Monday, June 30, 2008

Have a Bottlin' Good Time

Bottling your Homebrew - 101

A post back in November drew a response from Zak of Sydney in relation to bottling your homebrew and I thought this a good chance to discuss a few homebrew related chores and maybe seek out a few suggestions from the homebrew web. I’ll also throw in some gems of wisdom gleaned from our own experiences.

Zak said;

Homebrew is coming along great. Got a batch of Cooper's Draught ready to pop on Saturday. I actually started this one on the 13th of October but didn't bottle it til the 17th this month due to laziness and the dreading of bottling (which in the end, as usual, is not so bad). Do you know if this extra month in the fermenter affects the brew at all? The final gravity or whatever didn't change so I'm guessing not.

Bottling your brew is one of those things that lingers in your planning thoughts like a visit to Grandmas’; you fret over it a bit, you can think of things you’d rather be doing, but once it’s done, it’s done and things get back to normal fairly quickly. And, like Zak says, it’s rarely as bad as you think it will be. But there are some DO’s and DO NOT DO’s that can make bottling your beer as easy as putting liquid into a glass container.

First, while it’s good to let your beer rest before drinking it, it is better to have it resting in individual stubbies rather than in one big fermenter. Having said that, you probably won’t break the beer by leaving it in the tub, it just won’t be at its best. This is mainly because, as the yeast burns up and fades away, its dead cells can impart a ‘dud’ note to the finished beer, particularly if there is any disturbance of the sludge at the bottom of the fermenter. The beer will be a little ‘yeasty’ or ‘bready’ in the nose. It’s just better to let the yeast do its thang, wait two or here days after fermentation has ceased to let the yeast sediment settle to the bottom and then remove the beer sooner rather than later.

The other issue is that, with some yeasts, if left to die off too much there may not be enough viable stuff left over to kick start the bottle conditioning. The finished brew may be left under carbonated. If you have brewed a Bitter or a nice mild pale ale, then stand back and shout “HurrAh!” If you wanted a lively pilsner or a crisp, refreshing and bubbly lager, then you may want to slap your forehead and utter a small “D’Oh!”.

Now to the bottling. The main reason homebrewers dislike bottling is that it can be a fairly ‘drone-like’ procedure which lacks the artistry of the cooking and pitching and fermenting performance. It’s just all a bit boring, really. Of course, it’s a much easier job when it’s shared and bottling with a mate not only cuts the time taken by MORE than half, but it gives you someone to talk beer with – and someone to crack a coldie with to finish the bottling session and to toast the new brew. If it costs you a half a ‘D at the end of the lagering stage, then that’s a small price to pay. And is there a better gift than the gift of beer?

I’ll describe our particular bottling process here and readers who want to can also surf the web for some interesting variations – in particular from those crazy American homebrewers who seem to have to make everything they do a convoluted and arse numbingly difficult procedure! I’ll bust it up into separate posts so it’s not so long. And boring for those who don’t homebrew. But, so those people don’t skip over it altogether; and to reward those who do, I have strategically hidden some boobies in amongst the information. See if you can spot them!

Have a Bottlin' Good Time - Part Two


There is no more important facet of homebrewing than cleanliness, sanitariness and, as a result, perfect beeriness. Bottles need to be cleaned first and this is best done as you finish pouring the beer out of them and into your glass. Rinsing them now means that washing them after is an easier job and the cleaning is more thorough. I give all mine a quick swish with cold water – saving the water for the vegies – and then wash them in the sink before doing the dishes. If you inherit bottles from a friend or Uncle, give them a really good scrub inside and out with a bottle brush for the first go and from then on you should be able to rinse wash and sanitise them quickly.

