In Australian beer history circles, a major highlight of the year just ended was the publication of Alison Painter’s history of the brewing industry in South Australia. Entitled Beer Barons or Bankrupts? Early Brewers in South Australia, this generously illustrated, splendidly produced and meticulously researched book traces the dozens of breweries that opened and mostly closed in South Australia from the foundation of the colony in 1836. It ends in the 1950s, when the failure of the Springfield Brewery left only the South Australian Brewing Company, with its two large breweries, and the much smaller Cooper and Son to share the field.
Painter is no stranger to her subject, having previously authored corporate histories of Cooper and Son (Jolly Good Ale and Old, 1987, second edition 1998) and J. and A. G. Johnston Limited (Brewers and Hoteliers: the Johnstons of Oakbank, 2004). Her latest work, however, is far broader in scope. Although it necessarily retraces some of the ground of her two previous books, and of Michael Cudmore’s History of the South Australian Brewing Company Limited (1988), what delights me most about this work is its close attention to the many other breweries, small and large, throughout the state, that until now had largely been forgotten.
But this is no mere catalogue. It is a chronological journey through South Australia’s development from its foundation, visiting its many breweries and meeting their owners and operators along the way. It also explores many relevant and important side roads, such as the copper mining boom, railway development, joint stock companies, beer taxation, the co-operative movement, and the advent of lager brewing.
Those interested in brewing industry heritage will appreciate the section entitled ‘Vestiges’ in the final chapter. It provides a photographic record of what remains in the South Australian landscape of more than a dozen of the state’s former breweries. Of course, as any good history should, the book also contains a comprehensive index, and detailed lists of historical sources.
This book is a ‘must have’ for anyone with more than a cursory interest in the history of beer brewing. It can be obtained from the author for $60.50 incl. GST and plus postage. Email [email protected] for further details.