My 11th-grade history teacher opened the first day of class by asking us to write down everything we knew about Christopher Columbus. Of course, we all knew he came to America—or somewhere near America, anyway—in 1492, and his ships were called the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. The better students also knew the names Isabella and Ferdinand, and perhaps even that they were either Spanish or Italian, and that Columbus was the other. That was about it.
The teacher collected our answers, scanned them, and told us we were in for a treat that year, because we were finally going to learn what the fuck was up. He explained how ridiculous it was that we wasted time memorizing the names of the man's frigging boats when we knew nothing of his true historical impact.
We were excited to think that we'd happened upon the rare adult willing and able to tell us the Deep Truth, but it was not to be. The teacher turned out to be astonishingly lazy and self-satisfied, so instead of spending the year hipping us to Columbus's real legacy, he mostly just had us grade each other's open-book quizzes while he read the paper. But nevertheless, I did come away from the experience with an awareness that much of what we are taught—or choose to learn—is nonsense.
Alas, acknowledging a problem isn't the same thing as solving a problem, which is why I still don't know much about Australia beyond the most common clichés. Even though Australia's one of the few countries I've actually visited, when I sat down to write this morning, all I could come up with were the typical stereotypes: It's a former penal colony full of kangaroos and blonde people, everything is poisonous, everyone loves to drink and fight and gamble, the leading causes of death are sunshine and sharks, so on and so forth, they play cricket, Olivia Newton-John was actually born in England, etc.
But, for all my ignorance, I do have one new thing to add to the pile: Australians don't drink Foster's. The brand's slogan may be "Australian for Beer," but Aussies know it better as "Some SABMiller-owned marketing garbage that's mostly brewed overseas these days." It's true that Foster's started off in the late 19th century as a legitimately Australian beer (though the company was founded by a couple of New York transplants), but a century of mergers and buyouts and standard beer-industry ebbs and flows has reduced it to an afterthought in its homeland.
I didn't see a single can of it during the few weeks I was there—and I'm really good at seeing beer—plus this guy says Australians simply don't drink it anymore. Americans might cringe at the notion that the rest of the world thinks we all drink Budweiser for breakfast, but we also have to admit that a lot of us do. We may not want Bud to represent us internationally, but for worse or for worser, it is, in fact, ubiquitous here. Not so with Foster's in Australia, where they're smart enough to drink Victoria Bitter, Toohey's, Cooper's (my favorite), or just about anything else they can get their hands on.
The iconic blue 25.4-ounce can of Foster's Lager you see in your liquor store was produced by Oil Can Breweries in either Georgia or Texas. The fact that it's contract-brewed is fine by me; nothing good comes from shipping a can of beer 10,000 miles. And that's the nicest thing I have to say about Foster's.
It should be guzzled straight from the can, but in the interest of science, I poured some into a glass. It has a classic bad-lager look: translucent yellow with tons of giant bubbles that froth up into a creepily persistent lumpy, white head. It has a typical adjunct-lager aroma dominated by a sweet cracker smell that suggests store-brand Wheat Thins left on the shelf a year too long. It tastes like … ah, you know. It takes like shit. Like the worst version of this type of beer.
Foster's is barely Australian, barely drinkable, and an insult to our collective intelligence. We might not know much, but we know better than to drink bad beer.
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Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
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