When we began brewing, we bought a 60 ltr rubbish bin and filled it with powdered sanitising solution then stacked as many stubbies and long necks into it as would fit, adding more water as the level rose. We then had to empty and rinse each bottle, resting them on the washing machine and tipping into the laundry trough, until we had 60 375ml bottles ready to fill. This was hugely labour intensive and time consuming, not to mention as boring as mud. If you use a sodium metabisulphite sanitiser, the stink is off putting to say the least and this stuff is not good for asthmatics and kids. It can also take a couple of rinses before you can bottle. Cooper’s make a ‘softer’ style sanitiser of sodium percarbonate but it needs to be left overnight and also needs rinsing in hot water. I find that these products also require the ‘sniffing’ of each stubby to make sure they are ‘clear’.

All these processes work and, at the end of the day, that’s what you want but there are easier ways that still ensure that your bottles are sanitised. I had heard about a rinse free sanitiser and eventually found it. Morgan’s Sanitize contains Hydrogen Peroxide and silver ions and is pretty inexpensive at about $4 for 250ml. Diluted at a rate of 30ml to a litre it is more than enough to do a whole batch worth of stubbies. We bought ourselves an atomiser, and here’s a picture;

... which makes it even easier to sanitise the bottles. We just pop a litre of diluted sanitiser into the bowl part and then plunge each stubby onto the sticking-up bit which sprays a covering of liquid onto the inside surface of the glass. We can then stack up to 80 bottles onto the drying tree and we are away! The sanitiser dries off without the need for rinsing which means we can move swiftly into the next phase of the process. Priming.


The next ‘finicky’ step required to get your beer from the fermenter to the fridge is the priming, or secondary fermentation. Homebrew requires a second jolt of yeast activity to bring the alcohol content up to par and to carbonate the beer properly by the creation of CO2 in the stubby. This can be achieved in many ways – see ‘Crazy American Techniques’ – but the simplest is plain, ordinary, common, garden variety white sugar at a rate of half a teaspoon to 375ml or one teaspoon to 700/750/800ml bottle. An even easier way is to use carbonation drops which are solid pre-measured lollies of sugar, some of which are made by Cooper’s.

If you use granulated sugar you must clean, sanitise and thoroughly dry a small funnel and teaspoon measure, then set up as many bottles as will fit your work area, load them all with a measure of clean sugar, moving the funnel with a shake to dislodge any grains until all are primed, then continue on to the filling and capping. With the drops, you can bypass the cleaning, drying and funnelling stages, simply dropping one drop into each bottle. Nice. And quick.

Filling your bottles is a straightforward process with the right equipment and care taken to sanitise it. A filler tube (some are labelled ‘Little Bottler’) attaches to the spout of the fermenter and allows the beer to be transferred smoothly and quietly into bottles. It is important that the beer not create too much ‘bubble’ when filling as this can lead to oxygenation of the beer. Not good. I’ll explain further soon.

There are those who use syphons to fill the bottles but this is just such a palava that I won’t even go into it here. Once the bottles are all filled – either all at once or in manageable batches – just pop a sanitised crown seal on top and proceed directly to capping.

Having a Bottling Good Time - Part Three


Welcome to capping and secondary fermentation. As you filled each bottle you will have left a 1 or 2 centimetre gap at the top of the bottle. We don’t fill our stubs all the way to the top because the yeast activity in the bottle fermentation stage creates CO2, or bubbles, in the beer which will cause the bottle to release its cap in a most violent and inconvenient way when you least expect it. By leaving a gap, the CO2 can form and then become dissolved into the beer, thus creating the miracle of carbonation. This is also why an accurately pre-measured dose of sugar is beneficial.

At this point many homebrewers simply cap the bottles using a contraption known, conveniently, as a ‘capper’ and move on to the storage stage. My research has uncovered a beer theory, or beerthory, which may or may not have some merit. Some homies suggest that by capping immediately you can trap oxygen in the top of the bottle neck and oxygen is a sworn enemy of beer. It creates ‘oxygenation’ which can affect the taste of the finished beer. Of course, oxygen itself is not a bad thing for beer altogether. The ‘O’ in CO2 is, after all, oxygen and pouring a nice beer into a glass allows oxygen to release the full range of flavours which would otherwise be wasted on you and then, if you yourself didn’t have oxygen, well, you’d be dead and then the whole beer thing would really be wasted on you, wouldn’t it?

