Sunday, August 31, 2008

Alcopop Back flip

A few weeks back I reported on the Federal Governments’ lame attempts to curb youth binge drinking by increasing the tax on pre-packaged, pre-mixed alcoholic lolly water known as RTDs or Ready To Drink spirits. I was fairly critical of the measures employed because they were never really going to address the real causes of overdoing the drink and because they were merely a thinly veiled effort to be SEEN to be doing something while secretly grabbing for cash.

By way of an update on this situation, here are some recent developments. I should point out here that I have no intention of letting this blog stray from its beery roots and allow it to get all political – just file this under ‘D’ for ‘Dickheads’.

For a bill to pass into law here in Australia, it must be approved by both the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament and it would seem that the current Government, perhaps drunk on its own sense of power, perhaps just being dickheads, raised the alcopop tax months ago and then just kinda ‘assumed’ that the Opposition and the Independent senators would just rubber stamp it retrospectively. Not. Ooops!

So now the Government is faced with a dilemma. Apart from having to stand on a milk crate with their dacks around their ankles singing ‘I Was Wrong’, they now have a lazy $3 million dollars in ill-gotten tax gains from good honest consumers which they are obliged to – wait for it – KEEP! Despite telling all who will fall for crap that the evil Spirit Distillers will receive the lot and never, ever, ever pass it on to their consumers, the Government knows well that the process is entirely different in reality. It is the Governments money and good luck getting it back.

To claim back any tax ‘over paid’ the claimant must make a challenge through the court system. Costly at best and a right pain in the jacksie at worst. Even if the industry could get what they are entitled to, the cost and effort involved in then returning it to the consumer (of course, you all kept ALL your receipts, didn’t you?!) would be near impossible. The Government, in trying to cover up their stuff up, is deflecting blame and responsibility by painting the industry (who said from the start that the initial plan was flawed) as the bad guys!

And further to the figures that I quoted previously showing that sales of full strength spirits had increased as the RTDs sales dipped, the bureaucrats turned in a set of figures of their own which showed this was incorrect – that everything the Government had set out to do, it had achieved and then some – which it now turns out were based on a different set of variables such as different reporting days and using a different time frame from which the figures were taken. Fancy using statistics to disprove your oppositions claims! As Homer Simpson said, “Statistics can be used to disprove anything – 75% of people know THAT!!”

As a post script, the Distilled Spirits Industry has publicly gone on record as saying that not only did it never seek to re-claim any tax windfall had the tax fallen through, but that they formally supported the money being returned into Government programs to educate and tackle the issues associated with youth binge drinking. Take that Kevin, ya ‘cats bum-mouthed, lip-licking, nancy-walking toss pot!*

Prof. Pilsner

*Kevin, for those who don’t know, is Kevin Rudd, or Kevin 07, or K-Rudd the recently elected Prime Minister. He’s probably a really nice bloke and I’m sure his Mummy is very very proud of him.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Reinheitsgebot

Or, how to brew really good beer.

This is a term that most beer-heads will probably have encountered, some will be able to pronounce and a few may understand. For all of the above and those new to this Teutonic mouthful, here is a short history of, and insight into, the wonderful world of ‘The Bot’.

Literally meaning ‘purity order’, The Reinheitsgebot is often referred to as the German Purity Law and is perhaps the oldest quality control law in history. It is, and always has been, a beer law and was proposed sometime around 1487 and officially enacted in 1516 in Bavaria, now a province of Germany. It has the purpose of regulating the sale and the production of beer – though I should say it had these purposes as it was repealed as mandatory in 1987 – and we are lucky as drinkers of beer to have it.

It basically stated that beer could be made using three, and only three ingredients – malt, hops and water. When first enacted, the magical properties of yeast were yet to be understood and identified and were not included in the law until the 1800s after some cheese eating surrender monkey called Louis Pasteur discovered the role of the single cell floater that we know and love as yeast.

Barley was specified as the only malted grain to be used, not because they thought that wheat couldn’t make a good beer, as we all know it can, but because they wanted to save the wheat and rye for bread making. Bloody bakers! The Germans have a rich tradition of wheat beers and the part of the reasoning behind the Reinheitsgebot was to avoid a price war with the bakers for the grain. Fortunately plenty of German brewers kept making wheaties. I suppose they would have called them Weizies?

So that covers the yeast and the malt. The yeast was not included because it ‘didn’t exist yet’ and the barley malt was to keep the Dough Boys happy. Now to the hops. The hop clause was written in because before the Bot came along all sorts off stuff was used to preserve the precious amber liquid including soot, odd looking forest mushrooms and herbs like stinging nettles. Must have made the beer marketing mans job difficult;

“Hey Siiymon, make us an ad to flog this new beer, would ya!?”
“Sure, how about ... ‘now with the rich full flavour of that stuff in the bottom of the fireplace and dodgy fungus’?”
“Yeah, like it, like it. Should make medieval bogans think they have a better chance with the plague hags!”

There are those who stand either side of the Reinheitsgebot as far as support goes. Many believe it to be the greatest quality control measure since the invention of the ‘No Fat Chicks’ sign whereas others see it as a way of dominating a market and discouraging regional specialties and ‘odd-ball’ beers. As we know, the Germans are pretty good at producing some special sorts of beers; smoke beers, radlers, hefeweizens, Marzens, Altbiers and Kolsch. This might suggest that, while beers brewed under The Reinheitsgebot are almost guaranteed to be of a pure and consistent quality, it hasn’t stopped the beer world in its tracks out in Deutschland.

Regardless on where you stand in the argument, the Bot has ensured a place in the wonderful world of beer and, if nothing else, it has given me a good post subject. Happy drinking.

Prof. Pilsner

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Local Taphouse

There are bars and then there are bars.

Stop lookin’, I’ve found it!

