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Beer Review: The Rancid, Amoral Horror of Great Northern

It was almost there and then it was gone.

The faintest suggestion of a promise of a possible future hint of tiny taste and then it disappeared.

Great Northern Original Lager is representative of all that is evil in late-period capitalism.

It was clearly developed around a table by some untreatably dreadful marketing types. Wearing dangerously pointy boots and strategic stubble, I’ll bet it was workshopped (these shameless ones can often be caught turning innocent nouns into vapid verbs) on butcher’s paper, or the slick e-equivalent.

Their website declares that the beer was, ‘brewed with an outdoor lifestyle in mind’ and I remain curious as to what this might look like given the beverage nightmare. ‘Outdoors’ might mean attack from a marauding numbat or vaguely agitated moth, and you could pelt one of these (unopened) beer bottles at them. If you didn’t hit them, at least they’d be terminally offended by your unspeakable taste in lager.

I took another reluctant sip and peered again at the (dis)information on my screen. With a bold face it stated that the ale was, ‘Light golden in colour with a fruity aroma, subtle bitterness and light palate.’ The following then occurred to me: Adelaide water, that universally maligned liquid, has superior aroma, bitterness and palate.

The bottle label also tells me that the Cairns brewery was established in 1927 which might’ve been fortunate for the then good folk of FNQ. Just play around with F and Q and it’s almost onomatopoeic of their attitude towards us, the customers. Happily, the Great Depression struck in 1929 and the local public may have found themselves unable to afford this depraved slop.

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My inattention then turned towards the Great Northern Super Crisp Lager which comes in at a non-descript 3.5%. 3.5 is widely acknowledged as the most bland of all numerals. Italian mathematician (and slashing middle-order bat) Fibonacci hated it.

This lager is also allegedly brewed with, ‘an outdoor lifestyle in mind.’ Is there something offensive to these people about drinking a beer indoors? In fact, I reckon this might be for the best. I’d go one step further, just in case someone you knew was walking past and saw what you were voluntarily doing, and pull down all the blinds.

I’m now thinking about the ‘Super Crisp’ qualifiers. I think this might be a fair claim, but only if you’re comparing this sorry muck to week-old lettuce. And given the price of lettuce I’d gobble that up as soon as you left the supermarket checkout, before a Leaf Vegetable Gang mugs you in the carpark.

Further investigation uncovers that our marketing funsters refer to this as the, ‘ultimate refreshment for the Great Northern conditions.’ Remember that scene in Shawshank Redemption when Andy Dufresne convinces Captain Hadley to buy beer for him and his co-workers? They then drink it on the roof and Andy is celebrated as a hero. If it had been Great Northern Super Crisp Lager that scene might’ve been unmatchably gruesome. Andy would never have peeled back the Raquel Welsh poster and dug his way out of prison. They’d have hoicked him off that roof.

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Beer Review: Nort

Sitting on our patio late Sunday I decide to open a beer. It’s a Nort and was abandoned recently by a supposed friend. Like an unwanted but inarguably ugly dog it’s been hiding in the beer fridge, all forlorn and problematic and somehow demanding my attention.

Easing off the top there’s no Christmas Day sizzle or birthday effervescence. Just grim functionality, like programming a Betamax VCR in 1984. It’s unceremonious.

The label is Scandinavian assertive and not casually idiomatic. It demands the drinker, “Enjoy More.” Enjoy more what I wonder. Bing Crosby albums or possibly Gilligan’s Island reruns? Seems a bit pushy.

In the bottom half of the label (there’s probably a technical term for this that the Gruen folk could doubtless tell me) it confidently declares the contents to be, “RERFRESHING ALE.” Well, I’ll be the judge of that I think. See, I’ve already started arguing with my beer and this is generally a harbinger of personal doom. Never a good idea on a Sunday.

I next learn that my beverage is “100% crafted.” Now, I’m pretty sure this is porky pies. Crafted by a kindly old grandpa in his rustic shed? Or spewed up on an automated and soulless conveyor belt in a post-apocalyptic industrial estate?

I think we both know the answer to this.

Spinning the bottle around provides further critical reading opportunity. Who knew that beer could be so educational, so enlightening? If I reflect sufficiently on this, I may concoct a taxonomy for future generations to apply to their drinking pursuits.    

Then I see that my ale is, “plant based.”

Ah.

This is great news for I had become weary of all the meat based beer I’d been happily consuming. All the sausage-centred lager and the steak-derived stout. Not to mention the pork pilsner (could be an adult film, produced in Hamburg).

