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Pub Review: Dingo Pub

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Rodney splashed more chardonnay into the glass.

Moving about his bar with suppressed nervous energy, he now declared, “As I’ve filled it above the line I’m obliged by Queensland law to inform you of this because you mightn’t want the extra wine.”

Unsurprisingly for a Kapunda girl, Claire dismissed that idea with a, “No, thanks, that’ll be fine.”

It was around 2pm on a Tuesday in Dingo Beach. We were in the Whitsundays. We had explored the beach- the tide was out- but did not swim because of stingers and Irukandji jellyfish. I had read that Irukandji jellyfish actively hunt their prey. I had little interest in becoming prey to a tiny, blobby marine killer, especially as Glenelg had just won the SANFL premiership.

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Rodney has four beers on tap: XXXX, XXXX Gold and two types of Great Northern.

Generally, I have limited truck with these, and might’ve opted for a stubby of Coopers, but surely the traveller’s obligation is to be brave and try to experience life as a local.

So, I took a deep breath, steeled myself and heard these words fall, haltingly, from my quivering gob, “I’ll have a pint of Great Northern, thanks.”

I felt unsteady on my thonged feet. To offer her support in this difficult circumstances, Claire rubbed my forearm kindly.

The kitchen had shut so we had an impromptu lunch of cheese and dips and olives at our beer garden table. Rodney did not mind.

A few other Tuesday patrons drifted in and mostly headed to the smoking section. There were older men with orange shirts and ghostly goatees. On the tree between us and the beach a riot of kookaburras took up brief residency, announcing their arrival with brash, Motown song. Then they flew off, possibly seeking Coopers on tap.

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Our Mersey cheese was tremendous. It really is the Allan Border of cheeses: predictable, attacking when required; defensive if needed. I stuck another piece on my Jatz (traditional not pepper).

On Sunday we’d bought some supplies in Mackay and seemingly both possessed by one of lesser demons in The Exorcist, stuck some rosemary and gin olives in our trolley. In appropriate contexts all three are excellent, but put together and Father Karras can’t save you or Regan, despite the power of Christ.

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The tub was swiftly despatched to Rodney’s beer garden bin. Apologies to the bin. Apologies to Rodney. Bins deserve better.

We spoke of the town, its wide beach and family-friendly foreshore with playgrounds and barbeques and endless picnic tables. We were both taken by the islands dotted about the ocean. Coming from South Australia our experience with off-shore land masses is largely informed by Granite Island. Switzerland is better served by islands than us.

Keen to swim Claire asked Rodney of this and he began his repetitive, circular discourse: ”Well, me and my kids go swimming all the time without stinger suits. But I don’t want to tell you what to do. You might get stung and come back and sue me.”

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Claire nodded.

Easing into his work, like Keating and the Redfern speech Rodney continued, “Me and my kids go swimming all the time without stinger suits. But I don’t want to tell you what to do. You might get stung and come back and sue me.”

Claire excused herself, having developed a sudden taste for gin and rosemary olives (albeit in the bin).

And my pint of Great Northern?

It was cold and flavoursome and the head was creamy and inviting. In its proper context at the Dingo pub it commanded the stage with quiet confidence.

It was utterly delicious and, of course, now back in a shoe-wearing state, I’m unlikely to ever have another.

About half an hour from Airlie Beach, the Dingo pub is a must when in the Whitsundays.

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A Love Letter to the Clare Golf Course

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In the world of cinema it’s known as mise-en-scène and refers to the poetic arrangement within a camera shot. This embraces composition, sets, props, actors, costumes, and lighting and is designed to evoke certain audience reactions.

Indeed, golf and film might share this idea, if not the term, and the seventh hole at Clare in South Australia’s mid-north valley is beautifully-constructed visual art. Set among fetching hills and riesling vineyards on the town’s outskirts, the course speaks of the joys of nature, our extraordinary privilege, and the enduring value of connection.

