People often assume Foster's is all people drink in Australia and this couldn't be further from the truth. Fosters was once the standard beer across the country until it was bought out and sent to other countries all over the world. Since then it has lost its hold domestically. While Fosters still gets sold to tourists at places around the country, it isn't very common in Australia at all.
First off, to understand the beer culture, you must know the lingo. When you by your beer, it isn't a "cooler" that you'll put it in to keep it cool. That is known as an Esky. Now repeat after me: ess-key.
For those drinking at the pub, get the words right and be informed about what you're about to consume. "Schooners", for example, are 10oz and empty very fast on a hot Outback arvo(afternoon). In other parts of the country they are called "Pots" or "Middies" just to confuse you.
Graduating up into "Pints", the example above is just that, a 15oz drink filled with your beverage of choice. Don't be worried but these are also called "Schooners" in some parts of the country. You follow me?
In some states they call the 15oz glass an Imperial Pint. It seems that all the actual Imperial Pints broke on the convict ship coming over so apparently they had to guess how big a Pint actually was and this size is what stuck.
Remember that these names for glasses will all change when you go from one state to the next as each state calls their beer sizes something different.
The good news is if you're willing to put forth some footwork, you can track down proper "Imperial Pints", generally at English or Irish Pubs. These are the same 20oz pieces of drinking hardware you find in England, either on pub counters or broken on tabeltops before being shoved into someones face.
Prices for beer, as everything else here, are insanely high. It's no wonder they drink out of Schooners and Pots as they probably couldn't afford to drink anything bigger. A 30-pack of XXXX Gold, for example, will run you $40-$50, depending on where you buy it. In the Northern Territory in the Outback costs as much as $78 for a 30-pack. I'm surprised more people aren't sober up there.
Locals ordering this brewed delicacy call them simply, Gold cans. XXXX is a beer made popular in the Gold Coast. And now for the joke that follows this can around the country: Why do Queenslanders have four X's on their Beer cans? Answer: Because they don't know how to spell the workd Beer.
The Hahn varieties are the Low Carb beers. Not my preference. Really, if I was worried about carbs, I wouldn't be drinking beer in the first place. You will find many low carb options in Australia, so don't be fooled.
As I learned from a not-quite-sober old man at a country pub in regional Australia, in the olden days the bar you drank at decided the beer you would drink. On top of that, each state had its own couple beers that were specific to that state.
For example, the Victorian Beers were Carlton Draught, and more obviously, Victoria Bitter. In New South Wales you would find Toohey's and James Squire wetting the palettes of the locals. And in South Australia, Cooper's and West End Draught were the main beers.
You may have heard of West End Draught from a popular David Bowie Song. He names the beer in the chorus. It goes like this"I'm wasting time in a dead end world, East end boys and West End Draught."
These days things aren't as black and white with different beers commonly found across state lines. Even better, you have a lot of craft and regional brewers who share their brewed goodness throughout regional watering holes. This booth of Two Metre Tall Ale is brewed in Tasmania. The area around Perth also has a variety of regional beer options, as does Tasmania and South Australia.
Two Metre Tall Ale is one of very few brewers that do real cask ale. But why, from an English commonwealth country with all that English history, is Australia not an Ale drinking country? The answer is as simple as the weather. Proper Ale is a cold weather drink that is served at cellar temperature. Australia, being a hot country, doesn't want to refresh with a "warm beer", true blue Aussies want to cool off with refreshing ice cold Lager. It works for them, I suppose.
Another interesting facet of bar life in Australia are the Pokie Machines, also known as Pokies or Video Poker. They appeared on the bar scene many years ago as a way to increase revenue. Now, much to the disappointment of non-gamblers, you find them everywhere.
An Aussie friend was telling me the social problem they cause for well meaning groups of friends out for a drink. They start by having a good old chat and one person wonders off to have a go at the Pokies. Slowly, one by one, the group gets smaller as each person disappears until only a couple people are left, generally the non-gamblers. They find everyone else is off playing the pokies and they eventually cave in because there is no one left to talk to. Long story short, the night comes to a close and everyone loses money.
Moral: Don't be a loser, spend your money on beer, not pokies.
As for personal tastes, I like beer that is tasty and smooth, not gassy and bland. I like my beer to be a bit darker as well. The winner of my favorite Australian beer is Coopers Dark Ale. So far that is the beer that can hold my attention. Congratulations to Coopers. Their complete lineup includes a sparkling, extra stout, dark ale and their most popular Pale Ale. All are pretty delicious.
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