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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 12

I The First Half Century - The Initial Struggle

II The Second Fifty Years - The Start Of Expansion
i General Conditions
ii Early Iron Production
iii The Effects of the Gold Rush - Ballarat in Particular
iv Gawler - A South Australian Industrial Town
v Railways - A Major Employer
vi Brewing and Soft Drinks
vii Drink Containers
viii Food Containers

III The Third Fifty Years - Federation And The First World War

IV The Fourth Period - Second World War To The Present



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Brewing and Soft Drinks

Working in the Colony was a thirsty business, although in the early years only a very limited few could indulge their thirst. Brewing and cordial manufacture began quite early in the Colony's history but early attempts to make beer to a consistent standard and taste, or even appearance, were of only limited success due partly to the higher temperatures in Sydney and Melbourne compared with Britain from where experience, and the yeast used, first came. Further problems related to the generally softer water supplies and a poor quality of barley but also undoubtedly to the lack of knowledge and skill on the part of many who set up to brew. However, there was a rapid increase in the number of breweries after the discovery of gold in Victoria. There were seven outside Melbourne in 1850 and ninety-five by 1871. Control of the yeast quality in the hops fermentation process was a continuing problem which was made somewhat easier by lower temperatures and which led one brewery in Bendigo, Victoria to adopt refrigeration in 1860 using a machine invented a few years earlier by James Harrison of Geelong. Beginning around 1880, bottom fermentation was introduced by Reschs in Sydney and somewhat later by Fosters in Melbourne leading to the production of a lighter coloured 'lager' beer compared with the then traditional darker but weaker British product. Still, brewing was very much an art rather than the controlled science that it is today. Typical equipment for an average small brewery producing 90,000 I/year would cost only about 600. Thus because of the comparative ease of entry and the high end demand, brewing became an important industry; in Ballarat in 1878 there was one licensed premises to every 50 men, in Melbourne, one to every 80 men.

Soft drink making, as distinct from beer brewing, was well established by 1830, when there were several firms in and around Sydney generally specializing in ginger beer; in 1833 there were two such factories in Pitt Street. In 1838, William Starkey established a plant in Elizabeth Street for ginger beer which was to become the largest ginger beer business in the Southern Hemisphere; at that time Starkey was a household word. Cordial and aerated water manufacture appeared about a decade later; William Starkey's cordial factory being established in Castlereagh Street. At this time, the price of a dozen bottles was 1/-, with a refund on the bottles. Mr. Alfred Mayo established cordial manufacturing on the site of the Sydney Town Hall in 1846; he had previous experience as a chemist and owner of cordial stores in London and so came with some background skills. His business sold extensively to ships coming to the Colony, as well as to licensed and country stores, business activity that undoubtedly was stimulated by the claim that his cordials were three times as strong as those of competitors and could therefore be broken down with considerable water addition.

In Ballarat, Victoria, two miners, E. Rowlands and R. Lewis, founded an aerated water factory in 1854, amidst considerable competition from 13 other established manufacturers. Early business was not good on account of poor machinery but had improved greatly by 1858, when a new factory was opened closer to the centre of the town, using spring water from Mt Warrenheip which was peculiarly adapted to producing the highest quality aerated waters. By 1870 improved soda water machines were being manufactured for them by a local company, G. G. Norman. The company, Rowlands continued to succeed and opened works in Melbourne in 1873 and a warehouse in Sydney in 1884. The history of this remarkable company continued for nearly a century and the widespread acceptance of their waters was undoubtedly due to their great attention to water quality and the use of the best flavouring.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Fosters

People in Bright Sparcs - Harrison, James; Mayo, Alfred; Norman, G. G.; Rowlands, Evan; Starkey, William

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 857 - 858, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher