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Pub Review: The Duke of York

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It was the most Antarctic of days and the first song played was that most summery number, Paul Kelly’s “How to Make Gravy”. But this is no seasonal jingle, only tolerated on high rotation, for a brief window, before being shelved for another twelve months. It’s an exquisite, year-round Christmas narrative, and the guitarist in Adelaide’s Duke of York pub lends it his kind, engaging voice although he drifts occasionally into nasally Kath ‘n’ Kim suburbia.

As Billy Joel didn’t quite note, it’s a pretty quiet crowd for a Thursday, and a regular crowd hasn’t shuffled in. However, the bar bloke is charismatic and helpful, talking us through the drinks and food offerings in a way that’s more barbeque banter than sales pitch.

Accommodatingly, for those of us who remain numerically, if not monetarily bewildered, all main menu items are $12.90 (or 12.9 as modern minimalism has it) and this egalitarianism is excellent. My dining partner has the Angel Hair Pasta w Roast Pumpkin, Broccoli & Eggplant in an Argentinian Pesto.

While I find Eggplant, or indeed, eggplant, like a Morrison government cabinet member, entirely devoid of charisma and indigestible, it’s met with approval although the pesto, while inspired by Buenos Aires, is more rumour than admissible evidence.

There are countless culinary crimes in our cosy first world lives, but burying chips beneath a schnitzel, like a careless mobster in a shallow grave, is inexcusable. I’m happy to be a vigilante and even a mercenary, but should not have to rescue my own fried potato chunks. Won’t somebody think of the chips?

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In the Duke’s defence (the pub, not John Wayne) tonight this is a minor offence and my meal is otherwise terrific. In the happy manner of a mum serving at a country footy canteen the bar keep even asks me if I’d like some gravy to accompany my chips. This alone guarantees the sentence is only a good behaviour bond.

As we dine and the rain lashes the city we note on the wall a patchwork print of a bespectacled cat. This, of course, is fiction and nonsense, for cats are entirely self-absorbed and take no interest in others or the world, and so have no need for improved vision. I say this in full knowledge of August 8 being International Cat Day, and August 7 being International Cats Eating Bananas Day. Only last week one of the boys said he’d like a cat for Christmas. I was planning to do a turkey, but if it keeps ‘em happy…

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With a nirvana of happy hours spread across the week, the Duke is eager to placate here too. Some ridicule Carlsberg for being European VB, but I fancy a glass of it when opportunity arrives. So I do, and a tenner for an imperial pint (as opposed to our decidedly un-regal standard pint) is crisp value, while Claire selects a red wine and finds it generous and warming (personally, if not globally).

The guitarist (is it illegal for those playing inner-city pubs to not sport a beanie?) moves onto English wunderkind George Ezra and his catchy toon, “Budapest” and it’s a cordial track for a bleak night. He then tackles Paul Kelly’s omnipresent, “To Her Door” which, according to the lyricist, could very well star the protagonist from, “How to Make Gravy.”

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I love some early August intertextuality, as we nod our thanks to the strumming soul and head to the Festival Theatre for the Book of Mormon, and critiques of cultural colonialism and healthy doses of hysterical dysentery.

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Wednesday in Fitzroy

 

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Rainbow Hotel, 27 St David St, Fitzroy

Another mild afternoon and I’m pleased to arrive before sunset to enjoy the interplay between light and shade and architecture and the human form. And also to enjoy the beer. It’s steak night, but despite the eager salespitch it’s too early for me.

There’s two rooms in the beer garden, and as I’m training myself or maybe the pubs of Fitzroy are training me to look up, I see upturned umbrellas and an old, stylish bicycle. Bicycles are everywhere in this suburb. There are a rich symbol of all that’s good here.

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I suspect it divides the punters but I like a Chesterfield in a pub. There are no candles but instead bedside table lamps throughout the front bar. A former employee swings by with his new born girl and the bar staff are excited. It’s great to see.

