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The missing heart of Canberra

By beejay76 22 October 2010 64

beer bulb

I’m a Canberran. I’m relatively new to Canberra, but in the short time I’ve been here I’ve fallen in love with it. Like most Sydneysiders, I always thought Canberra was dull, bland, boring, insipid.

But the real Canberra is wonderful! In a few short years we have enjoyed the wonderful cultural events that Canberra offers, and availed ourselves of many of the amazing outdoor events, venues and facilities, as well. We’ve visited so many National thises and Capital thats, I’ve lost track.

All of these things have been, for the most part, free or close to. They’ve also been easy to get to. Perhaps a bus ride or a short drive. Even the drive isn’t stressful. ACT drivers are courteous and sensible, as a rule.

We’ve spent a lot of time on the fabulous network of cycling/ running tracks around town and have massively increased our fitness. So I am an out-an-out Canberra convert. I love it.

But there is one part of Canberra that doesn’t stack up at all. Drinking.

Now, this is a serious issue. This is our national capital we’re talking about. Drinking is a major part of Australian culture! We have the War Memorial to recognise our warrior culture. We have the National museum to celebrate our artistic heritage. There’s the National museum to commemorate our cultural diversity. The National Botanic Gardens preserves our flora and the network of parks and reserves allows our fauna to flourish. But who’s looking after the drinking?

Now I’m not suggesting we need a National Alcohol Museum, but a decentralised network of venues that will allow people to engage in this most Australian of pastimes in their local area. These facilities are well established in other Australian cities. In Sydney, for example, although people may have to sit in traffic for four hours to visit their local hardware shop, they can always walk to the pub afterwards to recuperate. There’s at least one pub in every suburb, with many sporting multiple facilities. In places like Balmain or Darlinghurst, there’s a pub for every four residents.

I live in the north of Canberra, and we don’t have a single pub. This is absolutely scandalous. There’s around 50,000 people in the Gungahlin region, and not a single proper pub.

Real pubs are local. Real pubs are live music. Real pubs don’t have poker machines. Real pubs have beer gardens so you can get sunburned and drunk at the same time.  This is what is really lacking at the heart of Canberra. Pubs: sometimes dirty, occasionally dangerous, often friendly and always loud.

We do have a club or two. That’s not the proper way to celebrate Australian drinking culture. Clubs are bland. The décor is bland airport-chic. The music, also, is bland airport-chic. The beers are ordinary, the food is plain. There is no risky décor, no risky new music, no risky beers and no risky food. Apart from the pokies and the drink-drivers, clubs are strictly for the risk-averse. This, I dare suggest, is unAustralian!

So as Australia’s capital, we owe it to the nation to begin a major program of pub-building. One proper pub per suburb by 2020! At least two live music venues per major township! Vomit-coloured carpet by legislation! It’s our heritage. Let’s look after it.

[ED – I will note that the inner north and south both have a watering hole at nearly every local shops]

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The missing heart of Canberra
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speak2us 2:52 pm 04 Nov 10

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I like to enjoy the choice of most of the beers of the world with Elizabeth and Anthony – over at PLONK! at the Fyshwick Markets.

pominoz 6:21 pm 28 Oct 10

I’m new to town. So…who’s for a Gungahlin Speakeasy, or better yet, a blind pig??

Pommy bastard 6:15 pm 25 Oct 10

Thumper said :

“Australia may have best beer in the world but it certainly could do better when it comes to where you drink it. Thanks Hotels Association.”

Best beer is in England.

Full stop.

Without a shadow of doubt.

DanRayner 4:35 pm 25 Oct 10

p1 said :

I think what I like best about beer in Australia, is that you can try something different everyday without having to try too hard to find something.

And if you feel like a ice cold glass of fairly-tasteless larger on a bright sunny day, the options are endless.

Of course! I quite agree 🙂

p1 3:50 pm 25 Oct 10

I think what I like best about beer in Australia, is that you can try something different everyday without having to try too hard to find something.

And if you feel like a ice cold glass of fairly-tasteless larger on a bright sunny day, the options are endless.

DanRayner 2:54 pm 25 Oct 10

Diggety said :

Thumper said :

“Australia may have best beer in the world but it certainly could do better when it comes to where you drink it. Thanks Hotels Association.”

Best beer is in England.

Full stop.

Beers are brewed for a climate; either by process of (batch) elimination, by the drinkers, or the the climate is actively taken into account during produce sourcing, recipe formulation or brewing.

Take a lot of the boutique beers DanRayner suggested; are good for tasting, drinking and getting drunk on but may not necessarily match the climate. There is good reason why pubs don’t have many ales and stouts on draught in pubs in hot climates, for example. They are predominantly lagers and the hotter you get, tend to have less alcohol. This is more typical of Aus; I never thought I would drink XXXX gold, however after spending a while up north, found myself drinking it quite a bit.

