A HISTORIC brewery at Beechworth is tapping into its boldest vision in more than a century.
Billson’s Brewery will produce beer for the first time since prohibition in the 1920s, expand its range of cordial and open a cafe within months.
Its Murray Breweries cordial range will be rebranded Billson’s Brewery in the New Year.
George Billson founded the brewery above a natural spring on Last Street during 1865.
New owner Nathan Cowan said he wanted to return the historic brewery to its former glory.
He said he had a 30-megalitre annual water licence to tap into pure alpine spring water.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel; the original vision of the business was amazing,” he said.
“The spring water is the main asset of the business.
“Because water is 99 per cent of what goes into most drinks, we’ve got something unique that really ties them all together.”
A former Melbourne marketing manager, Mr Cowan said he had been renovating the historic buildings to reveal their original features since he bought the business three months ago.
“I loved helping people grow their brands but I wanted a change from the city,” Mr Cowan said.
“I thought if the right business opportunity came up in the country I’d jump at it.
“The timing was perfect to take on this business.”
Mr Cowan said he had employed marketing and construction managers and retained staff in the cordial and Snowline bulk water operations.
“Obviously there is huge potential for the business,” he said.
“Billson’s Brewery was a huge employer in town over the years; we’re up to eight staff and we should be able to double that by this time next year.”
Former employee Fred Wyatt, 89, of Beechworth, said he had fond memories of working at the brewery for two decades.
He was employed to automate the bottling machinery and run the boiler.
“We used to make 600 dozen drinks a day before we put in the new machinery,” he said.
“Then it got to 600 dozen an hour after we put in the new machinery.
“We had a herbal beer that took about three weeks to mature.”
Mr Cowan said the machinery used to make the cordial was built in 1922.
He said it took six people to operate the machinery.
“The same recipes and the same machinery have been used for the past 95 years,” he said.
The brewery produces 15 flavours of cordial including the biggest-seller sarsaparilla.
Elderflower will be added to the range from January after a competition open to the public overwhelmingly chose it.
Mr Cowan said he hoped the rebranding of the Billson’s Brewery business would be completed within six months.
He said a whisky distillery and restaurant were part of long-term plans for the business.
“The North East produce is amazing and the more we can get it into our products the better,” he said.
Mr Cowan also acquired a collection of historic horse-drawn carriages when he bought the brewery.
About 25 carriages dating to the 19th century – including a hearse – make up the Beechworth Carriage Museum in the building.
Billson’s Brewery, 29 Last Street, opens seven days (excluding Christmas Day), 9am to 5pm.