Last Saturday dawned brisk as it does approaching 1300 feet above sea-level, but after breakfast the sun was breathing balminess into the earth and onto our faces. It was wispy-cloudy and the kindest of breezes moved about the trees. The AFL grand final would commence mid-afternoon and we’d claim our spot by an open window in the Taminga pub.

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If a golf course presents a narrative then the fifth is a memorable scene. With driver or three-wood from the tee care must be taken to not drift right as an out of bounds vineyard awaits patiently growing fruit. For some these grapes represent golf’s truest occupation: a long walk before a crisp cup; a healthy delay until Bacchus takes considerable charge.

Never mind that it has been deceased for decades, but the ghostly eucalyptus guarding the fairway fringe is a mighty reminder that perhaps golf should be of only minor consequence during a round. If there’s painterly beauty and awe in death, then this tree could be it, all cryogenic limbs and leafless silence.

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Like Mediterranean sailors and the sirens’ call most of our group’s Hot-Dots are lured to this solitary gum. On the green as Mozz lines up his long, curling putt I whisper to Claire, “Golf can be like being at war with yourself.” Mozz leaves it about ten foot short. I lean in again, “He might be losing.”

But, of course, we’re all winning.

If we continue our theatrical theme then the next hole is a climactic point.
The preceding holes have climbed quietly and the seventh tee is the natural and dramatic pinnacle, providing a vista over the course, Inchiquin Lake and the drowsy township. Sevenhill, Kybunga and Polish Hill hug the horizon.

However, looking down at the hole it’s astonishing how much it communicates. The original course architect must have smiled as he imagined the simple challenge; how he must have nodded at his good fortune to conceive this marriage of human invention and astounding nature.

It’s an unforgettable golf hole.

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130 feet below in the amphitheatrical apron a willow sits patiently by the wide green.
A nine iron only from off this cliff and the ball hangs frozen in today’s azure, before gravity escorts it back to earth.

One of our ensemble, Paul, fluffs his shot and lands in the rocky creek bed that twists like a reptilian. Amid the banter I’m aware that his tiny calamity is emblematic of our huge luck in being here, in the morning air with full bellies and endless ease.

Like the sport itself it’s a hole that invites optimism (surely the golf bags of the pessimists are dusty at the back of countless garages), but condemns arrogance and only one of our group, Bazz, finds the outwardly impossible-to-miss putting surface with a shot in this grand context that’s humble and reverential.

There’s nods, and staccato yelps of, “Nice” and “Yeah, done Bazz.”

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Our electric carts whirl down the goat-track through the scrub and bush, and the seventh green materialises as a verdant altar. Birdsong is both hymn and soundtrack. As we exit Clare’s golfing cathedral and go to the eighth, scores are confessed and then forgotten.

We press on through the laughter and the brief disappointments, and as it should, golf performs as a prop for poetic connection and conversation.

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Our Grand Final

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Less than a minute in the umpire blew his whistle to pay a holding free kick to Glenelg, and from a few rows behind us came the comforting, Pavlovian yelp, “He’s been doin’ it all bloody day, Ump!”

A convivial tone now set in the bottom deck of the Fos Williams Stand at Adelaide Oval our afternoon unfolded in exhilarating fashion. Even the subsequent Popcorn Chicken Incident served as a petit carnival of community and generosity.

Footy jumpers, scarves, caps and t-shirts in Port and Glenelg colours smeared across the outer like a monochrome Monet, and with the crowd split evenly the atmosphere was enthusiastically tribal, but also exhibited an unedited defiance of the AFL, in celebration of local footy as it was before we capitulated to national (Victorian) interests, and permitted our suburbs to be annexed.

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Admittedly, I’m also an Adelaide fan, but there’s a deeper, elemental quality about your footy team having its own discrete place and particular geography. Last Thursday I walked along Jetty Road and about Moseley Square, buoyed by the balloons and streamers and team posters in the windows. However, in this city the Crows are both everywhere and nowhere. They have no earthly claim; no Alberton, no Patawalonga.

