21. Toohey’s New

May 2, 2010

A bucket of beer. Now that's classy.

Oh dear.

Post Spanish food and Sangria, a final beer was required and we went to the usually reliable, comfortably scuzzy, and just two doors down Sir John Young. While it doesn’t have a wide range of beers, the indoor drinking space is hemmed in by pokies and odd types flit in and out disturbingly frequently, I’ve always been able to get a Barons’ Pale Ale or something equally acceptable here. Not this time though, and in desperation (Carlton Draught? Pure Blonde?? VB???) and, it must be said, out of duty to record the highs and lows of aussie beer for this here blog, I uttered the dread words…

“A schooner of New, please.”

It was the end of the night. It was wet and tasted of cardboard. Wet cardboard. I had no desire for a second.

The more curious among you might be wondering why there’s a picture of a champagne bucket full of low quality megaswill at the top of this post, especially as there’s no New visible. Well, it’s a picture I took, much to the amusement of my colleagues, at the National Training Awards in November last year. There we were, in Canberra’s twelfth-finest conference facilities (they’d forgotten to book early was the rumour), the cream of vocational training all around us, Greedy Smith from Mental as Anything about to sing the national anthem, accapella, the wine and food carefully chosen, and what had they done for the beer drinkers? Bunged a few cans of low-quality Carlton products in champagne buckets and left us to it. There weren’t even any glasses.

I was the only beer drinker on my table so, trying to follow Viv Savage‘s dictum to “have a good time, all the time”, I set about emptying our bucket. I believe this is where the phrase “taking one for the team” originated. It’s certainly where my work nicknames of “bucket boy” and “the can man” came from.

The next awards ceremony I attended (get me, I live the high life) was earlier this year, but after the night with Beccy mentioned above. The NSW Sports Federation Awards were perhaps a more parochial affair, but they were at least notionally black-tie (people who work in education are not expected to make as much effort it seems, scruffy buggers), had a far more, um, raunchy, set of entertainers, and the food wasn’t bad either. So when I and my glamorous female work colleagues were in the pre-dinner vestibule, thirsty on a very hot Sydney summer night, what was the choice of beer?

There was no choice. Toohey’s New, sir?

On a closer inspection of the pumps I noticed that Heineken could have been a choice but there’d obviously been a decision somewhere along the line that that foreign stuff wasn’t going to be offered. Thirst quenched and brow mopped with handkerchief, I moved onto the wine.

Every two years my work runs a conference, and the latest version happened at the beginning of March this year. On the first night there’s always a dinner and staff are invited. It was a fun night, I was able to do some decent networking (not usually my strong suit) and have a good time with my colleagues, and the food was probably the best of the three occasions I’ve mentioned so far. The band was a bit loud, but there was space outside to chat later, and you could take your drinks out with you. Another hot, hot night in Sydney, so beer was the obvious choice of drink. Waiter! A beer if you please!

Toohey’s New.

In a country where beer is the accepted social drink, and more and more people are understanding that it can be a quality product on a par with wine for variety and taste, why is is that at every corporate event I’ve been to effort is put into the choice of the food and the wine but no-one even thinks twice about the choice of the beer, but just assumes that anyone who wants one (and it’s usually a higher proportion of people than at British equivalents) will be happy with any old swill? All I’m asking for is a choice of two beers. One of them can be New if it has to be, but a James Squire or a Little Creatures would show that the venue valued all its customers and, frankly, realised that they had tastebuds.

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4. Tooheys Old

January 11, 2010
thank you, beerstore.com.au

Old

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.

Lion Nathan have been bought up by Kirin recently: I wonder if the Japanese, with their love of dark lagers, will get a chance to try Old?