Beer Matters

Hop Thoughts from Abroad – part 2

As promised, in the next two articles I am looking at beers from ringing parts of the globe. I apologise if any details are out of date, it may have been a few years since I was in some of these places.


I was pleasantly surprised by what I drank “down under”. Thankfully the “Aussie” beers promoted over here were not much in evidence, in fact I don’t recall seeing Fosters anywhere. Even driving through Castlemaine I got the impression that the locals probably don’t “give a XXXX” for the stuff they export (or brew under licence) over here. I suspect it’s yet another form of revenge - along with practicing dentistry - for transporting all those convicts out there.

The beers I tried ranged from adequate (bearing in mind my comment last time about beers being a product of their surroundings) to wonderful. The most ubiquitous was Victoria Bitter (VB), which is actually a lager and rather bland. I’m sure I tried Swan whilst in Perth but can’t remember it at all. Cascade Pale, a fruity refreshing lager from Tasmania, is rather better as is Toohey’s, although I preferred the Old to the New (antipodean brewers often use the terms “old” and “new” to differentiate between top-fermented ales and bottom-fermented lagers respectively). I regret to admit that while most of the party were broadening their minds in the Ballarat museum, I spent an afternoon in a seedy bar drinking Toohey’s Old and playing pool.

Coopers of Adelaide is one of Australia’s oldest breweries and produces a range of bottled beers which are additive-free and unfiltered, including Original Pale Ale, Sparkling Ale and Best Extra Stout. The first two can be found across the country but the rest are mostly confined to South Australia. A good place to try them is the Queen’s Head, a splendid pub which purports to be Adelaide’s oldest licensed premises and is fortuitously just a stone’s throw from St Peter’s Cathedral (the heavy eight). I was fascinated by a stained glass window advertising “Southwark Ales” and, as the bar staff were unable to enlighten me as to its origins, assumed it to refer to a long-defunct brewery. It was only while checking some facts for this article that I discovered Southwark Ales are still being brewed by South Australia Brewing Co. – wish I’d known that at the time.

In Sydney there was James Squire, which appeared at first to be an independent brewery but on reading the small print it turns out to be a range of what they call “boutique beers” produced by the well-known Australian brewer Dr Chuck Hahn under the wing of the Lion Nathan corporation (which also owns Swan, Toohey’s and SABC). Nevertheless, the Amber Ale is a very fine brew, as is the Porter, and the bottles carry different chapters from the eponymous hero’s life story (came from Richmond, Surrey; tried for theft; transported; worked on Paramatta River; set up Australia’s first brewery; had many children; became local bigwig). Also while in Sydney I made several visits to the Lord Nelson (corner of Kent and Argyle Streets in The Rocks), a home-brew pub offering a wide range of beers with nautical names from Old Admiral strong ale to Three Sheets lager.

The best find in Melbourne was Mountain Goat, a local micro-brewery. Their Hightail Ale is a beautiful amber bottle-conditioned ale and I remember frantically searching for a few bottles in between ringing a quarter at the Cathedral and dashing to the airport. There is another Melbourne micro called P**S but sadly I had no opportunity to sample its wares.

This year’s crop of seasonal ales at Wetherspoons has been disappointing, largely because my local JDW has had so few of them on, but I must mention Hyde’s Romper’s Reins. I thought the predominant flavour was vanilla but others have detected chocolate, coffee, raspberries, cherries and “the liquorice allsort with little blue bits on”. An extraordinary beer - do try it if you get the chance.

Maximus Bibendus

Reproduced by kind permission of The Ringing World.

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