Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Out of Australia: How the Beer There Becomes (Briefly) the Beer Here.

The opening line of Wikipedia’s Beer in Australia entry makes joyful reading: “Beer arrived in Australia at the beginning of Western colonisation.” Kind of reassuring, too. In fact, the first paragraph neatly outlines the relationship of Ozites and their beers, like Australia’s ranked fourth worldwide in per capita beer consumption – though far lower in terms of alcoholic consumption. Like Aussies like lager best.

When Yanks think of Australian beer, it’s likely to be Foster’s because it’s a brand much advertised here, on and off. But the lager is made for this market by SAB Miller, Foster’s US licensee. And even though there are, in Australia, a huge number of different beers, they have all tended to be lagers as well…celebrated in song and story and even Mambo Loud shirts like the Reg Mombasa item above.

New Oz-beers and brands do make it across the Pacific, even though they’re more likely to be available in closer-to-Australia markets such as Portland, Seattle and San Francisco. Harder to come by in Houston although one brewery in Melbourne, Barons, caught my attention for name-related reasons. I’d mentioned it a time or two on Facebook…but no distribution here. I have wondered what its signature beer, Barons Black Wattle Original Ale (an “herbed, spiced beer”), tastes like since Rachel Baron and Alison Bond brought us some wattle seed from their last visit to Australia.

Everything is so connected – as you will see in just a moment.

Comes a ringing at the front door, which I posted to Facebook:

An AMAZING package from Susan Tapper, from Australia: four beers! By mail. Shipped end of February. Susan wrote: “So glad you actually got them — Who? What? Beers from Australia?? You would love it here — beer is the beverage of choice of Aussies young and old! The national ‘water’. (I actually travelled to Melbourne where I found those...)” What a gift - thank you, Susan. I swear to drink them only for good. Watch for reviews...

It’s a miracle, this gift from this long-ago Quest colleague who went off to Australia, married and raised a wonderful family while keeping in touch from time to time. Email, and then Facebook, made it even easier…especially in the shipping-of-the-beers department. Susan’s card also noted:

I so enjoy your beer reviews! I hope this (shipment – ed.) encourages you to look at some Aussie brews! A country filled with beer drinkers!

The miracle: four glass bottles of beer came regular post, all the way from Australia, without losing a precious ounce of beer through breakage. Susan used bubble-wrap (wonder what that’s called in Oz?) and foam rubber – even our postal person was amazed that the beers arrived intact.

What did Susan send thisaway? Not one but two bottles of Barons, one the Black Wattle Ale; the other the brewery’s Lemon Myrtle Witbier, 5.8% and 4.5% respectively. There’s a single bottle of Pale Ale – 4.7% ABV – from Kooinda Boutique Brewery (Kooinda means “happy place”) also in Melbourne. And one bottle of 6% Temptress Chocolate Porter from Holgate Brewhouse (think “brewpub”), out of a beautifully maintained 19th Century commercial hotel in Woodend, Victoria.

In the past year, we have heard from a lot of people who would like us to visit Australia. Susan Tapper’s tempting us with actual beers is the best offer we’ve had so far. Note the use of the word “briefly” in the headline: the Oz-beers won't last very long here in Spring Branch.  

NOTE: Thank you so much, Susan. Thanks as well to Australia Post and the US Post Office for getting these beers to Houston.

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