Darwin’s Beaver Brewery is the latest craft brewery to open in Australia’s Northern Territory.
Founded by long-time homebrewer and army serviceman Chris Brown, Beaver Brewery is helping to broaden the scope of craft in Australia’s most remote capital.
Based in Darwin, Chris got his start in brewing when his doctor wife, Kiarna, took a job at Royal Hobart Hospital in 2016.
Chris was able to take long service leave from the army and used the time to volunteer at Hobart’s Captain Blighs Brewery under the tutelage of owner and head brewer Steve Brooks.
Chris told Brews News that he benefited greatly from his time working in Tasmania’s brewing community.
“All the brewers look after each other, so I got to meet a lot of great brewers and got to do a lot of work with a lot of brewers and I learnt a hell of a lot and made a lot of contacts.”
Chris said that he always wanted to open a brewery, and so after getting the commercial experience he needed, the Brown family moved back to Darwin with their two young sons Jake and Samuel.
Beaver Brewery was commissioned in September last year and comprises a 500-litre German Braumeister all-in-one system and four 600-litre fermenters. The brewery received its wholesale licence after one month, which saw Chris starting to distribute his first beers to local bars and pubs at the end of last year.
The brewery is currently turning over approximately 600-litres per week.
While volumes aren’t massive, Chris said that he’s not going to increase production just yet because Darwin’s busy season is during winter – opposite to Australia’s other capital cities.
“When the seasons change we’ll up our brewing, but at the moment we’re holding back and not overdoing it,” he explained.
“We can push the equipment further to get about 3,000-litres a month out so there are definite possibilities to do more.”
Chris currently splits his time between the army three days a week and the brewery, while Kiarna continues to work full time as a doctor.
Apart from his love of beer, Chris told Brews News that he wanted to start Beaver Brewery to transition out of the army and settle into family life.
“I’ve got two little boys and my wife, she’s a doctor and works long hours, so we wanted something a bit more flexible to be able to look after the children and have something you love to do.
“Once we were in Hobart, we realised you can have a family and have this lifestyle and you’re not going to make a killing doing it at our level and at our size but you’ll have a great life and a lot more family time and a great lifestyle from doing it.”
Because he is located in one of Australia’s most remote regions, Chris said that getting supplies and equipment to the brewery has been difficult.
“It takes a lot of planning to ensure that you’ve got your stock right and that you keep brewing and forward planning to know what you’re going to brew and when you’re going to brew because if you run out of an ingredient up here you can’t just duck down to the store and get some more or call in a favour to a mate.”
He said that logistically, it’s a minimum turnaround of about two weeks for ingredients to get to the brewery.
“Because we’re not brewing at full capacity we’re not in a stringent routine because of the season as it is, so it’s more about speaking to the pubs, speaking to the public and finding out what’s been drinking what’s been popular around town.
“A lot of guesstimation comes into it because you know what you’ve got, you know what you’re about to have in the next couple of weeks and you’re taking a punt.”
Chris said that things are logistically more difficult during the quieter months but as the year progresses and the brewery develops more of a routine, things will be a lot easier.
Acquiring a retail licence has been another challenge for Chris and has hindered him opening a taproom. He told Brews News that because craft beer is still so new to the region, licencing is a long process in the Northern Territory.
Apart from One Mile Brewery and Six Tanks Brew Co, Beaver Brewery is the only other craft offering in the area.
Chris said that he hopes to open his taproom in March.
Beaver Brewery’s current releases include a lager, a pale and a brown ale and are available at Darwin’s Lola’s Pergola, Six Tanks Brew Co and The Precinct Tavern.