At Sailor Jerry’s Pins & Pin-Ups Bowling Competition, Queensland makes it #3inarow

The Cobbler team, three time champions from Queensland, with Sailor Jerry Ambassador Nick Miles. Photo: Declan Roache

Sailor Jerry’s Pins & Pin-Ups bowling competition is a bartender competition with a difference: it involves zero bartending ability.

All you need to know to enter is how to a) have a good time and, b) be able to knock down a few pins on the lanes.

Back for its third year, the state finals were held at bowling alleys right around Australia, from which emerged the champion teams: Cobbler from Queensland; Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern from New South Wales; Bar Loop from Victoria; Five Bar from Western Australia; Pancho Villa from Tasmania; NOLA from Adelaide; Treehouse from the ACT; and Sky City from Darwin.

Sydney’s Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern. Photo: Declan Roache

What is the Sailor Jerry Pins & Pin-Ups competition all about? It’s simple, really: it’s about bowling, good times, and a break from the bar with your bartending brothers and sisters—  all the while enjoying drinks on Sailor Jerry.


The state champions this year gathered for the national final in Brisbane back in November, for two nights of the full Sailor Jerry treatment and one afternoon of laying down strikes and spares in the hope of scoring the national title. The big prize? A bartending trip of a lifetime to William Grant & Sons’ distilleries in Scotland and Ireland.

Team Five Bar from Perth. Photo: Declan Roache
The team from Treehouse, Canberra. Photo: Declan Roache

It all kicked off with a bite to eat and brewery visit in Milton, Brisbane, at Aether Brewing, where the guys put on a feast of fine food and craft beer and walked us through a beer they make using Sailor Jerry (it’s great for more than just cocktails, you see). The award-winning stout uses vanilla beans that have been steeped in Sailor Jerry, with the final result being a rich, complex brew. The bonding between the states then gathered apace, before the teams ventured out into the Brisbane night. The crew stopped in at some essential Brisbane bars: Seymour’s Cocktails & Oysters, then to The Gresham, before rounding out the night at Savile Row.

And then the day of the Sailor Jerry Pins & Pin-Ups final arrived. There were a few sore heads form the previous night’s party, but no bowler was left behind. They roused themselves to get to The Flying Cock in Fortitude Valley for some fortifying awakeners — Sailor Jerry Slushies, anyone? Then it was onto the bus and off to AMF Mt Gravatt for the big bowling bust-up.

The Sky City crew from Darwin. Photo: Declan Roache
The NOLA crew from Adelaide. Photo: Declan Roache

At the bowling alley, and with a healthy crowd of hospo there to party on their day off, the teams took to their lanes and warmed up. This is how the day would go: each team would bowl two games, with the teams with the two lowest scores being knocked out.

The remaining four teams would then enter the sudden death round: one game, of which the two top scoring teams would go onto the final.

Melbourne’s Bar Loop team. Photo: Declan Roache

Despite valiant efforts from the Tassie and WA teams, two arch rivals would meet once more in the national final: 2015 and 2016 winners, Queensland, would again meet 2016 runners-up, South Australia. It’s as close to a grudge match as you can get at a bowling party hosted by Sailor Jerry, which is to say there was a lot of banter and some sporting sledging, but they’re all mates at the end of the day.

The Pancho Villa crew from Hobart.
Photo: Declan Roache

And boy was it a close result: just 20 pins would separate the two teams. In the end, though, it was Cobbler from Queensland, for a third year in a row, edging out the NOLA boys, 647 pins to 627.

Then, it was back on the bus and off to Brisbane’s West End to perennial party bar, Cobbler. There was plenty of Sailor Jerry to be had — word to the wise, a Sailor Jerry & OJ is a good way to keep one’s spirits up after a hard fought day on the bowling lanes — and as the sun set, and night came on, the after party roared to life. Brisbane hospo knows how to turn out a crowd, and Sailor Jerry didn’t disappoint with the party.

Make sure you keep an eye out on the Facebook bartender groups for the 2018 instalment of the competition, because it’s a grand day out — and who knows, maybe you’ll knock Queensland from their perch at the top next year.