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.


Anonymous said...

17 years!

Congratulations from the Lagers, we hope you had a great night.

Chela said...

Happy Aniversary from Spain

It's my first comment here but I've been reading you for a pretty while ago. Congratz for your blog it's really good to have a beer prespective from Down Under.Cheers

Haya Salud,Amigos

Beer Blokes said...

Cheers, Chela
Thanks for your good wishes! Good to see the beer blog world has reached as far as Spain and beyond. In tribute, I will go out tomorrow and seek out a Spanish beer to toast your health! I know where I can get Estrella Damm (I know 'estrella' means 'star' but what is a Damm?) and I have tried one other Spanish brew, but not a lot of choice here.
Prof. Pilsner

Chela said...

Hi there Prof., Damm it's just the Alsacian surname of one of the brewery's founder. Back in 1876 Agustus Kuentzmann and Joseph Damm landed in Catalonia from his homeland up north in Alsacia just to enjoy a better life by the Mediterranean and to found one of the first breweries in Spain. If you got the chance ask the guy who sells Estrella it if he can get you Voll-Damm the flagship of Damm and probably the most interesting beer in the bland lager panorama we have here.

In return I'll fill my glass with a Cooper's Stout and a Cooper's Sparkling Ale to toast your Health back, those are the aussie beers I like best from those I've tried here in Spain so far (Being Forster's the other alternative hehehe)

Cheers/Haya Salud