It is with just a little trepidation that I pen this piece because I feel like I’m letting the world in on what should be a guarded secret; the best beer bar in the whole wide world ever. There, I said it.

The place is called the Local Taphouse and it lives in East St Kilda in Melbourne just a drop kick and a half from the city.

Truth be told, the beer lover in me says “Tell ‘em all!! Shout it from the highest rooftops and whatnot!!” for this is a place that anybody who calls themselves a beer drinker needs to visit at least once in their beery lifetime. For many it will make them realise that they really knew very little about beer and for others it will be the oasis that they have been seeking in the crowded desert of mainstream lager suppliers.

And that’s not to say that the Local Taphouse is in any way, shape or form an elitist establishment – quite the opposite. Welcoming and relaxing, inviting and warm. Mind you, as I hit the doormat the thermostat was in low single figures so the ‘warming’ bit might have had something to do with the chilling wind that was pushing me towards the door! But for the other elements that make this place special all credit to the owners, management and staff.

Any good hospitality venue, be it a restaurant, bar, cafe or beer barn, relies on its people for its success and The Local Taphouse has plenty of stock in this respect. That’s a good thing, too, because the other thing of which they have an abundant supply is beer. Good beer. Very, very good beer.

20 taps downstairs and another 20 upstairs and we’re talking some serious beer guys running this place. Four taps feature ‘showcase’ beers, single kegs of something special, ‘out there’ or hard to find and the rest are grouped by style and cover every taste and temptation. From pale golden pilsners to silky rich stouts and something nice for everyone in between, the only problem is deciding on just one at a time! Fortunately the ‘beer tenders’ allow you plenty of relaxing thinking time to plan and plot out your nights’ beer journey.

Now, any place can plumb a dozen taps and keg up some nice beers, but that don’t make a great beer pub on its own. As I have often posed in this blog; “Where’s the love?!” Making a place LOOK like it’s a good beer place is not even half the equation. Beer is, afterall, a people drink and it is the people who drive a good place. The Local Taphouse is a shining example of how hiring the right people, training them well and encouraging them, and giving them the tools to do the job results in a customer focussed, attentive and friendly staff delivering a consistent and enjoyable experience every time.

I could keep on about this place, and I suspect that I will in further posts, but until then I suggest you get out there for yourself if you can and see what can be achieved in the New World of pubs, bars, restaurants and all that stuff. Tell them you read about it here and they’ll probably nod knowingly and whisper quietly; “Professor WHO?”

The Local Taphouse is at 184 Carlisle St, St Kilda East just between Capel St and St Kilda roads.
Links to the website and beerblog can be found in my Drinking Mates list.

Prof. Pilsner

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Beer Karma

In the middle of this month I detailed the anniversary celebrations I shared with Mrs Pilsner.

No, not those details. I shared the story of dinner and drinks lists and I stated my surprise at the shallowness and outdatedness of the beer offerings at the restaurant of one of this county’s most charming and elegant hotels.

Well, yesterday I discovered the ‘Yang’ to this disappointing ‘Ying’. And it was not expected and it was not planned. We had just endured a fairly hectic week which culminated in Dr Lager and I hosting a fundraising Trivia night for the pre-school and Mrs Pilsner and I decided to take the family out for Sunday brunch. We decided on a restaurant tucked into a little shopping strip in the local suburbs that we had planned to check out anyway and packed the car with excite children and headed out.

Lunch done and we are heading back to the car. Mrs Pilsner spots a little Asian Grocer on the way back and decides to pop in for a look. Two of the little Pilsners are not in the mood for chicken’s feet and noodle nosing so I took them under my wing and went window shopping further on down the street.

Which is where I found it. Or, where Beer Karma led me. A little non-descript bottle shop at the end of the shops. No big signs or marketing fanfare of any kind, just a shop. I figured I had a minute or two before my two charges went postal and started to annoy each other to the point of enforced separation so I ventured in. At the very back of the shop, past the stacks of standard lager offerings were a couple of fridges, each bearing a hand drawn label. ‘Local’, ‘Imported’ and ‘Boutique’. I passed over the local, until a couple of bottles caught my eye. Here were beers from a West Australian brewer that I had not seen before, nor hear of. Nice surprise. What else have you got for me, Beer Karma?

A nice selection of craft/standard beers, including some seasonal limited releases! Nice! On to the ‘boutique’ section and there I found Salitos – a fairly hard to find Mexican Tequila beer – and while not a beer of any great pedigree, it is one that I have been trying to cross off my list of collectable beers! A Czech pilsner in a 500ml bottle and a low carb ‘idea beer’ joined the craft wheatie and a another local and the collection was capped off by a beer from Laos! The imaginatively named ‘BeerLao’ went down a treat with dinner that night.

A couple of spare minutes had just rewarded me with a very pleasant beery discovery. My faith in Beer Karma had been restored and Mrs Pilsner got what she needed as well.

I expect that the two kids I was responsible for will find their way home in the next two or three days.

Prof. Pilsner

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Beer and Trivia

Dr Lager and I had offered our services to my local pre-school as hosts of the major fundraising event for the year, the annual Trivia Night. The good Dr and I have been keen collectors of trivia, or spermologists as they are known, for many years and have, in fact, spent many years storing away the most useless pieces of spectacularly little known facts. Often at the expense of apparently ‘important’ facts like anniversary dates, school pick ups and doctor’s appointments. Well, something’s gotta give.

The night attracted just over two hundred people, or twenty tables plus a handful of volunteers to assist us in collecting answers, handing stuff out, mopping our brows, that sort of thing. Some cracking good questions were posed to the crowd and the pre-school made nearly twice as much coin as they had the previous year. A good night in all.

