A history of the Waikato Brewery - home of Mooloo beer! Notably it was owned by a woman at the turn of the 19th Century when brewing was seen as a 'man's world'. Mary Jane Innes was inducted into the NZ Business Hall of Fame in 2013.
When you travel over Hamilton's Anzac Bridge, you will see on the left by the Waikato River the former Waikato Brewery - aka home of Mooloo beer. This story describes the Waikato Brewery's beginnings in 1873 and its eventual ownership in 1889 by Mary Jane Innes and her family until it closed 100 years later in 1989. Mary Jane was inducted into the NZ Business Hall of Fame in 2013 for her entrepreneurial and leadership skills in the brewing and aerated waters industry, which was seen at the turn of the 19th Century as being a "man's world". Her business legacy continues today with the Innes companies that were sold on, operating as Lion Nathan Breweries and Oasis Industries, which is now part of Coca-Cola. A bronze plaque and figurine of Mary Jane can be seen on the railings of the Anzac Bridge.
Since its founding in 1873, the Waikato Brewery has produced various brands of beer to celebrate the Waikato district and Mooloo rugby! Waikato Draught, a malty bitter ale, was first produced in 1925. The iconic drawing of Willie the waiter was created in 1945 by artist Dick Abnett who portrayed a cartoon character not serving martinis but beer. Who was the inspiration for Willie? Apparently he was modelled on a popular brewery employee, William T. Walter, who had distinctive features, including a prominent nose! (See Te Ara.) Initially, Willie the waiter appeared on bottle caps, beer bottle labels and coasters and, then, on other memorabilia. Willie also has his own Twitter account!
The new mascot of the Waikato rugby team "Mooloo" the cow, was chosen in a competition run by local company Booth and Chapman after Waikato won the Ranfurly Shield for the first time in 1951. Waikato Breweries Ltd produced bottles of ‘Mooloo medicine’, and dispensed ‘Mooloo juice’ from a wooden trough mounted on the back of a ute with a fake cow in attendance. “Fine ales for friendly folk,” promised the advertisements.
The Waikato Brewery was originally set up in 1873 by William Cumming, a member of the 4th Regiment, Waikato Militia. He had received a Crown grant of over one acre in Cook Street, Hamilton East near the Waikato River. Cumming decided to build a brewery as the land was near the Royal Hotel which he had purchased three years earlier. Advertisements started to appear in the Waikato Times under the name of 'Waikato Brewery' from October 1873. For detailed descriptions of the Brewery's operations, see the articles by the Waikato Times reporter who visited on 31 Aug 1875 and the NZ Herald reporter on 21 June 1880.
A search of Papers Past, shows that Cumming promoted the Waikato Brewery, purchased hops grown by Māori, and made his machinery available to farmers for crushing oats and the grinding of bones for fertiliser! Cumming also provided the prizes for a swimming race on the Waikato River near the Brewery - first prize was a 5 gallon keg of beer. When the Beer Duty Act (1880) was introduced, Cumming shared his views in a letter to the editor of the Waikato Times (14 Sept 1889). In a subsequent letter to the editor (12 May 1881) headed 'The pleasures of brewing", Cumming details the financial records required and includes a description of the Brewery. Later in 1881, a penalty fine was given under the Beer Duty Act for not having revenue stamps affixed to casks. Following financial issues, Cumming filed for bankruptcy in 1883. (See NZ Herald, 24 Dec 1883 and the Waikato Times, 20 March 1884.)
