Saturday, February 9, 2008

Excuse me, God, what are you trying to tell me?


I try to support a good craft brewer wherever possible. I do this by buying their beer. As much as possible. This is not always easy, but I give it my best shot. I have the same attitude to the imports which are becoming more available than they were even a few years ago. I figure that if they don’t move the stock quickly enough for their shareholders liking, the retailers will pull the stock and we all miss out.

That’s my excuse for buying as much beer as I do. And I brew my own as well. Here are my tips on buying some beer.

The local hotel bottleshops are worth driving straight past because, apart from the higher pricing the staff are unlikely to know any more about beer than what colour it is. And even then most of them would be guessing. The next step is the large supermarket chain linked bottleshop. Much better than the drive thru for price and range and the knowledge level is generally a little better. Convenient, too, because you can pop in after doing the shopping and use the excuse that your menu planning required supplies for beer-battered fish and beef and ale pie. But beware; this line of reasoning will not work for eight weeks in a row. I know, I’ve tried.

And, in recent years, we have seen the emergence of the super-ultra-hyper-mega barn style of beer, wine and spirit retailing with a massive range of various lines under one very large roof. An infinitely better range of local and imported beers as well as specialty brews and seasonal beers. The prices are reasonable considering that the other option is travelling overseas to the brewery or knocking on the doors of all the craft brewers across the country.

In Australia we have the ‘luxury’ of two brands of ‘beer barn’ from which to choose.

One is Dan Murphy’s, owned by the Woolworths supermarket chain and the other is First Choice Liquor, owned by their rival, Coles Myer. Dan’s is by far the bigger and has been doing it ‘large’ for a few years longer. I have frequented Dan’s only because I can take the car out of my driveway, point it in any direction and, within four minutes, hit one in the front door. I have been keen to try the opposition since they opened about twelve months ago, but knew only which suburb it was in – no further clues in the advertising – and I wasn’t about to do the marketing man’s job for him. At least give me a road and I’d have probably driven til I found it. Would have passed eight Dan Murphy’s to get there though. I was thinking, only that morning that it really was time that I got of my jacksie and found out where the bloody joint, closest to me, was.

So on Friday night I was working away at the restaurant, talking beer with the guests and the staff and I had the pleasure of looking after a group of five young adults catching up for a night out. Most wait staff probably wouldn’t notice, but the boys – and some of the girls – had a real mix of beers on the table; Belgian blond, German Pilsner, Chill filtered, you get the deal? And so I got talking and I offered some suggestions for a nice beer to go with the food they were waiting on and started talking beer styles and trends and craft breweries and all that kind of stuff.

Come the end of the meal and the guys were ready to leave and, as Forrest Gump so beautifully put it; Just then, God showed up. Not just in the form of a sneaky handshake with the concealed tip, but in the form of Business Karma – or, a business card karma. I often get a business card from a guest, but this one was, well, special. First Choice Liquor. On the very day that I was thinking of doing something about the problem of not having done something about not having been to First Choice!

Thank you, God (and Matt) for the sign. After I get down there (now that I know where it is) I will report on my findings. And on my drinkings.


Prof. Pilsner

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