And it was interesting to see how the night panned out. Something strange and inexplicable happened. Part of our fundraising strategy included a provision for teams to ‘buy’ an answer for $5 each round and to ‘challenge’ an answer for $5 ach. As the night went on, more challenges were made! And some of the challenges were more than just optimistic – they were fanciful! Could this phenomenon have been anything to do with the parallel phenomenon whereby the number of full beers was slowly replaced by an equal number of empty bottles on each table? Could this cosmic event also have been responsible for our jokes getting cleverer and funnier and better received?!?

We ended up being ‘called’ on just one question for the whole night and the fundraising was boosted by nearly $200 on the challenges and purchases for the night. I have included some of the more popular questions below for you to have a go at. To simulate actual trivia night conditions, try drinking two or three beers in between answering each question. To buy an answer send $5 in a small unmarked bill to; “I’ve had Too Much To Drink, c/o beerblokes, Australia.” Cheers.

From General Knowledge - How many male suspects are there in Cluedo?
What is the first sign of the Zodiac?
From Sport – Which nation enters the arena first in the Commonwealth Games?
Where were the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games equestrian events held?
From Movies – How many Bond films have a single word title?
What is Dirty Harry’s surname?
From Pop Culture – Which social network website did Mark Zuckerburg found?
In Texas Hold Em Poker, what are the two cards dealt to each player called?

So you are not tempted to look at the answers straight away, here are some pictures of beer to distract you while you think ...

Answers; 3 (Plum, Mustard, Green), Aries, Last host nation, Stockholm Sweden (Quarantine reasons), 5, (Thunderball, Goldfinger, Moonraker, Octopussy, Goldeneye), Callaghan, Facebook, Hole Cards.

Score 1 point for each correct answer you got. Take off 1 point for each incorrect answer and drink a beer for each of either!

Prof. Pilsner

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

So what’s your point?

Letter to the editor in my local state daily this morning caught my eye.

“Recently I had the pleasure of dining aboard the colonial tram car restaurant, one of Melbourne’s best tourist attractions. However I was dismayed when I realised the $130 a person cost included unlimited alcohol. I feel this not only discriminates against non-drinkers, but naturally increases the amount of alcohol consumed.”

At first I felt a little sorry for the writer and on two fronts – one; he was DISMAYED at the prospect of unlimited alcohol and two; he was a non-drinker.

I had a quick think about his argument before I ‘naturally’ dismissed it as crap. Have a quick think yourself, champ, before blaming all of society’s ills on the grog. At $130 a head and a world class menu which DOES NOT include chicken parma and nachos you’re not realistically attracting a huge number of bogans, dickheads and potential pissed idiots are you? Most guests who shuffle on to the charming old rattler for a scenic tour of Melbourne and a nice four course meal are not about to kick off their thongs and pull out a form guide while waiting for the barman to pour them a bucket-o-bourbon-and-cola.
For the correct answer to the above, see picture below.

“Surely non-drinkers should not be subsidising those who choose to indulge.”

Surely normal people would either choose to dine at a restaurant that offered separate food and drink deals or would do the polite and sensible thing and make a courtesy call to the tram car restaurant before dining and confirm the conditions or negotiate a discount. Twenty years in the restaurant caper and I can assure you that the set price will cover the costs of the overall experience and will not financially disadvantage the non-drinkers. At least they are being upfront about the cost. If they said the cost of the meal and the ride was $130 and no one pays for any drinks you probably would have said ‘yippee!’ or whatever it is that non-drinkers do when they are happy. They can be happy can’t they?

Besides, it would be impossible to pay for drinks as you go since they took all the conductors off the trams.

Prof. Pilsner

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lord of the Ales

So I’m sitting down with the family to dinner last night and, for the first time in a while we were all at the table together. For one reason or another including choir practice, work commitments, beer commitments and the fact that the little ones just can’t wait till a civilised hour to eat, we seem to juggle meals and sittings to keep the planets in alignment.

But last night was really quite civilised. And I have just realised how funny it is that I have used the word ‘civilised’ to describe it. You’ll find out, too, n a minute.

Dinner was nice. I had been out on Tuesday night with the brother in law to the Local Taphouse in St Kilda (more in a coming post) and we enjoyed a stout evening. Not an evening in which we looked at jolly fat blokes but a night encompassing four different stouts and four tasting plates to match. As a result, I was suitably inspired to create a meal at home to suit a stout that I had in the fridge at the time.

Oysters from my good local fishy, Joe, and some smoked salmon for the two and four year olds (I should shake my head at their food tastes, but I guess it’s better than them having cravings for Mc Crap and such) and some eye fillet for mains meant that I could feed the littlies and then the rest of the family could sit down to dinner while they had their dessert. All of us at the table at the same time. Lovely. Until the littlies decide to talk.

To cut a boring tale short, the competition for conversation was of an Olympic standard. And not just the to-ing and fro-ing but the volume as well. And all about as synchronised as if the diving was done by sumos. All over the shop.

So Mrs Pilsner comes up with a piece of literary-inspired brilliance to solve the problem. My empty bottle that had recently contained a Bellarine Brewery Mussel Stout had been commandeered to be put to good use as a ‘talking stubby’. He or she what has the ‘talking stubby’ can talk and all that what don’t has got to listen. Civilised. In a very Lord of the Flies’ kind of way.

I am now going to put my mind to the task of implementing other works of literature into both the beer and dining experience.

Prof. Pilsner

Tuesday, August 19, 2008



That title wasn’t meant to grab your attention it’s just one of those things that come up as you get an idea and then another one comes in at the same time and then they kind of intersect and that makes you think of the other thing and then it comes together as a catchy title which will probably grab your attention. D’ Oh!

I was cleaning the other day.

I could probably just leave it at that and you’d be fairly impressed, I imagine. Or, more truthfully your wife/girlfriend/partner/mum/special friend would be impressed that a bloke was doing something more domestic than homebrewing. Regular visitors will be aware that this is not the first time that this has happened – see Brew Update Sept 2007 – but this effort was more in the interests of family harmony than creating more space for beer.