The Waiksto Brewery was purchased in Sept 1884 by C.J.W. Barton & Co. The land and buildings were owned by Charlotte Wilson, mother of Charles John Wright Barton, who operated the business. The NZ Herald reported on 22 Nov 1884 that the Waikato Brewery had reopened after being closed for a year, and "the first brew under the management of the new proprietors, Messrs. Henry Edgecumbe and Barton, was made yesterday". Barton left the Waikato Brewery in 1887 to manage the Commercial Hotel (Victoria St, Hamilton) which he had purchased in May 1885. Barton was also elected to the Borough Council in 1886 and had two periods (1887 and 1903) as mayor; worked as the town clerk and was on various Borough Council committees, resigning in 1933 when he was 81. (See Te Ara)
Samuel Pascoe took over the lease of the Waikato Brewery’s operations from May 1887, whilst the land and buildings continued to be owned by Charlotte Wilson. Samuel had emigrated from Belfast on the ship Carisbrook Castle with Vesey Stewart's special Katikati Settlement party. After several years residing in Katikati, he moved to Hamilton. Various newspaper advertisements promoted the Waikato Brewery and Pascoe's Sparkling XXX Ale, together with testimonial as to its medicinal value. Pascoe left the Brewery in 1889 to take on the Royal Hotel at Onehunga until he passed away in 1909 aged 57 years. (See Waikato Times, 23 March, 1889 and NZ Herald, 7 May 1909).
The lease of the Waikato Brewery was purchased by Mary Jane Innes in Nov 1889 and the land and title in Hamilton East continued to be held by Charlotte Wilson. mother of Charles Barton. Following the death of Charlotte in May 1891, the title to the land and buildings was passed to Marion, the wife of her son. The Waikato Brewery business producing beer and aerated waters was kept in the Innes family for the next one hundred years - from 1889 - 1897 in the leased Hamilton East premises and from 1897 - 1989 in the Hamilton West premises they had purchased. Throughout the years, the Innes family expanded their business operations outside Hamilton and entered into various partnerships until the Hamilton buildings closed in 1989.
Mary Jane Lewis was born in Monmouthshire, Wales on 18 April 1852. She had a brother Thomas (born 1847) and sister Hannah (born 1850). Their parents died when Mary Jane was a young child - her mother in 1858 and her father two years later. The family farm of 100 acres and cottages at Caldicott had been run in trust until Thomas was old enough at age 21 years to inherit and sell. Using their inheritance, Mary Jane, her sister, brother and his wife emigrated to NZ in 1870 on board the ship Asterope.
After arriving in Auckland, the Lewis family settled in Ngāruawāhia (then called Newcastle), where Mary Jane met Charles Innes, a Scotsman 28 years her senior. They married on 30 April 1874 and the first of their ten children was born the following year. Charles had arrived in Ngāruawāhia in 1864 and established a soda water factory and brewery that made cordial and beer for the militia and locals. His buildings were on the banks of the Waikato River near the Delta Hotel on the corner of the Great South Road and Market Street. Charles also erected a large malting kiln alongside the brewery in 1871 and local farmers were encouraged to grow barley (see Waikato Times 29 Aug 1872 and 10 Oct 1872). He also became chairman of the town board in 1871.
A description of the Ngāruawāhia Brewery is given in the Auckland Star (17 March 1873): "A prominent building in the main street is the brewery of Mr Innes. In size it seems out of all proportion with the township, and evidently contemplates the whole trade of the Waikato... His beer is about the most delicious that we have tasted in the colony..." In 1867, Charles purchased the steamer Gymnotus Electricus as transport along the Waikato River. However, Charles was heavily mortgaged, and his lenders foreclosed in 1875 and he lost the brewery. The business continued under George Dicknison, but eventually closed in 1909.
The Innes family moved to Te Awamutu where Mary Jane used her inheritance from her parents' farm to finance Charles into another brewery. A Crown grant had been made to Charles in Te Awamutu on 15 August 1874 which he had transferred 5 months later to Mary Jane's brother Thomas. Then the property was registered in Mary Jane's name from 28 August 1875, but Charles was required to give his written consent. A brief description of the Te Awamutu Brewery is given in an article in the Waikato Times, 16 Aug 1881.
