Food-friendly brew adds to the fun

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence - Barry Oliver

PHILIP Smouha has struck lucky with his new Aus­tralian beer, though there has been more than sim­ple good for­tune be­hind its suc­cess. It helped that Smouha, a Syd­ney-based fash­ion de­signer, came up with a highly un­usual bot­tle. ‘‘ I wanted some­thing that peo­ple would pick up and say: ‘ Wow’; some­thing that would cheer them up, put a smile on their faces.’’

The re­sult is the clev­erly named Lucky Beer, an Asian-in­flu­enced lager in a dis­tinc­tive plump green bot­tle in the shape of a laugh­ing Bud­dha.

It’s a con­ver­sa­tion starter on its own, but the beer is also go­ing down well in bars and pubs across Syd­ney. (Smouha calls it a city beer.)

There’s lim­ited dis­tri­bu­tion in states other than NSW al­though, cu­ri­ously, it has reached as far as Los An­ge­les and New York.

In the Big Ap­ple, it was the drink of choice at the Bud­dha Bar’s birth­day bash, where David Bowie was the star guest.

The bot­tles are made in Tai­wan but the beer is pro­duced and pack­aged lo­cally.

Smouha ad­mits it pains him to see the bot­tles tossed away. Sug­ges­tions of a sec­ond life range from flower vase to can­dle-holder. His of­fice in a fash­ion dis­trict of Syd­ney’s Water­loo is pep­pered with the chunky bot­tles, in­clud­ing the plas­tic pro­to­type. He says he’s an ideas man, al­though not all of them work out as well as Lucky Beer.

De­vel­op­ing it was an ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity for Smouha. He came up with the recipe in con­junc­tion with chef Dar­ren Ho, for­merly of Ter­roir restau­rant at Hunger­ford Hills in the NSW Hunter Val­ley.

In­gre­di­ents in­clude flaked rice, malted bar­ley and Czech Saaz hops. It’s fer­mented at a cool tem­per­a­ture to pro­duce a crisp-tast­ing lager with 4.8 per cent al­co­hol.

Ho, a cousin of Smouha’s wife, fash­ion de­signer Lisa Ho, de­scribes the beer as ‘‘ very food-friendly’’, well suited to our some­times ‘‘ filthy hot days’’. The rice is a key com­po­nent (Ho says Bud­weiser is about 90 per cent rice) and it’s im­por­tant that it’s in bal­ance with the hops in terms of sweet­ness and bit­ter­ness.

At $6.50 a 330ml bot­tle it’s not cheap, but Smouha says he is still tin­ker­ing with the price in a com­pet­i­tive mar­ket. How­ever, ‘‘ it will al­ways be a pre­mium beer’’.

Mar­ket­ing, like the bot­tle, is not to be taken too se­ri­ously. Ad­ver­tis­ing slo­gans in­clude: ‘‘ 9/10 Bud­dhists pre­fer . . . Lucky Beer’’, ‘‘ Luck is the in­her­i­tance of the cho­sen few’’ and ‘‘ Get Lucky, share the for­tune’’.

Asian restau­rants such as Syd­ney’s Viet­namese hot spot Red Lantern in Surry Hills, which has Lucky Beer on its drinks menu, are find­ing cus­tomers of­ten pre­fer it to wine with their food. Red Lantern’s co-owner Luke Nguyen says he first came across the bot­tle in an Asian an­tique store and was im­me­di­ately at­tracted by the funky shape, which he says has turned out to be a crowd-pleaser at his restau­rant.

‘‘ It’s not like a big Aus­tralian lager. It’s per­fect for our cui­sine, with its light, clean flavour,’’ he says.

As for what to do with the emp­ties, Nguyen has sent some to Viet­nam to be turned into elec­tric lamps.

Smouha’s Lucky Drink Com­pany is a spon­sor of Sneaky Sound Sys­tem, a band whose for­tunes have risen sharply in the past year. If you pick up a bot­tle, it might be worth giv­ing the Bud­dha’s tummy a rub. You never know your luck.


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