We’ve never been pelted with more different varieties of BEEER in the shops, (and on tap, depending on where you choose to misspend your leisure time), which I guess, by the law of averages, means we’ve never been inundated by as many bad ones either.

However I’m going to lurch to the assumption that if you’re bothering to read this, you’re into BEEER, and also that you’re something of a quick study, or at least not a particularly slow one, and that you’ve worked out over time it’s not that hard to avoid the woyst of the woyst, the less than entirely promising, and that when the Ian Hunter memorial “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” principle is invoked, one can at least avoid the repeat offenders among Australia’s and the world’s brewers who apparently have come to the mysterious conclusion that beer should be made for other than human consumption.

Of course, one of the more reliable paths to avoid suds-related disappointment is to head back to the Old Reliables squadron of the past, and/or the 330ml chaps that made a favourable impression in more recent times.

What I’m doing here, mostly, is taking a brief hike down Revisitation Lane with some of those types of beers, to check out whether they’ve held up in the case of older friends, or to compare memory (sometimes not in the best of shape depending on the depth of previous product testing in any given session) versus the more current version of reality.

For the first time – not that this represents any sort of particular historical apex in humankind’s achievements, exactly – I’m going to append a rating out of ten. This is on what I’m going to call the TAYES scale – i.e. Totally Authoritative Yet Extremely Subjective. You probably get where I’m coming from there.

I guess it folds two different kinds of evaluation into the one pizza – how well the beer achieved within the style that the brewers were going for (i.e. purely in my head), plus how excellent (or otherwise) the beer is as an idiosyncratic (or otherwise) individual brew.

MOLSON CANADIAN LAGER (Toronto, CANADA, 355ml, a/v = ?)

I always liked both Moosehead and Molson back in the days when those were exceptionally exotic, (or at least not commonplace in bottleshops), beers here, back when if anyone had said “small batch” it would have been assumed they must be talking about some kind of bacterial lab development. Moosehead stayed available for longer, and it’s a decent crispy-de-hoppy reliable lager – or was last time I had it, a few years back – but I’d always liked Molson slightly better. The “House of 600 Beers”, as I refer to Acland Cellars in St Kilda, found an occasional source for Molson over the last year or so, and it’s been good, if not overwhelming, to have it back.

What can I say, Boz Scaggs, it’s a satisfying and pleasant lager that doesn’t try to pull any flavour tricks or other flavour ambushes. Going by the label and name, I can’t say for sure it’s the exact same Molson beer I used to grab back in the days when any import was inherently exotic here. But it’s the exact same appeal it had then – it drinks a lot like a good Australian lager style, but with just that slight extra loading in terms of malt and hops derived flavour, and not so much that it gets in the way of drinkability. If you’re the Johnny Beer-head of today who’s all about ales and heavy duty flavour kick, this isn’t your thing, but for those who still look for a lager to wet the inside of the neck, there’s nothing going savagely wrong here.

TAYES rating (see above) = 8 out of 10

BROOKLYN LAGER (Brooklyn, NY, USA, 355ml, 5.2%)

The label says it’s how they made the lager pre-prohibition in Brooklyn. Maybe it is. What most hop-chuggers will notice straight away is that it looks dark, drinks a little chewy and that we’ve all probably drunk ales that didn’t have this much flavour.

That all is kind of unusual for a lager. But, not at all atypically for the Brooklyn Brewery folks, the way they’ve “packed” it all in the brewing process means it’s a very easy drink as well as being a rewarding one.

If you’re going to be all difficult and Australian about it, I have to admit I don’t see you (or me) drinking this on one of the four hottest days of the year in, say, scenic Melbourne, with the barbie going (fire ban laws allowing) and the cricket on the radio in the backyard.

In less punitive conditions (and all cool ones) as long as the beer is COLD, you’ll probably find it’s also gold.

LLL TAYES rating = 8.5 out of 10.

TSINGTAO (China, 330 ml, 4.7%)

Neither outrageously distinctive nor particular difficult to drink, it is what it is – a beer of which its refreshing qualities are probably the nicest thing you’ll find to say about it, partly because there is so little else to say about it. One of the less distinctive “international lagers”, probably, but really no less enjoyable or easy to handle than a lot of the Japanese beers pushed here some of which are not made in Japan and really only have better label or bottle design gimmicks to rate them over this. It’s actually fine for what it is.

