Australian beer: Wikis

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


(Redirected to Beer in Australia article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A bottling machine being used in 1945.

Beer has played an iconic role in Australian life since the beginning of Western colonisation. In 2004, Australia was ranked fourth internationally in per capita beer consumption, at around 110 litres per year,[1] though considerably lower in terms of per capita alcohol consumption.

Although Australia was colonised predominantly by British ale drinkers, the most popular beer style in modern day Australia is lager. This is likely due to the hotter climate of Australia whereas Britain has a cool and wet climate most of the year.

The oldest brewery still in operation is the Cascade Brewery, established in Tasmania in 1824.

With exception of the family owned Coopers Brewery, all of the large Australian breweries are now owned by either the Foster's Group or Lion Nathan. (See List of breweries in Australia.)

Despite its heavy international presence, the so-called original Australian beer, Foster's Lager, has very low appeal and limited availability throughout Australia,[2] and is made mostly for export, or made under licence in other countries, particularly the U.K.


Market characteristics

Within an alcoholic beverage market worth some $16.3 billion, beer comprises about 48% compared to wine at 29% and spirits at 21%. Within the beer sector, premium beers have a 7.8% share of the market; full strength beer has 70.6%; mid-strength holds 12%; and light beer has 9.6%. 85% of beer is produced by national brewers, the remainder by regional or microbreweries. Microbreweries manufacturing less than 30,000 litres receive a 60% excise rebate.[3]

Early history

Parts of this early history have been copied with permission from

The history of Australian beer starts very early in Australia’s colonial history. Captain Cook brought beer with him on his ship Endeavour as a means of preserving drinking water. On 1 August 1768 as Captain Cook was fitting out the Endeavour for its voyage, Nathaniel Hulme wrote to Joseph Banks recommending that he take -

"a quantity of Molasses and Turpentine, in order to brew Beer with, for your daily drink, when your Water becomes bad. … [B]rewing Beer at sea will be peculiarly useful in case you should have stinking water on board; for I find by Experience that the smell of stinking water will be entirely destroyed by the process of fermentation."

Letter to Joseph Banks 1768

Beer was still being consumed on board 2 years later in 1770 when Cook was the first European to discover the east coast of Australia.

Although beer is now the most popular alcoholic drink in Australia, this was not always the case. The drink of choice for the first settlers and convicts was rum

Cut yer name across me backbone
Stretch me skin across yer drum
Iron me up on Pinchgut Island
From now to Kingdom Come.
I'll eat yer Norfolk Dumpling
Like a juicy Spanish plum,
Even dance the Newgate Hornpipe
If ye'll only gimme Rum!
Traditional Convict Song.

Rum was so popular, and official currency in such short supply, that for a time it became a semi-official currency (see Rum corps) and even led to a short-lived military coup, the Rum rebellion in 1808.

Drunkenness was an enormous problem in the early colony.

"Drunkenness was a prevailing vice. Even children were to be seen in the streets intoxicated. On Sundays, men and women might be observed standing round the public-house doors, waiting for the expiration of the hours of public worship in order to continue their carousing. As for the condition of the prison population, that, indeed, is indescribable. Notwithstanding the severe punishment for sly grog selling, it was carried on to a large extent. Men and women were found intoxicated together, and a bottle of brandy was considered to be cheaply bought for 20 lashes... All that the vilest and most bestial of human creatures could invent and practise, was in this unhappy country invented and practised without restraint and without shame"

Marcus Clarke - For the Term of His Natural Life, 1867

As a means of reducing drunkenness, beer was promoted as a safer and healthier alternative to rum.

"The introduction of beer into general use among the inhabitants would certainly lessen the consumption of spirituous liquors. I have therefore in conformity with your suggestion taken measures for furnishing the colony with a supply of ten tons of Porter, six bags of hops, and two complete sets of brewing materials."

Lord Hobart in a letter to Governor Philip King on 29 August 1802

The first (official) brewer in Australia was John Boston who brewed a beverage from Indian corn bittered with cape gooseberry leaves. It is likely though that beer was brewed unofficially much earlier. The first pub, the Mason Arms was opened in 1796 in Parramatta by James Larra, a freed convict.

It is worth noting here that although Australian beer today is predominantly lager, early Australian beer was exclusively top fermented and quick maturing ales. Lager was not brewed in Australia until 1885. Early beers were also brewed without the benefit of hops as no one had successfully cultivated them in Australia and importation was difficult. James Squire was the first to successfully cultivate hops in 1804. The Government Gazette from 1806 mentions that he was awarded a cow from the government herd for his efforts. Squire also opened a pub and brewed beer though an epitaph on a gravestone in Parramatta churchyard casts some doubt on the quality of the product –


In September 1804 a government owned brewery opened in Parramatta followed by a rival privately owned brewery 3 months later. The government brewery was sold 2 years later to Thomas Rushton who was its head brewer. That Parramatta brewery remains the only government run brewery ever operated in Australia. Brewing rapidly expanded in all the Australian colonies. By 1871 there were 126 breweries in Victoria alone which at the time had a population of only 800,000.

