The Taste of Beer

There’s an ad on Australian telly at the moment where people in a pub all admit that they don’t really like the taste of beer.

“I only drink it because my mate drinks it,’ says one.

“I only drink it because my old man drank it,” say a couple more.

The implication is that no-one really likes the taste of beer and there’s some sort of terrible blue collar conspiracy to keep people drinking that terrible muck they secretly hate.

Well, I have news for the advertisers…

I love the taste of beer. I couldn’t give a rat’s whether Big Terry drinks it and yes, my old man drank it too.

But, to be fair…there was a time when I didn’t really care for the taste of beer. That’s when I was fifteen and first drinking it surreptitiously. Someone might have pinched a couple of bottles or cans and a few of us would congregate in the back lane with some stolen cigarettes… (Actually that’s wrong. It was the 1970s and five year olds could purchase cigarettes in those days.) …and tentatively sip at a warm ale.

It tasted like shit, but what sort of pathetic wanker stops guzzling our national drink because of that? I was not to be deterred. I continued to force it down no matter how acrid, insipid or rank, and then – around the age of nineteen – there was a magical transformation.

I remember turning to a mate of mine one evening at my local on the Upper North Shore (back when it was a real pub, before they turned into a soulless drinking barn) and saying: “You know what? I actually like the taste of beer.”

He looked at me like the idiot I was, with furrowed brow, and said: “You didn’t before?”

“Not really. I’ve always drunk it to get pissed…not because I like it.”

My mate just shrugged. He was used to me coming out with rubbish like that, but it was also a profound personal insight for me. I had never quite realised that I was a lotus-eating hedonist addicted to altered states and drank beer to achieve those states despite the appalling taste.

An appalling taste that I suddenly enjoyed.

Because beer is a journey. You’re supposed to hate it when you are young and unsullied. It is a complex tipple which requires a certain jadedness both of outlook and taste buds before it can be properly appreciated.

I have now achieved that jadedness and can discern the multifarious nuances…the deeply profound plurality of beer in its many guises. The bitter crispness of an IPA, the sweet, bubbles of a lager, the sour style of a real ale or the plutonic silk of a dark-heart stout.

Those who have not traversed this journey are not fit to call themselves men (or women). There ought to be some form of white feather we can hand out to those who don’t drink beer because genuinely liking the taste of beer means you’ve overcome a massive obstacle – like fulfilling a sacred quest, or stepping up out of a trench to charge a machine gun nest. Those who don’t make the grade – who do not drink beer – are lesser than the rest of us and do not deserve to be counted among the true heroes of our epoch.

And yet, there are advertisers out there who do not get what it really means to become an Australian man. They peddle alcoholic soft drinks as a means to a consciousness altering end, but what they fail to understand is that overcoming the taste of beer is the real achievement.

Because, in the end, it’s not how you get there…

It’s the journey that matters.

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