions and is the nexus between many of our historical triumphs and the guidebook for our modern lives.*

Just the other day I was sipping a very nice ice cold Bitburger pilsner as I enjoyed a meal of Asian flavoured white fish. As I put the glass down after the first mouthful, I stopped and caught myself; I realised that I was actually smiling. The enjoyment of the moment and the nice complementing of food and beer caused an involuntary physical reaction. A vey pleasant one at that. A few days later the same thing happened when, after several very physically taxing hours gardening in the hot sun, an Eskimo cold Boag’s Draught made its way, refreshingly quickly, from its bottle to my throat and onwards.

A couple of weeks back, several pots of brewery fresh Carlton Draught with old school mates at a reunion brought about the same warm beery glow. The glow would have been warmer had the bargirl been able to pour properly and had she been in possession of a personality marginally greater than that of a bucket of sick. But the sharing of lager and tall school yard tales and of catching up on twenty something years of news was something of a tonic. And it just would not have been the same had we all been sharing tonic. The beer, when treated with respect and control added the most mysterious dimensions of distorted perspective and selective reminiscence. And it makes things seem a lot funnier than they may have been at the time.

For example, recounting the time that the ‘annoying kid’ in the year below us was wrapped in the volleyball net – poles and all – and paraded around the yard like a trophy boar was met with loud laughs, as was the tale of the time that the year twelve boys picked up a teachers Mini Moke and lifted it up onto the steps of the main office. Dodgy shenanigans in the drama room were recalled with a fondness that only comes from years of not having drama classes since and instances of what would probably constitute bullying today were remembered fondly as the immature but extraordinarily funny-at-the-time moments committed by mates amongst mates.

But the true testament to beers’ power has to be illustrated most aptly by the witty reconstruction of a language class by Dr Lager himself. The language was Esperanto and if you just said "what’s Esperanto?" then you are not alone. Esperanto was a made up language, but not one created by kids to exclude enemies or to plot terrorist attacks or the kind used by twins to give graduate students something to waste their government grants on. It was actually devised by education department officials somewhere as a universal language. Made up of words from many languages and with some ‘made up’ words in between, it was a going to be the language of the future. That future was roughly two school terms.

The story of Esperanto, or, El Nouvella of Esta Das Esperanto Gratzi, as told by Dr Lager was a great piece of beer theatre. The lead-in and the timing were delicious, the tempo change-ups and the inflections were first class. But what really made it special was the beer. Or, more specifically, the beers. I couldn’t help but think that there is only so much hilarity that you can extract from Esperanto without the right number of beers ingested. It is a fact that the best story can be made all the more funny by the addition of a lager or two. In this case the number may have been a little higher.

Away from the group or social situation, the right beer in the right place at the right time formula can still be applied. After a long and arduous shift in the restaurant and a 1am return to the Bloke House, there is great satisfaction in falling into the couch and quietly contemplating a Mountain Goat Hightail Ale. On a hot night I might lean towards a Beck’s or an Amsterdam Mariner. In either case, the beer, the solitude and the quiet are a perfect foil to a shift of hard slog.


So beer has its place in many social and solo situations. The best beer at the time is the one you choose. It might be one that you bought especially for the occasion, it might be one that was given to you on another special occasion or it might be the one at the back of the fridge that you forgot you had. It could be a ‘traveller’ after a session or a ‘knock-off’ after work or it could just be the one that happens to be on tap that has been beautifully and thoughtfully poured and presented.


Whichever one it is, I hope it makes you smile.


Cheers,
Prof. Pilsner


*Without checking, I think a couple of these thoughts may have been at least mildly influenced by the musings of Ben Canaider and Greg Duncan Powell in their very informative and appropriately named book, ‘Beer. Slabs, Stubbies and Six Packs’, one of my most often referred to reference guides. It is well worth looking for as it is very well written, humorous and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Just like the Beer Blokes, really.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Holidays and Beer


Is there a better series of words in the whole English language? No, seriously. Read the title again. Go on, I’ll wait here. Holidays and beer. HOLIDAYS AND BEER. Mmmm, holidays. Mmmm, beer. Just the very thought of the two – holiday, and all that it embodies- and beer, and all the beer you can ‘embody’ while on holiday.

The fact that you don’t have the same 9-to-5 responsibilities that you have at work or with family, and the fact that you are not as answerable to anyone like you are when you are ‘on the clock’ is like a bone to a starving dog, a Papal Blessing to a devout Catholic or the promise of ten minutes of fame to an Australian Idol hopeful. Or, like a beer to a thirsty man.

