When this humble writer first began penning his random beer-related thoughts in the Beer Blokes Blog back in 2006 a regular annual feature was a piece relating to Australia Day. Back in dem dark days the topic was often the defending of our beer drinking as a nation against the wowsers and naysayers who continually denounced all beer drinkers as uncultured yobs. As right in part as they may have been, I felt it my duty to champion the cause of good beer and to advocate, educate and even entertain in the spruiking of what I believed was a large part of what made the collective ‘us’, great.
Fast forward to the present and I find myself honoured and privileged to be a part of the beer world and able to make a good living from what I once considered my good citizen’s duty. I’m card-carrying, banner-waving, glass-raising, bona fide beer advocate. Straya!!
As we wake to Australia Day 2016 and again listen to the usual calls for us to reassess what we stand for, to renounce our evil history and question who we are, I say – forget all that. Let’s look at beer as a barometer for our current health and our future wealth. For, believe it or not dear reader, we have plenty for which to be thankful.
The most recent (2014) beer figures show us a few surprising things when it comes to what we drink, how much of it we drink, how much we pay for our beer and how we compare to other countries around the world. It will probably come as no surprise to repeat that we are drinking less now than we have since about 1950 but it would seem that a few of us are carrying the rest. And most of these ‘few’ are those choosing to drink good beer. Craft beer. Better beer.
Hawkers Beer co-founder and chief spokesman, Mazen Hajar, spoke at last year’s Australian Craft Beer Conference in a session titled ‘The Reluctant Brewer’ in which he highlighted some of the figures that we either ignore or are simply unaware of and which may well be holding us back when it comes to growing our market both here and abroad. This article is inspired by those words.
First the facts.
Beer Consumption per capita. The Czech Republic still leads the world when it comes to beer consumed per capita at 143 litres. Germany is number two with 110. Australia? Aren’t we number three? No, that would be Austria filling the medal-winners podium with 108 litres. Australia at around 83 litres is well outside the top 10.
The cost of a beer. The Ukrainians pay the lowest amount for their beer at about 59 cents per half litre while the most expensive beer can be purchased in Iran, Kuwait, the UAE or Papua New Guinea at anything between $7.70 and $5.14. But, when it comes to spending per head, we are kings. At $747.90 we spend more on beer than anyone else. And anyone who tells you that mateship is a myth can take a Captain Cook at these numbers – Australia is second to the Czech Republic when it comes to units consumed with 304 bottles indicating that we are pretty good at getting together over a beer.
Now let’s put some of these figures into context by looking at some general numbers.
Average personal wealth. Australia is number two behind Switzerland when it comes to what we are worth. On current trends we will overtake the chocolate-crafting, knife-making, peace-loving watchmakers in about three years.
Low unemployment. compared to most developed countries we have a very low rate of unemployment – despite what some may have you believe.
Growth. We have a remarkable rate of economic growth which, combined with us dodging the Global Financial Crisis leaves us in pretty good form, generally speaking.
Rich in resources. Despite a slowing of some other economies and orders shrinking, let’s not forget, we still have a fair bit of stuff that will come in handy down the track.
As for beer-related good news, let’s look at a few juicy numbers and facts.
Margins. Australia has one of the highest profit margins for beer in the world. Couple this with price elasticity (we can charge what we like for our beer) and the future looks bright.
Freedom. We can sell our beer. No three-tier system of sales and distribution.
History. No regional protectiveness. At our Oktoberfest festivals we can pour any beer we want, rather than lager beers from only selected Munich breweries.
More Freedom. No government interference in importing of beer like in Scandinavia and Canada. Our pollies don’t tell us what beer we can brew or import and how much we can charge for it.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all that makes us great, but I hope it gives us all pause to think about just how great our systems allow us to be if we can embrace the challenges and work as a team to create something strong and vibrant and all-encompassing. I appreciate that elements of negativity such as tax and excise, population spread and distance and tap contracts and competition have not been addressed here. That’s all for another time.
For today, let’s just drink a local beer and be happy.
Happy Australia Day. Cheers!