Small Brewery Update – 2016 in Review: As a studious observer of and regular writer about the Australian brewing industry for some decades now, I have had the good fortune, and the pleasure, to have experienced the emergence of the microbrewery phenomenon in this country all the way from its tentative beginnings in the mid-1980s, through its brush with death in the early 1990s, through its sturdy revival in the early 2000s, and into its current phase of seemingly unstoppable growth.
New small-scale breweries continue to open around the country at a furious pace. That pace has slackened just a little since 2015, an extraordinary year, but dozens of new breweries started in 2016 nevertheless, and the total number in operation continues to grow rapidly.
The small brewery boom has spawned a corresponding flourish in beer journalism, and the various exponents of that craft do a collectively thorough job of chronicling the growth of the industry, and of previewing and reviewing its new entrants.
Nevertheless, I thought it might be an interesting, indeed a challenging exercise to attempt a succinct national overview of the breweries (meaning installations of brewing hardware) newly started (meaning having begun commercial beer production) during the year 2016.
I have tried hard to identify and include every new starter, but that is perhaps a vain ambition amid the present profusion of activity. I hope, however, that any omissions (or invalid inclusions) will quickly be reported and rectified by attentive and informed readers.
Beginning at the top, two new producers commenced operation in the Northern Territory during year under review. At Marrakai, south-east of Darwin, a small brewery was installed at the Purple Mango Cafe, which proceeded to launch its house-brewed beers in May.
In the territorial capital, Six Tanks Brew Co. has installed a Smart Brew system in premises specially fitted-out for the purpose in Mitchell Street. It is the first Australian installation of the new automated system, which produces beer from wort prepared elsewhere and supplied to the brewery in compact 25-litre packages (apart from the stainless steel and the electronic wizardry, this brings back memories of the writer’s home-brewing adventures in the early 1980s with Coopers bag-in-box kits). Six Tanks opened to the public in November.
Following the coast from Darwin in an anti-clockwise direction, and skipping over Perth where nothing of relevance (hereto) seems to have happened, we come eventually to the semi-rural suburb of Baldivis, inland a little from Rockingham. There during 2016 the Vernon Arms Tavern strengthened its reputation as a popular destination for beer-lovers by installing its own brewery, which operates under the name of White Lakes Brewing.
A little farther south, Wedgetail Brewing has swung into action in a bushland setting at Bouvard, a southern lakeside suburb of Mandurah. At McKail, on the western edge of the port city of Albany in the far south, Wilson Brewing Company also started producing beer in 2016. Rocky Ridge Brewing, on a farming property at Jindong, near Busselton, hoped to begin production in December, but delays have tipped it into early 2017.
Although several probable new breweries are presently in various stages of gestation in South Australia, only two appear to have come into commercial production during the year just ended. One is Left Barrel Brewing at Balhannah in the Adelaide Hills. Another is Shifty Lizard Brewing Co., at Old Noarlunga, south of Adelaide. Both are tiny breweries, operating in private suburban backyards.
During 2016, a microbrewery was added to the existing Island Pure sheep dairy at Cygnet River on Kangaroo Island. Brewing had not quite begun by the end of the year, but was imminent; I mention it here but haven’t included it in my tally for the year. This operation, called Kangaroo Island Beer Co., should not be confused with the nearby Kangaroo Island Brewery at Kingscote, which opened its premises to the public early in 2016, after having started making beer in 2015.
At Ballarat, the Athletic Club Brewery opened in November in the Mair Street premises formerly occupied by the Rebellion Brewery, prior to its relocation to Wendouree in 2014. Elsewhere in the same city, family-run Cubby Haus Brewing opened in September. Up the road in Castlemaine, the aptly (but perhaps provocatively) titled Castlemaine Brewing Company opened in part of The Mill, a redeveloped historic woollen mill and carpet factory.
Three new breweries started during the year in the eastern part of Victoria. In the coastal town of Orbost, near the mouth of the Snowy River, Sailor’s Grave Brewing has occupied and commenced brewing in a former butter factory building.
In the high country at Dinner Plain, new starter Blizzard Brewing boasts of being Australia’s most altitudinous brewery, at around 1,500 metres above sea level. This must surely be a challenge for a higher one to be established across the border at Perisher Village, Australia’s most elevated settlement. And near King Valley, at the northern edge of Victoria’s alpine district, new King River Brewing had beer on the market before year’s end.
