This is the story of a little man who captured a city's imagination, it's the story of Ballarat's own Bertie.
In 1926 the Ballarat Brewing Company launched its first major advertising campaign, using the character of 'Ballarat Bertie'. The brewing of beer had been an important part of Ballarat's manufacturing history since the arrival of miners to the Ballarat Goldfields. Ballarat Brewing company was established in 1910, after the amalgamation of three breweries, William Tulloch and Alexander McLaren's Royal Standard Brewery, James Coghlans' Phoenix Brewery and Henry Leggo's Barley Sheaf Brewery all established in 1857 .
Given the brief of creating a character like that of 'Johnny Walker', O'Brien's Advertising (later Mooney Webb) created Ballarat Bertie, a cellarman at the brewery to market the Ballarat Brewing Company's stouts, ales and lagers. On the wall in front of you, you can see an example of an advertisement for Ballarat Bitter using the Ballarat Bertie image. Signs like this were once found in many locations across Ballarat.
Bertie was a huge advertising success for the company and became synonymous with the Ballarat Brewing Company brand and with Ballarat itself. In World War 2 Ballarat Bitter was exported to troops fighting across the world and those who had a connection to Ballarat would be known as a 'Ballarat Bertie'. During the war HMAS Ballarat had made 'Ballarat Bertie' their ship's mascot. Bertie remains the ship's mascot, now on board the modern day HMAS Ballarat warship.
In 1971 Ballarat locals showed just how important the icon of Ballarat Bertie was to them. Ballarat Brewing Co had been sold to Carlton and United Breweries (CUB) in 1958 and in 1971 the company decided to remove Ballarat Bertie from its branding. So great were the protests from the people of Ballarat that CUB quickly relented and returned the image of Bertie to the Ballarat Bitter label.
Brewing at the Ballarat Brewing sight ceased in 1989 as did sales of Ballarat Bitter in 1991. Yet Ballarat's affection for Bertie continued. In 2006, following a request by the crew of the HMAS Ballarat, Foster's Group (CUB's parent company) created a limited run of the beer. The initial release of 40 pallets sold out within two days.
The character of Bertie and the people of Ballarat's affection for him lives on today in the sign you see on this site. It has become an important symbol of Ballarat's history and tangible reminder of the little cellarman who proudly held his pint of Ballarat Bitter aloft.
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