The Brookvale Brewing Company sold its first beer 70 years ago

Today Brookvale is home to several microbreweries, but 70 years ago it was home to one of only four breweries in Sydney.

Today Brookvale is home to several microbreweries, but 70 years ago it was home to one of only four breweries in Sydney.

Unfortunately, he only survived a few years.

After the Second World War, the Warringah Council wanted to develop Brookvale beyond its rural roots and turn it into an industrial centre.

But anyone trying to set up a new business in the region faced an uphill battle – despite the huge demand for goods and services, credit was hard to come by and most building materials were in short supply.

One of the companies that braved those tough days sought to tap into the market for another product that was also in short supply – beer.

The history of the Brookvale Brewing Company is almost a microcosm of the region’s post-war industrial history – a largely immigrant, hard-working but low-resource population struggling against monopolistic control of established businesses and banks with clenched fists.

It was also a story of shared hardship and local solidarity, and the support of an enthusiastic council.

The founders of the brewery were naturalized Czech-born Vladimir ‘Val’ Yanco and Czech Ales Maria Kapral, who came to Brookvale around 1948 looking for land on which to establish a factory.

Kapral was an industrial chemist who lived at 22 Ozone St, Freshwater, while Yanco was an engineer who lived at 46 Edward St, Dee Why, and later 7 Austral Ave, North Manly.

Kapral had previously run a large Czechoslovak company that produced agricultural chemical supplies.

At the corner of Mitchell Rd and Wattle Rd in Brookvale, Kapral and Yanco found a block of land owned by brothers Nick and Frank Tomaino, who agreed to exchange the land for shares in the brewery.

In late 1950 Kapral, having arrived in Australia in January 1949, applied to the Full Bench of the Licensing Court for a brewer’s licence.

But the navigation was far from smooth – the Department of Building Materials complained that they had been told the building under construction at Brookvale was for the production of glucose and malt, not beer, so a A stop work order was issued for the plant and the Licensing Court attached Kapral’s application for a brewer’s license.

In April 1951, the licensing court finally granted Kapral a license to make beer at Brookvale, using glucose instead of sugar to produce a dark pilsener and a light lager.

Kapral said at the time that he hoped to produce 2,000 gallons of beer each week, most of which would go to clubs.

Almost immediately, the Sydney-based Union of Registered Workers’ Clubs entered into discussions with Kapral to take a financial stake in the company and, through its stake in the company, to have a stake in subsidiaries to be created elsewhere in the state. .

The Brookvale Company would produce beer concentrates that would be transported to centers across the country for processing, reducing shipping and transportation costs.

At the time, the Union of Registered Workers’ Clubs represented 8,000 workers’ club members in Sydney, Newcastle, Lithgow, Wollongong, Cessnock, Weston, West Wallsend and Helensburgh, so it was an important market for the Brookvale company.

Most hotels and clubs in NSW were bound by agreements with one or other of Sydney’s three big breweries – Tooth and Co, Toohey’s and Kent Brewery – who also held shares in some hotels and clubs.

Opposite the brewery lived Marin Alagich, who not only became foreman of the brewery for five years and held the most important certificates to operate the boiler and refrigeration plant, but also took shares in the business and even allowed his backyard to be used as a depot.

It was Alagich who approached Warringah council for advice and found the council all too happy to lend a hand in the new venture.

The ground on the Tomaino plot was soft and wet which made construction difficult, but council staff gave all the help they could, even going so far as to design a septic tank for the brewery to compensate. the absence of a sewage system.

The brewery was built entirely by local labor, mostly newly arrived Italians, and took a year to build, with the shortage of building materials being the main cause of the delay.

And not only were building materials missing, but also some of the essential ingredients for making beer – sugar, hops and yeast.

Glucose extract was used instead of sugar and dry yeast instead of fresh, while hops could only be obtained from two growers in Tasmania.

Even new cylinders were difficult to obtain – and expensive when available – so used cylinders had to be used despite the time and expense of cleaning them properly.

The only things in abundance were the bottle labels.

Companies established by Kaplan and Yanco included Brookvale Holdings Ltd, Brookvale Brewing Company Pty Ltd, Brookvale Brewing Supplies Pty Ltd, Agricola Pty Ltd, Agricola Investments Pty Ltd, Brookvale Engineering Company Pty Ltd, Aromas Manufacturing Chemists and Distillers Pty Ltd, Pilsener Malt Pty Ltd, Warringah Transport Co Pty Ltd, United Spirit Merchants Pty Ltd and Australian Malt and Glucose Factory Pty Ltd.

They also held a controlling interest in the Maitland Brewing Company.

Beer production at Brookvale began in early 1952 and the factory’s first beers, based on substitutes, were far from satisfactory, but once reliable sources of ingredients became available and a A professional brewer formerly of Tooth’s came on board, the Brookvale Brewery started churning out a very palatable drop.

The mainstay of the plant as Union Pilsener but Honey Stout was also brewed and some were even exported to Singapore.

The quality of Brookvale’s brew was not enough to knock the big brews off their perch – the big brewers simply kicked the Brookie boys out of the hospitality business, leaving them the relative crumbs of a few workers’ clubs or ex-servicemen like the Harbord Digger’s. Club.

Indeed, many of the company’s shareholders were union clubs, particularly in the Hunter and Illawarra districts.

Although the Brookvale company mainly sells its beers in clubs, it also sells them at the Crecy Hotel in Oxford St, near Taylor Square, Sydney.

But it was only sold on draft due to bottle shortages.

Crecy Hotel licensee Bill Wilson told a Sydney newspaper he had struggled to find enough beer to sell until he reached a deal with Brookvale Brewery .

“Until I got beer from the Brookvale Brewery, I could only get beer for three hours a day,” he said.

“Even then, I could only sell middies. It was a fight to continue.

“Now I have beer all day – Saturdays and holidays – and I give customers pints and schooners whenever they want.

“I can’t get enough bottled beer from other breweries, but I do bottle Brookvale beer for people who bring their own pints. Or I give them beer in whatever they bring.

By April 1952 Brookvale Brewery was selling draft beer to three other hotels in Sydney and by early 1953 was selling to five hotels and 25 clubs, and was also arranging with ordering agencies to sell its beers in Katoomba and Wollongong.

Despite the difficulties of competing with the big breweries, the Brookvale Brewery fought on until the early 1950s, managing to build a new factory and install new equipment, while employing up to 90 locals and producing a beer popular locally.

There was also a “guest bar” on site which received favorable traffic after hours, especially on Fridays.

The brewery even sponsored a local junior football team.

Problems encountered by the Brookvale Brewing Co in the mid-1950s included the introduction of the 10 p.m. closing time, which reduced demand for beer, and the licensing of previously unlicensed clubs which then sourced from one of the main breweries.

Despite these setbacks, upgrading and improving its equipment and employing a full-time chemist to oversee production helped improve the quality of beer the brewery produced.

But a good product and local support were not enough, especially at a time when beer was becoming more plentiful and Brookvale Brewery sales were declining.

Apart from the main breweries in Sydney, the breweries in Grafton, Lithgow and Mudgee also produced beer.

Although the Brookvale factory had the capacity to produce over 45,000 liters per week, a market could be found for less than 10,000 litres.

But the brewery had to sell more than 13,000 liters a week just to break even.

Eventually the Brookvale Brewing Co succumbed to financial realities and was dissolved in September 1956 and the brewery equipment was auctioned off in November 1956.

Shareholders lost much of their investment, workers lost their jobs, Brookvale lost one of its major post-war industries, and the peninsula lost a good local drop.

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