Some notable events from this period include –

  • 1824 – Peter Degraves starts the Cascade brewery in Tasmania. The brewery is still operating and is Australia’s oldest surviving brewery.
  • 1835 – Tooth brewery is established in Sydney
  • 1836 – John Warren starts South Australia's first brewery
  • 1837 – James Stokes establishes Western Australia's first brewery. This later became the Emu brewery.
  • 1838 – Mr Moss establishes the first brewery in Melbourne.
  • 1862 – Thomas Cooper establishes the Coopers Brewery. The brewery is still owned and operated by the Cooper family and is Australia’s largest independent brewery.
  • 1864 – Carlton brewery opens in Melbourne
  • 1881 - James Boag and his son James Boag II open the Esk Brewery (Aka Boag's Brewery) in Launceston.
  • 1885 – Gambrinus brewery in Melbourne becomes the first brewery in Australia to brew Lager.
  • 1887 – The Foster brothers arrive from New York with refrigeration equipment and establish the first Lager brewery to use refrigeration in Australia.
  • 1889 – Lager is first brewed in Queensland at the Castlemaine and Quinlan brewery.

By 1900 the number of breweries had begun to dwindle as a result of the recession of the 1890s. In 1901, just after Federation, the new federal government passed the Beer and Excise act. This act regulated the making and selling of beer and made homebrewing illegal. The provisions in this act, regarded by many as draconian, lead to the closure of many breweries. 16 of Sydney’s 21 breweries closed either immediately after the act's introduction or soon afterwards. The remaining breweries began a process of consolidation with larger breweries buying out the smaller ones. Within a short time there were only 2 breweries remaining in Sydney – Tooths and Tooheys. In Melbourne, 5 breweries merged in 1907 to form the giant Carlton and United Breweries.

This process continues today with only two companies – Lion Nathan and the Foster's Group owning every major brewery in Australia with the exception of Coopers, which is still family owned and run; Boag's, previously owned by San Miguel, was sold to Lion Nathan in November 2007.

Brands by region

Before federation in 1901, Australia was a patchwork of separate colonies, each with different laws regulating the production and sale of alcohol. In addition, until the late 1880s when the rail network began to link the capital cities together, the only means of transporting foods in bulk between the colonies was by sea. This prevented even the largest breweries from distributing significant amounts outside their home city. This allowed strong regional brands to emerge and although all but one of the major regional brands (Coopers) are now owned by multinational companies, loyalty to the 'local' brewery remains strong today.

In recent years, mixing of beer tastes due to a more mobile population, major campaigns by the larger breweries to spread their brands outside their home state and the growth of the ‘premium’ beer market have started to erode the traditional loyalties. Despite this, the brand loyalties are still strong with only Tooheys and Victoria Bitter gaining any significant market share outside their home state. The premium beer market does not follow the state loyalties with the major premium brands being available nationwide.

The Brewery on the external Australian territory of Norfolk Island is one of few places left to brew and sell cask-conditioned ale. Its varieties include Bee Sting (a bright ale), Mutineer (similar to a British bitter) and Bligh's Revenge (a dark ale).

Australian stouts

In contemporary Australia, the overwhelmingly largest proportion of beer produced is of the lager variety (Approximately 95%), and most commentary on Australian beer reflects that predominance.

However, dark beers and stout have a venerable history in Australia, and good quality stouts are still made to this time.

Guinness has a very strong following among the music communities in many states, and groups such as the Brisbane Guinness Appreciation Society in the late 1990s promoted it as an alternative to the regular brews. Couple this with the growth of Irish theme pubs and a growing awareness of the Irish roots of many Australians, Guinness has become increasingly available On Tap in recent years. Guinness made and sold in Australia is around 6%, considerably stronger than that commonly consumed in Ireland and Britain.

Mainstream Australian stouts

The following list contains many of the extant brands of Stout in Australia. In general, despite the fact that most of these brands are produced by Australia-wide combines, they are not readily available beyond their State of origin, nor are they aggressively promoted even within their own region. As a result of this lack of commercial promotion, they may not be well known even within Australia, let alone internationally.

Sheaf Stout purchased at a Fred Meyer in Boise, Idaho, U.S.A.

Most of these varieties claim to be made by “traditional” methods, using quality ingredients.

  • Abbotsford Invalid Stout (Vic)
  • Carbine Stout (Qld) (Deleted as of March 2009)
  • Cascade Special Stout (Tas)
  • Coopers Best Extra Stout (SA)
  • Sheaf Stout (NSW)
  • Southwark Stout (SA)
  • Special Old Stout (SA)
  • Swan Stout ( WA)

Boutique Australian stouts

  • Black Bart Stout
  • Colonial Mild Irish Stout
  • Ebony Stout
  • Flanagans
  • Grumpy’s Heysen Scottish Oatmeal Stout (SA)
  • Hat Lifter Stout
  • Iron Bark Amber Stout
  • Mountain Goat Surefoot Stout
  • Oxford Black
  • Russian Imperial Stout
  • SCB Extra Stout
  • Swan Valley Stout
  • Velvet Cream Stout

Speciality beers

Particularly in the cosmopolitan areas of the major cities, speciality brews produced by major brewers and by microbreweries, including a wide variety of ales, are increasing in popularity, as are many foreign beers.