This is the story of two thirsty men. And their holiday. And some beer.

Around this time last year the Beer Blokes joined forces and families for their annual holidays and spent a week and a half at Alexandra Headland on the Sunshine Coast in the sunny state of Queensland. This year it was decided that, as the kids had successfully completed the previous experience without killing each other or driving the parents too insane, that we would do it all again this year. And so, heading a little further north to Noosa the adventure continued and a new chapter written. And, of course, the drinking beer bit has provided some more material for an entertaining and informative Beer Blokes post.

Travelling separately due to work commitments, the Blokes, their Blokettes and total of three mini blokettes and one mini bloke met up on a fine but overcast Monday afternoon in adjoining apartments on the river at Noosaville. Having insured that the kids were safely out of the car, Dr. Lager and I headed off into ‘town’ with some haste to seek out sustenance. We found it in the 24 x 375ml form of Dr. Lagers’ choice of ‘stock’ beers, Toohey’s Extra Dry. The basic plan was to hold slab stock of a standard, ‘everybody-can-drink-it-anytime’ kind of mainstream lager which would be complimented – augmented, if you like – by six packs and singles of testers and tasters and local specialties.

The great thing about holiday beers is that you that; a) you don’t have to worry about driving home – you can wander off the neighbours back porch and onto your own in two to seven staggered steps and; b) see a). Oh, and of course because you don’t have to wait til’ dinner to drink them. So sitting out on the deck watching the ducks and the boats go by you can have a Blonde with breakfast, a lager with your lunch, a Dortmunder with your dinner, and even an ale with afters. And when your afters are a bucket of Tin Can Bay prawns and three different dippin’ sauces, well, the ale goes down noice.

And the Extra Dry went down noice, too. So the next day we bought a new slab. Nah, nah, just kiddin’. It took a bit longer than that. A bit. We then went for the Profs choice - Boag’s Draught and it, too, went down a treat. This slab was followed by another Dr. Lager selection; Cascade Premium. Again, nice. Good easy drinking beers that match well with holiday food, holiday activities and late night twenty-twenty cricket telecasts. And you can drink a few when you’re responsibility receptors are set in holiday mode and still wake up pretty fresh in the morning. Which is extra special if your kids get up on holidays when the sun does. In Queensland, this is between 4.30 and 5.00am during October. Not noice.

The two families enjoy a nice meal rather than the standard take away or barbecued-to-death sausage and chop, so the supplementary beers had to have enough personality and flavour to carry their weight alongside things like Moroccan lamb or spicy quesadillas, seasoned chicken or salt and pepper calamari and Indonesian spiced rice. Amply handling this role with beery aplomb were Hansa Pils and Weihenstephaner Pilsner and Original from Germany, Boag’s Wizard Smith Ale and Eumundi Lager, brewed locally. And the odd bod of the brew bunch was the new, limited offering from Foster’s, Crown Gold. This is a piggyback marketing release where the brewer has taken an existing and, in this case, bewilderingly popular brew, and produced a mid strength version.

They did this last year with VB mid strength and previously they had a good deal of success with VB Original Ale but to take their flagship ‘premium’ beer and dumb it down seems a little puzzling. The Dr and I both looked at each other quizzically on the first taste and the consensus was a resounding ‘why bother?’ Crown holds an inexplicable place in many drinkers minds as a dinner table beer or a reward from the boss to the minions at the Christmas party but it is, in reality, Foster’s Lager with a further fermentation and gold highlights on the label. As a mid strength it merely weakens its already flimsy and ethereal foundations. Still, a beer is a beer is a beer.

We were a little surprised by the sameness of the fare on offer around the place – all the outlets we visited (and we visited as many as we could ) had pretty much identical stock lists and many seemed to devote more space to RTD’s and girly fizz than to anything more than a few shelves of XXXX and Toohey’s New, VB and Carlton Draught and even Dan Murphy’s seemed a little light on for craft brews and specials. I don’t know if this is another of those ‘chicken/egg’ things. Do the suppliers stock limited range because holiday makers only buy mainstream local lager, or do holiday makers buy that because the suppliers don’t stock anything more interesting or unusual?

At the end of the day, the best beer is the one in your hand and even better is the beer shared between friends over a meal. The Beer Blokes certainly tipped the scales in favour of the latter and plans are already afoot for next years Beer Bloke Holiday and Lager Adventure.

