The Ripper Sipper – The Sunburned Splendour of Australian Beer
Date: November 29, 2010, Topics: Brewing Culture,Brewing News
I first became aware of Australian beer through books by British author Neville Shute that were required reading in some of my English courses at university. Shute’s vivid descriptions of scorching hot days in the Outback and ice cold beer were tantalizing. In particular, it seems to me that the descriptions of Aussi beer in “In the Wet” made quite a strong impression on me. To say that Australians love their beer would be a bit of an understatement – a few years ago they were ranked fourth in the world for per capita beer consumption – about 110 liters a year.
Up until the 1880’s, all of the beer brewed in Australia was ale. However, in 1885 the first lagers were produced and today 95 percent of the beer produced in Australia is lager. Lagers are bottom fermented at lower temperatures than other beers and are served cold. Lagers are often characterized by mild, less complex flavours – they’re the kind of beer that goes down great on a hot day.
It wasn’t until the mid 80’s and Crocodile Dundee made Australian products very fashionable in North America that I finally had an opportunity to sample my first brew from the Land Down Under. Do you remember those commercials for Foster’s Lager starring Paul Hogan? After Crocodile Dundee became a huge hit, everyone wanted to throw a shrimp on the barby, and everyone wanted to drink Fosters – the Amber Nectar, also known as, if I remember correctly, the Ripper Sipper. In clubs and pubs, ordering a Foster’s made us feel somehow worldly and adventurous.
Eventually, Fosters came to be brewed under license in North America and is still brewed by Molson in Canada. Part of its cache though was that it was imported from Australia. Now, sadly, Fosters seems to have disappeared from government liquor stores in Canada. Ironically, even though Foster’s is probably the first brand that comes to mind when most North Americans think of Australian beer, it’s not readily available in Australia and isn’t very popular in Oz. It’s mainly brewed for export and is brewed under license in other countries. Don’t fret though – Foster’s isn’t in trouble. Today, every major brewery in Australia with the exception of Coopers which is still family owned and operated, is owned by Lion Nathan or the Foster’s Group.
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