Froth - Beer in Melbourne
I was just recently in Melbourne, Australia. It was a rambunctious drinking frenzy. While I was there I met the editor of Froth, a local beer magazine. I ended up writing an article for them. Melbourne residents will see it in a coming month, but you get the sneak peak. I don’t imagine there is much overlap between our readerships, so here you go! Learn something about Australian beer!
Melbourne Vs Seattle -
A Beer Showdown. One man’s biased comparison of the Melbourne beer scene to Seattle’s.
Hey Ozzies, I’m the Cycling Certified Cicerone, a West Coast USA based beer blogger, podcaster, and verifiable beer expert well versed in the way of the IPA. I just wrapped up a trip to Melbourn (Melbun) where I studied your beer scene pretty thoroughly. If you’ve ever wondered what’s so special about Melbourne beer, then you’re about to read all about it. I’m American so I’ll be referring to America as America for the rest of this piece, no offense to Canadians I’m excluding who also technically live in America. “The States” are a horrible place where no one has healthcare or trains. “America” is the place where the modern craft beer revolution was born with a brewery on every block. Americans take serious pride in the American beer scene, but much like the marsupials that grace your land, perhaps beer has evolved a bit differently over in Melbourne. That’s what I came to find out. You’ve got different styles, laws, taxes, culture, and personality. In some ways, it’s way better, and some ways, it’s worse
Starting with the “worse”, let me knock this one out of the way: the price. Did you know you pay at least twice as much for beer as I do? In all Australian dollars, a can of Jedi Juice might cost $12 at a bottle shop. A similar IPA in America costs $2-3 as a single can in a 6-pack and maybe $8 at a brewery. Your liquor stores and bottleos sell beer at almost the same price as the brewery! In America, you can expect to pay way less for the beer you buy at the store instead of at a bar or brewpub. We do usually have to tip an extra dollar or so for every beer we buy if it’s poured by someone else. That’s something you got rid of and I will be eternally jealous of. But, even your mass produced mainstream lagers are expensive enough to keep you sober. I hear this is because your government is looking out for you by charging insane taxes on beer, which they increase as the ABV of the beer increases. Technically we do that too, but here we have a little more leeway. Playing a game I like to call “find the beer with the best ABV per Dollar appears to be an American privilege. Because of your taxes, most of your beers are shoehorned straight into narrow ranges of ABVs and the higher ones are exorbitantly expensive even for just a pot.
Oh, and since we’re talking about pots - what you call a half pint and what we would call a cup in Freedom Units - actually that is such a small amount we don’t even have a real name for it. They are closer to a taster than a proper pour. The Germans have a handful of things up on America, mainly their preference for drinking beers from full liter steins (or did I mention their healthcare and trains?). For all the shame I feel when the biggest beer I can find in the states is roughly half that, you must feel it double while drinking out of a vessel that I can skull by accident if I’m not paying attention. Don’t even get me started on your pitchers, which are just two pints. A pitcher here holds sixty ounces, which is almost four pints! Though I will certainly give you credit on using the metric system, something we will never do. It is pretty enviable when everything is just some number of milliliters instead of whatever shenanigans we are trying to make work. When it comes down to it though, the liquid in the glass is what matters, not the size of it.
Let’s talk about beer. I’ll say it, I’m impressed with Coopers. It might seem like Coopers is just your biggest “craft” beer, a beer so popular it is only craft because it technically is independent, but there is something impressive about a beer that comes with its own ritual. You can’t buy that kind of history and the fact that every bar I ordered a Coopers from knew the bottle roll was an impressive feat in a league with Guinness’s “perfect pints” where every bar tended in the city is meticulously trained to pour a Guinness in exactly the same way. Stone and Wood Pacific Ale was another unique beer. A totally non-offensive drink undoubtedly enjoyed by many. You should take some credit where it is due with the Pacific Ale style. While many of the beers I had on my trip were styles I was used to, Pacific Ale is not one I had even heard of before. Like a less hoppy American pale ale, subdued all around flavor with enough of a hop kick to remind you are drinking a beer. The XPA however, or Extra Pale Ale, I kept seeing over there is not a real thing. Paler than pale? What are you trying to be? Fake news!
You are obsessed with NEIPAs to a very strange degree. They are pretty trendy right now, even in America, but damn do y’all take it to the next level. Interestingly, yours are completely different from the NEIPAs I am used to drinking at home, or Hazy IPAs as us West Coast Seattlites would rather call them so as not to give the impression that the North East USA has any idea what they are doing when it comes to brewing good beer. You might be obsessed with them, but that doesn’t mean you make them the same. I think it is time to declare a new geographical style, the ANEIPA, or Australian North East IPA. It’s like a normal NEIPA except it’s less fruity and a little spicier. Perhaps a little extra yeasty phenol kick or something I can’t quite place that seemed to be universally present, but it felt to me like there was a special quality that made every ANEIPA I had a little special. Perhaps it was y’alls attention to freshness.
Before visiting Melbourne, I never checked to see when a beer I was about to drink was canned. You seemed fixated on it, checking every can before buying, and certainly willing to leave an old can on the shelf. Perhaps it is because as an American I never suffered the same collective trauma that all Australians did - a brief period (and thankfully, very over) where the only beer worth drinking was imported, a journey that could take months, and then would sit on the shelf for as long as it took to sell. We are concerned with freshness in America, sure, but like a cis-gendered white male, I never stopped to think about that privilege. Perhaps now that local craft beer is growing more mainstream and imported beer is getting less important, soon you will be able to let the date on the bottom of the can fade from your mind, too.
Melbourne, I gotta hand it to you. I spent over ten days drinking as fast as I could and I was never going to be close to completely exploring all the beer your fine city has to offer. You have an impressive number of breweries for a non-American city even if I would have broken the bank long before I ever got properly drunk. As an American and therefore an expert of declaring myself an expert about these kinds of things, I award you and your city the esteemed title of “Actually Gives a Damn About Craft Beer.” Go forth and brew a barrel with a metric ton of Galaxy hops in it. Just kidding, I know you were already going to do that.
I’d like to give a shout out to all the people and places I visited while studying beer on this trip. @BeerBurnCity, who showed me around and likely tainted much of what I learned as well as taught me all the Australian slang and some fake slang too (McDonalds = Maccas and KFC = Kayffas). All the kind folks at Beermash, Bar SK, and Mr. West who chatted with me and put up with my American credit card that you can’t tap. The great folks at Stomping Ground, Hop Nation, Two Birds, and Tallboy and Moose, and more who watched my daily decent from annoying American to annoying drunk American. If you are ever on the West Coast of America, hit me up @CyclingCicerone. Thank you!
I hope the people of Melbourne enjoy that. I went for the sassy American tone and I figure they will find that amusing. Ideally, you did too. Thanks for reading