The pre-game concert is another ritual, and I loved You Am I in 2015 with footy-mad Tim Rogers up front siphoning Pete Townsend and Ray Davies. Local outfit Bad/Dreems are energetically gruff and glug West End Draught as they romp through their set. The drummer sports the prison bars of a Magpies guernsey.

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History always hovers at the SANFL grand final. Former stars Peter Carey who I pass walking his dog on the esplanade most mornings and Greg Anderson, whose timeless locks are surely in the Mullet Hall of Fame (next to those of Billy Ray Cyrus) do a lap in a ute while clasping the premiership cup, and both relish the sunny applause.

Glenelg skips away early. Their tackling has jungle ferocity and as if channelling the glory days when footy was only on boxy black and white Pye TVs, they kick long into their forward line.

Port are flint-hard and the twenty years since they’ve won a flag must present as volcanic outrage. They harass and coerce, but the Tigers use crafty handball to dominate possession.

For Magpie fans the unknowable has arrived, and nineteen excruciating minutes elapse in the second quarter before Frampton comes alive and they register their afternoon’s first goal.

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Alex and Max and two of their primary school mates are as unrelenting in their eating as Glenelg is in their attack so I muster extra supplies. Juggling food worth the GDP of a small Pacific nation I shuffle back down aisle 133 as Marlon Motlop kicks a clever goal, and a rejoicing fan’s arms shoot out periscopically and clock me. Instantly, it’s raining popcorn chicken all over the concrete steps and my person. I’m a friendly-fire casualty.

The colonel can’t help me.

The Glenelg fan apologies saying, “Can I buy you another one of those?”

My automated response is a polite but stunned, “No, mate it’s fine.”

I surrender the surviving chook to the boys who are wholly unsympathetic to my fiscal, social and psychological loss, and inhale them. Old mate comes down and announces, “Mum feels badly so she’ll get you some more chicken.” Claire and I nod thanks. He’s about forty years old. Perhaps he’s already spent his pocket money.

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Another most kind witness to the Sudden Chicken Storm appears with a box of popcorn poultry, and says, “I felt very sorry when I saw what happened. Some Port fans started laughing.” She hands these over, and before she can reclaim her seat, the boys have slurped them up. So, the kindness of strangers gladdens our hearts, if not our arteries.

Claire is bemused that my only contributions to the stadium noise are the binary and monosyllabic, “BALL!” when a Magpie player has had too long and, “YEEEAAAHHH!” when we kick a goal. On advice of my singing coach I ration these, but come Monday morning my vocal stylings are still more Joe Cocker than Tiny Tim.

The clouds dart and race, and we alternately soak up the sun and then shiver. Glenelg controls the narrative from prelude to epilogue. At the siren the four boys are on their seats shrieking and waving their yellow and black flag. The Tigers club song loops about the arena.

We cross the pedestrian bridge over the Torrens, and then head for home and our premiership suburb, by the silvery sea.

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Glenelg fan hilariously heckles Himmelberg

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It came from the Sir Edwin Smith Stand.

A booming baritone with a certain gruff, yet worldly quality, it was also evocative of the larrikin 1970’s. If I closed my eyes, I could see spectators in duffle coats with Ebert, Carey and Blight on their backs. Some were wearing black ripples, and eating Chiko rolls.

Its owner knew some theatrical principles and employed expert timing and escalating repetition and like a comedy festival veteran, held his Adelaide Oval audience in high estimation. We thought we were here for the SANFL preliminary final between the Glenelg Tigers and the Adelaide Crows.

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A Glenelg fan, the Heckler’s target was Elliot Himmelberg: a stark blonde, tall and imposing Adelaide Crow. If there’s wisdom in going after the biggest enemy, then Himmelberg was it.

In his mockery was an arsenal of cultural and historical allusions.

He put me in mind of the celebrated Sydney Cricket Ground supporter Yabba who bellowed at an opposition batsman from his spot on the Hill, “Send ‘im down a piano, see if ‘e can play that!”

