Grafton Brewery. Photo: Courtesy of Clarence River Historical Society
Grafton Brewery. Photo: Courtesy of Clarence River Historical Society

Grafton fought hard to get a brewery

WHEN the foundation stone for the Grafton Brewery was laid on January 18, 1951, it was the end of a hard-fought battle, but in this case, community spirit had triumphed over government bureaucracy.

The application to build the brewery had been delayed because the Department of Building Materials, which existed in the 1950s as a result of post-war shortages, had delayed the development application.

The South Grafton Council of the day was reported in The Examiner of 1949 as criticising the department for holding up the permit and pointing out that materials could be sourced locally.

Indeed, as The Examiner reported in October 1950 the council of the day made building the brewery and the old ice cream factory possible by putting in the pipes that were needed to make the buildings fire-safe.

Come December 1952, the following advertisement ran:

"A new word & a new taste will become a vogue tomorrow.

For that is the long hoped for day when Grafton's fine new brewery will begin distributing the locally made product in kilderkins."

Bottles were added to production in 1953 and by 1954 The DEX proudly announced that unlike the rest of NSW, Grafton would have sufficient supplies of beer for the upcoming summer. They even said Grafton would be the "El Dorado of beer lovers in NSW".

The brewery continued to be cheered along by the DEX journalists, who clearly loved their local bitter, until in January 1958 when they reported substantial staff cutbacks.

As it turned out it was not the local brewer's fault, but the greedy Sydney-based breweries who were flooding the Northern market with inferior product using cheap rail freight.

This debate even came to blows in the State Parliament when the premier at the time, John Joseph Cahill, had to be dragged off a colleague by the then member for Lismore Jack Easter. Articles reported the premier and his colleague exchanged a number of blows "none of them apparently forceful". Sadly, the Northerners lost the battle and on January 8, 1958 The DEX reported "submissions to the NSW Government by Grafton Brewery had proved abortive".

The brewery eventually fell into the hands of Tooheys in April, 1961. The building would spend the majority of its working days under the Tooheys label.

On April 10, 1997, a spritely young cadet in his first year, Terry Deefholts from Sydney, had the unenviable task of writing, "the Tooheys Brewery at Grafton will close at the end of May".



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