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Beers of the world: Australia

Intrepid English voyager Captain James Cook is credited with first bringing the makings of beer to Australia aboard the Endeavour. Legend has it that when freshwater supplies stored on the ship deteriorated, the crew would turn it into beer, successfully killing any bacteria during the fermentation process.

Thanks to Cook, early Australian beer was based on recipes used in the making of English and Irish ale. However, it only took a few years before settlers began drawing on local plants and yeasts to create a beer with its own distinctive flavour.

By the late 1790s the governor of the colony began issuing licences for the sale of beer. Emancipist James Lara opened Australia’s first official pub, the Mason Arms, in Parramatta, New South Wales.

Today Cascade Brewery – which opened in South Hobart, Tasmania, in 1832 – is the country’s oldest working brewery, producing draught, pale ale, stout, lager and premium light under the Cascade label.

Owing to its relatively isolated location, Australia has traditionally produced its own beer, with AB InBev (VB, Carlton, Pure Blonde, Matilda Bay), Lion Nathan (James Squire, XXXX, Heineken, Corona) and Coopers dominating the market in more recent years.

Australia's oldest operational brewery is Cascade Brewery in Tasmania.

Australia's oldest operational brewery is Cascade Brewery in Tasmania. (Image: Queen Esoterica )

Adelaide-based Coopers Brewers is Australia’s largest local beer producer, with Coopers Pale Ale and Coopers Sparkling Ale ranked among the more popular brews.

Beer-drinking trends have changed over the decades, with 2007 favourite “VB” Victoria Bitter ousted by Carlton Draught, Corona and XXXX Gold, as the top three brands enjoyed in 2016.

Beer-related trivia abounds in Australia. Did you know ...

  • In 1954, Bob Hawke officially entered the Guinness World Records for drinking 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds. He went on to become prime minister of Australia in 1983 
  • The average Australian drinks 83 litres of beer every year
  • John Boston, the first beer brewer in Australia, used Indian corn and Cape gooseberry leaves in his concoction

As they have in many beer-loving nations, craft breweries have taken off in Australia, where more than 150 microbreweries create niche beer products to suit the palates of discerning beer drinkers.

A selection of Australian beer.

A selection of Australian beer. (Image: Ted McGrath )

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