The team at BrewSmith believe they have the right gift for those nice people on your list this Christmas. Their compact homebrew kit is an increasingly popular Christmas gift and comes in an ideal sized package for placing under the Christmas tree.
Many starter homebrew kits produce beer by simply adding water and yeast to a tin of malt extract. For beginners, these kits often result in homebrew with a similar flavour and style to mainstream lagers and the ales of big beer brands. Then there’s those “fun size” beer making kits found in major department stores that are often popular Christmas items but fail to last because they just produce crap beer.
BrewSmith, however, aims to bring small-scale craft brewing into the home by providing a fun and easy to use kit that includes specialty grains and hop pallets, along with dry malt extract, resulting in flavoursome and characterful brews for both novice and experienced home brewers. The straightforward instructions, 5 litre fermenter and ingredients sourced from the same suppliers used by local microbreweries will appeal to beer lovers who enjoy crafty ales but have very limited space and time for brewing at home.
The successful gift giving pitch of the BrewSmith package has helped the business achieve a successful first year in the market. Following their launch late last year, it was December that initially proved their biggest month of sales, which is being repeated again this year.
BrewSmith is the brainchild of Adrian MacGeraghty and Carolyn Rowe, two expats living in Melbourne with combined experience in sales and marketing.
Recently I sat down with Adrian at his home and BrewSmith HQ to talk about his first year in the homebrew business.
Originally from Colorado in the USA, Adrian’s appreciation for flavourful craft beer began through local access to the craft brewery hubs of Boulder, Fort Collins and Denver, where you’ll find the likes of Great Divide Brewing and New Belgium Brewing. On his move to Australia, the craft beer boom had yet to talk hold.
“I had a taste for good beer, but was having difficulty finding any three or four years ago, and often the cost was too high. It bugged me so much that I just drank clean skin wine for a couple of years,” Adrian explained.
“So I started home brewing to see if any of it was good. Some of it was, but not much of it.”
Adrian’s less than successful experiences with brewing kits that were available on the local market sparked the thought of how it could be done better. Taking a year off work, he set about figuring out how make good beer himself on the small-scale. Through these endeavours, Adrian and Carolyn saw a business opportunity in making a simple kit that would make great beer.
“Our original idea was to do an online home brewing shop. The reason why we didn’t do that is because we got turned down by all the Australian wholesalers that we got in touch.”
Their mission was simple, and it would drive their sales pitch. A BrewSmith kit had to produce great tasting beer every time. Brewing beer is a delicate process but by no means difficult, but inadequate instructions or unlabeled items can cause a slight mistake that will spoil a brew.
“We wanted to make something that is good and easy,” said Adrian.
Sourcing components online, including their attractive 5 litre glass fermenter, then trialing many different recipes and processes, they compiled a kit of brewing equipment, ingredients and instructions that left nothing to chance.
Launching in September last year with a party at the Robert Burns Hotel in Collingwood, they picked up their first customers selling six kits at the event and then proceeded to have a big month of sales during their first month of business.
“We then launched into the market season, with local markets, craft and gift markets all around Melbourne. We sold hundreds, which we weren’t expecting.”
One year later and the BrewSmith online shop is their key point of sale, but they continue to have a strong presence Melbourne’s markets, as well as supplying their kits to around a dozen retailers.
Adrian explained that the secret to the BrewSmith success is the point of difference in the volume of their recipes, compared to the standard 23 litre homebrew kits on market, along with the simple fact that people like the results.
“We have a very large number of new purchasers coming back to us [to purchase additional recipes and supplies], so people must like it, because they keep coming back.”
“We don’t have any other tactics to retain customers other than people like it.”
BrewSmith’s flavour-focused recipes are a unique selling point too. Their current core range – Aussie Wattle Pale Ale, Summer Citrus Blonde Ale, Honey Bomb Wheat, and Chocolate Paradise Porter – are aimed at capturing the attention of customers who are unfamiliar with straight beer styles such as pale ale, wheat beer, blonde ale and so on.
“We wanted to find things that related to regular flavours that people would understand. So we decided to build recipes around flavours like citrus, honey and chocolate because they are real flavours that people are familiar with.”
Adrian also pointed out that BrewSmith offers the advantage of personal interaction with customers through email and social media channels. If someone is having any trouble with their brew, they can readily access direct assistance from Adrian via Twitter and Facebook, as well as by following the BrewSmith blog.
They have also taken the time to produce step-by-step instructional videos for each BrewSmith recipe, which can be found on their website.
The next step for BrewSmith is more recipes and expansion packs, including an imperial version of the chocolate porter and a bigger IPA, which you can expect to see available once they get over the busy Christmas hump.
“Christmas was really good for us last year. We had to buy emergency supplies to keep up with the demand.”
Before Christmas this year, you can find the BrewSmith team in person at the following markets around Melbourne:
- Northcote Town Hall Kris Kringle market – 5, 12, 19 December, 5.30pm-10pm
- St. Kilda Twilight Market – 5, 12, 19 December, 5pm-10pm
- Brunswick Flea – 8 December, 11am-4pm
- Sisters Market – 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22 December at QV Shopping Centre in Melbourne CBD, 12pm-5pm Sat and Sun, 12pm-7pm Fridays
- Fitzroy Market – 21 December from 10am-3pm
BrewSmith kits and refills can be also purchased anytime through their online store.