Of the 80 posts from our previous blog Phnom Penh Pal, there was one that was far more read than any other. That post was about my language teacher and friend who was imprisoned by the Khmer Rouge, escaped a killing field, saw friends killed beside him fighting a civil war, then imprisoned after protesting, before being free. The second most popular was about the price of beer in Cambodia.
I actually quite liked that little blog as it is knowing these everyday things that help people, perhaps mainly men, build a picture of a place in their head. In Victoria, the state that Melbourne is in, there are over 30 independent breweries to sample. Courtesy of beer left at our house by our Aussie friend, Rachael, my first beer in Australia was a Cooper’s pale ale, which has remained a reliable choice when unsure of other offers. There is a hint of fruitiness without overdoing it.
Cooper’s sells more beers than any other Australian owned brewer with the most sold beers, Victoria Bitter (VB) and XXXX Gold, being owned by USA-based SAB Miller and Japanese-based Kirin respectively. Despite VB being foreign owned it has retained its mantle as the traditional drink to be drunk on Australia Day but I’ve still to indulge. The power of advertising is illustrated by me still remembering (and loving) a Castlemaine XXXX advert from the 1980s that caused endless debates about whether a shark or crocodile would win in a fight, but still haven’t tasted that one either.
The name of the Fat Yak beer was enough to tempt me in itself, and thankfully it didn’t disappoint. It’s a pale ale and similar to the Cooper’s pale ale in having a hint of fruitiness and hoppy taste. It seems that hoppy makes me happy, and that it only takes a few relatively strong hoppy ales to make me so.
Next to drinking beer on the beach outside my house or on a rooftop overlooking the city, it’s a real treat to drink a beer in one of the many microbreweries in the city. Mountain Goat Brewery open their doors every Wednesday and Friday where you can indulge yourself with their various organic beers. It’s like having a good time and saving the world at the same time, with the two perfectly correlated.
I’m yet to actually find a stand out favourite and being Scottish part of the calculation is how much bang you get for your buck. That’s what is making it difficult. In Cambodia, a 330ml can of Black Panther stout had 8% alcohol content and cost 50 US cents. Here, a 330ml bottle of Mountain Goat India Pale Ale (6.2%) will cost you about US$4.75 in the shop and about US$7 in a bar.
Whilst I was back home in Scotland at Christmas, a friend who lives in Dubai was commiserating with my new found drinking problem (the price) but that compared to the Emirati price of beer I should be rejoicing; a good imported beer there would cost $US14. Another mate, who lives in Scotland, joined the conversation and after some impressive beeronomics, we found that he was paying the lowest % of his wage per pint out of all of us. Which maybe helps people build a picture of Scotland and some of the challenges it may face.
Slainte math (to your good health in Scots gaelic – a strange thing to toast when drinking alcohol)