Thursday, 16 February 2012

Aitken's Ale in Australia (part two)

Aitken, big exporter, shipped loads of beer to Australia. That's a quick summary of the story so far. But why didn't they use their famous red "A" trademark?

From various newspaper reports of beer arrivals, I've been able to discover much. Like just how widely distributed in Australia Aitken's Ale was.

Let's go through the different colonies. First New South Wales:

Aitken's Ale, in hogsheads and half-hogsheads, in prime condition-HARRISON AND ATTWOOD, 251 George-street.
The Sydney Morning Herald, Previous issue Thursday 12 October 1893

Now Queensland:

The shipment of Burke's stout per Pass of Balmaha has been sold, and two consignments of Aitken's ale have been sold to arrive.
The Brisbane Courier, Wednesday 8 May 1901, page 8.
Where we also discover that Aitken's bottled Ale was brewery-conditioned:

Aitken's Ale, being entirely free from sediment, is the best for hotelkeepers' use.
The Brisbane Courier, Monday 19 October 1891, page 5.

Now Victoria:
Bottled ales and stouts are moving off freely at agents' prices. Besides other parcels, we are advised of 100 casks of Aitken's ale having been cleared off at current rates.
The Argus (Melbourne), Tuesday 21 September 1886, page 4.

And finally Tasmania:

10 casks Aitken's qt. ale, 10 csks do. pt do., 20 css Burke's light sparkling ale qts., 10 do. do. pts.,
The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania), Saturday 29 April 1882, page 2.
Right, that's Aitken's considerable presence in Australia confirmed. Let's move on to their trademark. In Australia, from what I've been able to glean from the newspapers, their bottled beer was sold with the bizarre "Lifebuoy" branding. You can see what it looked like to the right. Probably the oddest old label I've seen

Here's some proof of its use in Australia:

James Aitken and Co.'s Bottled Ale, "Life Buoy" Brand (quarts).
Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Queensland), Thursday 18 July 1901, page 4

Aitken's Lifebuoy Ale is the best and purest in the Queensland market.
The Brisbane Courier, Thursday 3 December 1891, page 3.

Aitken's Lifebuoy ale 9s.; bulk half-hogsheads £2 5s; hogsheads, £4. i.b.; Tennant's, 8s. 6d. Frans Joseph Lager, 12s. McEwan's, 10s. 6d. and 7s. 6d.; bulk, £4 10s., i.b. Beaver brand ale, 9s. 6d. ; Beaver brand stout, 10s. 6d. to 10s. for parcels. Dogs Head, quarts 11s., pints 7s. 6d. Burke's stout, quarts, 11s. Tennant's, 8s. 6d. Dagger stout, quarts, 10s., for parcels, to 10s. 6d. Pig stout, quarts 10s. 6d., pints 7s. 6d. Foster's 10s. 9d. and 7s. 6d. Aitchison's ale and stout, 10s. and 7s. Lager Bier : Crown brand, quarts, 11s.; pints, 7s. 6d.
The Brisbane Courier, Tuesday 8 May 1900, page 8.
I'm pretty sure I know why Aitken used this design rather than their usual distinctive red "A". Because someone had beaten them to it. Take a look at this label, registered in Victoria in 1871:

It's from Thomas Aitken's Victoria Parade Brewery of Melbourne. Who must have been one of the earliest breweries in Melbourne. Funnily enough, the brewery can't have been far from where I used to live. This is the first reference I've been able to find to the brewery:

THE Subscriber, in returning thanks to his friends for their post support, begs respectfully to acquaint them and the public that he has opened the premises No. 12 Flinders-lane west (opposite the Rob Roy Hotel), where always will be kept a Stock of Ales and Porters, in bulk and bottle, direct from the brewery, at brewery prices.
THOMAS AITKEN, Victoria Parade Brewery, East Melbourne.
The Argus (Melbourne), Tuesday 4 September 1855, page 8.

I'll finish with a question. Anyone know:

  • the exact address of Thomas Aitken's brewery?
  • when it closed?


Korev said...

According to the CUB history closed in 1983
Address 388-442 Victoria Parade now used for apartments cheers

Anonymous said...

388-442 Victoria Parade EAST MELBOURNE

Closed 1983

Ron Pattinson said...

Korev and anonymous, thanks very much for that information. I'm amazed that the brewery lasted until 1983. Hell, I was there just a few years after it closed. The building is pretty obvious, too. Especially the "Victoria Brewery" sign on it.

Ben Lawrence said...

Aitkens brewery was better known as the Victorian Brewery. it merged with several other brewerys in 1906 (Carlton, Foster, Castlemaine, McCrackens, Shamrock) to Form the Carlton United Brewery's. The Famous aussie beer VB stands for Victoria Brewery and was first brewed in the 1880's

Andrew Bailey said...

Thomas Aitken commenced brewing in Geelong, Victoria, Australia late in 1851. He'd been in the colony since 1842. He shifted to a brewery in Melbourne in 1853 and from there opened his large brewery in East Melbourne in July the following year. This successful brewery was purchased by the Carlton Brewery in 1905 and amalgamated to form CUB in May 1907. I'm currently writing the history of brewing in Victoria and would like to know if Thomas Aitken was related in any way to the Aitkens of Falkirk. Happy to exchange detailed information with any english brewery historians.