The beginning


In the early 1950’s some members of the wine industry in Adelaide commenced the cheerful habit of lunching on Fridays. Most would bring a bottle of wine masked in a paper bag for the comments of their peers. Comments were sometimes more hilarious than accurate.

They met informally at the Imperial Hotel in a long narrow dining room, on a slightly raised dais at one end, from which they could observe, and be observed, by the other diners.

One day in 1954 they noted that other diners were observing them with interest and envy, because of their obvious enjoyment. The idea was floated that they should form a club so that others could participate. From this serendipitous beginning Beefsteak and Burgundy was born.

On 1st April, 1954 the first official meeting of The Foundation Club, to become known as The Club, was held at the Ambassadors Hotel, Adelaide, South Australia. This meeting involved 8 people, now known as the First Eight.

A good idea endorsed

Following the first meeting, at which the First Eight invited guests, the membership doubled. A committee was formed and agreed that a membership limit of 30 should apply and that additional prospective members should form a new club as a branch. This was to ensure that all members got to know each other and to encourage free and unrestrained discussion of particularly the wines that were served. Soon the membership limit of 30 was reached.

The first Branch Charter was given to Brighton, located in an Adelaide seaside suburb. It was quickly followed by Lockleys, Burnside and Edwardstown, all suburbs of Adelaide. Nagambie, a small Victorian country town, was the first interstate Branch Club formed. Clubs were soon established in the capital cities with Sydney Charter No.7, Hobart Charter No.13, Perth No.14, Brisbane No.17 and Melbourne No.18.

Overseas expansion

Then a big leap to London (Club Number 55 but no longer in existence), Wellington – NZ (60), Tokyo – Japan (126), Sudbury – Canada (193), Beijing – China (212) and St Francis – USA (214 but no longer in existence).

The formation of the London Club in 1965 was considered a landmark in the history of Beefsteak and Burgundy, so much so that the Charter should be presented by someone whose long service would allow them to represent all other Clubs. The natural choice was George Fairbrother, the Winemaster for The Club, and this idea was so well received that members throughout Australia set up a fund to help pay George’s expense. It is unfortunate that after many years the London Club has ceased to exist.

On 13 July 1966 charters were presented simultaneously in the national capitals of Australia (Canberra, Club No 59) and New Zealand (Wellington, Club No 60).

General secretary appointed

In 1966 a general secretariat was established and the first General Secretary, E. (Toby) Clay appointed to take care of the general administration. Following his retirement in 1981 Bill Russell took over until his untimely death in 1994. Bill Dand was subsequently appointed and Bill was followed by John Macklin in 2004. In 2009 Craig Thornquest kindly took up the position.

The first convention

Only two years after the formation of Beefsteak and Burgundy the SA Clubs decided it would be a good idea to hold a convention to enable the clubs to get together. The first one was held in 1956. Next year another was held, this time with eleven Clubs represented, including Nagambie, Victoria (Club No 6).

Surfers Paradise Club – Queensland (Club No 22) hosted the first interstate national gathering of Beefsteak and Burgundy members in 1964. The Convention was attended by the Foundation President, the Charter President of Lockleys SA (No 2) and delegates from Somerton, Brighton, Millicent (all SA Clubs), Nagambie (Victoria); Launceston (Tasmania); Sydney and North Sydney (New South Wales); and Alice Springs (Northern Territory).

The first truly representative convention was in Adelaide in 1968, the second in Manley, Sydney (NSW) as host in 1970, in Adelaide again in 1972, and a milestone: the twentieth anniversary in 1974 with the Coolangatta-Tweed Heads (Queensland) as host and the first presentation of a written history of The Club.

For the 1976 convention in Adelaide, the highlight was a memorable and magnificent gourmet dinner attended by a capacity gathering of 252 members and guests. For the first time no smoking was permitted during the nine course degustation, an innovation that even some well-kippered members were heard to grudgingly approve.

Life memberships introduced

That same year The Club committee introduced the concept of a Branch Life Membership. The 20th anniversary of Beefsteak and Burgundy was the appropriate time to recognise those members who had made a significant contribution to their branch club.

Based on the criteria drawn up by The Club, a branch club can submit an application for life membership to be awarded to a member for long and outstanding service. To date 412 members have been awarded life membership as proposed by their fellow members as a permanent recognition of their contribution.

