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Australian alcohol and food. What is it you want? Mod Oz? Mod Oz is modern Australian food. Old fashioned Australian food pretty much sucks. Chiko rolls and dim sims and other fried foods. Chiko rolls aren't healthy. Nor are dim sims. Australians love to consume beer. They have the fourth highest beer consumption per capita. You have beers like Coopers, Tooheys, Cascade, Victoria Bitter, Melbourne Bitter, Castlemaine XXXX. Like it? James Boags and Cascade Brewery from Tasmania make the best beers. Cascade also makes Mercury Ciders. Mmmm good. Australian wines are famous, too. There are several wine regions throughout Australia, like the Hunter Valley, Yarra Valley, Margaret River, McClaren Vale.


Alcohol And Food


"The four food groups in Australia are wine, beer, rum, and whatever alcohol an Australian has lying around if the first three are absent."  Doug Knell, Doug's Republic
Food in Australia

Australia has a reputation outside its borders of being a land of hefty alcohol consumption.  People have stereotypical images of Aussies sitting in the Outback sun, wearing Akubra hats, downing their tenth stubbie for the evening.

Well, guys.  It's partly a crock.  Australians do guzzle beer like it's water, but according to the World Health Organization, Australians are at the bottom of the top quintile of total pure alcohol consumption per capita (CPC) per year.   On a list of 191 countries, Australia ranked #37.  The list below measures the CPC per liter of pure alcohol.  For those of you bad at math -- if a 375 ml bottle of beer contained 5% alcohol by volume, this would equate to 18.75 ml of alcohol per bottle.  An inebriated Aussie would need to down over 53 bottles of this beer to consume one liter of pure alcohol.

Country Ranking CPC (liter)
Uganda 1 19.47
Ireland 4 14.45
France 7 13.54
Germany 10 12.89
United Kingdom 18 10.39
Switzerland 19 11.53
New Zealand 28 9.79
Australia 37 9.19
United States 43 8.51
Japan 56 7.38
Norway 81 5.81
Mexico 95 4.62

Imagine if this pure alcohol consumption chart became public knowledge.   The supposedly hard-drinking macho Aussies ranking below the UK, Switzerland, and New Zealand in alcohol consumption?  Australia would be humiliated.
Australia beer varieties

In Australia, there's always room to drink one more

As a matter of fact, Australian beer consumption has been shrinking, as Australian wine consumption has increased.  Wine is becoming the beverage of choice.  In 2003, Australian government stats showed that wine consumption per capita had quadrupled over the previous 40 years.  This helped push beer consumption to its lowest levels since 1961.

Another factor that has likely influenced the move from beer to wine is the cost.   Drinking wine winds up cheaper per ounce of alcohol consumed than beer.  Beer is more expensive than what you'd pay for similar quality in the USA or Germany.  A 375 ml bottle of a medium grade beer can cost close to AUD 2 -- or about AUD 0.11 per ml of alcohol.    Compare that to a 750 ml bottle of AUD 8 wine which comes to AUD 0.09 per ml of alcohol.   And with the glut of grapes and wines all over Australia, you can get a bottle of very decent wine for even AUD 5 or 6.  Some cleanskin wines, wines with the brand name label removed so as not to depreciate the wine brand but sell excess quantity, are practically being given away.  Imported beers and wines are a rip off.

Carlton Draught Fosters Australian beer Tooheys beer from New South Wales Castlemaine XXXX from Queensland 
The beer production industry is very concentrated in Australia.  More micro-breweries are sprouting up all the time, and I had the privilege of attending a micro-brewery festival in Melbourne in 2006 which featured only small breweries from the state of Victoria.  But the majority of Australian beer is controlled by just two conglomerates, Foster's Group and Lion Nathan, and the privately-held Coopers Family.    

Mainstream Australian beer is on par with mainstream beer elsewhere.   Victoria Bitter is as good or bad as a mainstream Coors or Budweiser.   I personally found Carlton Draught and Fosters to be palatable mainstream brews.  

The Aussies will go out of their way to slam Fosters.  That's too easy because Fosters is the beer most foreigners identify with Australia in their countries of origin.  While Fosters won't go down in history as the best brew mankind has ever tippled, neither will Tooheys, Melbourne Bitter, or Castlemaine XXXX, beers which seem to get more cred among the locals, not due to to taste, but because they're not overly hyped overseas.

There's clearly a lot of beer being sampled Down Under, as the table below will attest.   In 2004, the Aussies consumed the fourth highest amount of per beer per capita.

Country Ranking CPC (liter)
Czech Republic  1 156.9
Ireland 131.1
Germany  115.8
Australia  109.9
United Kingdom 99.0 
Finland 9 85.0
United States  13 81.6
Canada  19 68.3
Japan 32 51.3
South Korea 34 38.5
Colombia 35 36.8

Doug Knell Doug's Personal Picks Doug Knell
Coopers ales from South Australia


Any Coopers product is high quality, but about 25% more expensive than a typical Aussie brew.   Other places to look for finely crafted brews are below.

James Boags brewsDelicious James Boags JAMES BOAGS
This Tasmanian brewery manufactures over a dozen lagers, draft beers, ales, and bitters.  Their limited edition honey mead porter was among the finest brews I had Down Under
Australia's Cascade Brewery's brews CASCADE BREWERY
Another Tasmanian brewery bought out by a giant and boasting of its superior water input to brew high quality drinks. Also make wonderful carbonated fruit juices.
Cascade's Mercury Sweet CiderCascade's Mercury Draught CiderCascade's Mercury Dry Cider Not beer, but cider, made by Cascade.  All the ciders are delicious and in Tasmania, you can find the extra strong Black Label cider.

