Daily beer breaks for SA workers

Media release: Monday, 4 May 2015

Adelaide's early brewers, wine makers and black marketeers will be lurking in the shadows of the Franklin Hotel on Saturday when many of their secrets come out of the National Archives' vaults.

As part of South Australia's History Festival, Jeremy Sibbald from the National Archives is sharing his findings on the history of alcohol in Adelaide.

His talk Drink in the past at the Franklin Hotel bar on Saturday, will reveal stories – such as what Thomas Cooper was up to in 1894 and how many beer breaks brewery workers were entitled to. Jeremy will even share a recipe he discovered for making a hogshead of crème de menthe.

'It's amazing what you find in the Archives' records,' he said. 'For example, when brewers reported large amounts of waste in 1914, customs officers realised they were losing a valuable source of revenue – duty on the beer consumed by employees.

'Workers at the SA Brewing Company were entitled to four 6-minute breaks a day to stop for a pot of beer. Perhaps it was the workers' strong union that enabled this perk.'

The breweries had no difficulty securing labour, even in times of labour shortages. But there was a downside. In 1944 a report to the Department of Labour and National Service included a long list of injuries suffered by brewery employees, including lacerations, burns and horse bites.

As well as selling bulk beer by the glass, hoteliers also bottled it under their own label. But in 1950 the SA brewing company realised it was missing too many bottle sales and brought a stop to the practice by threatening to withhold bulk supply.

South Australian company Emu Wines, established in the mid-19th century, was one of the first firms to market their products in Britain, with slogans such as 'Hats off to you Australia' and 'Good for you, Good for the empire'.

But, in 1965, the Australian manager of Time magazine complained that their 'squelch, squelch, squelch' advertisement – contrasting modern winemaking methods with the traditional treading – did not do credit to the Australian wine industry.

Jeremy Sibbald is presenting his free talk Drink in the past at the Franklin Hotel, Adelaide this Saturday 9 May from 2 to 3 pm.

Contact information

  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0417 247 157 e elizabeth.masters@naa.gov.au
  • Jeremy Sibbald (Adelaide) (Archival Officer)
    t 08 8204 8863 m 0439 410 753 e jeremy.sibbald@naa.gov.au

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