Unless you live in a cave on Mars it probably hasn’t escaped your attention that the folk down under enjoy a lager or two. If you haven’t yet visited, much of your knowledge of the Aussie drinking culture will undoubtedly have been garnered from the Foster’s adverts. These have been dazzling us with Australian stereotypes for years. The amusing irony is that all the stereotypes are reasonably accurate, apart from the brand of beer.
You’d have better luck finding a glacier in the Sahara than a Foster’s in an Aussie pub. They just don’t like it, mate.
The legal drinking age in Australia is 18, though they do operate a strict under-25 policy, so unless you’ve begun sprouting your first grey hairs make sure you have ID. In some areas – typically ones with large Aboriginal populations, for whom alcoholism is a major problem – it won’t be possible to buy alcohol from liquor stores before late afternoon/early evening.
Here in Britain we require a formal introduction and a stiff handshake before we can begin to consider bonding with a fellow human, but in the land down under a cold beer creates more than enough common ground to start a conversation. It’s Australia’s social lubricant, along with sport. The most popular brands are Victoria Bitter, Carlton Draft and Tooheys.
Australian beer measurements can often cause alarm among newbie Brits: there is no such thing as a pint. Instead you’ll be handed a schooner (or a ‘pot’), which contains about three quarters of a pint. You’ll get used to it in time. Probably.
The Australian wine industry is huge and forms a tourism entity in its own right. All eight states, including Tasmania, have their own distinct varieties, from Sauvignon Blanc to Shiraz, and the wine regions total an area of 160,000 hectares. That’s about the size of France, Spain, Germany and Italy combined. Some of the vineyards are particularly spectacular, such as those found in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales and the Yarra Valley in Victoria.
This notorious beverage is technically classified as ‘wine’, though it’s generally accepted that grapes do not form the bulk of its ingredients. In fact, no one really knows what it’s made from, only that it’s insanely cheap and will make you crave swift death the morning after consuming it. It should be noted that rather than being an official brand, ‘goon’ refers broadly to any cheap boxed wine. So don’t make the same mistake as this author and spend 45 minutes scouring the shelves in bemusement before going back to your dorm grumpy and sober.
It’s unusual to see any self-respecting Australian drinking this poison; it’s almost solely the reserve of backpackers. You’ll learn to love it in startlingly little time.
Australians take their coffee extremely seriously, and it has to be said they do it very well. Melbourne in particular is famed for its café culture; the espressos in that city will cause your ears to steam and your eyes to roll independently of one another. It’s really quite marvellous.
Tap water is universally safe to drink in Australia. Bonza.