Almanac Beer: Southwark Bitter




On the grey beach this morning the dogs scampered in the wet sand and as we chatted about yesterday’s Cellar Door Fest I thought of the many wonderful things for which I’m grateful.


Oddly, Southwark Bitter was absent from this gentle Sunday mindfulness, but now here I am on the patio with a distinctive green can. I feel compelled to revisit as like ELO, Collingwood infamy and Diane sauce it’s once again topical. These excursions into nostalgia should be occasionally inclusive and with the radio on, the lawn freshly mown, and the water feature bubbling along, I flip open the can. I expect it to be combative.


It smells more beery than beer. There’s nothing post-modern or aspirational present. It’s unapologetic, and I know that if Southwark was a human and had a playlist there’d be way too many songs by The Angels. But, wait, perhaps the aromatics aren’t as boisterous as I remember. There’s also a familiar charm, and it’s like the old cricketer who batted at ten, didn’t bowl and had to be hidden in the field. But, you and your team-mates loved him.


I take a few cautious sips and I expect to be clobbered in the gob. But, I’m not. It’s not nearly as angular and cantankerous as my last venture all those years ago when craft beer and beards didn’t have some curious, unfailing connection. My drink is smooth and in the neighbourhood of subtle. Disbelieving, I check the can. Yep, Southwark. I replaced some lawn this morning and can now feel the results of my minor labour (yes, I used my skimming shovel) and wonder if I’m experiencing some strange sensory side-effects of this rare Sunday exertion.



A plane takes off from Adelaide airport and with a low scream climbs out across St Vincent’s Gulf. Our dog Buddy moves on his corner of the patio and Triple J plays a song I don’t know.


I keep two glass Southwark mugs in the freezer and sometimes bring these out on hot days when guests call in. It’s more theatrical than epicurean but the frostiness adds a brief frisson to our shared enterprise. Given that I’ve bought a Southwark for the first time this millennium I decide it would be churlish not to marry beer and ancient mug. So I do.


This seems to exaggerate the trademark bitterness and now my 2021 experience starts to approach the one I recollect from those dusty Kapunda afternoons after cricket or by the Duck Pond with other misshapen youth or up at Gundry’s Hill as Fats blasted Mondo Rock with his car boot flipped up. The universe settles back onto its known axis. But it’s been a curiously rewarding event, and the beer has over-delivered.


With a determined swallow I finish my mug of beer and sit it down on the table. I wonder when I’ll next have a Southwark.


I look over at the dogs. They don’t seem to know either.



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About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello


  1. O M G ; F F S !

    Does this still exist?

    I’m old enough to remember the beer strikes from the late 1970’s, early 1980′ s when us Melburnians had the option of Southwark, West End or tap water. For many of us tap water wasn’t just healthier,it had a more pleasant flavour.

    It harks back to an era of Marina’s, P76’s, Andy Capp beers and like them should be relegated to somewhere deep in the ether of the memory bank.

    No more.


  2. Hi Mickey, I’m intrigued to see the mention of ELO, Mondo Rock and Southwark Bitter beer in the same article.
    In the lounge room of my mum’s place where I’m writing this message, I see one of her paintings which includes a bottle of Southwark Bitter.
    A few nights ago I listened to ELO’s 1977 album Out of the Blue. It’s my second favourite album of all-time. Top of the list is its predecessor: A New World Record. In third place is ELO’s 1981 album Time.
    While ELO will always be my number 1, I’ve also been a Mondo Rock fan since I was 4. During a holiday to New Zealand in 1986 (my only time overseas to this point) and in the ensuing years, one cassette that was regularly played was the Mondo Rock compilation Up to the Moment.
    I had the good fortune of seeing Mondo Rock in concert in 2018, and I was going to see them last year as well, until COVID-19 forced a cancellation.

  3. I like it and I’m glad they’ve done this ‘retro’ thing before they head off interstate :-( For my money it is always, and has always been, best out of a cold can.

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Good stuff, Mickey! I’m glad the much-maligned Southwark Bitter got a positive response from you. Taste is in the taste buds of the beholder(?) and many tastes connect with with memorable parts of our lives and assume an importance that they may not otherwise have. Southwark Bitter is such a case with me. I ever wrote a poem in which I include it, “Lionheart Summer”, as some Almanackers will remember:

  5. The Green Death as it is known in the country southeast of South Oz!

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    The good folk of Twitter convinced me to buy this – shall I ship it over to you Mickey?

  7. Hey Mickey, I well remember one of my friends often saying, quite a few years back now, that there was nothing quite quite like a SOUTHWARK SANDWICH for lunch. Not being a beer drinker, I couldn’t vouch for his taste.

  8. Is Southwark Premium an oxymoron? I used to drink it. Does that prove the case? Is it still available?

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    That’s a beautiful looking can.

    Always something special about the beers of our youth. I get to sample a VB after most away games of cricket, can still get some enjoyment out of it. Not after home games of course, the Pomborneit CC fridge always has a Prickly Moses handy.

  10. When I saw the work “Southwark” in the heading, I almost did not read any further!
    I am glad that it was at least palatable, Mickey.

  11. Daryl Schramm says

    Oh. Mickey. Gold! Dinner party three months ago host bought and offered SB in stubbles for the blokes pre-dinner refreshments. 4 of us had two each and I for one, was pleasantly impressed.
    Have been to the Southwark Hotel on a Sunday for a bit of live music over recent years. Alleged home of the SS. I drink Iron Jack or Furphy there now.
    Love the comments. Memories of driving my XY onto the oval in front of the clubrooms late on a balmy evening in the late 70s, opening the boot and playing cassettes came flooding back.

  12. Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting. Southwark is evocative for many in good and other ways! Just like Max Walker’s bowling action and Countdown at 6pm on a Sunday and the hot steering wheel of an old Holden.

  13. John Butler says

    They’re a contentious lot, those SA beers.

  14. They still brew the Green Death? I’ll have a get a few tinnies for my next BBQ. ?

  15. JB- Southwark aside (many would suggest an excellent strategy) I’d argue that Coopers are entirely non-contentious such is their all-round excellence. But this in itself would be viewed by some as contentious.

    Dan- you could pop down to your eponymous retailer and pick some up!

  16. george smith says

    Here in Sydney it is virtually impossible to buy anything from interstate. Fourex – unless you are prepared to drive 600 miles north and bring a crate home forget it. Swan and Emu are made under licence in Adelaide and shipped to Perth and the result is underwhelming to the locals and a bitter (sorry) disappointment for blow ins like myself who remembered the glory of such things a mere 20 years ago. Even Coopers is losing its lustre, there is too many choices and I always pick the wrong one. Maybe it doesn’t travel well…

    The boutikies are always out in force, it is easier to buy Little Creatures here than most Aussie legends. Then there is the modern hall of shame – Furphy, Fourex Gold and Northern whatever…

  17. Daryl Schramm says

    Had a can of SB watching my old team of BOFs (Browns Old Fellows) purchased from JTH’s old stomping ground at Adelaide Lutheran Sporting Club yesterday. It caused a few comments. “Didn’t know you could still get it” and “no fond memories for me” were two that came up. My response was if you haven’t tried it for a long while give it a go. You may be pleasantly surprised.

  18. george- I reckon beer doesn’t travel well. I’ve been wildly excited in the past to discover Coopers in England Singapore and the results have mostly been disappointing, even with Sparkling Ale. Might be something about crossing the equator…

    Daryl- ALSC, of course. I wonder if it’s on tap anywhere? Unlikely methinks, but I guess the Southwark pub might be a good place to check.

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