Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Beer Myths Part 2

Due to the overwhelming success of the first Beer Myths segment – that is to say, I had a jolly good laugh writing it- please enjoy part two of our informative series; That’s Bullshit, Isn’t It?

Q. My homebrew tastes like cats piss. How do I fix this?
A. Don’t put any cats piss in the fermenter during brewing.

Q. I don’t get any bubbling through my airlock. Should I just give up on homebrewing?
A. With that attitude, yes. And quickly. There is no room for sooky la-las like you in this caper. Airlocks often don’t bubble as the expanding air escapes through the seals of many fermenters and you needn’t worry. It just proves that you shouldn’t use your airlock to judge when your brew has fermented out.

Q. I like the girl on the Hahn Super Dry advert with the big boobies.
A. Again, not a question but I am happy to let this one slide. She seems a good sort and certainly better looking than the one who gets fish-slapped in the gondola.

Q. What is the difference between a Trappist beer and an Abbey beer?
A. Very good question. Trappists were a very annoying family who ran around the Alps to avoid the Nazis singing all the time ... no, wait, that was the Von Trapps. Trappist beers are made in monasteries – sometimes by monks and sometimes by lay brewers – and there are only six monasteries permitted to use the Trappist designation. Abbey beers are those which have been made previously in monasteries, but have since been made by commercial breweries which are granted the right to label them as monastery beers. The Trappist beers come under the category of Belgian Specialty Ales while others like the Leffe range are blondes, reds and darks. Beer, that is, not chicks.

Q. What does the German beer Löwenbräu mean?
A. You don’t specify whether you mean a literal translation of the name or the ethereal plane to which a drinker of this fine brew may be transported spiritually while contemplating the centuries of brewing history that has culminated in the creation of this wondrous nectar. If you are referring to the name, it means “Lion Brewery” according to Willie Simpson’s The Beer Bible and “Lion Beer” according to another source which I can’t find just now. Löwenbräu was once brewed for a while in Australia. Not to be confused with the TV show Big Brother which is Lower Brow.

Q. What is a Lager Bomb?
A. No, this not some new wave cocktail made from beer, although, in a funny way I guess it is. A lager bomb is the biological process through which the male body completes a night of heavy drinking. Occurring some time during the daylight hours of the following day, the Lager Bomb is the body’s way of reminding the drinker of the quality of the previous night’s session. It is also the body’s way of rendering a toilet unusable for anything up to a day. Not to be confused with the Jaeger bomb which is a way of getting 20 and 30 something aged drinkers to part with large sums of money for a marketing trick that takes all of two seconds to complete.

Q. Did you find that reference to Lion Beer?
A. Yes, it was “Beer. Slabs, Stubbies and Six Packs” by Ben Canaider and Greg Duncan Powell. Thank you.

Stay tuned for part three

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Beer Review – VB Mid Strength

The VB phenomenon continues.

I was reading bits and pieces from Willie Simpson’s 2006 offering ‘The Beer Bible’ and remembered his piece about the VB phenomenon and I thought I’d share it with you by way of the first ever New Brew Review on the Beer Blokes Blog.

First a couple of interesting facts. Foster’s Lager sits in the top six on the ladder of international beers. The same beer accounts for only one percent of beer sales in Australia. Mainstream beers account for 90 percent of all beer drunk in Australia yet the number of craft beers – formally known as boutique and then independent beers – is increasing a an amazing rate. It is generally accepted that we are drinking less beer now than ten years ago but we are drinking better beers. Or premium beers. That can sometimes just be marketing man talk for ‘same shit two bucks more’.

Now, of the mainstreams, VB is something of a mystery to me. In the 1980’s, as Simpson describes it, VB became something of a de facto national beer. Available in probably every single shop which sold beer VB was one in every four beers drunk. That’s huge. But with the blind loyalty going only so far and beer sales dropping overall, it was time for a new marketing strategy. Much as I am loathe to admit it, I think that the VB experiment may just work. CUB - now Fosters – launched Victoria Bitter Original Ale a couple of years back. A full malt, retro packaged premium ale made as VB was made way back when. It was apparently aimed at the loyal VB drinker who wanted to experiment with his or her beer but stay loyal to the brand.

And it seems to be selling well. The marketing men seem to have caught up with the trend of the repertoire drinker, as Simpson aptly describes it; the ‘horses for courses’ drinker. One beer for this occasion, two or three premiums for a night at a restaurant, a couple of imports or a shitload of session lagers during Bathurst or the Grand Final – AFL or, for me and you Zac in Sydney, NRL. Go Storm.

