Drinking beer is ingrained in Australian culture. Although Fosters is promoted as an Australian beer overseas, it is rarely consumed by Australians in Australia, and is almost impossible to find. Beers are strongly regional and every state has its own brews: Coopers and West End in South Australia, Carlton and VB in Victoria, Tooheys in NSW, XXXX in Queensland, Boags and Cascade in Tasmania, and Swan in Western Australia. There are also local microbrew choices, which can be harder to find, but are often worth seeking out. A wide range of imported European and American bottled beers are available in all but the most basic pub.
Light Lite beer refers to lower alcoholic content, and not lower calories. It has around half the alcohol of full strength beer, and is taxed at a lower rate, meaning it is also cheaper than full strength beer.
Because Australians like their beer to stay cold while they drink it, draft beer glasses come in a multitude of sizes, so that you can drink a whole glass before it warms up in the summer heat. The naming of beer glasses varies widely from state to state, often in confusing ways: a schooner is 425 ml everywhere except South Australia, where it's only 285 ml, a size that's known elsewhere as a middy or pot, except in Darwin where it's a handle, but in Adelaide a "pot" means a 570 ml full pint, and a pint means what a schooner does elsewhere, and... you get the idea. The local beers and the local descriptions are covered in detail in the state guides.
Bottle naming is a little easier: the standard sizes across Australia are the 375 ml stubby and the 750 ml long neck or tally. Cans of beer are known as tinnies and 24 of them make up a slab, box, carton, or a case.
Australia produces quality wine on a truly industrial scale, with large multinational brands supplying Australian bottleshops and exporting around the world. There are also a multitude of boutique wineries and smaller suppliers. Very good red and white wine can be bought very cheaply in Australia, often at less than $10 a bottle, and even the smallest shop could be expected to have 50 or more varieties to choose from.
The areas of the Barossa Valley, Hunter Valley,McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and Margaret River are particularly renowned for their wineries and opportunities for cellar door sampling, but northern Victoria and Mudgee, also have a large variety. You are never too far from a wine trail anywhere in southern Australia.
Try the local wines wherever you can find them, and ask for local recommendations. Try not to get taken in by the label, or the price tag. The best wine is rarely the one with the best artwork, or the most expensive price. However, it is probably wise to avoid the house wine if it comes straight from a cask 4-litre container. Wines at the cellar door are almost invariably sold at around 20% premium to the same wine in the shops in the local town.
If you still prefer overseas wines, the Marlborough region of New Zealand is usually well represented on wine lists and in bottle shops in Australia.
See also Grape grazing in Australia.
Bundaberg Rum Bundy is an Australian dark rum particularly popular in Queensland and many Queenslanders will not touch any other brand of rum, while many other Australians will not touch Bundy. It is probably the most famous Australian made spirit, mass produced in Bundaberg and available everywhere.
You will have to search much harder to find other Australian distilled spirits, mostly from niche players, but there are distilleries in every state of Australia if you look hard enough. Drop into the Lark Distillery on the scenic Hobart waterfront precinct. Pick up a bottle of 151 East Vodka in Wollongong or after a few days in Kununurra you are definitely going to need an Ord River Rum.
Mixed drinks are also available, particularly vodka, scotch, bourbon and other whiskey mixers. Jim Beam bourbon is probably the most commonly drunk, so those from Kentucky should feel right at home. Spirits are also available as pre-mixed bottles and cans but are subject to higher taxation in this form, so it is cheaper to mix them yourself. Spirits are served in all pubs and bars, but not in all restaurants.
Buying a round of drinks is a custom in Australia, as in many corners of the world. It is generally expected in a pub that when you arrive and make your first trip to the bar that you will offer to buy a drink for others you are drinking with. This is what's known as a 'shout'. In entering a shout you are expected to take turns buying drinks for everyone in your shout when it is your turn. It is considered poor etiquette to drink something much more expensive that what others in the shout are drinking. If you cannot keep pace during a shout you are still expected to buy a round of drinks when it is your turn and as such it is advisable to drink with people who pace themselves at a similar rate. If someone from outside the shout offers to buy you a drink politely decline and let them know you are already in a shout. Likewise if someone buys you a drink don't be surprised if they expect one from you later on in the evening as it's now your shout. If you don't want to join a shout, or would like to drop out of one this can be awkward in some groups, however if you provide a viable reason such as having to drive or being on medication people will normally respect this explanation. It is considered very poor etiquette to leave before your shout.
The legal drinking age throughout Australia is 18 years. It is illegal to purchase alcohol for yourself if you are under 18 years of age. It is illegal to purchase alcohol on behalf of someone who is under 18 years of age. The only legally acceptable proof-of-age is an Australian drivers licence, state-issued proof-of-age card or a passport, and it would be wise to carry one if you want to purchase alcohol or tobacco and look under 25. It is illegal to go into a gambling area of a pub or club when under 18.
Often there is a lounge, restaurant or bistro area in a pub or club that permits under-age people provided they are accompanied by a responsible adult over 18 and don't approach the bar or wander around. Some city pubs even have video games and playgrounds for children. Some country pubs have large open areas out in the back where kids can run and play.
In general, you can take alcohol say a bottle of wine or beer to consume at a park or beach. However, in the state of Queensland public consumption of Alcohol is illegal. Alcohol consumption is banned in some public places as 'street drinking'. These are often indicated by signs and is particularly the case in parks and footpaths where public drunkenness has been a problem. However, if you are a family with your picnic basket and blanket out at lunchtime with a bottle of wine, you are unlikely to encounter any problems.
Alcohol can be purchased for consumption on premises only in licensed venues: pubs, clubs and many restaurants. You can purchase alcohol for private consumption in bottle shops, which are separate stores selling bottled alcohol. In some but not all states you can buy alcohol in supermarkets. In those states where you can't, bottle shops and major supermarkets are often found in very close proximity. Although licensing laws and hours vary from state to state, and individual stores have different trading hours, as a rule of thumb, alcohol is generally available in towns to take-away seven days a week, between the hours of 8AM and 11PM, from bottle shops, supermarkets, licensed grocers/milk-bars and pubs. Outside of these hours though, it is almost impossible to buy alcohol to take home; so if you're planning on a party at home, it's a good idea to stock up and check on the local trading hours so you don't run out at 00:30 with no opportunity to buy more. In the state of New South Wales, takeaway alcohol cannot be sold after 10pm. Alcohol is not available at petrol stations or 24-hour convenience stores anywhere in Australia.
Public drunkenness varies in acceptability. You will certainly find a great deal of it in close proximity to pubs and clubs at night time but much less so during the day. Public drunkenness is an offence but you would only likely ever be picked up by the police if you were causing a nuisance. You may spend the night sobering up in a holding cell or be charged.
Driving while affected by alcohol is both stigmatized and policed by random breath testing police patrols in Australia, as well as being inherently dangerous. Drink driving is a very serious offence in Australia, punishable by a range of mechanisms including loss of license. The acceptable maximum blood alcohol concentration is 0.05% in all states, often lower or not allowed for operators of heavy vehicles and young or novice drivers. Police officers are also empowered to randomly test drivers for the recent use of prohibited drugs. The operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of prohibited drugs or alcohol will always result in arrest and a required court appearance many weeks from the date of arrest and it can comprehensively disrupt travel plans. Random breath testing is common early Saturday and Sunday mornings, and many people are caught the morning after.