Sunday, November 30, 2008

Farcebook strikes back

I don’t do Facebook. Never have. I don’t have anything against people who do, it’s just not me. I would just rather drink with real friends than count pretend ones. I’m possibly just outside the age demographic that really ‘gets it’ and finds it rewarding.

I work in restaurants. Have for a while. Love the trade, love the people factor and the banter and the pace and the vibe and all those things that set the hospitality industry aside from so many other careers. About the worst thing you can do to really piss me off is to D&D – dine and dash – ‘do a runner’, ‘bail on the bill’, basically break the law by ordering and eating and drinking and then committing common theft by not paying the bill. That really pisses me off. It’s hard enough to make a dollar at the best of times without dirty toe rags scarpering on you.

So it tickled me a bit to hear the story of the Southgate restaurant which had this disrespect visited upon them recently. A group of five young diners requested a table for dinner after a few drinks at the bar. They ordered confidently from the menu, drank fine wines and, after dessert popped out for a smoke from which none of them returned. They left a bitter taste in the mouth of the owner. They also left a bill for $520. They also left a clue. Dickheads.

When the group arrived, the boss recalled a conversation between one of the soon-to-be-bill dodgers and a staff member concerning a staff member not on duty that night. The dickhead left his name for the waiter. The owner fired up the laptop and entered the name into Facebook and there was the little scrote, pictured with his girlfriend, a fellow scrota-ette and member of the dine and dash party! The Facebook page also listed his place of employment – a neighbouring Southgate restaurant. Not just a filthy disrespectful tea-leaf, but thieving from his own ‘family’!!! How very dare he!!

The owner popped into his neighbours place and related the story. The fellow business owner returned to the scene of the crime within hours with the head dickhead in tow. The now less-than-smug bloke paid the bill in full plus a generous tip. Then he left and then his boss gave him the arse. Nice work, and quick, too!

Interesting to see if he updates his Facebook page to include this story.

I still don’t like Facebook.

Prof. Pilsner

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Metro or Retro?

Once upon a time there were blokes. Just blokes. They all went out to work and earned the wage for the upkeep of their family, which tended to consist of a woman for a wife and a couple of kids who looked pretty much like one or both parents. They enjoyed sport and they drank beer. Occasionally they went off to war to fight for their freedoms and sometimes they fixed the car on the weekend after mowing the lawn. They were pretty easy to spot and they all looked and sounded kinda the same.

It’s all different now.

Not only can being a bloke mean many different things, but what defines being a bloke is ever changing as well. It is harder to ‘spot’ a bloke in a crowd. They can all be blokes but look completely different. And to confuse things even further, blokes have different ‘tags’ by which they can be identified. And I don’t mean the ‘tags’ on their beers, though this can often be a good method for spotting real beer drinkers as well as posers, poindexters and poofters.

One day we discovered that there was a thing known as a ‘Metrosexual’. I think some of them used to be blokes and some of them still are blokes but don’t want to look like blokes. But they are still blokes. They tend to want to come across as strong and manly but use make-up and stuff. They call it ‘cleanser’ and ‘toner’ and ‘moisturiser’, but it’s make-up. They also exfoliate, apparently. I don’t know what that is, but I think it’s something much more poofy than just shaving. They drink beer, but only just. They sip Coronas and Miller Chill and cheap beer with lemon disinfectant in it. Mostly, though, they drink white wine with names that are easy to say in a poncy voice like “Pee-Noh Greee” and “Sor-ving-nyon Blonk”or “Mos-Kartoh”. They are fairly easy to spot because they either look like David Beckham or Ian Thorpe or they are David Beckham and Ian Thorpe.

But today we are seeing a return to the more traditional bloke here in Australia. While some of the weaker ones have strayed from the flock and toyed with ‘product’ and ‘shopping’, most blokes stayed true and kept the faith. He wants kids but spends too much time talking to women friends about Global Warming and carbon footprints instead of keeping the conversation simple and to the point – “How about a root?” Real women like real men. Plus, the girls discovered that while it was cool for a while to hang out with metrosexuals, it’s no good when they use more make-up than them and have bigger purses. Yes, boys, they are purses, not guy-satchels or man-bags.

Welcome the Age of the Retrosexual. He hates shopping and buys clothes when his wife drags him suffering to the shops. He cooks meat on the BBQ with flame and smoke and doesn’t make his mates remove their shoes before they come inside. He likes whatever it is that he is wearing because it is comfortable. His toothbrush and razor occupy a small piece of real estate in the vanity cupboard. He spends time with his kids or with women with whom he has a chance of practising to make kids. He doesn’t mind having his mates take the piss out of him for his choice of music or the car he drives and he gives as good as he gets. It’s all fun and we’re all mates.

David Beckham thought he could make the men of the world think that wearing a sarong was cool. He was wrong. ‘Tool’, not cool.

Prof. Pilsner


I had a comment posted a week back seeking counsel on an important and delicate issue;

Dear Professor,

I’m getting married next month and I must choose between having Beck’s or James Boag’s Premium as the wedding beer.

Any thoughts?

Thank You, Jason the Architect.

Jason is both blessed and cursed in the same way that many of his predecessors were sublimely oblivious. Going back ten and twenty years when most of our crew were getting hitched, not only were we not given a choice but we didn’t realise that there was a choice. Well, apart from one.

At a wedding you had VB as the table beer in 750ml longnecks and the bridal party had Crown Lagers – sorry, Crownies – during the photo session and in the back room while the guests were being seated. We never drank anything much other than VB and that was just the way it was.

Today the bride and groom are more likely to be offered a choice but for many the choice will be ‘Boring Mainstream Lager A’ or ‘Boring Mainstream Lager B’ or, in Jason’s case ‘Mainstream Lager A’ or ‘Mainstream Lager But Imported A’.

