Canstar Blue’s inaugural Australian Beer review has seen James Boag, XXXX, Coopers, Great Northern, VB, Tooheys, Carlton Draught, Furphy and Hahn rated on taste, value for money, packaging, variety and customer satisfaction.
Knocking the tops off a few cold ones can be a relaxing way to end the day, or to help liven up a get together with friends and family. But which beer goes down the best has been a topic of debate for years, with many swearing – and sticking – by their choice in beer, no matter how many new entrants and flavours pop up at the bar. But whether you’re a fan of lagers, stouts, pale ales or anything in between, there is no shortage of options for Aussies to try, with plenty of brands on tap to help us quench our thirst. But when it comes to Australian beer, which brand is the go-to for pundits?
That’s what Canstar Blue is looking to find out, surveying nearly 700 Australian adults who have recently purchased and consumed Australian beer (i.e. that has been brewed in Australia), so we could turn their feedback into the ratings table you see above, with brands compared on important factors like taste, value for money, packaging and variety. Brands that received the minimum survey sample size of 30 responses are featured in our results. So, after pouring over the results, what did we find?
It looks like James Boag has tapped into the right formula, scoring five stars across all categories in Canstar Blue’s inaugural Australian beer ratings, with top marks for taste, value for money, packaging, variety and overall satisfaction.
Here are the best Australian beer brands, as rated by consumers in Canstar Blue’s inaugural review:
James Boag came out on top in our 2021 ratings, earning five stars across all categories, including taste, packaging, variety, value for money and overall satisfaction. XXXX joined James Boag with five stars for taste, value for money and packaging, with Coopers also getting in on the five-star action, achieving joint top-spot position for value for money, packaging and variety.
It was a mixture of three and four-star results for the remaining brands, with XXXX, Coopers, Great Northern Brewing Co., Victoria Bitter, Tooheys and Carlton Draught all rated four stars for overall satisfaction, while Furphy and Hahn finished on three stars overall.
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Named after its creator, James Boag was established in 1881 after Boag travelled to Australia from Scotland. Today, the brand claims to combine natural ingredients with Tasmanian water to produce its popular selection of beer. James Boag’s line-up includes the Premium Lager, Premium Light, Draught, Draught Light, XXX Ale and the Wizard Smith’s Ale ranges, with all beers produced in the Launceston brewery. James Boag is currently owned by Lion, a Trans-Tasman subsidiary of Kirin.
One of arguably the more popular beers in the Sunshine State, XXXX was launched in 1924 by Castlemaine Brewers, named after the town of Castlemaine in Victoria, where the company was first founded in 1857. Offering four beers – XXXX Gold, XXXX Dry, XXXX Bitter and Summer Bright – XXXX is brewed in Brisbane, Queensland, and is currently owned by Lion.
Founded in 1862 by Thomas Cooper, the Coopers Brewery is based in Adelaide and offers a wide variety of beers, including ales, stouts, lagers and low alcohol options. Coopers’ full range of beers includes Sparkling Ale, Original Pale Ale, XPA, Pacific Pale Ale, Mild Ale, Dark Ale, Extra Stout, Stout, Coopers Dry, Premium Light, Birell and seasonal options. Coopers is currently owned by the Cooper Family, which also distributes a number of overseas beers throughout Australia.
With the tag line ‘The Beer From Up Here’, along with the name of the beer itself, you can guess where this beer is from. Yep, up north. Originally founded in 1924 as the Cairns Brewery Company, the Northern Australian Breweries took over a few years later, before it was acquired by Carlton & United Breweries in 1931. Great Northern’s range of beer includes the Original (distinguishable by the white Marlin fish), Super Crisp (featuring a black Marlin fish) and Zero (featuring a blue Marlin fish), and is currently brewed in Yatala, Queensland.
First brewed in 1854, Victoria Bitter – simply known as VB – has the tagline ‘For a Hard Earned Thirst’, and sticks with what it knows, currently only offering one beer in its line-up. A full-strength beer, VB is made from Ringwood Hops and is still brewed in Victoria. Currently, VB is owned by Carlton & United Beverages.
