Mining billionaire Andrew Forrest has added another iconic West Australian building to his property portfolio: the Old Swan Brewery.
- The brewery is a heritage-listed riverfront building on the Swan River
- Its location has Aboriginal significance as the resting place of the Waugyl
- The site was redeveloped into boutique apartments and restaurants in the 1990s
The heritage buildings on the Swan River could become a new home for his Minderoo Group and Minderoo Foundation, which have expanded significantly in recent years.
Minderoo Group has agreed to take over the lease of the brewery buildings from Besen, the Melbourne-based company of Daniel Besen, of the renowned Australian retail family.
The move comes after Minderoo’s recent purchase of the Indiana tearooms site at Cottesloe beach.
But while the modern beachfront building is beloved of Instagrammers, the brewery site is steeped with more historical and cultural significance.
Minderoo Group declined to disclose the financial value of the deal, but its chief executive. Andrew Hagger, said the group was excited to see the site return to WA hands.
“Minderoo recognises its long and significant importance to so many West Australians and looks forward to being part of its next chapter,” he said.
Iconic site for different cultures
For Aboriginal people, the site is the resting place of the Waugyl — the Dreamtime serpent which created the Swan River and other waterways around Perth.
For this reason, many protesters fought the WA Government’s plans to redevelop the brewery site in the 1980s and 1990s.
The brewery buildings, dating back to 1879, are an iconic presence on the Swan River, nestled in a cover underneath Kings Park.
By 1924, Swan controlled about half the state’s beer market, although Swan Lager — its flagship beer known as “super” by many West Australians — would not be created until 1940.
For parochial drinkers and history buffs, they are a reminder of a time when local beer drinkers professed loyalty to either Swan or Emu beers, even though both were brewed by the Swan Brewery from the early 20th century.
WA heritage records say the existing buildings “are a physical embodiment of the generally accepted significance of beer to the Australian ethos”.
Restaurants to remain if deal approved
Swan shifted its brewing operations to Canning Vale in the 1980s, with the brewery buildings now housing apartments, restaurants, a car park and commercial space.
Minderoo’s deal to buy the lease of the Old Swan Brewery was completed last month but needs WA Lands Minister Ben Wyatt to approve the transfer of the lease, something that is yet to be granted.
Minderoo said the restaurants would continue to be sub-leased to the existing tenants.