Please note: in the interests of authenticity, we have preserved Mr. Dennis-Jackson’s Australian spellings for the purposes of this article, other than turning them upside down so that they can be read by people of the Northern Hemisphere.
Welcome, fellow Man Cavers, to a Dispatch from Down Under. The stereotype of the hard-drinking, beer-obsessed Aussie has become ingrained worldwide, but why are we so fond of our brews? What do they have to offer? If you drink them, will you be as awesome as us?
I shall endeavour to answer two of those questions, and the third can be found out if you track down any of these and drink your fill. I’ll give you the low-down on our most popular beers, so those microbrew-quaffing dilettantes may wish to get the good word elsewhere; but even our most common beers have something to offer, especially when the sun is high and there’s sweat on your brow. Most are brewed for especially easy drinking, lightly carbonated without too much complexity in flavour, as they aren’t designed to linger. But that’s not to say they’re overly simple or lacking in character. So follow me friends, as we drink our way through the most common beers Down Under has to offer. Think of it as a guide that will serve you best for any and every pub in the land, as opposed to some bible for only the finest of hand-crafted ambrosias, and we’ll get along like old mates.
(Just a quick word on the beer most inextricably linked with Australia: Foster’s. Even though it’s such a large part of our international reputation, it’s been incredibly out of favour for a great many years. The only place I have ever seen it sold in my life was at a supermarket in San Antonio, Texas. I’ve never seen it for sale in Oz, and hence, never tried it, so I can’t in good conscience include it, but I’ve been reliably informed that it tastes like cat’s piss strained through a gym sock made of syphilitic pubes, so there’s that.)
Ah, Victoria Bitter. Vitamin B. The Very Best. It’s Australia’s most popular beer by far, and for good reason. Though not a traditional bitter, like the English beers of the same stripe, it definitely has enough to linger for long enough to give the beer flavour, but not so much as to hinder easy drinking. The fact that it tends to be served at near-freezing temperatures (as most beers here are) does cut down flavour, but no one has ever stumped up to a bar and asked for warmer glass of V.B for fear of being labelled an abomination, or even worse, being accused of being English.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
It’s cold, it’s refreshing, and it’s easy to sink. What’s not to like?
Victoria Bitter’s biggest rival, Toohey’s is another hugely popular beer found all over Australia. Lightly hopped with a malty flavour, it shares some similarities with the American mass-produced beers, though it’s not quite as sweet as, say, a Budweiser. It does lose points for promising your nose a lot and delivering your tastebuds little, but again, it’s another brew meant for pounding after a hot day, though I do find it has a little bit too much of that metallic, chemical-ish taste to make it compellingly drinkable.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Another one made for pounding with your mates when the weather’s warm, but a bit weak and lacking flavour even for something so light.
It’s a quirk in Australian society that, no matter who you are or what you like, as soon as you retire you take up lawn bowls, and only ever growl the phrase “Schooner of Dark!” at bartenders. If the bartender is not of retirement age or has not spent any amount of time around the elderly and thus does not understand the patron wants Toohey’s Old, you complain about them among your lawn bowl friends until you are all dead.
Anyway, “Dark,” or Toohey’s Old by its birth-name, is another from the Toohey’s stable. Though not as popular as its cousin due to being comparatively quite a lot heavier, it’s a quality drop, and about as close as you’ll get to a “sipping beer” outside of specialty brews. Hints of coffee and chocolate, as well as a slight caramel flavour, make it enjoyable and flavoursome, sitting well on the palette without overwhelming it. Still though, be sure to take this one a little slower, and hell, maybe that’s why it goes so well with the lawn bowls.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Warm flavours make this one of the few brews that isn’t served freeze-your-balls-off cold, meaning you can happily sit with a schooner and not worry too much about it warming and turning undrinkable.
Australia is of course an island nation, and as such, smuggling naughty things in is more difficult than for countries with overland routes to transport same. Take cocaine: By the time you buy your bump off the street, its quality is so appallingly weak that the only reason to buy is it so you can brag to people about how you can afford something out of reach of most people, like a total wanker. Crown Lager is exactly like that, but in beer form. It’s not that it’s a bad beer, it’s just that they’re asking you to give an arm, a leg, and a kidney for something that’s only slightly better, and even-less-slightly-different, than a Toohey’s or a V.B. A more accurate name for this would be “Crown Lager… Ladies.” And if you’re that kind of wanker, I’m sure you’re already providing your own lascivious eyebrow waggles and finger-guns anyway. Wanker.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Try it if you can, but maybe somewhere you can’t been seen. That way, you can pop your collar and wear your Oakley’s indoors, because apparently it makes it better, because there’s no other reason you’d do those things for.
Cooper’s Pale Ale
Now here’s one you American folk should be able to get your hands relatively easily, at least compared to the others. I find Cooper’s a little unusual due to the sediment in it, from a secondary fermenting process, the only time I’ve seen it outside of homebrew. But similar to Crown (though far less flashy), its price even in its native land is a bit prohibitive, and if you do see it on the beer list at your local watering hole in the States, you’d likely be better off going for one of the Belgian pale ales at the same price point. Cooper’s shares that fruity flavour, but it’s a little more subdued, so if you find the Belgians too sweet but would like something that’s just as light and fresh, it’s a good bet. Just expect to pay a little more for it.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Cooper’s is a good beer, and there’s plenty to recommend it. Just don’t expect to be pounding them all night, unless you’ve got pockets as deep as your tolerance for the sediment, which can get a little much by beer five.
There you are, folks! If you do manage to make it down this way and can’t find any of these, then it’s because something has bitten you and you’re dead, and your eternal punishment is a residency in The Pub With No Beer. But don’t fear the wildlife, and America, if I can be completely honest with you for just a sec… we’re in desperate need down here, and we require all the help we can get. There’s an awful lot of bars, pubs and clubs in this great land, and if you can’t come and help us writers, models, bikini-clad babes, bronzed surfers, Hugh Jackmans, Thors and Victoria’s Secret models prop up the bars, and maybe have a cheeky brew or two in doing so, who will? God knows, we’ll do anything for your help, because for every place you take, that’s one less for an Englishman.
Aaron Dennis-Jackson is Man Cave Daily’s Australian Correspondent, though not for much longer, as he’s moving to America to make it a sexier, funnier place. You can check out more of his stuff here and here.