When most people think about Australia and beer, Foster’s Lager is what typically comes to mind. That’s to be expected given the millions of dollars that the company – now owned by beverage giant Anheuser-Busch InBev – has spent advertising the brand over the past 30 years.
Its also a little foolish.
After all, Foster’s is no longer made in Australia but in Fort Worth, Tx. Tasting a Fosters has a feel like a Miller Light (it was previously owned by SABMiller). Its a fine beer, but has that mass produced taste without much complexity or ingenuity in its beer style.
So what to do if you are in the mood for a real taste of beer from Australia?
In California and growing parts of the United States, you can grab a beer from Australian Brewery, a company started by six brothers from Sydney, Australia. Three tasty beers – a pilsner, a pale ale and a saison – were launched in the United States this spring.
A taste test in my office between Foster’s and the Australian brewery beers proved no contest. All three Australian beers stood out for their flavor and subtle complexities.
Australian’s New World Pilsner was the hands down winner. It had just the right peppery bitterness to balance out the hops while giving you full flavor of a German-style beer with an Australian twist. Comparing this to a traditional pilsner is like comparing a flank steak to a filet mignon. Sure, both provide the beef but one gets you there with so much more taste. The 4.8% ABV brew with spicy New Zealand hops and citrus American hops had a crisp feel and would seem a perfect match with just about any food.
Australian’s Saison D’Heretique, made with both French and Belgian yeasts, has a delicate yet light taste. It packs an aroma of pepper, clove, liquorice and citrus. The 6.2 % ABV saison was one of the most flavorful I’ve ever had.
Lastly, the Australian Pale Ale was smooth tasting, albeit perhaps not as tasty to me than the other two styles. Still, the 4.8% ABV cloudy brew far outpaced the Fosters.
The three Australian beers are available at craft beer establishments on draft and in 6-packs of 12 oz. cans.
Dan Shaw, head brewer at Australian Brewery, said his goal is to make beers that stand out for their style and flavor. “Australian Brewery is focused on brewing premium craft beers that have distinctive taste and style,” he said. “Our Pilsner would make a German smile!”
He said people in the beer community in Australia have long known Fosters was not made on the Continent.
Does Foster’s even sell in Australia?
“Very little,” Shaw said. “Fosters was very popular in the ’60s and ’70s in Australia but around 1980, the brand began a decline and today, while not impossible, it is extremely difficult to find it in Australia.”
Don’t look for any billboards or TV advertising in the United States from Australian Brewery, which is relying on social networking to spread word about the new beer.
“We are working hard to generate awareness for the brand and their quality products,” Shaw said. “The biggest issue we’ve encountered is people taking a chance on us, but so far, those who have had great success with us.”
Australian was the first craft brewery in Australia to package beer in cans in 2012. Now they are the first to enter the U.S. market as they make push across the globe.
For the record, Foster’s Lager (billed as “uniquely Australia’s Famous Beer Brand”) is not the only beer marketed to give the impression its made some place far from the United States.
Kirin, a “Japanese” style pilsner owned by Anheuser Busch is brewed in Virginia and California.
Beck’s, another AB brand that’s sold for its “German Quality” is brewed in St. Louis.
Just two decades ago, imported beer was a badge of style and superiority. Today, with the record growth in U.S. craft breweries, Made in America is a metaphor for creative and tasty brews of all styles. Australian Brewery is looking to show beers made half a world away can carry just as much flavor.
Phil Galewitz has been writing about the the craft brewing industry in the Mid-Atlantic states since 2011. He lives in Washington D.C. and South Florida. Twitter: @philgalewitz Instagram: Philmorebeer. He visits over 300 breweries a year across the United States.