The craft beer scene seems to be expanding at light speed right now and every week we see stories of new breweries opening or beginning the planning stage. Many have struggles, what with local councils, EPA, trade waste, liquor licensing and neighbours to contend with and all have their own unique story. Above all, the search for funding is the one which is common to all.
Strath Creek Brewery hopes to open soon but a series of challenges has seen them turn to the crowdfunding model to realise a long-held dream. Economic downturn affected many industries in the past decade and Alan and Wendy Brew felt the impact directly in their engineering business when the car industry pulled up stumps and decided we could all be equally happy buying cars made elsewhere.
A keen all-grain brewer (on kits Alan had manufactured himself) the aptly named entrepreneur decided the time was right to start a brewery. Strath Creek has been home to a brewery for over a hundred years but, as the locals can attest, the town is not actually ‘on the way’ to anywhere and, whilst popular with thirsty bikers and those heading to holiday destinations, it is a town whose visitors are required to make a deliberate detour. No pub – no visitors. The Brews are keen to bring visitors back and a new brewery seems as good a reason as any to lure the tourist dollar.’
Months of hard work renovating the old place have seen Wendy able to offer café-style teas and pastries and, in the background, the first house brews are fermenting away. Plenty of back-breaking digging has gone into reclaiming century-old cellars beneath the old building to house – and lager – the Strath Creek Brewery beers when they are done.
“We brew our beers on a small pilot size set up that we built, it’s not the prettiest of systems but we have exceptional control over the process and can consistently produce great beers from it,” Alan told Australian Brews News. “Our old pub has a couple of great cellars that during the summer stayed between 14 and 18 degrees C allowing us to play around with a number of ales, now the temp hovers around 6 to 8 degrees C so we are working on a few pilsners and lagers.”
When asked what range of beers could be expected, Alan was a little less forthcoming. “This would have to be the big question for any brewery in its early days. We currently have 7 beers that we developed over the summer and 4 of these will definitely be on our taps while the other 3 are still being tweaked a bit. We started to introduce our beers on our social media a few weeks ago so I really don’t want to let too much out in advance but we have talked about our Bitter ale and our Irish ale to date.”
Alan also told Australian Brews News that the old pub will operate under a general liquor licence which will allow the Brews to stock and sell anybody’s beers on tap or packaged while the brewery itself (planned to sit behind the pub itself) will have a producer’s licence to “allow us the extra freedoms that come with that.”
And as to the $240,000 question? Crowdfunding endeavours in the brewing sphere have met with mixed success in recent years where businesses have attempted to raise funds for essential equipment or to realise business plans but have been unable to offer any concrete return, discount or incentive to the donor other than the good feeling that comes from helping a mate or even a stranger. Australian Brews News put the question directly: “$240,000 is a pretty big ask by small business crowdfunding standards – isn’t this more of a bank loan kind of amount?”
“We are looking to raise the 240K because it means that we can bring tradesmen into finish the work. Bringing tradesmen in means the doors can open sooner,” responded Alan Brew.
“We believe that what we are doing here will be of great benefit to our local community and if we can encourage enough people to help us achieve this by donating the cost of a basic pot of beer we all not only get a great country pub back open but at the same time get a source of employment and tourism opportunities for our small town.
“Our fundraising campaign finishes at the end of August, if we don’t reach our target it simply means we keep on working as we have for the last two years and it will take a little longer for the doors to open,” he said.
While it is certainly a big ask, there is no doubting the enthusiasm and commitment evident in Alan and Wendy’s efforts to date. Readers will do well to take the time to check out the crowdfunding video above. It’s pretty clear to see that, if Alan’s summary of why he is undertaking this project is anything to go by, the brewery will be up and running sooner, or later.
The Brews’ crowdfunding campaign still appears to be open, for those drinkers keen to help realise them realise their vision. A total of $2,760 has been raised to date, towards their $240,000 target.