The suggestion is that, by sitting the caps onto the bottle and resting before capping, the CO2 activity will push the oxygen from the space in the neck of the bottle and replace it with CO2 only, thus preventing oxygenation. I might give this a go out of interest alone and let you know if I can detect any difference at all. My thoughts are that the amount of CO2, or oxygen for that matter, is pretty minimal in the overall scheme of things and CO2 contains oxygen anyway so I don’t imagine that even Beery McBeer-Beer* the famous beer taster would be able to detect any difference in the final tasting. Just move on to capping.

There are a few ways of securing the cap onto the bottle, most of which would be right at home in a museum for instruments of torture or stupidity when compared with the options available. Mallets and cap holders of all shapes and sizes are illustrated in homebrew books and catalogs but they are quite simply prehistoric when compared to a bench capper. A bench capper is also a lot safer on the bottles and on the user. Why would you want to hit your beer with a hammer when you can just pull on a handle?

The final step is to tilt and turn your bottle a few times to properly mix the sugar or kick start the carbonation drop and then set your stock aside at room temperature for at least two weeks. I like to give mine at least four and I prefer six weeks. Many swear by two months. As long as the beer has time to carbonate. Check by drinking at two week intervals.

This is a longish piece by Beer Bloke standards but I think if it helps someone to make more and better beer then it’s OK. Over 17 batches I have tried to streamline the process by trying different techniques and as long as you don’t sacrifice sanitation and cleanliness for speed then anything that encourages more people to brew can only lead to a better society for everyone.

Prof. Pilsner

*There is not really any real person called Beery Mc Beer-Beer. I just made him up for effect. I based him on Homer Simpson’s ‘Hootie Mc Boobs’.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Shout – Part Two

Bad Shout Blokes

In a previous post we looked in depth at arguably the most sacred of Australian beer institutions, The Shout. Today we examine this ritual in a little more depth and focus on what can go wrong when the wrong people are included in The Shout.

There are varying theories as to how The Shout came to be so called but I tend to lean towards the story that the tradition was founded on the Victorian goldfields in the 1850’s. A lucky digger would have a large amount of gold turned into cash and then, in order to enlist the help of his mates to ‘knock down his pile’ would walk into the street and ‘shout’ for assistance. Presumably this call was heeded with neither dilly, nor dally and in no time at all the miner and his mates would be at the bar toasting the successful dig.

I can only guess that this generosity was a product of both the camaraderie of the diggers and of the fact that a generous ‘good bloke’ was worth protecting from unscrupulous thieves and other assorted blackguards. I expect that the favour would be reciprocated should another member of The Shout strike it rich.

Sadly the spirit of these old blackguards is alive to this day in the form of various bludgers, baulkers and assorted bastards. Here they are. Learn to identify them, and learn to do it early as the can ruin a perfectly good Shout if not detected quickly. Devise and administer your own form of summary justice as The Shout sees fit.

“Percy Piker”

A piker is one who works slyly and steadfastly to ensure that he never has to shout. He is either low on funds or high on a reluctance to let the moths out of his wallet. Percy is the sort of bloke who does have the money, but it is sitting in a desk drawer at home. He will cry poor when his number is up, or he will ask to ‘bot a lobster’ (borrow a twenty). Make sure you give the twenty a kiss and bit of advice for the future as this is the very last time you will see it again. Take the same approach with Percy if at all possible.

“Barry Bullshit”

Unlike Percy Piker, who is likely to sit quietly like a lizard camouflaged to avoid detection, Barry will be one of the loudest blokes in the Shout. He will talk constant bullshit, pausing only to take breath and drink his beer. This bluster is designed to deflect the attention of the other members of The Shout so that even the most diligent observer will be fooled when Barry is prompted to shout and replies; “I already had my shout three rounds back, are you calling me a liar you little prick?” Not wishing to kill the mood – and because Barry is a big mongrel and may wish to kill you, the shout passes to next bloke. Beware of Barry.