And during the cleaning process I stumbled upon a forgotten treasure of mine. A little bottle top motorbike. For the benefit of those under the age of about thirty, back in the olden days beer stubbies came with a rip off tab style lid – tear tabs I think they were called – and despite being a hazard to the fingers of ‘affected’ drinkers due to the sharp inside edges, they were a boon to creative types who saw the tops’ potential. Taking four of these tops had a twin benefit. First, you could manipulate and twist and conjoin the tops to make little vehicles and, second, you got to drink four stubbies in the name of art. An extra advantage was that you got to partake in arts and crafts without being labelled as a nana or a poofter.

In my youth I learned how to make these heirloom treasures from an older mate in our group named Macca. We couldn’t make enough of them and when we had made so many that the mantelpiece was as full as a fat lady’s sock with the things we soon discovered that you could keep making them and give them as gifts to impress girls. Easily impressed girls, granted, but impressed nonetheless. The Professor has more than a few conquests under the belt as a consequence of drinking lots and lots of beer and making bottle top motorbikes. At least that’s how I remember it. Certainly the bit about drinking beer.

I even had a mini sub collection of motorbikes that were made for special occasions or in special circumstances. There were New Years Eve bikes, Cup Day bikes, birthday bikes and Christmas bikes. There was one I made sitting on top of Uluru – it was Ayres Rock back then - and one I made in hospital on that same trip after knocking myself out jumping a pool fence on New Years Eve in 83. Happy days. Happy days.

What follows is a step by step instructional on the fine yet fading art of bottle top motorbikes.

Find four beers with olden days bottle tops. Use a suitable time machine or matter transporter and set coordinates for around 1980. Alternatively, Amstel (Holland) and Mac’s (NZ) beers have them in the present as do Bundaberg Ginger Beer. But beware, ginger beer is not beer made for redheads and it is also not like real beer. Dan Murphy’s and Coles Liquorland should have one or the other.

Open the first stubby. Drink contents. If you have bought cans instead of stubbies, sit in the corner, give yourself an uppercut and start again.

The first section to make is the seat and handle bar assembly. Carefully wiggle the side bits off each side taking care not to tear off any finger skin and then even more carefully bend the circular pull tab bit into itself and back a few times until it snaps at the furtherest point from the other bit, you know, away from the body of the tab at the far end. Not near the body of the tab. Oh, stuff it, here’s some pictures.

Sorry to give you the hardest part first. You’ll see why in a second.

Open second stubby. Drink. Do the same thing you did with the last one – the ring pull, not the stubby - but this time squeeze the ring bit and leave it squished in a bendy-bow kind of shape. And don’t rip off the tabs this time. Just open them out to form the front and rear mudguards. Wrap this whole bit around the centre of the first bit until it looks like a petrol tank and a kickstand. Yeah, yeah here’s a picture.

STEP THREE. Can you guess? Yep, that’s right. Open stubby ... da-dah da-dah. But there’s a catch, smarty pants. The last section is the wheel so go ahead and rip into the last stubby and make two. Wheels. Wrap the tab around the mudguards and gently push the ring part into the rounded other part. Well done. With care and a little luck it should look something like this;

and if you weren’t concentrating it might look like this;

and if you got really frustrated or you drank all the stubbies first and then tried the assembly it might look just a little like this;

and if, at step one, you bought cans instead of stubbies, try your hand at this;

I thought about getting a video instruction guide made and whacking it on to You Tube but I just reckon there’s enough crap on that thing already without me adding to it. Besides, it’d probably make me more famous than the bloke who came third on the fifth season of Big Brother – Shannon Noll? – and then I’d never have time to write this drivel for you blokes and blokettes.

Prof. Pilsner.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Anniversary Beer

Mrs Pilsner and I recently celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary and I expect that you would like to know how the good Professor treated his beloved lady Professor. I also expect that the comments box at the end of this post will feature many old gags about marriage and how criminals don’t get as many years for murder etc so bring ‘em on!

As to the celebration, Mrs Pilsner arranged for an overnight stay at one of Melbourne’s nicest hotels so I thought I’d stay there as well. It was my role to source and book the restaurant side of things. A visit to the Queen Victoria Market on the way home to pick up the kids has become something of a closing treat when we mark this special occasion, so day two was pretty much sorted for us.

Now, the only problem with choosing a restaurant in Melbourne is just that. Choice. Lots of choices. Too many choices. You could get your mate to fire you out of a cannon aimed out of your hotel window and you would land in a restaurant. Get him to make sure that the window is open first. And there’s a fair chance that you would land in a great restaurant. Or a bar with a terrific beer list. Or a restaurant with a great beer list. Either way, you win. And of all the problems you could have in life, an oversupply of great restaurants is pretty low on the ‘I wish to speak to someone in charge’ list of bothers.

There are so many more places in the city now that are taking the chance to branch out and serve a range of beers that would have been unheard of even a handful of years back. Bars and poky little holes-in-the-wall and hidden gems up lonely laneways are all welcoming a new breed of beer drinker – and not the ‘beer toffs’ (or tugs) and the elbow patched, bearded trainspotters like some beer cultures attract, but corporate types, students, party-down-ers, young and old, all looking for something different.

We wandered for a bit, dodging beggars, scammers and dickheads among the surging throng, until we found ourselves at Mrs Parma’s, a place I had on my radar for checking out. A nice enough place and friendly, which is always a good start. They pride themselves on being a supporter of Victorian micros and I was lucky enough to be kept happy with a 2 brothers ‘Rusty’ (a very quaffable Belgian style pale ale) and a Beechworth Celtic Red while Mrs Pilsner was kept happy with a glass of house bubbles and a packet of mixed nuts. A good selection of tap and bottle beers for a place that primarily supports those who love parmagianas done four hundred and thirty different ways and good on ‘em for getting some craft beers out there.