It got me to thinking about what factors come into play when choosing a beer and what that choice says about you and and how you feel about your guests. I suggested to Jason that careful consideration needed to be given as to what your choice of beer says to your guests about what you think of them. So many guests today will be armed with the knowledge that there is more to beer than standard golden mainstream lagers and who know that there is not really a difference between Carlton Draught and Toohey’s New other than the state of origin.

The reality is that most guests will not see a mainstream beer on their table as a slight by you, but that would not have made for a very interesting post, so let’s just pretend that they will all assume that they have offended your family name if they were to be served Carlton Cold. By the way, please, please, please don’t serve Carlton Cold. Even as a joke.

So what does Beck’s ‘say’ to your guests and what is Mr Boag’s reply? The import probably hints at certain perceived levels of quality. Plus, every man and his dog have seen their series of TV advertisements on high rotation lately and will at least know the brand, unlike the wedding guests of a decade back. (That’s a rather sad realisation isn’t it?)

The Beck’s beer with its precision German engineering and inoffensive profile suggests that; “Your company on our special day is thought of highly, we value your friendship and trust you all enough that you will not buy us cheap and shitty gifts from shops whose names end in ‘R US’ or ‘A-RAMA’, that this is our special day and we choose to share it with you even if we think your partner is a bit dodgy and we are betting your relationship won’t see Christmas and that we wish for you to be a part of our lives when we are married”.

James Boag’s Premium Lager is a local version, clean and crisp, easy drinking without being bland – interesting enough to be enjoyable to those with a bit of beer nous but not too ‘boutique’ to make the semi-bogans wish they’d smuggled in some VBs under the corduroy sports jacket that they consider falls well within the definition of ‘Lounge Suit’. It says pretty much exactly the same as what the Beck’s says, but says ‘mate’ at the end.

Prof. Pilsner

Friday, November 28, 2008

The search is over but the journey begins

For those new to this blog, or those who only read the bits that have boobies in them, here is an update on my quest for the holy ale.

Okay, it’s not really a quest as such and it’s not really the holy ale but it has been something of a journey for me over the last year. It is really just another beer but to me it represents so much more. It is a craft beer from a US brewery that was one who helped to lead the way for the craft beer scene back in the 80’s. You remember the 80’s? Leg warmers, real pro wrestling and electronic pop music?

The beer is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and it first ‘batched’ on November 15 1980. The fact that this beer has a birthday is significant – like pilsner which was ‘born’ on October 5 1842 – pretty cool to know when the beer was first poured. For me it’s a nice feeling to know a bit about the origins of a beer and certainly to know that it was crafted and not just pumped in and spat out of a lab by a computer. I don’t trust computers and I certainly don’t trust computers that don’t drink beer.

Like many craft brewers, Sierra Nevada began as a homebrewing operation which outgrew the kitchen, then the shed and then became a brewery with second hand and recycled equipment. Sticking to traditional and natural processes and committed to using only quality ingredients, the small brewery became a bigger one and a bigger one again until it just kind of morphed into something of an empire with restaurant and a 350 live music beer hall with all the bells, whistles and fine beers. To pop all that into print in just under a paragraph makes it sound like an overnight success, and this piece cannot do justice to the passion for real craft beer that Ken Grossman and his team have shown in building the business without sacrificing the beer.

My interest in the SN Pale Ale stems from reading about and speaking to craft brewers in Australia and finding that, for many of them, this beer was their “Sgt Peppers” or their “Nevermind The Bollocks” albums (remember albums?) the thing that made them stop in their tracks and rethink what beer could be. For some it was the inspiration to take their own home brewing to the next level, for others it was a kind of benchmark for the beers that they would brew. Remember Little Creatures first entrance into the market – all of a sudden the game had changed and hops were not just something that Granny stuffed a pillow with to ward off nightmares. Beer could now rise to new heights and be enjoyed more with food and your tongue could be made to dance and your senses could be enhanced by the addition of hops to beer!! Amazing!!

So, I had to try this beer and, for years I was consigned to thinking that I would need to mortgage the house and sell at least one of the girls to afford the trip across the waves in order to find the source of this beery inspiration. And the more I couldn’t get it, the more I wanted it, of course. And the more I wanted it, the more worried I could become that when I did get it, it would disappoint. And that would have been a lose/lose situation and that’s just not a beer kind of thing. Or a Beer Bloke kind of thing.

Jump ahead to a month or so back and I found a supply. It was on the stock list at Cloudwine Cellars and in the fridge at The Local Taphouse and my journey was nearing a conclusion. That in itself was a bit disappointing. But not for long, as I got out to Cloudwine a day too late and missed out. I was out at the Taphouse the following week with some so-called friends who were well aware of my fruitless search thus far. We had been at an Ale Stars meeting and had just polished off several samples of German and Viennese celebration beers – Festbiers and Oktoberfest Wheats and a Rauchbier –so the palate had been well and truly sensitized to strong rich beers. I decided the SNPA would need to wait for another day as I didn’t feel the occasion or my tastebuds could do it real justice. No, I had to have it as a ‘first up’ not as a chaser.

So these bastards buy one and sit down in front of me, knowing that I now won’t touch it. You very, very bastards! How very dare you. I stayed strong and picked the glass up every minute or so just to take in the colour and the aroma. Seems a little weird looking back, to have been seen sitting at a bar sniffing another blokes’ beer. That’s why we don’t bring our wives to the pub.

