South America is no one thing. From Colombia in the north to Argentina in the south, the level of diversity is incredible. Home to some of the friendliest people on earth, it’s cultures have endured conquistadors and rapid environmental changes among other things. Sure, it can be raucous and at times treacherous, but anyone who has travelled through the continent will be able to point to at least one city and say, “Yeah, I could live there”. For the uninitiated, if you identify with any points on the below list, it might be time to start packing and saying your farewells to friends and family.
The American dive bar, the neighbourhood bar. Whatever you want to call it – the historic refuge for those wanting to escape the puritanical eye and drink themselves some sanity. A place to find comfort, friends, comrades in misery or to let loose. Where the great cross-section of society comes to be together in quiet salute to the powers of alcohol. It’s a beautiful thing. We examine what makes an American dive bar a dive bar.
Isn’t a dive bar just a pub?
The dive bar is a truly American invention. In Australia we have those lousy, but comfortable pubs where you are likely to find counter meals and a dearth of craft beer. Our pubs are usually large places, multiple rooms catering to different purposes. The buildings are often grand and in no way shy of their use. America, on the other hand, has a long puritanical history that drove its bars underground. Dive bars blend in with their surrounds, announcing their existence with small signs that turn neon by night attracting barflys like moths. Entrances to the more historic venues are often concealed in an effort to hide the shame of those coming and going.
While holidaying on the beaches of the Otway ranges this unseasonably cool summer it has been natural for holiday makers thoughts to turn away from beaches and to the spectacular forests inland. My interest in Forrest Brewing was piqued after a visit to the Wye River Pub, where I tried a stout from the mid-sized bottle that have become Forrest Brewing’s trademark. Arriving in town from the Great Ocean Road Forrest Brewing is difficult to miss, a one level former general store with BREWERY written across the silver corrugated roof in gigantic letters. A circular sawblade painted with the Forrest Brewing logo is the first indication of the origin of the township’s name and its former industry.
I grew up on the Victorian surf coast in Australia. I learnt to surf on an 8’ funboard with electric blue bottom and cream deck at Ocean Grove. I spent my summers dodging closeouts and nippers at Wye River, the sandbars were always going to sort themselves out with the next easterly swell or river flood – neither did. Pulling on wetsuits year round was normal, cold water was the only water I knew. Booties meant you didn’t have to come in direct contact with floating kelp. From Point Lonsdale to Torquay to Aireys Inlet, there wasn’t a beach break I hadn’t surfed, still too much a novice to brave the reef breaks, still scared of waves over 3’ and usually one of the few surfers under 25 in water dominated by grey hair, rotund bellies and