Most people associate Australasian beer with commercial lagers such as Foster’s and Castlemaine XXXX, but there is so much more on offer in both Australia and New Zealand. Both areas have nearly two hundred years of brewing tradition, ever since European settlers arrived. This influence of various European cultures combined with the unusual climate throughout Australasia has produced some interesting and refreshing beers across the continent.
Popular Beer Style
Throughout Australasia the most popular style of beer has traditionally been light-flavoured, fairly gassy lager. These lager beers are produced with pale malt and generic lager yeast, and have a very refreshing and drinkable taste. Although these beers are easy to drink and good in hot conditions, they are fairly unadventurous and lack body and character. The most typical beer of this style is Foster’s, which is now a worldwide lager brand. This beer can be found in most parts of the world, although it is not regarded as a beer with a great deal of character or taste. Despite this tradition for light beers, there are a great deal of excellent brews throughout Australasia that are modelled upon both English and German beers. In recent years there has also been an increase in independent breweries, producing unique and flavourful beers.
Beer in Australia
Looking past Foster’s and other similar lager beers, Australia has a lot to offer in terms of quality beer. Predominantly based on European lager and bitter methods, there is a wide variety of styles on offer. One of the most popular Australian beers is Victoria Bitter, or VB. VB is one of the only beers to break through the traditionally state divided beer market in Australia. It is available widely across the country, and is an extremely drinkable and slightly bitter lager. It has more character than many other popular Australian lagers, whilst still being great with barbecue food and refreshing on a hot summer’s day. However, its popularity is partially due to the fact it is cheap compared to other beers, and so appealing to the mass market.
Moving away from the mass-market beers, there are a wide variety of excellent Australian beers from smaller brewers. One of the best around is Hahn beer, of which Hahn Premium and Hahn Vienna Red are the best examples. Hahn beer has German roots, and is much more exciting than the average Australian lager beer. Hahn Premium is crisp with a bitter hoppy taste and a clean finish. It is more like a German Pilsener than anything else, and is as smooth as many similar European beers. Meanwhile, Hahn Red is a fruity brew with a malty, bitter finish. It’s quite different to many Australian lager beers, in that it is definitely more like German ale in terms of thickness and character. Other notable Australian beers include Crown beer, Cascade Premium and Coopers Premium Ale.
New Zealand Beers
New Zealand has a beer history dating back to the times of Captain Cook, who thought beer would be a good addition to native diets. New Zealand beers have a definite English influence, and are heavier and smoother than Australian beers. Although not particularly well known, one of the New Zealand beers is known as 1812 IPA. Independently brewed, it is a spicy, malty beer reminiscent of many old English types of ale. It has won numerous gold medals, including three at the New Zealand Brewersfest. More popular beers in New Zealand include D.B Draught, Lion Red and Steinlager.