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What would a cobbler, a stonemason or a dairyman know about brewing beer? The Coopers Beer story began in a newly established colony with a brilliant accident. After turning his hand to a number of trades, Thomas Cooper discovered his talent as a brewer by accident; when he created his first batch of beer as a tonic for his ailing wife Ann.

Thomas Cooper Statue

Thomas Cooper was born in Yorkshire in 1826, the youngest of twelve children to Christopher and Sarah Cooper. The post Napoleonic War period was a time of turbulence in England. There was depression in the agricultural areas, and, as the industrial revolution gained pace, many social ills were created in its wake. Although the quiet dales of the west country of Yorkshire may have escaped the worst of the difficulties brought about by these major changes, the main towns were caught up in increasing urbanisation and industrialisation. The conditions that many workers endured were often harsh and there was little joy for labourers, although occasionally pageants celebrating the wool and weaving industry were an excuse for much ale drinking!


By the late 1840s, the Cooper family were still living in Skipton. Of the twelve children born to Christopher and Sarah, only seven were still living. In 1849, Thomas married Ann Laycock Brown, the daughter of retired innkeeper William Brown, in the Western Chapel in Skipton. Their first son, William was born in Skipton in 1850.

With his pregnant wife Ann and their two children, Thomas set sail from Plymouth aboard the SS Omega on 29th May 1852. Because he was a tradesman, Thomas paid 11 pounds for the passage out, a labourer paid only 1 pound under the emigration scheme of the colonial commissioners. The voyage took 86 days, and the Omega arrived in Port Adelaide on the 24th of August. A busy scene greeted the Coopers, as there were a number of ships in port disembarking passengers, unloading goods, and bringing eagerly awaited news from England and other colonies for the 33,000 inhabitants of the city.

Brewery and Thomas Coopers House c. 1893

What prompted Thomas to emigrate to South Australia in 1852 is not clear, but at the time pamphlets extolling the virtues of the new colony were being circulated by agents of the 'South Australian Company'. The company was formed in 1836 by George Fife Angas and others, with the object of buying and selling and promoting a new 'utopia'.

On the 13th May 1862, he recorded his first brew, named 'A' from 4 bushels of English malt and 8 pounds of Kent hops in 46 gallons of water. Once sampled by neighbours, his ale brew created more than a passing interest and requests for more.

That day in 1862, was the start of an amazing journey…

For more information on Thomas Cooper and the history of Coopers Brewery, the official history book 'Jolly Good Ale and Old' can be purchased from the online store.