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Carlton & United Breweries

Accumulated debts, the 1890s depression, and too many suppliers had reduced profits for Melbourne's breweries. They formed the Society of Melbourne Brewers in 1903 and established a minimum price for beer. Hotel owners resisted by establishing the Melbourne Co-operative Brewery at Abbots-ford in 1904. Amalgamation in 1907 was the response. Parties included the Carlton Brewery Ltd, McCracken's City Brewery Ltd, Castlemaine Brewery Co. (Melbourne) Ltd, Shamrock Brewing and Malting Co. Ltd, the Foster Brewing Co. Pty Ltd, and the Victoria Brewery Pty Ltd. The City Brewery in Collins Street West was sold. Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) opposed restrictions on alcoholic beverage sales sponsored by the temperance movement through the Liquor Trades Defence Union and in 1913 became a public company.

CUB dominated the hotel trade and took over breweries in country Victoria, and, in 1931, Queensland. In 1925 the Co-operative Brewery was taken over. Economic depression in the 1930s and wartime restrictions in 1939-45 saw diminished profits, but expansion in the post-1945 era. By 1949 bulk beer only was brewed at Carlton, with bottling undertaken at the Abbotsford and Victoria breweries. The 1970s saw facilities at Abbotsford upgraded and a new technical centre at Carlton. Popular brands include Foster's Lager and Melbourne and Victoria Bitter. By the mid-1980s Foster's was the leading Australian beer. The Carlton brewery with its neon sign at the top of Swanston Street symbolised corporate power and the beer's pervasive appeal. Inside was a world ruled by drink and a masculine working ethos. Sporting people were attracted as employees, Collingwood footballers in particular.

In 1983 the New South Wales brewing assets of Tooth & Co. were taken over and a successful takeover of CUB was mounted by the pastoral, brewing and resources conglomerate, Elders IXL. In 1990 Elders IXL renamed its brewing interests the Foster's Brewing Group, but the 1987 downturn and borrowings led to heavy losses. A company called Harlin (later International Brewing Holdings) in which businessman John Elliott was prominent sought to increase its holdings, but the National Companies and Securities Commission required it to bid for the whole company. It secured over 50% but went into liquidation. In 1992 Broken Hill Proprietary Ltd (BHP) became the largest shareholder. CUB has since reduced its debt-to-assets ratio, and Melbourne is home to Australia's largest brewer. The Carlton and Victoria Parade sites have been sold and Abbotsford is CUB's main production centre.

David Dunstan