Melb’n as the Australians call it, with the intonation on the first part and the second part swallowed, is the capital of the State of Victoria. It sits on the South coast, the ‘coldest’ side of the continent. Still plenty of palm trees, though. More than three million inhabitants make Melbourne the second largest city of Australia, behind Sydney. The question is: where do you find great beer in such bustling cosmopolitan city? In a country where locals consider the beer of their first choice a yellowish ‘light’ lager of 2.6% ABV. (Examples: Hahn, Cascade, Foster, etc.) Now you understand the stories about Australians drinking 12 beers in a row and still walking straight. It must be virtually impossible to get drunk on that stuff. Such ‘table’-beer should be reserved for children and convicts, as it was and still is in some European nations like Belgium.
However, the beer revolution is popping its head up here too. Don’t miss Cookie at 252 Swanston Street.
Hard to find on the second floor above some small shops, on one of the busiest streets of downtown, surrounded by skyscrapers, Cookie offers without discussion the widest range of beer from all over the world. You may miss the small Cookie sign hanging over the sidewalk. Just go up the stairs where the missing house-number is supposed to be. The focus of this large beer heaven is understandable on Australian and New Zealand microbrews. The venue is split between a classic bar and the restaurant, specialized in Thai food. Makes sense: spicy food begs for good beer. By the way: the Asian population in Melbourne is very large. Every Asian country delivered over the years many immigrants, and sends today many of its brightest students to Australian universities.
Bureaucrats, local beer connoisseurs and tourists guarantee a loud ambiance from noon until late at night at Cookie. The thick ‘beer-book’ lists all beers along style, while mentioning for every beer the alcohol content and the country of origin. No surprise that most Asian countries feature at least one of their beers on the list. Except for Japan, these countries brew only Pilsner style beers. The selection of Belgian beers, coming from the other side of the world, surprises us with over 30 brands. Mikey, the bar manager says: “we get our hands on every Belgian beer imported in Australia.” Famous Belgian breweries like Van Steenberge (6 brands), Cantillon, and Dupont (4 brands) are served with pride along the common beers from AB-Inbev, Moortgat, and four different Belgian Trappist ales (only Westvleteren and Achel are missing).
The phenomenon of breweries trying to emulate Belgian beers emerges down-under too. For example the NZ Tuatara Brewery names one of its brews ‘Ardennes, strong Belgian style’. Although it only comes as 6.5 % ABV, it would not be considered ‘strong’ in Belgium. Taste, flavor and color show a first step to create eventually something similar to the fabulous Belgian Piraat ale. For now, the refermentation in the bottle and certainly in the keg is not existent, and thus the local Belgian style beers miss the praised smoothness of the authentic Belgians.