Anyway, last week I finally snaffled the last two bottles from Cloudwine – thanks, Chris – and they have spent the last few days chilling in the fridge before their upgrade to the Beer Crisper. I’m on call for the local State Emergency Service this week so it will need to wait another few days yet. But we’ve come this far and I reckon we can sit out another week.

I’ve heard about it, I’ve read about it and researched it, I’ve seen it, I’ve smelled it and now I have held it ....

Won’t it be a bummer if I don’t like it?

But I will.

Prof. Pilsner

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Very Nice Break

I like a beer. You’re probably the same, yourself. It may even be the reason you visit this blog. Well, admit it, it’s the beer AND the boobies, isn’t it?

I look forward to a beer at the end of the day – lunch time if it’s a weekend – and some occasions bring greater anticipation than others. The occasion, for me, is as much a part of the ‘beer experience’ as the style or standard of the beer itself. The occasion can lift a good beer into the realms of ‘the special’ and a really good beer can take on mystical proportions when the galaxies align, the atmosphere is right and the company is loyal and loved.

One of those special occasions is holidays. When you are the nominal head of a family of girls, this can be a daunting task. Not just for the logistics of booking the accommodation and the flights and the car to the airport and the hire car at the other end and the car seats for the little ones ... because Mrs Pilsner pretty much organises all that guff. No, it’s daunting because it’s difficult to think of activities to do that will excite and amuse me and not bore the socks of four girls aged three to for... older than thirty. Thirty-nine..ish. And a bit.

You don’t really get asked if you would like to go a sporting event while on holidays when you are the only boy in the crew. You don’t get offers like “We’re off to the craft fair-and-girly-knitting-things festival, why don’t we drop you off at a nice pub and we’ll pick you up on the way back?” Rather you get “Stop drinking beers, we need you to take us to the shops because we need new holiday sandals and then we’re all off to the petting zoo and after that we’ll all have some nice jam and scones at a quaint tea rooms and don’t even think about sneaking those beers into the bag because I need the space for wildflower picking!!” Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

I look forward to holidays because the beer is enjoyed in a more relaxed frame of mind. No work the next day, both parents available for care-giving duties, nowhere we have to be the next day – that sort of relaxed. The added bonus is, in a place like Tasmania, I get to drink beers that I would not otherwise have ready access to, if at all. The bonus-bonus is that in Tasmania I have three brewing operations that I can visit while I’m there. And I did. And I will tell you about my adventures in each of them in future posts.

My point for now is this; enjoy the beer you have right now and consider the occasion in which you find yourself enjoying it. While I’m not saying that an ordinary or even below average beer will taste BETTER under the right circumstances, I am suggesting that a good beer will go down even better. Have a beer and let me know what you think.

Prof. Pilsner

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

“I only drink Carlton Draught”

That was the first thing he said to me as the group settled themselves in for dinner. Saturday night, 7.30 booking, work group out for their Christmas get together, I only drink Carlton Draught. Just another shift in any other restaurant in Melbourne.

A funny bloke, we got off to a flyer when I had his beer in front of him before he had finished his ‘warning’ and this theme continued throughout the night. I was running the restaurant and just popping out to the back room the group had to themselves as often as I could, as a couple of other boys on the table had decided to try a few ‘different’ beers.

With each beer order these guys made I gave them a story or an interesting fact about the brewer or the history of the style and before long they were flagging me down for another ‘beer fact’ or to settle an argument or a question they had. Remember, these guys were a bunch of ‘tradies’ and their partners who had never really been exposed to beer other than mainstream golden lagers from the big brewers. As the night continued one of the girls joined in with a few beers and the others were beginning to ask questions and get into the spirit of the whole beer thing.

And throughout all of this, Mr Carlton Draught stuck true to his brand – although he did start showing just a hint of interest in what the boys down the other end of the table were getting into. A few well chosen jabs at his mates just to keep them honest as much as too assert his position as the ‘Beer Loyalist’. His mates went from Kingfisher to Leffe Blond and into Budvar all in matching badged glassware while he stuck to the Draught with a passion and a couple of wise cracks at his ‘boutique poofter mates’.

And then it happened. Slowly but surely his interest turned into .. whatever comes just after interest... advanced interest, maybe. His glare turned into a gaze and his quips turned into questions. “What’s this one?” he asked as the boys were poured a Shlenkerla Rauchbier. “Looks a bit darker than that last one.” This comment was made with the deft observation of a seasoned expert. That is to say, a seasoned expert capable of spotting the difference between a smoky Smoke Marzen beer and a crystal clear Czech pilsner. To be fair, he HAD started enjoying the fact that his Carlton Draught was being drunk from a nice glass.

One of the boys passed the stylish stein down to CD and he summoned up the courage to bring it to his nose for a sniff. “That’s different,” he says as if this is the sort of thing he does every day of the week. “Go on, mate, ‘ave a sip”, says his mate. With his mates’ eyes burning into his scone, he cautiously raises the glass to his gob. Expecting the worst I took a step back. He sips, smacks his lips and pauses thoughtfully as he looks up.

“That’s not bad”. That’s amazing. Not only did he not hate it, but he actually liked it! OK, so it’s no miracle on 42nd St kind of moment, but it’s significant. What’s even more amazing is that after another round (he wandered back to Carlton Draught for his next) he even decided that when the boys went for the ‘big finish’, he’d join them, regardless of what I chose for them. So Kwak it was, in its distinctive wooden stand – complete with history lesson – and while it didn’t move him like the smoke beer had, again he didn’t hate it. Another small win for the Beer Bloke.

He may not go out tomorrow and start filling his beer fridge with imported specialty beers or local craft beers but maybe, just maybe, he will tell some of his mates down at the footy club about how he discovered that the beer world doesn’t begin and end with Carlton Draught afterall. And that’s a win for all of us.

