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Drink the World: Australia

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Australia is a hardy, rough and tumble land. A land filled with rugged men in tight shorts that bite into the mid-thigh, where barbecue is king, and even the fluffiest creature comes equipped with enough venom to decimate Canada. A place where they call sandals thongs. To fit in in Australia you must learn the language of beer.

Australian's like beer. They are fourth worldwide in terms of yearly consumption; a staggering 110 litres per person. Walk into any bar in the land and you'll find them hard at work. They're also a competitive breed and now that I've mentioned that they are only fourth they will no doubt unite against me, head to the nearest bar and attempt to become first.

In Australia even the glassware has it's own rules. Beer does not come in a simple glass, but in a Pony, Middy, Schooner or Pint, not to mention the occasional Ten Pot, Shetland, Schmiddy, Butcher, Bobby and Imperial Pint. Buying a beer to take home also requires a thesaurus; a small beer is a stubby, a regular beer -- a long neck, a case of beer -- a slab. Whatever the beverage the seasoned Australian drinker will immediately place it within it's own rubbery coat known as a stubby holder to keep it cool. This is because when it comes to beer, Australian's are innovators. They were one of the first countries in the world to embrace refrigeration and purely to keep their beer cold. If beer could fuel rockets they would have a space program.

The classic Australian pub has the feel of a focal point about it, and often was the first building built in a town, which should tell you something about the nation's priorities. They have a distinct style; imposing, colonial era architecture, a shading balcony with ornate metal facings, a little room at the back filled with slots, which they call Pokies. Historically they've always been male dominated affairs, with a public bar for the men and a ladies lounge for the women, but only if accompanied by a man; a segregation only broken in the mid seventies. They lack the intimate atmosphere of the British or Irish pub. They're more functional. That function is consuming beer, and none more so than on Australia Day, where they celebrate their independence by sitting next to the nearest body of open water and getting utterly s**t faced.

Whilst the country does make some splendid wine, cheap wine in Australia, for which they also have a delightful word; Goon, deserves a special mention and is certainly some of the most memorable, though for altogether different reasons. It comes in a choice of dry white or fruity white, or dry red or fruity red, in five litre boxes with a plastic tap on the front for ease of pouring, and is also available in a ten litre box for that special occasion. If you're particularly unlucky there will be some left over.

As well as beer and wine in boxes Australia is also a land of rum, which they drink in pre mixed cans with cola without hint of irony. Rum here holds the distinction of effectively once being the nations form of currency, something for which they are unique and should justly be proud. William Bligh, the hapless former captain of Mutiny on the Bounty fame, turned staunchly anti booze Governor attempted to ban it's use as means of exchange, a move so unpopular his population locked him up until a replacement could arrive. Unfortunately for Bligh, two years later.

The Australians will certainly keep innovating; they have already pioneered the drive through liquor store and their beer advertising truly has to be seen to be believed. It's a happy country, and happiness in Australia is a sunny day, a lit barbecue and an ice cold beer in a neoprene sleeve.

You really have to admire a country that gets it this right.

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