The latest enthusiastic start-up craft brewers are taking a punt on the commercial beer market after years of refining their all-grain brewing skills at home. Propelling them forward is their combined engineering expertise and an incinerated couch that left behind their brand’s inspiration, seven cents in change.
The affable co-founders and co-brewers of 7 Cent Brewery – Doug Bremner, Brendan Baker and Matthew Boustead – have partly been inspired to take their beers to the market by the recent rise and successes of small craft brewers. However, their journey started several years back when boldly flavoursome and distinctive beers were still relatively hard to come by.
The three brewers vow that 7 Cents is not a venture to cash-in on craft beer’s flourishing economy. They assure their mission is to just brew beers that excite them and that they love to drink, without compromise from market or budget influences. It’s a spirit that has captured many home brewers over the years and the 7 Cents team are ready and eager to follow in the footsteps of Melbourne contemporaries such as Mountain Goat, Kooinda, Temple and Moon Dog.
Australian Brews News spoke to Matt Boustead during the recent launch of their Wapping Wharf ESB at Penny Blue bar in Melbourne.
Their story began as mechanical engineering students at Monash University in Melbourne. Typical of many university students who love beer but a survive on minimal income whilst committed to full time studies, home brewing was used to help keep the beer flowing.
The inspiration to try crafting new beers of various styles came from tasting many of the flavoursome European beers that were available on tap at local bars, such as Melbourne’s Belgian Beer Café (now Village Melbourne). An initial inability to replicate them with extract brewing lead to the pursuit of all-grain brewing. From there they quickly established a palate for more challenging and creative beers.
“We’d been home brewing for quite some time,” noted Boustead.
“About four or five years ago I said to Bakes that I’ve got a little bit money saved up and I either need to make the decision to save up more and buy a house, or can we do something with our brewing and take it down that path.”
The name for the brewery came about after a mini-bonfire that demolished an unwanted couch. After the night of beers and burning, as young Aussie men may occasionally do, they returned and discovered that the departed couch had left behind coins equalling to seven cents. And so the brand was born.
They have constructed a nano-size brewery in at shed at Gisborne South, north of Melbourne, and Baker’s family owns a dairy farm at Timboon in western Victoria, which has provided space to grow hops and a gateway for acquiring the necessary stainless steel.
“We started off with a 200 litre set-up to lower the risk of the initial outlay, but soon we were up to 600 and 700 litres.”
“We then could see that this was really going to happen, so we started looking into licencing.”
“We wanted to take it as it happens and not jump too far ahead. So we kept our full time jobs, brewing on the weekend, and we’ll see if people like our beers.”
The three brewers still have full time jobs in engineering fields. Doug works in the food processing industry, which has provided the team with a very usual resource for knowledge about the regulations and requirements of setting up a commercial brewery. Matt’s job working with hydraulics and Brendan’s manufacturing and project management experience have also proved to be beneficial for designing, building and developing a brewing business.
Their own handiwork has fashioned a brewhouse from repurposed equipment sourced through their farming and engineering connections. A jacketed dairy vat now serves as both their mash tun and a frementer.
“Now that our beer is out there [on tap in bars], we’ll see where we are in a year or two and then we might be able to go completely full time on the brewery.”
The slowly but surely approach means that their brewing will be limited to about once a month. 7 Cent beers will only be available in draught form for the foreseeable future, with the operation too small to bottle their beers at this stage.
“We’d love to bottle, but it’s either time consuming to do ourselves or too expensive to buy a bottling line,” explained Matt.
“We have been talking to a few breweries about using their bottling lines, especially for our special releases, but there are a lot of technicalities to sort out first.”
With positive response from several Melbourne beer bars, finding taps to pour their limited beer has been easier than expected.
“It’s been interesting. So many bars are interested in new beers and new breweries at the moment, so we can almost sell beers just on the fact that it’s a new beer and a new brewery. And because of our size we can really only support 3 or 4 bars, we’ve had no problems.”
Bars that have expressed interest for 7 Cent beers include Deja Vu bar, Penny Blue, Beer DeLuxe and The Gertrude Hotel.
7 Cent has launched with three core range beers and boundless scope for special releases. The core range consists of the Whapping Wharf ESB, Hard Deck American IPA and B4 (aka ‘Bousa’s Big Black Belgian’) Belgian Dark Strong Ale.
Each of the core range beer represents the favoured style and brew of one of the 7 Cent team.
Baker’s ESB was inspired by Bristol’s Whapping Wharf during recent time spent in the UK; Bremner’s American IPA was also the result of travelling, inspired by the beers he found during a visit to the US west coast; and Matt lived in Belgium when he was young and subsequent return visits to the region has resulted in a love for strong Belgian ales.
7 Cent’s Whapping Wharf is sure to surprise any beer style traditionalists. The richly layered dark beer has the bitterness of an English ale but the chocolate malt addition and full texture of an American brown, along with an alcohol content of 5.2%.
“I’m not too much about styles,” said Matt.
“We wanted to make something really English [in style]. From the ESBs we’ve had, like Holgate’s ESB, we decided that it was a good flavour and starting point for what we wanted to make, but then upped it with a big malty base with lots of bitterness.”
“Bakes worked on this beer for a long time. There have been many different iterations of it. At one stage we tested a batch using six different yeasts.”
The next 7 Cent beer to pour from Melbourne bars, an American IPA called ‘Hard Deck’, will be launched at Beer DeLuxe Federation Square this Friday, March 15th. Matt, Doug and Brendan will be present to chat with drinkers about all things 7 Cent.
A 7 Cent beer will also feature at the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular in May.
To follow 7 Cent Brewery news and developments, visit their website.
For the full story behind the 7 Cents name, read Making Cents on The Crafty Pint.