To analogise: A lot of young Aussies are recently coming back from a gap in England and try the same ‘trendy’ clothes here (I’m in QLD atm). Tight black pants and long sleeve flannel shirts. They have a great little time with their post modern clothes for about 1.5 hours until they hit a wall from heat exhaustion, and turn into little cranky bums that just want to sleep. Point is, they are not dressed for the climate (avg. 34’C and f’n humid). Which is a little different to balmy old England.

While I agree that there has been some form of selective pressure on beer in this country resulting in pale, australian lagers becoming extremely popular in all their guises (from VB to James Boag’s Premium), I do not entirely agree that it is the result of our climate. Similar pale lagers have become equally popular in virtually every beer-drinking country in the world regardless of the diversity in world climate. Canberra has regularly cold winters and yet people still drink lager here, similarly, the UK’s most popular beers are Carling, Stella, Foster’s and Carlsberg; all pale lagers served cold. I think it is more to do with a culture of drinking huge amounts of light, tasteless* swill specifically designed to allow you to drink litres and litres of it without feeling overwhelmed.

But fear not! While pale, tasteless* lagers make up 95% (or thereabouts) on beers consumed in the US the big-flavoured craft beer is the fastest growing market in America’s liquor industry (around 1500 microbreweries at last count). The Australian craft-beer industry has experienced similar growth in the last few years which means that while it may still be difficult to convince some that an icy-cold XXXX isn’t the only beer that is best on a hot Brisvegas day there are more and more people trying big, zesty, hoppy IPAs or darker brews even throughout summer. Plonk’s biggest-selling Aussie beer is White Rabbit Dark Ale; a Victorian beer sort of modelled on Newcastle Brown Ale. Fosters and Lion Nathan have taken heed by introducing their own “premium/boutique beers” with beers like Fat Yak (although, they’re still don’t quite get it, are not willing to take any risks and are making them a little dumbed down in flavour).

There are so many new, fanstastic Aussie breweries out there with the balls to produce beers that they like drinking and for this reason we have some of the best beer in the world – you just have to seek it out a bit.

And, if you believe (and everyone is entitled to their own opinion on this) that the best style of beer in the world is an australia lager, made with high alpha acid bittering hops like Pride of Ringwood and created to be very dry and very light in body, then no matter which way you look at it Australia does have the best beer in the world and lots of it.

I have no opinion on recently-returned youths and their skinny black jeans.

Drink less, drink better.

DR

*I recognise that “fairly-tasteless” is a subjective descripter here

Brindabella 3:37 pm 24 Oct 10

Little Creatures Pale Ale is and outstanding brew. If you haven’t tried it, do yourself a favour and buy a 6 pack today. If the citrousy / flowery aroma doesn’t get you, the grapefruitesque/citrus bitterness will.

Outstanding.

Diggety 1:12 pm 24 Oct 10

Thumper said :

“Australia may have best beer in the world but it certainly could do better when it comes to where you drink it. Thanks Hotels Association.”

Best beer is in England.

Full stop.

Beers are brewed for a climate; either by process of (batch) elimination, by the drinkers, or the the climate is actively taken into account during produce sourcing, recipe formulation or brewing.

Take a lot of the boutique beers DanRayner suggested; are good for tasting, drinking and getting drunk on but may not necessarily match the climate. There is good reason why pubs don’t have many ales and stouts on draught in pubs in hot climates, for example. They are predominantly lagers and the hotter you get, tend to have less alcohol. This is more typical of Aus; I never thought I would drink XXXX gold, however after spending a while up north, found myself drinking it quite a bit.

To analogise: A lot of young Aussies are recently coming back from a gap in England and try the same ‘trendy’ clothes here (I’m in QLD atm). Tight black pants and long sleeve flannel shirts. They have a great little time with their post modern clothes for about 1.5 hours until they hit a wall from heat exhaustion, and turn into little cranky bums that just want to sleep. Point is, they are not dressed for the climate (avg. 34’C and f’n humid). Which is a little different to balmy old England.

WalkTheTalk 7:18 pm 23 Oct 10

On a side note. Beejay76 you mention in your OP, “We have the War Memorial to recognise our warrior culture”…

Isn’t it’s role more to commemorate the service and sacrifice of Australian (et al) men and women during times of war and peace keeping?

As for the pub part, am I right in thinking that there are some ‘rioters’ who would like to see a good old fashioned English country pub in the youngest Australian city?…Riiiiiiiight!

It is good to have schools, shops, and transport in (generally) decent walking distance though, right? And being able to jump on the pushie or into the car to get to whatever you want outside of that without as much hassle as the bigger cities is tops! As clichéd as it may be, it’s “swings and roundabouts”.