Having necessarily ignored the Bridge Road stout given its 12% punch I finish my Four Pines Pale Ale and depart, both garden and bar now bursting with cheery folk. I’d happily return.

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Napier Hotel, 210 Napier St, Fitzroy

Approaching this pub it’s white and bright and lit up like a Madrid square. Stepping through the front door it’s darker than a Thai cave but boasts beautiful stained glass windows.

Sitting in an ante room the Doobie Brothers are playing and a family is eating in the dark. I’ve been in brighter ghost trains. Throughout the pub are large, satirical Phantom artworks that explore gender politics.

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I sip my Moo Brew Pale Ale and John Fogerty finishes “Green River” and we move to an early Miles Davis number. Next to me (I think) I overhear another ubiquitous footy conversation, this time about the Sydney Swans and the possibility of yet another late run at the finals.  Back in the front bar two women are talking of travel and trees- “It was beautiful and under it was just like a room.”

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The Standard Hotel, 293 Fitzroy St, Fitzroy

The first thing I see is mightily impressive. It’s the take away drinks fridge in the front bar. Standing beside two women who are eating steak I order a Beechworth Pale Ale. One has a guitar case next to her.

On my way to the huge beer garden- again with many separate spaces I note that there’s much Fitzroy footy club memorabilia. It speaks to me of pride in the past and a certain defiance, but I also suspect that this is a suburb still in mourning for the loss of its team. I wonder how many locals now support Brisbane? How many in this close, vibrant community connect with a team thousands of miles away in the muggy, ambivalent north?

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Out in the beer garden it’s dark. I’m almost the only punter not wearing black. In a function room there’s a clot of attractive, smiling, young suits who’ll soon inherit our catastrophe.

Boonie, Elvis and Keef photos are above the bar, all brilliant in their excess and singularity. What to make of the visual overload? Is it pollution? Is it competing for the narrative or there as comic relief? Or just stuff to look at while waiting for your drink or friend?

Labour in Vain, 197A Brunswick St, Fitzroy

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I enter to Dire Straits working their laconic way through “Sultans of Swing” and take an inner gasp as I consider that this song is now in its fifth decade.

Some young lads are playing pool and of course, like all contests there’s thrills and disappointments, equally. Wandering about, I see a bloke ascending the stairs. One of life’s eternal mysteries is what lies at the top of the stairs. I’m always intrigued. Before he disappears I yell out to him, “What’s up there?” He replies, “The smoking area.” I stay on the ground floor.

With Newtowner Ale as brewed by Young Henry in mit I find a spot by the window. The world moves by. These are big windows letting folks look in. Most other Fitzroy pubs I’ve seen are secretive, daring you to wander in. It’s breezy out.

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Like others in the suburb, Labour in Vain displays a concerted dedication to the past. There’s nothing contemporary on the walls or in the space. Why? Maybe pubs are places of escape, a refuge from our saturated lives. And the past is always a distraction, good or bad.

Billy Corgan’s whiney voice suddenly fills the bar with a Smashing Pumpkins’ song that like most of them, I find overrated. In the 1990’s they did nothing for me. And now they do double that.

Union Club Hotel, 164 Gore St, Fitzroy

To employ a cricketing metaphor, DNB.

For two pubs earlier I got a message from David Wilson offering to meet for a beer. I’ve heard the term disruption used recently in various learning contexts, and guess that my plan now enjoyed a happy disruption for I returned to the Napier and found David in the front bar and we chatted about cricket and footy and family and work and writing. It was great and I thank him for this.

I’d had myself an evening.

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Tuesday in Fitzroy

 

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Tramway Hotel, 165 Rae St, Fitzroy North

Underground music. Likely a Melbournian band from the 1980’s. One punter inside, one outside at the row of three tables on Church Street near the roundabout. The young fella out at a table appears from my spot by the fireplace to have an Andalusian dancing horse tattooed on his skull. Opposite me is a macramé wall hanging, and I feel as if I’ve been taken hostage by the horrific 70’s. At the centre of the Tramway is its triangular bar.

