Western Sydney is at present not quite awash with quality beer. Craft offerings in the harbour city tend to be concentrated around the CBD, while the huge suburban sprawl out west is largely untouched. But after the Australian Brewery opened their doors in Rouse Hill in 2010, western Sydney got its first local taste of microbrewed beer.
Soon the amber nectar will also begin flowing in Parramatta, the hub of the west, when Riverside Brewing Company commences operation.
Riverside is the brain-child of friends Dave Padden and Stephen Pan, who have spent the last eighteen months going through the hard slogs of brewery establishment, undertaking the logistics, red tape, and formulating the business plan for Parramatta’s first – and only – microbrewery.
Riverside founder and co-owner Dave Padden says the idea to open a brewery was formulated long ago, fostered out of a love of home brewing. Padden is the founder of the casual western Sydney home brewers’ club, and he speaks fondly of brewing as a great personal passion. He says the original plan for the brewery was something smaller – not quite a nanobrewery – although the initial vision has evolved a lot over the eighteen months. One thing that has remained constant, Padden tells me, is the need for a sense of community.
“About half the breweries in NSW are regional,” he says.
“They have a strong connection with their community. There’s a very big population in Parramatta that so far has gone largely untapped.”
Padden goes on to say that he and Pan tossed out a couple of ideas – including the possibility of contract brewing – in order to tap into that local Parramatta community.
“To have that local feeling, you need a place on the ground,” he says.
Riverside Brewing is presently still awaiting the final okay from Parramatta local council before they commence their first batch. All things going well, they will start production by the end of March. Although their brewing equipment and distribution lines are largely in place, one thing Riverside will not have when they open is a central base for people to come and enjoy their beers.
“We ran out of space,” Padden says by way of explanation.
“We are hoping to open a bar in Parramatta to focus on our beers, separate from the brewery site, but that’s a good year or two down the line, when we’re up and running.”
Aside from being arguably Sydney’s second CBD and boasting a large commercial centre, Parramatta is also home to a number of bars and a vibrant restaurant strip. The local restaurants are a key target for Riverside, and there are hopes that the locals will be keen and able to access their beer at several venues. Padden says it is an important part of their business plan to have beer selling in bottles, as well as kegs at various craft beer venues in Sydney and Melbourne.
“It will be pretty much split down the middle,” he says.
“50 litre kegs and 330mL bottles. The restaurants are a big part of the strategy.”
As for what the beers will be, Padden says he has plans for three regular offerings – a light Summer ale, an American Pale Ale and an American-style IPA. A self-confessed ‘hop-head’, Padden credits his partner Stephen Pan as being the “level head” of their venture, emphasising the importance of breaking through to their consumers with easy-drinking ‘gateway’ beers. However, there are plans for Padden to satisfy his inner homebrewer with the occasional limited release, but he won’t spill the beans on those plans until the regular line-up is finalised.
Following all the planning, bureaucracy and hard work over the last eighteen months, the effort is about to come to fruition, and Padden has absolutely no regrets.
“Stephen and I probably have more passion now than when we started,” he says. “I can think of nothing better than waking up in the morning and going down to the brewery to make beer.”