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The Golden Beer of the West

Staged to Sell

Australian beer consumption increased with post-World War II optimism. The 1970s and 1980s saw the Swan Lager brand, together with the black swan emblem, become synonymous with sports sponsorship, business tycoon Alan Bond and with the America's Cup Yacht Race victory (1983). Stevenson, Kinder & Scott were among a number of commercial photographers whose photographs documented the rise of the Swan Brewery's prized Swan Lager, marketed from the 1970s as, "the golden beer of the West".

Posters, labels and other stationery for Swan Lager, 22 April 1975, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 348257PD

Ready to serve

Dramatically lit, this ice-cold Swan Lager beer is out of the esky and ready to serve. The label for the lager describes it as, "A traditional lager beer brewed with malted barley, pure cane sugar and the finest aroma hops". Production of Swan Larger Export began in 1933. The Swan Brewery exported the beer to international markets from 1949. Glass bottles of beer were the norm for the Swan Brewery until they introduced cans (1962), for their faster chilling capacity and easier refrigerator storage.

Elegantly presented Swan Lager 1977, Stephenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 362110PD

Ready to export

Through vigorous promotion, the Swan Brewery established markets for Swan Lager in China, Papua New Guinea, Britain, USA, Canada, South Africa, Malaysia, Libya and the Arabian Gulf. By the end of 1963, forty-three countries received shipments from the Swan Brewery. According to The Black Swan (Jan 1965), Swan Brewery's official magazine, success in establishing international markets was due to the work of senior executives who spent ten months of each year promoting the beer abroad. Later, Swan Lager was sent to Vietnam as part of morale provisions for Australian soldiers in the Vietnam War during the 1970s, as well as onto P&O Cruise Ships.

15,000 gallons

On Thursday 5th September 1968, a total of 15,000 gallons (approximately 56,781 litres) was transported to Fremantle Dock for export. It was the largest export of beer to leave Western Australian shores at that time.

'Swan Brewery Breaks Export Record', Beverley Times (WA : 1905 - 1977), Friday 13 September 1968, page 5.
Swan Lager Export beer cans, 1974, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 343228PD

The label on the can reads, "Especially packed for the Channel 7 Edgley Entertainment Centre". The cans pictured were produced for the opening of the Entertainment Centre, which occurred in December 1974.

Swan Lager fliptop bottle, 1972, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 343082PD

Rip caps replaced crown seals on bottle packaging at the Swan Brewery in 1968.

Beer monopoly

The Swan Brewery has its origins in 1857, when the brewery was established by the architect/surveyor Frederick Sherwood. Sherwood ran the brewery for 16 years until his death. After his death the brewery changed hands and in 1879 it was relocated to the foot of Mount Eliza on Mounts Bay Road. Production ceased at that site in 1966 and operations were moved to the Emu Brewery site on Spring Street following a merge with the Emu Brewing Company. In conjunction with its growing export trade, the Swan Brewery acquired hotels in regional Western Australia, through Globe Hotels Ltd in 1963, extending the influence of the Swan brand.

Patrons in a hotel bar enjoying a jug of beer, 1972, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 343147PD
Swan Lager label, circa 1950, Swan Brewery Company, State Library of Western Australia, PR8499/32 Swan Lager
For very special occasions
A bottle of Swan Special Bond beer, 31 March 1976, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 361849PD

Mounts Bay Road to Canning Vale

Beer production was moved to Canning Vale in 1978. In 1981, the Swan Brewery Company was purchased by Alan Bond, who controlled almost all of Western Australia's beer market and around half of Australia's beer market at the time.

Swan Brewery premises at Canning Vale, Stevenson, 1979, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 320233PD

The Swan Brewery moved operations and brewing productions to the Canning Vale site in 1978 as production expanded.