“Tommy Two Group”

Tommy is one of the most feared members of The Shout. He must also be very carefully monitored because he is a ‘double dipper’. Tommy is the bloke who joins your Shout and, after a round or two, but before his, he spots another group of his mates in another part of the bar. He excuses himself for a minute – usually just before his shout, and hooks up with his other mates. He then joins in their Shout and plays ‘keepings off’ with his turn to shout between two Shouts. Earning shouts from both groups while cleverly avoiding his own, Tommy gives his ‘mates’ two reasons to give him the flick.

“Professor Pisshead”

This bloke is a straightforward danger to the other members of The Shout as he will be back from the bar with the next round before you’ve had the chance to knock the froth off the last pot. Drinking quickly and often keeping the pace cracking by ‘Shouting out of turn’ he will turn a nice quiet blokey get together into a full bore lager frenzy. He may buy a couple of extra pots – ‘just in case’- or he might ‘upsize’ by buying a jug or two instead of three pots. A good bloke to have around if you are short on cash, (so, what are you doing at the pub in the first place? Hmm?) but a liability if you have to drive home or operate heavy machinery within the next eight to ten days.

There are a couple of other bludgers who fit loosely into elements of the above as well as bringing various other dastardly traits to the drinking table and the lesson is simple. The Shout works because it is rooted in a deep and almost religious tradition of honesty and mateship. It survives because it is a great way in which to say to your mates that you enjoy their company and value their friendship without it getting all poofy and having to touch each others’ bottoms.

And just as there will always be real blokes with the true integrity to uphold the vows of The Shout, so too will there be enemies of The Shout. They must be stopped and their evil ways exposed and held up to public ridicule and scorn. Hopefully this handy guide will serve to assist you in the identification of these bastards. Good Luck and good drinking.

Prof. Pilsner

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Beer Monkey

We have always attempted to spread the word about as many aspects of the Beer World as we can to you, our loyal readers and new friends. We have covered all sorts of beer related topics and shared the many joys that the wonderful amber liquid can bring and given a few random recommendations for what to drink.

Today we turn to the Dark Side of beer drinking and provide a warning for all who venture out into worlds unknown and who wish to explore the many wonders of the Big Night Out. Go in to a Slurpin’ Safari under prepared and you will come off second best. Or worse. Tread the path of the Night of the Long Lager without the right attitude and the results can be horrifying. Beware of the creatures that lurk in the beery shadows who would do you harm most foul should you disrespect them.

Some of these creatures are nasty and malicious, while others will do their very best to inflict some sort of physical harm upon your person, a sort of lasting bodily reminder of your indiscretions. But some are just mischievous and perhaps a little childlike in their attempts to befuddle you.

Beware the Beer Monkey.

Those who have met the Beer Monkey, like the brother-in-law, Chris, will tell tales of woe and regret after having crossed paths with this mythical imp. But they can tell the tales with a wry smile and a fond giggle; after the event. The Beer Monkey is a crafty foe; you will rarely see him until it is too late and he has struck. Playful and roguish, the Beer Monkey waits patiently for the drinker to achieve the requisite number of ‘beers down’ and then makes his move.

As Chris recalls of one memorable encounter; “After a very enjoyable night out recently, The Beer Monkey emptied my wallet and replaced the cash with a set of bongo drums. An unplanned purchase, sure, but a fine set of bongos nonetheless.”

Others have told of the mysterious acquisitions of late-night snack foods such as kebabs, falafels and ‘dirty water dogs’, on some occasions scoffing two or three when really only wanting one, and, in reality, needing none, what with the gut full of beer and all. Fortunately for them, they did not have long to wait before the karmic universal forces came into play and returned the said items with a violent flurry and an uncontrollable bout of laughter from your mates gathered ‘round.

