The Grafton brewery was incorporated in March 1949 as a private company, and construction of the brewery commenced in September 1950. It was completed in 1952, and sales of the first beer, Grafton Lager, took place during December of that year. The business was registered as a public company in February 1953.
When the foundation stone for the Grafton Brewery was laid on January 18, 1951, it was the end of a hard-fought battle, but in this case, community spirit had triumphed over government bureaucracy. The application to build the brewery had been delayed because the Department of Building Materials, which existed in the 1950s as a result of post-war shortages, had delayed the development application.
The South Grafton Council of the day was reported in The Examiner of 1949 as criticising the department for holding up the permit and pointing out that materials could be sourced locally. Indeed, in October 1950 the council of the day made building the brewery and the old ice cream factory possible by putting in the pipes that were needed to make the buildings fire-safe.
Come December 1952, the following advertisement ran: “A new word & a new taste will become a vogue tomorrow. For that is the long hoped for day when Grafton’s fine new brewery will begin distributing the locally made product in kilderkins.”
Bottles were added to production in 1953 and by 1954 they proudly announced that unlike the rest of NSW, Grafton would have sufficient supplies of beer for the upcoming summer. They even said Grafton would be the “El Dorado of beer lovers in NSW”. The brewery continued to be cheered along by the drinkers, who clearly loved their local bitter, until in January 1958 when they reported substantial staff cutbacks. As it turned out it was not the local brewer’s fault, but the greedy Sydney-based breweries who were flooding the Northern market with inferior product using cheap rail freight.
The Sydney brewer, Toohey’s Ltd, acquired the brewery in April 1961, and continued to operate it as a wholly owned subsidiary. Brewing ceased in April 10, 1997. The equipment was sold at auction, and the premises were also sold. A section of the property was leased by Toohey’s Ltd as a sales office and warehouse.
This poster from the late 1950s is a perfect representation of the modern outlook and sophistication that a NSW country town was aspiring too.