The Resurgence of Shit Beer
Have cheap, nasty brews replaced trendy craft drops?
Header image via Huffington Post.
Words by Camellia Aebischer.
There are always times in life when a carton of cheap lager is an appropriate beverage package. A weekend away camping, an outer suburb house party or a barbeque at your uncle’s house. Most Australian states have a local brew, which is generally found in the outdoor fridges of nuclear families or pulled on tap at the country pub.
Lately though, the bubbly metallic cans have started creeping their way out of Styrofoam coolers and into the hands of young adults around Australia. Small bars are stocking VB, XXXX and West End alongside local small batch ales. But why?
Could this be the antithesis to craft beer? A realisation of the beacon of flavour so tightly packed into a chilled tinnie? Or, just like dad bods, bucket hats and bad facial hair, is it no more than an alternative lifestyle phase?
To find out, I asked a bunch of under 30’s what draws them to a beverage that’s similar in colour to a healthy, hydrated person’s urine.
Will, 25, drinks VB; despite being from South Australia and residing in Queensland. “Literally because when I went to the bottle-o they had them on special” explains Will. “And probably because my older brother plays in a band and they’re always drinking them in their clips”. He admits it’s more recent and that he used to drink a lot of craft beer. Will is my case in point. His thoughts on taste? “It tastes like the beer they use to make beer battered chips.” Good stuff, Will.
Jack, 25, from Perth says that he used to drink a lot of Emu Export. “It used to be cheap so I’d always buy it, like 30 bucks a case, but the price went up a few years ago.” When I asked him if he thought it might be a correlation in popularity with young people, he agreed. “But I like the can, it looks cool, and it tastes like beer. That’s the difference.” Clearly looking to offend, he added “West End is shit, it’s watery and metallic.” Could this be a matter of local pride or genuine flavour profile?
Thankfully, there are a lot of locavore diehard fans out there. After putting a call-out on my Facebook page I was met with dozens of comments, pictures and tags of friends who fang for that home-grown budget lager taste. Among them were a poem and photo essay showcasing some extreme enthusiasm for XXXX gold.
William, 27, of Toowoomba writes:
“One X marks the spot we met, that day in Dutton Park.
Another for the X I drew, to cross my loving heart.
A third X signs this letter dear, I'd better make it two.
Four Xs light the streets of gold, From Castlemaine to you.”
This venture was not without its drawbacks. I was met with some hostility when questioning Ben, 28, of Adelaide who shouted via typeface “Let us drink our shitty beer in peace!” Which, frankly, was an uncalled for response. Fearing that I may be trying to slander his ways, he swiftly removed himself from the conversation. Prior to this he admitted to always having drunk cheap beer for its price point, cold can and metallic taste because “Why stop now?”
Confused after my market research venture, I pondered the cool factor of these malt beverages. Perhaps if they weren’t placed in the ‘so shit it’s good’ category of stuff that mid-twenties-hipsters-who-don’t-like-being-called-hipsters consume, then it would actually just still be cool. Because it’s not cool. Which makes it cool. Wait, what even is cool? Really, there’s no winning here.
Small bars are starting to make changes too. Seamus Noone, owner at 55ml (my local) has rotating taps with local craft beers, a fridge stocked with national and international options and a solid selection of wines/spirits. But there’s still a whole shelf in the fridge dedicated to XXXX and West End. “It’s funny because those are actually some of our best sellers” Seamus notes as I enquire about the kinds of folk who order them. It’s usually young kids apparently, and the odd older bloke. I’ve personally witnessed a twenty-something sip West End alone by the bar, and a sixty-something couple share one across two glasses in the very same spot.
Really when it comes down to it, whether you want to be like your dad because the internet said to, or because you’ve actually always admired him, it doesn’t really matter. We’re probably all going to end up with mediocre jobs, a house in the suburbs and a fridge stocked with Emu Export/VB/West End/XXXX anyway, so may as well quit judging and pick up a tinnie.