An auspicious day, this. May the first, international worker’s day, when sweaty layabouts worldwide belt out the Internationale almost as if it still means anything; neopagan Beltane, which really should be Samhain here, the end of the harvest and the beginning of the dark half of the year, marked with the opening of gates to the various netherworlds. It is also the feast day of St. James the Less, an epithet I am not going to mock if his dead-but-not-really spirit happens to be out and about (though if you’re reading this, zombie Jim, it’s not as bad as being remembered as Charles the Fat or Charles the Simple or George the Worryingly Mad and they were all kings). But it’s also tightarse Tuesday, and I choose to commemmorate the day with another cheapie from the nasty end of the shelf, the Crest Super.
Ah, but this is not like the others, those zombiefied pale lagers with their myriad obscure scripts and their outrageous claims of superiority despite grave and obvious flaws, emerging unheralded out of some corporate behemoth in the Netherlands. Not at all. This is British, made by Wells and Youngs who produce a wide range of well known and well appreciated brews, admittedly not necessarily under the Crest name. But surely we can trust it when it proclaims itself a “premium lager” brewed with “best quality barley malt and the finest German aroma hops”? Well, no.
It may seem like I’ve delayed describing this beer thus far. Part of the problem is there’s really very little to say. It’s a nice, very clear light copper colour, sure, but I can’t describe the head because it is entirely absent. Also, as much as I’d like to describe the aroma, apart from a slight pissy, faintly grassy note when I first opened the can that long experience has taught me to recognise, bizarrely, as cheaply Australian, I can’t say anything about it. It too has absconded somewhere (update: if agitated you can get a slight lemony antiseptic whiff. I would recommend not doing it). The initial cheap smell – aroma is an inappropriate term for it – would seem to indicate Pride of Ringwood hops but they won’t have been used here so I’m left confused and wary. The taste is dry, bitter, rusty and metallic, faintly citric, acidic with a lingering, dry and fairly unpleasant finish. Even so this, I feel, is a drink that may quench an initial thirst after a hard day’s work in scorching heat; I can imagine it being quite refreshing if consumed in haste with a decent chaser. It hides its alcohol – which is substantial – well, with only a slight warming in the finish and a tingle on the lips as an indication of its strength. And despite looking rather lifeless it has decent enough carbonation and a satisfying, medium mouthfeel. I certainly expected thinner. It’s the anti high-end beer in a way. You want to hate it; first impressions are awful and it should be virtually undrinkable, but it’s not. It does what it’s supposed to, even if it’s a million miles from what it promises on the label, and really, it isn’t all that bad without actually being enjoyable. It’s the sullen, downtrodden worker of Euro-piss land who you can’t really sue for negligence or incompetence but neither of you are terribly happy or would hope to encounter each other again.
The similarity with the slightly nasty mainstream beers of a misspent Australian youth are hard to dislodge. So, musically, what augments an English beer that tastes cheaply Australian? An Australian band full of transplanted Englishmen who sound cheaply English? Not quite. Another Australian band stealing yet another Australian bands’ act – sometimes more explicitly than others – long after they ceased to be relevant and long after they relocated back to England? Getting closer. How about a frankly awful English band covering that irrelevant but decent Australian band? And against all expectations…well nah, they botched it. Yes, as you might have spotted there’s a six degrees of separation thing going on here but I’m not entirely sure how to end it. Oh, what’s that? The Darkness have reformed? Ah. Well they’ll do. English, deeply flawed, mainstream, somewhat pretentious, does the job but faintly disappointing, best in small doses. Yep.
One more thing. May the first is also the birthday of Vance from Southgate Brewing, whose makes the best Hefeweizen I’ve had and a damn good kiwi Pale Ale, among others, which I hope to see on the shelves sooner rather than later. In the meantime, cheers for a Saturday night to remember except I can’t really…so it’s probably time to apologise for inflicting myself upon all and sundry again. Hope you had a good one there, mate.
Style: According to ratebeer.com, Malt Liquor/Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager.
Brewed by: Crest Brewing co./Wells & Youngs (Bedford, England)
Alcohol: 10% abv.
Price: $5.89/500ml can at Thorndon New World
Verdict: You want to hate it, but this is one of the better of the cheap Euro cans of dreck. It looks awful though and fair to say may not be very consistent as there are a lot of wildly variable and negative reports about this one. For me, I’ve had much worse. Gets no bonus points because it does what it needs to and not a skerrick more. Actually, since it promises the finest German aroma hops on the front, three points off. 45/100.