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SCG’s Yabba statue

His opening shot utilised famous fictional wizard Harry Potter, Hogwart’s School, and one of its four Houses, ironically the one best known for hard work and fair play. Following a Himmelberg skill error and turnover the Tigers scored a goal. Shortly after and aimed sharply at number 34 this boomed around the arena:

“Thanks very much. That started with you, Hufflepuff.”

I cackled in my chair. He now had my attention.

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About a quarter later The Heckler then took his pop references in a more 1970’s and 1980’s direction itemising everyone’s favourite Baywatch and Knight Rider star, and unfathomable German pop icon. With the scores tight he barked at the Crow:

“Try and get a kick, Hasselhoff.”

Students of our game will note that Hollywood’s David Hasselhoff and Port Power champion Justin Westhoff share a nickname, “The Hoff.”

This makes it an especially brutal barb, given that Westhoff has played 268 games and is regarded as one of the best and fairest ever in a Port Power jumper. Additionally, Himmelberg’s team and Port Power are fierce, if not bitter cross-town rivals. For the Crows’ AFL side Elliot’s played but eight games.

The Heckler had moved briskly into stinging satire.

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Laughing to myself on my seat in the Sunday sun, it was excellent unofficial entertainment. Public witticisms always amuse me, especially when wholly unexpected.

I wondered if these were all studiously prepared, in a manner similar to that of the retired AFL commentator, Dennis Cometti, who once observed that Libba, a Western Bulldogs footballer, came out of a collision with a sore head by saying:

“He entered the pack optimistically and emerged misty optically.”

A polished performer The Heckler understood the Rule of Threes, and his finish was impeccable. In this he married a 1937 German passenger airship disaster to a fashionable phrase originating in World War 1 aerial dogfights.

In the last quarter as Glenelg surged towards the grand final his roaring jeer again riffed upon Himmelberg’s surname, and was delivered with sparkling confidence.

“Hey, Hindenburg! Crash and burn. Crash and burn!”

Laughing uncontrollably, I then had to explain to my eleven-year-old and his mates.

“Crash and burn” is a metaphor expressing spectacular personal failure, and the New Jersey zeppelin calamity has continuing global infamy.

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The Crows’ forward misses yet another mark

Was the heckling low and inappropriate? Perhaps. Is satirising another’s name poor form? Maybe. Was it different to the usual hollering mindlessness? Undoubtedly.

However, it was an originally funny sequence to hear at a SANFL football match. Having shared it with family, friends and colleagues, days later I’m still giggling.

I’ve not met you but well done, sir.

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This exquisite, unrepeatable moment

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Driving Alex and his mates to Adelaide Oval last Sunday I’m reminded of the final line from 1986’s coming-of-age film, Stand by Me, in which the narrator ponders his distant childhood with affection and melancholy:

I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?

We’re heading to see Glenelg contest its first SANFL final since these boys were toddlers. I’m keen for the Tigers to secure a spot in the grand final, but by sunset I’ll have learnt, all over again, that at best, football should only be a happy distraction.

It’s an archetypal early spring day: fluctuating between encouraging sun, blustery breeze, and quick showers. On our way to Hindley Street the car radio’s on. As it better matches where these boys are at I’ve changed stations from Triple J to commercial pop music. The songs seem immediate and disposable, but my passengers are more interested in rapid chat about teachers; food both healthy and not; exotic classmates; a recent school camp in the Adelaide Hills.

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We see the fourth quarter of the Norwood and Crows match. Despite a spirited finish by the Redlegs, the tricolour interlopers advance to the preliminary final. Sitting in front of the Sir Edwin Smith Stand, of course the boys spear straight down to the fence, so they can get as close as possible to the action, although for most of the afternoon they enthusiastically ignore the footy.

They eat. They chat. They laugh. They do whole mobs of stuff except watch the action.

For them footy is mere situational context; Aristotelian theatre of minor consequence; a fuzzy backdrop to their endless, summery banter.

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Glenelg and Port is pulsating. The Magpies are taller, bigger and dominate aerially, but the Bays appear to quicken as the shadows lengthen. The boys’ chat continues.

