Field Theory by Hadyn Green



In his Speaker column on Monday, Patrick Reynolds said:

And as a new world nation with lingering ideals of pioneering self-reliance we fancy the idea of building qua building. That is to say building as built, not thought. Built by proper men, the mythical ‘good bloke', a type who now really only exists in beer advertisements, who can do anything, but of course would do nothing smartarse, which is to say: nothing smart.

At the time I thought of leaving a comment, but as the conversation in the System was already taking a civilised look at architecture in New Zealand I thought I would leave my musings out of it. Because my first thought was: have you seen a beer ad recently?

The men of today's beer advertisements tend to be one of two types. The goofy loser who stumbles about with other, slightly cooler, guys who laugh at his antics and misfortunes and who gets given a yellow easy-drinking beer, as some kind of consolation after yet another idiotic act, after which they all scull*. The other is the be-suited executive of undefined role (but it's probably something cool like marketing or something with computers) working late after his liquid lunch with his mates, who goes out to a fashionable bar, drinks his green-bottled beer and scores some chick that is probably a secretary at this office and is totally hot.

There is also some crossover. Occasionally the good-looking executive will be goofy and his friends have a laugh at his expense before he drinks the beer.

In fact the only beer ads I can think of that have the mythical ‘good bloke' in them are the Speights ads. And even then the ‘good bloke' is some fuckwit farmer who is being a prick to the guys who have paid him money for a weekend away.

No, that's wrong, there's another big set of beer ads with that trope in it: the drink driving ones.

Beer has come a long way recently. The resurgence of craft brewing has lead to larger numbers of people who will actually enjoy drinking beer. And yet there is still a snobbishness associated with buying good beer. Heaven forbid that your beer should be allowed to have flavour. Over Christmas I was told not to bother trying to find a nice beer and just buy Monteiths, it'll be the same. So let me clear that up now. No it's not.

Which brings me to this picture on the front page of yesterday's Dominion Post. Prince William barbequing what looks like an entire lamb while John Key chugs back a Montieths Lager. Here is what I take from this image:

  • William knows his way around a BBQ;
  • John Key is correctly playing "second man" on the BBQ whose role is to keep "first man" supplied with beer, plates, knives and conversation; and
  • The Government is too cheap to give Prince William decent beer. This is the equivalent of serving the Prince an alright, but far from the best, Sauvignon Blanc at a state dinner.

So why was Montieths served at what could be considered a state dinner at Premier House? Were there more beers on offer and Key just prefers Montieths? I had to know.

Beer writer Neil Miller finally had luck discovering the PM's favourite tipple when he stumbled on an article from Bristol. Seems John Key likes Bath Ales. In particular these ones: Gem (Extra Special Bitter), Wild Hare (blond ale), Dark Hare (stout), and Barnstormer (premium bitter).

None those beers have tasting notes that sound anything like Monteiths Lager. The clue I think lies in Montieths own notes:

A full flavoured premium lager that has a clean, crisp taste with unique hop flavours. A blend of New Zealand grown hops of both local (Pacific Hallertau, Super Alpha) and European (Saaz, Styrian Goldings, Fuggles) heritage deliver a spicy, slightly fruity, late hop aroma character and refreshing bitterness to provide a clean finish on the palate.

Barley specially bred for the New Zealand climate has been malted and gently kilned. A cool fermentation of the barley and the yeast produces a smooth, full flavoured lager that is both easy drinking and nicely balanced.

Monteith's New Zealand Lager is brewed in New Zealand for the UK market. A quality premium beer, it delivers on the unique, clean crisp taste of New Zealand and crafted with the UK consumers' palate in mind.

Aha! Sucking up to the Prince we chose a beer that would suit his palate, instead of, I don't know, forcing him to do a keg stand with Waikato Draft or blowing his head off with an Epic Armageddon or something similar.

Now I think about it is a crisp lager even the correct match for barbequed lamb? I would've thought something slightly spicier would be in order.

And this may be the crux of it. We are still a nation that throws a barbeque where we agonise over which is the best Riesling or Pinot Gris to buy and then grab a cheap slab of piss for the beer drinkers. Of course we're usually eating sizzlers filled with "cheese" anyway.

At the time of writing I haven't heard back from the PM's office so I'm still guessing. So instead let me finish with my recipe for BBQ chicken:

Brown sugar – 3 tablespoons
Paprika – 1 ½ teaspoons
Salt – 1 teaspoon
Chili powder – 1 teaspoon
Vinegar – ¼ cup
Tomato Sauce (preferably thicker tomato "chutney" like Whitlocks) – ½ cup
Water – ¼ cup
Garlic – 2 cloves (crushed)

Obviously you can adjust spice levels to taste. I recommend marinating your chicken in most of it and then using the rest to brush on while cooking. Be prepared to clean the BBQ thoroughly afterwards because of that sugar.

And this does go quite nicely with a crisp lager.

*The phrase "scull a beer" has an interesting etymology. Scull is an Anglicised version of "skoal" which is in turn an Anglicization of "Skål" which means "the cup" in Scandinavia. We use scull, as in rowing, possibly due to the connections to sport and drinking culture.

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