Inspired by Drinking Beer in Australia
I’m sure the mere thought of a trip to Australia for most Brits conjures up an idyllic paradise; miles of long white sandy beaches, sunny blue skies and a slower, more relaxing pace of life… all of which, to some degree, are true. For a trip back home as an ex-pat however, the realities are slightly different.
My trips home to Perth tend to play out like this; 24 hours in the air with a belligerent 4 year old and a wife who would prefer to be going to Thailand or Greece or Uzbekistan (anywhere other than back to Australia again). Followed by weeks of ticking boxes as you you mark off play dates, dinner with family and friends and obligatory sight seeing in your own home town.
The key (we have learned over time) is to be selfish. Cancel the play dates, tell everyone your schedule is so busy you couldn’t possibly fit them in… and then do nothing but lie on the beach around leisurely visits to your favourite wineries and breweries. This holiday we even managed to dump the 4 year old with her auntie and uncle and took off to Sydney for 48 hours sans-child.
This gave me an opportunity to see what was happening in beer on both sides of the country and get some serious work done in between relaxing. That is, I visit every brewery and decent watering hole I can find and drink all the beers. All in the name of research.
The first thing you notice is that craft beer is taken pretty seriously in Australia, their 6% total market share eclipses our moderate 3% here in the UK and not only are the beers varied in style and approach, the hospitality offering around the beer is following suit; tap rooms, sheds, warehouses, small bars, traditional pubs and an array of bespoke and unique spaces with the ability to fit tanks or taps is being converted to brew and drink our favourite nectar.
Fair enough, craft beer is not a new phenomenon in Australia. Coopers Brewery (est. 1862) holds around 5% total market share of beer, they are independently owned, quality driven and (most would say despite recent press) brewing good beers with flavour and integrity. They are however not playing in the craft space, they have chosen to keep themselves separate from this rapidly growing segment of the market, one would assume it was a conscious decision early on to keep their broader (less crafty) customer base on-side. It will however be interesting to see how this plays out as overall beer sales continue to decline, whilst the craft segment continues strong, steady growth.
Whilst longest serving, Coopers are not alone and the renaissance of flavoursome beer, brewed with passion rather than shareholder numbers at its heart, has been on a steady trajectory since the 1980’s. The West Coast has been prolific in this respect with breweries such as Matilda Bay* (1984), Sail and Anchor** (1984) Bootleg (1994) and Little Creatures^ (2000) helping to change the landscape of Aussie beer. The East Coast offered up its own entrants early, notably The Lord Nelson (1986) and Mountain Goat^^ (1997). The acceleration of growth however has been throughout the last decade with the likes of Stone & Wood and 4 Pines Brewing Company opening their doors in 2008 and currently competing on a national stage.
The beer styles on offer are largely reflective of popularity, saleability and more importantly climate. To be expected there is a proliferation of floral and fruity Pale Ales and IPA’s, Kolsch’s have proved popular for a number of years as have craft lagers, with a current trend seeing a number of breweries putting out IPL’s (India Pale Lager). These styles are brewed to house maximum flavour whilst still be crisp, fresh and quaffable in the warmer Aussie climate. Grapefruit, Mango, Pomegranate and other similar fruits hold court and in one instance I had a desert lime kolsch (Eagle Bay Brewery) which was perfect in the sunshine overlooking the coast.
Australia has always had a rich wine heritage, the climate and topography lends itself well to an abundance of styles and the open, easy nature of the people has led to a culture of welcoming hospitality. Whether it’s Margaret River, McLaren Vale, the Barossa or the Hunter Valley, you’ll find large, open cellar doors where you’re encouraged to engage and learn and more importantly try different wines. This offering has translated well to the more youthful beer market and most new breweries open their doors day one with a strong hospitality game. Inner-city breweries offer trendy, art filled settings with top chefs offering outstanding food matched perfectly to the beer list. Regional breweries have followed the lead of their wine counterparts and set up in large sheds and open buildings, often offering live music or entertainment befitting their setting. Metricup’s ‘Beer Farm’ was in the throes of setting up for a rodeo on my recent visit and offers a water slide that is effectively a home-made plastic death trap that runs down a hill into a nearby lake.
Whether it’s beer, hospitality or the aspiration to learn and educate, Aussie’s are highly reflective of the global craft beer scene. Ideas are openly shared, innovation is at the heart of what they do and whilst here in the UK we can hold court on heritage, there’s definitely a thing or two we can learn about adapting to the modern beer climate. Our focus over the next six to twelve months at Fourpure will be to continuously bring you new, innovative and flavoursome beers whilst we grow and expand our hospitality offering. Come and visit our tap room towards the end of Summer and we’re sure you’ll find a world class environment offering world class beers.
*Now owned by AB InBev
**Now owned by Australian Leisure & Hospitality Group (ALH)
^Now owned by Lion Nathan
^^Now owned by Asahi
...Are we seeing a pattern here.