As I type I wonder about the genius that would be a schnitzel-based beer. Imagine the time we could save! Just fire up the nutri-bullet and stick it all in together! Hot or cold, winter or summer! Yum.

So, how was the beer? Peering at the label again I note that Nort anagrams to Rotn.

Yes, this has been a decidedly rotten episode. Linguistically, spiritually, alcoholically.

I don’t know what it costs or where you buy it. If a mate leaves one in your fridge, tip in on some weeds you want dead and claim the ten cents refund.

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Finally, a beer review

 

sparko

Good art is evocative. It jumps on the individual and transports them elsewhere. Gee, even bad art can have you skipping across the planet.

Can beer be art too? Of course. It functions like a frothy time machine. Or something like this.

One afternoon I went on a little holiday, while sitting on our modest patio. Here’s my travel diary courtesy of the following fun refreshments.

Chang

On Boxing Day 2005 we arrived in Bangkok from London. Having survived part or whole of three shadowy English winters meant the Thai heat was monstrous. Like the black monolith in Kubrick’s 2001, it governs the landscape (and the moonscape).

Late morning, we took a boat along the Chao Phraya river, pausing at various Buddhist sites, and marvelling at the coconuts, bobbling in the brown water. When thirst conquered tourism we moored at a floating restaurant for a drink, and such was the hotness and absurd humidity that we demolished a squadron of large Chang bottles.

It’s a pale lager with a straw hue, and while it’s not bursting with personality and stories, it’s crisp and refreshing in a functional way, like an old Casio calculator. It’ll never MC your best mate’s wedding.

Our session was brisk and energetic, and soon there was a phalanx of green bottles on the table, in silent evidence of our stern tropical application. De-camping to Singapore a few years later I learnt that a handful of tinkling ice cubes in a frosty beer glass is no gastronomic crime, in fact it’s medically necessary.

With the sun slipping into the Andaman Sea and your green chicken curry steaming on the Ko Lanta table, a Chang is gorgeously contextualised. Don’t forget. Chang means elephant.

Tsingtao Beer

Gee, we’re all now situated within an Asian century and like Roy and HG, I find it tremendously exciting. This pilsner was originally brewed under the mythical German Purity Laws in a joint Chinese/ Bavarian operation. These enigmatic ideals are now abandoned and rice is an ingredient, but it works in a happy, meaningless pre-season fixture fashion.

Like an episode of Have You Been Paying Attention? it’s fun and compelling at the time, but in the morning, you’ll recollect little of it. However, this is fine. Live a little and ignore the cultural import.

Tsingtao attends to its easy drinking brief with a casual nod to the grandstand as the chestnut conveyance strides past the post in an early spring Group 3 race over, say, 1600 metres. It’s pale, golden in the glass and unlikely to inspire a revolution, cultural or military. While I enjoyed it, at no stage did I hear Communism barking in my ear as I supped. I should’ve listened to Little Feat’s “A Apolitical Blues” to allow beer and art to mingle in that deathless, exotic exchange-

Well my telephone was ringing

And they told me it was chairman Mao

 

Well my telephone was ringing

And they told me it was chairman Mao

Coopers Sparkling Ale

At the end of a holiday, even a lager-themed trip, it’s good to come home. And so, we look at the mighty CSA, as I’m confident it’s not known in the trade. In my coterie, it’s a Sparko although this familiar, friendly nomenclature disguises a dark truth.

Kids: this is not a session beer. The graveyard is clunking with the skeletons of those who fought it, and lost.

Sparkling ale speaks with preternatural eloquence. I tell you, every bottle bursts with Jack Nicholson, the Velvet Underground and ultimately, Hemingway from his tiny Spanish bar. As an aspirational product, it’s looking down fondly upon us all from its Nepalese retreat.

It presents with citrus, cereal, ferment, danger, sex, death. It can be eaten with a fork. Avoid it at breakfast, especially if you’ve booked a duel with a mortal enemy. But taken moderately, in the late autumnal sun, it’s invigorating and celebratory.

After three circumspect sips, you’ll possess the wit of former Australian PM, Paul Keating who once described the performance of a parliamentary foe as “like being flogged with a warm lettuce.”

Coopers Sparkling Ale is huge like Merv Hughes in his twilight, but under the hum and roar of a party, it leans in and whispers conspiratorially, “Can you believe our good fortune to live where we do?”

And you smile in that reflective way while sort of staring into the middle distance and think yep, that’s fecking true.

bangkok