Once upon a time, I used to attend a Craft Fair in what was called the Cook Street Hall, Howick, Auckland.
They had small useless patches of felt covered with beading that you placed on your mantle piece. They had doilies. There were big bright jars filled with amber liquid and stuffed with yellow capsicums.
There were carved driftwood Kiwi and lambs. The ladies manning the stalls wore warm oversized fluffy home knits with deliberate holing effect.
There was no craft beer here.
To get a beer, you needed to go back along Cook Street, onto Picton Street to a public bar called The Prospect of Howick. There, taps would pour you Rheineck, Double Brown and really choosy clients could be served beer in a can. Joseph Kuhtze, Castlemaine, Victoria Bitter. For some reason, Australian beers were positioned as a point of negative difference, and if you’d just passed your BCom examinations, you generally went for the slightly pricier ‘edgier’ beer. Standing there in your sleeveless vest clutching your Buxton wallet, you were king of balls.
I remember when Corona came on the market; the clear glass glowing with yellow lager. For after 10pm at the clubs, the barman would cram a wedge of lemon into its neck. Considering the house white was still coming out of a cask, this was really something. To me, beer had become ‘girly’. Women felt okay about holding a Corona.
My dad brewed his own beer. I remember bottle after bottle being tipped into the garden. Dad liked to buy pub pets from Liquorland on Moore Street. He fancied though that he could undercut the middle man by brewing unfeasible amounts of beer, just as well as they could at Dominion Breweries.
He was entirely wrong. The thing stunk the house out and it drove mum crazy. She was so embarrassed. Why couldn’t he just stick to his tidy, sensible pub pets?
It was two-fold. I imagined that dad’s dream was to have beer to hand at all times and to never have to hand over another hard-earned dollar to the piss-merchants at DB. Those rich fat cats. They probably didn’t even drink beer.
In a way, dad was an early version of what is called a Craft Beer enthusiast. Very loosely. Like any hobby, there are some top people doing it, and there are some absolute sad sacks who give the hobby an eye-rollingly bad name.
The same goes for anything – scale modelling, trains, collecting ancient matchboxes.
The modern craft beer industry can be assessed by a layman like myself by the fact that I can buy a single bottle of fingernail of the original brewer steeped in hops grown in the underpants of the Virgin, in my local Pak ‘n’ Save. That’s how mainstream it has become.
But what is really interesting is the way beer is talked about in the supermarket flyers. It is rather like how wine is talked about. One time, I casually read the New World flyer which had a bonus advice column on which wine to buy. Nectarine with a hint of grass clippings, it said. All I really wanted to know was
Will I have a mild hangover or a terrible hangover after drinking this booze?
There’s some top guys doing craft beer. They have awesome beards, they have tats, they are bright and articulate. They are dads. They stink out their family homes with their liquor brews and their long-suffering spouses print off home made oval sticky labels for the beer bottles:
West Auckland Dense Vader Draught
Armageddon Avenging Angel Pale Ale
Southern Disposition Clear Puddle Water Light Dark Black Voodoo Piss
It’s nothing like the craft hall of my youth. It’s a full-blown hobby industry.
Cheers to the beards. I raise my glass to you. I clink it to your special edition World of Warcraft commemorative tankard, bought from the Franklin Mint.