Monday, 2 June 2014

Brewing in Australia

Just some random piece of shit from an old brewing magazine about Australia.

It's a slightly frustrating article because the most interesting part of the pamphlet it quotes from - a trip around teh Carlton Brewery - isn't included, just the rather bullshitty and flowery introduction. I've chopped the crap out to save you the trouble of reading it

WE have received from Mr. Edward Latham, the proprietor of the Carlton Brewery, Victoria, Australia, a nicely-written and neatly-printed little pamphlet of thirty-one pages, descriptive of a visit to his well-known establishment, and of the premises, plant, and machinery. All these appear from the account, which is apparently reprinted from a local newspaper, to be just what they should be—the best of their kind, and need no Further notice at our hands. There is a pleasant, gossipy introduction, which we may very well transfer to our columns :—

. . . . .

And when a Briton leaves his mother-country, and settles down in one or other of her numerous colonies, he still retains his innate affection for the beer of his youth. Take, for example, our Indian brethren. That they do not outgrow their hereditary love of the national beverage is testified by the twin facts, that a special class of ale is brewed to suit their parched palates, and that ‘India Pale Ale’ is annually imported into the three Presidencies in astonishing quantities. We all know the story of the young Indian officer, who, on hearing through his agents that a fortune of £10,000 had been left to him, and receiving a request as to what should be done with the money, replied, without hesitation, ‘Send for a cargo of bottled beer.’ It is be hoped, for sobriety's sake, that there are not many such hundred-thousand-bottle men to be found now-a-days, but there are very few Indian residents who entirely banish bottled ale from their tables. Even on board the steamers running between England and the East, the consumption of bottled beer assumes gigantic proportions, for we learn from a report dated October, 1865, that the number of bottles of beer used on board the Peninsular and Oriental Company's steamers alone, for the twelve months prior to the date quoted, was no less than six hundred and ninety thousand, three hundred and fifty-nine bottles! Coming nearer home, we notice in the manifests of newly-arrived vessels, hogsheads of draught, and cases and barrels of bottled beers, sufficient to accompany the most Gargantuan repasts—enough, one would think, to wash down all the fresh and preserved meats in Australia. But there are drawbacks to the general consumption of this beer, carefully prepared as it may be, and set apart, like the left-off clothes we read of but never see, ‘ for the colonies.’ It is not thoroughly suited to the requirements of our climate. It is too heavy, too somniferous in its effects for the heat of our summer days, not sufficiently refreshing to the taste, and rather too expensive for universal use. What is wanted to recoup the ‘waste of tissue,’ to appease the ‘drouth’ of sun-baked Australians, is a beer that shall be light, yet good, pleasant to the palate, but not unpleasant to the system, a beer, to use an hackneyed quotation, 'without a headache in a hogshead of it,’ or a suspicion of cocculus indicus, grains of paradise, or strychnine, in a year's brewing. To meet this want, several breweries have, at different times, been started in Victoria, and have met with various degrees of success.”

The ales of the Carlton Brewery, we learn, are in high repute in the Colony, where they have taken many prizes and prize certificates at the various exhibitions. The employes have enrolled themselves into a volunteer fire brigade, not only for the protection of their employer's property, but for that of their neighbours, and have on many occasions rendered valuable service in the suppression of outbreaks in the town. From a footnote we leam that there are already no less than 124 breweries in Victoria, turning out in 1871 more than thirteen millions of gallons of beer, equivalent to eighteen gallons per head of the population, including children, annually."
"Brewers' Guardian vol 3", 1873, pages 320 - 321.
 The quantites of IPA shipped to India weren'y really that astonishing. Compared to the total amount of beer brewed by Bass and Allsopp the quantity taht went to India was really rather negligible. In 1872 167,597* barrels of beer were imported into in India. Less than half of that would have been IPA, say 70,000 barrels at the absolute maximum. Between them Bass and Allsopp brewed well over 1 million barrels.

Could that story of the officer spending £10,000 on beer possibly be true? I'd like to believe it was. But my head tells me there's some embellishment or fantasy at play. If £10,000 really did get you 100,000 bottles, that makes IPA 2 shillings a pop. Which seems pretty expensive, even considering it's in India. British adverts tell me that an Imperial pint of Bass IPA was just 4.75d - about a fifth of 2 shillings. Even if the Indian bottle was quart, that's still a big preice difference.

Mr. Latham seems to be describing Lager: "a beer that shall be light, yet good, pleasant to the palate, but not unpleasant to the system". His brewery would later become very big in the Lager trade. It still is, with delightful beers such as Victoria Bitter.

One of the reasons I've shared this is that I used to walk past the site of the Carlton Brewery every day on my way into work when I live in Melbourne in the early 1990's. God, that seems like several lifetimes ago.

124 is far more breweries than there currently are in Victoria, that's for sure. 13 million gallons is 361,111 barrels. Or about as much as one of the large London breweries. It's a average of just a little less than 3,000 barrels per brewery. Most must have been pretty small.

* Brewers' Guardian, Volume 3, 1873, page 14.


Anonymous said...

"...delightful beers such as Victoria Bitter."

I hope that's sarcasm.

letslookagain said...

Watching movies about the Wild West/American Frontier such as Django Unchained and A Million Ways to Die in the West, they all seem to drink lager, and not ale. Is this historically accurate?

neonmeate said...

interesting! here's some more random old brewery info from 19C Adelaide

Ron Pattinson said...


I lived in Melbourne. Need I say more.

Ron Pattinson said...


probably was Lager they drank out West. As to what colour it was, I wouldn't like to say.

Alan said...

In 1795 at the other end of the empire, a mug of beer was 2 shillings in what is now Toronto. Wherever officers met perhaps there was a particularly hot opportunity for the shameless brewer.