They used to make beer here.

There’s nothing to hear except the slow drip drip drip coming from deep inside the old factory, I can’t quite see where it’s coming from and quite frankly don’t want to go exploring too far to see, occasionally a quick rustle from under a pile of rubble and the odd clicking noise of a swooping bat joins the dripping, otherwise, all is quiet. A weak shaft of sunlight briefly breaks through the cloud cover above me and the room I’m standing in brightens slightly as the sun bounces off the dusty floor and walls of the old building.

The room quickly transforms, from gloomy and dark, to just plain gloomy, there’s some abandoned machinery and years of dirt and rubble piled in one corner, a small pyramid of fallen bricks in another.

Another cloud skids across the sun and I’m plunged back into the gloom again.

The exterior of the old factory

The exterior of the old factory

I’ve driven about two hours south of Sydney, down to the little Southern Highlands town of Mittagong where the remains of an old brewery, long abandoned, and moldering away, sits not far from the center of town.
They used to make beer here, and what once must have been a hive of activity, a bustling factory full of workers and a place providing much needed employment for the region now only has rats, bats and kids with spray cansfilling it’s empty halls.

A pyramid of rubble inside the factory.

A pyramid of rubble inside the factory.

It’s hard to believe now, but the owners of the old brewery, Tooth and Co, was once the largest brewer in Australia, they also were one of Australia’s oldest companies, founded way back in 1835.

Reminders of working days

Reminders of working days

By the turn of the 20th century they had branched out into the big time, listed on the stock exchange and with major land holdings, dozens of pubs, a hotel chain, restaurants and wineries including at one point the iconic Australian brand Penfolds, Tooth and Co were a major player in corporate Australia employing thousands of workers.

The remains of an old staircase inside the factory

The remains of an old staircase inside the factory

Sadly, and some could say predictably, it all went pear-shaped for them, by the mid 1970’s their cash-flow had begun to dwindle and a complicated financial restructure was a debacle and left them a prime takeover candidate and by 1981 it was all over, stripped of it’s assets by takeover specialists, the Adelaide Steamship Company, Tooth and Co were toothless.

One of the old rooms inside the factory.

One of the old rooms inside the factory.

The site in Mittagong has several old buildings on it, including an old caretakers cottage and two malting houses, sitting on either side of the Nattai River, there’s still a little old wooden bridge that spans across the river linking the two sites together, it’s the kind of place you half expect a troll to demand payment to allow you to cross, it’s overgrown with willow trees and there’s a disused railway line running over it.

The Malting House

The Malting House

While it’s probably not the spot to go for a romantic picnic, there’s plenty of rooms and abandoned floors to explore, some are getting a little scary now with rotting floorboards and missing stairs so if you’re planning a visit, take due care.
A link to the location can be found here

A small tree has taken root in the roof of the malting house.

A small tree has taken root in the roof of the malting house.

It’s hard to believe that a company could go broke selling beer to Australians, but Tooth and Co prove that anything is possible, the blow to the community must have been pretty severe when they closed up in 1981, with all the job losses and associated spin-offs closing, and the fact the buildings are still sitting abandoned and rotting away, taking up what is some of the best prime real estate in town would suggest the community is still coming to grips with the loss.

Click on an image below to see the gallery.

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