Australia’s Top 10 Beers
As you know, here on BobinOz we love a good survey. But what we have here today, I think, is even better than a survey. The people from Nielsen produce statistics each year to find out Australia’s most popular beer.
You can’t argue when people vote with their wallets.
Australians, as you know, love their beer. They are something like the fourth or fifth biggest beer consumers in the world, according to various figures. Blokes don’t buy their beer in party fours here; they grab a carton of 24 from the bottle-o.
But what are they buying?
Here’s the top 10 list courtesy of Nielsen.
Australia’s Top 10 Beers
- XXXX Gold 12.4%
- VB 12.3%
- Carlton Draught 9.3%
- Tooheys New 7.1%
- Tooheys Extra Dry 4.4%
- Carlton Mid 3.8%
- Carlton Dry 3.3%
- Corona Extra 3.1%
- Pure Blonde 2.6%
- Hahn Premium Light 2.5%
NB. Those percentages are volume share of the market, not ABV 🙂
So, top of the pile is XXXX Gold, which is brewed up the road from me at the Castlemaine Perkins Brewery in Milton. This year it pipped Victoria Bitter (VB) to top spot, last year the positions were reversed.
Either way you look at it, a quarter of the beer buying blokes of Australia are drinking either VB or Gold.
Both, in my humble opinion, are absolutely awful.
Gold is about as fizzy as you can make a beer without calling it lemonade, its weak (3.50% ABV) and tasteless.
VB, on the other hand, is as fizzy as you can make a beer without calling it lemonade, stronger (4.60% ABV) and tasteless.
Sounds like I’ve just insulted 25% of my fellow Australian beer drinkers here, but I think I know why these beers are popular.
Many Aussies workers tend to be up at about 5:30 AM, on-the-job by half six in the morning, and work through till about 3:30 PM or four o’clock.
It’s usually still very hot by then; so something really cold that will quench the thirst is in order. But no-one wants to get a hangover; they need to be up at 5:30 AM again the next day.
So, what can be better than a 3.6%, 375 ml can of XXXX Gold?
And the colder the beer, the more tasteless it gets anyway. Cool any lager down to 2 or 3°C, and they all begin to taste very similar, as long as you drink them real fast.
Add to that, both these brews are budget beers; you can pick up 30 cans of XXXX Gold for around $37 and the same quantity of VB for about $45, although most people seem to prefer the slightly more expensive stubby bottles.
But popular beers aren’t the same as favourite beers. There isn’t a survey for Australia’s favourite beers, but I can certainly tell you mine.
Top 10 Favourite Aussie Beers by BobinOz
Well, it is my top 10, but I am splitting it into two halves, so two top 5’s.
Pretty much all the mass produced beers in Australia are lagers as we would call them in the UK. To confuse matters, Australians can call certain lagers “bitters”. As in the example above, Victoria Better is not a bitter at all. It’s a lager.
Generally speaking, if you are looking for a “bitter” beer, look for the words “Pale Ale” or “IPA”. There are plenty about, designer beers are becoming more popular here in Australia. But they can be quite expensive; I have tried to concentrate on the more accessible brews available in the shops.
Please be aware I have limited myself to Australian brewed beers in both of these lists. We do have plenty of imported beers but they can be quite costly.
So here are my two lists for lagers and bitters, first…
Bob’s top 5 Aussie budget lager beers
Update August 2016:
Just last weekend it came to my attention the some sneaky brewers are messing with our beers. I haven’t bought XXXX Bitter for a while, and I was just about to pick up a carton of it at the weekend when I noticed something strange.
The ABV on the tin said 4.4% and I knew this beer was supposed to be stronger than that. So I Googled it to find out what was going on and yes, the strength has been reduced. The brewer in question is Lion, and they have been gradually reducing the strength of XXXX Bitter. Originally it was 5%, then it went to 4.6% and it is now 4.4%. They have done a similar thing with Tooheys Extra Dry.
Carlton United Breweries (CUB) use the same trick with their Pure Blonde, reducing it from 4.6% down to 4.2% ABV, they then introduced a new and more expensive but product called Pure Blonde ‘Premium’at 4.6% ABV.
The brewers say they have done this in order to keep the pricing competitive, the rest of us really know they’ve done it in order to maximise their own profits.
On that basis, none of these three budget beers deserve a top 5 place in my list, I will personally no longer buy any of them. Until I have had a chance to review other beers, my budget beer of choice will be Crown Lager, although I do think I will be looking more closely at the whole Coopers range.
