Australia brewer launches $1-a-sip boutique beer

SYDNEY Tue Jun 2, 2009 1:38pm IST

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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - A boutique Australian brewer has launched a vintage stout at a recession-defying price tag of A$25 ($20) a bottle, and they expect the brew to sell out next week as beer lovers continue to slake their thirst for luxury.

A case, or 24 bottles, of popular Australian brews such as Victoria Bitter sell for about A$38, a bargain compared to a case of Tasmania-based Moorilla's Moo Brew 2008 Vintage Stout, which retails for a hefty A$600.

But assistant brewer David Macgill said the stout, which is brewed once a year and aged in oak barrels, is more like a fine wine than an ordinary beer, which explains the price tag.

"Unlike most beers, this one gets better with age and can be cellared for up to three years," he told Reuters by telephone.

"There are also only 1515 bottles available, and each one bears a number. So far, we've sold 800 to 900 bottles." Most buyers are Australians who are looking for "something special," Macgill said. Last year, a limited-number of the Moorilla stout sold out in just over a week.

"It's an imperial stout with a round mouth feel. It's got a lot of dark, roasted malt, which brings a chocolate flavor and the oak balanced that out. It's also got 7.95 percent alcohol, so you get a little bit of a heat toward the end," he said.

Despite its steep price, the stout, however, is Australia's third most expensive locally brewed beer, Macgill said, adding he believed there was still a niche market for gourmet food and drink despite the global economic crisis.

"I think beer will be the last thing to go as far as luxury is concerned," he said. "Beer is becoming the new wine to more people, and despite the global economic crisis, there is a market for extraordinary products."

($1=A$1.23)

(Writing by Miral Fahmy, editing by James Grubel)

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