Thursday, 23 January 2014

Get Your Aussie Beer Hat on for Australia Day

Whether it's back-to-back Neighbours and Home and Away after school, ogling Kylie's bum in gold hotpants, the Vegemite vs Marmite debate or watching the Aussies beat the Brits in cricket yet again, it's safe to say that you've all had a little fix of the sunburnt country at some point in your life. As a proud Braussie (born a Brit, raised an Aussie, living as a Brit) I get the best of both worlds, and love introducing friends to how the other half live and the quirks of Aussie culture.

This Sunday, 26th January, I'll be celebrating Australia Day along with millions of Aussies near (mostly in Clapham!) and far (the other side of the world). Sadly I won't be floating off the coast  down under on an inflatable thong - flip-flop to you folk - as part of the iconic Australia Day thong challenge or smuggling beers into Adelaide Oval to watch the one-dayer, but it is an excuse to have a party with good friends, good food and good booze to celebrate all things Aussie.

I could create an endless list of my favourite Aussie wines, but that's what I do for most of the year, so this weekend, it's all about the beer. The likelihood is that I'll be indoors with the heating on because it's too cold outside, but my spirit, like many other UK-based Aussies, will be at the beach, listening to the @Triple J #Hottest100 and cracking open a few ice cold stubbies.

Now before I launch into my love for Aussie beers, let's just get one thing straight - Australians do not drink Fosters. Despite the tongue in cheek advertisements with tanned, white-teethed Aussies, it's a brand, but it is not Australian and you will be laughed at if you ask for Fosters in an Australian bar or bottle-o. Of course, much like the UK there are traditional brews, and mass-produced brands, but there is much creativity in Australian brewing, and each state has their own icon. I've picked out a few favourites, which - gasp! - are actually available in the UK - hooray! Don't forget to serve ice cold.

From (the best city, and festival city) Adelaide in South Australia comes the Cooper's Pale Ale, (£20.99 for 12 x 37.5cl bottles at Majestic) and the Cooper's Sparkling Ale (by the 37.5cl bottle for £1.98 each at Waitrose). Cooper's is an iconic South Australian producer of many brews, but the Cooper's Pale and the Cooper's Sparkling are by far the best sellers. As an Adelaide girl, I might be slightly biased to the powers of Cooper's, but as I saw the familiar red label of the Sparkling in my local Waitrose, I think I actually squealed with delight!

The Pale Ale has a cloudy, golden appearance and is dry, refreshing and fruity - a middle ground between a gassy lager and a heavy ale. Before opening its customary to roll the bottle to stir up the sediment and is best served with good friends, good conversation and a bowlful of salted nuts.

The Cooper's Sparkling is malty and hoppy and has more bubbles than the Pale. It makes an excellent accompaniment to spicy foods like curry, or sticky spicy Asian ribs - barbecued of course.

From Fremantle in Western Australia is the Little Creatures Pale Ale, (£46.72 for 24 x 33cl bottles from Beer Here). Western Australia is famous for long days of sunshine, diverse landscapes - home to the Margaret River wine region, and also to Perth, the world's most isolated capital city. The Little Creatures Pale - launched into the Aussie market in just 2001 - is light and refreshingly hoppy with a distinctive bitterness. This one is best poured into a glass and savoured over a pizza lunch and preferably with plenty of sunshine. Be warned, it's so delicious and refreshing you will almost certainly crave more.

From Launceston in Tasmania, we have James Boag's Premium Lager, (£51.42 for 24 x 37.5cl bottles from Beer Here). With a rich brewing heritage (founded in 1881), James Boag's is recognised nationally and internationally as a premium producer and has become, let's face it, a bit of a beer icon in Australia. Classic and subtle, it's fresh and fruity with a good balance of malt and hops - a host of awards gives away how good this is - and makes a perfect partner to fresh seafood. Boag's is the beer you take to a mate's barbecue to show you've put in the effort of choosing a good 'un!

From the Matilda Bay Brewing Co at Port Melbourne in Victoria comes the delightful Beez Neez, (£15.30 for 6 x 37.5cl bottles from SANZA). According to info on the Matilda Bay Brewing Co. website (check it out, it's awesome), this was first created as a Christmas surprise for the staff of a local honey producer - a hand-crafted wheat beer with the addition of light amber honey.

It was such a hit it has become one of the best-known Matilda Bay brews and makes for a great conversation starter. Light and golden in colour, it has a distinct honey aroma and flavour, whilst retaining freshness and a subtle malt flavour. Even non-beer drinking friends can cope with this one!

Right, all this talk of beer is making me thirsty. I'm off to get set for Aussie Day and crack open a cold one.

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