The Drink Of Brave Men

Beer. The love of my life, the bain of my waist-line. A refreshment to be enjoyed at the end of the day after a hard day’s sail, a hard day’s work or a hard day’s drinking. Whatever the occassion, beer is there to help you celebrate.

Here in Catholic Kerala, however, beer isn’t so understood. The booze shop is a shuttered, over-the-counter, slip-the-beverage-into-a-plain-paper-bag-before-my-wife-spots-me affair. The pubs are dirty, dark cockroach-infested holes. Perhaps the government has ordered them to be decorated this way in order to strike guilt into that God-fearing conscience.  It doesn’t work of course because most beer drinkers actually like drinking in these kind of establishments. Still, the imbibement of this fine libation is not encouraged like it is elsewhere in India and the mantra “alcohol consumption is injurious to health” is seen on both the labels of bottles and across the tinted windows of aforementioned grimey bars. Is ‘injurious’ actually a word?

This situation is changing. Kerala has recently proposed a 10% tax cut on beer and wine for the 2010-11 budget. Hoorah! If this is a move to address the growing tourism here then that works for me. Hell, I’ll even make the effort to blog this fact! It is expected that breweries will rush to Kerala to launch new labels. Appreciated.
The beers in Kerala, and by beers I really mean fizzy lager that might occassionally have a strong, malty taste, are all served in grown-up 650ml bottles. They come with manly,  aspirational names like “Golden Eagle”, “Fire Hawk” and “Braveheart”. My fave, however, has to be “Zingaro”.
The masculine gold and red Zingaro label has an Indian, of the Native American persuasion, taming a wild horse with ‘Super Strong Premium Lager’ emblazoned across the bottom. Like most beers the label on the back states that the “alcohol content is less that 6%” and comes with a recommended retail price of 45/- (about $0.97). It is the sales pitch, however, that really won me over. This is, verbatim, what the label on the back states:
For thousands of years, we have seen brave men ride horses. We have heard their stories of courage, pride and hard fought victories. Zingaro strong beer is a celebration of these victories. It has the strength of a hundred horses. And the spirit of brave men. Men like you.
Wow. Men like me.  If that’s not a reason to prop up the bar and get beligerent with strangers I don’t know what is. Sold to the portly gentleman in the corner!

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11 thoughts on “The Drink Of Brave Men”

  1. Fair comment, Jamie – make the most of it. But, just to be pedantic (and when am I otherwise?, the PC term is Native American. I think gypsy is just about OK, though Roma seems to have caught on lately. I shall now go out into the glorious sunshine here and drink some Old Speckled Hen or Ruddles County – eat your heart out!

  2. Ah-a son after my own heart (to mis-quote that oft repeated saying!)Think I will pass up on the rats though (maybe they are mice but after a couple of bottles of “Zingaro” they look like rats).

  3. I was there, it really happened, but you have not yet tried Toddy or you would not waste your time with this rubbish. If you fancy one over the weekend you know where I am. 👿

  4. Henry, this requires further investigation. Might I volunteer myself to do some research into the detail of the label, just to be sure that it is actually a Native Indian (you can’t call them ‘red’ any more you know) and not a gypsy? Actually, can we even use the word ‘gypsy’ any more? Anyway, it means going out to the bar again. Oh well.

  5. To the best of my knowledge “zingaro” is, and always has been, the Italian word for “gypsy” so I wonder why they opted for a picture of Red Indians on their bottles?

  6. “It has the strength of a hundred horses” Well I hope it isn’t similar to Coca-Cola’s Dasani bottled water launched in the UK in 2004 advertised as “Bottled Spunk” and the tagline “Can’t live without spunk” – needless to say this was a PR disaster, not least because it turned out that the “highly sophisticated purification process, based on Nasa spacecraft technology” was in fact tap water from the mains.

  7. He he… 🙂 Nice! Obviously though you have missed ‘dry day’ yet. Last day of every month, to allow women to get their husband’s wages before it gets wasted…. tsss…like that law. Real Men, Real Beer, but gimmie the money first!

  8. don’t forget about the big hairy rats in the bars as well as the roaches – although, so far at least – not actually seen on the chairs or tables.

  9. we found that there was a prohibition era buzz to buying booze in kerela and were often guided into freezing air conditioned bars by hotel staff who wanted us to avoid the working man’s club scene where there scenes that reminded me of Lyme Street on a Friday night.

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