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I order a Young Henry’s Pale Ale which I find safe if unspectacular. It’s a mild afternoon so I move outside into darkening street. The Andalusian dancing horse has galloped off into his evening. Bikes outnumber cars on Rae Street and I find this reassuring. Most folk sport beanies. The upcoming gigs blackboard announces Acid Country broadcasting live this Thursday on PBS 106.7FM. Their website promises “an intimate afternoon of music, radio and community”.

Royal Oak Hotel, 442 Nicholson St, Fitzroy North

In the world of pub names is this the equivalent of John or Mary?

Here’s another fire and candles. There seems to be a distinctive inner-city intimacy at work in Fitzroy North. I can’t recall going into an Adelaide pub and finding lit candles. I like it. The Beatles are playing. My Hargreaves Hill Pale Ale is curious.

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Apart from me (obviously) there are three blokes in the front bar talking footy. They speak of the Scott brothers. One chap is theorising that the Geelong coach, Chris Scott, might be lucky to keep his job. It seems unlikely given that his team is top by some distance.

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I see an Escher print on the wall, murky books above my head and a tram zings past. A bowls scoreboard sits nearby. It’s quiz night and a staff member asks me if I’m here with a team. I shake my head. Scotland’s finest, The Proclaimers come on and I smile to myself. Indeed, Adelaide is 500 miles away. Having run The Tan earlier today (for the first time) which is a lap of Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens I think these lyrics true-

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door

I look up and there’s an upturned wooden surf boat over pool table. I leave.

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Suddenly, suburban floodlights. WT Peterson oval. Footy training over by the grandstand. Naked trees watching silently by me. Just in front on the forward flank: man, dog, tennis ball.

Lord Newry, 543 Brunswick St, Fitzroy North

First port of call in this boozer is the gents. There are astonishing quantities of graffiti on every surface. I rush. Don’t dry my hands.
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I order a Four Pines Pale Ale. Some Glaswegians in the back bar are talking football. In the front bar’s a muted glow, like grandma’s lounge room if she loved orange light shades and early disco music.

I detect a nautical theme because of the turgid and, I suspect, ironic prints of British ships. I think of the postcolonial perspective and associated ideas about imperialism, but only briefly.

I look up at the ceiling which has been stained yelpy yellow by a million Ardath and Black and White darts. And then I think about Sir Walter Raleigh who introduced smoking to Britain and I’m back to postcolonialism, but only briefly.

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I note that there’s only five items on the Specials menu board. I think this the maximum allowable number because any more and I’d question just how special those dishes might be. Wouldn’t you?

Royal Derby, 446 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

In the men’s the exhaust fan is whirling like the propeller of the Indianapolis but without Quint’s sharks. It’s so noisy I fear the whole building might take off.

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The Kings of Leon are playing and I find them restorative at this point if not generally. I keep with my broad ale theme and buy a Stone and Wood Pacific Ale. There’s a table tennis table in a dedicated room although no-one’s using it, and it would be difficult for me to play by myself.

Over in the betting corner a man is having trouble with his eyes and these go from menacing and mean to glazed and then incapable of focus. He leaves. It’s the only pub in which I hear no footy talk.

The Rose, 406 Napier St, Fitzroy

Happily, I walk in and hear blokes talking footy around a central rectangular bar. There’s a big dog by a table. Warm chat everywhere. Exotic beers abound, but also Coopers.

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With exposed bricks and beautiful and enveloping light this is suburban joy. It’s the standout on my brief tour. India and New Zealand begin the World Cup semi-final and I speak with an Englishman about this fixture and our upcoming clash. We agree that the bowlers might dictate the result and Mitchell Stark could be the difference.

