A taste of Summer - Appelt’s soft drinks

barossa history

A taste of Summer - Appelt’s soft drinks

words by
luke rothe

In about 1858, the Angas Park Brewery commenced brewing beer at the corner
of Fifth and Gawler Streets, Nuriootpa.

By 1868 the site had extensive buildings including a two storey malt house, cellars, water tanks, workmen’s cottages and a private residence.

In 1906, the old brewery site was purchased by Willy Appelt, who began a successful cordial and cool drinks factory.

Within six years the popularity of his drinks and his good service meant the business needed to expand.

In 1911 a Barossa rail service opened. Willy Appelt sited his new factory opposite the busy Nuriootpa railway station, on Railway Terrace in 1912. (Now Barossa Motorcycles).

The business continued to prosper, delivering high class cool drinks, cordials and soda water to the Barossa Valley and surrounding districts.

Around 1938 Willy Appelt’s son Walter (Wally) started managing the business. Wally built the company’s first bottle washing machine. Before then all bottles were washed by hand.

Making ice was a successful part of the business.

An ice making plant was added to the factory soon after the Second World War, but within two years a new building had to be erected to cope with the local demand for ice.

In the 1940s Appelt’s were buying tons of fresh citrus, which they processed to make their lemon and orange flavoured drinks, rather than using flavoured syrup. Appelt’s Golden Orange soft drink was a local favourite.

Appelt’s appear to be one of the first companies in SA to produce a range
of ‘sugar free’ diabetic soft drinks in the 1940s.

The company also made a range of different beers over many decades. Tasmanian XXX Spot Beer, Lager Beer and Barossa Bitter Beer, all sound like enticing drinks for a hot summer’s day. They were also labeled ‘non-intoxicating’.

The first single machine designed to fill, cap and label bottles was installed in 1952, replacing labour intensive manual operations, and in 1957 the factory doubled in size to increase future output.

In 1960 Appelt’s were advertising a ‘Mobile Soft Drinks Booth’ named ‘Esmerelda’, which was made available for picnics, parties, fetes, etc.

Essentially it was an enclosed trailer that had fold out canvas awnings over three side openings for the serving of drinks. It featured colourful graphics advertising Appelt’s soft drinks.

In 1975 the Appelt’s factory closed after 69 years in business. ‘The Leader’ reported that the factory was flooded by thousands of empty Appelt’s bottles that were returned for their cash refund before closure.

An auction was held in June, 1975 of all plant, bottles and vehicles. Interestingly, ‘Esmerelda’ was advertised as a ‘trailerised soft drinks booth’. I wonder who bought her and if she still exists.

Old stone ginger beers, ‘marble’, and ceramic label bottles; enamel, painted and polystyrene advertising signs; crown seal bottle tops, and hundreds of paper labels still survive as testament to the huge selection of drinks and cordials produced by Appelt’s of Nuriootpa.

>> A selection of soft drink and beer bottles originally made in the Barossa between 1906 - 1975 by Appelt's.
>> Horse and cart delivery, Nuriootpa c.1908
>> A rare Appelt’s soft drink label c.1920s.
>> A collection of crown seal bottle caps from the Appelt's soft drink range.

Luke Rothe

Local Barossa historian and enthusiast
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