Every year in late December there is a little known Beer Award that is handed out to the most outstanding beer of the year. Very few people have heard of this award and that is because it is my own self-awarded Beer of the Year (BOTY). But don’t let that fool you. It is perhaps the most important Beer Award in the world, and this year I’m very happy to debut NBAMate’s own version – the Beer of the Year NBA Edition.

My Beer of the Year Award has come to mean a great deal to me, and that is because my Beer of the Year usually defines my year in one way or another; perhaps owing to a special occasion or two, highlighting a holiday away to some exotic beer-drenched location, or a reflection of my hard-working hours and the ensuing time spent in suit-clad corporate bars around Melbourne. The criteria for my Beer of the Year is a combination of the following factors:
1.    The best tasting beer of the year
2.    The beer I drank most throughout the year
3.    The beer that provided the best moments and memories

Previous Beer of the Year winners have included beers I consumed very little of but treasured greatly (such as James Squires Pilsner back in 2005 when I only had about ten across the whole year) and beers that I consumed in vast quantities without necessarily blowing my taste buds away (Cascade Premium in ’06). The last five winners are below.

~ Previous Beer of the Year Winners ~
2003 – Tooheys Pils
2004 – James Squires Pilsner
2005 – James Squires Pilsner
2006 – Cascade Premium
2007 – Cascade Premium

With 2008 now behind us it’s time to announce my top five candidates and crown by 2008 Beer of the Year.  It is of course worth mentioning that my Beer of the Year is a very personal thing, based on my own preferences and experiences. I’m always trying to broaden my horizons so if you think there’s a beer I should try please recommend one. And if you want to list your own top 5 be my guest – I would be more than happy for this to become a shrine to the beers loved by NBA fans around the world. The great thing about beer is that just like women, every man has his own taste: some like them slim, some like them heavy, but we all like them more with their tops off. I’ll drink to that.

I believe that God may have put me on the earth to drink James Squires Pilsner. There is no beer that upon sipping I feel more of an immediate bond towards, an intimate connection that can only be likened to the soft touch of an old but familiar lover. Even writing this now I’m puzzled why the Squires Pilsner hasn’t won every single BOTY since 2002, but alas, the Pilsner’s strengths also represent its very weaknesses. You simply can not drink a lot of this beer. After about five or six it feels like someone has stuffed a bag of hops in your mouth and you are doing yourself a disservice if you plan to drink too much more – you simply can’t enjoy it to the maximum. It is therefore a beer to be savored in small quantities for special occasions – not the type of beer you will eat pizza with, or shoot beer bongs with or smuggle into the MCG. Sure, if I spent 2008 relatively sober enjoying the occasional celebratory beverage than the Squires may have found itself a winner. But 2008 was far from sober and there were simply too many other beers that featured more prominently and gave me more enjoyment. Quality over quantity wins sometimes, but not this year.

The James Squires Pilsner of the NBA: James Posey. A classy performer with a reputation that precedes itself, but in reality it’s overpriced and is only going to pop up for four or five big nights through the year. Great in small amounts but if you’re relying on this beer to carry you through the game, it will probably make you sick and you might end up with a few turnovers late in the evening. Plus they’re both called James.

There continues to be a massive fad towards Melbourne bars getting Asahi Super Dry on tap. I don’t know how this happened, but it did, and as a result I find myself drinking a lot more Asahi Super Dry than I need to. The upside is that unlike the other commonly found non-Australian tap beers such as Becks (yuk), Stella (shithouse) and Heineken (only at the tennis please), I actually enjoy Asahi. If you’re wondering what a “super dry” beer is it basically means all the sugar is converted to alcohol during a long fermentation period, resulting in a crisp, clean flavour. You could say this beer is almost the opposite to the Squires Pilsner  which is a very flavorsome, bitey beer.  And maybe that’s why I like it. Asahi Super Dry is the Yang to my Squires Ying. It’s extremely refreshing and won’t make you fart like a Wookie the entire next day. The only reason it doesn’t take out Beer of the Year for 2008 is that I only have drank it in bars, and a beer that you can’t take home to your family and friends is not really a worthy Beer of the Year, is it?