Prof Pilsner

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Barons Squadron

Further to my post about the Save The Males campaign being run by the very nice beer people at Baron’s Brewing Company, I have been asked (by the same very nice beer people) to help them out in spreading the word about their very nice beer club, the Barons Squadron.

As I am already signed up, I thought it only proper to agree to such a nice beer request. As they have very kindly offered to give me some of their very nice beer, I agreed even quicker than I normally would have. Thanks, Alison!

Most breweries have a ‘club’ or some other form of ‘sign up’ deal and good on them for that. Sadly, with many, the deal includes little more than a regular newsletter that looks as if it could have been generated in Microsoft Publisher by a marketing-degree-holding laptop jockey who doesn’t even know the company has a brewing division. All flash and no dash. Others seem to forget about you after two or three editions.

The Barons Squadron is a little like the Barons' crew themselves. It’s about the beer, but it’s more than just beer. I have a series on craft brewers in the works and have already assembled posts on about six Australian brewers who are doing the right thing by the beer drinker and I will go into more detail on Baron’s set up later. For now you just need know that from a crew of two blokes and a single beer not too long ago, the business has grown and prospered without losing sight of the principles that got them this far and without becoming all ‘corporate’ and ‘big’.

The Squadron is more than just a data base for the marketing of their gear, too. It is not only informative but a good fun read as well - and sent regularly. Its special offers are a little different to those you may have come across and range from tours and dinners and the usual sort of things through to a chance to put your own stamp on the beer world with the opportunity to join in with beer development groups. Of course, competitions are held regularly for members only so that your loyalty is rewarded as well as your beer drinking bits. You know what I mean.

I will paste a link onto my screen, and hopefully you will be able to see it and then you can join up. Then I won’t feel so bad about being offered free beer. Perhaps I should remain completely independent and politely decline the very nice offer of some very nice beer? No, that would just be rude.

Oh, and for all my friends and pals and old chums across in the Lands Of Real Ale And Bitter and Ordinary Cricket Teams, I have a post coming up about the Barons invasion of the Great British Beer Festival coming up, so you don’t feel left out. And while you may not be able to stroll across for a beer dinner or a brewery tour, sign up for the Squadron anyway and tell ‘em the Beer Blokes sent ya!

If you can find the time to sign up now, you should be in time for the next newsletter which I am assured is a cracker.

... and seriously, you have to check out the Save the Males video. Funny stuff.
Join up here. Not right here, back there a bit where the writing is all coloured in. That's it.

Prof. Pilsner

Monday, November 24, 2008

How have you been?

In case you’ve been wondering what’s been happening around the Beer Blokes place over the last few weeks, here’s a quick summary.

Began the month with a quick trip down to Tasmania with the family and had the bestest time ever and visited three breweries and drank some very nice beer thank you very much and I am in the process of writing a bit about all of them and I will post them all soon and the kids had a ball and we fed the kookaburras every day and saw lots of interesting things and then came back to a two day course and a fully booked function the first night back at the restaurant and a full restaurant the other night and then the next week the restaurant appeared on national TV and then the phone started running off the hook with regulars wishing us well and new comers wanting to make bookings and every night we had to chat to everyone about how we went and how did it work and what was he celebrity chef like and did you think you would win and then each kid seemed to have a friend’s birthday party or school function or kinder commitment then another training course and then I looked at the calendar and our next free night was in the middle of next month and we are preparing for some nasty storm activity across the state and I get called into the Emergency Communications Centre to assist the media department at the same time that the pager starts beeping its head off and then two more meetings and ....

That’s about it, I think.

I will try this week to get back on top of the posts and catch up on my blog reading. I might even crack a nice beer and relax.

Oh, and we did in fact win the Chopping Block and business has doubled in the last two weeks. Should be an interesting few weeks coming up. Better make that two nice beers.

Prof. Pilsner

Friday, November 21, 2008

Save the Males

I’m not all that politically correct. You may have gathered that from actually reading some of the stuff that makes its way from my mind to this blog. Just out of interest, what gave it away? Was it the smattering of boobies throughout the posts? The back-handed compliments given out to men who drink white wine at parties? Maybe it was my propensity to continually use words like ‘dickheadedness’ ‘poofter’ and rarely use words like ‘propensity’? What’s that? It was the boobies? Yeah, they’re my favourite, too!

Anyway, the point is that there is far too much emphasis today on speaking so as to not offend anybody at all ever. Ever. Now, I am a firm believer in the old adage that the man who never made a mistake, never made anything and, to this end, I try to use this blog to make LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS OF THINGS!! I like to think I am doing my bit. Giving the male of the species a voice and the chance to share blokey things like feelings without having to touch each others bottoms.

Another crowd of blokes who are on the same page in this respect are the ones who hang out at a place called Baron’s Brewing Company. Not a brewery, in that they don’t own the equipment to brew beer in, but the makers of some very fine beers nonetheless. I have mentioned them before in these pages and have enjoyed many of their range of beers which include a standard style Pale ale and Lager as well as some beers at the more ‘experimental’ end of the beer world which are flavoured, infused and otherwise enhanced by the addition of native products. I will give you a link to their very well constructed site later, but for now, concentrate. This is important.

Baron’s are launching a Save The Males campaign. Neatly tongue in cheek, it has already raised the ire of the namby-pambies who would rather see us all in grey sack cloth eating water crackers and sipping cold tea and not talking about boobies and it has the support of a cleverly delivered marketing package. Lion Nathan stepped across a similar path recently with their Super Dry ads warning that poofy roller blading and sucky love songs could damage your delicate beer but this is different. For a start, Baron’s beer is very, very drinkable and the range provides a good beer for nearly every taste. Scondly, the ads feature very, very large dongers being chased and intimidated by very, very large ‘gynnies. Funny stuff.

