One of the funniest beer slogans of all time has to be ‘‘Foster’s: Australian for beer’’.
Australians know why that’s so funny but, for the overseas readers, allow me to explain. Fosters is unequivocally NOT Australian for beer. In fact, for a beer that seems to be synonymous with Australia it’s funny that virtually no-one here drinks the stuff. I can’t even remember seeing a bottle of it in a bottle shop lately.
Perhaps Henry Rollins summed it up best when he once said on an Australian stage of Foster’s ‘‘you guys wouldn’t leave that out for your dog’’. And yet loads of people overseas for years thought they were drinking Australia’s favourite beer.
Interestingly for such an Australian-associated beer, the Foster the beer is named for are Americans.
Brothers WM and RR Foster arrived in Melbourne in 1886 and were obviously serious about making lager – they brought a German-American brewer and a refrigeration engineer. Then they went and spent up big on a brewery.
The Foster brothers had a neat marketing gimmick – they’d deliver the beer to hotels with a free supply of ice. But the other brewers shut them out and, after a struggle, Foster’s merged with a few other breweries to create what would become Carlton and United Breweries, or CUB.
While it first went overseas during the Boer War, it was the Bazza McKenzie film (starring Barry Crocker as the titular character who downed endless tubes of Foster’s) that saw sales spike in the UK. Paul Hogan then moved in and became the face of Foster’s in the UK. It was then launched in the US and other places around the world while, at home, we stopped drinking it in droves.
What’s the go here?: For those who have just stumbled across this post, I’m going through the excellent Oxford Companion to Beer (OCB) and posting an entry for every letter. Why? Because I have a copy at home but hadn’t really gone through it page by page and I figured this would be an exercise that would force me to do that. You haven’t got yourself a copy of this book yet? Why not? It’s pretty fine.