On 13 July 1877, Charles Innes also purchased from Joshua Thomas Johns the Waikato Aerated Soda Water Factory in Hamilton West on the corner of Tisdall and Richmond Street (later renamed Bridge Street; then Anzac Parade). Johns had bought a lemonade and cordial plant from Ngāruawāhia in 1876 and re-erected it on the site. Charles Innes upgraded the Factory's machinery and, as well as producing soft drink, also transported beer from their Te Awamutu Brewery to bottle and sell in Hamilton (see Waikato Times article, 28 Aug 1877). In effect, he competed with William Cumming's Waikato Brewery in Hamilton East. Further expansion was reported in the Waikato Times on 20 Aug 1881: "Mr Chas. Innes advertises that owing to the increasing demand for his ales and porter, he has decided to open a bottling establishment in the premises lately occupied by Messrs Walnutt and Sherriffs, Hamilton, where, in addition to his own ale, he will have a regular supply of Dunedin ale specially brewed. Mr K. Land is the Hamilton agent."
Mary Jane's husband Charles ran into financial difficulties again and was declared bankrupt in 1888. On 11 October 1888, the NZ Herald’s ‘Debtors’ Examinations’ column revealed that Charles had received a batch of bad malt, and the loss of custom combined with the Brewery operating largely on credit meant he could no longer service his debts. Mary Jane took over announcing by public post that M. J. Innes would be managing the Te Awamutu Brewery: “The undersigned has now opened the above brewery, on her own account, and begs to call the public attention to her special Christmas brew of ale and stout in draught or bottle. Orders from families and others promptly attended to. M. J. Innes. December 17th 1888.” (See Waikato Times, 20 Dec 1888). She retained the business until it was sold on 12 Dec 1895 so that she could focus on the Waikato Brewery which she had purchased in 1889.
Mary Jane purchased the lease for the Waikato Brewery in 1889 and the Innes family shifted from Te Awamutu to Hamilton. They still retained the Waikato Aerated Soda Water Factory they had purchased in 1877 on the western side of the Waikato River at the corner of Tisdall and Richmond Street. Although Mary Jane was running the Waikato Brewery in Hamilton East, the company's advertising simply said "M J Innes, Proprietor" - no "Mrs" or "Proprietress" which indicates attitudes to women as owners at the time. A copy of a document from an early 20th century statutory meeting of the company, shows that while several of her sons are listed, Mary Jane does not get a mention. (See Stuff.co article Female entrepreneur in a man's world.)
Advertisements appeared promoting the Waikato Brewery's "Ale and Porter of first class quality, second to none in the market" (Waikato Times, 24 April 1890) and "Ale and stout for Christmas are now ready" (Waikato Times, 23 Dec 1893). Mary Jane's husband continued to be involved in the brewing operations which was not without its hazards, as reported in the Waikato Times, 5 Dec 1891: "Mr C. Innes, proprietor of the Waikato Brewery at Hamilton East, met with a nasty accident on Thursday. He was engaged bottling lemonade, when a bottle burst, the nock part inflicting a nasty cut on the lower aspect of the left wrist, severing the ulnia artery. Dr. Kenny bound up the wound, and we hope Mr Innes will be able to resume work in a few days." The newspapers also reported on court case hearings over stamp duties for kegs of beer (see The Thames Advertiser, 12 Jan 1895).
An advertisement in the Ohinemutu Gazette (9 January 1897) proclaimed that "M. J. Innes, Ale and Porter Brewer, Lemonade, Ginger Ale, and Cordial Manufacturer, Hamilton, has started a Branch in Paeroa, and solicits a "share" of the patronage of residents'of Paeroa and surrounding districts. Bottled Ale and Stout a Speciality, All orders addressed to C. L. Innes, Commercial Hotel, Paeroa, will be promptly attended to."
There was an outbreak of fire at the Waikato Brewery's Hamilton East premises in April 1897. As the plant occupied several small buildings, it was possible to confine the fire to the brewery, which was extensively damaged, and save the aerated water section. Mary Jane and Charles Innes decided to shift the operation of the Waikato Brewery across river to their Waikato aerated sodawater factory on the corner of Tisdall Street and Richmond Street, which they had purchased in 1877 when living in Te Awamutu. An advertisement dated 15 April stated that the business would continue under the name of "Waikato Brewery and Aerated Water Works" (see Argus 22 April 1897). Building alterations were carried out (see Auckland Star, 5 May 1897) and the business reopened in 1898.