Ladies club chartered

Customs were also changing and on 8 November 1976 the first Humble Petition presented by ladies only was received, and Charter No. 167 was issued to the Alexandra Beefsteak and Burgundy Club, Adelaide. It was not long before the second ladies club was formed; Bayettes in Adelaide, Charter No. 169. Ladies clubs subsequently spread from South Australia (four clubs) to Queensland (two clubs) and the Northern Territory (three clubs). The challenge has been met with the first overseas ladies clubs being chartered in 2005; the Shanghai Ladies (Club No. 256). Currently there are 11 ladies clubs.

There are also a number of clubs that chartered with mixed membership while some existing clubs have decided to extend membership to ladies. This concept has been embraced with enthusiasm and there are now 45 mixed clubs in Australia and New Zealand and one overseas.

Medallions created and regalia

What better way could there be to acknowledge those clubs that have spread the message and kept the dream alive by striking a 25 Year Silver Medallion, to be presented when they have reached this milestone. This award is a prized possession of these clubs and is worn with pride at club functions and handed on to incoming Presidents for safe keeping.

In 2004 when The Club celebrated 50 years it was decided that to recognise branch clubs that also reached this milestone in the future by presenting a 50 Year Gold Medallion. These are presented to clubs, often at in association with a celebratory dinner at which past presidents and others are invited to share the history and memories of 50 years.

The distinctive Beefsteak and Burgundy tie design was decided upon in 1957 and 300 were ordered in French material. They are now woven in Australia. These “Club Ties” are worn with pride by members throughout Beefsteak and Burgundy.

Over the years other regalia has been developed to allow members to identify with Beefsteak and Burgundy; to recognise the length of club membership; and identify life members.

Continuing growth

Many of the steady flow of new clubs have names which reflect the originality and humour of their members: the all ladies Blumers in Queensland, Bundles in Victoria, Black Swan (cheekily in South Australia and not Western Australia).

Amongst the more unusual names are Erewon (Nowhere backwards) and Law’N’ Order (that’s right, police security officers and other keepers of the peace) in South Australia. Other colorful names include Les Femme Rouge, Middleback and New Age in South Autralia; and Ad Astra One and Nital in Victoria. Enjoyment is obiously a high priority in the Northern Territory with The Never Never Ladies in Katherine, Troppo Femmes and Uncorked Darwin.

The Beefsteak and Burgundy Club Inc. now has 189 Branch Clubs in Australia covering every State and Territory, and 24 others around the world.

Of the overseas clubs there are 10 in New Zealand and 1 each in Brazil, Canada, Cambodia, Denmark, Phillipines, Singapore, Germany, Sweden, Thailand and Taiwan.

China has seen a significant expansion of clubs. The Beijing Club was Chartered in 1987 and as former members have moved elsewhere in China and beyond they have formed new clubs. Thanks to former Beijing members, 7 clubs have been established in countries outside of Australia and 7 clubs in China, including Hong Kong.

Additional overseas Clubs are in the process of being formed and enquiries to establish new clubs are most welcome.

50th anniversary

2004 marked the 50th Anniversary of Beefsteak and Burgundy. A special Anniversary Convention was held in Adelaide to mark the occasion. The highlight was the Saturday evening banquet in the Adelaide Town Hall attended by 425 delegates. Many arrived in style by a specially chartered tram from the coastal suburb of Glenelg.

At the dinner each delegate was presented with a 50th Anniversary Booklet which included the history of Beefsteak and Burgundy, a list of all the life members by club and the menu and wines enjoyed at the banquet.

Overseas convention

The first overseas convention was held in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1984, hosted by the Wellington Club. Some 120 intrepid Australians, led by the ‘International’ President, were treated to the very best that New Zealand has to offer, sampling Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir to die for. The New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister was on hand to extend an official welcome at the banquet, where the main course – only one guess – was Beef Wellington. The convention closed with a traditional Maori hangi at Raukawa Marae at Otaki.

Since then Hamilton (207) and Wellington again have hosted conventions in New Zealand in 2001 and 2010.

Incorporation and public liability

With the growth of the movement came increased responsibilities. In 1981 The Club became an incorporated association in order to limit the liability of members to, amongst other things, unpaid subscriptions. At that time The Club recommended Branch Clubs consider becoming incorporated associations under their respective State legislation. To date 36 Branch Clubs have become incorporated.

Similarly The Club has had public liability insurance since the late 1950’s. This insurance cover was initially the responsibility of Branch Clubs and a scheme for individual clubs was in existence until 1988 when The Club negotiated a policy to cover all clubs throughout Australia and New Zealand.

