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Coopers Cramp

Hey guys,

Today I thought I would write about the state of craft beer in South Australia when compared with the rest of Australia. The reason for this is that there have often be allegations that craft brewery struggles in S.A. because of the quality and grip that Coopers has on the South Aussie market. For so long it was the only accessible, wide spread and high quality beer on the market for people in and around Adelaide.

So while the other states were still throwing back VB tinnies and XXXX stubbies the people of the only non convict settled state of Australia were enjoying the Cooper’s family’s offerings. Did this stunt S.A.’s growth when the revolution came? Well let’s find out!

I think there are three or four indicators we can use to work out whether South Australia is suffering from Coopers cramps and they are

1) The number of craft breweries.

2) The number of craft beer festivals and events.

3) The awards and popularity of the beer.

4) The quality of the beer sold in pubs and bottle shops.

So starting the investigation at number one, because it is always best to start at the top. Using the list as compiled by the Beer Bureau and the 2011 census data I was able to work out how many people there are per craft brewery. I understand that I am making some assumptions with this comparison such as the more central nature of living in S.A. but I still think this shows some interesting results. See below

Craft Breweries by state. 

17 in S.A.

6 in Tasmania

3 in the A.C.T.

39  in N.S.W.

8 in QLD

41 in Vic

26 in WA

Populations as of the 2011 population census

NSW: 7,303,700

Vic: 5,624,100

Qld: 4,580,700

SA: 1,657,000

Tas: 510,600

ACT: 365,400

WA: 2,346,400

Craft breweries per person

1 for every 90,246 people in W.A.

1 for every 121,800 people in the A.C.T.

1 for every 97,470 people in S.A.

1 for every 137,173 people in Vic.

1 for every 187,274 people in N.S.W.

1 for every 572,587 people in Qld.

1 for every 85,100 people in Tas.

So this throw up some interesting results with Tasmania having the most craft breweries per head of population. Queensland having just one for every half a million people surprised me a little, I expected the number to be high but not that high. There is always the chance that there are breweries that have been missed but that could be for any state.  Western Australia  as the home of craft brewing in Australia had a solid number but S.A. coming in third shocked me a little and made me wonder whether craft brewing in South Australia is as dire as I thought.  

Category number 2: Craft Beer events

A good way to judged the popularity of craft brewing is to look at the viability of having craft brewing festivals and events which people interested in the craft are going to attend. A vibrant craft brewing scene needs to have a loyal and social gathering of brewers and fans who mix freely and explore ideas to make and enjoy better beer. So where does this happen? Can S.A. continue to hold it’s head up?

Research from a variety of websites such as Beer Cartel and Brews News (they have an excellent email news service, you should definitely sign up), yielded the following results.

Beer events by state



Vic- 54





QLD- 21

As you can see the Victorians win this one hands down what is surprising is the Queensland number. Burleigh Brewing Co. are doing a great job of trying to bolster craft beer support outside the traditional heartland. The majority of events in S.A. consist of  events at the Wheatsheaf and Vale dinners. In terms of launches S.A. is well behind and even brewery advertised events is pretty low let alone talking about a craft beer festival. Even Bendigo had a beer festival this year, while South Australia languishes behind the rest of the country. Please note that only events registered on the aforementioned websites were counted and only events which related to or added to craft brewing products were counted, so not home brewing courses etc.

Category 3: Beer awards and popularity

While it occasionally seems that every beer that makes it to our  shelves has won some sort of medal or other, they are generally a signal of some degree of quality and what the professionals think about the best a brewery has to offer. Below is the state by state break down of the 2011 Australian International Beer Awards trophy winners.

S.A.- 0








According to the professionals from across Australia and the world W.A. is well ahead of the pack in terms of beer quality but what happens when we throw it over to the people of Australia to democratically vote for what they think has been the best craft beer of the year. Yup this will be a state by state break down of the top 100 craft beers of 2011.


SA -11  

W.A.- 10              

Vic- 45                 

Tas- 8   


ACT -0  

QLD- 4

It is pretty obvious from the results that the Victorians make up the majority of the beers, if you can’t see that go punch your maths teacher in the teeth. I suspect that the number of voters from Victoria would be higher than from anywhere else. If you want to check it out have a look at my previous post on the top 100 there is a graphic their showing voting patterns. Still I think S.A. is well represented by Coopers and the Vale Brewing Company with some excellent additions by Brewboys and Woolshed but the lack of voting for Steam Exchange I found interesting. If S.A. was to drop below ten entries I would say we are in real trouble.


I won’t comment too much on the fourth category because I think it is too hard to track but with adelaidebiershop.com looking for new owners I would say finding good beer located in Adelaide became harder and I will be tracking online or to Melbourne street for a better range.

In conclusion I think Adelaide lacks an event where craft beer lovers can meet several brewers in one location and hear their thoughts. Until an event like this is well publicized the beer scene in Adelaide will remain quite a selective click and the value of S.A. beer will continue to remain a secret to residents and interstaters alike let alone international visitors.

Well this has taken me forever to write so feel free to comment, debate or agree.

Till next time




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