So now comes another new VB. This time a midstrength. Rather than going for point of difference, this one is packaged as a yellow copy of the famous green and gold label. Won’t scare off the diehards, should attract the responsible drinker who realises that life’s too short for light beer. And the Professor’s opinion? It is NOT BAD AT ALL. There, I said it. Very good flavour wise and aroma and bitterness to slake the thirst. Having said all this, it’s still just VB and it has its place on the shelf and at $30 a slab to begin with it was worth the cost of the empties alone.

I would welcome the reader’s opinions on this or any other beer. Feel free to type off a quick review and we’ll see if we can’t get a good healthy debate started. Remember, the best beer is the one in your hand.

Prof. Pilsner.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Beer Myths

When you scan through the Frequently Asked Question section of any homebrew website – as I’m sure you often do – you find the same questions appearing again and again. It seems that there are some common misconceptions around when it comes to brewing and beer drinking in general. As such, I am taking it upon myself to create a forum in which all those curly questions are answered called; That’s Just Bullshit, Isn’t It?

Q. You can’t brew beer without sugar.
A. That’s not a question. But beer can be brewed without common forms of sugar like sucrose, dextrose and maltose. The Germans have been brewing with nothing but malt since God’s dog was a pup and their beers are generally regarded as pretty fair. Sugars are often used in conjunction with malt to lighten the body and the cost of the beer. Some commercial brewers are proud of this.

Q. You shouldn’t wash your beer glasses with detergent.
A. Again, this is a statement, not a question. It is a long held falsehood that beer glasses should not come into contact with detergents as they break down the head and leave the beer soapy. We have English Ales for that. Just kidding. You need to wash glasses with detergent to remove traces of hop oils and head scum but you must ensure that you rinse all trace of the detergent with first warm and then cold water before drying with a clean towel.

Q. Carlton Cold is labelled just like beer. Why?
A. I don’t know.

Q. Is there really a difference in taste between stubbies and cans?
A. Yes. Stubbies are made from glass not aluminium and are therefore harder to chew. But beer from stubby or can is the same as long as you pour it out into a clean glass first.

Q. I drink a popular brand of beer and yet I can’t get a root. Why?
A. It might be because you have been tricked by beer marketing men into thinking that by drinking their beer you can negate the effects of a bogan attitude to women and poor hygiene. It may also be because you’re ugly and your mum dresses you funny.

Q. What are the names of the blokes in the XXXX advert and what really is the story with them? You know what I mean.
A. I do know what you mean. The men you speak of are Macca, PJ, Harry and Jacko. They could just as easily have been Puddin’ Head, Bluey, Knackers and Shags. And yes, I do think it odd that these guys seem to have spent a greater deal of time holidaying than their combined earning potential would suggest they could with no other company than a slobbering dog and a machine that vibrates, launches toys and shoots video. Even to a Queenslander, this must seem just a little odd.

Q. Will you consider doing another of these Q & A’s?
A. Yes, yes I will.

Stay tuned. Prof. Pilsner

Please feel free to submit any real questions you may have. It will be a good chance to interact with the Beer Blokes and will stop me from taking the opportunity to simply amuse myself.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Beer Blokes Beer Update

April/May 07

As the Blokes move into the New Age of Ale I thought a quick update was due. Much research and book looking has been conducted because we wanted to produce a true-to-style Bavarian Weizenbier. That’s a wheat beer. You know, like Redback? Actually, like Redback used to be before Fosters dumbed it down.

By way of a bit of background, Redback was the beer which stole the show at the beer awards a while back and as far as I can tell it was the first wheat beer made in Australia. Brewed originally in Western Australia by Matilda Bay Brewing Company which was taken over by CUB in 1990, it began life as an unfiltered and unpasteurised bottle conditioned wheat beer. It is not the beer it once was. Since shifting to the Fosters stable it has become a filtered and less citrusy wheat beer as well as a kristallklar (called Crystal) which the Dr and I decided was a little light on for taste, flavour and body. They come in at 4.7 and 4.5% respectively.

The first Beer Blokes Wheat comes from a tin of Morgan’s concentrate and a kilo of Morgan’s Master Blend Beer Enhancer. Containing a portion of honey in the extract it had a nice colour and aroma and this time next week I’ll tell you what it tastes like. This is our first attempt at a ‘recipe’ brew where you follow a chart of ingredients including yeast to mimic a commercial product. Of course this is done without the exact yeast strain, computer controlled fermentation and lagering as well as the many scientists in lab coats and marketing men working in a building unaware of the presence of a brewing team.

