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By : Beer Adelaide
June 2015
Southwark Bitter is often the forgotten Aussie Lager, usually overlooked by people looking for Australian lagers like West End, VB, Tooheys or XXXX.

Southwark is now getting more difficult to find nowadays with the Woolworths and Coles bottle shops not carrying it, though the South Aussie owned liquor shops are still stocking it.

In this review I will also go though the history of Southwark bitter, one of Australia's oldest unchanged beers, perhaps only surpassed in age by Coopers Sparkling Ale, Best Extra Stout & Fosters Lager.

Southwark Bitter started life as Nathan Bitter, First brewed in 1928 by the Walkerville Co-Operative Brewing Company. The Walkerville Co-Op began brewing in 1889 on Richmond Street, Walkerville, using the old Black Horse Brewery. The brewery quickly became popular and the company purchased the much larger Torrenside Brewery in Southwark (Now Thebarton) in 1898. The Walkerville Co-Operative Brewing Co. continued it�s growth and became the largest brewery in South Australia by the end of World War One.

As most of the breweries in Australia at the time the Walkerville Brewery brewed Ales, but the taste of Australian beer drinkers were changing, the lighter taste of lager beer was becoming popular. The South Australian Brewing Company being the first S.A. Brewery to brew a Lager Beer in 1903, with it�s K�nig Lager Bier. While the new lager beer sold well it was marketed as a German lager and by the end of the decade anything German was not looked upon favorably. The beer was renamed to Adelaide Lager in 1914. It was not until after World War 1 that lager beers were really in demand. The Walkerville Brewery put out a lager beer called WB Lager in the early 1920�s, and it proved to be a great seller. It was decided that a large scale lager brewery was to be purchased.

Leopold Nathan, a Swiss chemist, invented a revolutionary brewing system that featured the complete isolation of the wort from the atmosphere and from potential contaminants, fermentation with a pure yeast culture, and a dramatic reduction in the amount of time required to produce marketable beer. His system was first granted a patent in the United States in 1908, and it was refined and improved over the next couple of decades. Three complete Nathan breweries were installed in Australia during the 1920s, and a further three installations were planned but not implemented.

The Walkerville Co-operative Brewing Company Ltd of Adelaide signed an agreement with the Nathan Institute of Zurich in November 1925 for the installation of its plant at the company�s brewery at Southwark, and this became the first Nathan system to be installed in Australia. It was a major project for the brewery, requiring the erection of additional buildings to accommodate the new equipment. Beer production commenced in the Nathan plant late in 1927, and a formal opening ceremony was held in January 1928.

Nathan Bitter was the first beer brewed and was instantly popular, being sold around Australia. The South Australian Brewing Company was becoming the more dominant brewery in the 1930�s and by the end of the decade they had purchased the Walkerville Brewery. Since the Nathan Beers were so popular they continued to make the beer at the Southwark Brewery, the brewery wanted to remove the Walkerville branding so they renamed the brewery to the Nathan Brewery.

The Nathan brewery was later renamed to the Southwark Brewery, and all the beers were renamed to follow the brewery name change. Southwark Bitter is the longest surviving beer being brewed by the South Australian Brewing Company, going through different branding over the years.

Most people remember Southwark Bitter by its nickname the �Green Death� a name that became popular interstate after Southwark Bitter was exported to Sydney in the 1960�s during a Brewery workers strike, and due to improper transport and storage the beer had gone bad.

Style - English Bitter
Strength - 4.5%
Size - 375mL Bottles
Colour - Light golden straw in colour.
Aroma - A pleasant sweet lager aroma with a hint of aromatic hops.
Malt - A sweet malt flavour.
Hops - Mainly bittering hops used like Pride of Ringwood. Hardly any hop taste.
Overall Taste - A normal Aussie lager in flavour perhaps a little sweeter in the malt department and 25% more hops than your usual VB or Tooheys New.
Overall - As far as big Aussie Lagers go this would have to be my favourite. I have always enjoyed a Southwark on a hot summers day after mowing the lawn or digging in the garden.


Comment: Still by far the best Aussie bitter beer. Interesting to read that it remains unchanged, as many people argue against me when I say that. My dad has always drank it and says that it tastes the same as it always has. He also remembers hearing the brewery manager talking on the radio years ago, when the first blue label was introduced. He declared that it is exactly the same beer, but with a new label. He mentioned that it was due to "Label sickness" that it was introduced. Gave one to a young fellow the other day (His first ever Southwark), and he loved it.

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