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Emu is a beer brand name now owned by Lion. It was originally brewed by the Emu Brewery in 1908 until the brewery's sale to the Swan Brewery in 1927. The production of the Emu branded beer continued from a separate autonomous brewery in Perth until 1978, and then was relocated to a combined brewery in Canning Vale. In 2014 Lion Nathan moved production of both the Emu and Swan beer brands to the company's West End Brewery in South Australia.
Emu Bitter is a mild bitter lager that has a strong hops taste, which was introduced in 1923 as one of Swan Brewing Companies flagships. The alcohol by volume content of the beer is currently 4.0%. The man pictured on the label is former Swan Brewer Ken Arrowsmith. He oversaw the introduction of Emu Draft and was head brewer during the brands popularity boom in the late 1980s and into the 1990s. Colloquial names for the beer include:"Bush Chooks", "EB" or "Kenny".
In the mid to late 20th century, when Emu Bitter came in large brown bottles with green labels, it was also called "green slime", "green stuff", "green poison" or "kero". These names were frequently used tongue in cheek, or in a derogatory way by those who preferred Swan lager, (often the only readily available alternative), and were a reference to Emu Bitter's green coloured label and its very bitter taste ("kerosene like taste" Swan Lager drinkers would claim). Post WW II, power kerosene in Western Australia was often coloured green and came in brown 26 oz. bottles similar to those used post war for Emu Bitter. These old colloquial names are still sometimes used with affection by some older generation Western Australians who recall the days when beer only came in large brown bottles or out of a keg.
Prior to the late 1970s, the Swan Brewery had a virtual monopoly in the Western Australia beer market. Therefore, outside of the Goldfields where the original Hannan's Lager and Kalgoorlie Stout (Kalgoorlie brewed by the Swan Brewery owned Kalgoorlie Brewing Company) still held their own, the choice for beer drinkers was often only between Emu Bitter and Swan Lager, and both brews had their loyal consumers who would make fun of the opposing brew. Emu Bitter drinkers, in response to the "kero" name calling, would often claim that Emu Bitter was "a real man's drink", while Swan Lager was "a drink for women and young men not tough enough to appreciate the bitter taste of Emu Bitter". And in those less than politically correct days, any young Perth man who did drink an imported beer, or the locally bottled Skol, or Swan Special Bond, was likely to get comments from his drinking friends suggesting his choice of brew indicated something questionable about his sexuality. The Kalgoorlie Brewery closed in 1982 and Hannan's Lager eventually disappeared from Swan's list of brews (but lately, a facsimile Hannan's Lager was launched by the Ironbark Brewery).
Emu Export is a clean light yellow lager that was first launched in 1954 with an alcohol content of 4.9%. The current alcohol volume has been reduced to 4.2%. Colloquial names for the beer include: "the red lead", "the red death", "flightless bird", "export", "sport", "E squared", "chook's piss", "bush chook", "wife basher" or "red can" “sexport” or “red hand grenade”. Also "RTS" Red Tin Sychosis (sic)
Emu beer originated from the Stanley Brewery (previously the Albion Brewery) which was established by James Stokes, a 27-year-old settler from Bristol in England. Built in 1848 at the foot of Mt Eliza, the brewery's name was later changed to the "Emu Brewery" to better identify with its popular Emu bottled beer. In 1927 Swan Brewery acquired control of what was then its major competitor - the Emu Brewery.
Because of the popularity of the Emu bottled beer, Swan decided to expand and modernise the Emu Brewery and to run it as a separate concern rather than amalgamate it with Swan's other lines. As a result, and even in relatively modern times, the Emu Brand had a namesake brewery.
The last "Emu Brewery" stood at the corner of Spring Street and Mounts Bay Road at the western end of the Perth CBD. The art deco building, designed by architects Oldham, Boas and Ednie-Brown in 1937, featured large interesting and attractive stone motives of brewing activities created by WA sculptor Edward F Kohler. The building was considered one of the more attractive buildings operated by the Swan Brewery Company and a star example of the Perth Art Deco architectural era. Swan were proud enough of the building to feature a picture of it on the label of their bottles and cans of Emu Export Lager.
Once this last "Emu Brewery" was closed, proposed redevelopment of the site became a controversial issue as it was overlooked by Parliament House. The site remained empty and abandoned for many years and was the target for vandalism and graffiti. Despite a heritage listing, the site consequently became run down and the brewery building was demolished in late 1991 / early 1992.
- Emu Draft - launch of the Swan Brewery new beer called Emu Draft or affectionately known as "The Red Death" Western liquor guide, April 1992, p. 18
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- Emu Brewery (former) Archived 11 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Aussieheritage.com.au, states: "The Emu Brewery stands on the site of the first commercial brewery to be established in WA. The site was chosen because of the presence of a fresh spring, essential to the brewing process and a slope (Spring Street, Perth) which enabled more efficient functioning of the brewing process. The first brewery was built by J Stokes in 1837 (only eight years after the founding of the WA colony). The site has been used continuously for brewing since that time. In 1887 the brewery was taken over by the Stanley Brewery Company Ltd and in 1908 the name was changed to the Emu Co-operative Brewery, then to the Emu Brewery Ltd."
- Oldham, Boas and Ednie-Brown also designed London Court (in 1936).
- Kohler, Edward Frederick (1890 - 1964), Australian Dictionary of Biography, accessed 2008-08-03.
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- "Hannan's Lager and Kalgoorlie Stout".
- "Hannan's Lager from Ironbark Brewery". Archived from the original on 18 July 2008.
- "More history of original Perth brewing history esp. on pages 6 and 7" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 July 2008.