A Brief Tale of Australian Beer Brewing

Australians are often seen as the epitome of beer lovers. You would be hard-pressed not to picture beer in any iconic Australian scene, such as friends gathering for a barbecue, surfing in the sunshine, or backyard cricket. 

Since the 18th century, Australia has been synonymous with beer. Australia’s national beverage and cultural symbol is beer, which helped to make the nation famous centuries ago. But what exactly made the country a haven for beer enthusiasts? Where, when, and how did it all begin? Has this piqued your interest as well in Australian beer? Then, let’s revisit Australia’s history of beer and brewing culture as we take a trip down memory lane.

Traditions of the Past

The Cascade Brewery in Hobart, Tasmania, is the oldest operating brewery in Australia, got established in 1824 and is still in business today.

Many of Australia’s long-standing breweries, such as the Coopers Brewery in 1862, the Carlton Brewery in 1864, and the Fosters brewery in 1887, which produced Australia’s first lager, had been founded in less than 70 years.

Brothers Nicholas and Edward Fitzgerald relocated their entire brewery from Victoria’s Castlemaine to Brisbane in 1878. As a result, the Castlemaine Perkins brewery, now known as the home of XXXX, was established.

The Federal Government created a new Beer and Excise Act after Australia’s federation in 1901, which resulted in the act of beer brewing and sales.

When the authorities passed the act that home brewing was unlawful, 16 of Sydney’s 21 breweries started to close, causing a transformation in the beer industry.

The remaining breweries in Australia soon began to consider consolidation. Five Melbourne breweries merged in 1907 to form Carlton & United Breweries. As with most industries, beer production has become more concentrated over the past century due to ongoing consolidation to achieve economies of scale, but most importantly, the brew hasn’t changed.

A Beery Starting

When Captain James Cook set foot on British soil aboard the HMS Endeavour in Botany Bay in 1770, Australia’s rich brewing history began. However, beer was a clever way for Captain Cook and his crew to store drinking water and guard against scurvy. Despite being brought to the nation during British colonisation, beer was majorly meant for sailors and didn’t become widely consumed until the 18th century.

Ale to Lager

We are all aware that lagers currently dominate the Australian beer market, but this wasn’t always the case. At a point in time, only ales were brewed in Australia, and beer was solely dependent on Irish and English ale. However, colonial brewers started experimenting with various ingredients very quickly. Fermentation was used to get done with wild yeast. It did not interact well with the brew, so wild plants got added to give it bitterness. However, ales were inappropriate for the weather because the heat made the brewing wearying and left the drinker parched. Without the aid of hops, lager was first brewed in 1882 at Cohn Brothers’ Victoria Brewery in Bendigo. The Hops could not be used in brewing because no one had discovered a way to cultivate them successfully in Australia, and trying to import them was tough at the time. Thanks to James Squire, the first brewer to successfully farm hops, brewers didn’t begin using them until 1804. He later opened a bar where he sold lagers made with hops.

Rum Before Beer

Australia’s preferred beverage up until the introduction of beer was rum. Rum was so widely used in the early colony that it was considered a form of official currency for a long time. Drunkenness resulted from unrestrained rum consumption by people from all walks of life and ages, including kids. It developed into a dangerous epidemic that resulted in drunkenness on the streets and a prison overflow. The government began promoting beer as a better, safer substitute for rum at the time because it wanted to cut down on drunkenness.

Today, Australian beer accounts for 48% of all alcoholic beverages consumed in Australia, followed by wine at 29% and spirits at 21%. Check out Prancing Pony Brewery’s range of cartons of beer available to buy, and directly deliver to your doorstep. Get yours now!