Prof. Pilsner


Monday, November 12, 2007

Happy Beer-day To Us

















The first Tuesday in November is a special one to Australians. It is Melbourne Cup Day and it is the day on which they run the ‘race that stops a nation’. In describing it, the media has bandied about words like ‘iconic’ and ‘hallowed’ so often that they have had their true meanings diluted. Bruce would probably sum it up best as ‘Spairrrrr-shul’. It really should come already red-circled from the printer when you buy your calendar.

It also marks the genesis of one of this country’s least known and least praiseworthy business ventures. It was last years Melbourne Cup that saw two blokes win enough cash to buy the gear that brewed the beer that made the name - of the Beer Blokes.



And so, on Cup Day a year later, it is fitting that I look back and take stock of the preceding twelve months activities, frivolities, trivialities and beer-ities. Oh, and the tit-it-ties.


I would like to begin by thanking all the people who have happened across the site since we first began with a post (comprising a single line, I think) titled ‘Humble Beginnings’. While some of my opinions and musings may at times appear a little boastful or educated, I like to think that the general flavour and feel of the site has remained essentially humble. As Beer Blokes we have felt the responsibility that the power of the medium holds, even if we are only being powerful to two or three readers. So thank you all, for finding us, for visiting, for staying on and, most importantly, for not slagging us off. There are plenty of sport based blogs and forums for that sort of back-and-forth baiting and puerile point scoring!*

I would love to see any readers who have not yet made a reply to a post til’ now drop us a quick hello, just so that I can get an idea of the numbers we are attracting. No, it won’t stop me from writing this carp if I was to find out that the readership is in single figures, and I certainly don’t have the time nor the inclination to use reader information to sell internet schemes and todger enlargement kits. So don’t be afraid, just be a friend. Better grab a beer and a break. Back soon.

Back. I hope we have been informative as well as entertaining. I reckon we have managed to kick start a few debates and raise the level of awareness about beer brands, beer culture and the mystical beer-sport nexus as well as providing some, at times, humorous insights into the world of home brewing. It is now also a year since we began our home brew adventure and to date, touch wood, we are yet to produce a flat batch, brew any cats’ piss or blow up the kitchen or the shed. So it proves that brewing your own beer is not something that is beyond the average bloke and that you don’t need to be a chemical engineer to produce a very drinkable and enjoyable drop.

The Beer Blokes beer production is about to move into high volume production again. I had hoped to have a greater stock of ‘green’ beer put away to mature by now but some de-cluttering of the brewing premises and a heavier than anticipated general workload has led to a slow down in building up the supplies. Fortunately I have had the time to consume plenty of existing supplies and this has had a two-fold reward. I have got to drink some very tasty beer and smile quietly knowing that I had brewed it, and it has made some extra space in the wardrobe for the next batches. And for some summer clothes. I may be able to have both.

But probably not. Just beer.

I hope, also, that the Blokes have been instrumental in keeping our readership up to date with brew news from various sources, wether it be new product news or brewing and drinking trends or just the general talk from around the bars and pubs and restaurants. And of course, I believe we have unmasked that dreaded and insidious beast who lurks, anonymous and unnamed, beneath the foamy surface of the Beer World creating fear and confusion with his dastardly deceptions – the beer marketing executive and his ever obedient minions- or, The Beer Boogieman.

The Beer Blokes like to think that we have taken on the role of a kind of ‘Canned Crusader’, seeking out this evil doer who would sell his wares at any cost ignorant of any loyalty to the truth. The Beer Bloke has sought to alert the drinkers of the world to the tricks and taunts of this black-caped blackguard and, rest assured, dear readers, we shall endeavour to continue the fight for Truth, Justice and the Ale & Lager way.

So thanks again for supporting us. We hope that you have, and will continue, to enjoy the Beer Blokes unique and lager-charged take on the world of beer, brewing and bullshitting. Cheers.
Dr. Lager & Prof. Pilsner.


*For an entertaining and very funny series of exchanges about the AFL/NRL support debate, pop over to Sportal.com and find this witty and erudite exchange. Dr. Lager has used the name Jabbers64 so that no-one will know it is him. Try not to tell anyone, OK? The internet isn’t global yet, is it?
http://forum.sportal.com.au/viewthread.aspx?t=11984&page=12

Friday, November 9, 2007

Movembeer

The month of November is Men’s Health Month and some of the Beer Blokes out there may have participated in a fundraising and awareness campaign known as Mo-vember where normally un-moustachioed males grow some mo’ during the month.

