In just ten years, a brewing experiment by a group of Queensland beer lovers has become a 108 million carton juggernaut, delivering Australian drinkers one of their favourite ever brews.
Celebrating in Cairns last week, Great Northern Brewing Co.’s Ian Giles fondly recalled 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 Cairns 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 here 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.”
Today, 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 Cairns 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 Cairns 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.
Cairns hotelier, Jon Hasler served the first ever Great Northern from his Rattle ‘n Hum hotel in Cairns.
“I’m very proud to have poured the very first Great Northern Original and Great Northern Super Crisp right here in Cairns,” Mr Hasler said.
“From day one, Great Northern was a phenomenon quickly becoming our most popular beer by a mile. In all my years as a hotelier, I’d never seen a beer go from zero to hero that quickly.”
“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.”
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.
 Brand franchise volume stated in the equivalent of Great Northern 24 cases
 Data sourced from IRI MarketEdge based on data definitions provided by CUB Pty. Ltd: Australia Liquor Weighted Data, MAT to 30/08/20