Tagged: Drinking

Beer and Multiculturalism


I recently read an article in Smith Journal about how the influx of international beer into Australia is evidence of the success of multiculturalism. Whilst the article was proudly sponsored by Corona, I couldn’t help but notice that proliferation of overseas brews actually demonstrated the opposite of multiculturalism in Australia.

First up, I’m quite partial to a brew. I’m always happy to try something new, but I’ll always come back my fav bitter or draught beers.

It is true that there is an influx of overseas beers – Guinness from Ireland, Carlsberg from Holland, Bin-Tang from Indonesia, Millers from the USA, Ashai from Japan. For the most part, beers are from, what we could best describe, ‘Westernised’ countries.

What we aren’t seeing is an Afghani Amber Ale. An Iranian IPA. A Sudanese Stout. A Malaysian Malt Brew. A Pakistani Pilsner. A Bahraini Bitter.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics advises that as of the year 2010, the top % of migrants to Australia were from the UK (14.5%); India 13.2%); China (10.3%), South Africa (5.8%) The Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Korea, Fiji & Vietnam all had between 4.5% – 1.8% share of the migrants coming to Australia.

The Australian Department of Immigration advises that the highest number of approved protection visa applicants were from Afghanistan, Iran, ‘Stateless’, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Whilst we are not being ‘swamped’ by refugees (as some commentators argue), what we aren’t seeing is an influx of multi-cultural drinking trends or drinks into Australia. Arguments against this might be:
– Of the current migrants, drinking options (certainly for the UK migrants) are well established here in Australia
– For refugees, a majority of these are from Muslim nations where alcohol is either illegal or strongly frowned up.

Post World War Two migration saw an influx into Australia of exotic delights such as Italian food. The late 80’s and 90’s saw an increase in Indian, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants in suburban Australia. Why aren’t we seeing an influx of Northern African cuisine? Middle-eastern restaurants are still, for the most part, on the fringe of Australian dining.

A cursory glance through the beer fridge at your local bottle shop won’t tell a story of multi-cultural success. It will show that Australian Society likes to try commercial European and American beers, as well as a host of local brews. It will show an explosion of craft and boutique beers. What it won’t show is a large selection from, if I can use the term, ‘New Australians’.

Beer drinkin’ is a long-standing pastime of many Australians. Rightly or wrongly, it’s a part of our national psyche. A ‘thing we do’. You don’t seem to see many ‘New Australians’ in a bottle shop – to the contrary – some ‘New Australian’ communities inflict punishments for those caught drinking alcohol.

Don’t get me wrong – alcohol brings a stack load of problems. Drink driving. Domestic violence. Alcohol fuelled violence. I think as Australians we could probably do ourselves a lot of good by easing back on the booze.

So is beer a good gauge of the success (or lack thereof) of current multiculturalism? Of course. We aren’t seeing new refugees or non Anglo-Saxon migrants enjoying beer. We aren’t seeing brews from their country of origin lining the already overstocked fridges of bottle shops.

Multicultural success to me is being open to a new culture – that of the host and that of the new arrival. It’s about enjoying the best bits of both. The food. The drink. New expressions. New ways of thinking. New ways to express individualism. You can argue that this essay is pro assimilation. You could argue that I’m looking at non-Western cultures through ‘white eyes’, and I totally get that.

I don’t know about you, but I’d love to sit down with one of my new Australian friends over a beer and find out about his culture. About his old country. His family. His hopes and dreams now he is here in Australia.

I’d love to sit down and have a beer with him. I wonder if he would want to do the same with me?