Thursday, May 10, 2007

Australians & Beer - history

Part Two.

As discussed earlier, two great events helped to shape the beer culture in Australia. One was the establishment of the Australia-shaped prison by the English and the other was the discovery of gold.
Penal wise, the boys in charge decided that beer was a good way of getting ex cons and pisshead officials off the rum and the brandy and the gold rush was handy because it brought to our shores a very large number of overseas guests. And a rather large disposable income for some. “Perhaps you might like to spend some of your gold on beer, sir?” “Why not!”

This was a good thing twofold. Onefold, it brought many experienced brewers to the towns and cities and twofold because it brought plenty of drinkers to fill the debit side of the brew ledger. Of the many nations represented on the goldfields a large number came from Germany and thereabouts and from England - the good bit of England where they brewed good beer, not the bit where they sunbake on gravel and have soccer riots.

A combination of the offspring of the worlds’ largest collection of social underlings, thieves and bread burglars and massive amounts of the worlds’ most valuable and sought after mineral would seem, to the casual observer, the least attractive marriage. However, the colonial brewers were not deterred. At it’s peak, the Victorian brewing industry had around 300 breweries. Clearly not concerned about the heritage of their clientele. And all ready to pump out the product.

The basic problem was not the quantity to produce, obviously. Unfortunately for the northern brewers not only did the Australian sun bake many an unprotected Pommy noggin, but it wasn’t too kind on the northern ale either. Combined with the bumpy two day cart trip to the miners pub the streets were literally awash with golden beer. Because they ended up tipping most of it out.

The aforementioned immigrants from both Germany and the United States had some new, welcome skills of their own. The Germans had been brewing this new-fangled bevvy called Lager since the evolution of yeast under freezing temperatures caused bottom fermentation and clean, clear brews and were pumping out Pilsners since the Czechs stumbled upon it in 1840 and sent it over the border.
What the yanks brought, or more specifically, what two brothers named Foster brought was refrigeration. William and Ralph didn’t have the best beer, but they certainly had the best beer marketing strategy. With every barrel delivered, you got a block of ice to keep the stuff cold. And that, my friends, was gold.

The Foster brothers, however, were harassed by competitors and legislators who made their life miserable, they petitioned their local member who liked their beer, got the tax thing sorted, sold the lot and pissed off. Along with the equipment and the lack of a forwarding address, the Fosters left us with an enduring legacy. A beer often described as an icon brand - drunk in every country of the world. Except Australia. Isn’t beer funny?

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