I once said that fashion and I have an awkward relationship – we bump into each other by accident about every ten years, move on and try to avoid talking about it ever again. In retrospect, that may have been overly generous.

Let’s face facts, I still rock the “sneans” [1] look decades after Jerry Seinfeld ruined it for everyone. Checked shirts have recovered from the horrible treatment they received in “Home Improvement” and/or “Nirvana” but sneans are yet to be redeemed. I was such a late of adopter of what I initially thought were fads such as broadband internet, Facebook, Twitter and touch screen phones that they officially became mainstream (and therefore uncool) moments after I got them.  It is almost certainly a macabre coincidence but Steve Jobs died two weeks after I bought my first ever Apple product.

However, on at least two occasions I have been ahead of the fashion curve. When I worked in Parliament as a researcher and speechwriter [2] I simply loathed ties. I would wear one only for important meetings and, as I deliberately never learned to tie a tie, the task of physically tying it was delegated to the most junior researcher. [3] In general, I would wear a suit, business shirt and no tie. [4]

Only one MP at the time had the same dress code – a low-profile and markedly modest chap called The Honourable Murray McCully who has since become Minister of Foreign Affairs. I think the fact he sported a similar (albeit much slimmer) look protected me from the worst criticism. Now, the no-tie look is commonplace, even the norm. I’m not saying I did that myself, but I did do it a long time before those posers on The Terrace…  

The second example is my beloved sideburns – reminiscent of a young Alexander the Great, an older Elvis or a well groomed Lemmy from Motorhead. I am trumped in the Kiwi beer scene only by the distinguished mutton chops of my mentor Neil McInnes and the fiery facial fluff of one of my most favourite brewers Joseph Woods from Liberty. I had sideburns when the sad aging hipsters of Cuba Street thought Morrissey was an up and coming singer/songwriter and not, in fact, a sad git.   

When I first became interested in craft beers, the biggest trend here was Belgium. While I generally enjoyed the Tripels and Strong Golden Ales, the sour ales and the spontaneously fermented Lambic beers always confused and often annoyed me. All of this is probably the worst introduction to a list of Lambic beers now on special at Malthouse. Their combinations of fruit, sweet, sour and savoury are an acquired taste, but they are beers every serious connoisseur should try at least a couple of times. I’m told that when you get hooked, you get seriously hooked.  

That beer list includes Liefmans Goudenband (98% on RateBeer), Boon Oude Kriek (cherries and 98% on RateBeer), Boon Mariage Parfait (“the perfect marriage” and 99% on RateBeer), Liefmans Cuvee Brut (a mere 97% on said site), Bacchus Frambozenbeer (resplendent in raspberries), Cantillon Lou Pepe (a rare 100% on RateBeer), Cantillon Rose (raspberries again but ‘just’ 98% on RateBeer) and Mort Subite (literally “sudden death” Lambic style). 

While I missed the sour beer bandwagon, I hopped on early to the American Pale Ale train.[6] American beers have been bedevilled by an international reputation that they are like making love in a canoefucking close to water. That stereotype only applies to around 90% of their beers. [5] Their craft and boutique community are the most innovative and brilliant in the world – ahead of even the Belgians, English and Germans. 
Malthouse is currently serving Firestone Walker Double Jack (an excellent IPA), Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin (a smooth stout which used to be called Velvet Merkin [7] until they started making it full time and utterly wimped out on the name) and the American hop fuelled Yeastie BoysLiberty Brewing Yakima Monster. Stop reading right now and go drink all those beers.

Finally, in news that absolutely no one should pay any attention to is the fact that Liberty C!tra Double IPA is back. This is a criminally over-rated beer and should be completely left alone – mainly so I can have it all. 

Next time, we drink to the Axis of Awesome – for they are awesome – indeed. 

[1] Sneakers and jeans.

[2] My official request for my business card job title to read “minion of darkness” was tragically declined by the bureaucracy. 

[3] On several occasions Cabinet Ministers had to step up to the plate. 

[4] Obviously I would always be wearing socks and shoes and on virtually every occasion at least some underwear. 

[5] Monty Python made that joke in the 1970s. It is almost sad that it is still true today in 2013. 

[6] That is the third and final instance for those counting along at home.

[7] Google Images has the answer to your inevitable question. Absolutely no need to put Safe Search on…


Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine


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