“Our grade five camp had way better food! Don’t you think Ty?”

“I met Steve Smith at the Cricket Warehouse when I was six. Mum let me have the day off school.”

“Jacob, are you going to do karate next year?”

I love the easy egalitarianism among them. Each takes his turn, enjoys his moments in the sun, is allowed his voice. There’s no clear pecking order or obvious Alpha male. There’s esprit de corps.

It’s gladdening.

At half time they dash behind the stand onto the lawns for some kick-to-kick while I watch their black backpacks, bursting with snacks as we arrived, and now mostly empty like deflated tyres.

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Stretching my legs too I wander down to the ornamental grass. There’s an irresistible puddle. The boys are bunched by the statue of Boof Lehmann while Alex skims his footy through the water and at them, again and again while they squirm and shriek. However, they’re wet and it’s fresh so I ask them to stop. They do. Maybe I should’ve left them to it. Boof is spared further drenching.

In the gathering gloom (literal and metaphorical; tending towards pathetic fallacy) Port win by four points over a fast-finishing Glenelg. The boys exclaim their vague despair, but it’s vaporised before we exit the Southern Plaza and their natural natter then pings about, as it should. We cross the footbridge.

With my headlights cutting through the murk I again steer along Anzac Highway and think of Stand by Me. Alex and these mates will have next year in their snug, neighbourhood primary school, and then move on. They’ll likely attend different high schools. Maybe their bond will endure, maybe not.

But, for the moment, this exquisite, unrepeatable moment, Alex and his eleven-year-old friends, bouncing between childhood and adolescence, are deep in the greatest of simple gifts: each other.

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September and everyone’s in love and flowers pick themselves

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It must be acknowledged that autumn is ridiculously good in Adelaide. The cloudless, immensely liveable days host a tremendous array of outdoor fun at the beach, at the Fringe Festival, in the backyard. It’s a spectacular time in this cosy city, clinging to the edge of our isolated island at 34.9285° S.

Every month has highpoints, but September is the one to which I pin most happy expectation. I love winter, and while here it’s brief, I’m mostly pleased to wave farewell to it, and smile at spring.

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So what is it about September?

Football finals.

From my home town of Kapunda, to Adelaide’s suburban competition and then to the immovable Australian Football league, it’s the best month to enjoy our unique game. I love that it must be the only sport in which competitors miss a goal but are rewarded with a point for being close. You know, for having a go. In this country we value laconic imprecision, of course.

With the Adelaide Crows yet again having September off for poor behaviour my attention now goes elsewhere. I still take a huge interest in the AFL finals, and my inner socialist dictates that my temporary affections are with the most deserving, and generally least successful team.

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I can offer no love towards Geelong, Collingwood, West Coast, Essendon or the confected opportunism that is the GWS Giants so I’m barracking for the Western Bulldogs. They’ve one flag in the last six decades.

Triumphing on the month’s last Saturday will provide associative hope to the Crows for 2020. Football fans, after all, must be optimists. Without this, we cease to be.

At the local level my team Glenelg qualified for the finals following a dark decade of absence. Indeed, they have a shot at the premiership cup; their first since the antediluvian era (1986, but you get my point). It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be surprising. Most vitally, it’s going to be memorable.

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Spring is a seductress, but a shameless tease too. With the days lengthening swiftly we end our hibernation and amble outdoors expecting bright, sunny skies. There’s a burst of cheerful warmth, and suddenly, barbeques sizzle, thongs flip-flop out of the wardrobe, and a few frenzied punters even splash down to the beach.

But, before you’ve pumped up the tyres on your cobwebby bike, or ironed your speedos, a gusty change lashes through, and again you need a beanie on just to stick out the bins. And this schizophrenic weather can go on endlessly. It’s like buying tickets to a Bob Dylan concert and worrying about who’ll turn up on the night. The good Bob, or the bad Bob?