The Asahi Super Dry of the NBA: Ray Allen. This beer is supremely smooth and doesn’t waste energy doing anything else but trying to fill up the hole (this beer doesn’t play defense). What’s more, it looks good. You won’t see Asahi Super Dry served up in anything less than its own stylish frosted glass which naturally, is smooth to touch. If there are female beers then I’d imagine they are all trying to get in the pants of Asahi Super Dry. Being a non-Australian Beer of the Year candidate means that just like Ray Allen, it has successfully scored from long range (Japan).

Sol is one of those beers there is absolutely no reason to buy, yet you just can’t help get sucked in by its colorful marketing and underdog Mexican beer status. If you want a decent Summer beer than Corona is simply better, and if you think it’s a cheap alternative to Corona then you’re a dickhead because there are a dozen better beers than Sol that are similarly priced (around $50 a slab at the moment). So why is Sol here in my top five candidates? Simply because I did get sucked in by the above reasons and ended up drinking a lot of this beer early in the year. When I think about the summer of 2007/08 a yellow slab of Sol is what comes to mind (after a few other things). I even remember a night when my housemates and I decided to cook Mexican, burritos and guacamole and all. It was a great dinner but what capped it off for me was cracking open a Sol to wash down my taco. Any one who has done this will understand what supreme satisfaction and happiness it brings. Sol channels your inner Mexican. It is also a tad weak and not suited to winter nights watching the footy when your mates are drinking VB, Carlton Draught and other far more manly beers. If Luke Hodge saw you drinking Sol he would spear tackle you into a tram, and for that reason it cannot be my 2008 Beer of the Year.

The Sol of the NBA: Vince Carter. Looks flashy but its piss weak and always goes missing in the colder months (May, June for us Aussies).

This beer features consistently in my top five every year, and in 2008 it was probably my second most consumed beer (behind Carlton Draught). There is an instant flavor hit you get when drinking this beer that is rivaled by few others, and unlike some of my other favourite Pale Ales (Little Creatures, Mountain Goat and Winnies to name a few) Coopers Green is supremely drinkable in large quantities. I’ve bought several slabs of Coopers Green over the years but not one of Mountain Goat or Little Creatures Pale Ale. That’s not to say they’re any worse – I actually put Little Creatures Pale Ale slightly above Coopers Green in pure taste alone – but I’ve drank far more Coopers Green this year and in accordance with criteria two, it wins out. My only knock on Coopers Green, and this is a very personal agenda, is that owing to the volume I have consumed in the last five years I’ve become a bit bored with it. I tried to keep things interesting last year by buying Coopers Red instead, but that screws with your bowels like a bad chemistry experiment so I was forced to switch back. It’s undeniable – Coopers Green is such a consistent and reliable performer that no matter how often I decide to turn over a new leaf, I always come crawling back.

The Coopers Pale Ale of the NBA: Paul Pierce. Not just because of the obvious Coopers/Celtics Green connection, but because just like the Pale Ale, Pierce delivers every single time even when you think it’s finished. It may not be as explosive as its twin Coopers Red (Kevin Garnett) but late in the game/slab you’ll still be knocking down those Greens while the Red goes to shit. Coopers Pale Ale is The Truth of all brews.

Many people might find this a boring choice – a mainstream, one-size-fits-all beer that is drunk by even some of the most misguided beer lovers and sometimes not by beer lovers at all. I’ll admit, it’s not easy for me, someone who considers themselves a bit of a beer connoisseur,  to put Carlton Draught at #1. But as I mentioned above this award is a very personal thing, and I would be untrue to myself if I had it any lower.

