The Foster brothers started brewing in November 1888, and the public received their first taste of Foster’s Lager on 1 February 1889. At the start, only bottled beer was available; it was supplied in heavy champagne-type bottles with the corks wired in. The brothers were undercapitalised, and when they sold their interests to a syndicate on 13 November 1889 the business became a public company, and the Foster brothers no longer held any interest in the brewery.
By the early 1890s the Foster Brewing Co. Ltd was in difficulty. It was during this time they introduced other beer brands disguised as foreign imports. Beers like American Lager beer, Crystall-Bach, Deutsches Lager Bier and the brand on this poster Phoenix Prize ale. All of these brands were short lived. Output was small, the debt large, and there were many staff changes. However, the company was fortunate in having the services of the experienced chemist, August de Bavay, and the quality and production output saw a remarkable improvement. The company’s lager beer became so popular by the mid-1890s that the monopoly it exerted on the bottled-beer market in Melbourne was the subject of questions in the colonial parliament.
From the outset, every hotel taking the new lager received a free supply of ice to keep the beer cool. When draught lager was put on the market, chilled casks were delivered during the summer months. In 1895 small 5-gallon kegs of lager beer were delivered to leading cafes and hotels, an innovation new to the trade. Production of stout had commenced in October 1892, and a Light Running Ale was marketed in 1899 under the name of Foster XXX Ale. Other brands were Empire Pale Ale and India Pale Ale. All were lager beers.
During 1894 serious consideration was given to starting a lager beer brewery in Sydney, but the proposal was ultimately abandoned. Instead, a branch store was opened at 11 Castlereagh Street, Sydney, under the management of T. Oxley, and operated from 1896 to 1898. On 10 February 1897 the company structure was changed to that of the Foster Brewing Co. Pty Ltd.
Foster’s lager beers sold well in other states, and in 1901 thirty cases of Topaz Lager were shipped to South Africa. At that time Foster’s appeared to be the only Victorian brewery making any attempt to develop export markets.
In 1907 the Foster Brewing Co. Pty Ltd amalgamated with five other Melbourne breweries to form Carlton & United Breweries Pty Ltd. The Foster brewery was kept as a standby plant until 13 December 1910, when the property was auctioned and subdivided into four lots. Foster’s lager continued to be brewed at the Victoria Brewery, and later at CUB’s plant at Abbotsford.