Duke of Wellington - Melbourne

The Duke of Wellington

The Duke of Wellington - just who is this guy? Wherever we go on our travels around Australia he pops up. Pictures on the wall. Names of pubs. Names of beers even!

He must have been big.

As part of our Duke fact finding mission, we decided to visit the source: the Duke of Wellington - Melbourne's oldest licensed hotel.  Striding in, we went straight to the bar and asked for a beer.  "Which size?", asked the young barman. "All of them!", was the retort, as we held back our thirst. Before long, we were indulging in all the mysteries of Melbourne glass sizes, concurrently. 

The three beers

"Good god", we cried, when the beers were poured. "What do you expect us to do with that?" We were referring to the smallest of the beers poured - it was a mere 140ml. We had read about beers that small, but never in our worst nightmares expected we would ever have to drink one of them. Still, as the saying goes, the best beer in the world is the beer in my hand, even if my hand dwarfs the beer. 

A beer in the hand...

"That's a Pony", the barman chuckled. "Only really old bastards drink those".  In a gulp it was gone, and we turned to more sensible sizes (although they were small by Sydney standards).  We were knocking off the third when we remembered our task and asked what he knew about this Duke fellow. Quite a bit, surprisingly. Apparently he was the Hero of Waterloo, the bloke who beat Napoleon with the help of the Prussians in 1815. The poms loved him so much they made him Prime Minister in 1828 (well, in true Pom fashion, he was made Prime Minister at the instance of King George IV).  They still love him, according to the barman, although he only lives on in Australia through pubs such as this one.  He pointed to a painting in the corner, and we wandered over for a look. 

The painting itself was as you would expect, some toffee pom dressed to the hilt and expecting Australians to name their pubs after him because of some event that took place on the other side of the world.  We were shaking our heads thinking surely we had moved beyond all that to something more Aussie, when we noticed a plaque on the wall opposite the painting. It read: "ON THIS SPOT, on the seventeenth of September in the year 1984 MR VAL PEROVIC player of the Calton football club, drank 37 375ml cans of victoria bitter in 2 hours. Witnessed by the hotel patrons, teammates and his very nervous dog". It was signed by the then licensee. 

Memorial to a legend

What a bloody ripper! The colony strikes back in fair dinkum Aussie fashion. Put that in your pompous past and smoke it!, we thought, as we contemplated trying to get a plaque of our own.  To be frank though, we didn't think we were up to it. Nor would the airline on the way home, we suspected. It shows how 'responsible drinking' laws have changed in the last twenty years. If someone tried that stunt today, the pub could be fined or worse if it played along, let alone put up a plaque to encourage such behaviour!

I love the tribute to Mr. Val Perovic. I am also a Blues fan, and this is definitely one brave effort, completely shadowing David's Boon's
effort between Australia and London. 

Garry Keyery, 'Avid beer drinker and loyal and patriotic Victorian', by e-mail, 6 March 2002

Content with our discovery, we polished off our beers, noted the AFL (ie Aussie Rules Football) obsession of the place, and went looking for the nearest tram. Our conclusion: if you want to drink in a place made sacred through the consumption of 37 beers in two hours by a sporting hero, then look no further than Melbourne's oldest licensed pub: the Duke of Wellington.


Take a break from drinking like the author of this article did - Read why and how in his book Between Drinks: Escape the Routine, Take Control and Join the Clear Thinkers