Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Buying Beer

Swords Select

In my travels I always try to buy some beer. Why not? So it seems only fair that, in the course of writing this beer based blog, that I pass on some of the things that I learn along the way. And so to a trip to the market to buy some beer.

I know that most people go to the market to buy fresh fruit and veg, or to haggle over some prawns or a lamb chop – I know I love to – or to buy some eco-friendly hippie footwear or a budgie but you can also pick up some good beer in some markets. I discovered this quite recently when the bro’ in law introduced me to an erstwhile unknown corner of Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market. Unknown to me, that is. Mrs Pilsner had been working in the city until recently and walked to the market once every week for four years and never told me about this stall!!

I’ll deal with her later.

The stall at the iconic ‘Queen Vic’ is Swords Select and a cosier, more inviting and well stocked purveyor of craft and international beers you could not hope to find. Local small, independent breweries from Victoria as well as interstate are all given the shelf space and the product knowledge that they deserve and which they sadly miss at the main liquor retailers and the best of the ‘weird and wonderful’ from around the globe are all on show as well.

Swords Select is an environmentally friendly retailer. “Pardon, a what?” I hear you ask. They specialise in one litre, reusable and refundable glass swing top bottles. Buy the wine you like and return the bottle for refilling. Three bucks back to you and the earth gets a helping hand as well. They’ll even serve you if you DON’T wear hippie sandals. But the beer selection is what really caught my eye. I didn’t even realise that they sold wine until I jumped on to their website. Good website, too. Here’s how to get there. Swords select

Plenty of different breweries are represented and a beer each week is available to sample. Sometimes they’ll let you have a sample even if you say that you’ve already had it before and you know what it tastes like. Or maybe that’s just because I’m nice. The environmental-friendliness continues with the provision of reserved six-pack boxes so that you can take your booty home and not kill the dolphins. Plus it encourages you to buy six at a time. I usually get two six-packs so that one of my arms doesn’t end up longer than the other.

It also has the added bonus of giving me some beers that I would not normally be able to get and then tell you lot all about them. While picking up some ‘specials’ last Sunday, I got talking to Mary at Swords about the drawbacks of beer reviews. We both agreed that they just don’t really nail the guts of the beer they review because it is near impossible to convey the conviviality – the occasion, the friends, the timing and the ‘special something’ that can turn a beer into an experience.

In future posts, I will attempt to redress this issue and right some wrongs. I will also even up some scores with reviewers who have talked me into racing out for something that was not only disappointing, but nothing like what was promised. My reviews will be more like ‘road tests’ rather than recommendations. Look out for them – you can’t miss them, there the ones with pictures of boobies scattered amongst the wordy bits.

If you get the chance, get to Swords Select, tell them you read about them on Beer Blokes and treat yourself to some friendly, knowledgeable and value for money advice and some really good beers.

Prof. Pilsner

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