While scrolling the interwebs earlier, I came across something almost too absurd to be real. Something that would never fly today, but is instead an artifact of the past like the Hop-Rod combustion-powered pogo stick and Jarts. I’m talking about Australian-market Mitsubishi-branded beer.
Now, I don’t mean to incite a moral panic or anything, but I’m not entirely sure if motorshow beer is the brightest idea. Hey, it was the 1980s, attitudes were different back then. Popping down to the motor exhibition, grabbing a road soda, and trying not to wrap your Holden around a post on the way home likely wasn’t as frowned-upon then as it is now.
It’s a bit absurd that Mitsubishi felt the need to resort to lubricating its customers in hopes of making sales, especially when you look at the company’s lineup in the 1980s. You had the turbocharged Starion coupe, the anvil-tough Pajero SUV, the practical Nimbus MPV, and the sensible Colt hatchback. It was a pretty strong lineup for the 1980s, even in the face of favorable Australian competition. Compare the J-Body Holden Camira to the Mitsubishi Sigma to see what I mean.
Curiously, canmuseum.com doesn’t list a year of production, so let’s see if we can narrow it down based on the cars on the can. The Magna on the face of the can is clearly an early model, judging by the grille insert and early GLX wheels. Figure a window between 1985 and very early 1987. Of equal importance is the Starion on the can. It appears to be a leaded JB model as later JD models had a thick black extension on the front spoiler that doesn’t appear here and earlier JA models had a hood scoop. For now, I’m fairly confident in saying that this can is likely from 1985.
However, something else on the can caught my eye. This beer was brewed by the South Australian Brewing Company in Thebarton, which means that this isn’t just Mitsubishi-branded beer. Let me explain. See, back in the 1980s, the brewery in Thebarton was rebranded as West End after the original West End brewery in Southwark closed. Australian newspaper INDaily reports that Lion Nathan snapped up the West End brands in 1993, which set the stage for a later acquisition of Lion Nathan by none other than Kirin in 2009.
You may have heard of Kirin before, be it through Coca-Cola products in America’s northeast, Kirin whiskey, or even the former Kirin-Amgen pharmaceutical venture. What you may not know is that Kirin is part of the Mitsubishi group, meaning that in a way, this Mitsubishi-branded beer foreshadowed the future of its makers.
From bizarre marketing stunt to predicting the future, this Mitsubishi beer is absolutely amazing. While Trek hasn’t been bought out by Volkswagen and L.L. Bean isn’t yet a Subaru subsidiary, this whole story really makes you wonder what megacorps could end up making as conglomerates form. After all, I used to own a Daewoo computer monitor and it was fantastic.
Photo credit: Allcans/Canmuseum.com
Now I want to ride a Hop Rod and play Jarts at the same time
The design of that can just screams motor oil to me.
Needs a branded koozie as well, and we are there.
Yeah, 1985 or ’86 – with the Magna released in ’85 and Mitsubishi declaring itself “Car Maker of the Year. Again” in TV ads in ’86, it’s a tough call
Ahh yes…West End Lager. Possibly one of the most undrinkable beers in Australia. Certainly to anyone outside South Australia.
I still remember the look on M’lady’s face when she tried it for the first time. I’d already warned her but she figured that personal taste being what it is…it couldn’t be that bad. She had purchased a 235ml glass and left on the bar while replacing it with a Cooper’s Sparkling Ale.
West End were also responsible for a hilarious Bathurst 1000 in the late 80’s when they sponsored the race and got the rights to serve alcohol on the mountain. No-one was allowed to bring their own grog onto the mountain so West End was all there was. The level of smuggling past the police checkpoint at the bottom was epic…and the cops still managed to fill a half dozen pallets with confiscated VB and Tooheys New. West End never returned…
The Magna however…was quite a car.
Or the stuff the megacorps eventually spin off…like my fav the Ford Charcoal Co, now known as Kingsford.
Wow that’s a nice bit of trivia I’ve never heard of before.
My favorite is the Michelin Tire and Michelin Star Guide
Eh, it’s only 4.9% ABV. That’s canned water by Australian standards.
How would this pair with a Volkswagen curry wurst?
As an aside in the early 80s we bought Mitsubishi canned food in Pathmark (Three Diamond brand with a Mitsubishi logo)
MMMM. Oily, with a hint of plastic aftertaste.
I’m surprised they didn’t do a malt liqueur and name it after one of their more popular small cars.
They had a car called 45?
It’s like the current Cadillac naming convention – Mitsubishi (Dodge/Plymouth) Colt with 45 lbs-ft of torque.
This beer must have been from very early in the Magna’s life. The Sigma was the same size (and was previously branded as a Chrysler until Mitsubishi bought out their Australian operations) – I never realised they sold them here at the same time!
There was an overlap between the Sigma and the Magma of at least one year…as I recall. I remember seeing them displayed together at a suburban Westfield in Sydney at the time.
Never realised that. I’m about the same vintage as that model of Magna so I certainly don’t remember when they were new enough to be on display in shopping centres. By the time I started driving, those old square Magnas seemed pretty long in the tooth. The Sigma seemed positively Stone Age!
“…an artifact of the past like the Hop-Rod combustion-powered pogo stick…”
Hey! As the current owner of a Hop Rod I… No, you’re quite right. It is rather unnerving to ride.
Ok, if THAT isn’t a prompt for you to write an article here, I don’t know what possibly could be. Write it up and send it to them. Include all the graphic descriptions of terror ( but, hopefully, no stitches/casts).
Please: I want to read that!
I didn’t document the experience with photos or video so it’s probably not that compelling. The short version:
(1) Why isn’t the engine firing? Am I doing this right? Should I have learned how to ride a regular pogo stick first? This just feels awkward.
(2) Whoa, there it goes! That was jarring. Maybe I just wasn’t ready for it.
(3) Nope, it’s still jarring. I can see why these things had a reputation for breaking people’s thumbs.
(4) It just threw me off.
(5) It just threw me off.
(6) It just threw me off. I’ll stop counting now.
(7) Eventually revisit point (1), but now with the engine firing, which I suppose is better?
(8) Try again a few times over the next several days with essentially no improvement. Develop a suspicion that the original TV ads available online may have been shot without fuel.
(9) Achieve a profound insight into why these were banned and why surviving examples show few signs of use.
(10) Discover it looks great hanging in the garage.
They have beers at my local motorshow, but they don’t come in cool cans like that.
I didn’t realize any motorshows DIDN’T have beer there. Thomas needs to come to the midwest for a show, beers everywhere.
Not surprising. The Midwest’s penchant for drunk driving is well documented, unfortunately.
I say this as a lifelong Midwesterner who has overheard more than one conversation about the best route to avoid the cops while driving home drunk.
Found out today that a LED ring light I bought a few months ago is also sold in Japan by Doyusha, a scale model company that partnered with Revell and Testors in past years and is affiliated with Trumpeter and Hobby Boss.
Sounds like at the next meetup of all the ‘topian staff, they need to source some of this wonder Mitsu-brau and a sixer of Billy Beer and do a taste test. Upload it to YT, give it an attention-grabbing clickbaity title and monetize the schitt outta it. See if Interstate wants to sponsor it or something to double monetize.
You could also buy this beer in the US as Plymouth Sapporo rice lager