Foster's Isn't Australian For Anything Now

MELBOURNE, Australia (TheStreet) -- Foster's Lager is now about as Australian as Outback Steakhouse.

SABMiller -- aka MolsonCoors ( TAP) or MillerCoors, depending on what corner of North America you inhabit -- agreed this morning to buy Australian brewer Foster's Group Ltd. and its mini-oil-drum-sized cans of lager for $10.2 billion. This is a huge deal in Australia, where Foster's still accounts for more than 50% of the nation's beer drinking through its flagship, Victoria and Carlton labels. As part of the deal, SABMiller promised not to move Foster's headquarters out of Melbourne despite flagging beer sales.
SABMiller's $10.2 billion buyout of Foster's chugs the notion of national beer identity.

Here in North America, it means absolutely nothing. The Foster's consumed here is brewed by Molson under license and is just a cog in London-based SABMiller's beer-lubricated branding machine, which poured out 61.5 million barrels and put $668 million in the till in North America alone last year. A good portion of that revenue came from "American" Miller, Coors and Keystone products and "Canadian" Molson and Carling beers, but also from "Dutch," "Indian" and "Italian" beer lines.

MolsonCoors' main competitor, Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev ( BUD), is just as adept at putting colorful international costumes on its multinational mercenary stable of malted beverages. The beer giant did $36.3 billion in worldwide business last year while slinging 101.7 million barrels of suds in the U.S. alone. Budweiser, a beer that's made itself a yellow, fizzy manifestation of all things American, has been roughly as red, white and blue as french fries and waffles since A-B merged with InBev in 2008.

Netherlands-based Heineken International's worldwide holdings, meanwhile, culls beers from Italy, the Czech Repubic, Poland, Spain and Bulgaria to fuel the $22.4 billion worth of global revenue it raked in last year. We'd tell you straight out what beers London-based Diageo ( DEO) owns, but we'd still like to show our faces in South Boston on St. Patrick's Day.

What the Foster's/SABMiller deal teaches us, besides the fact SABMiller suddenly likes its beer in big-boy cans, is that pegging national identity to a beer is about as effective as linking it to a car or any other mass-produced product. To provide some idea of just how much of a flag-waiving fool's errand assigning a beer to a country can be, TheStreet provides the following list of beers, their country of origin and the home country of the beer behemoths that actually benefit from their sales:

Foster's
National identity: Australian
World headquarters: London, England (SABMiller)

Guinness
National identity: Irish
World headquarters: London, England (Diageo)

Zywiec
National identity: Polish
World headquarters: Amsterdam, Netherlands (Heineken International)

Peroni
National identity: Italian
World headquarters: London, England (SABMiller)

Red Stripe
National identity: Jamaican
World headquarters: London, England (Diageo)

Spaten
National identity: German
World headquarters: Leuven, Belgium (A-B Inbev)

Bass Ale
National identity: English
World headquarters: Leuven, Belgium (A-B Inbev)

McEwan's
National identity: Scottish
World headquarters: Amsterdam, Belgium (Heineken International)

Pilsner Urquell
National identity: Czech
World headquarters: London, England (SABMiller)

Labatt
National identity: Canadian
World headquarters: Leuven, Belgium (A-B Invev)

Brahma
National identity: Brazilian
World headquarters: Leuven, Belgium (A-B Invev)

Tusker
National identity: Kenyan
World headquarters: London, England (Diageo)

Mendicino Brewing Co.
National identity: American (Californian, to be more precise)
World headquarters: Bangalore, India (United Breweries Group)

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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