In the short time we were there I saw plenty of ‘Crownie and VB’ types cautiously ordering something a bit different. Every little bit helps and if these guys don’t go down in a screaming heap from trying a Wheat Beer instead of a Wife Beater* then that’s a good thing. They might just tell a mate and before you know it, the Good Beer World grows a bit bigger.

Leaving the brightish lights of Mrs Parma’s we headed back to the hotel restaurant. I figured that if the hotel was good enough to stay in, it should be good enough to eat in as well. The hotel is described as ‘grand’ and although I have no idea what a hotel has to do to be ‘grand’ other than be old, I can say that it was nice to be treated ‘grandly’ just for a night. The menu was varied and interesting and befitting a top class foodery and the wine list was not only extensive – about eight pages of extensive – but all encompassing of styles, regions and price tags. I couldn’t wait to see the beer list.

To say I was deflated would be to suggest that the night was spoiled, and it certainly wasn’t, but the food and wine offerings kind of led me to anticipate a range of beers which would include at least a few names I hadn’t yet experienced. The list was standard offerings of the sort you’d see in any place that put no thought about the beer list other than making sure there was at least one light beer. VB, Crown Lager, Boag’s Premium, Cascade, Stella Artois, Heineken and Corona – lagers all and loved by many – were joined by Guinness and Chimay as the token ‘ales’. And on a night so cold you didn’t want to lick a lamp post, a warm ale was what I wanted. An extensive selection of the same beer spelled different ways was not what such a refined and elegant dining room deserved.

Fortunately, hidden in amongst the ordinary was a single craft beer – well craft like – an all malt lager from Western Australia which hails from the same mega-brewerys’ portfolio from which all the other offerings were plucked and I guess that this is the reason it found its way on to the list. Having kicked the beer fridge, I have to say that a good beer, well poured by a friendly and attentive server made up for any disappointment I might have felt. Truth be known, I was more surprised than disappointed and the meal was amazingly good and well received.

We headed off next morning to the market and I immediately sought an antidote to my beer malaise at Sword’s Select. A couple of Bridge Road Brewer’s Pale Ales, a Baron’s ESB, some Moo Brew and a Bellarine Bitter and I was back on track! I should point out that I bought them, don’t want it to sound like I DRANK them. Straight away.

Already planning for next year’s anniversary dinner and I might START with the beer list first and choose the restaurant from there!

Happy anniversary, darling. Here’s to the next 17 years! Just let me see if I can find a nice beer to toast with ... should be a nice one here somewhere.

Prof. Pilsner

*Yeah, I know, fancy putting a Wife Beater reference in a post about ya’ 17th wedding anniversary but I refer, of course, to the colloquial term for a bog-standard mainstream lager preferred in some places by those who tend to drink to many in a session. In Victoria, a Wife Beater is a VB, in Queensland it’s a XXXX, in the UK it’s Stella Artois and in Adelaide they don’t have one ‘cos they all gay! Just kiddin’. It’s West End.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

So which is it?

Had a bit of a flashback the other day as I was blogging along. Last year I posted a bit called ‘Beer Myths’ (18/05/07) where we discussed washing your beer glasses and we looked at an issue that seems to refuse to die. Should you wash beer glasses using detergent? I stumbled across this post on a now long neglected blog;

“I was round my parents house the other day and my father and I where enjoying some of his home brew straight from the keg when my mother decided our glasses needed washing. I was rather annoyed to see that she was washing them with soap, as I have always been told that soap is the devil of beer glasses.

Soap can leave a film on the glass (even if you cannot see it) and can distort the flavor of the beer as well as reducing the head. I think we have all been in a bar or restaurant somewhere were the beer has virtually no head and looks filmy around the edges, this of course would be the place washing the glasses in soap. This includes all popular detergents and washing up liquids, don’t listen to anyone who tells you that some forms of soap are good for beer glasses - they are not.”

I happened upon this post and I realised that some myths just refuse to die. I’m not having a go at the author as, firstly, his site seems untouched for more than a year so it may not be corrected and secondly, it’s just an opinion. We all know about them. But, for the record, here is my opinion.

Hops, that most amazingly versatile little bud which gives our beer bitterness, flavour, aroma and preservative, is an oily substance in beer. As such it can leave an oily film on the empty glass, particularly once it dries. It will attract dirt and dust and stay there. This will not just wash off with water and will affect the next beer poured into it. Detergent, and there are plenty of commercial and industry specific types as well as domestic versions, is needed to remove this deposit from the glass and as long as the detergent is removed by proper rinsing the glass is then ‘beer clean’.

“The best method that I use for cleaning my beer glasses is simply and natural… water. After you finish using your glass simply rinse it out well in warm water making sure it is completely clean, it is best to rinse out immediately after drinking as this will reduce things sticking to the glass. Now just let sit and dry, or get a clean (must be clean) towel and dry off your glass. If you keep to this simple method you should always have a nice clean beer glass with no ‘extras’ in it.”

Yeah, water is OK and warm is better, but, after twenty years in the caper – and I’ve washed a few beer glasses – I’ll go for the detergent every time. Water just won’t get it. And if you like to drink with chicks (and who among us doesn’t?) take extra care as lipstick is a beer glass killer. And even worse? Smoke. Nicotine oils are an absolute head killer when it comes to beer. And smokes themselves have been a pain to bar staff everywhere for years!

