Wednesday, July 30, 2008

There’s a Lemon in my beer!

Or; The Corona Effect.

“What can I get for you?”
“Corona, please.”
“Lemon or lime?”
“Lemon thanks.”

This scintillating piece of theatre goes on every day in bars and pubs and restaurants all over the country as well as overseas. But what really is the deal with jamming citrus into the neck of a bottle of beer? Where did it begin and why? And what causes it to continue?

I lay the blame squarely at the unwashed hands of the Mexican brewery worker. Not having a go at Mexicans – some of my best friends are illegal immigrant fruit picking mariachi singers. And I love the Moguel family who appear from time to time on the Wiggles videos. No, this goes back decades to a time when Corona was a nice cheap import from Mey-hicho into the States.

The story – totally, as yet, unsubstantiated by hard, cold fact or court ruling – goes like this. Corona, in the early days, was, more often than not, subject to the Brewer’s Curse – infection caused by poor sanitation. Perhaps not wanting to let a little bacteria get in the way of the sale of a cheap beer, retailers would cover up the stank with a generous wedge of lime. The citric acid would mask the dodgy aromas as well as disinfect the lurgy in the lager. Shift to the present and unwitting punters are continuing the Manuel Legacy as we speak. I should stress that nowadays Corona is brewed to strict sanitary standards and the lemon is used by punters to give this thin, pissy lager some taste.

“Momma always says stupid is as stupid does.”

Redback Wheat beer drinkers were the first Australians to be treated to the lemony lager experience when bartenders everywhere began to graduate with master’s degrees in garnish distribution. But this bit of pub theatre should not be dismissed as mere trickery or wankery. The Germans, and the Bavarians in particular, have been adorning their weizens, weisses and weissbier dunkels with citrusy additions since the Kaiser wore short pants. This is partly due to the German Purity Law of 1516 which forbade brewers from using anything but malt, hops and water in beer. More of the Reinheitsgebot in a separate story. Remind me, please, cos’ it’s a good story.

So the Germans have been known to brew more than a couple of very good beers which are well complimented by a slice of lemon. This is particularly apparent in the northern summers where the citrus brings a refreshing edge to an ice cold beer. BUT ... I must emphasise this ...BUT ... in fact ...
BUT ... this does NOT extend to a hefeweizen, that is, a beer which still has yeast suspended in it. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen lemons blindly tossed into the bottom of a scrupulously cleaned and badged Shofferhoffer Hefeweizen glass as if it were a Corona. Wheat beer yeasts and malts have some complex aromas of their own. The acids in the lemon deafen the subtle flavours in the yeast and the malt. So, stop it. Please.

Prof. Pilsner.


Anonymous said...

I feel that the lemon garnish has its place Professor.

When one is courting the female of the species yet cannot afford to keep buying them a midori pineapple (that gets drunk at a quicker rate than a standard butcher's or pony) at each shout, the lemon can be a lovely segway into the world of beer. I hear that ribeena can be used in a similar fashion if trying to entice the female of the species into drinking guinness.

I can cop lemon in beers sometimes. Much like i can cop a slice of orange in a hoegaarden from time to time. not always, mind you, but from time to time it's orright.

i'd sooner that bartenders spent their time honing their craft, understanding where and when is the right time to add citrus to a beer and less time drawing effin three leafed clovers in the head of my guinness. that annoys me more than an errant slice of citrus ever could.

when a bartender puts a clover in the head of my pint of guinness, my first wish is that they be incarcerated in reading prison for sufficient time to come to their senses. does guinness need fancypants-ing up? no. no, it doesn't.

when that wish doesn't come true, i look for an alternative bar tender to serve me.

clover in beer. pfft. makes my blood boil.

Beer Blokes said...

Hear, Hear Oscar,
Time and place and place and time! It's bad enough that baristas are getting so bored with squeezing espresso (and having to deal with ignorants who 'arks for a expresso or a mug-of-cheeno') that it is near impossible to get a cuppa without finding it adorned with a fern leaf motif or a cameo of the Virgin Mary! Leave our beer alone!

I agree that any method of assisting in the courtship of the female of the species is to be applauded but I would argue that there are plenty of 'gateway beers' designed to get non beer drinkers into the taste of beer. These include Boag's St George, Brahma form Bra-thil and Carlton Cold because it doesn't really have any beer taste at all.

You are spot on about lemon garnish being OK from time to time, I just reckon that beer ettiquette suggests that a good bartender would always ask or offer first. And as for the Hoegaarden, I once witnessed a punter upend the glass over the top of the bottle, re-invert and spin the bottle in the glass, creating a pretty good pour with a generous head and then sprinkle pepper on the top before drinking! Good theatre and the pepper compliments the coriander and the tartness of the raw barley and oats!

But no clovers!!

Prof. Pilsner

Damien said...

I don't know about this anti-clover-in-my-beer-head stance.
Is it so wrong for a bartender to want to express himself in his work? I wonder if this Oscar W crank would be so annoyed if instead of the clover (which I guess could be said to be a bit cliched), the barkeep was to draw, I dunno, a buxom wench? Or some sunflowers in a vase?
Me, I kinda like when I get a clover drawn in my beer. It's not a real clover, doesn't degrade my beer's flavour and shows that the bartender cares. He didn't have to do it. But he did. Now maybe it's like my grade 6 teacher Sr Olga once said and small things do amuse small minds but I don't care, I like it! And none of this "Guinness doesn't need any embellishment" guff. It's not about need. Does the Mona Lisa need a nice frame? No. But it's got one. Does Jessica Alba need clothes? No. But she's wears 'em!

Anonymous said...

sunflowers in a vase...pfft.

let me tell you what else makes my blood boil.

7th century happy vikings with quad-syllabic identities who quote from Sisters of Mercy circa 1986.

fair point about jessica alba though.

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