Beer: South Pacific Export Lager
Brewery: SP Brewery, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
|Unfortunately they could only give me this much of it, but I said "wanpela moa, plis!" ('one more, please' in tok pisin), so I think I got a feel for how the stuff tastes.|
When I started this project, I made a list of countries from which I knew I could find beer, and a list of countries that I knew would be virtually impossible to check off without actually going there. Papua New Guinea was solidly on the latter of those two lists.
|I didn't actually say that, of course, because the woman pouring the stuff (the blonde gal ont he left) was probably from Carlsbad, and was definitely not from Port Moresby.|
So, sampling South Pacific Export Lager definitely qualifies as a “good get” for me. Even though the name implies that it is exported beyond PNG, I don’t think it makes it to the States. I was able to try it because it was available at the San Diego International Beer Festival this year, along with more than 300 other beers from 140 or so breweries. SP Brewery was definitely the odd man out, in terms of exoticism: the festival featured libations from just about every local brewery, while its international selections were limited to the likes of Canada, Mexico, the UK, and Belgium. The next most exotic brewery featured at the festival was probably one from New Zealand.
|As if the stuff you make for the locals ISN'T brewed with pride? Whatever, man.|
The policy of the festival is that you can drink as much as you want, but only one ounce at a time. In order to ensure that I really “had” the beer, I asked for three consecutive tiny pours of the stuff. Guess what? It tasted like every single fizzy yellow beer you’ve ever had. A lot of times breweries in faraway countries will produce a beer labeled as “export” to signal to the locals, who are used to drinking the brewery’s typical swill, that “this stuff is good enough for us to ship off to people who can afford better beer.” I was also able to try SP Lager, the brewery's flagship swill, and it tasted identical to the Export. So much for that.
|It's the same damn beer, practically!|
While Papua New Guinea’s beer may not be fascinating, just about everything else about the place is. The country consists of the western half of New Guinea and the surrounding islands, and is home to over 800 languages (Europe is home to about 50, for comparison), including the native lingua franca tok pisin (“talk pidgin”), a mish-mash of English and other languages that has developed into a full-fledged official language with increasingly complex grammar. In the remote parts of the country, the men of some tribes wear gigantic penis gourds. In the surrounding islands, the natives have figured out a way to make cricket interesting. And then there are the birds, particularly the birds-of-paradise, one of which are depicted on both the national flag and the bottle.
|I really like it when beer marketing evokes national or local symbols.|
So Papua New Guinea is a paradise for birds (and penis gourd enthusiasts), but not for beer. But that’s okay, because the world needs places like that.