• Loddon Herald

The rechabite beer



THE Newbridge Brewery was established by Nicholas Fitzgerald, in partnership with Robert Prendergast, in 1859, trading as Fitzgerald & Co.

This brewery was capable of making 200 hogshead each week using steam power.

Joseph Bannister Stow was the brewer for a number of years whilst D.F. O’Connor was the traveller in February 1863.

During December 1865 Fitzgerald & Co, began to market Rechabite beer, this being guaranteed teetotal.

Although the business was in the process of being enlarged it was sold to Messrs Balsillie and Co, William Balsillie and Thomas George Crawford being the proprietors on July 25, 1868.

It was around this time that J. McLean was employed at the brewery, he working there until at least 1874.

Balsillie accepted a bet with Crawford that he could not drive his horse and buggy from Newbridge to Sandhurst and return, a distance of 50 miles (80km) for 14 days straight.

Balsillie would leave Newbridge at 5am and head back home at 3pm. The wager was for 70/0/0 which Balsillie won, stating in October 1968 that his horse was as fresh as it was when it started.

William Balsillie died on February 2, 1869, his estate being handled by his brother Andrew Purves Balsillie.

Tenders were called to set the wort cooper and other works in April 1870. This resulted in the two storey stone brewery being enlarged to 90 x 50 feet, it having thick walls and shingle roof.

It would seem that at around this time the shingles were replaced by a galvanised iron roof.

The brewery was winning its fair share of awards at the various shows, some being the Ballarat Grand National Exhibition, first prize colonial ale, March 1870, the best hogshead of beer against. 14 others at Bendigo Agricultural show, March 1872, best barrel of beer at the Newbridge Agricultural Society show March 1872, best one dozen bottles of ale and best dozen bottles of porter, at the same show in March 1873.

The following year Newbridge Agricultural Society amalgamated with the nearby Bridgewater and Inglewood show societies to form the North Western Agricultural Society where further prizes were won.

The Newbridge Agricultural Society show was considered second only to what went to be known as the Royal Melbourne Show.

In the meantime Andrew Balsillie offered the property for auction on February 28, 1872.

By this time Newbridge Brewery was selling their products as far afield as Berlin (now Rheola), Dunolly, Tarnagulla, Maryborough, Inglewood and Wedderburn.

It is not known when the brewery was sold but it would appear that Crawford gained control.

On January 1, 1876 Thomas G. Crawford, Joseph Webster and James Price Goulston(e) registered the business.

However Joseph Webster and James Price Goulston(e,) were trading as Joseph Webster & Co, Queen Street, Melbourne, merchants, when they were declared insolvent on July 13 1876, stating losses in mining and at the Newbridge Brewery.

As a result, Crawford signed an indenture with James Service, James Ormand and James Franklin McMullen thus all money owed to and all debts of Crawford and or the brewery were assigned.

For reason unknown James Service later resigned from the business partnership of JosephWebster and Co in August 29, 1876.

It was around this time that Service authorised Edward McLean to collect all the outstanding debts of Crawford.

Thomas Crawford was given a send-off after eight years in Newbridge during September 1876.

Once again the brewery was offered for sale as a going concern in May 1876 and on September 5, 1876.

There must not have been much interest as the fenced property with cellars that measured 100 x 30 feet, a six horsepower steam engine, 1000 gallon boiler that was heated by steam or fire, open cooled with fans, it being capable of producing 140 barrels a month, eight stall stable, house etc. was again offered for auction on November 21, 1876.

Also to be sold were two tons of sugar, 200 bushels of malt barley and 350 pounds of other materials, not specified.

The old brewery lay idle until the Newbridge Cheese Factory took control of the property around 1880.

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