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Beer-loving Aussies are turning to a softer brew

Australians, long regarded as a nation of beer drinkers, are turning soft and a bit more sober on their choice of brew.

by: Rob Taylor | 08 May 2007

After 113 years, the country's biggest selling beer, Victoria Bitter, or VB, is to be produced in a mid-strength version to keep pace with the country's fast-changing beer tastes.

VB, with its distinctive green label, has since 1894 been a staple of hard-drinking backyard barbecues, student revels and football games, not to mention healthy overseas exports.

Now brewer Foster's has decided for the first time to produce the beer in a weaker yellow-label version with 3.5 percent strength, down from 5 percent, as Australians abandon it for scores of more upscale "boutique" or craft beers.

Beer conscious
Mid-strength and boutique beers are the new darlings of Australia's AU$5.5 billion (AU$4.5 billion) beer industry, with 12 percent annual growth against flat sales for mainstream beers.

New boutique breweries including Cascade, Boag's and James Squire have won huge followings in most city pubs. While so-called microbreweries such as Little Creatures, Mountain Goat and Blue Tongue have lured drinkers away from VB in droves.

In April boutique breweries in the state of Western Australia demanded the government provide them with tax breaks enjoyed by the country's global wine industry to help them grow further.

Hundreds of craft breweries are opening and aiming to rival small European makers, turning Australians away from traditional lagers and to more complex beer styles.

Watson said the new yellow VB would be backed by a AU$35 million advertising campaign. Image:A bottle of Foster's beer

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