The boys have also launched a competition to see who can come up with a good old fashioned PC incorrect video to support the cause. Check out the site at the address below and see if you can seek out some of their beers, too. Apart from the usual reliable like Cloudwine Cellars, Purvis’ and Sword’s Select you can now get a couple of lines from Dan Murphy’s.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get out and get some Baron’s beers and then make fun of some blokes carrying man-bags. And fellas, they’re purses, despite what you think.

Prof. Pilsner

Drink and Click

Just a quick ‘heads up’ for readers who may be a bit of a dab hand at photography and also enjoy visiting places that might just serve beer-like beverages.

One of the regular stops on my daily blogging journey is Stonch’s Beer Blog, a very well written and assembled blog focussing on the ‘ins and outs and other bits’ of beer (and especially real ale) in Great Britain in general and London in particular. For those who haven’t yet paid a visit, click on the link at the side of this blog and check out some of Jeff’s stuff. There are regularly posted, easy and quick posts on all sorts of topics and there is always the chance of a bit of a stoush whenever a contentious opinion is raised with numbers of comments often topping double figures.

At the moment Jeff and Alan from A Good Beer Blog in Canada are combining to present a photography competition with a stack of prizes on offer to boot. They ran this together last year and this year looks to be even better supported. Especially if anyone bothers to read about it here!

I have started looking at beer and bars and restaurants differently over the last week with a mind to discovering a photographic angle from which to put a spotlight. It’s funny how pouring a beer suddenly takes on a new bent when you start trying to pour a big foamy head on a Bridge Road Pale Ale that sits above the rim just so you can see how it will look in a photo! Thank goodness for digital technology as my patience would no longer stretch to waiting for processing anymore.

The boys have arranged for different categories of prizes so that we over here across the waves can have a crack at the goodies as well. So dust off the Nikons, lads get your Kodaks out, girls get your Canons out (snigger, snigger) and start sippin’ and snappin’.

I was going to take photos of all the really nice beers I drink but I only have a 2 meg memory card.

Prof. Pilsner

PS: The picture at the top of this post, titled "Two pints of Bitter" taken by John Lewington was the winning picture from last year's competition. I think they may be 'tickers'. Thanks to Stonch for permission to reproduce it here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Taphouse Top 100

The Local Taphouse is holding its third SpecTAPular* over the Australia Day long weekend in January and to celebrate all things Australian – well all things Australian and beer – Steve and Justin and the crew have launched a competition, a quest, if you will, to find the 100 best Australian beers.

Now, as I have discussed here often, attempting to define or select or nominate or justify a ‘best’ of anything is difficult enough in itself. To attempt to choose beers from all those available is a step above that! To then rank those beers is an even harder task and fraught with the dangers of alienating the fans of one or disappointing the defenders of another. It’s the reason I steer clear of doing reviews here. Having said that, if you can’t have fun debating which is the ‘best’ beer then surely you are taking this whole beer thing far too seriously. I’m in!

Just jump on the link at the end of this post and you can join in the fun. And the fun for me was threefold. Each entrant has to nominate a top ten of Australian beers for 2008 so first I had to actually consider which beers would be left out, let alone included. Then, once I had a shortlist (of about thirty beers!) I had to pare this down, one by one, until I had my ten.

Then I had to decide which would top my list and which one was more favoured over another and then which one would go below that and then which of the ones left would be better or ‘less’ better than the others and then I had a beer and then I changed the order of the top three and then I had another beer and then I changed it back again and then I felt tired and had a rest. It’s more fun that it sounds and, in the end, opinions are not right or wrong they’re just opinions and I had fun chosing mine and I will have more fun defending my choices.

Actually, I may have some trouble remembering them because the survey doesn’t give you a copy of your sent list and I lost the bit of paper that I scribbled my notes on. Now I’ll have to start again. I’m off to buy some more beer. You can submit your list anytime before January 20. The Local Taphouse is giving away slabs of the top five beers as door prizes.

Prof. Pilsner

*SpecTAPular is a weekend feast of tap beers and a great chance to try some styles or brands that you may have steered away from in the past. For a small entry fee you are provided with a small tasting glass and a smorgasbord of tempting ales, lagers, wheat beers and others to, well, tempt you. With. You know what I mean. Glass, beer, tokens, try. Smile. I’ll get some more details closer to the day and for anyone who will be in Melbourne that weekend, I’ll race you to twenty!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Top stuff from the Top End

There’s a place in Australia called the Northern Territory. Sandwiched between the pointy bit at the very top of Queensland on the right hand side and the plateau-shaped empty bit of Western Australia on the left, the Territory is a bit of an enigma, even to Australians.

The Territory is often referred to as the ‘Top End’ and is also home to ‘the Alice’ and ‘the Red Centre’. It has plenty of ‘Outback’ and ‘Dreamtime Land’ and a rather large portion of extreme ‘bugger all’. Rainforests and deserts, long gun barrel straight highways, magnificent picture postcard scenery and two centres of population – Darwin at the top bit and Alice Springs in the middle. That’s about it.

Taking up an area of around 1,349,129 square kilometres (520,902 sq miles) and containing just 218, 380 people it is the most sparsely populated state or territory in Australia. That’s a lot of space for so few heads. So how in God’s name do these folk get to drink so much grog?! New statistics from the Justice Department show that Territorians knocked back more than three million litres of pure alcohol last year. For those playing along at home, mark that down on your game cards at around 1,000 full strength beers per person.