The good news though is that my top 5 Aussie “Bitter” beers have not been reduced in alcohol content, and quite right too. Back to the original post.
5. Pure Blonde Premium Lager (4.6% ABV- Now down to 4.2% ABV)
I only mention this one because it is Australia made and is a low carb beer. Okay as a thirst quencher for those who need to watch their sugar intake. There, not much of a review, is it? I only drink this one if it’s given to me.
4. Tooheys Extra Dry (5% ABV – Now down to 4.4% ABV)
Or TED’s as they can be known. Another beer at its best when served icy cold on a very hot day. Not a favourite of mine, but a few of my friends like it.
3. James Boag’s Premium (5% ABV)
Brewed in Tasmania, this has a much better taste, so doesn’t have to be served so cold. I will sometimes by this one for a change, if it’s on special.
2. Crown Lager (4.9% ABV)
AKA Crownies. I hated this beer when I first had one, thought it was quite disgusting. Two years later, somebody handed me one on a hot day in the afternoon. I loved it! I think that’s part of becoming an Aussie.
1. XXXX Bitter (5% ABV- Now down to 4.4% ABV)
This may surprise you, being as it is brewed by the same people who make XXXX Gold which I dislike so much. But this one is their “bitter” version, but yes, it’s a lager. It’s nowhere near as gassy as Gold, it’s stronger at 5% ABV – Now down to 4.4% ABV (see update above) and it’s a good budget beer at around $45 for a carton of 30 cans.
When people ask me what I drink indoors and I tell them it’s XXXX Bitter, they normally go “Aaargh, how can you drink that *&^%!”
I explain it’s not the Gold, but the Bitter version in the red can, not the fizzy thing in the yellow can.
“Oh!” They usually say, still not quite understanding.
Trust me, it’s worth a try. It’s about the only Australian lager that I buy regularly to put into my fridge.
The only exception being Stella Artois, which is available here and made under licence in Australia. It costs about $40-$50 for a 24×330 ml carton.
Bob’s top 5 Aussie “Bitter” beers.
5. Coopers Original Pale Ale (4.5% ABV)
This is a cloudy beer; each bottle has a little bit of sediment in the bottom which you really should pour into a glass to appreciate. So it’s not a “drink it out of the bottle” beer. Slightly fizzier than I would like for a pale ale, but a good budget beer that isn’t a lager.
4. James Squire Stow Away India Pale Ale (5.6% ABV)
Now we are venturing more into the traditional English IPA taste, and this one from James Squire is quite hoppy, but not too much so for the Australian market. Remember, heat and hops don’t really go well together. Not a beer to quench your thirst, but nice in the evenings.
3. James Squire Nine Tails Amber Ale (5% ABV)
No apologies for having two James Squires’ beers in this list, I recommend anything from that brewery. Never had a bad drop from them, including their “Golden Ale”, which is a kind of lager. This Amber ale has a great flavour and is very drinkable and thoroughly enjoyable.
2. Fat Yak Pale Ale (4.7% ABV)
I really like this beer, especially because I can get it in pints on draft down the Pig n Whistle in the city. The bottled beer is pretty good too. This beer is not too heavy, and not too gassy. Perfect for sinking a few pints. Probably better on draft, just.
1. Little Creatures Pale Ale (5.2% ABV)
The undisputed King of Australian pale ales, this beer is a beaut! Better still, it does come in pint bottles. I was in a bar in the city and I was paying $17 per bottle for this stuff, but who cares? Worth every cent! Available on tap in certain places, but unfortunately, not my kitchen sink.
Easily Australia’s best brew, almost.
Update June 2018:
These days though, if I’m going to have a beer, I choose from one of the many craft brewery beers now available in Australia. The more on that, see my post Microbreweries in Brisbane: Let’s Go for a Beer.
Almost, because the best beer of all, pipping Little Creatures Pale Ale but not mentioned in either of my lists, is the beer that I brew myself in the microbrewery in my garage…
Thomas Coopers India Pale Ale
“A strong, robust ale with bold malt characters with very high hopping levels. It carries all the hallmarks of a genuine India Pale Ale.”
It works out at the equivalent of $13.50 per carton.
And it’s on draft!
What about Foster’s?
Update June 2018
Yes, I was reminded of this by DRM’s comment below about it being the only Aussie beer they’ve heard of in the US. Well, here’s the story about Foster’s…