Monday, December 31, 2007

“Merry Noo Yeer!!”


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!!

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 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!!

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;


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.

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.
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.

& 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.

Prof. Pilsner

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


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?