The number twelve brew is a follow up Pale Ale and is something of a tribute beer. Brewed on ANZAC day it is the offspring to the first Pale Ale which, as reported earlier, has come good after a wobbly start and actually tastes quite good. What the first one lacked, however, was the Pale Ale style hop flavour and enough bitterness to really qualify for the category. Here is where the tribute part comes in. Using Cascade hops for bitterness, Goldings for flavour and Fuggles for aroma the hops represent the three major allies who landed at ANZAC Cove in 1915. I know that ideally I should have used a New Zealand, Australian and English hop variety for true authenticity but a) they were unavailable, b) Cascade, while American sounds like it could be Tasmanian and anyway, it’s got more bitterness than Pride of Ringwood and c) I only thought this all up on ANZAC morning and, of the 13 hops I had to choose from, these were the only non German or Czech ones.

Interestingly, the two recent brews have identical ABV %s but both have quite different gravities. The wheat beer started out at only 1038 but fermented out to 1006 – so good alcohol but not heavy in the flavour department as planned - and the Pale began at 1044 but only fermented out to 1012- same alcohol but more malt character and flavour, again as planned!

The Blokes are next embarking on another breakthrough brew – our first ‘No Can Brew’. Using just malt extract and hops and yeast we hope to create nice Amber Ale along the lines of The Malt Shovel Brewery’s James Squire Amber Ale. It will be an all malt affair and will be a neat stepping stone towards doing a grain addition brew before eventually graduating to a mini mash and culminating in every brewer’s dream of doing a full mash beer brewing extravaganza type thingy.

But, I need more empties.

Who can get me some empties?

Prof. Pilsner.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Beer as a Badge

Today’s topic concerns a phenomenon which began in Victoria during those heady, leg warmer-clad mullet wearing days of the eighties. Before this time, beer drinking was a simpler pastime. Working men and their mates had two choices; VB from a stubby or a can, and private school poofters in big business could choose between Crown Lager and Fosters.

What you drank said more about you than where you drank or what football team you supported. Melbourne Bitter was the staple of older blokes who wanted a bit more bitterness, Abbot’s and Invalid Stout was for the even older blokes who you were too scared to talk to and Crownies were for the bloke whose horse came in or whose missus just left him. And anyone drinking Tooheys’ or Castlemaine Perkins was here on holiday. And they must’ve brought it with them.

Mostly, beer was an egalitarian symbol, almost like a badge of sameness - a beacon which signalled that ‘I’m no better or worse than you or your mate.’ Chances were that the drinking establishment was populated by a hundred blokes just like you. The thing is, you were not really aware of any of this.

The advertising of these beers was as straightforward as the drinker and the beer itself. Your beer was all you really needed after ‘ropin’a cow, pullin’ a plough or shavin’ ya brow’. Its livery was simple – drinking by colour – green for VB, red for Melbourne, blue for Fosters and yellow for Fourex. Keep it simple. You only drank ‘foreign stuff’ like Tooheys’ New or West End Draught or Cascade when you yourself were on holiday and wanted to be daring – or if they were out of VB.

Then came the revolution. Beer began to change. The birth of the international beer signalled a change in drinking habits that has morphed into a disturbing social trend. The Badge Drinker. The likes of Alan Bond and John Elliot, among others, brought more beers to the masses. Western Australian beers were all of a sudden available in bars around Sydney, Melbourne and even Adelaide. Tasmania’s long hidden treasures were coming across the Strait and all manner of imports were suddenly everywhere thanks in part to distribution and licensing deals with the multinationals.

This was a great thing for the adventurous drinker and for the bloke who woke up one day to discover that blind brand loyalty was a misplaced virtue. New experiences and tastes and flavours and aromas and bottle shapes and labels and colours and everything were now available in bottle shop and bar. And, like new kids in the playground need to try new things if they want to be noticed by the big kids and the popular kids, new beers need to advertise differently to attract their target drinker. But, rather than selling the taste, many new kids went for the image marketing.

A certain type of person drank this beer or that beer and women would fawn and coo and mates would back-slap say things like ‘good onya, mate!’ and sporting contests could be won and business deals, both boardroom and bedroom, could be sealed by the man with the right can. Or stubby. So that is just what some blokes did. They chested the bar and demanded a stubby of ‘Image Lager’ and proceeded to neck it with a successful swig and a satisfied ‘Aaaahh!’ and made sure everyone could see that he was an ‘Image Lager kinda guy’. Just like on the telly.