A further eight new breweries came into production in and near Melbourne during 2016. In the north-western suburb of Keilor Park, Fury and Son Brewing Company started brewing during the year. Taking a tour across the city in a generally south-easterly direction, we stop next at Brunswick, where The Foreigner Brewing Company, specialising in Czech-style lager beers, began trading in mid-year.
Hop Nation, which during its first year or so of existence used the facilities of a couple of existing Melbourne breweries, has put down roots by establishing its own brewery in Footscray. On the opposite side of the CBD in Collingwood, Stomping Ground Brewing Company has opened a microbrewery and spacious ‘beer hall’ in a converted warehouse. And at South Melbourne, Westside Ale Works in Alfred Street opened to the public in November, after commencing production in the previous month.
The tiny Bale Worker Project Brewery was set up during the year in the premises of the Grape and Grain Liquor Cellars in Station Street, Moorabbin. Dainton Family Brewery established its own brewing facilities and settled down at Carrum Downs during 2016, ending a nomadic existence of more than three years (its first commercial beer was launched in 2013). Mr Banks Brewing Company, another family affair, started during 2016 at bayside Seaford.
Watts River Brewing set up shop during the year, occupying a pre-existing spacious shed at Healesville, in the Victorian capital’s eastern hinterland. After brewing for a while in Melbourne, the new enterprise expected at year’s end to be able to fire up its own equipment very early in 2017. It won’t be counted in my 2016 tally, therefore, but it would be unfair of me not to mention it. Watts River will help to heal the sore created by the removal of Lion’s White Rabbit Brewery from Healesville to Geelong in 2015.
In proportion to population, Tasmania was the most active state in 2016 with respect to the opening of new breweries. Early in the year, Hobart Brewing Company commenced operations at its newly-installed brewery in the Red Shed, an historic industrial building at Macquarie Point. Most of the action during the year occurred, however, in another part of the city.
Shambles Brewery in Elizabeth Street at North Hobart opened to the public in March (shortly after the Winston Alehouse, in the same street, had created its own brewery and begun producing its own beers late in 2015). Also in Elizabeth Street, T-Bone Brewing opened new premises in October, after having operated since late 2014 alongside the Belgrove Distillery at Kempton in the Tasmanian midlands.
At Moonah, a few kilometres north of the rising microbrewery hot-spot at North Hobart, Fox Friday Brewing came into operation early in 2016, and opened its doors to the public in May.
To the south of Hobart, brewing began early in the year on Bruny Island, where the Bruny Island Beer Company has been established as an offshoot of the already well-known Bruny Island Cheese Company. To the west of the city, near the Huon Valley town of Ranelagh, beer production commenced more recently at Church Hill Brewery.
Australian Capital Territory
In Canberra, Bentspoke Brewing Company of Braddon, in operation now for two years, expanded during 2016 by opening a second and much larger brewery, together with a canning facility, in the northern suburb of Mitchell.
New South Wales
In the southern part of New South Wales, beer began to flow in 2016 from the geographically named Southern Highlands Brewing Company’s new facility at Sutton Forest, near Moss Vale. Up the road a bit at Mittagong, very late in the year, Eden Brewery (nothing to do with the far south coast town) started making beer with its own equipment, installed in a commercial unit in Cavendish Street.
Sydney gained four new breweries during 2016. In the city centre, Staves Brewery (and bar) in Glebe began brewing mid-year, after having traded since late 2015 without its own products.
In the southern bayside suburb of Caringbah, Hairyman Brewery also commenced brewing in 2016. In the southwest, Bankstown Sports Club is the home of the new Basement Brewhouse, which has taken over the space formerly occupied by the club’s Total Sports Bar. The redesigned space features a Smart Brew beer-making system.
In the northern outskirts of Sydney, the Canoelands Brewery came into production during the year. This little brewery is soon to be re-housed in a recently approved extension to the Stone House Cafe on the Wiseman’s Ferry Road at Maroota, already the principal outlet for its products.
The city also lost a brewery during the year with the closure and sale of the Blackrock Brasserie at Sylvania. Its supplementary brewing facility at nearby Kirrawee has survived, however, as the home of new starter Shark Island Brewery. Shark Island had previously intended creating its own brewery elsewhere in Kirrawee, but became a victim of failed equipment supplier Core Brewing Concepts.
