The majority of us relate Australasian beer with commercial lagers like Foster's and Castlemaine XXXX. However, there is a great deal more on offer in Australia as well as New Zealand. Both countries have brewing traditions which date back two hundred years, since European settlers arrived. Due to the influence of different European cultures as well as the Australasian climate, you will find some extremely interesting as well as refreshing beers throughout the continent.
The Popular Australian Beer Style
The most popular style of beer throughout Australasia is light-flavoured, quite gassy lager. The lager beers are produced there with generic lager yeast and pale malt, thus having a refreshing as well as drinkable taste. Even though these beers are easily drinkable and good for hot conditions, they are not very adventurous, lacking in character and body. One of the best known such beers is Foster's, an international lager brand. It is not considered to be a beer with much taste or character.
Given the tradition for light beers, there are still many excellent brews throughout Australasia which have been modelled on English and German beers. Recent times have seen an increase in independent breweries, producing tasty, unique beers.
If you can look past Foster's and such lager beers, Australia has a great deal to offer in terms of quality beer. Australian lager beers have their origins in European lager and bitter techniques, with there being multiple varieties on offer. A particularly popular one is Victoria Bitter, known as VB. VB is one of the very few beers to break through the traditionally state divided Australian beer market.
It is exceedingly drinkable, being a slightly bitter lager and is available widely throughout Australia. It has a great deal more character than most other popular Australian lagers. It is as good an accompaniment with barbecue food as it is refreshing on a sizzling summer's day. It is also cheaper than many other beers which of course has great appeal to the mass market.
Should we move away from mass-market beers, there are many great Australian beers made by smaller brewers. An excellent one is Hahn beer; Hahn Premium and Hahn Vienna Red being key examples. Hahn beer is Germanic by origin. It is far more exciting than your average Australian lager beer. Hahn Premium has a bitter, hoppy taste, yet is crisp and has a clean finish. It tastes rather like a German Pilsner than any other lager, being as smooth as several similar European beers.
On the other hand, Hahn Red has a malty, bitter finish, being quite a fruity brew. Unlike numerous Australian lager beers, it is more like German ale in character and thickness. Other key Australian beers are Cascade Premium, Crown beer and Coopers Premium Ale.
New Zealand Beers
New Zealand's beer history dates to Captain Cook's time. He considered it appropriate to add beer to the New Zealand diet of the time. New Zealand beers are English in influence, being smoother and heavier than Australian beers.
1812 IPA is one of New Zealand's most popular beers, even though it is not especially well known. It is independently brewed, being a spicy, malty beer, quite like old English ales. It has been awarded multiple gold medals, including three at the New Zealand Brewersfest. There are more popular New Zealand beers, like Lion Red, D.B Draught and Steinlager.
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