Burlap’s Bar Tales Beer artisans and new brews: a barman’s view

Text: Drugget Burlap

“Gimme a triple India Pale Ale that is, like, massively hoppy, bra,” he said to me from across the bar.

The image of a half-naked front-rower was brought, not agreeably, to mind. Decades ago, a chunky chap from a better school had developed a longing for my sister so excessive, he would journey all the way from the splendour of King’s to our Rockdale bungalow. He’d claim to be still so hot from union training he couldn’t wear his shirt a moment longer, and in our good room, off the jersey came.

This is all the male child of unearned privilege could think to do in a modest place: wave his vast chest above the discount sofa. He sought to prove, wealth notwithstanding, that he was a manly man of the people. My sister Lizzie, I am pleased to report, was not taken in by his pecs or his money and gave him the sack for a tiny, skint guitarist. But still, these big white things, fed for all their lives on premium grain, move to the “edgier” parts of the city finding ways to prove that they are Just Like Ordinary Blokes.

I have been yanking the taps of the 2042 postcode since before graduation – an awfully long time ago. The triple IPA, and all its reeking craft beer cousins, arrived at the same time these 30-something Old Boys did. Which was about the same time that entertainment conglomerates, not single publicans, began to buy then “reinvent” our hotels.

This meant transforming the true masculine filth of our Newtown pubs into theme-park filth. Out with the Resch’s and the carpet, in with the reforested timber shelves and Iron John’s nitro milk stout.

Let’s leave aside that the work of our beer artisans largely tastes like dust and week-old flowers, that the stalest macrobrew remains more palatable than the newest wax-dipped cherry porter upchucked by a shed with a name like Great Dwight’s Dicktacular Fermentation Co. Let’s not even worry about the true craft beer nerds. These are boys – and they are overwhelmingly male – who have found a way to drink and to socialise that reflects their collector’s mania. It’s nice to see that they can leave the house for something other than a Marvel cosplay event.

But the hedge-fund managers who have built their imaginary slum on top of our actual slum using microbrew as their down-at-heel woodsman pretext? Well. All I can do for these weekend lumbersexuals is top up their Big Cock Bocks with flat Heineken when they’re not looking.

I have pulled macrobrew for 20 years, and micro just going on five. You can see in this change, and many do, a sign of a suburb’s newly humble taste. Or, as I do, a sign of tastebuds deadened to corporate apocalypse.


To the regular readers of Down the Hatch – as the English writer Jeffrey Barnard once put it, Kye M.R. Bleaux-Hall is unwell.


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