The hotels and inns of Evandale had to source the ales and spirits that they wished to sell. Some of this would have been produced on the premises and some would have been bought from producers and importers. Even from the earliest times, there were debates as to the morality of alcohol consumption and the economics of production versus importation. It is worth noting that spirits (collectively called rum) where actually used as a form of currency in the early stages of colonisation. This debate is exemplified by the following from the Colonial Times 10 September 1830.
“A Correspondent, last week, called our attention to the Committee appointed to investigate whether it be expedient or not to make some alterations in the present system of distillation in this Colony; from what we can understand, the simple question is this – are the importations of spirits to be encouraged, or are such as may be manufactured in this Colony to have the preference given them? There is no doubt but the pro and con have been very ably discussed by the Committee in question, and no doubt the results of their deliberations will prove that every point has been duly weighed and considered. It has been stated to us that one of the reasons that would naturally tend to levy a higher duty on Colonial distilled spirits, is the desire the Committee have to encourage the consumption of less stimulating beverage, in favour of the consumption of beer, they presume, that there are about 15,000 drinking persons in Van Diemen’s Land, and they would allow at the rate of a hogshead of strong ale for each individual-each hogshead will require four bushels of grain to produce it and thus a consumption of 60,000 bushels of barley will be consequent, which reckoned at 5s. Per bushel, will be £15,000 annually. This is all very fine in theory, but in practice how would it prove? If the Colonial distilleries were shut up, would one glass less of imported spirits be drank? And if such duties were levied as to put a stop to importations or, if a higher duty than the present be fixed – would not the greatest evil of a country immediately follow? Would it not answer the smugglers’ purpose to commence operations? Besides, another question arises, whether these 15,000 hogsheads of beer which are to be drank annually are to be English or Colonial brewing? If the former, valuing the hogshead at £5 each, it is only drawing £75,000 per annum from the Colonists; if, on the contrary, it is supposed that these 15,000 hogsheads are to be supplied by our own breweries, well and good. But then, to begin with, first see if those establishments are capable of supplying to that extent, and then question whether the consumers would take to the beer as well as they do to the dose.
None can desire more than we do to see the Colony dependent on herself still more than she now is; many imported articles ought to have been long ago prohibited, by raising the duties to such an extent that sufficient encouragement would have been given to goods of our own manufacturing, in preference to those of a similar description imported. But as to Colonial distillation, where grain, the produce of the Island is to be consumed, it stands to reason that every assistance should be given in order to prevent a loss to the Colonists, by expending money in paying for that which is the produce of other countries.
If, like England, our commerce was so great that something like a balance of trade would be constantly requisite, that, would naturally alter the question; but as we are, of the comparative few exportations which take place from hence, the proceeds might all be returned in hard cash, without England feeling the least inconvenience; therefore we say, it cannot be argued, as some have maintained, that because we export oil, wool, and wood, we must in return take goods out of the London markets. Everybody will acknowledge, that, whenever it is possible to prevent the Colonists from importing that which can be manufactured by themselves, it is a saving of capital to some part or other of the community: and among such articles, Spirits of Colonial distillation may be ranked foremost, for they not only consume a very large quantity of grain, but likewise pay very considerable duty – benefiting the farmer, the manufacturer, and the Revenue. As to the question of immorality, in allowing the use of the ardent spirits, it is not for the Colonists to decide. Wise as we may think ourselves, we cannot pretend to lead the way, and show the world that we are philosophers who, because we consider stimulating liquors tending to immorality, can do away with the use of them.
If in Europe illicit distilleries and smuggling be carried on to such an extent, for the sake of a trifling gain, surely here, where spirits are so much in demand, they would, by hook or by crook, be illegally manufactured or imported.
The Committee, likewise, need not trouble their heads about questions such as – which of the two ardent spirits, or malt liquors, are productive of most mischief to the drinker, or of a greater tendency to increase crime? – for there is a very old saying that would set it to rest, viz., “Porter drinkers are porter thinkers,” no doubt meaning dull, stupid fellows, with no life or energy; whereas spirits are enlivening and stimulating, and have this advantage over porter and small beer – they much sooner evaporate, and leave the drinker in his usual senses. If such a question as that be allowed, certainly it should also be considered – whether, the many who, as a matter of custom, get intoxicated once a day, should remain in that state for 12 hours or for 24?
Following good examples is the best thing we can do. If distillation is allowed in every other Colony, why should it be restricted by levying such duties as would immediately prevent the possibility of continuing the manufacture in Van Diemen’s Land? Why, in the name of goodness, should we not be placed on the same footing as other Colonies-we will say, other similar Settlements?”
It was into this environment that the first breweries were introduced to the Evandale area.
Karl von Stieglitz (Days and Ways in Old Evandale, April 1946) states that William Sidebottom built a brewery at Evandale near the Clarendon Hotel and that William East was the last brewer. One might assume that if it was adjacent to the Clarendon Hotel, it would have been supplying that hotel which commenced operations in 1849. No record can be found of the first William Sidebottom (who died in 1849) of having operated this brewery.
The first record of the brewery located was from The Cornwall Chronicle of 19 February 1859 which states “Tasmania Brewery – Adjoining Mr. Fall’s Hotel. The undersigned begs respectfully to inform the inhabitants of Evandale, that the above brewery, being completed and in full operation, is now ready to supply them with a genuine and first-class article, and trusts by strict attention to business, to merit a share of public patronage. – William East – Feb 3”.
Mr East expanded the brewery in 1860 (The Cornwall Chronicle 1 Feb 1860) but by 1868, Mr East had either shifted operations or expanded to Perth by taking up the Esk Brewery from Mr Ingram.
In the Launceston Examiner of 30 January 1868 he advertises to seek good malting barley from the incoming crop of that year to be “delivered at Evandale or Perth” but cites his location as Esk Brewery in Perth. The fact that he was prepared to accept delivery to Evandale as well suggests he was operating both businesses.
This hypothesis is further supported by the following in the Launceston Examiner of 9 January 1868 “ESK BREWERY, Perth, Jan. 1, 1868. – The undersigned in returning his sincere thanks for the very liberal support he has received since occupying the above brewery, begs most respectfully to inform his numerous patrons and the public generally that he has this day admitted Mr. John Sidebottom, of Evandale, as a partner in the above business, which will in future be carried on under the style and firm of WILLIAM EAST & CO.”
In March 1880, the land, brewery and chattels were put up for sale by Mr East (Launceston Examiner 27 March 1880). The sale included “One acre and 20 perches, more or less, of land situate in the parish of Chicester, County Somerset, Tasmania; together with the brewery thereon erected, and known as the Esk Brewery, and the machinery, vats, coppers, fixtures, and plant belonging to the said brewery.” The reason for the sale was non-payment of a mortgage (Launceston Examiner 29 June 1880).
No further mention has been found for a brewery at Perth or Evandale has been found after this event.
It is also worth noting that J R Glover (the son of the famous painter John Glover) did a pencil sketch of a brewery thought to be near Evandale. The sketch was done circa 1850. At that time, the hotels operating in the town were the Patriot King William, Prince of Wales, Royal Oak and the Clarendon. It is known that the Patriot King had a brew house and the Clarendon was only newly built and soon to get its own adjacent brewery but unknown whether the Royal oak and Prince of Wales had their own brewing capabilities. If the sketch is taken to be an accurate interpretation of the surrounding countryside, the brewery, if in Evandale, was not at any of these public houses.