The Beer Monkey can often be found lurking in the darkness next to dance floors at pubs, clubs, reception centres and function halls. When the unsuspecting victim has reached the point of no return, the Beer Monkey will cause unbridled mayhem by talking him, or her (but usually him) into a disgracefully uncoordinated display of embarrassing moves designed only to humiliate the dancer and, at best, amuse the dancees. God help us all if they manage to find the DJs microphone and start singing.

Feel free to share any stories of your own encounters with the Beer Monkey. I can’t help thinking that I will be able to crank out a couple more posts surrounding his cheeky exploits.

Prof. Pilsner

Monday, June 23, 2008

I have a confession to make.

My Name is Professor Pilsner ...

And I am a binge drinker.

Well, I’m NOT REALLY. I like to enjoy the experience of a nice cold lager and I certainly like to savour the taste and flavour and aroma of a well crafted ale. I spend a little extra, most times, to be able to drink something a bit special and yet at other times I like to spend bugger-all and brew up 23 litres of homebrew for about 20 cents a stubby.

I usually have a beer or two as I prepare the family meal and then, depending on the meal, I will select a matching ale or lager to have at the dinner table. Most nights, when the little Pilsners are tucked into bed I will sit down with Mrs Pilsner and sip a nice rich amber ale or maybe a porter or a sparkling ale before popping off to stack some zeds.

Which makes me a binge drinker.

So says the government. You see, at no small expense to the taxpayer, our eminent federal leaders have seen fit to throw massive amounts of OUR cash towards combating the scourge of modern society; binge drinking. And, in conjunction with this, some pin heads in lab coats clutching clipboards and nodding to each other in an authoritative manner have decided that we MUST decide upon a number of mid-sized beers that will constitute a “binge”. Having added together the total number of girlfriends that these poindexters have had in their entire lives, they were able to settle on the number four and this, they have declared, is the magic number. Drink four beers and you are engaging in a binge.

Now, call me old fashioned but I always thought that binge drinking was a frenetic and continuous kind of irresponsibility perpetrated by knob-ends and dickheads who don’t respect the beer or who don’t have enough self control to slow down and enjoy a night out or who are unable to realise that they are drinking too much or too quickly. Apparently this definition was far too difficult to communicate effectively, let alone fit onto a flash card, so they just settled on “four beers”. Knobs.

See you all at the next big “binge”; dinner at my place tonight.

Cheers,Prof. Pilsner

Friday, June 20, 2008

Speed Cleaning and Blokes

I reported in a previous article that I had done a very noble and blokey thing and cleaned out a sizeable proportion of my personal wardrobe. You may recall that this was not due to any over abundance of clothing or due to the onset of spring. The purpose of this exercise was to allow the expedient expansion of the Beer Bloke Brewing Empire because it gave me the beer storage space needed to get on with the next few batches.

But cleaning is not necessarily something that comes as second nature to a bloke. We are hunter gatherers, we are warriors and protectors and we are fixers and tinkerers. That is to say that we can provide food as long as someone will clean the barbie afterwards, we are more than capable of matching an opponent on the sporting field or in the trivia ring and we can pull a seemingly efficient appliance apart and break it down into the sum of its parts then put it all back together, minus three screws and a combobulating valve and let it sit in the shed while we go to the shop and buy a new one before the missus discovers that we stuffed the old one.

Cleaning is something we need to learn. But it is not necessarily something we can be taught. It is definitely not something we want to be told or forced to do. What we really don’t need are newly released books about cleaning that are as popular with womenfolk as $100 haircuts, manicures and celebrity marriages.

You may have become aware of this series of Household Bibles that have exploded onto –and right off –bookshelves around the country. They are the product of a national radio talkback show which was so popular that the theories and helpful hints on cleaning your house became a best seller. Or three. They are ‘Spotless’, ‘Speed Cleaning’ and ‘How to be Comfy’. If you haven’t heard of them, find out quickly because I guarantee that your other half has already discovered them and is studying them up and is probably already putting together a ‘cleaning kit’ as we speak. This kit is designed specifically to crush the male spirit.