A beer from New South Wales, Tooheys was founded in Sydney in the 1860s, where brothers John Toohey and James created the brand. Still produced in Sydney, Tooheys offers three beers – Tooheys Old Dark Ale (based on the first original batch of Tooheys that was created 150 years ago), Tooheys New, a lager that was first produced in 1931, as well as Tooheys Extra Dry. Tooheys was acquired by Kirin in 2009 and operates under the Lion beverage group.
Beginning in 1864, Carlton Draught was founded in Carlton, Victoria, and most likely known as the brand behind the ‘It’s a Big Ad’ marketing campaign from a few years ago. It’s also been labelled the official beer of the AFL, and is still manufactured in Victoria. Offering Carlton Draught and Carlton Mid, the brand currently operates within the Carlton & United Breweries, itself a subsidiary under the Foster’s Group.
With a name linked to telling a tall tale, Furphy has a rich history in storage tanks, in both fermenting tanks to brew beer, along with the Furphy Water Carts used throughout World War I. Established by John Furphy in the 1880s, the Furphy beer is still manufactured in the Geelong brewery, offering the Refreshing Ale and the Crisp Lager in stores. Furphy beer is currently owned by Little Creatures Brewery, which is owned by Lion.
Another beer from Sydney, Hahn was founded by Dr. Charles Hahn in 1988, experimenting with names such as Sydney Bitter, before sticking with the Hahn namesake. Currently offering Hahn Ultra Crisp, Hahn SuperDry, Hahn SuperDry 3.5 and Hahn Premium Light, all Hahn beers are still produced in Auburn, NSW. Hahn is now owned by Lion, after being acquired by the Japanese company in 1993.
While there are a number of beers that are still brewed, bottled and manufactured in Australia, not all are actually Australian-owned. Of the major brewing companies in Australia, Coopers – which also now brews and distributes Carlsberg and Sapporo in Australia – is arguably the biggest Aussie-owned player in the market, although there are a number of independent breweries also owned and operated in Australia.
While Australia is arguably a beer-loving country, we’re a bit divided in terms of what size beer can come in when you go down to the pub. To give you a brief rundown of the glass sizes around Australia, check out the sizes below, and what each is called around Australia to save you some potential embarrassment when it’s your shout.
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It’s a debate that’s raged across many a pub, dining room table, kick-ons and parties, but which Aussie beer raises the bar amongst its peers ultimately comes down to your personal preferences. While some of us prefer a nice, crisp lager, others will prefer a pale ale, with some even opting for a zero-alcohol alternative as their beer of choice. As a result, whichever beer brand and type you reach for when you open the fridge comes down to a number of factors, including price, taste, if you prefer cans to stubbies and, while you should always enjoy responsibly, how much alcohol content is in each serving. At the day however, you’ll want a beer that you can enjoy every mouthful of, so going with your gut and picking one that tastes good, and doesn’t break the bank, will always be a winner. And if your friends and family don’t agree with your choice in beer, that just means more for you! If you’re running low, check out our ratings on liquor retailers to see what retailers are on tap.
For more information on consuming alcohol responsibly, refer to the government guidelines.
This report was written by Canstar Blue’s Content Projects Lead, Dean Heckscher. He’s our resident expert on all things automotive, health & fitness, streaming and more. Dean is also one of Canstar Blue’s customer research report producers, helping to turn complicated subjects into easily-digestible information for our readers. He’s passionate about helping consumers make better-informed purchase decisions on all manner of consumer goods and services.
Photo Credit: Viiviien/shutterstock.com, Merla/shutterstock.com
Canstar Blue surveyed more than 3,000 Australian small to medium-sized business owners or key decision-makers (i.e. the key decision-maker for the business) across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have purchased and consumed Australian beer (i.e. brewed/fermented in Australia, NOT overseas) in the last 12 months – in this case, 695 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then by mean overall satisfaction. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
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