A brewing experiment by a group of Queensland beer lovers a decade ago has become a 108 million carton juggernaut, delivering Australian drinkers one of their favourite ever brews.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this week in Cairns, Great Northern Brewing Co.’s Ian Giles fondly recalls the brand’s humble start when, as a stretch target, an initial 20,000 cartons were manufactured for sale.
“We had a hunch there was a gap in the market for a crisp lager style beer that was perfect to drink on a hot, humid Sunshine Coast day,” Mr Giles said.
“Our inspiration came from the original Great Northern Brewery in Cairns which is why we decided to first launch the beer in Cairns.
“We took variations of a Great Northern Original recipe out on the road and tested it with beer lovers and industry experts from Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton, Mackay, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and throughout Queensland’s west.”
Now, 10 years on, it’s clear that hunch was right with Great Northern still experiencing strong growth, with demand for the Queensland drop up 16.5% across Australia compared to last year.
A draught version of Great Northern was developed in 2011 and Great Northern was available for the first time nationally when Great Northern Super Crisp was introduced. Last month the first non-alcoholic beer in the range was launched, Great Northern Zero, with demand already exceeding expectation.
“The ongoing success of Great Northern is thanks in part to the loyalty of Sunshine Coast locals who supported us from the very beginning and have made ‘the beer from up here’ an iconic brand Australia-wide,” Mr Giles said.
“When we launched Great Northern, it was the first time in my career I had hoteliers calling me desperate for more stock and asking us to put on taps. People not only raved about the taste, they also really loved the iconic marlin label.”
Initially, Great Northern could only be purchased in Queensland but tourists holidaying in places like Sunshine Coast soon returned home and asked their local hoteliers where they could buy the beer with the marlin on it?
“Great Northern became so popular, interstate hoteliers were crossing the border to buy the beer in Queensland to take back to their pubs over the border,” Mr Giles recalled.
Noosa Surf Club General Manager, Anton Mogg said they had been pouring Great Northern at the Sunshine Coast club for the past decade.
“From day one Great Northern was a smash hit with our patrons. It is by far one of the most successful beers we’ve ever launched.
“People like the fresh, crisp taste which is perfect for the Queensland climate,” Mr Mogg said.
“Because we’ve been part of the success story right from the start, I think a lot of Queensland pubs and clubs feel they are part of the Great Northern team.”
Outback Wrangler and Great Northern Brewing Co. Ambassador Matt Wright said he was proud to be associated with a brand that also gave back to pubs, clubs and people in our regions.
“I’ve partnered with the team at Great Northern in a number of ways over the last few years. We’ve done some great work trying to support the people in regional communities.
“There’s been campaigns like Let It Pour which raised more than a million for drought relief, we’ve heroed local tourism spots in national billboards and TV advertising, and right now we’re running The Great Return which is encouraging people to get back out into our country towns and support local business doing it tough because of the pandemic.
“Great Northern is a great drop that’s for sure, but it’s also a beer with heart and I think in times like these, that kind of loyalty and humble appreciation for the people who’ve been part of the journey is something worth celebrating.
“Tin or aluminium is the traditional gift for a 10th anniversary, so I’ll be shouting my mates a Great Northern tinnie to mark such an epic milestone.”
Great Northern Brewing Co. was named in tribute to CUB’s first ever Queensland-based brewing operation, the Great Northern Brewery in Cairns which it acquired in 1931. Back then, beer was made locally for locals. The brewery has since gone, but the concept of drinking locally made beer lives on in Great Northern Brewing Co.