In 1899 Mary Janes' husband died in his 75th year of suspected heart failure by natural causes while taking a bath in a vat at the brewery (see Waikato Times report). She arranged a series of loans and used her own funds to pay off some of his debts. Her eldest son Charles Lewis was an apprentice brewer at the Great Northern Brewery in Kyhber Pass, Auckland. He entered into a deed of partnership with Mary Jane on 1 Nov 1900. A new company was established - C.L. Innes & Co., Brewers and Aerated Water Manufacturers, Waikato Brewery, Hamilton.
In 1902, a newspaper reporter with "...a pressman's characteristic thirst for information and—refreshment, visited the Waikato Brewery, Hamilton, in order to investigate into the truth of certain complimentary remarks made about the special Christmas brew..." and gave a very favourable review (see Waikato Times, 16 Dec 1902). The newspapers also reported on when inspections under the new Licensing Act were carried out on stamp duties and on dealing in liquor in the prohibited area of the King Country.
After obtaining the Waikato Brewery, in 1902 Mary Jane and her family moved into 8 Tisdall Street, which had been purchased by her eldest son Charles. In Nov 1905 his brother Frank became a joint owner of the house.
In 1905, Mary Jane's younger son Frank also joined the business partnership with older son Charles and herself. After Charles married Florence Gillander on 20 March 1907, Mary Jane moved to Auckland, leaving Charles and Frank to run the business. Waikato Times articles reported that the staff gave a "handsome dinner service" as a wedding gift and the honeymoon took place in NZ and Australia. Charles managed the brewery side of the operations whilst Frank oversaw the soft drinks and cordial.
From 14 August 1907, the firm's structure was changed from a private company into a limited liability company. There were seven charter members holding one share each, including Mary Jane Innes and her daughter-in-law Florence. Shares were issued and the general public became investors.
Mary Jane Innes gifted her shares in the company to her sons Charles and Frank in 1912.
Mary Jane's son Charles passed away during the influenza epidemic (Nov 1918) in his 42nd year and was buried at Warkworth. The stone archway at the entrance to the Ferry Bank Reserve, which is opposite to the Brewery, was erected in 1924 in his memory. An article in the Auckland Star (24 Dec 1924) mentions the completion of the "massive stone arch and steps" by the Hamilton Beautifying Society. The Innes Memorial Shield for Waikato Rugby League football was also given as a trophy (see Waikato Times article, 3 Aug 1920). Frank managed both the brewery and soft drink operations. The ongoing popularity of beer sales led to this Public Notice in the King Country Chronicle (2 Dec 1920): "Customers are requested to return all our empty branded kegs, soon as possible, as they are urgently required for Christmas trade". Newspaper advertisements continued to promote "Peerless Ale and Stout: pure & wholesome tonics" (Waikato Times, 15 Nov 1921).
Growing demand led C.L. Innes & Co. Ltd to expand its operations for the production of aerated waters and hop beer outside Hamilton. (See NZ Herald, 7 July 1910). A branch was set up in 1908 at Taumarunui in Morero Terrace; then five years later they took over the premises previously occupied by A. Hyde in Huia St. Harry Innes was the first manager, leaving Taumarunui in 1910 to open a new branch in Waihi. Later managers were Peter McKinnon and Alf Smith (see Kiwiiconz). In 1920, Charles Innes purchased the lease for the Te Aroha Mineral Water Co and started marketing "Wai Aroha Mineral Water & Lemon" (see Auckland Star, 25 May 1923). From 1935 CL Innes changed the label back to "Lemon & Te Aroha". During the 1920s the head office was shifted from Hamilton to Newmarket, Auckland.