I order a burger. It’s a treat. Some young lads near me talk of commercial airline seat configurations on flights into and out of the Western Australian mines. They appear knowledgeable. As I leave, they’ve turned to the bright prospects of the Brisbane Lions who, of course, used to be Fitzroy.

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Pub Review: The Three Brothers Arms, Macclesfield

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Becalmed by the fireplace a smiling chap said, “It’s great isn’t it?”

I agreed.

“It’s just like your living room. That’s how the owners want you to treat it.”

“Tell the Truth” by Derek and the Dominoes made its earthy, laconic way from the speakers to the ears of the punters. It had that warm, enveloping feel to it because it wasn’t coming from a juke box, CD player or streaming service.

Audiophiles agree that it remains the finest way to enjoy an album, and over by the pool table was that most uncommon yet esteemed of front bar furniture: an antique turntable and speakers.

Brilliant.

“This is a very English idea,” I nodded. “Publicans over there want you to treat the pub like your own home. It’s rare here.”

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Living on a West Coast farm I bought a second-hand turntable that had somehow lost its legs, so I used split squash balls to absorb the bumps and rumbles because as is established fact there’s nothing worse than the stylus bouncing across your most prized vinyl which of course is Ripper ’76.

With the volume screaming past eleven it kept the sheep away from the house. Digital music is omnipresent but real records provide us with the physical and the kinaesthetic. It’s a richer sensory experience.

Eric Clapton and Duane Allman were undertaking some acceptable fret work on this most perfect of Saturday afternoon pub soundtracks. Along the pub wall rest half a dozen rows of LPs. Blues masters, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, sixties and seventies gems. Pinned nearby is a brief set of rules for busy times- one side only per person etc.

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With regular live gigs in the Heritage Bar and beer garden (Kasey Chambers’ dad Bill playing soon) it’s a musical nirvana and complements impeccably the pub across the road, The Macclesfield, which offers standard services like big screen footy, TAB, happy hours, pokies.

Is there a better balanced two-pub town?

Earlier we took in the Mary MacKillop Way which with paintings and text documents the saint’s local work. One station highlights the sisters’ efforts during a bushfire when Mary offered the volunteers, “drinks and light food.” Light food?

Happily, I’ve no experience in this but imagine after elongated hours of hot and dangerous labour battling a blaze, I’d be a little disappointed to be only given a cup of tea and a scone, and to hear the dreaded words, “Sorry love but we’re out of jam and cream.”

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Originally known as the Goats Head Inn it’s visually engaging with memorabilia and photos, and curios like an upturned umbrella and wooden toy train dangling from the ceiling. There’s historic Guinness and stout signage too.

By the window we find a spot on a ruby Chesterfield couch, and in our nook’s an upright piano and a Hendrix (I’m claiming this as a collective noun) of acoustic and electric guitars.

The resident kelpie Ranger wanders about saying hello. I love dogs in pubs. In England this is routine and they’re welcomed with water bowls and spaces to stretch out. Hounds are so central to our way of life here yet rarely spotted in public buildings. Why? I’ve seldom seen an unkempt, drunk dog wobbling about picking fights in a pub, and know who I’d rather sit next to. One of the bar staff tells me that Ranger loves playdates and often has canine callers.

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Well done, Three Brothers Arms.

With the fire crackling away, I attempt another beer. “I might try the Goats Head Lager. Who makes it?”

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you,” insists the young barkeep with a wink. Maybe it’s difficult following a Coopers Sparkling Ale, but although I get that it’s a tribute to the pub’s original name and neighbouring brewery, I find it somewhat bland.

Convivial knots of chaps are at the low tables and many of them sport tweed jackets. They look like minor characters in an Ian McEwen novel. With its uncomplicated sense of purpose and refined atmospherics it does feel decidedly English in here, and I reckon the pub would sit sympathetically in the Lakes District or by a brook in the Cotswolds.

Meanwhile, someone drops Bob Dylan onto the turntable and his endearing whine mingles warmly with the patrons’ wine. Underscoring the music is the staccato percussion from the pool table. It’s a jovial place.

