Friday, 15 February 2008

Beer O'Clock: Bad Beer! Bad Beer!

Where better to post Neil's first Beer O'Clock post of the year than from the Schnappa Rock bar here at Tutukaka. Here's Neil from Real Beer on some beers best avoided...

One of my favorite beer writers, the incomparable Stephen Beaumont, wrote “it is not ‘just beer,’ it is a noble and ancient beverage which, like wine, food and television advertising, can be extraordinarily good or unmercifully bad."

This edition of Beer O’Clock focuses on the “unmercifully bad.”

When I was just a fledgling beer scribe, an impish brewer said to me: “Yeah, well, you like every beer ever made.” That comment made me stop and think. It certainly wasn’t true. There were plenty of beers so bad I wouldn’t serve them to Al Gore if he was on fire, but at the time it was true that I didn't really write about them. I wanted to concentrate on the positives and talk about all the great beers out there.

Of course, I eventually learned the lesson that most journalists and columnists know – vitriol sells. Readers often like hearing how “unmercifully bad” something is. This tendency applies to everything from sports to politics, from celebrities to food. It certainly includes beer.

My most popular articles have been my most scathing – pummelling the MASH range of “beer” (now defunct) or slating the Loaded Hog in Wellington (just hanging on). So, I thought I would kick off Beer O’Clock for 2008 with a look at three pretty bad beers.

Trying a bottle of Desperados (5.9%) was a first for me. I had never had a French beer flavoured with Tequila before. It was different – but not in a good way. The beer throws up an unusual yet dodgy nose, like a shandy with some lime and even pineapple lurking in the background. The taste is fruity, sour and zesty with a light mouthfeel. It finishes with a sour lemon aftertaste which makes it hard to imagine drinking many of these. If confronted by a Desperados, the best advice is to surrender then run away.

A brand new arrival in New Zealand is Miller Chill (4.2%). It uses a little lime and salt in the brew and is unashamedly made to compete head to head with a Corona. Corona is the Lion Red of Mexico – I’m surely they are secretly (but rightly) laughing at the Gringos paying $10 a bottle for it. Miller Chill is light, soft and has a hint of lime cordial. I had very low expectations and this beer probably just exceeded them. However, there is no way to justify the astronomical price tag the beer carries here. Try a proper pilsner.

My review of Flame Beer (5.2%) prompted a number (two) of furious Letters to the Editor lasting year. My specially convened tasting panel concluded that Flame was “easy to carry, hard to drink”, “has a smell familiar to students who have set their couches on fire” and “I imagine this is what a jandal tastes like”. According to the angry correspondents, I was apparently unable to handle the “power” of Flame. I will let you know when I’ve stopped laughing.

Cheers, Neil


  1. As bad drinks go it seems that these beers have got nothing on this lot here.

  2. PC : I came across a beer that you might be interested in (in my local Pak'n'Save of all places). Called Old Speckled Hen, apparently named after an MG

    Quote : Old Speckled Hen was first brewed by Morlands of Abingdon in 1979. MG cars celebrated the 50th anniversary of their move to Abingdon, from Edmund Road in Cowley. They asked Morland to brew a special commemorative beer for the occasion, for which they would suggest the name and they would design the bottle label. The name chosen was Old Speckled Hen which took its name from a car which was brought to Abingdon, when the factory moved.

    Anyway, it's a tasty drop. Wonder if you'd seen it? Ch

  3. bob: OSH is the Lion Red of cask ale in England. ;) It's no longer brewed by Morland, having been swallowed by the jugganaut that is Greene King. That said, it's not without charm, but those clear bottles HAVE to go. dirty skunky aromas are not cool. It can taste quite fruity, with a cigar-like tobacco note if you can find it fresh served in a keg in NZ. I've seen it at the Londoner in Hamilton, and at Jolly Good Fellows in Taupo. Not the best England has to offer by any means, but not an awful drop.

  4. Three beers for those particularly keen on regurgitation...

  5. I've only ever opened one beer I couldn't drink to the end because it was just two awful, namely, a Wigram (Christchurch) 'Spruce'. According to the bottle it was Captain Cook's recipe, or some such.

    Most other Wigram beers are a joy, fortunately, especially their dark.

    Mark Hubbard

  6. ... 'too' awful.

  7. Old Speckled Hen? It's my own company's OSH policy. ;^)

  8. dont believe what he said desperados. try it then judge

  9. Too bad they got rid of the green bottle. Now it isn't as unique looking, Still a great beer however. Coulda been perfect!


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