The Slab

bookThe Slab: 24 Stories of Beer in Australia
Glen Humphries
January 2017
$15 + $5 postage
Last Day of School

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The Slab is a popular history that details 24 moments in Australia’s past where beer played a part. It explains why Captain Cook brought beer with him when he discovered Australia, tells you which city was declared alcohol-free even before it was built, looks into the tale of David Boon and that infamous beer-drenched flight from Australia to the UK and shows why we ended up with the pubs closing at six o’clock for half a century.

Praise for The Slab

“History as it should be written. With beer. About beer. Crisp. Refreshing. Won’t cause bloat.”
John Birmingham (author of Leviathan and He Died With a Felafel in His Hand)

“The Slab is a full-bodied book, with a fruity aftertaste and a nose that carries the slightest hint of sawdust and vomit. I suggest you XXXX it.”
David Hunt (author of Girt and True Girt)

“The Slab is less a historical document, more a rollicking ride through a bizarrely untapped part of an openly beer worshipping nation’s past. That’s not to say you won’t learn anything; you will – and about much more than beer. But you’ll also walk away infused with the sheer joy that Glen has clearly poured into every – and I mean every – page.”
James Smith (from the Crafty Pint)

The Slab takes episodes from the long and rich saga of beer in this country – some obscure and some well-known (such as cricketer David Boon’s now legendary consumption of 52 cans on a flight to Britain) – and presents them in a highly readable way, spiced with self-deprecating humour and quirky asides.”
Max Allen, Australian Financial Review

“I loved this book and am confident you will too.”
Roger Hanson, Hobart Mercury

Read an excerpt

Us Australians love to think of ourselves as a nation that has forever been one of the big beer drinkers. One that ranks in the top five beer-drinking nations on Earth every single time whoever it is compiles one of those lists.

We know Bob Hawke more for his record-setting talents with a yard of ale than for anything he did in his eight years leading the country. The man himself acknowledged this in his autobiography – ‘This feat was to endear me to some of my fellow Australians more than anything else I ever achieved’. Just dwell on that for a second – he was the leader of the country for eight years and he had to resign himself to be well-known for success at drinking beer from a glass that these days is only ever used at 21 st birthday parties.

When Hawkey skulls a beer at the cricket – which he has done at least three times according to YouTube – we figure it can’t get more ‘Aussie’ than that. Except when he does it at the urging of a crowd of people dressed up like Richie Benaud – YouTube again. These days, other Australian politicians know that, if they want to be more popular, they make sure they stage at least one media opp in a pub so they can be seen drinking a beer. And a proper beer, out of a schooner glass – Prime Minister Tony Abbott copped a bit when he was seen drinking a middy. Come on, man, go big or go home.

And, David Boon, my God do we love David Boon. But we love him more for being an opener of beers than an opener of the batting order. We remember him most for drinking a crapload of beers on the flight from Australia to England (though, to be fair, the man himself has never admitted to it). Later, a miniature talking version of Boony helped Carlton and United sell a truckload of VB slabs (even though it wasn’t actually Boony’s voice drinkers heard). We love him so much he appears in three separate chapters of this book.

Yep, us Aussies, jeez we love a beer. Beer is tops, right? But here’s the thing. This idea we have that we’re a nation of beer lovers and have always been like that? It’s a con – a fib we’ve let ourselves believe because, for some strange reason, we think it’s great to be seen as a nation of drunks. Aside from a decade or two in the 20th century we’ve never been one for knocking back slabs of beer (sure, there was a decade or two after the First Fleet’s arrival when a lot of people seemed to be tanked a lot of the time, but that was on spirits, not beer). And we haven’t been among the world’s biggest beer-drinking countries for ages.

While the story goes that Governor Arthur Phillip toasted the health of the colony of Sydney with a dark beer called porter on January 26, 1788 – and as we shall see in Chapter Two, that seems doubtful – beer wasn’t that big a deal in the early decades of the colony. The drink of choice was wine or rum, because it travelled so much better than beer. The fact that, on a volume basis, rum allowed more people to get drunk than beer didn’t hurt either. Spirits, to a large degree, were also used as a surrogate currency in the colony’s early days.


Purchasing options

The Slab is available paperback and eBook formats

The Slab is available at Amazon, Book Depository and you can look for other retailers at Booko.

Australian readers can buy it directly from me – autographed if you wish – via the Paypal link above ($15 + $5 postage).

International readers (and those who want to pay via bank transfer) should contact me before placing an order via Paypal so as to calculate the appropriate postage. Drop me a line at

The Slab is available on eBook through the following outlets: Amazon, iBooksKobo, and Barnes & Noble.