Once you've figured out what kind of Australian beer you want to order in a pub, you need to know how to order it.  It seems every Australian city uses its own local measurement.   Is this really one country?
Different beer glasses in Australia
See how confusing things can get?  You're from Adelaide (South Australia) and you travel to Townsville (Queensland).   Back home in Adelaide your standard 200 ml glass of brewsky is called a butcher.   But up in Townsville, when you ask for a butcher, you'll be sent to a store to purchase meats.  And Adelaiders have no cause for complaint.  They're inconsistent in their own city.    Are they on the metric system, imperial units, or American units?   I guess all of the above.    In Adelaide you can order a US pint or an imperial pint.    Now are you starting to comprehend why Australians as a nation are borderline alcoholics?  The only measurement understood across all Australian cities is the jug, over a liter of beer.  

Wine packs more punch than beer.  You get drunk faster, and that's the name of the game Down Under.   The top Australian wines are now on par with wines made in the USA, France, and South Africa. During my time in Australia in 2005-06, grapes were being left on the vine to rot. There was a glut of grapes. Australia counted on their domestic and export markets just growing and growing like Orson Welles' waistline did. We know what happened to Welles in 1985. Now it's Australia's turn. Grape and wine prices have plummeted. I bought a case of South Australian wine meant to be exported to the United States. The U.S. importer's label was already on the bottle. But that export deal, as many others, folded, and the wine was sold within Australia. I picked up a case of fine wine, which would've sold for US$25/bottle in the United States. for under US$5 per bottle. Deals like this were all over the place. They still are. Australians are drowning in virtual seas of wine, so much that they go surfing in it. It's a great time to get drunk in the Southern Hemisphere while you can fool yourself into believing you're becoming more sophisticated.

Australian wine The wine growing regions are nearly all located in the southern half of the country. Main regions include the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale (South Australia), Margaret River (Western Australia), the Yarra Valley (Victoria), and the Hunter Valley (New South Wales). Wineries are also springing up all over Tasmania. Queensland also has wineries, but none of the international caliber of the country's southern wineries. Drink up, mates!

Australian wine consumption per capita climbed 25% from 2001 to 2005.   In 2005, Australians were ranked #21 in per capita wine consumption.   They should be ashamed. They have A LOT of work ahead of them to get that up to their beer guzzling levels.

Country Ranking CPC (liter)
France 3 55.85
Italy 48.16
Switzerland  10  39.87
Argentina  14  28.81
Belgium 19  26.01 
Australia 21 24.67
United Kingdom  30 18.97
Canada  49 10.48
United States 60 8.69
South Africa 61 8.37
Russia 70 5.95
Wine from Australia

Australian Food
You'll never stop seeing the term "Mod Oz" once you get to Australia. Had "Old-Fashioned" Oz (OF Oz) food been delicious, then there'd be no term "Mod Oz," would there? You'd just see "Oz". You've never seen "Mod Indian" or "Mod Chinese" categorizations, because Indian and Chinese cuisine has always been recognized as delicious.

OF Oz cuisine, by all accounts, sucked. It was meat, such as a roast, with three boiled vegetables. Italian and Greek immigrants in the 1970's started bringing a Mediterranean flair to the prior crappy cuisine. Then, Australian dumped its White-only immigration policy and Asians flooded in. Now Aussies denied the succulent foods of Asia watched these foods flood into the country. Mod Oz slowly took shape, and today it's vaguely defined as a fusion of Asian and Mediterranean cooking techniques with fresh Australian produce.

So there is good restaurant food to be had in Australia, but only in the population centers.   In Melbourne and Sydney, you can get the best food in the country. Adelaide and Perth have great markets and restaurants, too. You shouldn't have too much trouble eating in the heavily populated towns which stretch along Australia's east coast. But once you leave these areas, food reverts to OF Oz. It's starchy chips, unappetizing sausages, and unhealthy snacks like dim sims and Chiko rolls. A Chiko roll is a spring roll ripoff, consisting of boned mutton, celery, cabbage, barley, rice, carrot and spices in a tube of egg, flour and dough which is then deep-fried. A dim sim is a large deep-fried dumpling containing various mystery meats. 

Fortunately, Australian chain groceries like Woolworths, Coles, and Bi-Low are all over the country. One needn't be destined for a triple bypass when driving around the country. Australia has a number of American fast food outlets scattered about the country like McDonald's, Burger King (known as Hungry Jack's), and Subway.

Hungry Jack's or Burger KingChiko Roll from AustraliaDim Sim from Australia




 

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Fascinating Ideas You Could Care Less About

 Australian food and Australian alcohol. Such a big big topic. Mod Oz food is tasty, when you can find it. Chiko rolls and dim sims aren't that good. They stink, in fact. Poor yourself a middy and taste Australian beer like Crown Lager, Tooheys, Victoria Bitter, Melbourne Bitter, James Boags, and Cascade Brewery beers. Don't stop with just one. Cascade makes wonderful Mercury ciders. Australian wines are found all over the country at reasonable prices. Margaret River, Yarra Valley, Hunter Valley, Swan Valley. Come and get it.