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History of craft brewing in adelaide   Logo
By : Beer Adelaide
July 2015
From the beginnings of the South Australian Colony, breweries had started sprouting up like mushrooms, from around ten breweries in the colonyís first ten years to around fifty in the 1880ís.

The reason for so many breweries operating, was hotels were owned by the breweries, and if you opened a new hotel you needed a supply of beer for that hotel. So in the late 1800ís there were over 15 breweries in the local Adelaide area, all supplying their own hotels. This number was made even larger with every country town having their own brewery. Beer does not transport well in the heat of summer, and bullock trains would take too long to deliver beer to the little country towns, making the transported beer sour and undrinkable.

But after the 1880ís steam trains started going to the country towns and the large Adelaide breweries started supplying these towns with better quality beer. Slowly the country breweries started to close and by 1900 the large Adelaide breweries started to buy out the smaller breweries.

After World War one there was only five Adelaide breweries and two country brewers operating. This number dropped further after the depression to only 3 breweries in the state. It seemed the public no longer wanted different tasting beers in favor of light tasting Australian lagers.

This trend had spread across Australia and by 1980 the only breweries operating in the country were Ė Castlemaine Perkins, Tooheys, Tooths, Carlton United, Northern Brewing, Coopers, S.A. Brewing & the Swan Brewery. This was also a worldwide trend with England losing most of the century old breweries brewing beer to accommodate the local tastes. This trend was troubling lots of UK beer drinkers so they formed a group called CARMA (CAMpaign for Real Ale).

CARMA tasked themselves with the near impossible job of stopping the small local breweries from closing and getting the larger breweries to make ales again.

As the group started to gather steam, little breweries were started to supply beer to these beer enthusiasts. As these beers gained in popularity the trend started to spread worldwide, finally reaching Australia in 1984.

Brewtech was formed in late 1983, purchasing the old Freemasons Hotel in Fremantle which they renamed to the Sail & Anchor hotel. A small brewery was installed onsite and brewing commenced in mid-1984. The company had immediate success with lots of small breweries popping up across Australia trying to emulate Brewtechís success.

The first craft brewery in South Australia was the Clarendon Brewing Co. which was owned by Normans Winery in Clarendon. The brewery opened in February 1986 but was never really successful closing later in the year. But from this seed sprouted four new breweries. First was the short lived Botanic Hotel brewery, which was only open two years.

Next was the Earl of Aberdeen hotel which in conjunction with Coopers Brewery started the Coopers Ale House operating from the Hotel. This venture was successful and lasted seven years.

The biggest local craft brewery in the 1980ís was the Old Lion Brewery operating from the Lion Hotel in North Adelaide. The Hotel partnered up with Brewtech in WA installing modern brewing equipment into the hotel brewing draught beer for the hotel and importing Old Lion bottled beer from the WA brewery. The partnership continued until 1989 when the Western Australian brewery was renamed to Matilda Bay and concentrated on growing the local brand. The Old Lion brewery continued operation until 1992 only to be reopened in 1996 for a short time. The brewing equipment was sold to Bickfords and moved to Regency park.

The last craft brewery to open in the 1980ís was the Port Dock Hotel. The hotel was an old local pub that had been closed in 1909 by a local preacher. After renovations and new fermentation tanks being installed, both the hotel and brewery were opened in December 1986. Beer was brewed at Coopers Brewery with the wort being pumped into trucks and fermented in the fermentation vessels at the Port Dock hotel. The brewery and hotel have gone through a number of owners over the years, but through thick and thin it is now the oldest craft brewery still operating in the country.

After much success craft brewing fell on hard times during the recession in the 1990ís with their numbers dropping to one by the end of the decade. Luckily at the beginning of the new millennium, craft brewing started to find its feet again. Firstly with Grumpyís brewhaus opening as a brewery from its humble beginnings as a homebrew shop, then the Steam Exchange Brewery and Lobethal Bierhaus.

The local brewing industry is now larger than it ever has been, with new brewers springing up every year.



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