Australian For “No Way!”

15 04 2012

Given me an opportunity to spend an evening with a group of international tourists, and I will knock you over if I have to. It’s the next best thing to visiting there, so I lap up every opportunity I can.

Which is why I found myself last night at the home of fellow Rt 66 fan Croc Lile. Croc had invited me over for an evening cookout with six Australian friends of his who were passing through en route to Chicago. Leader of the Aussie Posse was Dale Butel, owner of Route 66 Tours a thrice-annual motor tour of The Mother Road. Dale and his mates start their Spring tour in a few days, and will be back through A-Town on the 28th.

And what a fun group of guys this was. We exchanged barbs about “American English” and the colorful Aussie phrases we Americans don’t get. Like, for instance, we had bangers on the barbie for dinner. They fit in a bun. And no, they do not involve disproportionately sized blond bimbo dolls.

Dale and company found it slightly amusing that I get my kicks on 66 on a push cycle, given that their tour features Mustang and Corvette convertibles and Harleys. Not that I would ever succumb to pushing my cycle, mind you. The picture of my pushing a bike across America made even me laugh, though.

As the evening wore on, I found myself itching to ask a burning question, one to which I had previously heard the answer, but sought confirmation. It’s the professor in me. Always replicate your work before you start to draw conclusions.

So during a pregnant pause in the conversation, I turned to one of the blokes beside me and asked, “What kind of beer do you guys drink in Australia? All we see is Foster’s over here.”

They cast knowing “this dumb American is not the full quid!” looks between them. Finally someone responded, “No way! We drink Toohey’s and Carlton’s!”

I knew it! It was all just clever marketing! All this talk of Foster’s being “Australian for beer” was a bunch of hooey.

Which got me to thinking (and thinking can be a dangerous thing when they’re passing around coldies faster than the ice could chill ’em): So much of what people of my ilk do is simply lie to other people. Well, maybe not so as you can tell it. But it’s balderdash pure and simple.

To hear the US distributors tell it, Foster’s is synonymous with beer down under. And since most of us haven’t been there, they have been so kind as to clue us in on this little myth. “Just take our word for it. They love this stuff in Brisbane!”

Uh-huh.

Foster’s has been one of the most successful imported beers in the US (along with Corona and Heineken). Some 30 years have passed since it was introduced stateside in those unique “oil can” containers. So radical was the 32oz packaging that some states were forced to reconsider laws that governed the container sizes in which beer could be sold. Besides, there is a certain mystique surrounding the consumption of imported food and beverage, and even if only for a moment, the consumer gets to appear as if they know something the rest of us don’t.

Does it really matter, then, that Foster’s is not exactly the preferred beer in Australia? My sample of six argued this was the case (pun intended). If in our feeble American minds we happen to swallow a tin of lies that Foster’s is all the rage there, what difference does it make?

Maybe it all really is harmless, put perhaps it also shows our gullibilities. The human condition may indeed be one of amazement of people and products from far-flung places, and if the Marco Polo of beer distributors brings home an amber fluid we’ve never heard above before, then I say give him or her a fair go to blather on a bit about it.

Marketing can be as tasty as our evening BBQ, but that does not necessarily make it all legit. Heck, how else do explain that we not only have embraced Foster’s Lager, but also patronize a restaurant chain built on a similar theme?

Maybe that taste in our mouths isn’t so much the product itself, but just the desire to live life to the fullest. Now if I could just get used to the taste of Vegemite. I hear it’s Australian for peanut butter.

Dr “Good Onya” Gerlich

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