New Year – a time for Beer glorious Beer!

You know the old joke: How do Queenslanders spell “beer”? Answer: XXXX

Well, here is something that is not a joke. Since 28 August 2009, your friendly Australian Federal Government, via its agency the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has changed the definition of beer!!! And I quote the ATO:

”In summary, a beverage is a beer if it is brewed and:

-is the product of the yeast fermentation of an aqueous extract of predominantly malted or unmalted cereals, but may also contain other sources of carbohydrates

-contains hops, or extracts of hops, so that the beverage has no less than four International Bitterness Units. If it contains other bitters, the beverage must have a bitterness comparable to that of a beverage with no less than four International Bitterness Units

-may have spirit distilled from beer added to it if that spirit adds no more than 0.5% to the final total volume of alcohol

-may have other substances, including flavours, containing alcohol (other than beer spirit) added to it but only if that alcohol adds no more than 0.5% to the final total volume of alcohol

-contains no more than 4% by weight of monosaccharide and disaccharide (sugars)

-does not contain any artificial sweeteners, and

-has an alcohol content more than 1.15% by volume.”

Stop the presses!!! Obviously Lion Nathan and Fosters have gotten their beer marketing all wrong. Instead of “a hard earned beer for a hard earned thirst”, they need to tell the punters that their beer is “the yeast fermentation of an aqueous extract of cereals that contains no less than four International Bitterness Units”.

Crikey! Who knew that we had International Bitterness Units (IBU’s)? In Germany it appears to be more dangerous for a beer maker and publican to play loose with the truth when it comes to IBU’s. In Germany selling Pilsner beer with an IBU value below 20 constitutes fraud!!!

After all that you would expect a beer with a higher IBU to taste, well, more bitter than a beer with a lower IBU. According to my research at http://www.sizes.com, “The International Bitterness Unit is NOT a measure of perceived bitterness, but of the concentration of a certain class of chemical compounds from hops.” And to measure the level of IBU’s you need a spectrophotometer in your chemistry kit!

It appears that the male fantasy of being a beer taster in a brewery is at least an exaggerated one. While many consider a nice cold beer is one of life’s simple pleasures and beer may well be simple for a Queenslander to spell, you nevertheless need a chemistry degree and a laboratory full of equipment to avoid breaking the law in Australia or committing fraud in Germany!

As another New Years Eve celebration approaches, it is cheers from me and remember – be responsible – don’t drive and consume your International Bitterness Units at the same time!

STOP PRESS: Really, Australians and Germans are so prudish concerning the definition of beer when you compare them to the Russians. For the Russians, beer is more a food than alcohol and well, beer at 5% alcohol is hardly alcohol at all when you compare it to 40% alcohol vodka! Get the story here.

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