The history of the South Australian Brewing company started in 1859 with the construction of the West End brewery by William Henry Clark. The brewery was situated at the Western end of Hindley Street, which then was the edge of the populated part of the city. Mr Clark quickly fell on hard times and was declared insolvent by 1860, he left Adelaide for Melbourne to avoid any court proceedings.
The brewery was then purchased by Mr William Knox Simms, Simms had previously been a business partner to Mr Clark at the Halifax Street Brewery. Mr Simms slowly grew the business and by the 1870’s the West End Brewery had grown to one of the largest and influential in South Australia.
Another large brewery in the 1870’s and 1880’s was the Kent Town Brewery which was built in 1876 by Sir Edwin Thomas Smith. The brewery was built to be the most technically advanced in the state. and by 1888 the two breweries had entered into discussions about an amalgamation, with the West End Brewery being used as the brew-house and the Kent Town Brewery used as a malt-house. The new business would also include spirit merchants Rounsevell and Simms.
The new company was named The South Australian Brewing, Malting & Wine & Spirits Company Ltd. One of the first major business decisions the new company made was to expand into Broken Hill by purchasing the Broken Hill Brewing Company in 1889. The Wine and Spirit part of the company was sold to A & F Tolley and Milne and co. in 1893 and the company name was changed to The South Australian Brewing Company Ltd.
The Laura and Port Augusta Breweries were purchased in 1893 with the Laura Brewery being closed soon after and the Port Augusta site ceased brewing beer in 1898, though the site was used for manufacturing softdrinks and cordials until the 1960’s. A new business opportunity arose in 1900 with the mines in Tarcoola, it was decided to open a new brewery in Tarcoola though this venture was not successful and the brewery was closed in 1903.
The Adelaide Brewery on Pirie Street was purchased and closed in 1902, with the three main Adelaide Brewery beers being continued to be brewed at SA Brewing.
In 1903 the brewery was the first in South Australia to install a lager brew plant, brewing König Lager Bier, mainly aimed to the German immigrants in the Adelaide Hills and Barossa Valley. The beer was fairly popular and was renamed in 1914 to Adelaide Lager due to the First World War.
By the end of the First World War the South Australian Brewery in Broken Hill had become the dominant brewery in the area when the West End Brewery in Broken Hill was purchased and closed.
With dropping profits after the war the brewery consolidated the brewing sites stopping brewing in Broken Hill in 1925. Also The South Australian Brewing Company had dropped in popularity by the 1920’s with the Walkerville Co-Operative Brewing Company in Southwark, becoming the dominant brewery in the state, and with the popularity of lager beer the Walkerville Brewery installed a Nathan Lager beer plant in 1928.
The great depression hit the local brewing industry pretty hard, and with the large investment the Walkerville Brewery made in the lager brew equipment made the company vulnerable. The South Australian Brewing Company took advantage of situation and they purchased the Walkerville Brewery in 1938, and renamed the brewery to the Nathan Brewery.
The South Australian Brewing Company continued to operate the old West End site as well as the new Southwark brewery site, and after ten years they Nathan Brewery was renamed to the Southwark Brewery. Production was slowly moved to the larger brewery in Southwark and in 1980’s the West End site was closed.
By the 1990’s the South Australian Brewing Company was the largest independent brewery in Australia, and the New Zealand company Lion Nathan who already owned Castlemaine Perkins, Swan and Tooheys purchased the brewery. After the acquisition most of the SA Brewing lines were discontinued, until by 2010 the only SA Brewing beers still brewed were West End Draught, Southwark Bitter and Southwark Old Stout.
The Brewery was closed in 2021 and all brewing moved to the eastern seaboard.
The South Australian Brewing, Malting & Wine & Spirits Company Ltd
B70989 State Library SA
The South Australian Brewing Co.
Broken Hill Brewery c1900
Hindley Street c1930
The News, 8th March 1928
The News, 6th March 1928
The Advertiser, 15th December 1939
The Sport, 3rd September 1940
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