Almanac Beer Review: The Rancid, Amoral Horror of Great Northern



It was almost there and then it was gone.

The faintest suggestion of a promise of a possible future hint of tiny taste and then it disappeared.

Great Northern Original Lager is representative of all that is ungodly in late-period capitalism.

It was clearly developed around a table by some untreatably dreadful marketing types. Wearing dangerously pointy boots and strategic stubble, I’ll bet it was workshopped (these shameless ones can often be caught turning innocent nouns into vapid verbs) on butcher’s paper, or the slick e-equivalent.

Their website declares that the beer was, ‘brewed with an outdoor lifestyle in mind’ and I remain curious as to what this might look like given the beverage nightmare. ‘Outdoors’ might mean attack from a marauding numbat or vaguely agitated moth, and you could pelt one of these (unopened) beer bottles at them. If you didn’t hit them, at least they’d be terminally offended by your unspeakable taste in lager.

I took another reluctant sip and peered again at the (dis)information on my screen. With a bold face it stated that the ale was, ‘Light golden in colour with a fruity aroma, subtle bitterness and light palate.’ The following then occurred to me: Adelaide water, that universally maligned liquid, has superior aroma, bitterness and palate.

The bottle label also tells me that the Cairns brewery was established in 1927 which might’ve been fortunate for the then good folk of FNQ. Just play around with F and Q and it’s almost onomatopoeic of their attitude towards us, the customers. Happily, the Great Depression struck in 1929 and the local public may have found themselves unable to afford this depraved slop.


My attention (no danger here of Stockholm syndrome) then turned towards the Great Northern Super Crisp Lager which comes in at a non-descript 3.5%. 3.5 is widely acknowledged as the most bland of all numerals. Italian mathematician (and slashing middle-order bat) Fibonacci hated it.

This lager is also allegedly brewed with, ‘an outdoor lifestyle in mind.’ Is there something offensive to these people about drinking a beer indoors? In fact, I reckon this might be for the best. I’d go one step further, just in case someone you knew was walking past and saw what you were voluntarily doing, and pull down all the blinds.

I’m now thinking about the ‘Super Crisp’ qualifiers. I think this might be a fair claim, but only if you’re comparing this sorry muck to week-old lettuce. And given the price of lettuce I’d gobble that up as soon as you left the supermarket checkout, before a Leaf Vegetable Gang mugs you in the carpark.

Further investigation uncovers that our marketing funsters refer to this as the, ‘ultimate refreshment for the Great Northern conditions.’ Remember that scene in Shawshank Redemption when Andy Dufresne convinces Captain Hadley to buy beer for him and his co-workers? They then drink it on the roof and Andy is celebrated as a hero. If it had been Great Northern Super Crisp Lager that scene might’ve been unmatchably gruesome. Andy would never have peeled back the Raquel Welsh poster and dug his way out of prison. They’d have hoicked him off that roof.


More from Mickey Randall can be read Here.



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About Mickey Randall

Now whip it into shape/ Shape it up, get straight/ Go forward, move ahead/ Try to detect it, it's not too late/ To whip it, whip it good


  1. Peter Crossing says

    Well said, sir.
    “Brewed with an outdoor lifestyle in mind” could be correct. Stating this as delicately as I can, the taste may be described as horizontal dancing in a row boat.
    Just like Watney’s bleeding red barrel, mate.

  2. Thanks Peter.

    I often think of the line in David Williamson’s Emerald City in which someone remarks that ‘he makes your average corpse look like it’s tap dancing’ and I think this may be relevant here too. It’s grim when Corona appears zesty by comparison.

    Watney’s? Not had the opportunity!

    ‘Outdoor lifestyle’ also reminds me of the contestants on Perfect Match who’d declare that they loved scuba diving, skiing, rock climbing etc when you could tell that they really only loved planting their arse on the couch and watching footy. For weeks on end.

  3. Go to bar. Come back with peanuts.
    Friend “aren’t you having a beer?”
    “I was going to but they’ve only got Great Northern.”
    Friend “that’s what I drink.”
    Awkward silence – “jeez the full forward missed a couple of sitters”.

  4. I hear you PB. However, I do respect that not everyone worships at the Coopers cathedral!

  5. Rick Kane says

    Brilliant stuff MR, nicely wrapped up with the Shawshank Redemption bit.

    And I don’t even like that Great Northern equivalent of a film. Especially if considered through the lens of Umberto Eco’s piercing essay, How to Recognise a Porn Movie.

    I do feel the need to note that if GN is late-period capitalism to a T it has lineage and that includes but is not limited to Fosters, XXXX, VB, Swan Larger, Emu Bitter and that godless soul of a brew from SA called West End is nigh.


  6. Thanks Rick.

    As always you’ve given me some excellent homework. Eco’s essay is provocative and the notion of wasted time providing psychological safety is one worth deep consideration. How true is this line- ‘To depict normality is one of the most difficult things for any artist – whereas portraying deviation, crime, rape, torture, is very easy.’

    Had a quick beer at the Broady last night and it was in every way the opposite of a GN. A Coopers XPA (doesn’t XPA sound like a 1950’s sci-fi series?) and it was a most worthy end of week treat.

  7. Rick Kane says

    Tonight I’m enjoying a Bentspoke Crankshaft IPA before din dins.

  8. Very nice Rick. I had a West Coast IPA at the Little Bang Brewery in Stepney with added cheeseburger and Crows win over Carlton. All most tasty.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Horrid beverage. Agree with every word. Yet it’s a huge seller at both the cricket and footy clubs I’m involved in.

  10. I love this from Brave New World- ‘I want God, I want poetry, I want danger, I want freedom, I want sin.’

    Importantly, there’s no, ‘I want a can of Great Northern.’

    Thanks Luke (you must be a happy Magpies man).

  11. Whether the beer’s any good or not, I love the full-on Thompsonesque attack MR. Good stuff.
    Drank a six pack of Coopers Extra Stout with my brother the other night. Just by way of a canapé. Lovely drop.

  12. Mickey,
    This brought to mind to the exclamation from Dennis Hopper’s character Frank in the film “Blue Velvet”.
    “Heineken? F*ck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!”
    Great Northern is one of the worst beers I have ever tasted. And I have tasted a few.
    And I have been to America.

  13. John Harms says

    AJC, was the stout revealed to you on a recent trip to the Barossa?

  14. Thanks ajc, Smokie and JTH. I suspect for Hopper the line between on and off screen was very faint. Coopers Stout is most grandfatherly. It’s a triumph.

  15. Well said, Mickey.
    SPOT on.

    I passed a guy with a carton of this crap, leaving DAN MURPHY’S.
    How they took his money with a straight face, I’ll never know.
    It’s a massive mistake, in cartons of 24.
    GOD AWFUL swill.
    And I once tried CARLTON BLACK.

  16. Therese, you once tried CARLTON BLACK.

    You should be so lucky, it’s as rare as hens teeth. I first had it at Ardlethan when we went for the races about a decade back . Greensborough RSL used to have it but got rid of it; sad.


  17. Thanks Therese. While you and I share a view it seems that many in our country don’t for GN remains one of the highest selling beers. But then again people watch Australian Idol, listen to commercial radio and eat eggplant!

    Glen! – Carlton Black sounds like ambrosia.

    As we know beer is always de rigueur.

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