A regular reader of this drivel (THIS BLOG, NOT MEN'S HEALTH WEEK!) participated last year and had a very humorous website to track the mo-progress of himself and his work colleagues; if you are in again this year, the Blokes would like to know. I am happy to support such initiatives because they are a good fun way to raise awareness and money for a good cause. After all, the longer you live, the more beers you get to try!

Not to be outdone and in no way detracting from the real thing, I am starting a supplementary movement on these pages to encourage men to think about their manly health and to do something worthwhile at the same time. If you can’t grow a mo’ then maybe this is for you.

MO-vemBEER.

And it’s simple. During the month of November, try to drink as many beers beginning with MO or that have MO somewhere prominent in their title – or style. For example, I am kicking off my campaign for men’s health with a MOosehead from Canada and, while I’m there, I will go for a Unibroue specialty beer called La Fin Du MOnde – which translates as ‘the end of the world – and I can assure you, if you cop the old Jack the Dancer in the old prostate – that’s an ominous brew.


In all seriousness, I reckon this is as good an opportunity as any to promote the cause for prostate cancer and other ‘we don’t like to talk about these things especially Doctors puttin’ their fingers up there’ kind of medical issues. But the reality is that we need to do all we can to stay healthy and beer loving. We owe it to the beer.

Send us your MO selections; they can be a beer or a beer style – but don’t get too carried away by trying to drink a full selection, especially if you choose Monastery Beers, or even Mountain Goat or MOnteith's!

I don’t want to go the opposite way and be the cause of the deaths by beer drowning of the entire Beer Blokes squad!
















Cheers, and Good Health.
Prof. Pilsner

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Sydney Experience




A Sporting Journey as seen through a glass of Beer.



As many readers will be aware, Professor Pilsner is something of a sports fan as well as a drinker and admirer of beer so I thought it as good an opportunity as ever to combine the two in the interests of further educating the non - beer world. What follows is a diary of sorts which tells the tale of travel, beer and triumph.



On Saturday September 23 the Melbourne Storm Rugby League club defeated the Parramatta Eels 26 - 10 a momentous occasion for all League followers in Victoria and for one in particular. The win under the roof at the Docklands Stadium ( Telstra doesn’t pay me a cent to advertise their name ) meant that, for the second consecutive year the Storm would play out a contest for the sports’ ultimate prize. For its’ supporters, this meant an opportunity to follow the boys north and share in the elation or the misery and to perhaps enjoy a few of the local liquid offerings. After all, I can have a few extras if I don’t have to fly the plane home, can’t I?



Having offloaded the car at some time before daylight on the Sunday of the game - for the non-leaguers, the NRL holds its Grand Final at night now - my thoughts turned immediately to the prospects of the weekend ahead. Beer. Mmm, beer. What brews would be offered? Where could I go and in what sort of atmosphere would I be drinking them in? Would there be a chance to get some Sydney beer culture experience squeezed in before heading out to the ground?



And then to the game. The what and the where of beer would be pretty straightforward. A couple of hundred little bars and tents dotted at intervals along the inner concourse of the Olympic Stadium (they still haven’t offered to pay me anything to call it Telstra) selling Toohey’s New and a Mid Strength or light, maybe a Heineken. The question would be how long the wait and would the spotty 18 year old girl from Spotless or whoever does the catering there know how to pour a beer into a plastic cup without making either ice cream or a scale model of the Nevada flatlands? And would she know the difference between a cold beer and a not?



But before I got to the game I had to get to Sydney. There would be beer there. Before I got to Sydney I had to get on the plane. They would have beer there, too. Before I got on the plane I had to get to the airport. Hmmm? Pace yourself, Professor, it’s a long day and night ahead, win or lose.



Virgin Blue sells Vbs for I think $5 on their flights and that’s not bad considering what you’d pay for one in nightclub or bar. But, as I have lamented before, why bother drinking VB when you go out if there is anything else on offer? A good example of what it is, but it’s not much really and it’s so readily available that there is little reason to drink it outside the home. If you have to. Crownies were a dollar more and in the words of Forrest Gump; “That’s orl ah gut ta say ‘bout that.”



