Small Brewery Update – Half-yearly Progress Report: New breweries continue to open around Australia at a startling rate, so I have attempted (with editorial encouragement) a half-yearly assessment of the progress of the nation’s microbrewery sector during 2017. This will lessen my load at the end of December, a time better spent drinking beer than writing about it.
My efforts to identify all new starters in 2016 revealed that 48 new small breweries had commenced operations around the country during that year. With input from readers, the total was quickly increased to 51. Further research for this half-yearly report has uncovered yet another four starters in 2016, bringing its total to 55.
Final comparison of 2017 with previous years will have to wait another six months, of course, but this interim report hopefully will generate some thought and discussion.
As usual, my inclusion criteria are that the ‘brewery’ must be an actual installation of beer-making hardware, and that it must have begun commercial beer production during the time period in question, here the first six months of 2017.
I have toiled long and hard to identify and include every new starter, but that may be an impossible task for an individual onlooker, and advice from readers about possible omissions, or invalid inclusions, will be gratefully received.
To begin, and instantly to dispense with both the northern and southern extremities of the country, it can be said that no new breweries have appeared either in the Northern Territory or in Tasmania during the semester under review, nor are any known to be close to beginning operations in those places.
The only new starter so far this year in Western Australia seems to have been Rocky Ridge Brewing, based on a beef and dairy farm at Jindong, near Busselton. As noted previously, owner Hamish Coates had hoped to begin production at Rocky Ridge last December, but the commencement was delayed until early 2017. Coates has set himself the ambitious task of creating an entirely self-sufficient farm-based brewery, including by growing his own hops and malting barley.
Coming soon at West Leederville, near Perth, is Nowhereman Brewing Co., where a new 18-hL three-vessel Premier Stainless Systems brewhouse has been installed, but brewing had not been commenced before the end of June.
The sole known starter in South Australia is Beer Garden Brewing, at Port Lincoln, where beer production commenced in January. Owners Mark and Janie Butterworth obtained a second-hand 10-hL brewing system from Prancing Pony in the Adelaide Hills, and installed it in a former bakery at Port Lincoln. They crafted their first few brews at the Campus Brewery at Regency TAFE, enabling them to open for business in December last year, some weeks prior to firing up their own equipment.
Kangaroo Island Beer Co. at Cygnet River, mentioned in my previous report as a probable new beginner in early 2017, seemed still to be un-started at the end of June. News of its commencement is eagerly awaited.
Watts River Brewing at Healesville nearly became one of the last new breweries to commence production in 2016, but instead it was one of the first new starters of 2017. The inaugural on-site brew was put down in January, and was ready to drink in February. Watts River opened its cellar door in October 2016, and brewed for a while in Melbourne before installing its own equipment.
A further three breweries have opened recently in Melbourne. In Sackville Street, Collingwood, homebrewer turned professional Mirek Aldridge has transformed a commercial unit into The Mill Brewery (and bar). The Mill opened to the public in March.
Meanwhile, similar premises in Holloway Drive, Bayswater, have been adapted to brewing purposes by Angie and Lein Jenkins of the Caltoria Brewing Company. Caltoria opened in May.
Popular Southbank craft beer hangout Hopscotch Urban Beer Bar has joined the bandwagon by installing a 500-litre Spark brewery, and beginning in-house production. The new gear, which has been nicknamed Frank the Tank, was fired up for the first time in June, and its inaugural output is scheduled for tapping later this month.
Westward of the metropolis, near the scenic Great Ocean Road, the Port Campbell Hostel has become the home to a new brewery called Sow and Piglets. The brewery takes its name from the original designation of the series of sea stacks that we now know as the Twelve Apostles. Sow and Piglets Brewery launched its first beers at a public opening in March.
The tiny Cornella Real Ale Brewery escaped my notice when it came into operation in mid-2016. It is situated at Brian Spencer’s winery (Cornella Ridge Estate, also known as Shiraz Republic) about 40 kilometres east of Bendigo, and uses brewing equipment from recently-established US manufacturer Ss Brewing Technologies (Ss Brewtech).
Australian Capital Territory
Capital Brewing Co. has been around since last year, but it started by gypsy brewing in Sydney, and has installed its own equipment just recently in a factory building at Fyshwick. Capital’s 25-hL system from Premier Stainless Systems of San Diego arrived in Canberra in February, but had not been activated before the end of June.
Two tiny pub-breweries have also appeared recently in the ACT. Stone Age Brewing, which operates from King O’Malley’s pub in Canberra’s Civic area, held a launch party in December last year, and is therefore a late addition to the tally for 2016. At Belconnen, the Pot Belly bar has installed a small brewery, and commercial beer production is expected to begin there soon. I hope to be able to say more about Pot Belly later, in the full annual report.
New South Wales
To my knowledge, Sydney gained three new breweries during the first half of 2017. Endeavour Vintage Beer Company, already a well-known name in beer circles, opened its Endeavour Tap Rooms in Sydney early this year. The firm’s new premises, a former pub at the corner of Harrington and Argyle Streets in the city’s Rocks area, include a 6-hL Spark brewhouse, and brewing operations began there in March. Endeavour has been around since 2010, when it launched its first beers, a pale ale and an amber ale, but it did not own a brewery until now.
Dad & Dave’s Brewing is another familiar name on the Sydney brewing scene, having first released a commercial brew in 2012. Dad and Dave (actually John Dumay and his son, Dave) have now installed their own brewery in Chard Road, Brookvale. Brewing there seems to have started during the period under review, that is, before the end of June. Dad & Dave’s Brewing and Endeavour will both continue to use contract brewing arrangements for the production of most of their output.
