The beer commandments
Halfway through their year-long challenge to drink a different beer a day, Scott Ellis and Shane Maguire share their top five rules to enjoy a good brew.
- Scott Ellis responded to reader questions and comments between 12.30-1.30pm. Read his responses here.
- 'Yeer In Beer': the list so far
Here's a plan: I'm going to see if I can drink a different beer every day throughout 2012.
Unlike most brilliant ideas involving alcohol, this one - when it came from a mate late last year - wasn't the last thought of a long night out.
Last year, a couple of American beer lovers, he says, attempted to drink 365 beers in 365 days. They failed well before the end.*
Surely in Australia, where beer drinking is part of our DNA, we could do it? There must be hundreds of beers out there. It's a matter of national pride!
Fair enough, I say. And so with very little thought beyond, ''Beer! Good!'', six months ago beer lover Shane Maguire and I set out on our ''Yeer In Beer''.
We set out some basic rules - no ginger beer, no home brews and the different beer must be drunk on the day, no building up a bank in a bender. We also discovered we would need 366 beers for the year - it's a leap year after all - but hey, in for a penny!
On day one we open a Facebook page for anyone who wants to watch, and open the first bottles.
I drink a Coopers Pale Ale, Shane has a Little Creatures Bright Ale, and the list starts.
For a while it's as easy as we imagine. At first glance, Australian pubs and bottle shops are filled with different brews. A quick call to a helpful executive at Lion Nathan provides us with a list of more than 500 mainstream and craft beers that should, theoretically, be available.
No problem! Go to the pub, drink a New, write it on the list. Head to the bottle shop, lash out on a Grolsch, add it to the list and so on.
Less than two months later, I realise I have drunk everything in every pub and bottle shop within five kilometres of my house. Despite the alleged hundreds of beers out there, fewer than 40 can be found without making a major effort. And let's face it, ''major effort'' and ''beer drinkers'' don't really mix.
The hotel closest to where I'm writing this boasts ''19 beers on tap''. But three are ciders and most of what's left are easily available (Carlton, VB etc). The only ''exotic'' listed is the not-so-rare Sapporo.
To find a new beer every day fast becomes a real challenge. A friend invites me for a beer, I ask what sort. My parents fly in, I ask them to bring Southwark, West End and Dr. Tim's (the elusive Coopers only available in Adelaide) in their hand luggage. Booking a trip to the US involves checking which airline has a beer not on my list to avoid the complications of crossing a dateline in midair (it's Virgin). They rotate through a range of craft beers that get me out of trouble.
The drinks list is the first thing we read in any restaurant. The importer addresses on the back of beer labels? Know them all. Which breweries offer which beers exclusively to which bars? We're on it.
After 182 beers - one for every day of the year so far and with surprisingly little overlap in our two lists - Shane's now sourcing Scottish beers even the Scots haven't heard of (Brewdog's Punk IPA?) from obscure shopfronts on the north shore. I find Green Star Lager, a vegan-friendly blonde beer.
A colleague donates a bottle of the Oakham Ales' Jeffrey Hudson Bitter he brought from England; another raided his German dad's stash of Hacker-Pschorr Munchner Kellerbier to bring me a sample; Shane's wife brought back seven local brews from Canada.
The downside is every person you meet is sure they've got the beer you've never tried (usually wrong) or suggests something that only comes by case (or a 15-hour drive).
We try to describe each beer without resorting to the meaningless phrases wine and beer aficionados often use. ''Promising yet diminishing lacing'', ''fills the nose with over-hopping'' and ''stifling on the top palate'' are fine but we prefer speaking English.
Shane (now known as El Presidente to the 100 Yeer in Beer Facebook members) and I start with ''tastes good'' or ''rubbish!'' as our two main descriptors and haven't really strayed too far.
Sierra Nevada's insanely bitter Torpedo IPA is ''like chewing two Panadols while drinking'', El Presidente said on day 35. Carlsberg Elephant Lager has an aftertaste ''like sniffing Tarzan's Grip glue'', I wrote on day 146 and stand by it. If something smells like wet leather or the head foams like cheap shaving cream, we're writing it. And this is how we have realised why so few beers make up the bulk of what Australians drink.
It's not that we're parochial or simple folk, it's just that Australians have a bulls--t detector when it comes to most things, beer included. Compared with some of the overpriced, overhyped imports out there, a schooner of Coopers Sparkling Ale (for example) is in every way superior to some cloudy dross with a picture of a grimacing German on the label.
Mountain Goat's Crossbreed - a brilliant project between a Melbourne brewery and Danish brewer Mikkeller - is as good as anything in the world.
So, too, is the limited-edition Little Creatures' Quiet American from Perth and its regular Pale Ale. These are three examples of why our beers win so many prizes overseas, as opposed to myriad imports nobody in their home countries has heard of.
Which brings us to day 182, six months down. I've got a case of assorted brews still in the fridge - at least half from various Australian breweries - and about a dozen friends and family keeping an eye out for anything new. I also have new respect for the beers I once threw down with no thought past, ''Is there another?''
Shane and I are planning a road trip to a Newcastle bottle shop that boasts 1000 beers - which in reality means there should be about a couple of dozen we haven't tried.
Will we make it through the ''Yeer''? Who knows? At the halfway point, in all honesty, we're starting to worry, but there are still a few importers left to try, bier cafes to plunder and favours to call in. We're a long way from last drinks.
We're 100 strong, drinking separately but together every day (and responsibly - it's one beer a day!) and slowly forming the biggest beer bash any of us has ever attended.
The enthusiasm of those who found us online has been staggering. Michael Taylor - the Italy-based Yeer in Beer member who came aboard after spotting the beers in his Facebook feed - made a trip to Germany to source some samples from the world's oldest continuously operating brewery (that would be at the Weihenstephan Abbey) and has been heading north to stock his fridge ever since.
Other world travellers have sent back reviews from Asia, the US - including Hawaii - and Europe.
We argue, we agree and we keep opening bottles.
''Yeer in Beer is the most successful idea I have ever had in my life,'' an emotional El Presidente was moved to comment when I recently posted a picture of the 35 new beers I'd sourced after a particularly fruitful shopping expedition, and Michael had just driven back north to source more than 20 none of us had ever heard of.
''This is like looking at a newborn child and saying, 'I did that,''' he says. And that's not just the beer talking.
* They did fail, but others, we've since learned, have made it (they're our inspiration) and one ambitious drinker is going for 1000 beers in one year... and he's confident he'll do it!
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