Sunday History Photo / Tas

Submitted: Sunday, Jul 24, 2011 at 06:41
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The Cascade Brewery is the oldest continually operating brewery in Australia. It is based in South Hobart, Tasmania. The story of this majestic brewery starts with Peter Degraves. An Englishman of French heritage who was schooled in engineering, architecture and law. In 1821, this entrepreneur left England to make his fortune in the new world by establishing a sawmilling operation. Van Diemen’s Land (as Tasmania was known in its colonial days) was his destination. Unfortunately, fate played him a bad hand in those early days. The ship he had chartered to take him to the Apple Isle was damaged and forced back to England.
In 1824 he finally arrived in Van Diemen’s Land only to be cast into prison in 1826 for allegedly not having paid his debts in England. He protested his innocence and wrote to numerous people including the Lieutenant-General of Van Diemen’s Land.
With a family of eight children, he endured eleven months’ imprisonment .
Whilst in prison, Degraves spent his time redesigning the prison buildings for the colonial authorities- certainly not an idle man.
Peter Degraves was 51 when he emerged from prison - his age did not prevent him from energetically starting afresh and soon becoming one of the richest and most respected men of the young colony
There are few residents or visitors of the Tasmanian capital who have not shared in the public benefits or partaken of the open-hearted hospitality of that model English gentleman, 'Peter Degraves, of the Cascade'.
From 1824 he built saw and flour mills, a water supply for the city, Hobart’s Theatre Royal, and of course - the real gem of the South - the Cascade Brewery.

Surely the Cascade Brewery is more beautifully situated than any brewery in the world. … Massively built of granite, four and five stories high, The pillars of the gates leading into the brewery are surmounted by imitation casks hewn out of stone. They bear the date of 1824, the year the new wing was erected. This date takes one back to the ancient history of Victoria. It is almost bewildering to think that when the site of Marvellous Melbourne had been untrodden by white man this massive building was erected. But the Cascade Brewery was built, not for a day, but in the old solid European style for many generations.
Degraves died in 1852. His four sons continued his businesses but unfortunately they all died without heirs and the Degraves name could not be carried on.
The trustees of the Degraves estates decided to sell the brewery.John Symes, a Scotish lawyer who had immigrated to Melbourne, was instructed to reconcile the breweries accounts. He recognised the brewery’s potential and bought the brewery in 1881. In the next year, Symes and his three partners, bought out three competing breweries in Hobart. There were no anti-monopoly laws back then so it was inevitable that near monopolies arose, particularly in such a small market.
The company continued to grow and in 1905 it leased the Adams Brewery and numerous hotels from the estate of its founder, George Adams. By 1911, the Cascade Brewery Company controlled over 90 hotels.

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In 1922, it made an extremely important and strategic acquisition - the James Boag’s Brewery.
In 1927, the Cascade brewery was extended fitted out with the latest Swiss lager making plant. This was done at great cost and, together with the impact of the Great Depression, put the company into some financial difficulty – no dividend was paid until 1930. It is encouraging to know that even in these difficult times, the head brewer Jin Stonor, supplied a free Cascade each afternoon to the unemployed of Hobart, provided they brought their own drinking vessels. Some of the beer mugs that we brought are said to have been very large indeed.
Despite the ban on the sale of beer interstate and the new federal income tax – the business did very well during the Second World War. A 12.5% dividend was paid in 1943.

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On 7 February 1967, on the day that rip-top cans were first being used in Australia, at the Cascade Brewery, disaster struck. Massive bushfires closed in on the brewery and engulfed it. The blazing fire almost entirely destroyed the complex. The restoration work began immediately and within 3 months beer was being bottled again at the site. In the meantime, the slack was taken up by increased production at the Boags brewery. CUB also helped out by producing and bottling beer for Cascade.
The early eighties were a time of corporate takeover activity, Cascade was not exempt. It attempted to protect itself by issuing more shares to CUB increasing CUB’s stake in Cascade to 25%. But in 1983, Industrial Equity Limited or IEL, chaired by Ron Brierly, made a successful bid for the control of the brewery. The offer was pitched at $3.75 a share, the directors resisted and other firms weighed in with offers. The final price was over $5.75 a share! IEL had to sell Cascade in 1988 to Wilson Neill Australia Ltd because of the 1987 stockmarket crash.

Why has the Cascade brewery been so successful? In 1924, Cecil Allport penned this explanation in his book, A Page From the Past:

The conditions required for the brewing industry are, first, a cool climate, and an abundant supply of water, a healthy neighbourhood, and proximity to a supply of barley, hops and sugar ... Mr Degraves when he chose the site of the Brewery in 1824 ‘builded better than he knew’, for nowhere else in the Commowealth is there a brewery so ideally situated. It is surrounded by pure air, free from the germs which are the bane of every brewer’s existence; it has the coolest climate in Australia, and most valuable asset of all, its water supply is absolutely pure, coming as it does from icy cold springs in the heart of Mount Wellington.
If its founding father, Degraves, could see the mark that his brewery has left on the Australian beer landscape - he would no doubt be very pleased.


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Reply By: landed eagle - Sunday, Jul 24, 2011 at 08:44

Sunday, Jul 24, 2011 at 08:44
Thanks Doug,
easily the MOST IMPORTANT BUILDING in my hometown.

Many moons ago, (early 80's) I was friends with a Cascade rep. They were developing a new lite brew which eventually was called 'Tigerhead'.
During the formulation time he kept showing up at my place with unmaked slabs of beer ( other then 'x' and 'y') and my mates and I had the terrible task of drinking this beer and then letting him know which was our preferred taste.
This went on for a few very trying months. We were devastated when the final formula was reached and our tasting input was no longer required.

cheers and beers.
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Reply By: Member - Fred B (NT) - Sunday, Jul 24, 2011 at 09:31

Sunday, Jul 24, 2011 at 09:31
As Cascade has been responsible for many a headache I am surprised that a pharmecutical company hasn't tried to take them over: they could then profit TWICE.... lol...! (: For providing the headache in the first place, then providing medication to cure it.

Another good one Doug.

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Reply By: Member - John Baas (WA) - Sunday, Jul 24, 2011 at 11:32

Sunday, Jul 24, 2011 at 11:32
Great stuff Doug, thanks.

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Reply By: Baz&Pud (Tassie) - Sunday, Jul 24, 2011 at 12:29

Sunday, Jul 24, 2011 at 12:29
Very interesting Doug, brings back memories, my father was the State Sales Manager for Cascade back in the 60s and the Secretary for the Company in the 70s prior to his retirement in 78 i think it was.
It's a great brew, and the only one i drink, other than when travelling.
Go caravaning, life is so much shorter than death.

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Reply By: timglobal - Sunday, Jul 24, 2011 at 22:56

Sunday, Jul 24, 2011 at 22:56
Fascinating as ever, Doug.

Many thanks for your ongoing stream of history.
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