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March 10, 2008 | by  | in Opinion |
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Beer can have a wonderful effect on conversation. In moderation, it can turn a bogan into a philosopher-king or an emo into someone actually worth talking to. In excess, it can prompt unwise remarks such as “everyone wants to hear me sing”, “that police car would look good in my lounge” or “I bet I can open that locked toilet.”

Once, it even made Graham Gooch funny. One of England’s best cricketers, Gooch was famous for his solid batting, droopy moustache and a face which resembled a forlorn Basset Hound receiving an unexpected cavity search. Hardly renowned as practitioner of the humorous arts, tireless research has unearthed Gooch saying something amusing – not on purpose of course.

The year was 1997. Britney was on the Mickey Mouse show, Jenny Shipley was preparing to roll Jim Bolger and Joel Cosgrove was just starting university. Gooch was in France and decided to use his schoolboy French at the bar – “Wheat beer, s’il vous plait.” He was served eight beers.

The wheat beer part at least was a good idea. By replacing a percentage of the usual barley malt with wheat, brewers impart a certain creaminess and spiciness to beer.

While Kiwis drink comparatively little wheat beer, most will be familiar with the iconic Hoegaarden White (5%) in its unique hexagonal glass. The Belgians use orange peel and coriander seeds to produce a cloudy, fruity, spicy beer which is utterly refreshing. The biggest selling local wheat beer is Mac’s Great White (5%). Despite the scary shark logo, this beer is a gentle mix of banana, bubblegum and clove notes followed by a tart finish. The characteristic lack of bitterness makes wheat beers popular with many who claim not to like beer.

Hailing from the aromatic metropolis of Rotorua, Croucher “The Hef” (5%) has plenty of banana, clove and vanilla notes in the glass and even hints of ginger. The brewer, reformed academic Dr Paul Croucher, calls it “disturbingly refreshing”.

Another lecturer who got a real job – Dr Ralph Bungard – makes his wheat beer with a twist. Three Boys Wheat (5%) replaces the traditional orange peel with lemon zest. This has the advantage of giving the beer a crisp citric snap and the disadvantage of having to zest fifty lemons at 5am in the industrial depths of Christchurch.

If you are still trying to figure out why Gooch’s comment was funny, ask someone who got merit in NCEA French to explain it. If they get too smug, ask them exactly what “merit” means under the NCEA.

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