Two Heads Brewing came into production early in the year at the historic Crago flour mill at Bathurst, giving the central-western city its first brewery since the 1920s.
In the north of the state, Tinshed Brewery opened for beer sales in October in the Hunter valley village of Dungog, although on-site brewing did not begin until early December. Also in 2016, Ironbark Hill Vineyard at Pokolbin, in the heart of Hunter wine territory, became the home of Ironbark Hill Brewhouse, where the first batch of beer was brewed in late September.
Gara River Brewery, near Armidale, officially came into production very late in 2015, but I have snuck it into this roundup as it began brewing regularly only in January 2016. Farther north, the Byron Bay Brewery was sold early in the year to Lion, adding to that corporation’s already substantial portfolio of craft-positioned brands and eliminating another independent brewer from the field.
On Queensland’s Gold Coast, decade-old Burleigh Brewing, having outgrown its original brewhouse, installed a bigger one in a nearby building at the same address at Burleigh Heads during 2016, but I’m not counting that as a new starter. Nearby in the same suburb, however, Black Hops Brewing opened its new brewery and tap room mid-year. Not far away at Currumbin, Balter Brewing installed a brewhouse and opened a tap room early in the year.
Late in the year, Scenic Rim Brewing began making beer with its own equipment at its own premises, a converted general store at Mount Alford, near Boonah.
In Brisbane, a former bar/cafe in Petrie Terrace was reincarnated in September as a brewpub under the name of Fritzenberger. The place has another of the three Smart Brew systems installed in Australia during 2016. Nearby in Milton, Aether Brewing opened to the public in November in premises in Railway Terrace, cheekily positioned in the shadow of Lion’s giant Castlemaine Brewery on Milton Road.
White Lies Brewing, although in operation commercially since 2014 from the garage of its owner/founder’s private home, moved operations during the year to a much more commercial-looking setting at Sumner.
At Brendale in Brisbane’s northern suburbs, Hops and Malts Microbrewery, a pre-existing brew-on-premises operation, was transformed in September into Brendale Brewing Company. A taproom is now in operation for the sale of house brews for takeaway and on-premises consumption.
At Alexandra Headland on the Sunshine Coast, Ten Toes Brewery and Longboard Tasting Bar opened in February in a commercial unit in Sugar Road.
In the touristy hills of the Sunshine Coast hinterland, three new little breweries commenced operations during 2016. Brouhaha Brewery and restaurant opened at Maleny in June, while several kilometres closer to the coast at Maleny Mountain Wines, the winery’s new owner installed a brewery and diversified into the beer business under the name of McLeod Brewing Company.
At Montville, a little to the north of Maleny, an on-site microbrewery began operation in conjunction with the pre-existing Wild Rocket at Misty’s restaurant in Main Street.
Farther north at Pomona, inland from coastal Noosa, the rustic Bonsai Brewhouse opened its doors and began serving its house-brewed beers in March. Away up north in the pointy end of Queensland, Hemingway’s Brewery, on the waterfront at Port Douglas, opened to the public in June.
Forty eight* new breweries
By my reckoning, this makes 48 new small breweries having commenced brewing operations around the country during 2016 (excluding the few reincarnations, relocations and honourable-mentions above).
They comprise two in the Northern Territory, three in Western Australia, two in South Australia, fourteen in Victoria, five in Tasmania, one in the Capital Territory, nine in New South Wales, and twelve in Queensland.
Although falling short of 2015’s total of more than fifty, this still makes 2016 one of the three most prolific years since the first modern microbreweries arrived on the Australian brewing scene a little more than thirty years ago. What will 2017 bring?
Brett J Stubbs, 1 January 2017
*Editor’s note: Thanks to input from Brews News readers, we were able to add another three breweries to Brett’s 2016 tally, arriving at a total of 51 openings for the year. In Victoria, Himmel Hund Brewery in Brunswick and Ocean Reach Brewing in Cowes, and in South Australia, Mephisto Brewing Co in Adelaide. As Brett mused in 2013, it’s been a common refrain for several years now that there is a new brewery opening every week. In 2015 and 2016, this very nearly became a reality. [JA – 20/1/17]
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