Having a train at the airport in Sydney is great because it takes a lot of the guesswork out of leaving the airport. Which is even greater if you did have some Vbs for $5 on the plane. Mr Brumby, take note. Get a train built to our airport. And don’t think of calling it Brumby Station or Expensive Street Station. Or putting tolls on it. The guys I was meeting up with had come up a day earlier and I planned to meet them out at the hotel in Parramatta so it was change trains and off again. No beer to be found AT ALL either on the train or at the station. Some work to do here, Morris Ieamma. Iannemma. Enema Iamananna. Mr. Premier. Lunch at Westfield - that’s a big day out for the good folk of Parramatta. For those in Melbourne, think Frankston with not quite as much charm. Standard beer offerings only in the Woolies liquor department.



Back to the hotel. There is only so much excitement you can handle at Westfield before feeling a little giddy. The boys had some leftover Toohey’s Extra Dry and a handful of Crownies so they were put away while we watched the pre game shows and the junior grade Grand Final. Just like the players, the supporters need to prepare for the Big Show. Back on the train at three. No beer available still. Get to the ground. Lots of beer available. And here is where the AFL could take a tip from our northern neighbours.




Outside the ground there are two huge drinking areas set up for fans to meet and wind up and drink a beer. Both are fenced in and secured and have bands playing for free and reasonably priced beer - welcome to the collection Hahn Premium - and it means that you don’t have to commit to sitting inside in the sun watching the grass grow.



The AFL only provides corporately expensive and exclusive entertainment for its showpiece so that if you managed to get a ticket you have to sit through marching banner waving kids and Australian Idols squealing Waltzing Matilda. Or a cardboard Batmobile or the Goal Umpire Chorale or giant novelty inflatable footballers. This year we were treated to an upside down hanging lady who grabbed the cup and then couldn’t find her way down to the podium she was supposed to place it on. Mike Fitzpatrick relived his glory days by taking an easy receive and potting a cherry. Pass the beer, please.




The NRL fought back well by inflicting Nollsie on us but took the lead with the arrival of the Blackhawk helicopter which burned a huge chunk of the middle of the ground and the skydivers who bettered last years effort by landing three and only losing two. That’s one better than last year. But this year none landed on the stadium roof so that’s a good thing.



And on to the game. To their credit, the beers were cold, the staff efficient and friendly and the atmosphere was electric. The beers went down well and the game was a cracker. Sorry, Zak. I would just like to take this opportunity to say Hi to all the Manly supporters who bagged, slagged and in one case ‘flagged’ us before the game. I wasn’t able to catch up with all of you after the game. I was busy. Drinking. And hugging the trophy. And drinking. And, besides, most of you had left long before the game finished. That’s one area we have you beat in the AFL. The supporters stay till the end. Except Melbourne Demons fans. They like to get a headstart on the crowd to get the Range Rover out of the car park quickly. Even long suffering Richmond fans stay on, although, in truth, that’s just so they can rip up their memberships in disgust and berate the players as they walk up the race. That’s the tunnel for you NRL folk.



The after party was a little more unrestrained than at the same time last year and the beer was certainly going down more smoothly. And there was plenty of it. Until it ran out. Drinks with the boys and Molly Meldrum and Micky Roberts and Tiffany Cherry and who knows who else. Everyone was there. Back into the city to finish off the night with a 3am kebab and two Toohey’s New before stacking some zeds and heading back to the airport at 6.30 so we could fly back in time to meet the boys at home.




But the next three days of partying and public civic receptions and partying are a whole other story.



Did I mention that there was beer there?




Cheers,




Prof. Pilsner

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Blokes Is Back

After enjoying a well earned (?) rest on the mostly sunny Sunshine Coast, the Beer Blokes are back and filled with the joy of the coming Summer and the new brewing season. Why are you laughing? Yes, the Beer Blokes go on holiday together as well. And no, it’s not a gay thing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. A sort of drinking conference, if you will.

A short report on the drinking scene in Queenslands’ tourist strip will follow shortly along with some brew news and some product reviews. But first some catch up. Thanks to our readers for your feedback. It is always welcome because it gives me some ideas and inspiration as well as confirming to me that I’m not just writing this crap for my own amusement. That is to say, I could pretend that I haven’t posted for a month because I wanted to flush out any dormant -sleeper-cell type readers but the reality is that I have just been a slack tart. And a busy one.

Now to some more topical items and a teaser for what is to come in the next few posts. First. There seems to be a boom in the production of "Idea Beers" at the moment. These are beers that appear to be made more for selling more than for drinking. In particular the sudden glut of low-carb and mid-strength beers. This situation is getting well out of hand and the blokes have loaded up both barrels for this one. Stay tuned. It’s a pisser. Beer marketing departments – you have been warned.