The international cricket season is slow to get a rumblin’ so horse-racing enjoys some attention until mid-November. I love the Group 1 races such as the Makybe Diva Stakes, named after the Port Lincoln wonder mare who won three consecutive Melbourne Cups, and the Moir Stakes, which sadly isn’t the Moi Stakes and therefore named after Kath and Kim. The boys and I will invest the odd hour in the Broadway pub watching some of the turf action. Max might even wear his Black Caviar cap. It’ll be a raspberry and chips for all.

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September is rebirth and renaissance; promise and hope; a farewell to the murk and a cautious nod at the light. It’s when the year stomps down on the accelerator and tyres squealing, burns towards Christmas like a mad Monaro.

Let’s wind down the windows, and crank up the radio!

 

 

*the title comes from the celebrated American poet ee cummings

 

 

 

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Beer Review: Coopers Sparkling Ale- It’s just a shot away

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When I think of Coopers Sparkling Ale (and this probably happens way too often) many metaphors present themselves concerning kings and empires and black and white cricket footage, and the launch of exquisite super-yachts, but the Rolling Stones feature prominently in my vivid imaginings, and more particularly the opening track of their heralded 1969 release Let It Bleed.

I speak of “Gimme Shelter” which opens with Keef’s ominous, storm clouds-a-gathering, open-tuned guitar, and one of the most iconic, menacing riffs recorded.

Sparking Ale and “Gimme Shelter” are both instantly recognisable, demanding of your attention and have rightly earnt a place in popular culture. If I drew a Venn diagram of these two joys, I’d colour the overlap with a thick, red 4B pencil.

There’s a story that Keef played an Australian-built guitar while recording the song and so vigorous had the sessions been that on the final note, the entire neck fell off, onto the studio floor.

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This brings me nicely to Coopers Sparkling Ale long necks. For this correspondent, it’s the finest way to enjoy this fruity, zesty ale, and one of the few beers that isn’t superior out of a keg. A frosty 750ml bottle and a large glass and if you peer into the middle distance you can hear God. Or maybe Keef: mountain craggy and skinny and puffing endlessly on a dart, conjuring the devil with his rhythm axe.

Iconoclastic Kapunda publican Peter “Puffa” Jansen was a single-minded advocate for beer in cans as he reckoned, “they travel better” particularly on his spontaneous and legendary lunch trips, which could stretch over half a week. But I’m unconvinced and with all of this pretext and subtext in mind bought a six pack of these newly launched, hipster-friendly red cans earlier in the week.

So, what is my considered and probing view?

I’ve enjoyed Sparkling Ale in London, Edinburgh, Singapore and New York, and despite the often eye-watering frequent flier points these beers may have earnt jetting about our blue-green planet, I found these to always be a treat. Along with my twangy accent, I saw them as a foamy badge of Croweater honour.

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I resisted all urges to tip the can into a trusty Southward mug, not because of the seemingly warlike combination (like wearing a Crows scarf and Power beanie at the same time), but as I imagine this is how these will generally be consumed. I slurped away at my metal tube.

I found the trademark Sparkling Ale aroma and bold, arresting citrus notes were largely absent, as though they’d been shut down by the can, like a curmudgeonly deputy principal. Like a Boggo Road inmate who’d been in solitary for a month there was blinking uncertainty and confusion at its place in the world. It seemed muffled, as though I was hearing “Gimme Shelter” on a Goldstar tape player through an uncooperative bedroom wall.

It was a big Coopers beer, but I mourned the lack of visual delight: the rich, soupy hue in a front bar pint or backyard cup. Instead, a dullish, bashful red tin, which was apologetic rather than assertive, unlike a Andy Warhol long neck on a laminated kitchen table.

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Doubtless, our bearded craft beer cousins will love ’em, but I’m unlikely to buy more tins. In this highly competitive market of targeted demographics and business plans, where boutique brewers have sprung up like boy bands, I’m sure these will be a commercial success, and they’ll march out the door of your local boozer.

However, I’ll be the old bull at the counter with a couple long necks in paper bags, heading home to my back patio, a large glass and with Keef in majestic, gnarly delight, Let It Bleed, snarling at volume.

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