To leave no schooner unturned in the quest to determine once and for all whether Australian beer is truly bobbins.
Drink while we think (and we shouldn’t rush to any conclusions). We rendezvoused at one of our favourite watering holes, The Australian Hotel, The Rocks, Sydney. For the record, the judges do not know which beer they are taste-testing.
ABOUT THE JUDGES
Colin Delaney TNT entertainment editor, 28, from Canada Time in Australia: Two years. Credentials: Beer gut, hand perma-shaped into ‘stubbie’ grip. Aussie beer is: Brilliant and terrible. Andy Westbrook TNT travel editor, 27, from England Time in Australia: Five weeks. Credentials: I like beer. Aussie beer is: a load of cheap lagers that all taste the same (like piss). Rache Moore TNT marketing manager, 29, from Australia Time in Australia: All my life. Credentials: I’m Aussie – I know beer. Aussie beer is: Best drunk ice cold on a sunny afternoon at a beach BBQ.
1. CARLTON DRAUGHT
Rache: I like this one. It reminds me of Sunday beer drinking sessions at the Coogee Bay Hotel. Andy: This tastes good in the sun. But the first few sips will always taste good. Colin: That’s the whole point of Australian beer though, that you can have a taste as shit as you like, but you drink it in the sun – it’s cold – and it’s remarkably refreshing. We’re from colder climes and we enjoy the tastes of stouts and heavier ales. I think the hot weather makes us less fussy. Rache: I disagree. I went to a beer festival in London and it was warm! It was like drinking a bucket of warm apple juice! Andy: It’s warming you on those cold winter nights though. English beer is full of flavour and body and it’s more complex. Colin: Canada’s got some shit beer. But we’ve got our boutique beers as well. There’s some really… [rambles on about supposedly good Canadian beers no one’s heard of…]. I’ll give this beer a four (out of five). Andy: I’ll go three. Colin: I’m going to give it two and a half. I didn’t really like it, but I’ve come round to enjoying it a bit. Total score: 9.5 (out of 15)
2. TOOHEYS NEW
Rache: This one tastes like lemonade with dirt in it. I’ll give it two and a half. Andy: That’s harsh. I think it’s nicer. This is a bit smoother. A softer taste… Colin: It’s definitely smoother. I’ll give it three. It doesn’t jump out at you – there’s no ‘full bodiedness’ or extra hops. Andy: Unlike with your music writing, you almost sound like you know what you’re talking about… Colin: I went on Wikipedia earlier to look up beer terms. I’ll give it three. Andy: Three and a half, maybe. All Aussie beers are pretty much the same. Already, on two, I’m struggling to spot the difference. In Europe there’s a lot more variety and flavours, whole genres. They are all pretty similar here, less flavour… Total score: 9
3. BEEZ NEEZ
Rache: Delicious. It’s infused with something sweet, like honey. A bit of body, too. I’m saying it’s the Beez Neez. Andy: I prefer it. A lot more flavour, and sweeter. More personality. Colin: It’s both delicious and nutritious. That’s Beez Neez. It’s sweeter and neater. Rache: I’d give it a four and a half. Andy: I’ll go four. Colin: I would give this a four. Rache: The worst drink I ever had was bong water. And I once drank a beer that someone had put a cigarette out in, too. Colin: I’ve done that. I’ve drunk an empty beer with a cigarette in [another long story ensues…] Total score: 12.5
4. VICTORIA BITTER
Rache: I think this is Carlton. I like it. It’s got good flavour and a bit of body. Four. Andy: They are all tasting pretty similar now. The last one was the only one with a distinctive taste to it. This is much the same as the first and second. It’s all right. Nothing amazing. Drinkable. No worries. Colin: Look at you, embracing the culture – no worries! Crikey, this is flamin’ galah awesome! Rache: That’s the point of our beer. To get foreigners, especially you whingeing Poms, and turning you into Aussies. Colin: [Australian Prime Minister] John Howard doesn’t need to do a citizenship test. He should get immigrants to drink this and they’ll soon turn into Aussies. Rache: I give this three and a half. Andy: I’ll give this a three. It’s a generic Aussie beer. Colin: I think this drink is rubbish. Two and a half. Total score: 9
5. SCHARER’S LAGER
(As recommended by the cute barmaid…) Rache: Love it. I give it four. Colin: This is good. I’ll go four. Andy: I like it. Again, it’s actually got some flavour, tastes a bit different. I imagined Aussie beers all tasting like Carlton and VB. Whatever this is, it has given me hope for Aussie beer. Four. Total score: 12
Rache: It’s light and fizzy, it’s a bit uriny… Andy: It’s a big contrast after the last few. Not as bad after a few sips. Rache: It’s starting to taste okay now… Colin: [increasingly slurry] I honeshtly sthink the only one we could gaushe (gauge) properly was the first beersh… Rache: It tastes like beer with soda water and a dash of lime. Three. Colin: You’re saying it’s crap, then you’re giving it 60 per cent! Rache: Remember, I’ve drunken bong water! [All laugh. Group digress into talk of not-necessarily-condoned-by-TNT soft drug escapades.] Andy: If I had it first it might have been all right, but after the other ones it doesn’t taste of anything. Two. Though it’s growing on me now… Colin: It doesn’t stand out. It’s not strong enough to kablamy me. Three. Total score: 8
7. SCHARER’S BOCK
(Dark beer) Rache: It must be Tooheys Old. It smells like shit. Andy: Pure, untreated sewage. Rache: I give it a one. It’s right up there with bong water. Andy: It’s grim. Zero. Colin: It’s not that bad. But it is the poor man’s Guinness. Two. Total score: 3
8. COOPERS PALE ALE
Rache: That’s what I’m talking about! Colin: I like it. This is probably my second favourite. Four. Andy: This might be my favourite. Though it might be because it’s my sixth beer… Four and a half. Total score: 13 Lastly, because they were all having too much fun, we thought we’d throw an alcoholic curve ball into the mix. With the barmaid’s complicity we concocted a new brew… (though our plan backfired).
9. SCHARER’S BOCK/VB/PURE BLONDE
Rache: [Quite drunk now] Before we try this one, may I say, as an Australian, how important good head is to Australians. You cannot underestimate good head. You need at least five to six millimeters… Colin: How do you give good head? [TNT chooses to censor the next minute or so as their mum reads this.] Rache: Now that is a tasty mouthful! I like it. I like it a lot. Andy: Ermmm… It tastes like Tooheys to me. Three. Rache: It’s a weird one. I can’t tell if I like it or not. I give it three. But it’s weird. Colin: It’s probably our best and our worst in one. I’ll give it a three and a half. It’s not bad. Total score: 9.5
Andy: I’ve been proven a little bit wrong, to be honest. I am happy to admit it. I still don’t think the variety is huge. But it is bigger than I thought. When you get away from your classic VBs, Carltons and all that rubbish, there are actually some quite tasty beers. Coopers is a stand-out beer – it’s got a new fan today. Colin: As a Canadian I would say Aussie beers are on par with ours. We also have our shit beers and some nice boutique beers. Rache: There is a wide variety in Aussie beer – there’s really shit and there’s really good.