Published in The A - Z of Drinks

Asian and Australasian beer – the beatitudes of beer brook no boundaries or borders and Australians (Coopers, Gage Roads, Malt Shovel, Matilda Bay) and New Zealanders (DB, Emerson’s, Mac’s, Tuatara, Twisted Hop) are now brewing good stuff that exposes the insipid big brands (VB, Foster’s, Tooheys). In Tahiti twenty years ago I was paying more for each beer (Hinano) than for my bed – but how many beds can you sleep in? The standards of south-east Asia are not to be sniffed at in Singapore and Malaysia (Asia Pacific Brewery’s Tiger has good bite), Indonesia (Multi Bintang, Bali Hai) and Thailand (Boon Rawd’s Singha).

If conjuring the image of a condensation-covered bottle of Indian UB Group’s Kingfisher and the motto on its label ‘Most Thrilling Chilled!’ makes other people want to drink some as much as I do then the future funding of flamboyant owner Vijay Mallya’s IPL cricket and Formula 1 motor-racing teams is assured. Next door, Sri Lanka makes it on to the grid as well with Lion Brewery.

Thirsty, de-stressing Japanese have enough post-work steam to make one of their beers, Asahi, the world’s tenth biggest and it’s a relief they’re doing less of the ‘dry’ beer thing, which turns all the sugar to alcohol and takes the taste away with it – and making proper beer (Hakusekikan, Hitachino Nest, Ise Kadoya, Kinshachi, Kirin, Yoho Brewing).

I have felt at home with the beer I’ve had in every Chinese restaurant I’ve ever been into anywhere in the world – Tsingtao – pronounced ‘ching dow’ – but have yet to try Snow, which is on everybody’s lips indoors and which will soon be the biggest beer brand of all – and that’s sno’ joke.

Published in The A - Z of Drinks

Arrack – booze was probably first formed in a gourd of palm sugar left out in the rain into which the right little speck of yeast landed, setting off a spontaneous fermentation. Whoever looked at it the next morning and wondered why their breakfast was bubbling should have stopped there. But they had a sniff . . . and then a sip – at which point all their instincts should have said, ‘Eeeuw!’ But the person who started it all (I suspect a direct ancestor of mine) thought, ‘Mmmm, you know, that’s really not bad,’ and then took a second sip – the first ever booze-up. Similar drinks are still made by primitive peoples in Java, Borneo, Sumatra, South London and Sweden, where it has evolved into what they call Punsch.


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I have been writing about drinks since 2000, mainly for newspapers and magazines, and also through my blog, which is being updated alphabetically here (see below).

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The Knowledge: Red Wine.

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