Almanac Glassware: Southwark Mugs


The monstrously-thirsty actor Robert Shaw, spitting feathers after his iconic performance in Jaws’ Indianapolis speech, barked across the set to a young Spielberg, “Stevie, for Chrissakes, get me a longneck of Southwark!”


Now the fine detail of this may not be entirely accurate, but I’d like to think that the man who played the great shark-hunter, Quint, would’ve been a Southwark slurper. It sits well against his gruff, world-weary until a colossal shark devoured my character when I slid down a sinking boat into its mouth, image.


Of course Jaws was already a classic, and Robert Shaw had long been shark food in 1992 when I made the purchases, and claimed my complimentary glassware. How ancient does this now seem? Indeed, it was half a lifetime ago.


The Adelaide Crows had only just been hatched, and their first flag was half a decade away; Nirvana’s Nevermind was still novel; mobile phones were rare and about as smart as Channel 9’s evening programming.


I remember Southwark beer as something Dad occasionally drank. The distinctive green label. Hot summers and kikuyu grass and World Series cricket. My ten year-old self, riding a blue dragster along the tired streets of Kapunda, with cardboard strips pegged to the spokes.


In 1992 I was in Kimba and bought, over a few months, four cartons of the then recently re-badged beer. Green death was, well, dead. The label was now a stylish dark blue, no doubt a marketing strategy to seduce the wide-eyed kids. I think the glasses and not the beer was my key motivation. Like buying a crappy car because the clunking model you test-drove was in your favourite colour.


Among my memories of 1992 are the high rainfall of that summer. It started pouring late in the year, continued across harvest and beyond Boxing Day. Typically, the West Coast is a hot and dusty place around then; a parched and baked land, but it was awash, biblically. Parts of the farming country were sullen seas, and reaping was impossible.


Driving home to Kapunda for Christmas I had to go via Whyalla (that’s a disappointing phrase) because Highway One was blocked. Iron Knob was more Soggy Knob, and as we all know, this is never good.


Despite being amorphous solids, such is their resilience that I still have all four of these Southwark mugs twenty-six years on having lived in ten houses across three countries and both hemispheres. These mugs have nursed cordial, milk, water, Coopers Sparkling Ale, and assorted European lager – beers my old mate Bazz affectionately describes as “kooky stuff.” Even Bitburger, Germany’s eighteenth best lager. The mugs are indestructible. They’ve become nostalgic symbols.




They speak of country football; losing cricket grand finals; punting syndicates featuring forgotten horses with energetic mates; VHS versions of Pulp Fiction; Sunday barbeques that stretch into the muggy dark; Chad Morgan cassettes; buying my now wife a Happy Hour beer in the then great front bar of the Kimba pub; a midnight quiet only broken by a lone long-haul truck.


With last Saturday’s sun setting we were mustered about our patio, and it became medically urgent for Mozz and I to upturn a robust ale into glass. As Dr Hook ministered above the effervescent evening (only sentimental songs from irrecoverable ages will do with ancient friends), out came the old mates, the old muckers, those Southwark mugs: silent servants, patiently working as they have since Mark Waugh had an unironic mullet.


Musically, it wasn’t going well for Sylvia, her mother, or Sylvia’s former and anguished flame, but well into their third decade of faithful companionship, the mugs again came good, and the ale danced in the glass. Now, in a curious first, I toast the brilliance of the Southwark mug by raising the Southwark mug! Meta-toasting!


As IA Healy would nasally suggest, “Bowled Southwark!”


About Mickey Randall

Now whip it into shape/ Shape it up, get straight/ Go forward, move ahead/ Try to detect it, it's not too late/ To whip it, whip it good


  1. Dave Brown says

    Long may they remain unbroken, Mickey, and rarely touched by the eponymous product!

  2. The mugs look indestructible. Much like their namesake. Blended with mineral turps, creosote and furniture polish. No Croweater of a certain age could tell the difference. Because we never tasted anything different. Coopers was for the Eastern Suburbs snobs. West End for wharfies. VB an exotic pest that fruit fly inspectors confiscated at Silverton.
    When we were in Croatia all of the Avenging Eagle’s relatives drank their personal home made wine made from unknown grapes on family plots in the mountains. No irrigation or nutrients. What grew in the granite crevices was harvested, and was then crushed and “matured” in large plastic vats in the family konoba (cellar). Tasted like a mixture of fly spray, bleach and vinegar. Louis Pasteur and the science of oxidation had not yet reached the Biokovo Mountains. But it was impolite to refuse.
    One relative – a mathematician from Split University moved in for a while to care for his elderly father. He studied winemaking books and made a pleasant drop of Jacobs Creek basic standard that we eagerly devoured. The locals turned their noses up and went back to drinking their Croatian “Green Death”. Plus ce change……..

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Super impressed that the mugs have moved great distances with you.
    In the past I was known to base my beer purchases on the free glass/stubby holder/cap that came with your purchase. Still have a couple of never used Boags Draught footballs (plus a couple of well used ones) that may get a run this Winter.

  4. Jamie Simmons says

    Strange the things that resonate with us. Kikuyu grass and Dr Hook for me in this Mickey. How many Southwarks inspired the purchase of those Chad Morgan tapes I wonder?

  5. Great stuff, Mickey. Very resilient beer mugs.
    And I am with Browny: Southwark is a shit beer.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    To think that Fosters almost took over the world – there’s still a chance for West End Light. If only I’d steamed off a few Eagle Blue labels or even Coopers Black Crow.

    Arm yourselves with those mugs Mickey and your joint is safe from home invaders I reckon.

  7. G’day Mickey i don’t want to sound derisive but to me drinking Southwark is something for Mugs. I’m old enough to recall the late year brewery strikes when they trucked enormous amounts of South Australian beer into Melbourne. I was but a young lad in those days, however was cognisant enough to recognise Southwark was not a drop for my plate; nor most Melburnians !!! I thought it was the worst beer i ‘d ever touched,but a few years later discovered XXXX: nuff said !

    Intriguingly i saw Southwark Stout in Broken Hill last year. I don’t mind a drop of a dark ale,but the brand name totally deterred me from even considering it.

    Enjoy your Southwark Mugs Mickey, but not for me.


  8. While I’ve owned these mugs for 26 years, it must now be 25 years and 8 months since the beer in question (dis)graced them. Is this a record for inappropriate product promotion?

    Coopers the Winx of local beers, but what of West End and Southwark? That’s like picking your favourite Andre Rieu CD. Although Southwark premium was a nice lager to have with Asian food, but I don’t reckon it’s been made for years.

    As part of my selfless research for this piece I swung by a couple of the chain bottle shops (including the one our eldest once thought stood for Beer Wine Sprite) only to be told they didn’t stock Southwark, which despite the less than glowing reviews of the beer (1 and ½ bottle tops out of 5) seems a little inadequate, especially in Adelaide.

    Thanks for your comments and interest in some obscure beer paraphernalia.

  9. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Beautiful images of sights, lights and sounds of summer. Particularly the silence broken only by the road train.

    My mum had many methods for accidentally ‘breaking’ mugs like that. Although I still have a single Clover Hill promotional Champagne glass complete with frosted logo that is, hands down, the best sparkling glass I have ever used!

  10. Thanks Mathilde. I reckon it’s good to have a go-to promotional glass, but it mustn’t be overused so it retains an aura of occasion for when friends are visiting etc.

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