Author: Malin Norman
Australia has not seen the same hype in alcohol-free beer as Europe, but there is a big demand for mid-strength. To hear more and for tips on what to check out, I talked to Matt Kirkegaard, beer writer, beer educator and founder of Brews News.
Can you describe the beer scene in Australia?
Australia is a big hot country that has traditionally had a culture of drinking and there is a big market for cold and light-flavoured lagers. There are two major breweries with around 90% of the market; Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) and Lion Beer. Coopers Brewery has 5% and craft beer the remaining 5%.
Starting around 2000, craft beer has had a similar growth to the rest of the world and now offers something different to the mainstream lagers with hops-driven pale ales and IPAs as well as Berliner Weisse, Gose and contemporary trends. Some breweries also use local ingredients such as mango, lemon myrtle and pepper berry, as a way of standing out.
Mid-strength beer is big in Australia, how come?
Tax imposts, drink driving laws and other regulations that punish brewers for making higher alcohol beers, together with the importance of beer as part of Australia’s social culture means that there is some pressure on brewers to produce beers with lower alcohol than places such as the US.
At the same time consumers want to drink flavour-forward beers and craft brewers have had to work hard to create beers that both have the flavour cues of craft beer while keeping the alcohol below 4.5 percent. From my experience craft beer tends to be much higher than that (English ales not included) so I think Australian brewers have become very adept at making craft beers that are balanced, flavourful and also lower alcohol.
Top 3 breweries?
The breweries I would suggest that visitors try to get a sense of Australian craft beer are:
- Balter on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Making some of Australia’s most consistently good craft beers. Head brewer Scott Hargraves is a magician.
- Van Dieman Brewing in Tasmania. A true farmhouse brewery growing and malting its own malt, and growing hops for beers with true terroir. A very Australian interpretation of classic Belgian and French traditions.
- Stomping Ground Melbourne. A rapidly expanding brewery from Melbourne that is blending brewing and hospitality to create a complete experience around beer
Top 3 beer bars?
- Netherworld (Brisbane). A changing selection of Australian craft beers is only the beginning in this truly inclusive bar. Built around pop culture and gaming, you can play everything from board games to 80s computer games – Galaga anyone?
- Local Taphouse (Melbourne). One of the original craft beer pubs in Australia and where the Great Australasian Beer Spectacular – Australia’s best beer festival – began.
- The Grain Store (Newcastle). Showing regional Australia is no slouch with craft beer, the Grain Store is the passion project of publican and champion of independent beer, Corey Crooks who curates one of the best lists of high quality and independent beer in the country.
Pictures: Malin Norman