As Gage Roads Brewing Co prepares to celebrate its 15th birthday, the City of Sydney Council has given it the green light for its first east coast venue the Atomic Beer Project.
The site in Redfern will be developed into a restaurant, bar and microbrewery, after the council approved its development application for the site.
The venue will allow 185 patrons to take in the listed brewer’s Atomic Beer, with small brewery tours and educational tastings on offer.
Applications were lodged towards the end of June for the site, which the proposals initially said would cost $1.8 million.
Amber Road Interior Design and Milestone Pty were roped in for the project, which covers 578 square metres of development.
Miles Hull, head of marketing at Gage Roads, said that the Atomic Beer brand was on the top of the agenda for the listed brewer when they started to think about a venue on the east coast.
“Out of the Gage Roads current lineup, it’s one of our oldest beers, it’s been a work in progress over the past 10 years.
“Everything we love about hop-driven New World pale ales has gone into this particular beer. It’s been a big part of Gage and a lot of energy and passion has gone into it.
“We thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a whole side project just focused on hops? That 10 years of tinkering with the pale ale culminated in us deciding to do this little side project.”
At the same time, he said, it was a chance to do something a little bit different.
“It goes away from the Gage Roads brand, but creating a new brand gives us the freedom to do what we want in a whole new direction,” he said.
The Atomic Beer site at Redfern will be an small batch brewery with no bottling or packaging capabilities on site, at which head brewer for the site Nick Ivey will be able to experiment.
Limited release beers will be brewed on site, but Hull said they would not limit themselves, and if they find they’re onto a winner with a new beer brewed in Sydney, it could be made a permanent addition to the Atomic Beer/Gage Roads range.
“If you look at any brewer, we all love doing limited release small batch product and that’s to facilitate our love affair for experimentation. But sometimes you come across a cracker the market loves and it’s hard to resist, that might then excite you enough to make it more permanent.”
The Sydney venue could be the first of many for Gage Roads, but Hull insists that it will be a case of organic growth.
“We’re proudly Western Australian. We’ve been here for 15 years and are part of the community of Western Australia. Our brand is strong, and has a strong sense of place here.
“But we really want and have always had national ambitions and have a strong team of sales people across the eastern seaboard.
“We know that having breweries and hospitality is a big part of allowing people to experience the brand.
“For us it’s about finding the location that suits the needs for what we want to do. The Redfern site was just the first to pop up.
“We’re on the hunt for the next site, we’re looking but you’ve got to find a location that works for your needs.”
Gage Roads have a specific set of criteria for any new site, he said, and didn’t rule out sites outside the main CBDs.
“We want to be part of a strong community, number one. We want to be local to that community, so the venue itself has to have good accessibility and obviously the ability to house a brewery in it.
“For us it’s about attracting the local market and visitation from people further afield as well. We want a strong local market but one that’s accessible to people from outside that market too.”
Describing their growth strategy as “fluid”, Hull also said that opening up more sites on the east side of the country.
“When we look to the east, it’s a good opportunity, number one to get people drinking your beer but also to do further packaging and distribution from the site.”
The difficult restaurant scene in Sydney which has seen a raft of established independent restaurants close has not affected their confidence in the new site either.
“Hospitality is a complex and competitive market facing a range of challenges, but I think hospitality always has a place. People love to go out and have an experience,” Hull said.
“Hospitality is about providing that experience, and brewpubs are a good place to provide something that’s beyond just a restaurant.”
He said that there had been a shift in the attitude of local councils to brewery-focused venues.
“I think councils are understanding breweries better. If you’d applied to a council even five years ago, there was a lack of understanding of what a brewery is. Now there are better examples of how they interact with the community.”
As part of the planning process, Gage Roads held two days of consultations with the public, and Hull said that there were questions around environmental factors, and most people hadn’t ever engaged with a brewery before.
“Breweries still have a long way to go in explaining and engaging with people with regards to how beer is made. The more brewpubs there are, the more engagement we’ll see – people can taste and smell how beer is made, so there’s less of the unknown.”
The Atomic Beer Project in Sydney will launch in 2020.