Wildflower Brewing and Blending is a recent new addition to the burgeoning microbrewery hub in and around the southern Sydney suburb of Marrickville. It is the creation of Topher Boehm, whose interests include fermentation using wild yeasts, ageing in barrels, and blending. This atypical operation has attracted a great deal of publicity, much of it even before sales of Wildflower ales began in April.
In addition to the aforenamed trio, brewing began late in 2016 at Sir Chapel Bistro and Brewery at the Harold Park Tramsheds, a new Sydney food destination. Sir Chapel has installed a Smart Brew beer-making system, possibly the first of the two now in operation in Sydney (the other is at the Bankstown Sports Club). Sir Chapel was omitted from my 2016 review, so needs to be added to the tally for that year.
Beyond and northward of Sydney, at the seaside town of Forster, The Coastal Brewing Company commenced beer production in May, and opened for tastings and take-away sales in June. Coastal is the creation of David and Helen Black, who have installed a 12-hL Premier Stainless Systems brewhouse in a commercial unit in Dalman Street.
A little farther north at Port Macquarie, already the home of Little Brewing and Black Duck, Moorebeer Brewing has swung into operation in Merrigal Road. Founders Ryan Moore and Brad Hodge opened their doors to the public in June, after firing up their brewery earlier this year.
To this point in the story, progress in 2017 seems a bit sluggish, with only twelve new starters identified (excluding the abovementioned three extras from 2016) across all states and territories besides Queensland. A lively flourish of activity in the Sunshine State, however, has helped to maintain a sturdy growth in the number of microbreweries overall. Around nine came into production in Queensland alone during the semester, nearly as many as in all other states and territories combined.
Before dealing with 2017, I must confess to having missed another 2016 starter. Ballistic Beer Company opened its brewery and bar to the public in April, after having launched its first beers early in January. Production, however, commenced late in 2016. Ballistic, which is situated in McCarthy Road, Salisbury, is the creation of David Kitchen, owner of the Brewers Choice chain of homebrew retail stores.
Three of the new entrants in 2017 also occupy sites in suburban Brisbane. Slipstream Brewery has opened in a converted warehouse in Wilkie Street, Yeerongpilly, less than five kilometres from Ballistic Beer. The first Slipstream brews were put through in May, ahead of a launch party in June.
Existing Green Beacon Brewing (2012) of Helen Street, Teneriffe, and Newstead Brewing (2013) of Doggett Street, Newstead, both have opened larger second breweries in other Brisbane suburbs this year. Green Beacon chose a site in Newman Road, in an industrial portion of Geebung, and built what is primarily a production brewery. For Newstead, by contrast, on-site consumption is a significant aspect of its new facility at Milton, strategically positioned on a high-profile site near the Suncorp Stadium, the home of rugby league in Queensland, and cheekily close to Kirin’s giant Castlemaine brewery.
Away from the capital city, new breweries have started recently at several other Queensland localities. Sunshine Brewery opened near the Maroochy River at Kuluin, a suburb of the Sunshine Coast town of Maroochydore. Founders Daryle Cook and Craig Dunsdon have installed a 6-hL brewhouse and operate an on-site tap room. At Toowoomba, west of the metropolis, Adrian Cubit has opened a brewery and taproom in Brook Street under then name 4 Brothers Brewing. He operates a 200-litre Braumeister brew-kit.
To the south, on the Gold Coast, there have been two new starters. At Varsity Lakes, on the fringe of the Bond University campus, Canadian natives James and Julia Lee have opened the Lake Brewhouse, principally a restaurant but also with an in-house brewery. At Broadbeach, Japanese restaurant Harajuka Gyoza houses the latest (and fifth) Smartbrew installation in Australia. Matthew Glanville, formerly of Bacchus Brewing (Brisbane) and lately at Smartbrew-equipped Fritzenberger (Brisbane) is also brewing at Harajuka Gyoza.
In the tropical far north, Macalister Brewing Company has commenced operations in premises at Smithfield, fifteen kilometres north of central Cairns, and close to the Cairns campus of James Cook University. Founder and brewer Rob Callin, formerly a high school teacher, opened his brewery and tap room to the public in April.
In Cairns itself, the former Blue Sky Brewery in Lake Street has been reincarnated under the new name of Coral Sea Brewing. The brewery, originally founded in 2008, closed in 2014 when the companies behind it went into voluntary liquidation. Its revival this year as Coral Sea Brewing has been driven by Hayden Mokaraka, formerly the brewer for Blue Sky. Even after a hiatus of three years, I am inclined to categorise this one as a continuation under new ownership rather than as a freshly-established brewery.
A slowdown overall
Apart from in Queensland, there has been a distinct reduction of activity in 2017 compared to the previous few years. Overall, it might be concluded that we are witnessing the beginning of the inevitable slowdown of growth in Australia’s microbrewery sector.
We have seen about 20 new starters in the first six months of 2017. They comprise one in each of Western Australia and South Australia, five in Victoria, five in New South Wales, and eight (perhaps nine) in Queensland.
This year will need to experience an improbably high-scoring second half to come close to the totals for 2016 and 2015, or even 2014. But let’s wait and see.
Brett J Stubbs, 20 July 2017
Presented by Spark Engineering, creator of high quality brewing and distilling systems, the Small Brewery Update reports the latest brewery openings and closings from across Australia.