Own bottling or quarting of beer in SA
In the late 1940s In South Australia (and also in some other states) the supply of beer from the breweries was still rationed to hotel-keepers under a quota system introduced during World War II. The need for rationing was occasioned by the continuing shortages of brewing raw materials – malt, hops and sugar – and also of bottles.
Quarting – the filling of draught beer into imperial quart (40 fl oz or 1.18 litres) bottles – had been undertaken by many hoteliers in South Australia for some years but had been strongly discouraged by The South Australian Brewing Co Ltd (SABC), the predominant supplier of draught (bulk) beer. In late 1949 it became apparent to the company that a significant proportion of its draught beer allocated to some outlets was used for quarting, thus causing shortages of draught for over-the-counter consumption.
In March 1950 the company advised the trade that as ‘considerable difficulty has been experienced in obtaining basic brewing materials it has been found impossible to meet the demand for draught beer as long as bottling is carried out by hotelkeepers’ and ‘furthermore, draught beer is manufactured for the purpose of sale by the glass and is not suitable for bottling’. As a consequence, ‘the company has decided that bottling of draught beer must cease forthwith and hotelkeepers are asked to comply with the company’s decision in this regard.’
This advice1 created much discussion but, as SA Government health authorities were already engaged in a survey of own bottling operations, mutual agreement was reached by all parties involved to abandon the practice. The Licensed Victuallers’ Association, on behalf of hoteliers, sought legal advice which indicated that ‘the SA Brewing Co Ltd, in banning the quarting of draught beer, had acted in accord with its legal rights’ 2.
Quarting (and filling 80 fl oz flagons) is thought to have started in the depression years of the 1930s and it seems that the practice was not so widespread in other states.3 The quart bottles were made – mainly in amber glass but a few in clear or flint glass – by Australian Glass Manufacturers in Adelaide and Melbourne (and possibly elsewhere) and it is thought that some were imported.4 Over the years a few hoteliers risked using regular ‘Pickaxe’ branded 262/3 fl oz bottles for own bottling but these containers were the property of the Adelaide Bottle Cooperative Pty Ltd which launched many successful prosecutions for misuse.
Nevertheless, random filling of customers’ own containers – quarts, flagons etc – from a tap in the bar continued in isolated cases, particularly in smaller country pubs, until about the mid-1950s.
1. Notice to Hotelkeepers; The South Australian Brewing Co Ltd, March 28, 1950 [also printed in Adelaide Advertiser, March 30, 1950]
2. Adelaide Advertiser, April 21, 1950
3. Adelaide Advertiser, March 29, 1950 *
4. Private communication: Alison & John Painter, 2004
* Advertiser also carried other articles & letters re this issue in period March 29 – April 21, 1950