Figures show that NT sold 3,225,555 litres in total last financial year. They broke this down thusly; every person over the age of 15 sank 1300 full strength beers. Just on four cans each per day. Per day. Per DAY!!! The Northern Territory Government declared that drinking was it’s No 1 problem. You think?!?

in the 50’s and 60’s, the Aussie culture was almost underpinned by the proud knowledge that we drank our way to he top of the charts and kept up with traditional (and highly populated) beer drinking countries around the globe. Jump forward to the present day and we are now drinking far less per head – but drinking increasingly ‘better’. More imported, boutique and craft beers.

It seems that the news is taking a little longer to reach our northern mates.

Prof. Pilsner

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thank you again, Beer Karma.

I am back working for a mate in his restaurant south east of Melbourne. We have worked together for years and four years ago when he was offered this place he rang me to see if I could put my stamp on the front of house operations. I recall asking something like; “Will beer be enjoyed to mark the end of each shift?” A reply in the affirmative led to one from me as well and we were off.

The restaurant itself occupies the old Courthouse built in 1884 and is a stunning heritage building with charm to spare. Sadly many locals fail to share this charm and too few have visited, particularly mid week. Friday and Saturday pretty much take care of themselves but, as any business owner knows only too well, the bills ad the rent and the wages are a 7 day a week kind of thing. While we set the place up to wow the guest and provide great food and service, the numbers were just not stacking up.

I have written recently of Beer Karma and it seems as though she just keeps showing up. The restaurant is on the brink. If Christmas doesn’t see us fill the 60 odd seats every night with big spenders, the doors close. Simple as that. After two years away from the place I have returned to help out a mate, train some new staff and see that every guest has a good time. Oh! Sorry. I’m not the Beer Karma bit – that’s coming in the next paragraph. Just needed to set the scene first.

Beer Karma works in mysterious ways. A new restaurant opened up down the street 6 months ago and normally this would not be a good thing. When the restaurant is opened by people who did not intend to open a restaurant and don’t know anything at all about running a restaurant, well, then it’s a bit less of a bother. This place was built as four separate shops by a builder who was then unable to have them occupied. What do you do if you’re in the shit and have four shops to sell and no buyers? Why not convert the place into a restaurant? Because it’s a stupid idea you dumb flog!! To really set yourself up for a fall you run it as a bar by day and a nightclub at night and put the restaurant upstairs and make all your diners walk through a dodgy bar/lounge/nightclub/pool hall downstairs to get to it. Or not, you decide.

Anyway, it gets better. There’s this show on Australian TV at the minute where two local restaurants go head to head in a bid to improve their menu, decor and service in order to win over a fussy mystery critic. The winner takes away a cheque for $20,000. Nice. Borat NY – IIIIIZE! The new boys down the street decided to nominate themselves and we were fortunate to be chosen by the producers as the ones to take them on. That is, they came and knocked on our door and said; “Would you like to win $20,000? All you have to do is be better than a bloke down the road who asks diners to move - MID MEAL – so that he can make space for some nightclub punters and won’t cook for more than 8 people at a time but takes function bookings for 25? Are you in?” Is Paris Hilton a slapper?! We’re in!!

The show aired nationally last night and we were a little apprehensive as to how we might come across at the whim of the editors. As it turned out we weren’t too bruised or battered – some joints have shut up shop after a caning from shows like these – and we are now sitting back and waiting to see how this unexpected publicity affects the business. In eternal optimism we are gearing up for an increase in trade and a rise in phone enquiries. Being just off the main street which houses another dozen or so restaurants and cafes, we hope that a few more punters might take the chance and pop in. The front of the building is pretty imposing and grand and there are plenty who think we are either too ‘toffy’, ‘stuffy’ or expensive and might now give us try.

The only real gripe that the critic had with us was the fact that on his first ‘secret’ visit and again on his return ‘rating’ visit, he ordered a beer that was out of stock. He congratulated us on having an extensive and interesting beer list and then got the tip from the producer that we couldn’t get the missing beer from any of our suppliers so to order it would make for good telly, I guess. We’ll cop that. If you can’t find a beer from the 107 that we offered that night then I’ll still sleep well.

So that’s our brush with fame for this week. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you which part of the old Aussie expression we fit into; “Winners are Grinners and shit sandwich for second.”

Thank you again, Beer Karma.

Prof. Pilsner

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I don’t want to say I told you so ...

But, I told you so. Maybe I should be in government? Maybe I could become one of these highly paid ‘consultants’ who get mega bucks for bugger all. From my memory of schoolboy Latin, ‘consultant’ roughly translates as; ‘Tell me your answer and I’ll re-word it for you and that’ll be a wad of cash that would choke a camel thanks very much’.

Besides, I think I’m too honest for government. And I drink too much. Hang on, that’s a pre-requisite, isn’t it? Or at least it should be. Someone was certainly knocking back a couple of pints when they came up with the idea of a two am lock out of the ‘drinking zones’ of the city and inner suburbs of Melbourne a few months back. It was sometime back in July when I recall bagging the plan as unworkable, unbackable and unpopular and subject to one fatal error. No nighhtclub pub or restaurant who requested an exemption from this folly got rejected. It don’t work AND you don’t have to play anyway.

I suggested that a better method of deterring pissed idiots was to deploy more Mr Plods in and around the trouble spots and to reintroduce the ‘drunk tanks’ of old where blokes and blokettes who were not getting the message on responsible consumption of alcohol could be sent to cool off and sober up rather than assuming that they would make their own way home safely without starting a blue or ripping out a ‘Haley’s Comet’ in the train or taxi on route.

I picked up the paper after returning from holiday to see that (shock horror!!) “we have decided that, instead of a lock out policy, we will put more police on the streets and also provide special rooms with food and water available to those who have overindulged” said Government spokesperson for The Department of making Stupid Decisions and then Reversing them Once we Put our Brains into Gear, Mr B. Leedingobvious.

