Australia Versus England: Beer and Pubs

This was my 14th article for Australia and New Zealand magazine and appeared in their July edition this year. The big surprise, for me, was that it took so long until I talked about my favourite subject.


“I’ll have half.” No you won’t!

I’ll come to that in a minute. Australia is a beer drinking nation, and quite a good one at that. It depends whose figures you look at, but those I’ve seen suggest that Australia is probably the fourth largest beer swilling country in the world, whereas England usually comes fifth or sixth.

So Australians aren’t winning by much, if winning is the correct way of looking at it. But they do consume about 10% more beer than the English, man for man. I like drinking beer too, so I already feel part of the team here and I hope to help Australia maintain, or maybe even improve on their current world position.

But when it comes to pubs, Australia really is way behind. There are 60,000 or so pubs in the UK, but Australia only has about 4,000. Where I used to live in England, Billericay, there were eight pubs in the High Street alone. Here, from my home in the Western suburbs of Brisbane, I have to drive for 10 minutes to get to my ‘local’.

Enter the barbecue. This is where Australian drinking culture comes into its own. Nothing fancy, bring a plate, (that’s just a plate of home-made food to share), pack an Esky (cool box) with some stubbies (375ml bottles of beer), some wine for the wife and your host will chuck some snags (sausages) onto the barbie for the traditional Australian sausage sizzle.

Best of all, your kids can come too and if you start early enough, whilst it’s still sunny, there’s no excuse not to jump in the pool. Now, tell me that doesn’t sound more appealing than going down the pub.

So, why can’t you ask for a half?

We’ve got eight different states/territories here and they all have different rules. And, throughout Australia, there are eight different sized beer measures. The smallest, 115 mL (4 ounces) is available in Western Australia as a pony and in Tasmania as a small beer. The largest single measure is 570 mL (20 ounces), which is called a pint in NSW although it isn’t, because a pint is 568 mL.

But that same 570 mL measure is called an imperial pint in South Australia, because they already use pint (although it isn’t) for 425 mL, which is a schooner everywhere else. Here in Queensland a pot is 285 mL, that’s a teensy bit more than a half. But in New South Wales a pot is called a middy, and in South Australia it’s called a schooner which, everywhere else, would be 425 mL. Have we just gone round in a circle?

But you can get a half in Canberra, but that’s the same size as a handle in Northern Territory and a ten in Tasmania, which, as you’ve probably worked out, is a 285 mL and called a pot here in Queensland. And no, I’m not making it up.

But where the measures are confusing, beer strengths are not. Here in Australia we have ‘lights’ at around 2.6% ABV, ‘mids’ at 3.3 to 3.5% and ‘heavies’ at about 4.6 to 5%. So now we can simplify everything.

Here’s what I do, I just ask for a large heavy. Works every time!

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{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Rowan December 29, 2016, 10:14 am |

    English pubs tend to be about the size of my living room, or smaller. The owner/manager usually lives in the flat above. The state liquor licensing acts require all public houses to provide accommodation. Thus Australian pubs tend to be a lot bigger but fewer in number.

    • BobinOz December 29, 2016, 11:56 pm |

      It is true to say that ‘some’ English pubs are the size of your living room, and I can say that confidently without knowing either how big or small your living room is. That’s because in England pubs can be incredibly small, and they can also be very big indeed.

      I do have to question your thoughts about Australian pubs though. I’m pretty sure that these days it is not part of the licensing act that they need to also provide accommodation. Our local pub, which only opened within the last few years, is really quite big, but you can’t book a room there, they do not offer accommodation at all.

      • Mark December 30, 2016, 10:36 am |

        Thout shalt not purvey intoxicating liquor to those nor travelling their weary way ..I imagine was something along the lines of words used when bar pubs had to have accommodation loosely attached to them in a day when licenses only allowed pubs to provide alcohol to traveling public, the fact two or three rooms which might never be used would have given some impression that the rules where being followed. All long gone

  • Gavin August 15, 2016, 6:33 pm |

    “Australia really is way behind. There are 60,000 or so pubs in the UK, but Australia only has about 4,000..”

    Australia is almost 60 times the size of England, with 30 million LESS people. What sense would it make for Australia have “eight pubs in the High Street alone” — this is completely unrealistic, unsustainable and unfeasible. Therefore, saying Australia is “way behind” is ridiculously untrue, and contextually wrong. How is a country “way behind” because it provides only what it can support? That sort of thinking is “way behind” in my opinion.

    If England had the stats i described above, there’s not a chance in hell that it would have 60,000 pubs at all. Wrong conclusion to make here.

    Ps-Im from devon and have lived in aust. for the last 25 years.

    • BobinOz August 17, 2016, 2:04 pm |

      Clearly the tongue in cheek nature of this article has completely passed you by. Oh well, can’t win them all.

  • Linka June 14, 2013, 1:55 pm |

    Longneck = 750ml in SA!

    I just ask for the cheapest, strongest thing they’ve got ha

    • BobinOz June 14, 2013, 9:15 pm |

      Find out what the local tramps are drinking, that always works 🙂

  • Patrick December 6, 2012, 4:01 am |

    It’s confusing. but I prefer that way, I don’t always feel for a full beer… Ya, shame, I’m not much of a drinker… 😛
    Here (canada) we have 341ml bottle or 355ml cans. all in the 4,5 to 6% range. Or big 910ml cans of the popular brands.
    Or you can get 1.18L bottles of 6,5% to 10,1%.

    That normal beers, available everywhere. We also have 0-0,5% for drivers 😉

    • BobinOz December 6, 2012, 7:19 pm |

      Then I’ll have a 1.18L bottle of the 10.1% please 🙂 Hiccup!

  • Phil Beeby September 19, 2011, 5:03 pm |

    Here’s the situation in Vic

    -:- Pony 140ml – 5 ounces
    -:- Small Glass 170ml – 6 ounces
    -:- Glass 200ml – 7 ounces
    -:- Pot 285ml – 10 ounces
    -:- Schooner 425ml – 15 ounces
    -:- Pint 568ml – 20 ounces

    • BobinOz September 19, 2011, 11:18 pm |

      Hi Phil

      Looks like Victoria measures are very similar, if not the same as Queensland. I’m really not sure about those small measures, never asked for one. But pint and schooner are certainly the same here as you have in Victoria.

      Bottoms up!

  • Phil Beeby September 19, 2011, 4:59 pm |

    Bob, still not sure what’s what in Victoria – seems to be a pot is smaller than a schooner. I usually just ask for a beer and see what comes.. need some EU style standardisation on the matter

  • Paul September 13, 2011, 2:26 pm |

    You missed the Tallies 750ml Go have a look in your nearest Bottolo 3 pack of XXXX bitter tallies for $13. Perfect for a walk home.

    • BobinOz September 14, 2011, 6:38 pm |

      Well spotted, I was just making sure everyone was paying attention. I used to use those bottles for my homebrew, moved on to kegs now. Perfect for a very long walk home.

  • Eike September 8, 2011, 7:39 am |

    confusing but interesting! Cant wait to order my first large heavy myself when I come to brisbane in a few weeks!

    • BobinOz September 10, 2011, 12:12 am |

      You’ve nailed it already! Large heavy… can’t go wrong.

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