Second. Some tasting notes. The Beer Blokes have been away but still ‘on the clock’ so to speak. Together as well as independently, Dr Lager and I have been sampling some new and unusual beers. We had some good ones, we had some average ones and we had some that would have been best left in the marketing mans’ dreams. As always, these reviews will be full of interesting facts, figures and conclusions. All of which will be pure fiction and the product of an over stimulated and under developed imagination. And a perceived need to spread good cheer through good beer. But don’t take them too seriously.

Third. The Big Beer Roadtrip. October was a rather large and lager-fuelled month all in all. Beginning on the first, Prof. Pilsner hiked up to Sydney to enjoy the harbourside hospitality, the Emerald City beer and a reasonably entertaining night of Rugby League out at the Olympic Stadium. More on this soon. Much, much more. Sorry, Zak. Meanwhile, Dr Lager has been interstate for much of the month in two or three day stints for work and then for a week and a half for holidays and a little drinking. Mind you, Mrs Pilsner and Lager gave the old liver a fair pounding with the case o’ bubbles while we were away so it’s not like our research was completely unsupported. Then to finish the month, Dr Lager and I had the pleasure of attending our secondary school reunion. I tell you what, if I could go back in time I’d take a couple of thirteen year old mates aside and tell them that are going to be really funny bastards when they’re pissed! Very good night. And possibly worthy of a beer based review if I can get the copy passed by the lawyers.

So to all our readers – and a big welcome aboard to Len Pascoe (don’t suppose you’ve met Ross Henshaw ?) – I apologise for the delay in providing you with the beer based information and loosely-based-on-facts-sort-of tidbits relating to beer and brewing that you all so clearly crave. I will make it up to you with some crackers in the next month.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Brew Update September 2007



It’s been a while since I posted an update on the Beer Blokes Brewing enterprise and the main reason for this is economics. We had established such a large stockpile of maturing beer that I couldn’t really brew any more until I had space to store and mature the new stock. And I couldn’t move the old stock anywhere else, could I? And if I was going to brew more beer, I would need empties, wouldn’t I? Ergo, drink beer. I drink therefore I am.


Remembering that half of the first eight batches (at around 60 stubbies per batch) were put into theoretical storage over at Dr Lager’s and that we have produced another eight batches since, there were still a considerable number of slabs to stack and store. A dilemma that many would consider insurmountable at best. But I have come to the realisation that a man can only wear so many clothes before he becomes just a little vain and I have removed a small amount. About the same amount of clothing that eighteen slabs would take up in the walk in robe.


The only alternative is to build an extension onto the house. If I did build an extension it would need to incorporate a mash room, Lauter Tun, brew kettle and a bottling line – all fairly unfeasible in suburban Melbourne. Or is it? Hmmm. Or I could just drink more beer. And if, by drinking more beer, I am able to provide tasting notes, beer reviews and witty postings – well then, that’s just a bonus, isn’t it? So, drink it is. And, without meaning to sound smug, it’s been a fair drink.


It really is amazing and a bit comforting to know that the fruits of your labour can actually ripen and mature without going mouldy and furry like real labour fruits. Those annoying little voices in your head that say things like; "That tastes OK but it’s a bit flat in the aftertaste," when you first test a brew, give way to thoughts of; "I was never worried I knew it would come good and I told you so," a month or two down the track.


Supplies of our two first lagers and pale ale are nearly exhausted and, although they were all can-and-add-water-and-yeast kind of affairs, the taste for a first effort was pleasing and well received by honest friends. As time has passed, the ‘homebrewedness’ of the taste has slowly disappeared to the point now where it is really just in the kick of the aftertaste that you can tell it’s not the real deal. Or maybe it’s the standard bland-ard mainstream golden lagers that are not really the real deal.


The following four brews were more advanced in the making and have therefore become more advanced in the drinking. Made with the various additions of hops, improver kits and specialised yeast and dextrose, these beers have a more commercial real beer taste and the maturation improvement factor is noticeably higher. And coming in at a low of $ 6.24 and a high of $ 16.32 per slab, it’s beer you can take to the bank. I’m doing the household budget some big favours.
Next on the list are beers number 8 through 12. Give me a bit of time to taste test these and I’ll post another brew update soon. In the meantime, if any readers out there have some spare summer clothes, please drop me a line. I can arrange pick up.