In the early days of the Melbourne colony – before it even had that name, in fact – getting a decent beer was not easy. Importing beer from Van Diemen’s Land or New South Wales was the only way to get it, and both routes were time-consuming and chancy. It should come as little surprise that brewing beer was one of the first cottage industries of the new township, nor that this quickly blossomed into a profitable business for some of the brewers.
The great competition was between the Carlton Brewery in East Melbourne and the Hawksburn Brewery, located in southern Hawksburn. The Hawksburn Brewery had been founded by George Stimson, who had chosen his site with great care. While the Carlton Brewery was well placed to serve the inner regions of Melbourne, the Hawksburn Brewery was well placed to serve the south and east of the area, where new suburbs were growing like topsy. It was also convenient to the docks, always a lucrative market for brewers. Finally, its distance from the centre of town meant comparatively fewer neighbours, and thus, fewer complaints about the smell of the brewery. George Stimson settled back to play the long game, and wait out his competition.
In the years leading up to Federation, this was still the official corporate policy of Hawksburn Brewery, despite the fact that they had been losing ground to Carlton (now Carlton and United Breweries after buying out some of their smaller competitors). Frank Stimson, George’s grandson, went looking for something else, and found the new mood of nationalism. He decided to rebrand Hawksburn Brewery as the patriotic beer. And when the colonies entered the Boer War, he introduced what he hoped would be his game changing product: a new line called Armoured Ale.
It changed the game alright, but not in the way he intended. Stimson had made a point of supplying free beer to our gallant lads at the front in South Africa. But the first shipment was captured by the enemy, who made no secret of their liking for it, and suddenly, the patriotic brewery was seen as the chief supplier to the enemy. George hung on, determined to fight to the bitter end (or lager end, as it turned out), but by the end of the Great War, Hawksburn Breweries were a thing of the past, their only remains being the name of the area where the brewery once stood, and the pronounced bohemianism of George’s son Allan.
Suburbs near Armadale: