Whalebone Brewing is championing beer tourism in Western Australia following a major grant from the regional government.
Exmouth-based Whalebone received $216,470 from a Western Australia Regional Economic Development Grant last week to enable them to expand.
The brewery will use the funding to install a canning system to increase efficiency and expand distribution to the wider Gascoyne region. It is looking to double production and distribution capabilities.
Regional development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said at the time the funding was announced that it will help turn Western Australia’s regional areas into “thriving and sustainable communities” as well as creating jobs.
It’s part of plans to diversify the economies of these towns and promote multiple industries which will make these areas more resistant to the waxing and waning of individual sectors.
Exmouth was a former naval town, with some parts of an old US Naval base still in use by the Australian Navy. Like with many other towns in Western Australia though, a decline in its primary industry could have suffocated the town.
Now, it’s best known as a gateway to the Ningaloo Reef and a tourism hotspot, with a population of just over 2,200 which explodes in tourism season to more than 6,000.
David O’Malley, chief executive officer of tourism body Australia’s Coral Coast said that craft breweries add a “very welcome tourism experience” to regional towns.
“Tourism destinations rely on a diversity of experiences and attractions to be successful, and breweries in Australia’s Coral Coast are an excellent example of attractions that have added enormous value to the regional offering,” he said.
Justin Fuery, co-founder of Whalebone, spoke to Brews News about the brewery, which launched in 2017 and what the funding will mean for production and the town of Exmouth.
He said he and co-founder Paul Minniear, head chef at the “best restaurant in town”, Whalers, had launched the brewery on a bit of a whim.
“A brewery kit came up on Gumtree and we thought we’d go for it. We found this shed and decided to set up in it. Thankfully we had a heap of friends help us out and cobbled it together,” he said.
“We opened in October 2017 and it’s just grown from there. It’s totally blown our expectations out of the water.
“People like hanging out in a casual rustic environment. It’s pretty raw, it looks cool and lots of families and locals like coming down to have a beer and a pizza.”
The funding, which Whalebone applied for in August last year, will be used to increase capacity and invest in canning operations, said Fuery.
“They tailor it [the funding] to something that’s going to create employment and grow business.
“We wanted to do the canning thing, although everyone tried to talk us out of it, because it means more exposure for us.
The extra funding will help the company’s brand awareness and also hopefully allow people to bring a little piece of the Coral Coast back with them Fuery said.
“Down south they tend to like heavier, IPA beers with higher alcohol content and bitterness which are bigger and puncher. Here people like light easy drinking beers, 4% abv and under so it’s more sessionable.”
“We want people, when they come to Exmouth to go diving on the Ningaloo Reef, to come back at the end of the day and then have a beer and a pizza at Whalebone.
“Then when they go home to Perth or wherever they are, they will see that taste of Ningaloo on the shelf at their local bottle shop and get transported back.”