Put as simply as I can, here it is; at home, rinse your glass as soon as you can after downing the last of your chosen brew. Cold tap water is fine. When you next do the dishes (by hand in the sink, not in the evil dishwasher, you know, cos of Global Warming {WOOOOOO!!! We’re all going to DIIIEEEEE!!} OK?), wash your glass first, before any dishes that might have last nights gravy stains and those unidentifiable bits left on the kids plates and use a bottle brush or cleanish wipe of some sort. Then rinse it in first warm then cool water until the water ‘sheets’ off the sides of the inside of the glass. Set aside and dry with a clean towel. Simple. If you are in a commercial bar, wait till tray is full, put tray in glasswasher, press ‘GO’ button and continue serving beers to punters.

So, make sure your glass is clean and your beer will have every chance of tasting just the way the brewer intended. Water and elbow grease will make it clean – of a sort – but detergent, rinsing and drying properly will make it beer clean.

“And keep you eye out on your mom!”

No, apologise to her; she was on the right track!

Prof. Pilsner

Monday, August 11, 2008

It’s OK, problem solved!

After posting last week about the imminent death of the traditional British pub, I wake this morning to the morning paper and the news that British beer makes a comeback" “”. Now that’s a turnaround that Lazarus would be proud of!

It seems that while the traditional pub may be in strife the traditional pint may be surging ahead. The report states that the global credit crunch and the soaring cost of living are making the drinker think more carefully when choosing his drink and that the long reign of mass produced lagers of international brewing giants may be coming to an end at the hands of better flavoured brews from smaller producers. As has been the case in Australia for some years now, less beer is being drunk, but what is being drunk is better.

“As people drink less beer than they used to, they also look for better, more flavoured beers. People are turning back to ales now,” said Fuller’s brand manager, David Spencer. Fuller’s claims to be London’s last remaining traditional family brewer. Their volume actually increased last year as the overall beer market copped a fairly savage decline. They have brewed on the same site for more than 350 years which is a fairly impressive statistic, especially to Australians who don’t have buildings of more than 200 odd years old. I am assuming that they have modernised their equipment in the ensuing centuries.

Of course, as it did around the globe, lager took over as the mainstream beer as it was of a more consistent quality, appealed more to women and those who liked a less ‘beery’ flavour and travelled better than its cask-contained beer brother. But as the beer world got larger and more global, the choice seems to have got smaller with different brands of essentially the same stuff and ale, and particularly real ale, has taken the opportunity to grab a renewed foothold into the market. Taste and flavour seem to be making a comeback.

Interestingly, this piece also cites Global Warming (WOOOOOOOOO!!! We’re al going to DIIIIEE!!!!) as a reason for the upturn as more punters look to source locally produced beers as they become more ‘environmentally conscious’. Hmmm.

The story also gives a shout out to the Great British Beer Festival held last week in West London which featured 450 different traditional beers – now THAT’S a beer festival! Also good to see the stats showing that the UK now boasts 600 microbreweries and 35 family brewers which suggest that, if they keep to the path, the future of decent beer is assured for future generations.

Prof. Pilsner

P.S. I hope that the pictures I chose for this post are more ‘authentic’ than the ones I was ‘tricked’ into using for the last post!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Staggering research

Staggering research is under way to try to stop drunks falling victim to violence. This is the first line of a piece featuring in the Melbourne Herald Sun and it had me thinking that the ‘staggering’ referred to the enormity of the research or the massive cost of the research or the humungous intellect of the eminent scientists conducting the study. But, no, it is a bit of research looking at staggering. As in the wobbly walk conducted by people when they have been out on a lager frenzy.

This piece of research was conduced by a Welsh team (I can’t help thinking of Daffyd from ‘Little Britain’ in a white vinyl lab coat with the arse cheeks cut out) to produce a mathematical model that they hope will cut down alcohol related harm that drunks tend to bring on themselves.

Maths and being pissed? Hmmm. The best bit of this piece was not the fact that someone thought it necessary to calculate the probability of a pissed idiot walking into either a lamp post, another pissed idiot or his own shadow, but the unexpected facts that they uncovered.

First, temperatures of -6C and torrential rain at 3am were said to contribute to the difficulty of data collection. Fair enough, though not surprising for Wales at that time of year? Funnier still was the quote from the leader of the research operation, Dr Simon Moore who said, “The biggest problem with surveying drunks is that alcohol seems to make some people think they are the funniest people on earth.” And funnier still, ... “and that we, the surveyors, would be very interested in hearing all their really interesting stories.”

Researchers also fond that the drunker people were, the more willing they were to take part in the survey! A lesson there for telemarketers, Jehovah’s Witnesses and those people who stop you to ask market research questions about washing powder at shopping centres when you’ve got fourteen shopping bags, three kids and a deadline hanging off you.

The sober people were, not surprisingly, more interested in getting to the pub!

And the results? Well, strap yourselves in blokes, this is groundbreaking stuff! A blood alcohol reading of .22% was the point at which the ‘staggers’ set in. Good. Around 25% of those surveyed had found their way to this level. It found that sober pedestrians moved in an orderly ‘follow the leader’ pattern where pissed idiots movements were, wait for it, “more unpredictable” !!!!

Further, when 20% of the foot traffic was pissed idiots the flow was slowed by 9%. When EVERYBODY in the crowd was stonkered the traffic slowed by an ‘irritating’ 38%. But I guess if they were all pissed, nobody would notic. At least I’m sure nobody was able to get out a calculator and determine whether they were above or below industry standards.

They could have saved themselves, and us, a lot of time by A) Not stating the obvious, B) Staying indoors and looking out at pissed idiots, C) Making up all the numbers and percentages, we still would have been impressed and D) Suggesting that the best way to prevent injury to pissed idiots was to make all the lampposts, dustbins and footpaths out of the stuff they make Nerf balls from.

Staggering research

Prof. Pilsner

Three chips or a walk to the Pub

Light beer, low carb beer, extra filtered and low calorie. It’s all beer but it is beer engineered for a sale more than for a sip.