LLL TAYES rating = 7 out of 10

ANCHOR STEAM BEER (San Francisco, CA, 355ml, ? a/v)

Orangey-looking lager with ale-like qualities or the other way around. If I had to have a guess, it’s probably the former, but who knows. It comes out vaguely in the area that Brooklyn Lager does. Everything I’ve had from this brewery, they’ve done well. (Liberty Ale is a long-term favourite, and the Anchor Porter is particularly tasty and relatively light-stepping for the style.)

You can be throwing this one back and thinking it’s a lager with extra flavour torpedoes, but also notice a toned-down or cleverer variation on US pale ale characteristics (i.e. a little metallicky in the hops, but non-violently so, and easy to deal with). I’d be going way-hey-hey cold on the temperature you approach it at (i.e. fridge derived temp, not that in the allegedly great outdoors) and I think you’ll get the best out of it that way, but then I’d be struggling to think of a single beer of any variety that I wouldn’t say the same thing about. (This one will benefit from a good long chilling, though, unless you’re wintering in Reykjavik or something.) It’s distinctive – which inherently means it won’t be for everybody – but it’s good.

TAYES rating = 8 out of 10

Back with more soon…




  1. Living over here in Canada -Molson Canadian is really one of the worst beers produced. Really not held in high regard by anyone under 90. Brands like Moosehead, Mill Street, Rickards and Sleeman produce much better beers. If you get a chance at a of those jump at it.

  2. Moosehead used to be moderately available here, on an “If you really went looking for it, you’d probably find it” basis. I haven’t seen it around for quite a while, which I guess doesn’t mean there isn’t the odd bottleshop or chain around that might carry it. Those other brands you mentioned – even at a time when genuine small-batch brewer Canuck beers ARE around if you look for them – have never shown up in any grog shop here I’ve ever seen.

    The Molson Canadian I opened the other night is a really decent, refreshing, clean kind of lager, with just a little more taste than the chugging-style lagers we get here.

    If this beer – and I can only go by this one, not the rest of Molson’s roster, none of which I’ve seen here – is really the poorest of the Canadian mass-produced beers, as you suggest, Canadians are doing a lot better than Australians for those kinds of beers.

    Maybe what you’re talking about is a perception thing, or maybe you’re right. Without those other brands of beers to compare against, I’ve got no idea.

    But sometimes the old guys can be right. Abbott’s Lager (when it was last the old formula, before they tried to re-jig both packaging and contents – label to yellow, beer to lower alcohol) was pretty much only drunk by old folks and a few younger suds-heads that cared about what their beer tasted like. It was the best beer Carlton & United made back then, and if they put it out right now, made to the same formula, despite the proliferation of styles and labels the company has produced since, it would easily be the best beer they produced now. By miles and miles.

    On a more minor note, but still kind of indicative, there was the case of “old” and “new” tap beers in Sydney Town.

    Sydney was always a pretty lousy beer producing joint back in the old days (and, with exceptions, mostly since) but at least the beers labelled “old” and “new” in the pubs on tap were distinctive, and kind of worked in context. (Tooheys New and Old, Tooth’s New and Old etc).

    The “new” was the more regular lagery one, and the “old” darker and heavier – both being given slightly more to flavour, in a malt-driven kind of way, than big brewer peers on tap in Vic or SA.

    I guess all this goes back to the 1970s or so, maybe hanging on into the early 1980s.

    Then they drove some kind of attempt to achieve parity with the big Victorian draught and lagers that were taking over everywhere, and Carlton-ised the approach on the “new’s” while the “old” virtually disappeared, other than a prolonged dismal lingering death of something black and more or less flavourless under the designation “Toohey’s Hunter Old”. (Which had nothing in common with either the look or taste of the original Toohey’s Old that I can recall.)

    The results, which we still kind of live with the fall-out of today, were a bunch of determinedly non-distinctive beers all of which were inferior to the mainstay Victorian equivalents they were trying to emulate at exactly what made the C&U beers popular in the first place, just enough beer characteristic to provide “Ahhhhhh” type satisfaction, and 100% thirst-quenching neck-wetting efficiency.

    Short version – the old-folk drinkers in Sydney were right too. They were the last hold-outs for their original draught styles, and those were superior to what came afterwards.

    It’s not an immutably true law – there must be some old-timers who held out for Foster’s Lager many years after it had mutated into something that was only suitable for cleaning grubby wheel-rims – but just because the old timers prefer a given beer in a given market, certainly doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the worst in the market. It just probably means it’s the least fashionable one, at least until the re-launch campaign.

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