Edward Wild, Accountant With a Flair For the Beer Business

A propos my recent posts on Edward Wild of Vaughn and Wild Brewery, Melbourne (also called Collingwood Brewery, and Melbourne and Collingwood Brewery), this is the a la Carlisle Ale label that got Wild in legal trouble in 1870.


Yorkshire-Born Wild was the financial mind behind the brewery, he arranged the money and kept the books. He was well-qualified for this work, as he was an expert accountant with a trading and financial history in European commercial cities (Hamburg, Oporto) before arriving in Victoria.

Wild is remembered by accounting historians for writing a notable text on simplified double-entry bookkeeping. He also made an early call for Australia’s accountants to organize and adopt common professional standards. He practised as an accountant in Melbourne, and taught the subject in schools. In fact, Wild’s book was only the second accounting text published in Australia.

Further detail on Wild’s importance in accounting history can be gleaned in this 1995 article by Garry Carnegie and Scott Varker.

Brewing requires many skills apart from making good beer: legal, technical/engineering, marketing, accounting, finance. Wild excelled in marketing, too. He was an indefatigable supporter of “colonial beer”, a topic that absorbed much press ink in Australia from 1850-1930s.

Wild tussled with many who weren’t persuaded by the local products he boosted, or who seemed just irritated by his brassy business ways. Accountants are noted for their conservatism: like lawyers, their work requires that perspective, yet some are also great salesmen.

When the legal dispute regarding “a la Carlisle Ale” occurred, the nature of his connection to Collingwood brewery is not clear. The trade mark for a la Carlisle ale was registered in Wild’s own name. He also registered similar trademarks for Edinburgh Ale and Dublin Stout and sold beers under those names before the court shut down further use of the gambit.

The Pereira shown as bottler was a fiction. A news story on the dispute referred to Wild as “brewer”, but it is clear he was not a hands-on brewer. Vaughn had performed that role when the two were in association, but was Vaughn still involved in 1870 given Wild obtained the trade marks personally?

This 1873 trade exhibition included “Wild’s Victorian Edinburgh Ale”, but the maker was still listed as “Vaughan and Wild”. Given the Wild prefix, possibly he was running the Collingwood brewery himself, or connected to a different brewery by this time, albeit retaining the Vaughan and Wild business name.

But one way or another, in 1870 an ale was produced under the Carlisle name in Melbourne, and this attracted attention from a party who imported genuine Carlisle ale.

Four years before the court decision, Wild wrote a pamphlet to collect his ideas on colonial brewing. This news article from 1866 contains an extract, reproduced below. His words have the ring of truth and remind one of the potency of the power of suggestion.

Mr Edward Wild, a Melbourne brewer, has just published a pamphlet extolling the virtues of colonial beer. Mr Wild, in speaking of the existing prejudice against Victorian malt liquor, says, “Place the label of the finest colonial brewer on a bottle of the finest Burton ale or London stout ever brought into this market, and people would turn up their nnscs at it. Label a bottle of “Wild’s No. 3″ with Bass or Allsop’s name, and connoisseurs will smack their lips over it, and exclaim as they watch the brilliant sparkles rising to the creamy surface of the lucid liquor, “Ah! they can’t brew such ale as this in Australia!”. This is no imaginary statement. I speak of what has actually occurred, when the experiment has been tried for the sake of testing the strength and inveteracy of the prejudice. I have known private families to rack some of my draught stout into bottles from which the labels of the most distinguished London brewers have not been detached, and when it has been brought to table experienced judges have been eloquent in its praise, supposing it to be of exotic manufacture, and have observed with unsuspicious candour, “There are only two places in the world in which they brew good stout — London and Dublin”; little dreaming that the subject of their honest eulogy was produced in Collingwood.