It is sometimes easy to forget that Australia has a diverse brewing history spanning some 200 years. Many a brewery has come and gone, sometimes with the coming and going only being a couple of pours apart.
The Breweries Of Australia: A History, by Keith M Deutsher is an excellent resource for any beer lover that has a bookshelf, and a fondness for some brewing days of yore.
The first thing one notices when glancing at this newly-released second edition is that it is considerably thicker than the original. It is also nice to see that some care has been taken in the visual presentation, with a lot of the artwork being restored & improved when compared to the 1999 release, making this more than just a reprint with some extra text appended.
Many of the illustrations originally appearing in black and white have been updated to colour, to the point where the artist’s impression of the Victoria Parade Brewery c.1880 looks almost photo-like, rather than something from an old school text book. The bulk of the 284 beer labels contained are also in colour, with the front cover now even including some ‘blingy’ gold metallic lettering!
Typically, a book of this type contains a number of photos taken well before colour photography came about, and thankfully nothing has been done to ‘mess’ with these. Imagine John Thomas Toohey, fou
nder of one of Australia’s most well-known breweries, with a lime green beard, and pastel yellow tie…
I have to admit that one of the first things I did when getting my hands on this book was to check to see if any current or defunct breweries I could think of had been left out, and was satisfied that both micro & macro in my local area had been well represented.
There was however an old Grafton Brewery from 1861 missing, as well as a couple of current smaller ‘pico’ brewery’s from Bellingen & Kentucky NSW not making the cut, but perhaps in all fairness these don’t quite register on the Microbrewery radar, and the old brewery mentioned is little known even to locals.
The book is structured with breweries being grouped by state or territory, and then alphabetically by location, with the often overlooked brewery at Norfolk Island being included (which is no mean feat, as after a couple of glasses of Black Beards Curse on tap, one can forget what island they are actually on!).
Known facts for each brewery are listed, including when it was established, and when it ceased operation (where applicable).
Reading this book really drives home the message that Australia used to be a much harsher place; and a much harsher place to brew beer.. or to clarify, beer that you would want to drink.
Perhaps if you know of a home brewer that complains “making beer is too hard”, shove a copy of the book into their “hop bag” to make them realise how good we have it in modern times. Imagine brewing without refrigeration, electricity or the internet!
Boutique Breweries have been segregated into their own section, and according to figures published in the book, there are now 227 of them scattered around Australia. The authors research reveals that in 1998 there were only 28, highlighting a positive outlook for Australia’s craft brewing future, as well as documenting its industrious past.
Breweries Of Australia: A History, has plenty of ‘tid bits’, trivia, label art, and cartoons to make this a more lively read. Perhaps if modern day breweries were privy to an 1889 report in the Australian Brewers’ Journal whose mention in the book states that visitors to the country “have very little that is good to say concerning the quality of our ales”, colonial name sakes such as James Squire & John Boston would not have been as eagerly adopted in modern times.
This newly revised second edition, published in December 2012, is hard bound consisting of 374 pages, and can be obtained from any Australian book shop. Expect to pay around $55 – 60, or online through Beer & Brewer.