Claire and I have dinner plans, but vow to return. The beer garden stretches down to the Angas River and is a summery must. We pat Ranger goodbye and head out into the afternoon’s fresh coolness.

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Pub Review: The Macclesfield Hotel- Man v Megalodon Hamburger

 

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It was the size of an adult human head.

This, of course, is neither alarming or humorous if you’re expecting a fully-grown person in which case it warrants no observation.

Plonked down on our table and despite its silence, inactive state and general amicability it was instantly startling. I was in for the fight of my culinary life. I was about to die in an episode of Man v Food. It was a hamburger.

A megalodon hamburger.

6pm on a Friday is the textbook time to gust into a country pub, and this is true for the Macclesfield Hotel in the Adelaide Hills. It’s the sanctified end of the working week, the festive start of the weekend, and a chance to see a community skipping and jabbering, busy and recalibrating.

A full, spectral moon floodlit the countryside, and a toasty glow encased the front bar. There was cheery commotion for the (possibly over-capitalised) Friday Night Weekly ‘Pick-a-Pint’ Jackpot Draw was on. Chocolate-smeared kids dashed about, and leather and patch jackets, and work shirts, and bushy beards coloured our canvas.

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We secured a stretch of timber and towel and coasters. I opted for a Coopers Pale Ale while Claire had a house white, and both were atomically accurate. To our left with a clattering plastic bucket, Bic biro and little paper books was that most principal of pub peoples, the meat tray ticket seller.

Despite there being no visible meat tray, we fished out our coin, and prayed to the patron saint of Free Sausages, but as it was later revealed, all those canonised in the name of chops had enjoyed a rostered day off. Even local saint, Mary MacKillop was working on subsidiary projects.

An enlivening din swirled throughout and I wondered at the chat: recent rainfall; tomorrow’s home footy fixture in which the local Blood ‘n’ Tars would take on the Gumeracha Magpies; Sunday’s celebrity cricket match at Davenport Square starring former Australian cricketer Wayne Phillips (whose wife has a Kapunda connection); houses and farms bought and sold; kids’ sport, kids’ achieving, kids’ causing concern.

The dining room was also ministered by a wood fire. Large tables crafted from tree trunks had been coaxed in and like the bar, the tone was both industrious and intimate.

Claire ordered sliders, and next morning two of these remained so we evoked Pulp Fiction:

Jules: It looks like me and Vincent caught you boys at breakfast. Sorry about that. What ‘cha having?
Brett: Hamburgers.
Jules: Hamburgers! The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast.

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Meanwhile my meal was intimidating, and I felt like the skinny teenager who learns that tomorrow he’ll be on Plugger Lockett. It loomed on the plate like an aircraft carrier (surely the USS Ronald Reagan) and the chips clung to the cliff all cowering and awed. If the hamburger had eyes it would’ve stared me down like Ali at the weigh-in.

Anxious for a food coach my challenge was how to accost the behemoth. Right, I’ll pick it up and tackle it whole. I blinked. Nup, maybe if I had a gob like a hippo, then just maybe. OK, I’ll cut it in half. Peering now at the knife, my cutlery seemed impossibly tiny, like a toy you’d get from a kids’ lucky dip at a particularly dismal country show.

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With gallows acceptance I murmured to Claire, “I have no choice.” She whispered, “God’s speed,” before nodding, “and please, take care.”

Deconstruction.

And so, my colossal hamburger became a creaking plate of two beef patties, bacon, eggs (yes, two bum nuts), cheese, lettuce, onions, tomato, relish and bread rolls: a medically-necessary mixed grill.

Like a (considerably) less menacing version of a middle-career Robert De Niro I tightened my teeth, and worked methodically through it while eventually the Friday night footy match wound up; the pub cleaner later dragged her mop and bucket about me wheezing, “You’re alright darlin’, take your time”; and the last of the front bar faithful wobbled off into the moonlit midnight.

