By MICK ROBERTS ©
DURING World War II limits were placed on beer production in Australia, requiring breweries to reduce their output by two-thirds.
Rationing of beer came into force in March 1943, and by January 1943, newspapers were reporting 75 per cent of Sydney’s hotel bars were often closed for business. If pubs were open in the morning, they were usually shut by the afternoon, when their quotas had been exhausted.
The shortages of beer in Sydney’s pubs persisted after the war as breweries struggled with demand. Before the days of bottle shops, when take away beer was supplied by local pubs, taking a bottle or two home became almost impossible. When publicans did manage to stock their cellars, it resulted in long queues outside their premises.
However, one Sydney pub, the Abercrombie Hotel at Redfern, was able to buck the trend. The Abercrombie, at the eastern corner of Abercrombie and Cleveland Streets, placed a sign outside the pub in 1947 advertising “plenty of bottled beer”.
Publican, Frank Benjamin, had taken the lease of the Redfern pub in 1946, and would host the Abercrombie for over a decade. He had previously held the license of the nearby Forest Lodge Hotel from 1941.
The beer on sale was Richmond (ale or pilsener), which was fixed at two shilling and three pence a bottle. Demand was so high, that when the pub opened one Saturday in June 1947, Benjamin sold 200 dozen long-neck bottles between the hours of 10am and 1pm. Over a period of 18 months in 1946/47, he sold 3,000 bottles a week!
During the 1940s, the Richmond Brewery had remarkable success against NSW’s two big breweries – Tooheys and Tooths – which had a strangle hold on the liquor industry, and had most of the state’s pubs tied to exclusive sales of their products.
Richmond Lager, established in Victoria in 1928, was making big inroads into the beer market in Sydney during the 1940s. The brewery had secured and ‘tied’ a number of pubs, and by 1950 its annual turnover revenues had grown to almost £3 million!
The bottle labels on Richmond Pilsener, Lager Bitter and Stout all sported the illustrated Tiger’s head logo. The brewery was eventually acquired by Carlton and United in 1962.
The Sydney Daily Telegraph reported on Sunday June 29 1947:
No quotas here!
A Redfern hotel has unlimited supplies of bottled beer, which the licensee, Mr F Benjamin, said he will sell to all comers.
Mr. Benjamin on Friday posted outside his hotel notices which said: “Plenty of bottled beer.”
The hotel is the Abercrombie, at the corner of Abercrombie and Cleveland Streets.
The beer on sale is Richmond (ale or pilsener) at the fixed price of 2 shilling and 3 pence a bottle.
Mr Benjamin said yesterday: “We have had bottled beer in stock for the past 18 months.
“In that period we have sold 3,000 bottles a week.
“When I opened the hotel this morning I had 400 dozen bottles of beer.
“I sold 200 dozen between 10am and 1pm.
“I am expecting a new consignment of 400 dozen bottles early next week.
“Richmond beer comes from Victoria. As long as the railways and other transport services are operating, I can get unlimited supplies.”
Mr Benjamin said he was prepared to sell any quantity of bottled beer to anybody.
Mr Benjamin said he would sell 18-gallon kegs for £10, and nine-gallon kegs for £6.
Frank Benjamin would host the Abercrombie as a Tooheys tied hotel until 1956. He died while licensee of another Tooheys tied pub in Sydney’s inner-west, the Gladstone Park, at Leichhardt in 1971.
The Abercrombie Hotel closed for business when its license was transferred to Moorebank in western Sydney on November 10 1971 and later demolished.
© Copyright Mick Roberts 2023
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