Billson’s Brewery

A fresh historical interpretation, new interpretive display, and public history text for historic brewers of pure malt ale, aerated waters and cordial manufacturers, Billson’s Brewery of Beechworth.

Uncovering the 151 years of history of Billson’s Brewery: brewers of pure malt ale, aerated waters and cordial manufacturers of Beechworth (known throughout most of the 20th century as Murray Breweries).

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Image: Scott Hartvigsen Photography, 2018

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Fresh research has revealed that throughout the nineteenth century, Billson’s was a high-end brewer. In particular, it operated its own malt house, which meant that it could afford to brew its beers without adding sugar to their ferments — as was (and still is) common practice. This more traditional process resulted in beers which were of a superior quality. However, these beers also required a longer period of maturation — hence Billson’s massive cellarage.

The brewery was also notable for the way in which it, from the late 1880s onwards, catered for the temperance movement — not only with non-alcoholic drinks geared to suit ‘adult’ tastes (such as its locally famous ‘Ecks’ herbal beer), but also as an early producer of light-strength table beer.

The brewery building itself is a ‘tower brewery’, designed to operate on the gravitational principle, thus lessening need for steam power at the different stages of the brewing process. When steam-power was required, this was supplied via a Cornish boiler (still in-situ), to run a horizontal steam engine. My research has revealed that as tower breweries only appeared in Great Britain from 1870, and Billson’s was built in 1872-3, Billson’s may be one of the earliest tower breweries built in Australia, and perhaps the only surviving tower brewery that continues to produce beverages on site.

Today, the Brewery has numerous original artefacts including a huge selection of original bottles, which will help illustrate the evolution of its products, reflecting changes in consumer tastes, as well as changes in brewing and bottling technology, the tower-brewery operation, and the colourful workplace history of Billson’s itself.

You can read more about Billson’s Brewery by searching for it on Wikipedia.

New interpretive displays are anticipated to be ready by Spring 2018.