As Australia becomes a nation of boutique beer drinkers, ales are coming into their own. Ben Canaider tracks the rise of ale
Two important factors are influencing the beer revolution in Australia, and they are two factors that can have a serious effect on your business’s immediate future. Firstly, Australia’s new-found love affair with beer has turned us from a nation of Barry McKenzie-style lager louts into a country of craft beer connoisseurs. Just as the wine revolution of the late 1970s and early ‘80s turned us from Petes into Pierres, beer has recently dropped its parochial tribalism. Once beer was a simple equation: one man drank one beer for one life. How this has changed, however.
Imported beer, boutique beer, and a new range of health-fad beers (low-carb) have transformed the beer market. Moving into the coming winter, bars and restaurants need to leverage this beer explosion in order to bolster revenue and make some winter hay whilst the sun is not quite shining. And the way to do this is with ale.
Ale is beer’s beginning. It is the Adam to lager’s Eve. Ale started maybe 5000 years ago, with a wild ferment wheat or barley beverage, in Mesopotamia. What had previously been a cereal infusion became a naturally fermented, alcoholic beverage. What’s more, the alcohol kept the beverage from spoiling too quickly. The overall effect was one of minor rapture.
Five thousand years later, we, too, can be suitably moved. Ale is beer that suits winter’s cooler weather and darker nights. Ale is also a style of beer that runs many gamuts, and can therefore be well matched to a range of winter foods. Let’s face it: there’s no reason to think
that only wine can rule the dining room.
And this is the second factor in beer’s new revolution. In times of fiscal uncertainty, beer has become the new ‘affordable luxury’. As the brewing and wine-making company Lion Nathan reported at the end of 2008, consumers were avoiding higher-priced wines and turning their attention to premium beers, as a kind of lifestyle trade-off. Beer sales were up nearly 10 per cent in the quarter to Dec 2008, indicating there’s clearly something in this spending and consumption trend. So to continue selling only wine—and at lower margins—is not the best revenue-mix for your business.
Ale has a number of bright-sides, which you should accentuate. It is increasingly an artisan or boutique product, using
Australian grains and hops; there’s a growing idea that Australian craft beer can adopt a regional approach with its brews, so this notion of hand-crafted, regional, boutique beers is really worth highlighting on your beer lists and blackboards.
Also, ale’s richer texture and complex flavours mean it is a beer that should be sipped, and served in a glass, maybe even a wine glass. This approach also exploits the burgeoning number of fine beer aficionados lining the dining rooms of most gastro-pubs nowadays.
All these sorts of customers need is some encouragement and a push in the right direction. And then you’ve got a new F&B angle to keep your business alert and alive.