Drunken Speculation

Session #89 – Beer in History

sessionsTime once again to tackle the Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday: a monthly opportunity for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their unique perspective on the same topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts The Session, chooses a topic, and creates a round-up that lists all of the participants.

This month’s session is hosted by Bill Kostkas at the Pittsburgh Beer Snob. He wants to know about your local brewing history:

So, I only saw it to be fitting that I choose the topic of Beer in History

At many points in history you can look back and find alcohol intertwined. A lot of times that form of alcohol is beer. Beer is something that connects us with the past, our forefathers as well as some of our ancestors. I want this topic to be a really open-ended one. So, it should be fairly easy to come up with something and participate…

Do you want to write about an important beer event with great historical significance? Famous figures that were brewers? Have you visited an establishment that has some awesome historic value? Maybe a historically-themed brewpub? I wouldn’t be surprised to even see a few posts on Prohibition. It doesn’t really matter when it comes to history!

Coping with Disaster

In the last Session post I wrote, I talked about the history of one brewery in late nineteenth/early twentieth century Brisbane. In passing, I mentioned the devastating trio of floods of February 1893.

Headline from The Capricornian, 11 Februrary 1893

Headline from The Capricornian, 11 Februrary 1893

The 1893 floods, or Black February as they collectively became known, invaded large parts of the city, then home to around 84,000 people, claiming bridges, homes and lives.

The red mark indicates the city centre and south-west of there, across the river, was West End, saturating Montague Road.

Then, Brisbane had five breweries: Queensland Brewery (Bulimba), Phoenix, Ipswich, Castlemaine and West End.

The West End Brewery was founded in 1886 by Thomas Albert Lanfear, along with some other ex-Bulimba Brewing colleagues, on the corner of Montague Road and Merivale Street.

map west end brewery

The intersection today is home to empty land which is soon to be a block of flats, the Queensland Theatre Company and Parmalat

Of Brisbane’s breweries, West End by far copped the worst damage.

The brewery in 1896, after recovering from the floods. I assume it looks pretty similar to the pre-1893 version.

The brewery in 1896, after recovering from the floods. I assume it looks pretty similar to the pre-1893 version.

West End Brewery during the '93 floods

West End Brewery, during the ’93 floods, is the tall building just slightly left of centre


After the flood waters receded in 1893

The newspapers of the day made note of the damage suffered by the local landmark.

havoc wrought

west end not damaged

resume work in a week's time

It’s maybe no surprise what happens when a brewery is smashed by a wall of water: some of the stock is washed away. And then found by enterprising individuals.

floods beer mad drunk

That seems hyperbolic.

Beer, or perhaps more accurately alcohol, as the coping mechanism for people in distress. Having had a box seat for the 2011 floods – by far less severe than 1893 but much more expensive to clean up – I know that in the face of a massive natural disaster, there would have been nothing better than sitting on the banks of the swollen river, enjoying the post-rain sun and supping a beer or twelve because if apocalyptic floods are going to take your home, at least you can get some free booze out of it and deal with the consequences tomorrow.

brewery flood drunk


drunken floods


Of course, sometimes the consequences find you today.

West End Brewery did resume brewing later in 1893 and went on to become very successful locally before mysteriously shutting up shop in 1913.

Unfortunately, free beer did not float down the river in 1974 or 2011.

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