The Coopers Brewery was founded in 1862 just outside Adelaide, Australia, in the town of Leabrook. This respectable outfit is the last stronghold of the historic family-owned breweries on the Australian continent. Thomas Cooper, a Wesleyan preacher from Yorkshire, England, immigrated to southern Australia and founded the brewery at a time when big breweries dominated the local colonies.
His brewing career was initiated much by accident when his ailing wife requested that he make a restorative ale—from an old family recipe—to be used as a tonic. Turns out the ale was well received not only by his wife, but by locals for whom he provided samples. Appreciated for its taste and perceived medicinal attributes, demand grew enough for Thomas Cooper to start his famous brewery, which today remains as the sole independent brewery in Australia to survive the entire 20th century.
Interestingly, as a Wesleyan preacher, Thomas Cooper felt that pubs were sinful places (though he wisely saw no evil in beer—after all, it was the tonic that aided his wife's health). Thus, for most of its history, the brewery owned no pubs, and today they own only one, the Earl of Aberdeen, in the old center of Adelaide. A brewery with no pubs, while commonplace in the US microbrewery revolution, is a very rare scenario for established overseas breweries. This apparent lack of an "automatic market" seems to have been critical in avoiding takeover bids over their history. And we like to believe that Thomas Cooper would have been a fan of our beer of the month clubs for this very reason—no pub necessary to enjoy these fine brews, right?
We're major fans of Coopers and their true-to-style beers. Last time we featured the brewery, back in late 2005, we had reported that they were under threat of losing their long-held independence. A competing brewery (more of a conglomerate actually), had launched a hostile takeover bid. Coopers, while family-run, does have shareholders, and if a majority of them approved the deal, it would have been adios to independence. But we're happy to report that the Coopers family (and their shareholders) were ready for the fight, and they have proudly maintained their independence as a family-owned and operated brewery. Join us in lifting a pint to their continued independence!
For more information about the brewery, check out their website at www.coopers.com.au (and check out their cooking with beer recipes).