When I dropped the six-pack of Coopers Brewery Sparkling Ale on the counter at the liquor store, the clerk immediately began singing its praises, in what sounded like an Australian accent. This was pure happy coincidence, best I could tell.
"This is one of the best beers in Australia," he said. "One of the last family-owned breweries."
Turns out it is a sharp little ale, veritably blotto with sediment. Held to the light, the beer looks like seawater; at the bottom of the bottle, chunklets and solid haze sink and collect. Twirl the bottle and a miniature beer-dust tornado kicks up. There's so much flotsam in this brew it's got to extend your life. Some of that crud has to be vitamins.
It also happens to be plain ol' tasty, with understated citrus and almond notes and an aftertaste of lawn. As an Australian drink, it's light enough to be suitable for warm conditions, like Outback safaris or prison-yard rugby.
The possibly Australian clerk admitted he preferred Australian beers generally. I asked why.
"They're not as sweet," he said. "North American, European beers have more sugar. Australian beers are usually drier."
Is that indicative of national character, I asked, still hoping he'd out himself as an Aussie.
"I don't know," he said. "Australian humor is certainly a dry humor."
With that in mind, and a Cooper in hand, I went looking up Aussie humor on YouTube, wondering if this sweeping statement from a guy who may or may not be Australian could actually be true.
Wouldn't you know, most of the stand-up and other vague attempts at comedy exported from a country with one thirteenth of the United States' population leaves something to be desired. That something, namely, is humor.
Arguable exceptions: Tim Minchin, who made the world safe for redheads. If not dry, he is indeed funny.
There is this fellow, Carl Barron, who tells straight-up Dad jokes, but sells them. For example:
The air hostess on the plane-have you ever been asked this before?-she comes up to me and went, "Would you care for an orange juice?" I said, "If it needed me."
Dry like the guest towels. (Then, later, undercutting all generalization: ass-scratching jokes!) And this gentleman, Steady Eddy, whose most distinct visual quality is the obvious physical effects of his cerebral palsy. He cracks wise on himself, but the driest of his jokes might be the driest joke in the entire southern hemisphere:
I went to the Grand Canyon. What a place, the Grand Canyon! And I'm looking at it, and I'm thinking to meself, "Ah, yeah. Not bad, for a hole."
And the audience laughs. Either Australians will applaud any damn thing, or they indeed like their jokes like they like their beer. The Sparkling Ale, at least, is not an acquired taste.
Obviously you don't need to dig on Aussie humor to dig on Aussie beer. Instead, pair your Sparkling Ale with sport. There are exactly two games in the NFL this week pitting teams with winning records against one another: The Cardinals at the Vikings and the Ravens at the Texans. The alleged Oz dry humor cries for the Cardinals game. And this year the Jets signed an Aussie to their practice squad. Hayden Smith is a 6-foot-6, 255-pound rugby player turned tight end who had never played a lick of football before showing up at Jets camp. The Jets being the Jets, he was able to stick around. They play the Patriots Sunday.