Without going into all the technical and chemical engineering malarkey about how yeast and enzymes and malt and fermentables all combine and interact to become wonderful lovely beer, I will just say that beer ‘works’ at certain temperatures and in certain ways to come up with a beer tasting liquid of around 5% alcohol by volume and around 9-12% carbohydrates if left alone. Different malts, hops, yeasts and water can affect the taste profile, but the alcohol and carb levels kinda stay consistent.

If you want a low alcohol or low carb drop, you need to mess with the basic elements and the processes in a laboratory type setting by boffins in white coats with no friends and beer is all about friends so what’s the point? Really?

I have researched and analysed all the guff and whatnot surrounding carbs and beer and am compiling a very comprehensive post once I have fact checked it all. Stay tuned.

I will leave you all with this to ponder. If a full strength, craft brewed beer contains around 15 grams of carbs per stubby, and 100 grams of salt and vinegar chips contains about 67 grams of carbs, and low carb beer contains about a third of the carbs of regular beer, then the difference is about three chips. Or, cop the carbs and go for a walk to the pub or the bottle’oh instead of driving and the carbs are gone. Maybe we beer drinkers could outdo the greenies and the tree huggers and start a ‘carb-offset’ program?

There are plenty of very good beers going around at the minute and if you get out somewhere nice and try one you just might surprise yourself. Go on, find a new ‘favourite’.

Drink low carb beer if you like the taste, but don’t drink it because it is ‘good for you’. Then the marketing men get to win. Those bastards.

Prof. Pilsner

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bud Gorrrrn

Some world beer news in recent weeks has been the acquisition of Anheuser-Busch by InBev. A-B is the US brewing giant responsible for inflicting Budweiser on the world and InBev is the Belgian based even gianter operation responsible for buying plenty of other large beer brands and brewing concerns around the world and was the second biggest brewer in the whole wide world behind London based SabMiller. Now it is the biggest.

The people reading this takeover news fall loosely into three groups;

Those who are furious that a great American icon business is no more,
Those who think A-B has got a good dose of Beer Karma and,
Those who couldn’t care less.

In Australia a fourth group exists. Those who were unaware that Budweiser was a beverage containing beer.

I have been following the lobby groups and online petitions and letters to anybody who cares in the lead up to the sale and was fascinated by the loyalty shown to the brand. And the angst in the weeks since the sale shows just how parochial some drinkers can be about ‘their brew’ and how immune to the realities of business they can be at the same time.

Bud has never been especially big here in Australia (thankfully) and so we read of its ‘demise’ more with a passing interest than any real concern. Readers of this blog would have followed the story concerning the ongoing stoush between A-B and Budvar over the use of the term ‘budwieser’ but many would be unaware of this ongoing bidding war for the brewer of ‘The King of Beers’. Beer bloggers have reported on the various reactions and it seems that the ‘real’ beer folk have little if any sympathy for the ‘King’s’ downfall.

The way I see it, there are more than enough over processed, watery, mass produced mainstream swilling lagers and who owns them is the same thing as knowing who chose the toilet paper on the Titanic – the result doesn’t alter. Maybe some of the disgruntled Bud loyalists will switch to good craft brewed beer instead and the real beer world will be a little more populated.

Some good articles on the A-B InBev merger can be found here.

The Rise and Fall of an American beer
In Bev buys A-B

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

New ‘Magic Pissed Idiot Detectors’ introduced

The Victorian State government has been busy lately in its quest to rid the streets of booze-fuelled mayhem. You may recall my post outlining the marvellous 2am lockout program which was designed to avoid the real social problems of irresponsible drinking by drafting a set of ridiculous guidelines which venues were generally exempt from following if they asked nicely not to. Well, the booze boffins have come up with an even better system to reduce the chances of drunks getting up to mischief.

Details are sketchy at this stage but it seems that some sort of ‘pissed idiot’ detector has been developed. The news story this morning reports that police “will be given the power to ban drunks ... from nightclub districts for up to one year under new tough-on-crime laws”. Now, it’s fairly simple to detect seriously pissed idiot from a distance, but how do you then ‘re-detect’ him or her over the next twelve months? Why, with some kind of hi-tech PI detector!

“To control unruly party-goers or law breakers ... Director of Liquor Licensing ... can declare that individuals be subject to bans of between 24 hours and a year”. So, we are going to see either a wall of police and security permanently positioned around the ‘nightclub districts’ in three regional areas and three inner suburban areas or, police will have access to detectors of some kind to determine the identity of previous offenders once they are caught.

Would’ve thought a good old fashioned ‘talking to’ by a burly walloper in blue would achieve better results much more efficiently and economically. A seasoned copper can spot trouble a mile off and a good seasoned copper can deflect trouble with a stern glare or a stern word or a stern phone-booking ... oops, we don’t go there no more, but, you get the drift? Most idiots play up because there is no apparent disincentive and no clear visible presence of punishment.

Instead of investing in Pissed Idiot Detection Technology let’s just get on with some community protection from the people we USED to entrust this job to. Until the do-gooding civil libertarians and incompetent government ministers took over the joint.

Prof. Pilsner

Monday, August 4, 2008

Beers Aplenty!

Have just returned from a trip to Cloudwine Cellars again and have spent the week trying out some beers that I would not otherwise consider myself a fan of. But it's funny how a well crafted example of an 'out there' beer can not only change your perception of the style but can also tempt you into becoming a follower!

From Mussell Stouts and Honey Porters to strong ales and Lambics, from Scotch ales and super hoppy IPAs, from dark ales and ambers to Rose gambrinus, I have jumped in with both feet and several different styled glasses to broaden my beer experince and train my taste buds to detect new and interesting flavours, textures and aromas.

I hope to condense my experiences into a palatable post in the next few weeks as the sampling continues. Wish me luck!