This is not to say that blokes don’t know anything about cleaning at all. As a homebrewer I have had to develop good cleaning and sanitation practices. As a beer drinker I have had to develop good beer glass cleaning habits. You may not know it, but there is a CLEAN glass and then there is a BEER CLEAN glass. A ‘beer clean’ glass will have not a single bubble sticking to the inside surface of the glass. Stay tuned for a full one day lecture series on how to clean your glasses, how to care for them and how to pour beer into them. I assume because you are reading this that you already know how to drink the beer.

Back to the books. I have decided that in order to survive whatever challenges Mrs Pilsner is encouraged to throw down as a result of reading these books, I need to know a little about the philosophies and systems they espouse. I don’t need to know how to clean the entire house in only fifteen minutes a day; I need to know what the book is telling her I can do in fifteen minutes a day. Knowledge is power and power over this book series might just save me and my beer and my brewing equipment.

Based on this philosophy I am reading these books and making a decent attempt at pretending to agree with or at least understand their concepts. Some of the basic principles are just pretty much common sense while some of the hints and tips are downright bizarre. Any book which recommends spoilt milk as a natural cleaning product has obviously never smelt spoilt milk before. And the nonchalant way in which it describes the procedure for producing spoilt milk is even more amusing; ‘Leave milk in the sun until it has developed solids – do not attempt to use until the milk is rancid and solids have formed.’ Just like that! And this is supposed to be a safe alternative to chemicals!

I don’t suppose that there are any stains that can be treated with beer. I know of plenty of stains that can be created by beer.

Anyway, the lesson I am quickly learning is that my brewing space needs to uphold the appearance of being clean and tidy and ordered if it is to remain intact – and in the house. I also realise that I need to contribute to some elements of domesticity so that the hobby can flourish. Then, one day, it will outgrow the house completely and I’ll have a small commercial brewery of my own.

Until then...

Prof. Pilsner

Monday, June 16, 2008

Craft Brewers Series – Part One

Brewing up a batch at the Mountain Goat brewery

Here at Beer Blokes we like beer. You’re probably the same yourself. We like drinking it and talking about it and we especially like brewing it. I also like writing about it because it gives me the opportunity to share my passion for all things beer with others.

I love brewing beer because I can dream that one day I can move the operation from the kitchen bench, to the shed, then on to an even bigger shed and, finally, to a small brewery with a sign on the door that says; “Beer Blokes.” I can even actually visualise the bottles jangling with their labels shining as they wobble off the line and into a convoy of waiting trucks.

This series will look at the way in which some of Australia’s most successful craft brewers turned their dreams into beery reality. There will be stories of luck and inspiration, of setbacks and perspiration and they will show how beer can take a dream, float it on a foamy stream of hope and lead it to brewing Nirvana. In many cases a large bank loan, tons of sweat and tears and the unwavering support of family and friends probably helped as well.

Mountain Goat brewery Pics from

Many craft, or ‘boutique’ brewers as they were once called, have come and gone as the years have gone by. Some went belly up because their product was ahead of the tastes of the drinkers or because the costs involved in setting up and maintaining a brewery were beyond the beers marketable capacity. Others floundered due to quality control issues or because the hard slog just got to be too much. Others failed because the beer just wasn’t good enough.

But many survived because they found a niche or a smart way to get their brew noticed. Others utilised a kind of urban guerrilla campaign to create a demand for the stuff. Many just used their smarts and called in favours from family and mates and stuck it out through hard times and unexpected hiccups and then sat back and cracked a satisfied Ale or Lager when their luck changed.

