Small Brewery Update: Bentspoke Brewing Co officially opened The Cannery this week in Mitchell, ACT, enabling the company to roll out packaged beer for the first time.
Co-founder Richard Watkins said the Mitchell brewery is certainly the largest Canberra has ever seen, with a 50-hectolitre brewhouse and 30,000 litres of fermentation capacity.
“In another few months we will be stepping that up to 50,000 litres,” he said.
In two years of operation, Bentspoke has grown to produce annual volume of 300,000 litres, sold almost entirely over the bar at its Braddon brewpub.
Watkins told Australian Brews News that packaged distribution will begin slowly and carefully, starting with around 15 bottleshops within Canberra.
“We’re born and bred in Canberra, so we feel like we want to learn our lessons closely in Canberra,” he said.
“Sending beer outside your four walls is a pretty big deal – you lose control of your beer. We’re not anticipating any problems, but it’s just one of those things.”
Watkins said the approach will also enable Bentspoke to set up the appropriate sales and delivery systems in preparation for a wider rollout to Sydney and Melbourne.
“The population on the eastern seaboard isn’t centred around Canberra, so we’re going to have to get to people up and down the coast,” he said.
Currently Bentspoke has only ten keg accounts, all of which are within Canberra, aside from The Grain Store in Newcastle.
“We’ve had the Crankshaft IPA on there since April. All my family’s from Newcastle, so it made sense to have a tap up there,” Watkins said.
“Why not use someone like the Grain Store, which does a great job, to have your beer on? But also then learn about the transport and being able to get empty kegs back – figuring out how that’s going to work.”
Top selling IPA
Bentspoke’s debut canned beers are the Barley Griffin Pale Ale and the Crankshaft IPA, the latter of which has been the biggest seller at the brewpub.
“That just goes to show where Canberra’s at hospitality-wise,” said Watkins, who proclaims Canberra is the beer capital of Australia.
“We don’t have a lot of pubs, but what we do have is a lot of bars with independent taps – it gets people interested in different beers.
“When you go around to all the different bars around Canberra, you don’t find many that have stock standard commercial beers on.”
Bentspoke is the second brewer in Australia to use the 360 lid on its cans, after Colonial pioneered the closure last year.
“You can smell the beer, which is the best thing about it. You don’t feel like you’re drinking out of a can – you feel like you’re drinking out of a glass really,” Watkins said of the lid.
Bentspoke founders Tracy Margrain and Richard Watkins were joined by ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr, friends and family, customers, media and suppliers for a ceremonial opening on Wednesday night.
Beer is currently being brewed in Braddon for packaging at The Cannery, where the new brewhouse will be operational in the coming weeks.
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