Melchers Dutch Gold Lager, aka Melchers Rembrandt Masterpiece (Pale Lager, 5% abv). InBev (Leuven, Belgium). $2.49/500ml can.
After a week long Southern sojourn I find myself back in Wellington again on tight-arse Tuesday*, and it’s with a feeling of dread I pick out another can of Dutch pale lager. The last one was frankly awful, and it’s not until I get this home that I discover to my horror that this is in fact brewed by the same company. Upon further investigation though there are signs of encouragement. The range of languages in which the list of ingredients is printed is limited to four (English, French, Spanish and, optimistically, Arabic) and thankfully there is no mention of maize this time. The ‘gold’ in the name refers to a medal awarded in Brussels in 1937, a city that had hosted a world expo two years previously attended by twenty million people so not quite the gutted interwar disaster zone I had pictured. In a differently packaged version there is even a picture of Rembrandt on the can. Once upon a time someone was proud or shameless enough to market this thing as something of quality, and even though I can’t quite fathom the sordid workings of InBev well enough to find out exactly where this beer came from it may even have been someone Belgian.
I can’t in all honesty say this is a bad beer. It pours a light, clear yellow, with a medium coarse head that quickly dissipates to a thin, oily sheen and takes the initially strong grassy hop aroma with it. You get nothing but a very faint citrus after that. Carbonation is good, and the body is not quite as thin and watery as you might expect but is certainly not full. The taste is poor in the sense that it is the opposite of rich – it’s neither malty nor fruity and is crisp enough but very, very bland. The thing is, it tastes (as far as I can tell) almost exactly like an old Australian KB or Tooheys from thirty years ago, and while I couldn’t pin down anything in the way of actual flavour character, it brought back the nostalgia of nicking a sly one from the grown-ups table in a big way. Right down to the noxious dry, metallic aftertaste. Oh, I can see why others rate this poorly, and yes it’s probably best for students and other vagrants but for me it was strangely pleasant. It’s cheap and tastes like it but quite drinkable. Even so, those days have passed. It’s not bad, like I said, but it’s certainly not particularly interesting and I no longer have to make do with what I can steal when nobody’s looking. And it must be said though that I do feel a headache coming on after finishing it.
The musical accompaniment I’m suggesting needs some explaining. Simon and Garfunkel Live in Central Park was one of the very few records I remember from my pre-independent purchasing days. Others were old Kenny Rogers stuff, and albums by the likes of Bill and Boyd and Rolf Harris. It was tough. Even so, eventually, I bought my own Simon and Garfunkel tapes including Bookends, released in 1968. It starts well enough with Save the Life of My Child and America before descending into one of the oddest, dullest and most melancholic sequences my inexperienced ears had then encountered. Some context – 1968 was the year of Electric Ladyland and A Saucerful of Secrets. It was a year after Sargeant Peppers, three years after Dylan went electric, and in England both Led Zep and Black Sabbath were forming. Exciting times, one might hope. Bookends, in contrast, for the remainder of side one was almost belligerantly bland, and yet you couldn’t say it was bad, not as such, but Overs, Voices of Old People and Old Friends, finished with the Bookends Theme even at the time just struck me as gloriously, stupendously dull. Side two picks up and with Mrs. Robinson and Hazy Shade of Winter, gives the album a total of three, maybe four, undeniably great songs. It’s a fine album. But this one’s all about nostalgia and discovering that some of the stuff that takes you back might seem better now than it was, because in context at least it really wasn’t very good in the first place. Or something like that. Whatever, I’ll be listening to something else and I don’t really need to be drinking cheap lagers at my age.
Verdict: Distinctly meh without being actually bad. Better value than other bottom-end pale lagers. 46/100.
* The keenly observant among you will note that I am posting this on a Wednesday. Good for you. These things happen, I’m afraid.