Parallel import beer taste test

How do premium imported beers shape up against the locally brewed versions?
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02.Local beer vs imported beer

Taste test results
Label Country of origin Number of judges who preferred locally brewed version Number of judges who preferred imported version Australian brewer
Grolsch Holland 6 1 SAB Miller
Kronenbourg 1664 ** France 6 0 Fosters
Carlsberg Denmark 5 2 Fosters
Heineken Holland 5 2 Lion Nathan
Stella Artois Belgium 3 4 AB InBev
Becks ** Germany 3 3 Lion Nathan
Peroni Nastro Italy 2 5 SAB Miller
TABLE NOTES: ** One expert was undecided between the imported and locally brewed versions.

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If you like the taste of European beer but don’t like the idea of a globetrotting brew, you should have no hesitation about purchasing a beer brewed locally under licence. Of the seven beers we compared, there was no unanimously preferred brew, with local brands on par with their authentic counterparts.

Of the local brews, NSW-produced Grolsch achieved the highest score. Six experts preferred the local brew’s lively full flavour over the import, which they said was “stale” and “hard to love”.

The Carlsberg and Kronenbourg 1664 local brews also scored better than their imported siblings, although in the case of Carlsberg only just. Panellists commended the local Carlsberg for its solid characteristics and good drinkability, while Australian Kronenbourg was commended for its balanced flavours and ability to display the qualities typical of a European lager.

Lion’s Heineken scored just ahead of the Dutch version, and there was an overall consensus that the two were the closest match of the day.

The real deal

If you think lasagne tastes best in Italy and chocolate best in Belgium, you’re no doubt an advocate for authenticity. So what did our experts think of the authentic brews of these two countries? In our test, five of our seven experts preferred the imported Peroni Nastro, despite it being closer to its best-before date than its local counterpart.

AB-InBev’s Stella Artois and Lion’s Beck’s both split the panel, so if you want to bring a bit of Belgium to your backyard or beer hall spirit to your BBQ, let your tastebuds be your guide.

The parallel debate

Our experts also sampled two bottles of Corona, with best-before dates within two weeks of each other, brewed by AB-InBev in Mexico. The only difference: one arrived on our shores courtesy of the official importer via the traditional route, while the other was parallel imported via non-traditional channels. In this case, five out of seven experts preferred the traditionally imported product, although experts said they were overall a well-matched pair and that parallel imports can offer consumers competitive prices and fresh characteristics if handled correctly.

Please note: Local refers to locally brewed versions of the depicted beer; Imported refers to imported versions of the depicted beer; The number in brackets refers to the amount of judges who preferred that beer. Please see the results table for more details.

Meet our experts

Ian Kingham
National Merchandise Manager, ALH Group/Woolworths
Richard Adamson
Director, Young Henrys Brewing Company
Ian Watson
Brewer, Murray's Craft Brewing Co.
Neal Cameron
Head Brewer, The Australian Brewery

Sarah Turner
Restaurant and Events Manager, 4 Pines Brewing Company
 Matt Donelan
Owner, St Peters Brewery
David Lipman
Publisher and Managing Director, Beer & Brewer Magazine

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