Apparently, I have a fan in Portland. Portland is in the US state of Oregon, which is the best place in the world because there are about a million breweries there, including the likes of Deschutes and Rogue. Unfortunately, it’s also simultaneously the worst place in the world because it’s not New South Wales.
My lovely Portland reader is very patient, because apparently I use a lot of Australian beer slang that can be a bit confusing. I thought I ought to write something to clear a few things up.
What’s New South Wales?
In Australia, we have a bunch of states and territories. Our westernmost state is called Western Australia and our (almost) southernmost state is called South Australia. We weren’t really very original with those.
On the East coast (the side closest to you Americans) we have the states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, whose capitals are Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne respectively.
Here in Sydney, we don’t really like people from Melbourne because a while ago there was an argument over who should be Australia’s capital city. Because we couldn’t decide, we made a brand new city called Canberra and stuck it halfway between the two.
We also don’t like people from Brisbane, because we have a sport called Rugby League (it’s like American Football but with less clothes and more fighting) and a game called State of Origin, where our two states battle it out to show who’s best. They always win and we’re bitter about it.
This rivalry will be important to know later on.
How do I order beer in New South Wales?
If you go up to the bartender and ask for a beer, the bartender will usually ask back “schooner or pint?”. This is of course assuming you remembered your correct form of photographic ID, it was prior to 10pm and you were allowed into the bar in the first place (we have a lot of laws concerning alcohol).
If you ask for a schooner, you will get 425 mL (that’s about 14 oz) in a glass. It’s such a random number because it’s equivalent to 15 imperial fluid ounces, the measurement system we used when we were owned by the British.
A pint, on the other hand, will get you 570 mL (19 oz) of beer. You can also ask for a middy (285 mL/9.5 oz) or pony (140 mL/4.7 oz), but they’re usually only if you’re tasting a beer at a fancy craft brewery.
WARNING: Do not make the mistake of ordering a “schooner” anywhere other than NSW. In South Australia, you will get ripped off because their poor excuse for a schooner is the same size as our middy. If you want a schooner, order a pint and if you want a pint, order an imperial pint. Also, if you order a schooner anywhere else in Australia, you might as well stick a sign on your back saying “Kick me, I’m from NSW.”
What beers do people from New South Wales drink?
When we first settled this Great Southern Land, the British took their dark bitters along with them. They quickly realised it’s too f*cking hot to drink those most of the time, and we began to make lagers.
In New South Wales, we make a lager called Toohey’s New, but since we are lazy we often just call it New. In Victoria, they make Victoria Bitter, or VB, which despite the name isn’t actually a bitter – stupid Victorians. In Queensland they make XXXX Gold, pronounced Fourex and called that because Queenslanders can’t spell beer. No one in Australia drinks Fosters.
Many people drink these lagers, but craft beer is rapidly gaining in popularity. On a slightly more serious note, this is actually pretty amazing because all of our worldly influences (large multicultural population, influence from America, and British colonial history) mean we have a HUGE variety of craft beer. ESBs, West Coast IPAs, Belgian Farmhouses and German Weizens – you name it, we have it.
What if I want to take some beer home?
If you want to buy beer to takeaway, you must go to the bottle-o, also known as a bottle shop, off-license or liquor store. Most beers come in a standard 375 mL bottle called a stubbie, but there are several exceptions.
Beer can be served in a can, but here it’s called a tinnie. If you want to buy several tinnies at once, chances are you’ll buy a slab, which is the name we give a 24-pack of tinnies. Make sure to keep your tinnies cold in an esky, which is a kind of portable cooler.
You can also buy beers in a larger bottle of 750 mL, called a longneck. We also have growlers (1.89 L) and squealers (950 mL) available from craft breweries, where a longneck is rather referred to as a bomber.
What are some general Australian beer terms I should learn to impress my Australian friends?
Punter – not the college football kind, this is a word to describe a patron at a bar.
Reckon – as in, “I reckon this is pretty damn good.” Translation: “I think this really great!”
Piss-up – The act of getting drunk.
Sloshed/hammered/wasted – The act of being drunk.
Frothie/bevvo/cold one – A beer. Sometimes we actually call it “a beer.”
Shout – When it’s your round at the bar and you owe everyone a drink.
Congratulations! You can now speak like an Australian.