Beer Blokes, making the streets safer, one beer at a time.

Prof. Pilsner

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Touched down but still on the runway

A relaxing and rewarding weeks break in Tasmania has been followed by another week where my duties were anything but relaxing and rewarding. The plane touched down long ago but it feels as though I am still taxiing round the runway. In circles. Straight back into work and the beginning of the silly season for restaurants and bars, plus a two day course over the weekend and a handful of other family commitments and it seems like we never had a holiday. Still, can’t complain.

While Tasmania is only 50 minutes away from home by plane it is as if it is another galaxy removed. A slower pace and more concerned with the journey than the destination, Tasmania just seems to be in permanent second gear. Unfortunately the car needed a few more as Tasmania is remarkably hilly. And maybe just a little ‘hill billy’ but I shouldn’t use the dregs we encountered in the mall at lunchtime as any general indicator.

As you will see from coming posts, I managed to meet up with some very lovely people who make some very lovely beer. Very, very lovely beer. More on these and others soon.

I will also post details of our accommodation as we found the most amazing ‘hidden gem’ of a place – that is to say that Mrs Pilsner found it – and as close to perfect as you could get.

My apologies for the delay in getting back into the swing of things although you can rest easy at night knowing that while my typing fingers have been on holiday, my beer drinking mouth has been working around the clock to bring you all some malt driven and hop flavoured stories from Tasmania. It’s not the arse end of the world, but you can see it from there.

Prof. Pilsner

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Beer Myths Part Two - Revisited

Due to the overwhelming success of the first Beer Myths segment – that is to say, I had a jolly good laugh writing it- please enjoy part two of our informative series; That’s Bullshit, Isn’t It?

Q. My homebrew tastes like cats piss. How do I fix this?
A. Don’t put any cats piss in the fermenter during brewing.

Q. I don’t get any bubbling through my airlock. Should I just give up on homebrewing?
A. With that attitude, yes. And quickly. There is no room for sooky la-las like you in this caper. Airlocks often don’t bubble as the expanding air escapes through the seals of many fermenters and you needn’t worry. It just proves that you shouldn’t use your airlock to judge when your brew has fermented out.

Q. I like the girl on the Hahn Super Dry advert with the big boobies.
A. Again, not a question but I am happy to let this one slide. She seems a good sort and certainly better looking than the one who gets fish-slapped in the gondola.

Q. What is the difference between a Trappist beer and an Abbey beer?
A. Very good question. Trappists were a very annoying family who ran around the alps singing all the time ... no, wait, that was the Von Trapps. Trappist beers are made in monasteries – sometimes by monks and sometimes by lay brewers – and there are only six monasteries permitted to use the designation Trappist. Abbey beers are those which have been made previously in monasteries, but have since been made by commercial breweries which are granted the right to label them as monastery beers. The Trappist beers come under the category of Belgian specialty ales while others like the Leffe range include blondes, reds and darks. Beer, that is, not chicks. I don’t think the monks are allowed to have chicks. Not in the monastery anyway.

Q. What does the German word Löwenbräu mean?
A. You don’t specify wether you mean a literal translation of the name or the ethereal plane to which a drinker of this fine brew may be transported spiritually while contemplating the centuries of brewing that have culminated in the creation of this nectar. If you are referring to the name it means “Lion Brewery” according to Willie Simpson’s The Beer Bible and “Lion Beer” according to another source which I can’t find just now. Löwenbräu was brewed for a time in Australia. Not to be confused with the TV show ‘Big Brother which is Lower Brow.

Q. What is a lager bomb?
A. No, this is not some new wave cocktail made from beer, although, in a funny way I guess it is. A lager bomb is the biological process by which the male body completes a heavy night of drinking. Occurring some time during the daylight hours of the following day, the lager bomb is the body’s special way of reminding the drinker of the quality of the previous night’s session. It is also the body’s way of rendering the toilet unusable for anything up to two days. Not to be confused with the Jaeger Bomb which is a way of getting half drunk twenty-somethings to part with to part with large amounts of cash for a drink marketing trick that lasts all of two seconds and doesn’t taste very nie either.

Q. Did you find that reference to Lion Beer yet?
A. Yes, it was in ‘Beer. Slabs, Stubbies and Six Packs’ by Ben Canaider and Greg Duncan Powell. Thanks for asking.

Stay tuned for Part Three.

Prof. Pilsner

Monday, November 3, 2008

Beer Myths Revisited

When you scan through the Frequently Asked Question section of any homebrew website – as I’m sure you often do – you find the same questions appearing again and again. It seems that there are some common misconceptions around when it comes to brewing and beer drinking in general. As such, I am taking it upon myself to create a forum in which all those curly questions are answered called; That’s Just Bullshit, Isn’t It?

Q. You can’t brew beer without sugar.
A. That’s not a question. But beer can be brewed without common forms of sugar like sucrose, dextrose and maltose. The Germans have been brewing with nothing but malt since God’s dog was a pup and their beers are generally regarded as pretty fair. Sugars are often used in conjunction with malt to lighten the body and the cost of the beer. Some commercial brewers are proud of this.

Q. You shouldn’t wash your beer glasses with detergent.
A. Again, this is a statement, not a question. It is a long held falsehood that beer glasses should not come into contact with detergents as they break down the head and leave the beer soapy. We have English Ales for that. Just kidding. You need to wash glasses with detergent to remove traces of hop oils and head scum but you must ensure that you rinse all trace of the detergent with first warm and then cold water before drying with a clean towel.

