Yellow Fizzy Stuff …….
As a brewer I can always appreciate different styles of beer. Obviously I have a passion for cask ale, but do not exclusively drink just beers brewed in the style I know so well. Sometimes after a good night out skittling and supping a few pints of Copper, I simply don’t feel like another night on the beer – so being a brewer I generally switch to Guinness (rather than Lager). It needs to be a warm balmy night for me to drink a pint of the yellow fizzy stuff (and I don’t mean Cider – as I am not a fan of fermented apples either!)
Sometimes one simply cannot get a decent pint of ale. The reasons being mainly geographical depending on the County or Country you’re drinking in. Gone are the days of picking your drink by pub. With CAMRA and Cask Marque championing cask ale, hopefully quality is now consistent and good.
Nowadays, one also sometimes reflects on the price of a beer. I would never not have my drink of choice because the alternative is cheaper, but when travelling I am interested in the massive variation in price at the pump. Historically West Country folk drank cider due to its availability, refreshing taste and, if one is honest, it was a cheap alternative to more expensive ale and lager.
Drinking an alternative is all well and good if there is one. Having recently returned from Down Under, my education on the yellow fizzy stuff is now complete. The household names of Fosters and Castlemaine XXXX are simply not in the bars, and the market is a diverse mix of Victoria Bitter, Tooheys New, Carlton Draught, Hahn Premium, to name but a few! Unfortunately they all pretty much fall into the ‘yellow fizzy stuff’ camp and lack what a cask ale brewer calls ‘flavour’!
Don’t get me wrong, its ‘horses for courses’ and after a few hundred K’s in my camper van I enjoyed a bottle of Aussie Lager, but was still bemused in bars that whichever brand was my poison of choice, I couldn’t tell the difference? I soon got the hang of ordering a ‘Schooner’ rather than a ‘glass’ (a paltry 200ml) and this is where I started to notice the price.
Let’s be generous and say a pint of ale in Blighty is on average £2.90 and a pint and lager maybe as much as £4.00 in some trendy bars? In Australia, a schooner was around $AU6 and in today’s money that’s £3.75 for only 425ml, which is like paying £5 a pint.
If you wanted to be a bit trendy and drink Imported Heineken from the bottle, you could do so for $AU6.50 – while stocks last! (As you see I drank VB – I knew it was VB as it said it on the bottle?)
Believe me I am not talking about ‘trendy wine bars’ (as there are very few in Aussie) but Backpacker Bars and the local Hotel/Tab/Pokie parlour. It’s not just cold, fizzy and golden, it’s damn near the price of liquid gold to drink Down Under.
But all is not lost…. There is the occasional oasis in the desert. In the trendiest corner of Sydney, a suburb called The Rocks, sits the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel. Not only does the happy smiling landlord serve his beers in pint glasses, he is also educated in the art of blending a decent slug of Hops with fine traditional malted barley in his 5 brl brew plant.
I admit it’s not the cheapest bar in Sydney (again £5 a pint) but at least one could tell the beers apart and relish in some real flavour. Judging by the 5pm crowd of suited and booted gentlemen it’s not just there for us globe travelling Poms – the Aussies have some taste too!