The first thing we did after arriving at our accommodations was to get our bearings. Melbourne is little more difficult to navigate than Sydney because of its lack of prominent landmarks: no giant bridges, no pointy opera houses, no large bodies of water. However, downtown is on a simple grid system and the tram system is pretty straightforward so it didn’t take long to procure a basic understanding of the city.
Our first stop in the city was the Portland Hotel, a historic, downtown hotel that houses, among other businesses, the James Squire Brewhouse—one of several breweries in Australia with the James Squire designation. Yes, it is a chain brewery but chain breweries aren’t necessarily bad. There is merit to the argument that chains lessen the uniqueness of the beer due to the fact that it is available in several locations and it is true that chain breweries do not have a local vibe but, if the beer is of high quality, do these complaints really matter? Actually, even I can’t fully convince myself that it doesn’t matter at least a little but, in truth, the buck stops at the taste buds; good beer is good beer. Besides, even though James Squire has a set line-up of beer that is the same throughout the country, each location also has one or two unique beers that are brewed in-house and are only available at that single branch. I’ll also give the brewery kudos for naming their company after something as cool as a beer-brewing convict.
The next beer I ordered was Speculator American Pale Ale. In Colorado, we make beers that reflect cultures from around the world. We have English pale ales (e.g. DPA from Great Divide), Scottish ales (e.g. 90 Shilling from Odell), Mexican ambers (e.g. Mañana from Del Norte), and Belgian ales (e.g. most of the offerings at New Belgium). I ordered Speculator because I was curious to see how another country did our beer. Speculator is a clear copper color and it is a little bit hazy. So far, it’s on par with what I know about American pale ales. The hop aroma is perhaps a tad bit weak but it is close enough to make the grade. The hops have a grapefruit essence to them. It is in the taste where things start to go astray. Speculator, in my opinion, is too malty; it deteriorates the bitterness. The hops are there, though. They’re just not in-your-face; it’s a hop love tap rather than a hop punch. The bitterness does, however, have a tendency to stick in the drinker’s mouth for awhile like so many an American pale ale. Speculator doesn’t exactly make the drinker slobber but it’s certainly wet when compared with Portland’s dry finish. The verdict: it’s a darn decent beer but it couldn’t go toe-to-toe with its U.S. counterparts. Maybe I’m being too nationalistic and propagandizing my country’s beer but I’m sure I’m not the only one. Tell me how many Irish will admit that Left Hand Milk Stout is as good as Guinness. That’s what I thought.
Along the way we happened upon a sidewalk stand selling North Melbourne Kangaroos gear. Well, if we couldn’t go to game we could at least get a souvenir shirt. Footy is Australia’s most popular sport so a shirt with a team logo is a more authentic souvenir than, say, a Hard Rock shirt or something with a koala on it. I got the retro logo shirt because it looked a lot like my retro Colts shirt. After purchasing my shirt I turned to leave and heard the cashier say, “Enjoy the match!”
Eh? There’s a match today?
We scurried over to the ticket booth and, sure enough, the game was in the middle of the second quarter. Again, footy is a very popular sport in Australia and I wanted to be a part of something uniquely Aussie so we purchased two cheap seats and hurried up the ramps.
At first, we still had no idea what the hell was going on down on the field but we still enjoyed the action. Eventually, we asked some other spectators what it was, exactly, that we were watching. After getting the basic concepts down, we enjoyed the game a whole lot more. I won’t bore you with an explanation but it’s basically a sport unlike any other sport because it is a combination of all sports; it’s rugby, soccer, basketball, and volleyball all mixed into one. The ‘Roos won the match so I guess you could say they’re my favorite footy team (I did buy the shirt, afterall). But, I guess I’ll count the opponents—the Brisbane Lions—as my second-favorite team since it was Lions fans that explained the game to us. So, if you like nonstop action and athletic men in shorty-shorts then give footy a try. Of course, I still like my American-rules football the best: bigger hits and some semblance of strategy (footy looks like pee-wee soccer what with everybody on the field fighting over the ball like it’s a greased pig).
|Roos V. Lions|
|Little Creatures Pale Ale|
|James Squire Cider|
|Nightscape of Melbourne|