Celebrating Aussie-made beer from grain to glass
1 August 2019
AUSTRALIA'S premier brewers, barley growers and hop producers have come together to recognise and celebrate 223 years of true blue Aussie brews for tomorrow's 11th annual International Beer Day.
Since Australia's first (official) brewery opened in Sydney in 1796, making beer has developed a life and culture of its own. The internationally renowned quality of our beers starts with the world's best ingredients sourced from Aussie barley and hop farms.
"Australia is blessed when it comes to beer. Our barley is revered worldwide, although representing only around 5% of the global barley crop we supply around one-third of global malting barley trade; our hop growers have developed new varieties and seen surging demand for their premium harvest, and our water quality and brewing standards are impeccable," Brewers Association of Australia CEO Brett Heffernan said.
"People are surprised to learn that 84% of the beer sold in Australia is made right here by Australians, and naturally brewed from locally-grown Australian produce. In all, that translates to 103,000 full-time Aussie jobs that hinge on local beer production and $16.5 billion to the economy."
Malting Barley: The Soul of Beer
Ralph Nischwitz, Executive Manager of Barley Australia added: "Barley is Australia's second largest national crop, grown in every state except the Northern Territory and covering around 4 million hectares.
"Consumer choice has exploded over the past 20 years. Some older styles of beer are being brought back to life and new exciting styles are still evolving. Brewing activity across both the mainstream and craft sectors has a flow-on effect that leads right back to our cropping farmers.
"The majority of premium and craft beers are made with a higher proportion of hops and malt than many mainstream lager beers and that's good for our farmers, maltsters and a host of other service suppliers in the brewing value chain.
"We grow over 8 million tonnes of barley per year and about one-third of that makes the grade for malting. Barley accounts for roughly 18% of the total Australian grain crop each year. For the 2016/17 crop year, we exported 9.5 million tonnes of barley, valued at about $2.4 billion dollars.
"Australia accounts for 30-40% of the global malting barley export trade. In 2017 about 144,000 people were employed in the cattle, sheep and grain business, so numerous people are employed directly in the growing of barley crops, as many farms are mixed enterprise businesses.
"Craft brewers, big and small, are embracing the flavour opportunities offered by speciality malts and hops. Heirloom barleys, such as Maris Otter and Golden Promise, are finding renewed support worldwide. Two new largescale malting facilities have been commissioned in the past 18 months in Australia and there are even some small volume, old fashioned floor malting plants popping up.
"The production costs are much higher and the quality more difficult to control using floor malting techniques, but the type of malt produced is unique, in demand and attracts premium prices. This illustrates the demand for diversification from consumers.
"In Australia, we have several companies breeding new barley varieties and trialling and promoting international varieties available through their global partners. New and improved varieties are coming into the market on a regular basis, providing excellent choices for Australian growers."
Hops: The Spice of Beer
The hop plant is a climbing bine that produces cone-shaped flowers full of alpha acids, beta acids and essential oils that brewers value for their flavour, aroma and bittering properties. The production of Australian hops has exploded in Victoria and Tasmania on the back of growing demand for our first-class varieties. Total production volume increased by 31.4% and 11.6%, respectively, in 2017; 12.5% and 3.8% in rain and fire-affected 2018, and total output grew by 3.8% in 2019 to over 1,600 tonnes.
"Conducive to the Victorian and Tasmanian climate, Australian hops are both locally and internationally sought-after with forward contracts for the 2020 crop already at 90%," Owen Johnston, Sales and Marketing Manager at Hop Products Australia explained.
"Hops are grown primarily for their flavour impact and natural preservative characteristics in beer. The current crop spans over 700 hectares in Victoria and Tasmania, with 2019 yielding 940.4 tonnes in Victoria and 704.3 tonnes in Tasmania.
"Australian hop growers supply over 500 tonnes to domestic brewers each year, with both classic and contemporary beer styles capitalising on the main Australian varieties' unique flavour profiles. The rest is exported to international brewers for the rest of the world to enjoy.
"The evolution of beer and a desire by brewers to craft the latest flavour has stimulated hop breeding activity. The hugely successful GalaxyTM, which was commercialised just 10 years ago, is now the most prolific variety in Australia, and one of the most indispensable flavour enablers in global beer."
Beer: Bringing Australians Together
"The innovation and creativity of our barley and hop growers is matched across the breadth of Aussie beer makers," Mr Heffernan said. "There has never been a better time to be a beer lover, with more styles, flavours and strength options than ever before.
"The evolution of beer is also reflected in the rise of light and mid-strength beers, which now account for more than a quarter (26.5%) of all beer sales in Australia. A decade ago that would have been unthinkable. Moderate drinking is now the norm in our culture, with 84% of Aussies today drinking within recommended guidelines.
"Beer has evolved and continues to change. While we lament the sad decline in Australian manufacturing, beer has bucked the trend. Breweries, big and small, are investing in local production, local jobs, local logistics and supporting Australia's essential retail, hospitality and tourism sectors.
"Beer in Australia remains a predominantly domestic business, with the three major local brewers (CUB, Lion and Coopers) accounting for 79.4% of sales volume. Independent brewers account for 3.4% of sales, homebrew at 2.1% and imports at 16.2%. Exports run to 1.5% of domestic production."
Media Note: Hi-res footage of the brewing process, specifically featuring the role barley and hops play in making Australian beers, is available at: Making Beer
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