1857 Swan Brewery founded in Perth

Renovated old Swan Brewery complex, built 1879

Frederick Sherwood was an English-born architect who abandoned his profession to found the Swan Brewery. It wasn’t the first brewery in Western Australia, having been preceded by the Albion Brewery (founded 1838) and the Stanley Brewery (founded 1848). However, it was to become Western Australia’s longest-established brewery, dominating the local market for many years.

In October 1857, Sherwood founded the Swan Brewery on the banks of the Swan River. He advertised in Perth’s Inquirer and Commercial News that, from November 1st  he would be supplying superior pale ale in hogsheads, smaller casks and bottles. The price for bottles was three shillings per gallon including the bottles, which “will be allowed for when returned”. Sherwood continued to operate the brewery until his death in 1874 when his family offered it for lease. The lease was taken up by John Ferguson and William Mumme, who had previously operated the Stanley Brewery.

After Sherwood’s death in 1874, the brewery changed hands and in 1879 was relocated to Mounts Bay, the site now known as the ‘old Swan Brewery’. By this time, Swan was the dominant supplier in Perth, with 28 tied hotels – 75 per cent of the city’s hotels. In 1888 the now-incorporated company took over the rival Lion Brewery. Swan continued to acquire competitive breweries, including the Emu Brewery, through the first half of the 20th century, taking over the last large competitor, the Kalgoorlie Brewing Co. in 1945.

Brewing continued at Mounts Bay until 1966 when operations were moved to the Emu Brewery in Spring Street in central Perth. In 1978 the brewery was relocated yet again to Canning Vale, an industrial estate in Perth’s southern suburbs.

During the heady days of corporate takeovers in the 1980s, entrepreneur Alan Bond set out to dominate Australia’s beer industry. In 1981, Swan was the first of his acquisitions. The Western Australian beer was advertised in the eastern states with the line “This Swan’s for you”. The campaign featured the success stories of notable Australians including Greg Norman, Darryl Somers, Pamela Stephenson (the token woman?) and the America’s Cup crew, and a rousing jingle by the Sydney ad shop Mojo. Bond went on to acquire Castlemaine Tooheys, giving his company, Bond Brewing, control of around half of Australia’s beer market.

But by the end of the decade, Bond’s fortunes were in decline. In 1990, the New Zealand brewing company, Lion Nathan, purchased a 50 per cent stake in Bond Brewing, acquiring the rest of the company two years later as Bond was declared bankrupt. Lion Nathan was subsequently sold to Kirin Holdings of Japan.

The Swan Brewery in Canning Vale closed in 2013 and beers carrying the Swan and Emu brands are now brewed in South Australia.

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