Last year was remarkable for the large number of new small brewery start-ups in Australia. By my best estimate, there were eighteen, comprising four in New South Wales, two in Tasmania, three in Western Australia, and an extraordinary nine in Victoria. Before looking at happenings in the first two months of 2012, I’ll take the opportunity to review developments in 2011, including some re-starts and relocations which I haven’t included in my annual total.
In New South Wales, the Thirsty Crow Microbrewery at Wagga Wagga opened early in the year, and was followed by Hopdog Beerworks at South Nowra, and Riverside Brewing Company at North Parramatta. In addition, the old Bluetongue brewery from Cameron Park, near Newcastle, was recommissioned as a pilot and small-batch brewery at the Warnervale site of the new Blue Tongue mega-brewery; and the U-Brew-It brew-on-premises shop at Tweed Heads South was transformed into the fully-licensed Pickled Pig Brewery. After a period of inactivity during a change of ownership, brewing recommenced in 2011 at the former James Squire Brewhouse, now known as King Street Brewhouse, in Sydney.
In Tasmania, the Moobrew people opened a bigger brewery at Bridgewater, freeing the original space-constrained facility at Berriedale (the MONA site) to brew specials. At Launceston, Morrison Brewery opened, launching at the Tasmanian Beerfest in Hobart in November 2011.
In Western Australia, a small brewery started operating at the Grove Vineyard at Wilyabrup; another started at the Cape Bouvard Winery at Herron; and the bigger Boston Brewery opened at the Willoughby Park Winery near Denmark. Additionally, the defunct Ocean Beach Brewery at Margaret River was revived as the Margaret River Ale Company.
In go-ahead Victoria, we saw the opening of Thunder Road Brewery at Brunswick; Temple Brewery nearby at East Brunswick; Moon Dog Brewing at Richmond; Cavalier Brewing at Pascoe Vale; Black Heart Brewery at Brighton; Forrest Brewing Co. at Forrest; Bullant Brewery at Bruthen; and Black Dog Brewery at Taminick, near Glenrowan. Also, the Bellarine Brewing Company ended its four-year-long pretence of having a brewery at Bellarine Estate, Portarlington, and actually installed one late in 2011. In addition, Red Duck Brewery relocated from its original home at Lake Purrumbete to Ballarat, and the Matilda Bay Garage Brewery moved from Dandenong South to bigger premises at Port Melbourne. Small brewery closures during 2011 included the Scottish Chiefs Tavern brewery at Geelong (recently the home of Beacon Beer).
There were no new starters in South Australia during 2011, but the Barossa Valley Brewing Co. did relocate from the Château Yaldara winery at Lyndoch to new visitor-friendly premises at Tanunda, and the Gulf Brewery opened a ‘cellar door’ at Hahdorf. Similarly, there were no new starters in Queensland, but the Bacchus Brewing Company, an all-grain brew-on-premises shop in the Brisbane suburb of Capalaba, has increasingly been placing its draught beers in retail outlets in and around the city, so it now truly qualifies as a ‘proper’ brewery.
The result of the above starts, restarts and closure during 2011 is that there are now one hundred and forty-one small (smaller than about the size of Coopers, that is) commercial breweries in operation across Australia. Of course, to me a brewery is a physical place where beer is actually made, so, as a matter of logic, my total does not include the many companies selling beer made for them or by them in breweries already included in the total. It also does not include brew-on-premises shops unless they are actively selling their products by wholesale or retail.
In contrast to all the business of 2011, little worthy of comment seems to have occurred in the two months since the beginning of 2012. There are certainly a few significant projects in the pipeline, nearly ready to burst forth, so the next couple of months should be interesting. I’m thinking especially of the McLaren Vale Beer Company’s brewery at Willunga (SA), the Cheeky Monkey Brewery and Cidery at Margaret River (WA), Casella’s brewery at Griffith (NSW), and the visitor facilities at the new Matilda Bay Brewery at Port Melbourne in Victoria. [Don’t forget Young Henry’s in Newtown which has become very active as it readies for launch, Ed.]