A diverse co-operative has come together to launch Rock and Ranges Brewing in the Macedon Ranges of central Victoria.
The team consists of a mixed group of IT consultants, publicans, customs managers, construction workers, hotel managers, environmental lawyers, and stay-at-home mums and dads.
Following a stint at a co-operative incubator, they are set to launch their inaugural beer to the market.
Rock and Ranges Brewing board member Luke Spielvogel spoke to Brews News about the launch of the business and how it has progressed.
“It blew up more than I thought! We were already sitting around making beer together, and thought to ourselves that there was an opportunity to do something more here. The co-operative model was one that really appealed.”
The co-operative consists of 40 members already before it has even launched its first beer, and the member experience is something the team are looking closely at, said Luke.
“It was a chance to do something to bring a lot of our separate visions together. We wanted to build a community and be a bit more self-reliant.”
From a regulatory point of view, said Luke, co-operatives can be more difficult to execute, but this didn’t stop the team.
They joined the Accelerator Programme at Incubator.coop, a co-operative developed to help create more co-operatives to help launch the business officially with its first beer.
Local beer launch
The co-operative is in it’s “beta phase” said Luke, with a focus on testing systems and creating a member experience, as well as developing their first commercial brewing operation in collaboration with Shedshaker Brewing in Castlemaine.
“They understand the vision and that there’s an opportunity regionally to develop this corridor as a beer destination.
“We’ve had lots of great support in growing this and we’ve got some great mentors from the beer industry.”
Luke said they would be working with Shedshaker and potentially other local breweries, such as the 888 Co-operative to develop different products. Their first beer will be launched in mid-June across several local pubs and bars.
Luke says their “seasonally-appropriate” launch beer is indicative of their location in the mountains as well as a sensible mid-strength.
“It’s a recipe we’re really happy with and has scaled really well.”
The first batch will be 650 litres, and the group is looking to scale up production in the coming months.
Creating a community
Rock and Ranges also wants to focus on its role as a social enterprise community, according to Luke, one that brings tourism opportunities into central Victoria.
“What we like about the model is that it engages a level of community that might not come together otherwise, it’s a way of bringing everyone democratically together.”
Board member Emily Blades said that this sense of community is especially important on the Macedon Ranges.
“There’s a lot of isolation in rural and regional areas, but what we’re offering here is a community hub.
“70% of our customers at the Victorian Hotel are local and they’re so excited about the brewing company and the beer – we all love the idea of having something for our community.”
The nine-member board consisting of Nicola Rivers, Emily Blades, Jenn Howard, Kristi High, Andrew Watt, Mark Constable, Jamie Owens, Steve Roberts and Luke Spielvogel is also a bit unusual in that it has a nearly 50/50 gender split.
Emily, co-owner of The Victorian Hotel in Woodend, also spoke to Brews News about the diverse board and the co-operative’s aims of creating a brewing community for the Macedon Ranges.
“It’s not all about gender balance but it’s exciting that women were invited to be part of it and it’ll give it a different perspective.”
She said that there’s a lot of people in the community, including women, that are game to try beer but haven’t had the opportunity or may have felt alienated by the male-dominated industry.
“If they see women on the board and women trying beer, there’s some comfort in that and it makes people want to try it who may not otherwise have.”