The 4 Pines Brewing Company is no stranger to large scale projects. Making national headlines earlier this year when they launched the world’s first ‘Space Beer’, this otherwise unassuming little brewery has its sights clearly set far beyond the cosy nook it occupies opposite Manly Wharf on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
Last weekend saw the 4 Pines team officially open their new brewing headquarters in the nearby suburb of Brookvale, expanding their brewing capacity – in layman’s terms – a zillionfold. At roughly 60 hectolitres, the new industrial-sized brewing space is one of Australia’s largest, independently owned, single-brand breweries. The new facility aims to give the company the ability to grow their production and supply to match the soaring heights of their ambition.
The launch event on Saturday had all the hallmarks of a neighbourhood shindig. Invitations were extended largely to the local punters who have helped build a local community centred around the original 4 Pines brew-pub on Manly’s Esplanade.
Many of the revellers present at the opening were simply members of 4 Pines’ extended family. They packed into the shed and enjoyed the offerings from temporary tap lines, making the event just another part of a tradition of beer parties, the type of celebration in which 4 Pines excels.
NSW State Treasurer Mike Baird, who was on hand to cut the ribbon of the new brewhouse, said that 4 Pines captures “the essence of Manly” and remarked on the sense of community that the pub has managed to build since opening their doors in 2008.
4 Pines General Manager Jaron Mitchell also emphasised the importance of the existing community. He avoided talking up the greatly increased brewing capacity in terms of sales or expansion of their market base, but focussed more on increasing efficiency and keeping supplies flowing to their established customer base. This year the 4 Pines team has expanded its distribution beyond their home turf to various craft beer venues around the country including in Western and South Australia.
The growth of the business has also seen an expansion of the team, with former Bluetongue Brewer Chris Willcock recently coming on board to head up operations as Chief Brewer. The company is also in the process of recruiting another new brewer to join the crew.
As for the step up in operations to a much larger scale, head brewer Andrew Tweddell is not phased. Having formerly brewed at the industrial megalith Australian Independent Brewers (AIB) in Smeaton Grange, he remarks that using large scale brewing equipment is just like ‘riding a bicycle’.
The focus of the new brewhouse will be primarily on upping production of their core range – including a pale ale, ESB, stout, hefeweizen and their much-celebrated Kölsch. However, when Tweddell spoke to me a few months ago he made mention of its other potential role in assisting their limited release ‘Keller Door’ series.
Previously, Tweddell noted, the Keller Door series was put out as a series of 4 beers, and the more crazy, high-alcohol beers were slow to sell, creating reluctance from suppliers to take on the whole set. With the new brewery in operation, Tweddell suggests the plan will be to produce two lots but in bigger batches. The small in-house brewery in their Manly pub will still be in operation as a pilot brewery.
“We’ve got to take advantage of the fact that we’ve got this little pilot brewery here,” Tweddell said in reference to the micro-brewery located in their Manly pub.
“The bigger companies don’t have the luxury of having a setup like this.”
Although 4 Pines are now one of the biggest small-breweries in the country, their focus is still very much on small brewery terms. Given the yield they could achieve from their huge brewing tanks, the incentive is not to flood the marketplace but merely to provide a better service of beer to the customers they already have. I am looking forward to seeing the results of their massive investment. More locally brewed craft beer always a good thing to see.