Some brewers have even made a success of the gig due to the misfortune of others. This ‘Circle of Life’ is a poignant and yet uplifting fact of business where the brave or the fortunate feed off the carcass of the old, the weak or the unfortunate of the herd. Many a new brewer has picked up at auction, a complete and, in some sad cases, barely used brewing set up, the surrendered plant of someone, perhaps, just like them in many respects. Maybe starting out their dream on the foundations of men who once shared the very same dream is a sobering (pardon the pun) jolt and a reminder that to take your eyes off the prize might mean watching one day as the new kids on the block pick up YOUR gear for a song at another auction down the track.

Wether you call them micros, boutiques or craft brew operations these creative leaders of the ‘True Brew Traditions‘ should be admired and supported lest we allow the big multinationals to tell the next generation of drinkers that it is OK to see beer as a bland, pale golden, sparsely hopped and sugar enhanced sessional swill attached to slick and fluffy marketing slogans and TV ads. The craft brewers are the guardians of the craft, the guys who reassure us that beer can be so much more than status symbols for wankers who drink labels in places at which to ‘be seen’ and remind us that when you set out to offend nobody, you also rarely really please anybody, either.

I am collecting interesting facts and stories and myths surrounding some of our best and brightest craft brewers and will deliver them as soon as some of them have replied to my e-mails so that I don’t misquote them, misinterpret their philosophy or miss out on getting some free product should they feel that way inclined!

The first will be ready to post by July. Stay tuned

Prof. Pilsner

Friday, June 13, 2008


Remember when you were little and your Nan was on holiday interstate or overseas and you would wait by the letterbox in the hope that the cheery old postie would hand you a letter or a parcel from some far off, exotic locale with a funny looking stamp and a whiff of the unknown?

Of course you don’t. It never happened. The postie was a surly old prick on an undernourished motor scooter that was more like a box of farts on wheels and he barely even slowed down enough to stuff your mail in the slot by the fistful and the only whiff of the unknown was his B.O. Never mind, you just remember it the way you like. Cue flashback music and wobbly screen effect.

Meanwhile, back in reality, there are still some moments of childlike excitement that befall the humble beer drinker and blogger that inspire thoughts of melancholy and stir yearnings for simpler and rosier times and at the same time conjure thoughts of enterprise and opportunity and make you say out loud; “I reckon I make a quid out of this ‘ere idea!”

I say this because, recently, the brother-in-law and his good lady wife, The Crazy Unicorn – don’t ask- were enjoying a brief sojourn in Vietnam and they found time to send some interesting postcards for the little lady Pilsners featuring such bucolic peasant scenes as village children swimming with buffalo, elderly villagers toiling in the fields with buffalo and local hotel scenes featuring locals drinking local beer with a car park full of buffalo. There was even one which, I shit you not, depicted a local village trader or consumer transporting a slightly less than living buffalo strapped to the back of a pissy little wobbly motor scooter displaying balls the size of oranges parked over the pack-rack. That’s the buffaloes’ nads not the villagers’. The bike made the surly posties’ two-wheeler look like something out of American Chopper. And the buffaloes’ cods may have explained the whiff of the unknown.

Anyway, a couple of days after that – actually it was a couple of weeks after they returned to Australia, thanks very much Australia Post – I received a posting of my own. But no letter or strange smelling peasant handicraft, this. No, it was a CoasterCard (Trademark pending so don’t even think about pinchin’ it) sent from a pub/hotel in Saigon. Chris had managed to scrawl a beautifully semi-legible drunken rant on the back of a bar coaster and whacked a stamp on it and sent it on its long journey to Oz. So together we hit upon the idea of marketing this new, groundbreaking, beer drinking product automatically assuming that it had never been done or thought of before, ever.

How cool would it be to stroll into your local, or someone else’s local in a far off place, order a nice local beer and, upon receipt of same, be presented with a nice matching coaster. After smiling and politely thanking the barperson, you sit down to enjoy your beer only to discover, upon turning the coaster over (after first taking the beer off it) that it is, in fact – a coastercard!!! It has a spot for a stamp and a space for the address and, as the night goes on and the beers go down, you can ask for one with lines ruled on it cos’ ya too stankered to writ straight! Sweeeeeeet!!

