The Radium Beer Hall is one of the best places to grab a drink in Joburg. Although not in the most stylish part of town, you simply can't beat the vibe at rush hour with traffic honking its way down Louis Botha en route to Alex and beyond. The owners claim it's the second oldest bar in town and it looks like some of the regulars have been there since opening day. But the natives are friendly and
|Always Beer O'clock|
it is one of the few places you'll find such diversity of people -- colour, class, and even a smattering of single professional women (not the 'working girl' variety) -- lounging together. The food is predictable and priced right and the beer selection has become increasingly varied. As long as I can remember, they've had Hansa, Black Label, Castle and Kilkenny on top. Back in the dark-days of local brewing, I was grateful for even this smattering. Some time back they installed a Mitchell's tap which made the drive to Orange Grove worth the effort. They've now traded that it for two locally made specialities. The Ace's Lager will have to wait for another time. Even if they have cool glasses, I'll almost always take an ale first. And that's just what I did.
To be fair, when I started out, I wasn't entirely sure what I was drinking. The friendly bar tender served this up as Ace's Pale Ale. Although it came spilling over the top of a Guinness glass, the guy next to me was drinking his out of an Ace's pint glass so I soldiered on in my ignorance. As I walked out I double checked the tap and realised he was mistaken. The barman didn't have much else to add about the beer other than its popular, they often sell out, and he didn't quite understand why people would want to drink it.
Truth be told, after having made it through the pint, I was also not fully convinced why anyone would want to drink it. Sure, there are worse beers out there, plenty of them, but if there's a choice, this would probably not be mine. The beer arrived (incognito) looking good: it was dark bronzy gold with a head of fairly large bubbles capping the thing with all the pride of an EFF beret. Not to impugn the EFF lest they try to nationalise mzansi beer for the good of the people, but what was under this beery beret had about as much credentials as the party's commander in chief. Up close and personal, the
smell was fairly rich and beery with some strong earthy notes, but otherwise without much to draw you in. It could probably pass in a blind taste test as a strong lager.
|Copperlake atop the Famous Ferreirastown Bar|
On the tongue? To its credit, the beer has taste. It's just not the kind of taste I was looking for. Rather, it offered a sourness that lingered on the middle of the mouth for too long after the beer itself went down my gullet. There was an almost a tamarind-like tang but without the balance that makes Asian food sing. I thought that perhaps the tap had been open too long or it was otherwise skunked but the beer man assured me it was freshly tapped and fresh from the distributor. But then again, what does he know?
So, just as we're all excited to see new players on the political agenda, we should applaud Copperlake's appearance on the Radium's roster. Showing up gets you a look and taste, but if you want to stick around, you're going to have to offer more than the right look and a fancy hat. If someone bought me another round of this one, I'd probably drink it. If I'm paying for myself, I'd pick the Hansa.