Horse-drawn carts were used until motorised vehicles were introduced. The Waikato Argus (28 Nov 1900) reported, "A mild sensation was caused in Victoria Street, Hamilton, this morning, when Messrs C L. Innes and Coy's horse attached to a spring cart bolted down the main street. The animal rushed through the street and down past the brewery, where it was brought up, and the only damage done was the breaking of a few bottles of aerated waters".
New machinery was introduced including: 26 b.h.p. "National" gas engine and producer plant, Linde freezer, Crown corking machine, bottle washing machine, and an electric power and ice-making plant to keep the stock at a uniform temperature (see Poverty Bay Herald on 13 April 1912 and NZ Herald on 1 June 1915 & 15 Nov 1921). The latest Shield's aerating bottling machine—the first in New Zealand — was also installed at Hamilton to enable a more uniform brand of aerated water to be manufactured. It filled and crowned a bottle with one operation, enabling two men to do what in the past four men had to do, thus reducing labour costs. To increase the supply of artesian water for the brewing of beer, an electrically-driven pump was installed at a spring in Hamilton East and pipes were laid across the Traffic Bridge. (See Matamata Record, 29 Oct 1923)
A new building to front the C.L. Innes & Co brewery and bottling operations in Hamilton was built by Frank Innes (Managing Director) which opened in September 1930. The staff included Ernie Tisch (factory manager) and Albert Kelly (brewer). During 1932, Frank' younger son Jack L. Innes joined the firm in a junior role.
The effects of the Great Depression in the 1930s were felt and the same pattern of producing Peerless Ale, Stout and a range of aerated waters was retained. It was not until the latter 1930s that changes were introduced with new advertisements beginning to appear in the Waikato Independent for the bottled beer 'Waikato Ale Special Brew' (9 Dec 1939) and 'Special draught beer' (14 Dec 1939). The rise and fall of the Brewery's sharemarket dividends were reported on in the newspapers. After the War years, the Brewery had a resurgence in profits following the appointment of an industrial chemist, Len J. Eriksen, from 1947 to the late 1970s. The Brewery adopted new methods and modern brewing equipment. Frank Innes' other son, Harold, also joined the company as sales manager. Hence, Mary Jane's son Frank and his two sons, Jack and Harold, carried on the Innes family tradition of operating the business.
The company was restructured in 1948 to form Innes Industries Ltd. This meant C.L. Innes & Co.Ltd ceased to exist and was split into two independent companies - the newly named Waikato Breweries Ltd and the soft drink operations. The two companies were also physically separated into different buildings. The Innes soft drink factory was built diagonally opposite the Brewery on the corner of Anzac Parade and Victoria Street in Hamilton during the 1950s. The new factory was thought to have been designed by White, Leigh & de Lislem in 1954 or by modernist architect Henry Kulka in 1955 (see Waikato Times, 9 Dec 2016).
The separation of Waikato Breweries Ltd as a stand alone company under Innes Industries Ltd opened the way for an amalgamation with other brewery firms. In 1951, Waikato Breweries Ltd. and L.D. Nathan & Co. Ltd. merged to form Consolidated Hotels Ltd. This merger provided Waikato Breweries Ltd with direct access to 12 hotels as outlets for its products.
The 1960s saw staffing changes. In 1961, Frank Innes passed away. His son Harold became senior director of Innes Industries and moved to Auckland. The following year in 1962, Frank's other son Jack retired from the Board of Waikato Breweries Ltd and was replaced by G. Reid who was the managing director of New Zealand Breweries Ltd, Wellington. That same year, New Zealand Breweries Ltd (later to become Lion Breweries; then Lion Nathan) bought Innes Industries Ltd’s shares in Waikato Breweries Ltd and Consolidated Hotels. In 1968, Harold went to London and successfully negotiated the franchise to produce Bass beer in New Zealand. He then converted the Albion Hotel in Auckland into a replica of an English pub. (See Te Ara.)
In 1962, Innes Industries Ltd. amalgamated with L. D. Nathan and Oasis Industries Ltd was formed. Harold Innes who was the senior director of Innes Industries Ltd became the first managing director.
