Thomas Cooper & Sons /

Coopers Brewery Limited


Thomas Cooper immigrated from England in 1852 and started a shoemaking business in Norwood. Thomas’s wife was the daughter of an English brewer and when she suddenly became ill, Thomas brewed a batch of stout as a tonic from the recipe that his wife supplied.


Mrs Cooper recovered from the illness and Thomas found he was a talented brewer, he supplied neighbours and friends with ale. The first batches were brewed in the family bathtub, but this quickly became too small, so Thomas gave up the shoemaking business and constructed a brewery on George Street in Norwood.


In the 19th century local bottled beers were not in favour and Thomas had problems selling his products, hotels would only buy local cask beers and Thomas only made bottled beers. Thomas Cooper solved his problem by selling his beers from house to house from a horse drawn cart, Coopers beers were not available in hotels until the 1920’s.


The Norwood brewery quickly became to small for the increased trade and a new site was sourced in 1872 on High Street in Kensington. This new brewery was stricken with bad luck, firstly with Thomas’s wife Ann Laycock Cooper dying in July 1872, and as this was a very tough time for Thomas and the quality of the beer dropped and his profit also decreased. Thomas remarried in 1874 to Sarah Louisa Perry, and Thomas’s eldest son John joined him full time at the brewery. With this second hand helping out, and issues with the brewery rectified the quality of the beer increased and Thomas’s brewery grew greatly in popularity. In 1881 Thomas decided that the Kensington site was unsuitable to continue brewing and started building a new brewery on one of his paddocks in Upper-Kensington now named Leabrook.


The new site was in a vast paddock and close to Second Creek a good supply of water, no expense was spared to make the brewery better than the previous one in Kensington, the new brewery site proved to be excellent and was in use for a 120 years. Thomas Cooper died on the 30th of December 1897 he had fathered nineteen children and was married twice. After Thomas’s death the brewery was then continued by his sons John, Christopher, Samuel and Stanley. Cooper and Sons Ltd was formed in 1923 but the company remained a Cooper family concern, and still is managed by Thomas Cooper descendants today.


John Cooper died on July 9th 1935 at the age of 78 he was the head of Coopers for nearly forty years. The South Australian Brewing Company Ltd and Coopers Brewery exchanged share in 1962, both company’s brewed totally different types of beer (SAB Lagers and Coopers Ales) the Coopers share were bought back in 1993 when Lion Nathan purchased SAB. In 1968 coopers brewed there first Lager beer called Gold Crown, Coopers Lager beers have only had mild success and there main flagship beers are still the English style Ales.


The 1970’s almost spelt the death knell for Coopers as the popularity of lager beers almost killed off the ale market, and Coopers limped along for several years. The brewery was in so much trouble that the children of the Coopers family were encouraged to find professions outside of brewing as they did not think the brewery would survive. A change in laws making home brewing legal in the 1970’s brought a great opportunity for Coopers, the brewery was all setup to supply beer wort, and was packaged into kits for the public. This extra revenue saved Coopers from going insolvent and injected increased vigour into the company.


In the 1980’s Coopers started to keg their beers and for the first time hotels could sell Coopers from the tap. The real ale movement in the 1980’s saw an increased popularity with ales, a style of beer that was lacking in Australia. Coopers were in a perfect position to take advantage of the new beer movement and rereleased their Light Dinner Ale but renamed to Original Pale Ale. The popularity of their Pale Ale took off like a rocket and the brewery started growing year upon year. The company changed its name in 1989 to Coopers Brewery Limited and underwent a major re-branding, growing on the colonial brewery heritage but moving to appeal to the new young beer drinker.


By the end of the 1990’s the old brewery in Leabrook was increasing holding the company back. The brewery that had once been in a paddock, was now a in the middle of a residential street. There was no room for expansion and production could only be run during normal business hours as they could not disturb the local residents at night. A new site was found in Regency Park and a modern state of the art brewery was constructed. The brewery was operation by the year 2000, the new brewery was much larger and could not operate 24 hours a day, Coopers now had nothing to hold them back.


Since the move to Regency Park the brewery has grown 10% per year, so much so, the brewery was expanded after 10 years and has now almost filled the huge new site. The small brewery that started in a bathtub, growing to be reasonably popular in the 1890’s and then starting a steady decline to almost becoming insolvent in the 1970’s, to now having over 5% of the national beer market. When Fosters Brewery in Victoria was sold to SABMiller in 2011 it made Coopers the largest Australian owned brewery, and the oldest brewery in Australia that is still owned by the original owners descendants. From a 2 million dollar loss in 1992/93 to now earning over 27 million dollar profit in 2011/12, Coopers has been a great success story.

 

 

 

 

Thomas Cooper & Sons
Coopers Brewery Limited

Brewery ID : 5.001.023

Cooper & Sons -1862 to 1881
George Street, Norwood
High Street, Kensington
T Cooper & Sons - 1881 to 1923
Statenborough Street, Leabrook
Cooper & Sons Limited - 1923 to 1989
Coopers Brewery Limited - 1989 to Present
South Road, Regency Park

Established : 1862

Brewery

 


Thomas Cooper

 

 

The Leabrook Brewery 1893


Labels from the brewery

Pale Ale

 
5.001.023.001.0010   5.001.023.001.0020
c1880   c1880

Sparkling Ale

 
5.001.023.002.0010   5.001.023.002.0020
c1890 (Digitally Reconstructed Label)   c1895
 
5.001.023.002.0030   5.001.023.002.0040
c1907   c1923
 
5.001.023.002.0050   5.001.023.002.0060
c1930   c1935
 
5.001.023.002.0070   5.001.023.002.0080
c1940 Smaller Wartime Label   c1942 (Excise Number Added)
 
5.001.023.002.0100   5.001.023.002.0110
1965   1965

Best Extra Stout

 
5.001.023.003.0010   5.001.023.003.0020
1910   1930
 
5.001.023.003.0030   5.001.023.003.0040
c1930   c1935
 
5.001.023.003.0050   5.001.023.003.0060
1940 (Smaller Wartime Label)   c1942 (Excise Number Added)
 
5.001.023.003.0090   5.001.023.003.0110
1965   1965

Light


This is the predecessor to Original Pale Ale
 
5.001.023.004.0010   5.001.023.004.0020
c1915   c1923
 
5.001.023.005.0010   5.001.023.006.0010
1930   c1935
 
5.001.023.006.0020   5.001.023.006.0030
1942   c1960
   
5.001.023.006.0040    
1965    

Gold Crown Beer


This was Coopers first lager beer
 
5.001.023.007.0010   5.001.023.007.0020
1968   1968
   
5.001.023.007.0030    
1968    
 
5.001.023.008.0010   5.001.023.008.0020
c1968   c1968
Released as a softdrink in conjuntion with Passiona   Renamed as there was confusion that it was alcoholic