This is just a tiny, feet on the street view of the New South Wales beer scene. Since I was traveling in a group I didn’t feel as though I could devote as much time as I would have liked to beer and the sampling thereof but I tried some great beers and picked up a few interesting tidbits about the state of beer in and around Sydney!
Here are a few patterns that I noticed:
Low ABVs – I rarely found anything above 5%. Especially in Australian beers. They also do not use ABVs, they use standard drinks. Standard drinks is a mathematical formula based on amount, ABV, and the gravity of ethyl alcohol (0.789 if you were interested) to determine how many beers are reasonable to drink. It’s a fairly straightforward way to determine how strong a beer is but I’ll stick with ABVs.
Few Stouts – The most popular styles are definitely lagers and pale ales. There is a decent smattering of IPAs and a few stouts but by far, expect to drink a lighter beer. It may be because of prevalence of warm weather, and drinking a heavy stout in 100 degrees doesn’t sound like a lot of fun but it was an interesting thing to see. Especially when you look up some of the most highly reviewed and respected beers in America, most of them will be imperial stouts. My prediction is that stouts will begin their slow spread into the hearts and minds of the Australian people over the next few years.
Higher prices – Between $17-$20 for a six pack typically. It definitely goes higher but rarely goes lower. Even some of the most common beers such as Carlton or XXXX sells for $15 per six pack. Beer as cheap as Bud Light (about $19.50 for a 24 pack or so) is frankly unheard of.
- Two things of note in restaurants and bars that American readers may find odd.
Most places will not split bills like they do here. If you and your dining mates sit at one table, expect one check. I would recommend bringing cash if splitting the bill as this caused some confusion and consternation later for our group. Serious math skills were employed.
- As you may know, Australia is a non-tipping country, though larger bills/groups may have an included gratuity.
- Each state has it’s own names for different sized glasses. I have seen a chart. It is confusing.
I made an effort to try beers from a few states but I did not do so well. I also know there are some big-player breweries that I missed such as Feral, Stone & Wood, and Pirate Life. We only had a limited time on our trip and I didn’t want to be passed out for most of it.
Here is a brief overview of some of the beers that I tried:
Murray’s Whale Ale
Murray’s Craft Brewing Co. – 4.5%
Pretty yellowy. Like egg drop soup from a local Chinese restaurant. Not much of a smell. Can I describe a beer as smelling watery?. Light hop smell, kind of floral, maybe a hint of citrus. Light bubbles. Nice festive hop spice. For how watery and light it is there’s a nice roundness of flavor. It covers the entire palate which is probably one of the best ways to enjoy a lighter beer. Your whole mouth feels the flavor. A great dinner beer. All around pleasant. 8
Matilda Bay Brewing Co. – 4.7%
Nice amber color. A solid taste. It has a definitive pale ale flavor. If you have a friend who is wary of craft beer this would be a good choice to offer them. It’s inoffensive and sturdy. It also has a definitely light finish. It’s there and gone like a fairy fart. Fine enough. 7
Matilda Bay Brewing Co. – 5.2%
This was the darkest beer I could find in Australia. Super dark reddish color and smells dark chocolaty and bitter. It’s a nice bridge between a stout and a lager for someone like me who still only has a toe in the stout pool. It’s a bit chocolaty and bitter but it has a nice pleasant finish. Rich flavor but not overly filling with a bright feeling in your mouth. A very nice marriage between the best parts of a dark beer and a light beer. Nice gateway. 8
Matsos Mango Beer
Matso’s Broome Brewery – 4.5%
This whole paragraph could be just the word mango over and over again. Smells like mango. No head but prepare for a mango explosion.Super mango! Very clear and a nice light orange. You honestly can’t even smell beer. You really can’t even taste it either, which could be a bonus or a detriment depending on what you’re looking for. While I like my beers to taste like… well… beer, it’s nice to have a flavored beer actually taste as advertised. I am almost sure that someone who doesn’t like beer could drink this. There is a hint of beer at the end and an overly watery aftertaste but truly a great experience. Like mango? Like beer? Please drink this. 9
I really enjoyed finding the differences between the American and Australian beer culture. This was just a tiny glimpse of one casual beer enthusiast into a very big and brave new world!