Early Days of Ale in Australia

Some Good Oil, There Was

This 1844 review of Tooth`s in Sydney is one of many tours journalists wrote of the brewery that century and in the one following. Australian journalists showed little of the reserve of American and English ones when it came to beer and brewing. They wrote about it straight as it were, without self-consciousness or apologetics.

This continued into the 20th century and was consistent with the fact that no state ever approved Prohibition, nor was it approved to my knowledge by local option. Canberra did for a time stop liquor sales, consistent perhaps with the planned and novel nature of the capital area, but a vote ended that by the 1930s.

Now, in 1844, we are in the classic period where the Australian stuff was supposed to be bad. Terms like swipes, swill, and other unattractive names were attached to local ales and porters. Even 40 years later, brewing author J.C. MacCartie, an Australian who had brewed for six years in Dunedin, critiqued Aussie beer, pre-lager that is.

Yet the 1844 story, written nine years after brewing commenced, praises Tooth`s all-malt beer and claims much local beer was sold as English and no one knew the difference. I cited sources earlier which argued (1860s) that Australian brewing was certainly up to the task, but social snobbery resulted in the product being viewed as second-class.

Where did the truth lie then … maybe somewhere in the middle. Trying the beer at the brewery versus the usual trade sources would have meant for a better experience, almost always. Then too, boosterism surely came into it, and also simple manners: as today, no one wants to excoriate a host.

I wish someone would brew beer today as described in the article: use a mix of old-variety Australian, and California hops (Cluster, I`d suggest), use half Australian malt and half English, and ferment it at a high temperature to finish the primary in under 48 hours. Let it settle out, fine it, and see what it`s like. How bad could it be, I wonder… By today`s standards of appreciating artisan brews, it might be sensational. Or even just very nice.

Tooth`s stopped brewing in Sydney in 2005. KB lager is brewed in other states now.

In fact, Tooth`s (CUB) did brew a recreation of its old pale ale in 2015, and the brew is still sold. The Grain Bar, Sydney, carries it, whence the historical image shown. We hope it is good, if anyone knows, let us know.