In 2002 a Government scheme was introduced in New Zealand and those branch clubs no longer needed to be included in The Club policy in 2002.

Growth of overseas clubs

During a personal world tour in 1993, Past President Keith Gramp visited seven overseas clubs and presented Charter No. 229 to Miri in Sarawak, Malaysia (now closed), and welcomed Club No. 227, Stonetown (Canada) to Beefsteak and Burgundy.

The number of overseas clubs has continued to grow with the addition of clubs from Brazil (235) in 1996; Shanghai, China (238) in 1997; Bangkok, Thailand (249) in 2002; Singapore (253) in 2004; Copenhagen, Denmark (255) in 2005; Shanghai Ladies, China (256) in 2005; Shanghai Cosmopolitans (261) in 2008; Manila (264), Phillipines in 2008; Phnom Penh (265), Cambodia in 2009; Southern Germany (267), Germany in 2011; Malmo (270) Sweden in 2011; Suzhou (269), Suzhou, Jiangsu, China in 2011; Taipei (271), Taiwan in 2011; Shanghailanders (272), Shanghai, China in 2011; and Hong Kong (273), China in 2012.

Continuing expansion

New clubs continued to be chartered widely in Australia and New Zealand. Examples include King Island (150) off the coast of Tasmania; Broken Hill (141) in outback NSW; Innisfail (144) in Far North Queensland; and Tinakori (166) in New Zealand.

Prior to the 1978 convention the first eight were photographed as a group, an historic picture well guarded in Club records. The ensuring luncheon was historic as it had been many years since they had all met together. They could have been forgiven for a feeling of wonderment of the subsequent outcomes of their original luncheon.

Beefsteak and Burgundy has never had to undertake the challenges of a membership drive. It has never been necessary. Charter Petitions have arrived from places which have astounded members of The Club. For example Canada, the United Kingdom, China, Sarawak, Cambodia, The Phillipines, Brazil and Denmark to name a few.

The digital age

Following the convention held in Perth in 2008, the Perth Club provided funds to enable The Club to develop a suitable web site for enhancing communications with branch clubs. Part of this change has resulted in the development of the News Page, where clubs are invited to include items of interest to members about what functions and activities they have been involved with. This has replaced the B&Bulletin which was sent to all members annually for many years.

The News Page has allowed the many special and innovative activities that members enjoy to be shared with others. Examples include the unusual locations that the Never Never Ladies in Katherine in the Northern Territory celebrate special dinners in the Australian outback; the Coonawarra Club in South Australia lunching in a 100 metre long cave in the Wrattonbully wine region, part of the cave system associated with the World Heritage Naracoorte Caves complex; and the Copenhagen Club enjoying their annual visit to the Burgundy region in France to celebrate the annual release of the new vintage.

China visits

In 2011 the International President visited the clubs in China in response to an invitation from the Beijing Club. Many special dinners, lunches and other events were hosted by the Beijing Club and the four clubs in Shanghai during his visit.

The following year 4 members of the Adelaide Club returned to China to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Club. The celebration lunch was held in a remarkable venue – a 600 year old Llama temple adjacent to a fine dining restaurant. Many former members and members from other clubs in China attended and heard about the significant contribution that Beijing members have made to Beefsteak and Burgundy, particularly in forming new clubs in China and beyond.

First Convention outside of Australasia

The 2015 Convention was held in Shanghai hosted by the Shanghailanders Club. This was the first time that a convention had been held outside of Australia and New Zealand.

Some 160 delegates attended from all Australian states, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Copenhagen and Bangkok as well as clubs within China.. The venues for the convention included historic hotels and delegates were introduced to a range of wines including some produced in China.

60th Anniversary

October 2014 saw the annual convention being held in Adelaide to celebrate 60 years of Beefsteak and Burgundy.

The preceding years saw new clubs being formed, particularly ladies clubs, and continuation of new clubs being chartered in China.

In summary

To sum up these years. Each member will have their own memories of wine, good and bad; of friendships made; of laughter across the table (such as the time when Tom Hardy, an Adelaide Winemaster, put on the same masked reds as ‘Number 1’ and ‘Number 2’ and listened to the members point out the many differences). Importantly as a chance to know a little about wines, and to make mistakes in uncritical company. Above all however is the opportunity to enjoy the company of good friends.

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