Swan Brewery malt tanker & Mini Moke car, 1979, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography.
New canning line at the Swan Brewery, Canning Vale, 12 July 1983, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 322845PD
New canning line at the Swan Brewery, Canning Vale, 12 July 1983, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 322846PD

Cans were automatically filled, sealed and pasteurised as they processed along a conveyor belt.

Swan Brewery beer cartons ready for transport, 1979, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 320258PD

America's Cup Challenge 1983

Brand association - Australia II

Swan Lager was the official sponsor of the America's Cup Challenge when Australia II, representing the Royal Perth Yacht Club, ended U.S. domination of the famous yacht race.

Australia II at sea, 14 June 1982, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 322611PD
Drink coaster, 'Swan Lager' America's Cup, 1983, WA Museum Collection, H2014.1789

Swan Premium

The 1980s saw the Swan Brewery Company increase and expand with a national campaign through television, radio and newspapers, and the establishment of a “A New Bond Brew” with the unveiling of Swan Premium Export Lager in 1985. Swan Premium Export Lager was established after the company acquired rival brewery Castlemaine Tooheys Ltd to compete directly with Victorian competitor Carlton United Breweries.

The Bond airship bearing the Swan Premium brand hovered over the coastline during the 1987 America's Cup race and during other events, such as the 1987 Australia Day event at Ascot racecourse shown here.

Swan Brewery promotions at the races, Ascot, Australia Day 1987, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 370082PD.
He's more discerning, he's more aware of how he would like his lifestyle to be: he's more sophisticated, more upmarket and he wants a beer to suit that lifestyle.

- Swan Premium Export Lager was marketed to, "The new beer drinker in Australia."

A new Bond brew (1985, November 7). The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), p. 28.
This one's made for you

- Swan Premium television advertising slogan, 1983 - 1987

The Bond Corporation vigorously promoted Swan Premium Lager, spending around 16 million dollars to do so. The national campaign featured a series of television advertisements with the song lyric, "You've made it through, this one's made for you." The tune produced by Mojo Advertising was repeated in a number of commercials between 1983 and 1987. The campaign featured heroised 1980s celebrities, including yachtsman Ben Lexcen, comedian Pamela Stevenson and golfer Greg Norman.

Swan Premium Export Lager Advertisement 'Ben Lexcen/America's Cup', circa 1980s. Written & produced by Mojo Australia, founded by Alan Johnston & Alan Morris.

Swan Premium Export Lager advertisement, 'They said you'd never make it,' Pamela Stephenson, circa 1980s. Written & produced by Mojo Australia, founded by Alan Johnston & Alan Morris.

Swan Premium Export Lager advertisement, 'They said you'd never make it.' Greg Norman, circa 1985. Written & produced by Mojo Australia, founded by Alan Johnston & Alan Morris.

Launch of America's Cup Defence 1987, Fremantle, 6 November 1987, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 323402PD

Sports and beer

The scoreboard and the crowd in the Prindiville Stand at the WACA during a Pakistan vs West Indies match, 10 March 1987, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 335040PD

Sponsorship and advertising arrangements with cricket and Australian Rules Football were central features of the Swan Brewery Company's 1980s promotional strategies, beginning a long standing association between the Swan brand and sporting events.

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Further reading

  • A new Bond brew (1985, November 7). The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), p. 28. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article127535652
  • Swan Brewery breaks export record (1968, September 13). The Beverley Times (WA : 1905 - 1977), p. 5. Retrieved April 22, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article201778706
  • Swan Brewery Company (1963). Since 1837. Printed for the Swan Brewery Company Limited by West Australian Newspapers Ltd, Perth, W.A
  • Swan Brewery Company Ltd (1964). The Black swan. Swan Brewery Co. Ltd, Perth W.A.
  • Welborn, S. (1987). Swan: The history of a brewery. University of Western Australia Press.

This digital story is part of a series created for the online exhibition, Staged To Sell: Iconic Advertising Images from the Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Photographic Collection.

Credits:

Photographs - State Library of Western Australia pictorial collection. Video - Mojo Classics "Swan Lager" via YouTube