Four friends from very different backgrounds have launched a new addition to the Newcastle beer scene, Shout Brewing.
Founders and avid homebrewers Dylan Meade, Jim Coulton, Michael Fitzgerald, and Jake Gardiner met whilst at university playing soccer.
While soccer might not have been their calling, they shared a passion for beer and brewing, despite entering very different career paths.
“Jimmy’s an engineer, he’s our head brewer at the moment as he’s got the most experience with homebrewing, Mick is a statistician, Jake is at uni training to be a teacher and I work in urban planning,”explained Dylan Meade.
“Our background is in homebrewing, we’ve been homebrewing for quite some time and we’ve been opening our brewery for quite some time too.
“We’d go out and we’d have a few drinks, and say to each other it could do this or be that. One day when we weren’t having drinks, we said we should actually do this and that’s how it started.”
Having an urban planner on the team proved to be a great asset, as the Shout team attempted to traverse the inevitable planning pitfalls and travails that come with setting up a brewery.
However having in-house planning expertise didn’t help when it came to finding a venue.
“Trying to find a place was a greater challenge, we spent a long time looking for places, as we were keen to get close to Newcastle. That’s how we ended up where we are at the moment,” Meade explained.
The brewery is located, as you would expect, in an industrial area, but with some important advantages.
“There’s not as much in Newcastle that is close to the city. There’s quite high demand.
“It’s also a new venue so we didn’t need to upgrade or have any upfront costs which was good when you’re starting a new business.”
But the search for a venue highlighted the issues new business owners have, brewery or otherwise.
“For us, starting a new business and not having the previous history of being able to pay rent was a challenge, we applied for quite a few and were overlooked, and that was part of it,” he said.
Despite this, the team opened their brewery officially in October, in the Newcastle suburb of Mayfield, with a taproom set to follow in January.
Meade explained that the licence was one of the things that prompted the Shout Brewing team to set up shop. However, as with most things related to planning, it was not as simple as first thought.
“[The licence] started our interest a bit, that there would be some level of support from the state government, or the council – they want to have it [to help the] growth of the industry,” he said.
“We heard about it and it helped us get started with it all knowing we could apply for this, and it should be a bit more straightforward than the other processes.”
The issues that arose came not from Liquor and Gaming NSW, but from circumstances closer to home.
“We were about to be approved for the microbrewery licence, but there was a bit of a communication breakdown with the landlord,” Meade explained.
“We expected we’d have a lot of trouble with council approval to get the licence, and in the end it was more the owner.”
In an unusual turn of events, the landlord was reportedly happy with production taking place on site, but not having people drinking on site in a bar, which the microbrewery licence allows for. While it was not ideal, Meade said, the team agreed that after such a long journey looking for a site, they would cut their losses and accept the condition of not having a bar.
“We were upfront with the real estate agent that we wanted a bar there, but the owner wasn’t as keen to have a small bar there under that licence, so we ended up getting the production licence [rather than the microbrewery licence] but we will be doing tastings there.
“We spent so long trying to find a place, so we just went there and we kind of agreed it was a good place to start and in 12 months time start looking for another venue where we can have more of a brewbar and we would love to partner with someone with hospitality experience or team up with a local chef or café owner.”
Despite issues with the landlord, the council approval process ran relatively smoothly.
“The spot we’re in, from my planning background I knew it would be a place we should be able to get approval, it was more how long it would take,” explained Meade.
“[The council] were totally fine, which was a bit of surprise as we expected to have issues. We thought this is going way too smoothly and then we had issues with the landlord at the end,” he said.
Shout’s directors pooled their own funds to make their dream happen, rather than getting outside investment.
“We didn’t want to have to get a loan or outside investors, we wanted to be all self-funded,” Meade said.
“[But] it’s a hard balance, being self funded we can’t spend a whole heap on equipment and only have a small venue.”
They currently have a 200-litre system from Cheeky Peak Brewery, which sells both homebrew and professional equipment.
“We got it from Cheeky Peak near Albury, we heard good things about them and we thought it might be a risk getting one shipped from overseas. They were quite helpful so that helped us to go for them,” Meade explained.
But making the switch from homebrewing, as many other brewers have found, was a challenge.
“There’s definitely lessons to be learnt, we’ve had a few trial batches and they’ve gone ok, but there are obviously processes that are different from homebrewing system and having to scale up as well.
“It’s not as hard as expected, but there are some challenges still sure.”
They have a Pale Ale (dubbed the Mullet) already on the go, as well as plans for an XPA, a NEIPA, a red lager, a hoppy brown ale and an IPA.
The Shout Brewing team have all kept their full time jobs and are working at the brewery on nights and weekends, and this in itself has been a juggling act, said Meade.
“We all love doing it but it is a challenge trying to work full time somewhere else and spend your weekends there.
“Ideally we’d get to the point where we can work a bit more in our brewery or employ someone.”
Meade said that Newcastle is a hub for homebrewers, and Shout Brewing would like to be a home to that community as well.
“There are some really keen homebrewers who want to get into brewing around Newcastle so to give them a chance to come work here would be great.
“We happen to know another homebrewer who was really keen to start his own brewery but couldn’t get it off, so to have him come in and make a few guest brews using our equipment and get his own beers out there, that’s something we’d really like to encourage, especially when we have space and we’re not using it.”
If all goes well, in the next year the Shout Brewing team will be looking at finding a venue.
“We think Newcastle is an ideal place to have more breweries and brewbars. The reason we wanted to be a brewbar is that we wanted to make a wider variety of beers, now were more using the tastings to kegs out to local venues.
“It’s a pretty good city for craft beer options but it’s only small relative to some other places, There’s obviously Foghorn, and Shawn has been around for quite a while, he’s well respected in the industry.
“When we were starting to talk about setting up a brewery, we thought there is probably room for a couple more breweries in Newcastle but we want to keep it local, focus on Newcastle for the short term and then maybe a few towns around the Hunter.
“We want to see the town do well so having more smaller business is a good thing. There’s room for growth in Newcastle.”
Shout Brewing is located at 10/13 Channel Rd, Mayfield West, NSW.
Brewery openings are presented by Spark Breweries and Distilleries, the finest in-venue and production brewing systems available, with local design and support.