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My hamburger was magnificent.

The subsequent surgery a success I drove into town Saturday morning to buy the paper and accidently found myself in the Maccy cup-house administering a punt. At the bar was a solitary woman, and as I fed my betting slips to the machine, she asked in her throaty way, “Gotta tip, love?” Such is the agreeable nature of this boozer that she and Yorky laughed at my reply, “Yep, keep your cash in your pocket.”

Minutes later the car radio crackled my horse saluting (Sandown, race 2, number 8, Shrouded in Mist, 6/1) and with this happy coda I thought, gee, I really like this pub.

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Beer Review: Coopers XPA (spoiler: boiled shite)

costaAn iconic Australian brewer, Coopers have launched a new beer. This is of considerable excitement to me, and here’s a quick list of launches that are far, far worse.

The launch of a P!nk album
The launch of the Costa Concordia
The launch of Paris Hilton’s eponymous perfume
The launch of an Exocet missile
The launch of AFLX
The launch of Shane Warne’s new wig
The launch of an all you can eat tofu diner.

That’ll do for now.

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I’m in a suburban Adelaide pub. It’s called the Highway, and is stylised as HWY. Some would argue that for the HWY, this is where style ends. It’s actually pronounced “Hur- wah- yee” and emits exactly the sound you’ll make when paying for a drink here.

It’s one of those maddening pubs that insists on using those ridiculous glasses that are well short of being pints, yet they charge you as if they’re Jeroboams of lager.

Maybe it’s called the Highway because in the Lounge Bar and accompanying deck, highway robbery is the business plan. I often feel in there as if I’ve been personally served by Ned Kelly masquerading as a twenty-something arts/law drop out called Charlotte whose boyfriend plays footy for an Old Collegians club.

You know the one.nedWith all these crimes temporarily excused I’m in the Sports Bar seeking a Coopers XPA, largely as there’s nowhere closer to home with this on tap. As sports bars go this one is fine with screens showing golf, cricket replays and the thoroughbreds from Hawkesbury and Quirindi. On the other side there’s a mega-wall of betting screens and some burly high-vis blokes.

As is law in this country there’s that one cove in the bar, sans hygiene and base-level socialisation who, despite the early hour, has already been here too long. Wandering about aimlessly he invariably glances and blinks at me, and wobbles over as in his fuddled head it’s time for a chat. Oh, here he comes.

No use putting my head down and avoiding eye-contact. It must be my deodorant. Well, at least his fly is up and on his upper thigh he’s not sporting a dinner-plate sized pee mark.

He belongs to another era, particularly the one before the Highway was renovated when, even around 5 bells on a Friday, the front bar was as dark as a Thai cave and a grizzled and aproned butcher squatted at a table, sold cubes of cheese and slices of mettwurst and handed over your happy hour tucker on actual butchers’ paper. This was before butchers’ paper was hijacked by every clueless conference convenor and it became a toxic weed along with housekeeping, plenaries and parking lots.

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The Coopers XPA?

Colossally disappointing. Taking a spot adjacent to the bar with my undersized, overpriced glass, I took a sip. Nothing on the front palate. Pause. Nothing on the middle palate. Another awkward pause. Expecting a late rush of taste and flavour and Coopers yum from the back palate I still found nothing.

I acknowledge that at 5.2% it is more Ali than featherweight, but the XPA seems to have pipe-cleaners for arms, and not guns.

Old mate Puggy then joined me, and instantly confirmed my dismal analysis. We had been promised a lumpy V8, like a Brock Commodore, all throaty and snarling up a country straight, but instead were piloting an insipid sedan. With bald tyres.

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The previous Coopers release was Session Ale, and it was sun and joy and tropics. A golden splash of fun, and reggae straight in ya gob. It has proved to be a hit, like a Beatles’ tune from their Rubber Soul era.