In 1963, Innes Industries merged with Menzies and Co which marketed 'Lemon and Paeroa'. The Innes Tartan was adopted as the motif on the neck of the L&P bottle. The large L&P bottle was erected at the eastern entrance to Paeroa in 1967 and was painted in L&P colours the following year for the Christmas Parade. In 1969, Innes Tartan Limited, in a joint venture with the former Paeroa Borough Council, moved the bottle to its present site. The L&P bottle has appeared on a NZ postage stamp and become one of the most well-known and photographed icons in NZ by locals and overseas tourists.
Schweppes (NZ) Limited, another cordial manufacturer, became associated with Innes Tartan Limited to manufacture Lemon and Paeroa at its NZ factories. In the late 1970s, Innes Tartan and Schweppes were taken over by Oasis Industries. The Paeroa factory was closed by Oasis in July 1980 and the production moved to Auckland. Later on, Oasis was taken over by Coca-Cola Amatil in Auckland. (See the following articles on the history of L&P: Wikipedia, Positive Paeroa, and the L and P Story.)
In July 1973, a new branch. the South Seas Brewing Co. Ltd, was set up in Lautoka, Fiji under the management of Waikato Breweries Ltd. It was intended to be a joint venture with the Fijian Government initially, with public shares planned once it was fully established. However, delays in delivery and competition led to financial difficulties and it closed on 27 June 1975. The factory buildings were later taken over by Carlton United Brewery of Melbourne.
An end of an era took place in the early 1970s when the last of the Innes family left the company. Jack Innes had passed away in July 1973 and his brother Harold retired the following year. The total shareholding of Consolidated Hotels had been transferred to New Zealand Breweries Ltd in 1974 who became the outright owner. The Waikato Brewery stayed open in Hamilton until the production of Waikato Draught was moved to the Lion Breweries in Newmarket, Auckland in 1987 (now known as Lion Nathan).
The Waikato Brewery plant was officially closed in 1989. The former Waikato Brewery building has been on the market a couple times (see Waikato Times, 27 Feb 2010) and is currently operating as a restaurant called Chim Choo Ree. The former soft drinks building has been used as an indoor roller skating rink and a used car auction house. It is currently an indoor theatre - The Meteor - which has been undergoing refurbishments following a recent funding campaign.
Waikato Draught is still produced today since its beginnings in 1925 — with Lion Nathan continuing the legacy of Mary Jane and her family.
In 1960 Frank Innes and his family dedicated the area west of Hamilton Lake in memory of their father and Mary Jane's husband Charles Innes senior. This once swampy area had been named “Innes Park” in 1956 and it officially became known as Innes Common in 1960.
Named after Mary Jane Innes, the Innes48 hours competition is annual weekend event based in Hamilton. It is managed by Wintec's SODA Inc which initially occupied the mezzanine level of The Meteor theatre - the former building of the soda bottling factory. National and international participants attend workshops with inspirational speakers on the process of transforming an idea into developing a business. Fifteen teams compete and the top six teams pitch their newly created business to a panel of judges and the audience to win either the Most Viable Business, Most Innovative Idea and Best Pitch, with prize money totalling $15,000. (See www.innes48.com and NZentrepreneur article.)
Mary Jane Innes was inducted into the NZ Business Hall of Fame on 31 July 2013. This award was as an acknowledgement of her entrepreneurial and leadership skills in what was at the time a "man's world" in the brewing industry, said Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker. (See NZHerald article.) Mary Jane lived until aged 89, dying in Auckland on 14 Nov 1941, and is buried beside her husband, Charles, and eldest child, Annie Eveline, in the Hamilton East cemetery. (See Te Ara.) A commemorative plaque and bronze figurine of Mary Jane Innes has been erected on the railings of the Anzac Bridge.
Part of the Waikato Museum's collection includes memorabilia such as beer bottles, soda siphons and drink flagon. In addition, news-clippings from Mary Jane's death, the death certificate of her husband Charles, architectural plans and photographs of the family are also held. (See Waikato Museum)