But I ask you, blokes and blokettes, what really is the point of paying a premium for a beer with a bit of character, maybe some hop aroma and full malt flavour and then not letting the bloody thing breathe!? Look for this bloke next time you visit your local and – making sure he’s not the bloke in the mirror- raise the glass into which you have thoughtfully poured your beer and give him a knowing nod.

But don’t pity him; he was once one of us. And if we all keep to the path, he just might return to the fold once more. For now, though, he’s a bit of a tosser.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Australians & Beer - history

Part Two.

As discussed earlier, two great events helped to shape the beer culture in Australia. One was the establishment of the Australia-shaped prison by the English and the other was the discovery of gold.
Penal wise, the boys in charge decided that beer was a good way of getting ex cons and pisshead officials off the rum and the brandy and the gold rush was handy because it brought to our shores a very large number of overseas guests. And a rather large disposable income for some. “Perhaps you might like to spend some of your gold on beer, sir?” “Why not!”

This was a good thing twofold. Onefold, it brought many experienced brewers to the towns and cities and twofold because it brought plenty of drinkers to fill the debit side of the brew ledger. Of the many nations represented on the goldfields a large number came from Germany and thereabouts and from England - the good bit of England where they brewed good beer, not the bit where they sunbake on gravel and have soccer riots.

A combination of the offspring of the worlds’ largest collection of social underlings, thieves and bread burglars and massive amounts of the worlds’ most valuable and sought after mineral would seem, to the casual observer, the least attractive marriage. However, the colonial brewers were not deterred. At it’s peak, the Victorian brewing industry had around 300 breweries. Clearly not concerned about the heritage of their clientele. And all ready to pump out the product.

The basic problem was not the quantity to produce, obviously. Unfortunately for the northern brewers not only did the Australian sun bake many an unprotected Pommy noggin, but it wasn’t too kind on the northern ale either. Combined with the bumpy two day cart trip to the miners pub the streets were literally awash with golden beer. Because they ended up tipping most of it out.

The aforementioned immigrants from both Germany and the United States had some new, welcome skills of their own. The Germans had been brewing this new-fangled bevvy called Lager since the evolution of yeast under freezing temperatures caused bottom fermentation and clean, clear brews and were pumping out Pilsners since the Czechs stumbled upon it in 1840 and sent it over the border.
What the yanks brought, or more specifically, what two brothers named Foster brought was refrigeration. William and Ralph didn’t have the best beer, but they certainly had the best beer marketing strategy. With every barrel delivered, you got a block of ice to keep the stuff cold. And that, my friends, was gold.

The Foster brothers, however, were harassed by competitors and legislators who made their life miserable, they petitioned their local member who liked their beer, got the tax thing sorted, sold the lot and pissed off. Along with the equipment and the lack of a forwarding address, the Fosters left us with an enduring legacy. A beer often described as an icon brand - drunk in every country of the world. Except Australia. Isn’t beer funny?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007



The Bloke is back. In fact, he never went away. He was there, right beside you as you stood in front of the fridge, door open, brain whirring . . . "Need a beer. But which one. What would Beer Blokes choose?" he was there when you saw the latest advertisement for a "new" beer and said, "Bloody beer marketing men", the Bloke was spot on.

Enough grovelling and bullshitting and such. Let's just say that the new laptop which was to make Bloking easier and more entertaining is taking me a little longer to drive and that some posts I had in the can are now somewhere out in the ether along with entertaing television and customer service. But that's not for here.

I even appreciate the threats from loyal Blokers who would pretend to walk away and tease me. Point made, point taken. We move on. It won't happen again.

It's not that I've been totally idle, anyway. Assisting a local restaurant in the updating and restructuring of the beer list, planning some beer dinners and promotions with real prizes for the punters and stuff and training for the staff in the ways of the Beer Master and managing to brew another 190 bottles of Beer Bloke Originals while running the household, getting kids to school and stuff and of course, finding the time and energy to drink a shipload of beer.
How was your day?

Onwards we go, now, with some more Australian beer history lessons ready to post, a spanking good read about Blond Beer and putting the finishing touches to a deal which will see the Beer Blokes contract a special correspondent in the U.K. Christos, e-mail me some detail. please.

And just to apologise for the delays and to thank you all for the well-timed arse kicking, here are

some boobies.