In the early days of last century, Launceston publicans looked enviously at the success of hotelier-owned breweries interstate.
In 1908 they decided to emulate that success and form their own company. After taking advice from Mr O'Byrne of the Adelaide Cooperative Brewery, over 100 hoteliers pooled their money and formed a company with £15,000 in 10 shilling shares.
The scrip in the Tasmanian Cooperative Brewery Co Ltd was quickly snapped up.
The new company bought part of the clothing factory site at the corner of York and Bathurst streets from James Boatwright - whose half-brother Frank was later Mayor of Launceston.
They commissioned architect Mr Thomas Tandy and J & T Gunn to build them a new, tall and impressive brick structure for the enterprise.
They called it the Union Brewery, uniting the interests of publicans and workers.
The unusual height of the building was to allow for gravity to control flows.
Water and hops were boiled in a large vat at the top of the tower.
The mixture cooled and dropped to a fermentation chamber, after which it fell into five swan-neck kauri casks in the cellar for maturation.
The business commenced at the beginning of 1909, with another South Australian, Mr Blades, as head brewer.
After just six months the chairman, Mr Powell, was able to congratulate the shareholders on brewing beer of "splendid quality" and being already profitable.
The employees were as happy as the shareholders. They were treated unusually well for the time and other breweries found themselves forced to match their pay and conditions. "Where we lead, others follow" became the brewery's advertising slogan.
Perhaps the competition was too much for competitors, for only two years later the Union Brewery was taken over by J Boag & Son Ltd.
Almost immediately, they closed it down.
As the Great War loomed in 1914, the new Navy Department became very interested in the big, empty building in the centre of town. They took a lease and on August 6 ordered all Launceston-based naval reservists to mobilise at the factory at noon. It became their drill hall and offices.
In 1926 Boag's finally sold the building to the Thyne family for the establishment of the Tamar Knitting Mills, employing about 50 people.
The new boss James Thyne had been general manager of knitting mills in Victoria.
With the benefit of tariff protection, the knitting operation lasted for 50 years. During WWII the workforce doubled to about 100 and made camouflage netting and khaki trousers as well as knits.
The reduction in tariff protection in 1973 hurt the company badly, and the factory closed in 1977.
They leased part of the Waverley Woollen Mills factory to continue making shirts and jumpers from Waverley cloth. This helped both companies survive.
Today, the beautiful big brewery is a youth accommodation house.