The old Sandstone brewery is quite an amazing feat of outback colonial ingenuity… just don’t drive there expecting to find a welcoming outback pub serving up craft beers! You will be very disappointed. It’s been a long time since beer was brewed at this brewery, and the photos below show what’s left of it today:
The Workings and History of the Sandstone Brewery
The brewery was built on top of a breakaway about 3km south east of town in 1907 by an enterprising Irishman by the name of J. V. Kearney to provide beer for the miners working in the Sandstone area. At that point in time Sandstone had a population of between 6000 and 8000, but within a decade it was down to only 200 people – a near ghost town by comparison.
The brewery operated until around 1910, when Sandstone became closer connected to the outside world through the completion of the Sandstone Branch Railway, which meant beer could more easily be delivered from elsewhere.
The way the beer was brewed, stored and kept cool is rather interesting, and just goes to show how difficult life was in the outback before modern inventions such as refrigeration!
Here’s my understanding of how the brewery worked:
The brewery was located on top of the breakaway near the edge of the cliff, and a cellar to store the beer in was created by blasting a cave into the base of the cliff with dynamite.
Water drawn up from a well was pumped to the top floor of the brewery, where the brew was mixed. From there it was piped down into coolers, then into two large vats on the ground floor.
The finished product was then stored in kegs in the cellar cave. Up on top of the breakaway you can see a shaft in the ground that connects to the cave below, acting as an air vent to help keep the cave at a cool and stable temperature even in the most scorching weather conditions.
Visting the Sandstone Brewery Site
The brewery site is an interesting place to explore and have a look around. Be sure to visit both the top of the breakaway and the cave at the base of the cliff.
Unfortunately when we were there it was a bit grotty with broken glass and litter up on top of the rock. But we had a good time finding the remnants of the old Brewery, and the views were pretty good! We could see old mine sites and the breakaway formation that London Bridge is part of.
From inside the cave we looked up through the hole in the roof to where we’d been standing not long before. The cliff cast a lot of shade onto the ground beneath and the picnic bench off to one side of the cave. If it had been a hot day we might have stayed a while but on a cool winter’s day it felt gloomy so we hopped back in the car and continued on to London Bridge, the next stop on the Sandstone Heritage Trail.
Where is the Sandstone Brewery cave and how do you get there?
Below is a bird’s eye view showing the exact location, to see where it is in relation to town, zoom out a little and scroll to the north-west.
The best way to get there is by following the Sandstone Heritage Trail, which begins in town at the museum, miner’s cottage and Black Range Chapel, and continues on from the brewery to London Bridge and the Sandstone State Battery.
Heading east from town along the Agnew-Sandstone Road, you’ll spot a side road with a brown tourist sign indicating the heritage trail just after the Sandstone Gold Mine. Follow this road and the heritage trail signs.
Last Updated: 21st August, 2015.
First posted on 21st April, 2015 by Bonny.
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