Can Of Bintang Unequivocally The Most Exquisite Beer Ever Crafted
(Editor’s note: this dispatch from Ding Alley’s Indonesian correspondent is time-stamped from ‘sometime in the future’, and geo-located as ‘at anchor somewhere in the archipelago’.)
Toonalook Sparky Josh Cassidy – taking his first Indo surf trip since Covid-19 effectively shut the gates on such missions for Australians three odd years ago – has experienced a revelation that may have a seismic impact on the 500-billion-dollar-a-year global beer industry.
Classified as a ‘Pale Lager’, and brewed in a sprawling Heineken-owned complex in the Javanese city of Surabaya, Bir Bintang (translation: ‘Star Beer’) has rarely troubled the scorers in the BIIA (Brewing Industry International Awards), and consistently fails to rate a mention on respected beer-ranking sites such as worldbeerawards.com, globalbeerratings.com, worldsfinestbeers.com or even nottoobadbeers.org.
Brand wise, Bintang also suffers from the unfortunate (and surely unfair) association of its trademark singlet with a particularly uncouth species of Australian male.
Despite these obstacles, however, a single can of Bintang has – early this evening – been certified with heartfelt conviction by the 33-year old Australian Tradey as “Deadset, that’s the best fucking beer ever.”
While such a sweeping statement naturally invites scepticism, an exhaustive Ding Alley investigation has so far found no evidence to legitimately refute this claim.
Surabaya is known for being one of, if not the, cleanest and greenest cities in Indonesia. And though we may not be coming off a terribly high baseline here, as even the most inexperienced home-brew punter will testify, cleanliness of atmosphere and equipment is vital when whipping up a batch of proverbial malt sandwiches.
Thus, with the environmental preconditions optimised, we cannot discount the notion – no matter how unlikely – that on the day this particular Binnie came to be, (a few months prior to Cassidy’s extraordinary revelation) the Angels of Barley and Hops got together and decided to create a dream come true: Bintang brewing management and staff at the absolute top of their game; hops and grains of stupendous purity and quality; 330 ml of impeccably crystalline water channelled from a remote Tibetan mountaintop stream to the Surabaya water supply via a complex network of trans-equatorial subterranean aquifers – coming together in against-all-odds synchronicity, and funnelled into a single Golden-Ticket Bir Bintang aluminium receptacle.
To fully appreciate the significance of this event, we must deviate from Ding Alley’s hard-nosed reportage style, and ask you, beloved Swellnet reader, to close your eyes and imagine that seemingly inconspicuous day in Surabaya, and among the thousands of Bintang cans marching down conveyor belts, processed, sealed and packaged, picture a solitary can, superior – if only by way of a molecule or two – to its neighbours left and right. Superior, in fact, to every can produced that day or any other day in Surabaya. Superior, indeed, to all and every other can, bottle or keg of beer ever produced in mankind’s 5000 year history of brewing.
Now, picture the equally remarkable sequence of events that led this Chosen Can to Cassidy’s grateful clutches.
This Binnie, packaged along with 23 companions of near-but-not-quite quality, was stored at comfortable room temperature in a warehouse adjacent to Surabaya’s bustling Port of Tanjung Perak, before being shipped north via the Java Sea – a gentle sea-state subtly massaging the beverage in an optimum state of circulation – to Sumatra, whereupon it was trucked to a bulk retailer favoured as providore by surf trip operators both land and boat based.
Still esconsed in carton form, this ultimate expression of brewing craft and achievement then spent three weeks in the back storeroom of an undisclosed surf camp until 3:30pm today, whereupon said carton was fetched and opened by a staff member, its contents placed in a large, ice-filled esky, which was then carried out to the waiting speedboat.
Critically, this sacred aluminium artefact was placed in the very centre of the esky, with secure and equal distribution of ice encasing it on all sides, as well as above and below, creating optimum serving crispness – a factor equally important as the ingredients and brewing process.
For the final two hours of this can’s intact existence – 4.25pm to sunset at 6.39pm local time – it rested in the dark of a sealed esky maintaining an optimum three degrees Celsius, while the boat lay at anchor beside a premium quality lefthander.
Positioned just off the reef drop-off, and with the four-wave sets six minutes apart, the intermittent rocking of the boat ever so gently administered the final optimisation of the ingredients – ‘waking up’ the lager by activating and dispersing the fine molecular sediment into a state of perfect suspension, not unlike god’s own snowglobe.
The reader will not be surprised to learn that the swells that rocked the boat were being ridden by Cassidy and two companions, enjoying a lengthy and sublime dusk session at this, Cassidy’s favourite wave – a wave he has quietly pined for, for quite some time.
With the backlight illumination of the lowering sun giving the waves an emerald green and gold intensity, and the just-overhead swell size perfectly proportioned to hit and hug the reef in a hypnotic, slinky roping coil for up to two hundred metres, this was the kind of session that occupies the default position in Cassidy’s mind when daydreaming of the ultimate enjoyable surf.
Perhaps the only complaint that could be mustered was the length of the paddle back out after each ride, where screaming shoulder muscles demanded immediate retreat to the boat, but were shouted down by the knowledge that surfs like this are finite in number, and that failure to extract every last skerrick of stoke from the session would be somehow disrespectful of the opportunity, and ungracious to the elements.
Cassidy had always taken pride in making the most what the ocean had to offer. Back home, he never wasted whatever beachies and Point sessions Toona threw at him, but this reef vibrated at an entirely different frequency. You could take a decent week of waves at Toona Point, cherry pick all the best parts from your best rides and still come up short of a single wave here. Even the Indian Ocean itself felt more silken.
And so by the time Cassidy pulled himself over the transom, towelled off, slammed down some water and collapsed onto the aft bench seat, staring open mouthed back at the empty lineup, the sky was ablaze with the dying embers of the day.
It had been years since he’d felt so sated.
As boards were stowed and the anchor chain lifted in preparation for the cruise back to camp, the laconic surf guide dug his hand into the esky, plucked out the Bintang in question, and wordlessly gestured it towards Cassidy with a knowing smile and raised eyebrow.
And then, with the crisp crack of the ring pull, the finest and most wonderful beer ever in the history of beers fulfilled its destiny.
// DING ALLEY
Ding Alley is two old – fuck they ARE old – mates, illustrator Dave @maccatoons McArthur and writer Gra Murdoch. Macca adds an important postscript to this story: “Cans are way colder than stubbies and therefore superior in boat eskies”.