Melbourne’s Boatrocker Brewery is set to open its new 300-barrel maturation facility and bar that was made possible by the investment of the founders of Little Creatures.
Through their investment vehicle Made By HAND, Howard Cearns, Adrian Fini, Nic Trimboli and David Martin purchased a 33 per cent shareholding in Boatrocker earlier this year.
The capital injection enabled Boatrocker to expand the capacity of its Braeside brewery and open the Boatrocker Barrel Room in a factory shed across the road.
Boatrocker already has 150 barrels at varying stages of maturation, comprising 500-litre puncheons, 225-litre barriques, 200-litre hogsheads and bourbon barrels, founder Matt Houghton told Australian Brews News.
“As we keep on brewing, we keep on buying more barrels. So we’ll be steadily acquiring over the next 12 months ago and should hopefully be close to 300 by then,” he said.
Houghton said barrels have proven difficult to come by, particularly those of a certain standard.
“We’re quite fussy about where they come from winery-wise as well as the quality of the barrel,” he said.
“Also this year it’s been a bumper season for wine so most winemakers have been refilling the barrels they were planning on getting rid of, so that’s slimmed down the quantity of available barrels.”
Temperature, humidity control
Boatrocker has also gone to great lengths to ensure that the room is the right temperature and humidity to aid slow, steady maturation.
“The roof has top-of-the-range insulation and we’ve got air conditioning with humidifiers to make sure it’s all the right moisture content,” Houghton said.
“We’ve really tried everything to keep it the best environment for the barrels, which is good for the punter as well when they come and drink, because it means it will be really nice and cool inside.”
The current inventory of barrels includes Sour Blondes, Tripels, Scotch Ales, Flemish Reds, Oud Bruins, Saisons and Berliner Weisse.
Starting this week, the bar will be open on weekends with barrel beers to be served on tap alongside Boatrocker’s core beer range.
Boatrocker’s distribution is otherwise limited to Victoria and a smattering of MBH-backed venues in Perth, such as Petition Beer Corner, but Houghton ultimately hopes to change that.
“Long term, I hope we can provide our beers – particularly our barrel beers – to a much wider audience. It really is about developing the distribution network for that to happen,” he said.
“Hopefully we’ll just keep on buying lots more barrels and rent the factory next to us and put more barrels in there, and the next one and the next one,” he joked.
“Hopefully everyone gets into lovely sour beers – that’s my dream anyway.”
Creatures founders ‘hands off’
Boatrocker is MBH’s first investment in a drinks producer outside of its own Hippocampus distillery, but Howard Cearns hinted there may be similar investments on the horizon.
“We don’t want to go and start our own brewery up again, but we’re happy to be passive investors if you like, where we see people we like making good products and we like what they’re doing,” he said.
Cearns said he sits on the board of Boatrocker alongside Houghton, but otherwise MBH’s involvement is ‘hands off’ in nature.
“We’re there to help if needed. But other than that, day-to-day they look after it themselves,” he said.
Houghton said Boatrocker had benefited from its new investors’ expertise on the drinks industry.
“They’re very well regarded and connected as well. When we need advice or want to discuss certain things, they’re always available to chat with, which is fantastic,” he said.
Boatrocker Barrel Room will be open on Friday from 4-9pm and Saturday from 12-6pm. Food trucks will be in the vicinity.