Coopers XPA is the song that came 17th in Eurovision 1987, but without the charm, longevity and ridiculous applause from the irradiated Ukrainians.

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Pub Review: Hotel Victor, Victor Harbor

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Iconic Australian cricketer, leviathan punter, beer inhaler and former Rothmans enthusiast Doug Walters famously said, “When in Victor Harbor be sure to swing by the Hotel Victor. It’s really good.”

Actually, he didn’t say this, and I just made it up.

Doug is a fabulously cool cat, and once went to bed in Perth well after dawn and well-oiled before mere hours later, going out to bat for his country. He possesses a remarkably mild temper, but I wonder what even he’d make of the Hotel Victor.

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The boys and I were in town and as the Tuesday sun was setting, all autumnal and fetching, we suddenly had a dinner dilemma. I won’t say it was poor planning on my behalf but our holiday cabin menu read: half a raw sausage, two bread crusts and nine grapes.

Among the safest beer choices in this land of plenty is Coopers Pale Ale, but happily sat in the front bar and peering across the park, my first sip was, as they say in beverage circles, putrid. Mmm. Something not right here. All metallic edges and prodding screwdrivers, and not the fruity, plentiful palate so richly celebrated.

Eleven patient slurps later I cleared my poisoned throat and rasped at the innkeeper, “Excuse me, young man with the hipster beard, my ale is poorly.” He replaced it, but the second was equally miserable. It lay in the glass like a sad, Liverpudlian puddle.

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Occasionally, the first beers poured daily from a keg can be, as Doug himself describes, a little sharp. However, this was beer o’clock in Victor Harbor during the splendid guts of school holidays. There were punters nursing cups all over the boozer. I was no pioneer.

A pub unable to provide a crisp gargle is like a frisky pup not wanting to reproduce with your bare leg: inexplicable.

We should’ve decamped to the fish ‘n’ chippery, but I persevered with the cold-eyed application of the Never Dead.

I’d a discount meal voucher and was singular in my wish to redeem it. “No, you can’t use it in here, only in the bistro,” announced the pig-tailed girl with cheerful senselessness. “What difference does it make?” I blinked. “Do the meals not come from the same kitchen? How can it matter where we sit?”

She blinked back.

In the apparently magical bistro with the boys gawping at their devices I ordered, but the pub again gave the rude finger. “Sorry, you can’t use this coupon for kids’ meals, only adult ones.”

I was tempted to use Aunt Edna’s favourite expression, the elegant and timeless, Fuck me.

I was getting extra good at loosing arguments, and my will to live was about to drown itself in my rancid ale, so naturally I continued. “But the discount here is ten bucks. Should I return, and buy the adult-only lobster and save thirty dollars? Would that be better for you?”

Hotel Victor 3, me 0.

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I admit my roast beef was terrific. Tender, exquisitely flavoursome and a treat to eat. The carvery vegetables were also delicious; especially the cauliflower, although as Aunt Edna used to suggest, “If you somehow manage to fuck up cauliflower we’re all in deep shit.” She had a shocking mouth, Aunt Edna.

Upon arrival we were promised water and glasses, but the four wait staff were so stressed attending to the excessive, punishing demands of the six other diners that this didn’t happen. Mercifully, humans are only 60% water so replenishing with H2O wasn’t important, and at no stage were we in significant biological danger.

They were also busy dwelling on Doug Walters’ famous century made entirely in the final session at the WACA in 1974. He bought it up with a six off the day’s last ball.

For the Hotel Victor to have also hit a six off their last delivery would’ve required free Coopers Sparkling Ales for me, and buckets of chocolate ice-cream for both Alex and Max.

The wait staff (yes, we’re still waiting) were consumed by their own ridiculous rules for acceptance of vouchers; an unwavering commitment to shagging up the country’s finest keg beer; and avoiding minimal levels of table service and so, with eyes shut, flopping about at the crease like a wounded sea mammal, and failing to offer a cricket shot, were bowled middle stump.

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