Friday, August 1, 2008

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.

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