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Foster's Beer, as we know it in UK pubs and supermarkets, is an Australian brand; it is not an Australian Beer. "Australian for lager" it may pretend to be, but 1.2bn pints of the golden nectar a year are brewed in Manchester, not Melbourne, Australia. Moreover, almost all of them are drunk in Britain, making Foster's Beer this nation's second best-selling standard Beer, behind Carling Beer.
The ersatz Aussie beer, originally brewed under licence, first captured the creativity of British drinkers thanks to tongue-in-cheek television adverts in the early 1980s.
These recommended Paul Hogan – that universal representation of the Australian custom – at a Wine tasting, telling viewers he had brought "enough of the amber nectar to go around for everyone".
So far, so clear. Nevertheless, Foster's Beer was not always a British Beer pretending to be Australian; it began life as an Australian beer mimicking "lighter European-style" Beers.
Production was, started in Melbourne by two American brothers, William and Ralph Foster, in 1887, before they quickly sold up and returned to the United States. By 1907 the company had been swallowed up in the series of mergers that created the Australian brewing combine Carlton & United Breweries.
It was not until 1990 that the brewing business – which by then also had great wineries in Australia and New Zealand – again took Foster's name, though by that time the Beer brand had essentially become a British phenomenon. Little more than 100m pints of Foster's Beer are drunk in Australia each year. Australian drinkers prefer Carlton Draught and Victoria Bitter.
In 2006 Edinburgh-based brewer Scottish & Newcastle, which had been brewing Foster's under licence for more than a decade, bought out the rights to the Australian beer in the United Kingdom, giving them full control of the brand here
The Beer had become a central brand for Britain's largest brewer, despite a personal dislike of the accompanying image of Australia felt by S&N's then chief executive, Australian Tony Froggatt. "They make me cringe," he said of the television adverts. "But that is the Australian image people in Britain like I guess."
By this stage, Foster is the company was selling much alcohol in Britain, though not a drop of it was a lager. Paul Hogan may have helped sell Fosters is the Beer by suggesting it was preferable to wine but for Foster's Group wine had come to dominate sales, with particular success coming from the UK market.
Last month Fosters demerged its wine services but for many years its Wine brands, such as Lindeman's, Wolf Blass and Rosemount, had been among the most common on Britain's supermarket shelves.
Success in wine shipping also mirrored Australia's domestic drinking choices. Contrary to the image predicted by British Beer marketers, Australians drink less Beer and more Wine than both the British or Americans.
Confused? There is one final twist. Three years ago the United Kingdoms operations of S&N were acquired by a company controlled by someone called Charlene. Possibly disappointingly, this Charlene was no more Australian than Foster's Beer. Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken is the London-based Dutch heiress who nine years ago inherited a controlling interest in Heineken.
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