The beers we drink round here

Once upon a time, the only beer you could get was the one brewed by your local brewery. That was in the days before refrigeration, where accepted wisdom was that people should only drink beer within sight of the brewery.

Things got better and soon the quality of beer improved so that breweries could service a whole state. And this led to state-based drinking; the drinkers in that state would be super-loyal to their brew, insisting that it didn’t taste like that piss from over the border – even though it probably did.

Then things got even better and we started getting beers from all around the world turning up in suburban bottle shops. Just think about that for a second – we can now get the likes of Sierra Nevada beers from the United States popping up in suburban bottle shops all over Australia. And they taste pretty fresh.

Now, in this era of globalisation it might seem a safe bet to assume the parochial era of Australia beer is long gone. But you’d be wrong. There are still beers peculiar to each state and – they might even be beers you’ve never heard of before.

From what I’d been able to figure out, the only place that doesn’t have a local-only beer is Canberra. Some of these beers we’re about to talk about can be bought via the internet, so they’re not impossible to get; but you do have to do some work for them. Others, well, I had to rely on beer mules to pick them up.


So lets start off with my home state of NSW. The range of Reschs beers – including the ‘‘silver bullet’’ that is Reschs Pilsener – are only available in NSW. It’s become the NSW hipster’s ironic drink of choice. Because hipsters are idiots who drink things to make a statement rather than because they actually like them. By the way, I’m not sure if it’s spelt Reschs, without the apostrophe, or Resch’s, with one. But neither is CUB – they spell it without an apostrophe on the bottles but with one on tap handles. Yes, things like this annoy me.

There’s also a tasty dark beer called Sheaf Stout, which I understand is only available in NSW.

CUB also make a Queensland-only beer in the form of Power’s Gold, so named for the former publican Bernie Powers who took on Alan Bond in the beer business – and won. Of these local beers, this was the only one I didn’t get a chance to try, but, given Dan Murphy’s description of the beer as ‘‘cheap and value for money’’, I’m kind of glad about that. Because in that context, the word ‘‘cheap’’ doesn’t appear to be a reference to cost.

Down south in Victoria, they’ve got the newest parochial beer – made by Little Creatures,. though you’d hardly know it because the name is printed in teeny weeny writing on the label. Called Furphy’s Refreshing Ale, it’s apparently only available on tap in Geelong and, as for bottles, well, that’s only in Victoria.

While it’s a beer that has confused some beer geeks in Victoria – ‘‘why would craft beer brewer Little Creatures want to make a mainstream beer?’’. It is a fair question and it does seem a curious backwards step. But I still found it a tasty beer when compared to others in the parochial beer space.

There’s also a Victoria-only stout in the oddly named Abbotsford Invalid Stout. I can only assume that was named back in the day when beer was thought of as nutritious and likely to help the bedridden.


Over Bass Strait and into Tasmania and we have the mother lode of parochial beers. Which is weird because it’s the smallest state. Those islanders are keeping no fewer than FOUR beers from the rest of the country – Cascade Draught and Cascade Bitter, as well as XXX Ale and Wizard Smith’s from Boag’s. And, despite best efforts, I couldn’t get any of them by mail order. I had to rely on a beer mule to bring back the Cascade beers. And neither were that great – in fact they tasted so similar I wouldn’t be surprised if they used the same yeast.


Heading over to South Australia and, once upon a time, the local beer was Dr Tim’s Traditional Ale. But I’ve seen that in more than a few bottle shops in NSW, so it doesn’t count. Which leaves the South Australians with West End Draught, established in 1859 but owned by Lion since 1993. The bottle proudly claims to be ‘‘South Australian brewers since 1859’’ but also ‘‘brewed and bottled in Australia’’.

Not ‘‘South Australia’’ but ‘‘Australia’’ – which leads me think there’s not a lot of South Australian brewing of West End going on any more. Which is good, because I had to pour it down the sink after a few sips because of a weird plastic note through the beer.

They also have Southwark Stout, which I can’t class as a state-based beer because though it does pop up in NSW every now and then.


