Wednesday, July 11, 2007

You Just Might Learn Something

I recently had the pleasure of looking after a group of young-just-under- twenties who were out celebrating a friends’ birthday. I love these occasions because, as an older – not old – restaurant staffer it is almost like looking backwards into a crystal ball. You sort of see the way you were when you were that young and dumb. And you also see the things that really set one generation apart from the next and the one that preceded you. And it’s not just haircuts and music I’m here to tell you.

It’s beer as well. I thought that, as beer drinkers, we might have evolved over the decades. Has my generation and the one before that and the one before that not passed down the knowledge of experience? Have we failed to deliver on the simple task of beer-ducating the modern young drinker? Has the beer ball been dropped? No. Probably not. It’s just that every nineteen year old bloke has that mutant genome sequence abnormality that makes him think that he is a hundred foot tall and bullet proof and that all the girls think he’s SOOOO HOT! Like, whateverrrr! Duh!

And he thinks that beer is just beer.

And, really, the beer drinking habits of the average school leaver drinker haven’t evolved very much at all. It’s all still basically about quantity over quality, fashion over flavour and chucking over choice.
“Ay, mate, can oi ‘ave one of them big arse fancy imported glasses like what that bloke got? ‘Sept wiv VB innit?” No. No you can not. And get a haircut.

The boys in question were very taken by the 1160ml glasses that St Arnou kindly provide us to help market the St Cloud Hefeweizen. Four of the lads decided that this was a challenge that they needed to undertake. Nay, conquer. After ascertaining that three of them had never had a wheat beer before – let alone an unfiltered version – and that the fourth thought that he’d had had one and it tasted ‘rooly terrbull’, I did the right thing. Kicked their arses and revoked their drinking licences. Not really. I got them a small taster first and talked them down to pints. One got through his quickly and the others nursed theirs into ale old age. By the end they wouldn’t admit to not enjoying it but were merely lamenting the fact that I wouldn’t let them have ‘them big arse ones’ – cos’ that would’ve been a real challenge. In the end it was the challenge of putting away as much piss as they could rather than trying a new style of beer. Or even learning that there even WAS a style of beer other than VB.

There is one other aspect of youth drink culture which is a little different today. The dreaded RTD virus. The ‘Ready-to-drink’ or pre-mix scourge. I have nothing against the concept of pre mixed drinks per se and I reckon the debate over lolly water alcohol and kids not knowing how much they are drinking and alcohol abuse is for another forum and not here but I just can’t help thinking that these cans and bottles of pre prepped crap are part of the problem rather than the solution.

I mean, you’re in a restaurant first of all. You need to learn to identify a restaurant from, say, a pub, pokie venue or sportsbar. That’d be a start. So don’t ask “Ave youse got stubbies? You know, loike JDn’coke n’ shit.” Why would you want to pay a premium for a stubby of Jack Daniels that you are then going to neck straight from the bottle when the real thing is sitting on the shelf in front of you? These things are supposed to be designed for convenience, to take to a picnic or an outdoor concert recital and such but when does that become laziness? Just seems a very girlie way of drinking spirits.

To further link the points made earlier, you are also passing up the opportunity to try a better product. As a cook by trade I always like to order something that I can’t easily make at home when ordering in a restaurant.

Same with beer. I like tap beer when I’m out because it’s something I can’t do at home. Yet. Still have to convince Mrs Pilsner that I can safely drill holes in the family fridge to accommodate the tap system. One day. Anyhoo, why drink standard spirits when you can have a go at a Gentleman Jack or a Makers Mark or one of the many other small batch and specialty stuff offered by good restaurants like the one I hang about in? Take the opportunities that life gives you.

As a ‘finisher’ I’ll put it in words that even the filthy-drunkest dumb arse plonker at the table can understand. Chatting up the dumbest, plainest, drunkest girl at the party is easy but the results are predictable and often fairly disappointing. And, if you’re lazy enough and happy enough to go through life like that, fair enough. Get used to ending up in a job where you’ll get to say lots of things like ’would you like fries with that?’. Or, have a crack at the pretty foreign exchange student friend of your mates’. Take things slowly and take the time to appreciate the differences. She may be a bit harder to understand at first and she may even look and smell a little less like what you’re used to, but keep at it. Listen to her. Savour the subtle variances. And in the end ... she might slap your face or tell you to piss off.

But at least you can say you tried.

She might also recommend a nice friend she knows from Belgium or the Czech Republic and you might get really lucky!

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