Carlton Draught was for me, in 2008, a shock entry into my BOTY candidates and owing to one very special occasion has been catapulted into #1 position. That special occasion was a Centurion effort performed a couple of weeks ago where I finished on 210 – an effort that bettered my personal best by 100 shots. I was truly blessed by the frothy Gods on that day and it was Carlton Draught that channeled their spirit.

I first tasted the golden nectar of Carlton Draught back in high school before the brand went all sexy with a new label (remember this?) and big-budget ads (see below). From 1998-2001 if you had asked me what my favourite beer was, “Carlton Draught” would have been the immediate response. I continued to enjoy a few every now and then over the years, but mainly in pubs rather than buying my own slabs. This is not such a bad thing, because lets face it Carlton Draught is far better on tap than out of the bottle/can. But after years and years of the occasional pot, something happened – I started to take Carlton Draught for granted. This is easy to do, after all, it’s one of the cheapest and most ubiquitous beers you’ll find. When you’re out at a pub with friends and you want to try something special, you’ll fork out an extra dollar for a pot of the Coopers, or the Boags or the fancy European lager. Why not? Only recently have I begun to realise something that I tragically forgot over the years: Carlton Draught is a very, VERY solid beer. Even when it’s the cheapest option on tap, it’s more than likely the best option. It is pure, unadulterated beer as God intended. As they say in the commercial: “Carlton Draught. Made from Beer”.

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There is a simple test you can try when comparing beers that gives a pretty good indication of their quality and taste. I like to call this test the “Robd Method of Beer Comparison”. You take one beer and have a sip, then you wait a few seconds, and then you have a sip of the other beer. This will quickly tell you which beer you prefer. I know it’s genius, and this simple trick has lately provided irrefutable evidence to me that Carlton Draught is my Beer of the Year. The day following my Centurion effort I was forced to switch to Pure Blonde when our keg of Draught went dry. Now I don’t normally mind Pure Blonde, but on this day I could barely swallow it. It was completely inferior in taste to the Draught I was drinking earlier. The same thing happened at a pub last week when we switched to Pure Blonde after drinking Draught. I just couldn’t take it. More recently I was enjoying a pot of Draught before meeting a few friends at the Little Creatures dining room on Brunswick Street (great place). Usually I would bend over backwards for a glass of their Pale Ale, but on this day I felt like Kramer trying to eat the Mackinaw Peach after being in Jerry’s apartment during fumigation. My taste buds weren’t responding, the beer did absolutely nothing for me. My love for Carlton Draught had become too strong.

So do yourself a favour. If like me, you’ve forgotten the wonders of this man’s man beer upon years of experimentation with more fancy varieties, buy yourself a pot next time you’re out and take a moment to appreciate Carlton Draught. Think back to the countless good times you’ve spent out with friends, emptying pot after pot of Draught just because it was cheap and it wasn’t Becks, and think about how many times you actually noticed you were drinking a really good beer. It is a mistake I will never make again.  Carlton Draught, my 2008 Beer of the Year, has reinstated my faith that a good beer doesn’t have to be expensive, or obscure, or German, or microbrewed. It just has to fit in your hand and taste good when you drink it. Real good.

The Carlton Draught of the NBA: Andrew Bogut. This was a no brainer. Just like Draught, the word I use most often to describe Bogut to anyone is solid. Andrew Bogut is damn solid. He’s not flashy, he’s not European and he doesn’t like being the centre of attention, but on his night he can still out-duel the real stars in his field (like that game against Dwight Howard a few weeks back, or Tim Duncan yesterday). Other players will get more All-Star votes and more highlights on the TV, but there is simply no other player/beer working as tirelessly, as selflessly and as efficiently as Andrew Bogut and Carlton Draught. Ask yourself how many guys in the league are averaging a double-double, two assists and shooting better than 56% from the field? There is only one. Andrew Bogut. And just like Carlton Draught it is standing head and shoulders above the competition.

NBAMate does not condone the drinking of alcohol. Beer should be enjoyed in moderation

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