Dr Cooper prescribes beer

With today’s focus on alcohol and health, there’s sweet irony in the history of Coopers Brewery. Its founder, Thomas Cooper, first brewed beer in the family bathtub, urged to do so by an ailing Yorkshire-born wife, convinced of beer’s health benefits. She died.

But not because of the beer, said Dr Tim Cooper on a visit to Canberra last week. His ancestor remarried, fathered 19 children in the two marriages, and in 1862 moved from the bathtub to a proper brewery, perhaps so the kids could bathe.

A Methodist, convinced of the evil of spirits, wine and pubs, Thomas Cooper built his business on door-to-door sales. Only in 1905 did a descendent embrace the devil, and Coopers has been in pubs ever since.

But as the business faltered in the 1970s young Cooper opted for a career in medicine. In the mid eighties, practicing in the UK and seven years into cardiology studies, he felt the call of the family business – motivated partly by a belief in beer’s health giving qualities. So, it was off to Birmingham University to study brewing.

Cooper joined the family company in Adelaide as brewer in 1990, continuing to practice medicine on weekends. In 2001 Coopers moved from its original site to a new $40 million facility at Regency Park. Since then the company has fought off a hostile bid from Lion Nathan, invested another $70 million in production facilities and boosted production from 27 to 62 million litres – lifting its share of the Australian beer market from to 3.6 per cent, from one per cent. Dr Cooper still advocates the health benefits of moderate beer consumption.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010

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