Once upon a time all Aussie beers were like this. Before the Foster brothers (Americans!) and German immigrants and the introduction of refrigeration, lager was unknown in Australia – too bloody hot and no handy caves near the breweries.
Tooheys have been brewing Old, or something like it, since 1872. Malty, vanilla-y, and with just a hint of burnt ash and coffee, this is my favourite Australian session ale. There are two other mass-produced dark ales that run it close, but Kent Old is more like a brown ale and Carlton Black is more bitter, and both are more difficult to get on draught in Sydney (although the St Leonard’s Tavern, a short walk from my place, does serve Black). Old has become my default draught in pubs that cater for the older generation. Yes, Tooheys are now part of Lion Nathan, evil megaswill brewers, but as long as they remember at least a little bit of their history they’ll just about be ok by me.
Details: These were my first draught beers of the year, drunk in two places. The first two schooners slipped down at the Coogee Legion Club. One day I’ll have to do a separate post on Retired Servicemen’s Clubs and their influence on the community in Australia: there’s nothing quite like them anywhere else. Louise and I had been swimming at Coogee and snorkelling at Clovelly (hello British readers, wiping the snow off your keyboards) and popped in here for a couple after some excellent barramundi and chips from the hilariously-titled (sarcasm) Chish and Fips on the beach.
Getting into one of these places usually entails either becoming a member (generally not that expensive, but Groucho’s rule applies) or proving that you live at least 6km away so that you can sign in as a guest, thanks to NSW’s oddly antiquated licensing laws. The guy on the desk didn’t both to ask us for any ID, which won the place a few points in my book, having had my protestations of “but I’m on holiday from England!” fall on deaf ears at the North Sydney Anzac Club a few months ago. Clearly Gallipoli is still an issue for some.
The beer selection is all the usual suspects (Louise had Resch’s) but, and here’s why we go into these places, the schooners were $3.80 each. And if I’d been a member they’d have been even cheaper.
Wanting to get away from the man/woman duo doing Lionel Richie/Fleetwood Mac covers in the corner, we slid across to the infamous Coogee Bay Hotel. Not being on the pull and not wishing to get glassed in the face, or made to eat their chocolate ice-cream, we only stayed for one and then used their bottlo to get a longneck of the beer of the evening to take home. Lovely day.