Perkins Brewery

Queensland's first brewery was built in Toowoomba in 1867. By 1869, it was one of the largest breweries in the southern hemisphere. The brewery's original and official name was the Downs Brewery but came to be known as Perkins Brewery. Read about it's history and how it eventually became part of Castlemaine Perkins.

Perkins BreweryPaddy Perkins was born in Tipperary, Ireland in 1838 migrating to Australia in 1855 with his father Thomas, and brothers James and Thomas. Arriving in Victoria Paddy and his family travelled the Ballarat and Bendigo goldfields.

Paddy and his brother Thomas set up a merchandising store in Castlemaine, Victoria and later held an interest in the Castlemaine Brewery in Victoria.

After testing water quality in Brisbane and Ipswich, the Perkins brothers located a reliable spring providing the quality they required in West Swamp Toowoomba. In 1867 the brothers purchased land in Margaret Street (where Grand Central is today) and contracted Mr John Garget to construct Queensland's first brewery.

In December 1869 Perkins Brewery brewed its first commercial hogshead of light ale in Queensland. At this time, the brewery was one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere with the capacity to produce 400 hogshead (113,650 litres) of XXX (Extra Exhilarating Extract) beer per week.

Another product from the Perkins Brewery was Carbine Invalid Stout that was promoted for fortifying the blood and as a tonic for nursing mothers.

The Perkins brothers also founded the malting industry in Toowoomba, building a malt house in addition to their Dent Street brewery. In 1871 maltster J. G. Sims processed 14,000 bushels of barley on the floor of the Perkins' malt house (1 bushel = 0.363 litres).

The opening of the brewery in Toowoomba saw an increase of barley growing on the Downs which led to experiments in the cultivation of hops, all of which were unsuccessful. The malting process was discontinued in the 1880s and 1890s until a duty was imposed on imported malt and processing of local barley was again encouraged.

Perkins and Co described their beer as “A good, light, drinkable and nutritious ale, having been a long-felt want in Queensland, the proprietors beg to announce that they are now prepared to supply unlimited demand with a sound and nutritious ale, such as they trust will command general favour and support.”

Paddy Perkins later purchased the City Brewery, Mary Street Brisbane in 1872.

In August 1876 tragedy stuck the Perkins family when Thomas was killed aged 35, whilst riding his horse in Grandchester. Thomas Perkins is buried at the Toowoomba & Drayton Cemetery.

Paddy continued running the breweries in Toowoomba and Brisbane which prospered and expanded up until the 1920s. Profits began to decline due to competition from the new and extremely popular XXXX Bitter Ale, a stronger beer which was bought out by Perkins' competitor Castlemaine Brewery Brisbane. The Perkins and Co. Ltd Downs Brewery in Toowoomba and the City Brewery in Brisbane were sold to the Castlemaine Brewery in August 1928. The company was then restructured as Castlemaine Perkins Ltd.

The Downs Brewery ceased brewing in 1958 after it had operated continuously for eighty-nine years.

Sources:
Talbot, Don & Larkin, John. (2003) Strange & Unusual Tales. Volume 1.

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