Prof. Pilsner

Friday, August 1, 2008

Say it ain’t so ...

A bit of news that has crept slowly into the papers over the last couple of days concerns the impending death of the British pub. A tad premature, I hope, although it is interesting to read that the ‘cause of death’ is eerily similar to the dark omens that have been trotted out in Australia over recent years when predicting the demise of the same institution over here.

So as not to be found guilty of the heinous crime of overstating the point, I should note that the stories refer in general to the ‘traditional British pub’ being in peril. I say, as an observer; ‘Is there any other kind?’ The fact that news articles featuring the words ‘pub’ and ‘peril’ in the same sentence suggests our urgent attention is required.

The reasons stated for the dip in sales of beer in pubs are many including smoking bans, rising taxes and competition from supermarket sales which have combined to result in the lowest sales figures since the Great Depression. Restaurants in Victoria banned smoking some six or seven (?) years ago and the pubs and bars were added in 2006. Other states have various laws regarding smoking with New South Wales joining the club last year.

What they all have in common is the wailing and gnashing of teeth from both smokers and operators warning of the imminent end to life as we know it. In most cases a good operator will prevail – because they adapt and overcome, they dig in and they tighten the belt and they get on with the job. Poor operators can happily use a new law to shift the blame for their own business shortcomings.

I guess that ‘pub culture’ in Australia is a little different to that in The Old Dart because I am puzzled by the threat from supermarket sales to the British pub. I see the ‘take away’ option as a distinctly different beast to the pub occasion. I buy plenty of beer – not so much from the supermarket, but certainly from supermarket owned outlets – for the purpose of enjoying at home or at a friends’ house and I go to a pub to primarily share a very different experience. I can’t say that I ‘do’ one at the expense of the other. The checkout chick at the supermarket definitely does not share with me the same filthy jokes and banter that the barman does.

Some figures to ponder. In British pubs staff are pulling around 14 million pints a day (Stonch, I have a new found respect for your talents!) which is 1.6 million down on last year and 7 million down on the peak in 1979. That’s some serious piss! In addition (or should that be subtraction) 1,400 pubs pulled the pin on their business last year. I would love to know if this is a result of the brewery tied houses gaining a price advantage over the smaller independents or whether the general economic condition is the real culprit.

Tax is tax is tax and this is one area that needs to be addressed in every beer drinking country on the globe and the sooner politicians world wide realise that happy drinkers make for a happy nation and should not be treated as happy little cash cows! Lay off, already!

I will have to get our London correspondent, The Bear, to give our readers an update. Hopefully his investigations will prove that reports of the death of the British pub are greatly exaggerated.

Prof. Pilsner.

Here’s the story – British pubs in peril

Why is beer like life?

I was pondering nothing in particular the other day when some erratic thoughts began circulating around the old think box. I know I like beer; drinking it, writing about it, sharing knowledge about it, brewing it, talking with mates about it, pouring it, serving it, choosing and paying for it and even just thinking about it. But what is it about the amber nectar that can generate such esoteric musings? Or generate words like esoteric? Or musings?

Perhaps part of the answer lies in the fact that we sometimes associate beer with thoughts of our forefathers and this leads to a kind of subconscious patriotism. This is probably relevant to Australians as our history is short enough for us to be able to remember all the good bits and because we have a history relatively unblemished by civil unrest or lunatic religious disagreements. We are the fortunate sons of men and women who came or were sent to this land in order to begin anew and not the bastard offspring of warring tribes or God bothering, silly helmet wearing Imperialist snail eaters or goat throwers. Well, that’s my take on it, anyway. Read your history books for more accurate information or visit your local library.

Our thoughts sway between a safe and comforting knowledge that our beer reflects our country’s ideals – egalitarianism*, a fair go and the right to support Collingwood or Manly or the Maroons if you must and an admiration for those folk who forged this great nation under testing and trying conditions. When we raise a glass, we ‘dips our lids’ to the pioneers and the trendsetters and the adventurers and the dreamers who shook their heads at the inequities and injustices in their homelands and said ‘Get Stuffed’ to the bullyboys and political retreads and social engineers of the day and pulled up stumps for an unknown and uncertain future in a country on the bottom of the globe. Good work all of you. Glad you chose the wide brown land. I’ll raise a glass to you.

Our beer delight is also tied into our culture in ways that I don’t think some foreigners understand. Our brewing forefathers had to overcome severe difficulties just to make a drinkable beer. Lack of suitable ingredients, inhospitable climate with no refrigeration and a First Fleet comprising dozens of useless tradespeople but no one who could breed stock or grow crops like barley or hops has led us to think fondly of our ancestors. We should have become more appreciative of the diversity and overall quality of the beer we drink today. And we can be thankful for the fact that we can enjoy beers from all over the country and not be restricted to just local or regional specialties.

And, at its very essence, is this final point. Beer bonds in ways that wine and lolly water cannot. Since the halcyon days of the outback shearer who strode boldly up to the bar in a dusty country pub, slammed his pay cheque down and announced; “Who wants a beer?”, the worth of a man and the respect that his fellows have for him, is linked to the shout. The underlying principle that you are worthy of sharing a beer with. The shout, or the ‘School’ is at the very core of our national beer identity. Its conventions and obligations are bounding and unbreakable, its value incalculable and its ability to overcome all obstacles.

My beer, your beer, our beer. “Beerum, Beeres, Beerest.”

I think the shout just ordered itself another post of its own.


Prof. Pilsner

*Egalitarianism - Another big word which really just means everyone is essentially equal and equally worthy of sharing a beer with. We are all the same wether we are a Bruce or a Bertram, a Shags or a Sharon, a Papadopoulos or a Prentice-Hall. It is also accepted that, while we all start out equal, some are able to make more of their lot in life and that some will turn into dickheads regardless. It is still up to you and not the Country’s fault.