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!