Further discussion revealed a keg full of bonus positive side effects; you get to drink beer, you get to support small business, you get to drink beer, you get to encourage the ancient art of letter writing and one-to-one-communication, you get to keep more postal workers around the world in gainful employment and out of clock towers with shaved heads and semi automatic weapons, you get to drink beer, you get to encourage the collecting of something more ‘manly’ than souvenir teaspoons and that are easier to store than vintage cars and you get to drink beer.

Support the thing that supports your beer. Drink beer. Send a CoasterCard!

Prof. Pilsner

Monday, June 9, 2008

Farewell Pickles

And thanks for all the beers.

Beer drinkers are a very fortunate lot. Not only does beer serve to refresh our system, either as a reward for hard work or as a fitting end to a long day behind a desk dealing with dickheads, it also pleases our souls in a way that is difficult to describe to people who dislike the whole concept of alcohol and pleasure.

Beer can be thirst quenching and icy cold or it can be cool and contemplative (is that even a word?). It can be sipped alone or slurped in groups. It can be poured thoughtfully into a nice glass or necked straight from the stubby. It can be expensive and imported from distant shores or cheap and cheerful and shipped from around the corner. Versatile and flexible it is suited to any occasion and any mood. Both the joyful and the sorrowful.

“Pickles” passed away last week after a short and aggressive illness. Though his work in recent years saw him living interstate, his visits, sometimes brief, were frequent and based more on quality than quantity. They always incorporated the sacred ritual of ‘The Sharing Of Stories With Beers And Mates’. Pix was not one to change the system if it still worked, nor was he the type to worry too much about formality and structure when it came to getting together for a beer. A call from Billy or Wal to say ‘Pix is in town next week and at the pub on Saturday and be there if you can’ was about as detailed as arrangements would get.

And, if you could get there, you would always be entertained and rarely would you be surprised or disappointed. He would never miss a Shout, never sit at a table too far from the TAB, never cause a stink or get into any trouble, never raise his voice and never drink anything other the standard-on-tap-lager. And enjoy it. Sometimes, it could be argued, he ‘over enjoyed’ it. Rob’s recollection of Pix standing up, nursing a pot while sound asleep is just one example. But still he never caused a fuss. He sometimes spent a fair bit of the next day phoning apologies but his ‘antics’ were never more annoying than a minor inconvenience.

The last time we all got together was Melbourne Cup day, November last year at Seds’ house. Thinking back, it was just like any other year. The Syndicate went ‘tits up’ yet again and all our solid gold selections were unlucky to be beaten. In some cases, they were unlucky to be beaten by every other nag in the field. Pickles hadn’t really let on to all his mates just how crook he was or what the likely outcomes would be. He just didn’t want to burden anyone with worry as I’m sure he’d have felt guilty if any of us so much as offered to help him out in any way. He just made sure he shared the time with his friends. Time, and beers.

When I heard the news I marked the moment with a favourite brew from the ‘Beer Crisper’ in the fridge (where I store all the ‘specials’) and raised a toast to Pickles. But, when we all get together to pay tribute to our mate, we will probably all down a few Carlton Draughts or VBs. Pickles would not want it any other way.

So now, as we reflect on all the times we shared with Pickles, we remember the laughs and the warmth and loyalty. We recall the stories and the moments that will forever be looked back upon fondly and which will always be ‘Pickles Moments’. And, at the risk of rehashing someone else’s thoughts, we can be sad at his passing that we won’t share any more moments but we can also rejoice in the fact that we had so many to remember him by.

Cheers, Pickles. And thanks for everything you are to all of us. After we give you a fitting send off, I reckon we might just celebrate your life with a few beers. Somehow, though, I think there might be more tears than beers – none of us cold drink that many beers. Plus, no one could sleep standing up as well as you could.


(Keith) Michael Wright

"Pickles, Pix, Curl"