Going Retro

Have you noticed the 80’s are back?  This isn’t really news–neon tube dresses and big bangs are never really news.  Some even report the 90’s are back also, in a kind of apocalyptic pile-up of decades.   The contemporary teen version of the 80’s is something much shinier than what the teens of the 80’s actually lived with, as if they are willfully embodying nostalgia for a time they never knew.  If the 90’s come back, what will the zeitgeist polish up for us?

If I was going to bring back the 90’s beer wise, it would be dishonest not to include Oranjeboom, a beer I drank a lot of–in cans–in Southern California.  I don’t know if it was because it was, to us, exotic, Euro-trashy, and had this name we liked to say.  Before I knew anything about beer, it was cheap and easy.

Yesterday I met up with a lovely Scouser friend, G, for beer and shoe shopping.  He was gracious enough to ask me to suggest a beer to him.  We were in a Shepherd’s Neame pub Mabel’s Tavern, and I haven’t had many of their beers because I’ve been put off by the ad campaigns.  I ordered a Bishop’s Finger for G and a Kent’s Best for me– this beer was a winner, with a dominant, piny hop character and an enveloping malt, and he preferred his beer to mine.  So then, on our second round, why do I decide to throw out all my beer know-how and order us two halves of crap lager?

I’d never seen Oranjeboom outside of Trader Joe’s in SoCal.  The little red tree–the happy name–I gave in to nostalgia.  So much for being a beer expert! The beer was a forgettable, too-sweet lager.  Apparently it is now brewed by Shepherd Neame, and is one of those rare beers that was probably better in the can!

According to my friend, Oranjeboom’s big British moment was in the 80’s– maybe it’s right at home with the gladiator sandals and splatter prints on the high street.  G regaled me with stories about the British marketing campaign in the 80’s  which included Oranjeboom’s own version of the Bud Girl and he even sang me the jingle.  And he drank it without complaint.  What are friends for, after all?

What are your ‘retro beers’? What beer, when confronted with a tap of it, would have an irresistably surreal nostalgia for you?

11 Responses

  1. When I was a kid my Da would always get a box of McKewans red whenever we went away on holiday and if I was lucky I’d get to have one too. I don’t think I’d go out of my way to drink it these days however it’s certainly a nostalgia beer for me.

    More recently I’ve heard them referred to as “red grenades” ie. you pull the ringpull off and get rid of it as quick as you can. I’m not sure why but it made me giggle.

    • Hi John–I like the idea of a beer can shaped like a grenade– great marketing idea. But what would the Portman group say? Haha.

  2. All retro is based on an idealised picture of the past, otherwise it wouldn’t work; how we view the 60s is a brilliant example of such reinvention. As for my retro beer: Higsons Bitter of Liverpool, which was taken over and closed down in 1990 by Whitbread, ruthless destroyer of huge swathes of British brewing heritage. Many drinkers on Merseyside would be pleased if the old brew was available again.

    As for Oranjeboom, the jingle was based on the theme tune of a detective series based in Holland called Van Der Valk. The words of the advert went, “Oranjeboom, Oranjeboom, it’s a lager not a tune.” It was successful as an advert, but as usual: the better the advert, the worse the beer.

    • That’s the way the jingle went according to my friend– it makes no sense really, but if people remember it twenty years later I suppose it works!

      I’m sure my version of 60’s mod which I wore/adored in the 80’s was highly idealized.

  3. Oh, splendid idea for a survey. Well, let’s see, in the late 80s I was trying as many different kinds of imported lager as I could find; I can remember liking Steinlager from New Zealand and detesting Polish Tatra and East German Brandenburger Export. I wouldn’t discover cask ale for another couple of years and the local keg beer was quite disgusting. Imported Altenmünster lager from Germany was available in supermarkets at the time and was a favourite. Broughton Greenmantle Ale was in bottles in my local. I think I bought canned Breaker lager more than once. I also remember drinking bottled McEwan’s Blue Label, which is no longer made.

    • Sampling the nuances between various imported lagers–you must have a highly evolved palate, Barm! I like the sound of Greenmantle Ale. Is is still made?

  4. There’s nothing at all wrong with nostalgia, or retro, or whatever term you prefer, as long as we remember we’re wearing rose-tinted spectacles. And why not?

  5. Ah, the 80s’. Big hair and Duran Duran. Anyone with any taste was “following the bear”. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkR0krOm9M4
    and be afraid. Very afraid, for it was truly an awful beer.

    I was also into Skol

    Both subsequently had their adverts banned for encouraging children to drink, but it was too late for the 80s’ generation.

    • Wow–the Bear ad is just surreal. Thanks for the link–now that’s inside my head for good! Haha.

  6. RedNev – I’m guessing you heard that someone bought the rights to the Higson’s name – he was brewing on new plant in Bootle for a while last year (with recipes & other help from a former Higson’s technical brewer & a part-time local brewer) but all seems to have gone quiet.


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