Another local beer with misleading brewing origins is WA’s Emu Bitter. It’s ‘‘beer for Western Australia’’ but is brewed in South Australia and shipped over. It’s also ‘‘a real bitter for a real man’’, so Western Australian hipsters know to keep their hands off.

It’s still hard to find anywhere else but Western Australia – I ordered some through Dan Murphy’s. And, with God as my witness, it’s not that bad; for a mainstream beer there’s a surprisingly high level of bitterness which makes Emu pretty interesting.

And we finish our local beer trip around Australia at the Northern Territory and the only local beer that comes in a bloody big bottle. This would be NT Draught, the beer that filled up the Darwin Stubby. I got to try a schooner of this on a trip to the Northern Territory last year. After a few days of travelling on a bus, camping at night, I was hot, tired, dirty and cranky – and the NT Draught went down well. So I had another one.

Glad I did, seeing as how CUB has all but ended brewing NT Draught.

There you have it, at least nine examples that state-based beers are still alive and well. So if you’re on Untappd, there’s a few more unique check-ins to hunt down.

13 replies »

  1. I’ve recently been reading Keith Deutsher’s ‘Breweries of Australia’ and although it’s more about the breweries than the product, it’s fascinating reading about how some of these iconic state beers got their start. It’s also amazing how many breweries there used to be prior to ~1920, so I think we still have room for a few more!

    There used to be quite a few Tassie beers that didn’t leave the island, but they’ve been dropped over time. Boag’s Strongarm and Export* Lager come to mind. Is Cascade Export* Stout available up your way? From memory it’s a pretty good beer with coffee flavours…although I haven’t had it for yonks. I can sent up some Boag’s XXX and Wizard Smith’s next time I’m in Tassie if you’re interested.

    Not only does Tassie have its ‘state’ beers, it used to be divided in two – Boag’s for northern Tasmania and Cascade for south. The line still exists, but has been blurred somewhat.

    Fun fact: Boag’s XXX Ale is either called Boag’s Red or Strawberry Kisses, relating to the colour and X’s – no local would ever call it 3X! I also highly doubt it’s an ale. It is starting to sneak into a few pub’s fridges here in Melbourne.

    * Funny how Export never really meant export.

  2. Most of those beers mentioned made it into Victoria. The only one I’m not sure about is the Reschs pilsner… They did push Reschs down here for a short while in the 90s but it wasn’t very successful. I don’t remember that label though.
    I spotted the Southwark stout in a local bottle shop sometime in the last couple of weeks. I’ll have to revisit that one as it has been a long time.
    Fosters has heaps of regional brands that they have retired or semi retired, like Ballarat Bitter and Geelong Bitter. Abbots lager was around until relatively recently. There used to be a Double extra stout that I liked far more than the invalid stout too but I don’t think I’ve seen that one since the mid 90s. This covers the naming of the invalid stout – http://www.goodfood.com.au/good-food/drink/a-brief-history-of-melbournes-love-affair-with-beer-20150815-gizppl.html

    • Cheers, Paul. I really wish those big breweries with those heritage brands would bring them back for short runs.
      Maybe even combine a few in a Heritage Pack – it’d sell well. I’d certainly buy them.

  3. Furphy’s is reasonably available on tap in Melbourne now. Particularly in pubs that are pretty Lion Nathan heavy. But I’ve seen it around the way in more ‘crafty’ type venues. I think it would have been cooler if they left it more Geelong based.

  4. There’s plenty of beer only available in Canberra worth visiting for. My favourites are at a local brewpub Zierholz, but others may like the offerings at another local brewpub BentSpoke more.

      • Ah, well hopefully Pact Beer Co. get into the mainstream one day! Although with the ACT being so small it’s unlikely they’ll ever be only available in the ACT.

  5. It’s easier to get a ‘craft’ micro beer from the depths of Europe than to get a Rechs in Melbourne Metro . I went into a Dan Murphy’s recently and the guy just said “never heard of Rechs is that a new one ?” I mean yes it may not sell in numbers like the local ones but there are plenty of ‘ boutique ‘ ones that seem to gather dust on the shelf . It’s actually Australian and a top seller in NSW.

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