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Striking Gold: Billson’s Spring Water Revival in Beechworth

There is movement at the old Billson’s Brewery and the news is very exciting. Just off Beechworth’s main drag is a great brick chimney towering over an historic brewery. Down a laneway, past great wooden doors and under a naturally rising avenue of deciduous trees is a little stone and brick well. Clear, cold and pure, the water filters through the surrounding rock and sits just a few metres below the surface. This is the heart and soul of Billson’s Brewery that was founded in 1865. During the gold boom, it was once so busy making beer for the North East of Victoria that a glass bottle factory was built next door.

Billson’s was famous for its lager and porter well into the 1950s. It then became better known for its Murray Breweries non-alcoholic cordials, something still made in small batches on the same site today.

Billson's historic brewery, Beechworth Victoria

Billson’s historic brewery, Beechworth Victoria

Late last year, a young couple, Nathan Cowan and Felicity Cottrill, bought the sprawling site and the business. The spring water is extraordinarily good and is being carbonated and packed on site, creating a new Billson’s brand. Sold in small format cans to protect the spring water from sunlight, it is fresh, clear and clean tasting with the perfect amount of carbonation to give a cleansing tang, but not get in the way of refreshing one’s thirst. The new brand is a wonderfully striking reworking of the original Billson’s Brewery star label design dating back to the 19th century.

Nathan Cowan and Felicity Cottrill - new energetic owners of Billson's

Nathan Cowan and Felicity Cottrill – new energetic owners of Billson’s

New equipment has just arrived for the cordial line and the big news is that Nathan and Felicity have teamed up with Tony Paull, former brewer of Cheeky Peak Brewery, Wodonga. Tony is not only re-birthing the old recipes from the original Billson family, he has also rescued some yeast found in an old bottle of beer that was hidden in the cellar, which is being cultured up to brew the new vintage of Billson’s beer.

Billson’s Brewery workers with Alfred Billson (far right) c. 1880 (image reproduced with the permission of the Burke Museum, Beechworth)

Billson’s Brewery workers with Alfred Billson (far right) c. 1880 (image reproduced with the permission of the Burke Museum, Beechworth)

There are big plans for not only an expanded brewery but distillery as well. In the meantime, drop in this summer to try the spring water and cordials, wander downstairs to see the impressive brewery museum and then take a stroll down the laneway to explore Beechworth’s National Trust horse carriage collection. It is also interesting to note there is an old-fashioned barbershop on-site making Billson’s well worth the visit.

Billson’s
9am-5pm Daily for tastings, shop and carriage museum
29 Last Street, Beechworth
Tel 03 5728 1304
billsons.com.au