Beer challenges wine at table

Carlton & United Brewing vice president beer business Mel Miles said his company was trying to convince Australians they could drink beer with meals.

“We are going to be delivering food and beer tastings with one of our master brewers,” Mr Miles said.

“It’s an education thing. Consumers are a lot more measured in what they do. Now there is an appreciation that beer is a real alternative to wine.

“It’s rare for a couple to go through more than a bottle of wine with a meal. But they can drink three or four beers in that time which gives a good margin to the retailer.”

The Australian-made premium beer sector is fast growing and may threaten the market share of imported premium beers.

Australian brands have a relative price advantage.

CUB’s WA-brewed Matilda Bay Premium brand has enjoyed 130 per cent growth in the past twelve months in the Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane markets.

CUB general manager WA Graeme Wood said the company was concentrating on building up the Matilda Bay brand in the eastern states.

“I think state-based loyalties have gone out the windows these days,” Mr Wood said.

“Also, customers don’t have the brand loyalty they had ten years ago.”

Mr Miles said Australian customers now had a willingness to try new things.

“Once we get a product into the hands of the consumers they will try it. If they like it they’ll take it up,” he said.

“But it’s difficult – with today’s proliferation of brands – to get the product into the consumer’s hands.”

Inchant Brewing Company in Guildford is one of the State’s most successful microbreweries.

Inchant brewer Ian Jeffery said Australians were gaining a better appreciation of beer.

“Beer should be talked over and can be appreciated alongside any meal,” Mr Jeffery said.

“I brew to the palate. Good beer is as complex as fine wine.

“One of our brews, the Dutch Bock Bier, starts with chocolate flavours followed by subtle strawberry and faint banana overtones.”

Mr Jeffery said Inchant’s beers lent themselves to being blended, “a tradition upheld by the British for ages”.

“They combine light and bitter, mild and tan, and barley and malt to get different flavours and levels of alcohol content,” he said.

“Our Guildford Porter beer, which is 6 per cent alcohol volume, can be combined with Bullant Light to make the flavours less aggressive and drop the alcohol level. Try and do that with a ordinary beer.”

The company’s signature beer is Bullant Bitter, a sweet, malty German pilsner with a distinct hop finish.

Ever the connoisseur, Mr Jeffery considers premium beers should be served in half pint or pint glasses to allow for subtle taste changes.

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