Innumerable microbreweries have taken root across the country, many in small towns. The availability of many such beers on tap is often limited to establishments with independent management. While many of these companies choose to feature subversive brand names, this is not an exclusively Australian characteristic, as some US and Canadian microbreweries use the same marketing strategy.

Beer glasses

There are different names for different sized beer glasses in each state. As young Australians travel more, the differences are decreasing. Most pubs of the 2000s no longer have a glass smaller than 285 ml (10 imp fl oz). Many pubs outside of Victoria now have pints (570 ml or 20 imp fl oz), possibly because of the popularity of themed Irish pubs in Australia, which have always used pints.

Many imported beers will be served in their own branded glasses of various sizes, including 330 millilitres (12 imp fl oz) for many European lagers, and 250 millilitres (9 imp fl oz) for Hoegaarden White.

A request for a "Pot of Gold" may sound like a joke, but in Brisbane it is a valid order of a 285 ml glass of XXXX Gold.

Names of beer glasses in various Australian cities
Capacity Sydney/Canberra Darwin Brisbane Townsville6 Adelaide Hobart Melbourne Perth
115 ml
(4 fl oz)
small beer shetland
140 ml
(5 fl oz)
pony pony five pony horse/pony pony
170 ml
(6 fl oz)
six (ounce) small glass bobbie/six
200 ml
(7 fl oz)
seven seven beer7 seven butcher seven (ounce) glass glass
225 ml
(8 fl oz)
eight (ounce)
255 ml
(9 fl oz)
285 ml
(10 fl oz)
middy/half pint8 handle pot ten schooner ten (ounce)/pot pot middy/half pint
350 ml
(12 fl oz)
425 ml
(15 fl oz)
schooner schooner schooner schooner pint fifteen/schooner schooner schooner4
570 ml
(20 fl oz)
pint pint pint pint imperial pint pint pint pint
1140 ml
(40 fl oz)
jug jug jug jug jug jug jug jug
References: Notes:
  1. Entries in bold are common.
  2. Entries in italics are old-fashioned and/or rare.
  3. Entries marked with a dash are not applicable.
  4. Traditionally 425 ml is a size not found in Western Australia or Victoria.
  5. The "fl oz" referred to here is the imperial fluid ounce.
  6. Townsville is included as Far North Queensland differs significantly from the South.
  7. The term "beer" is ambiguous. Historically it could be a 170 ml or a 285 ml glass in Tasmania, 200 ml or 285 ml in Far North Queensland, etc.
    These days ordering a "beer" will get the standard glass size for the particular pub you are in, which typically could be 285 ml, 425 ml, 570 ml, etc.
  8. "Half Pint" is much more common in Canberra than Sydney.

South Australian traditional beer glasses

Until relatively recently, there were no Australia-wide standard measures for serving beer. South Australia in particular used two unusual measures, these are :

  • 255 ml (9 fl oz) known as a "schooner"
  • 425 ml (15 fl oz) known as a "pint"

Note that the SA "schooner" is considerably smaller than the measure of the same name elsewhere, as is the SA "pint"; the 425 ml (15 imp fl oz) "pint" is 0.75 imperial pint.

Usage and understanding of these names is now generally restricted to people born before about 1960. (i.e. "Baby Boomers" and before.) In contemporary SA pubs and restaurants, the most frequent measure is now the up-sized "schooner" of 285 ml, (an "imperial half pint"), while "imperial pints" are also popular, particularly in bohemian, artistic and "theme" venues such as "British" and "Irish" pubs.

Beer bottles

Darwin Stubby

Most bottled beer in Australia is sold in either 375 mL (Stubby) or 750 mL (Long Neck) sizes. Carlton United briefly have "upsized" to 800 mL, however this has since been reduced to the original 750 mL. Bottle sizes of 330 mL (and to a lesser extent 345 mL and 355 mL) are becoming increasingly common, particularly among microbreweries. In the Northern Territory, the once-common "Darwin Stubby", a large (2.0-litre) bottle is now sold largely as a tourist gimmick, but very successfully. Most bottles are light weight "single use only", though some are still reusable, and in some cases, (e.g. Coopers 750 ml) breweries are reintroducing refillable bottles. In South Australia, mandatory deposits on beer bottles and some other types of beverage containers support a well established network of recycling centres, providing significant environmental benefits as well as generating employment opportunities for unskilled workers.

Response to climate change

Foster's Group, owners of the Tasmanian Cascade Brewery, announced in early 2008 the release of Cascade's ”green” beer that will be fully carbon offset, in all its agricultural and manufacturing processes, including packaging.[4]

See also


External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address