Q. Carlton Cold is labelled just like beer. Why?
A. I don’t know.

Q. Is there really a difference in taste between stubbies and cans?
A. Yes. Stubbies are made from glass not aluminium and are therefore harder to chew. But beer from stubby or can is the same as long as you pour it out into a clean glass first.

Q. I drink a popular brand of beer and yet I can’t get a root. Why?
A. It might be because you have been tricked by beer marketing men into thinking that by drinking their beer you can negate the effects of a bogan attitude to women and poor hygiene. It may also be because you’re ugly and your mum dresses you funny.

Q. What are the names of the blokes in the XXXX advert and what really is the story with them? You know what I mean.
A. I do know what you mean. The men you speak of are Macca, PJ, Harry and Jacko. They could just as easily have been Puddin’ Head, Bluey, Knackers and Shags. And yes, I do think it odd that these guys seem to have spent a greater deal of time holidaying than their combined earning potential would suggest they could with no other company than a slobbering dog and a machine that vibrates, launches toys and shoots video. Even to a Queenslander, this must seem just a little odd.

Q. Will you consider doing another of these Q & A’s?
A. Yes, yes I will.

Stay tuned.


Prof. Pilsner

Please feel free to submit any real questions you may have. It will be a good chance to interact with the Beer Blokes and will stop me from taking the opportunity to simply amuse myself.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Mo-vembeer Results from last year

The Beer Blokes have done their bit to help raise awareness of men’s health by participating in the first annual and completely unofficial celebration of the month of Movembeer.

The purpose of Movembeer is for blokes and blokettes who couldn’t or wouldn’t or shouldn’t grow a mo for the month to drink to men’s health instead by selecting ‘MO’ beers during November. These beers could be ones that began with the letters MO, ones that had MO prominent in their name, were of a style beginning with MO or could just be very loosely linked in any way, shape or form, to the letters MO. Simple.

And, quite simply, I had an absolute ball with this. Some beers lent themselves easily to the challenge, as you will see, and others had to be coaxed into the framework a little bit. Some beers were a treat to be included in the program while some really had to be forced into the trolley and taken home, as you will see.

The obvious inclusions were beer brands such as MOosehead & Birra MOretti and brewers like MOuntain Goat and MOnteiths. The broader category beers like MOnastery took just a little reworking to slot into a spot but were a welcome addition. See if you can spot the modus operandi – or MO – used in choosing the following beers for MOvembeer.

From the very capable folk at Outback Brewing - Outback Pilsner, Country Bitter, Black Opal and Chilli Beer;

Multiple Outbacks, of course.

Red Hill Golden Ale;

From Red Hill Brewery on the MOrnington Peninsula. That’s clever isn’t it?!

Miller Chill and Corona;

Corona is the highest selling imported beer in Australia – why, I can’t tell you*, it is so thin and pissy that the lemon is the only thing giving it any flavour and it is a bit like Carlton Cold in that it is obviously designed for people who don’t like the taste of beer – it nearly killed me to A) actually buy it and B) pay $3 for it. Can you believe that? Three dollars for Corona!!? Oh, and C) I had to drink it!

Miller Chill is the latest wet dream of some bored or misinformed marketing plonker with a huge budget and no respect for beer. Brewed in the Chelada style (Mexican for Lager wank?) with ‘added flavours’ this odd brew is made with the addition of lime and salt. It might have been a good idea to have added beer, too. Sugary, syrupy lime flavouring and a hint of beer in the very distant background makes this a beer that you would perhaps drink only severely chilled and served with hugely spicy Mexican style food. The strength of the food may dull the disappointment of the beer.
But it probably won’t.

Have you worked this one out yet? Mexican ... unusual in their unexplained popularity and taste respectively ... odd ... Mexican Ordinarys! But I know you want MOre!!

Toohey’s Pils;

A bit like the Miller Chill but nowhere near as bad in taste or concept, this is another example of a beer made by a marketing department rather than by a brewery. A supposed Pilsner – by calling it Pils, they got it half right – it falls short on a few counts. It uses Saaz hops, like a pilsner should, but they must’ve run out half way through. By all means use Saaz hops, but if you are only going to run them past the kettle for effect, then don’t suggest it’s a pilsner. As a result, the bitterness, or lack thereof, is a let down. It’s not a terrible beer but they really should have consulted a brewer before committing to a full production run. As a result, this beer goes down as a Marketing Oddity.

Pilsner Urquell;

This is my favourite. The beer is one of my all time favourites as well but in this case I mean the element of cleverness that I have employed to squeeze this brew into the Movembeer Movement. Pilsner Urquell is the first pilsner. Ever. It was brewed in 1842 in the town of Plzen in what is now The Czech Republic. Back then the region was known as Bohemia – hence Matilda Bay’s Bohemian Pilsner – and it sat quietly in the kingdom of Morovia. The English translation of Urquell is ‘source’ as in the beginning, therefore Pilsner Urquell is the original. From Morovia. Morovian Original. How good’s THAT!?

And, finally, this one. Had MOre than one or two of these. Beer Blokes Golden-ish Lager, Beer Blokes Pale Ale, Beer Blokes Wheat Beer and Beer Blokes Beast.

That’s right, My Own!

Here’s to this Movembeer. Cheers,
Prof. Pilsner.

*Maybe Corona is so popular because the import costs are secretly being paid by the Australian Citrus Council who sell more lemons and limes to stuff down Corona necks than fat chicks have had Macca’s or the devilishly private but subliminally effective lobby group called “Don’t Let Scurrvy Come Back”. If anyone actually knows why it is so popular, without big budget marketing campaigns (can you recall a Corona ad on telly or radio?), please let me know. Seriously, I want to know.