Thumper 7:08 pm 23 Oct 10

“Australia may have best beer in the world but it certainly could do better when it comes to where you drink it. Thanks Hotels Association.”

Best beer is in England.

Full stop.

DanRayner 5:53 pm 23 Oct 10

Deckard said :

peder said :

Australia may have best beer in the world but it certainly could do better when it comes to where you drink it. Thanks Hotels Association.

Best beer in the world??? Serious??

Absolutely some of the best beer in the world, some of my favourites:

Wig & Pen
Zierholz
Little Creatures Pale Ale (WA)
Holgate Brewery (Vic)
Bridge Road Brewers Robust Porter (Vic)
Stone & Wood Draught Ale (Byron Bay)
White Rabbit Dark Ale (Vic)
Jamieson “The Beast” IPA (Vic)
Mountain Goat Steam Ale (Vic)
BrewBoys Seeing Double (SA)
Lobethal Bierhaus (SA)
Murray’s Brewery Icon 2IPA (Pt Stephens)
Wicked Elf Pilsner (Pt Macquarie)
Moo Brew Pale Ale (Tassie)
Readoak (Sydney)
Red Duck Porter (Vic)
Lord Nelson Nelson’s Blood Stout (Sydney)
Feral Hop Hog IPA (WA)
I could go on but I have to get to the Wig for a beer!

Many of these beers are available in most cities and they could be in most IGAs here in Canberra but you (yes, I’m talking to you, dear reader) just have to stop drinking VB to notice them.

gimmeth 4:47 pm 23 Oct 10

Edgars at Ainslie shops is pretty bloody awesome for a wine or beer and tapas type food as well as a decent selection of mains and specials. They are cheese experts too – YUM! They have just done some reno’s but it is still comfy and un-airportlike. The music is varied and not bad at all, no pokies, several tvs so you don’t miss out on sport (they are muted tho), and/or the video clipsof what you are watchign will be displayed. Overall my current fave. do a great coffee and muffin too.

Then there is All Bar Nun at o’connor, with a similar feel except on Friday evening when it is full of young public service try hards.

The there is Tilley’s at Turner. Gay friendly is a must, but great atmosphere, great food, great bands.

Now I know these aren’t exact;y in your neck of the woods, but it isn’t far and a taxi fare home isn’t extraordinary. Go give them a shot.

Deckard 10:25 am 23 Oct 10

peder said :

Australia may have best beer in the world but it certainly could do better when it comes to where you drink it. Thanks Hotels Association.

Best beer in the world??? Serious??

Thumper 9:51 am 23 Oct 10

The George Harcourt is nice, even if it lost a little bit of what I loved with its recent renovations.

It did. It now feels like a club, rather than a comfy old pub.

Jethro 8:29 am 23 Oct 10

I agree with most things the OP says.

However, I take issue with his statement that clubs are bland.

The Labor Club at the Charnwood shops has a vibe that only a place with a beer garden enclosed by a giant cage can have.

As for the courteous drivers… Some out-of-town friends arrived on my doorstep yesterday with the opening comment, “What the hell is with the drivers in this city?”

As far as pubs… Kingston Hotel is pretty good. Even sitting in the beer garden of King O’Malleys can be a decent way to wile away a Sunday afternoon. But yes… suburban ‘pubs’ are less common, but I think that’s true for the outer suburbs of most cities.

Amethyst 1:24 am 23 Oct 10

I don’t know how North you want your pub to be, but there’s always The Lighthouse. I wouldn’t recommend it most of the time, but it is there! There’s Ha Ha Bar for an inner city kind of feel. Or there’s always The PotBelly. I know there’s a tavern in Kippax too, although I’ve never been.

Brindabella 9:14 pm 22 Oct 10

Clown Killer said :

For what it’s worth, I don’t much bother with the mocked up Irish/English wannabe establishments. Give me a decent Australian country pub anyday. One with a public bar, tiles on the walls, Resches on tap and where they call “Time please gentlemen” at the end of the night. There’s still a couple in Cooma, there’s one in Berridale and one in Batlow (from memory).

Yep. +1 on this call.

Thumper 7:16 pm 22 Oct 10

as you look forward to your hot (once a week) shower.

Dunno about you, but my place in Finsbury Park had a shower that worked every day. And three pubs within 500 metres, including the Old Moo Cow, okay, the Dairy, which was awesome.

Amazing, I know… 🙂

Thumper 7:09 pm 22 Oct 10

I miss London…

Clown Killer 6:41 pm 22 Oct 10

For what it’s worth, I don’t much bother with the mocked up Irish/English wannabe establishments. Give me a decent Australian country pub anyday. One with a public bar, tiles on the walls, Resches on tap and where they call “Time please gentlemen” at the end of the night. There’s still a couple in Cooma, there’s one in Berridale and one in Batlow (from memory).

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