Robert Tooth and Brisbane’s Bulimba Brewery

The Bulimba Brewery located on the Brisbane River, established by Robert Tooth of Kent Brewery fame. Inset: Robert Tooth

The Bulimba Brewery was established in 1882 by Robert Tooth, founder of the famous Kent Brewery in Sydney. 

The Queensland brewery was built on the east bank of the Brisbane River, near the ferry. However, the famous brewer, recognised for giving his name to iconic beers such as Tooth’s KB and Tooth’s XXX Ale, was to have a short association with the fledgling company.

Robert retired from R. and F. Tooth & Co., operators of the Kent Brewery in Sydney in April 1872 to pursue business interests in Queensland.

At the age of 61, he established ‘Messrs R Tooth and Company’ in Brisbane to further his interest in brewing and sugar refinery.

The Queenslander reported on Saturday, December 9, 1882:

The Bulimba Brewery

THE directors of Messrs. R. Tooth and Co., Limited, met at the new brewery and sugar refinery at Bulimba on Monday, to taste some of the first brew and pronounce upon its quality. There were about eight samples tried by the directors, who had with them a few friends, men credited with possessing a full knowledge of the qualities of beer, and who are deemed good judges of a commercial article. The singularly clear and bright quality of the beer was the first matter for remark, and the colours of the various samples ranged from the palest straw colour to that which characterises the ordinary draught. And as the colour ranged so did the strength, the pale being a very light bitter beer, and the darker a good bodied and lively article. Though the oldest sample was only brewed a fortnight ago it was pronounced of excellent quality, with that sound creamy head which is so much sought by connoisseurs. It is a very palatable beer, and in draft or bottle considered certain to suit the general taste. The light beer is exactly the thing required in a hot climate. It is more like the lager of Germany than anything else, but is more bitter, and quite of the nature of a tonic. The whole of the liquor is different to any yet produced in the colonies, except it be the summer beer of Tasmania. It has none of the colonial “twang” or aftertaste, and Messrs. R. Tooth and Co., Limited, have been able to show us how the productions of British and continental brewers can be equalled. A quantity of the beer sampled on Monday will be placed on the market at an early date.

After a fallout with shareholders, Robert Tooth placed the company into liquidation in 1883 and the Queensland Brewery Company acquired the property. Tooth was no longer associated with the brewery after this time. He died in England in 1893.

The Maryborough Chronicle reported on saturday, February 24, 1883:

In connection with the large brewery and sugar refinery established at Bulimba by the company of Robert Tooth and Co., Limited, the majority of the shareholders in which are Maryborough men, we learn, with regret, that serious differences have arisen between the shareholders and Mr. Tooth who, as managing director, has superintended the erection of the works and the experimental manufacturing operations. An urgent meeting of the shareholders is to be hold in a few days to arrange for winding up the company on its present basis, and continuing operations on a more satisfactory one.

The brewery officially re-opened on November 24 1883, and the daily output of beer soon reached 50 hogsheads, a considerable quantity for Brisbane at the time. Because of its earlier name, the brewery continued to be referred to as the Bulimba Brewery until well into the 20th century.

Valley Brewery Queensland
The Queensland Brewing Company’s building in Brunswick Street, New Farm. Picture: Supplied.

The brewery expanded acquiring the Silverstream Brewery in Toowoomba, where it built a new modern brewery on the site. The brewery began purchasing freehold hotels across the state of Queensland in 1934, ensuring outlets for the products of their Toowoomba and Brisbane breweries.

Bulimba Brewery 2 1934
These two photographs picture the last one of 10 huge glass-lined tanks being hoisted from the roadway and drawn into the third floor of the Bulimba Brewery. So big were these tanks it was found necessary to smash a great hole in the wall to admit them. The extra 10 tanks are needed to with the greatly increased sales of Bright Star Ale and Bulimba Beer. – Brisbane Telegraph October 3 1934
Bulimba Brewery 1 1934

Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) Melbourne acquired all the interests of the Queensland Brewery Co., Ltd, as the Bulimba Brewery became officially known, in 1961, including all the hotels and the Toowoomba and Brisbane breweries. The name was changed to Carlton & United Breweries in 1971. CUB closed the brewery in 1991 following the acquisition of the Power Brewing Co. Ltd.

– This history adapted with the assistance of Keith Deutsher’s The Breweries Australia, 1999.    

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4 replies

  1. How Do ,
    Some interesting info there ; does anyone know if any of the old records were rescued from the brewery when it closed ?? ,
    Cheers ,
    Edd Mather

  2. Interesting read- and just a few weeks too late because I was just in Brissy and Toowoomba!

  3. Just a slight correction to the photo’s caption of the Queensland Brewery Company’s building on Brunswick Street. This part of town was, and still is, in Fortitude Valley, not New Farm.

  4. The Brewery was always on the New Farm side of the river, along the Bulimba “Branch” Line which went up to the CSR Refinery. Bulimba at the time was on both sides of the river. It was a little upstream from the Bulimba Ferry Terminal (Teneriffe). Eagle Brewery.

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