Brisbane’s Revel Brewing Co is expanding with a second brewpub in the Bulimba area.
Revel has signed the BMI Group up to help redevelop a heritage-listed venue in Morningside, within the historic Commonwealth Acetate of Lime Factory.
Opened just over two years ago, Revel is located at Oxford Street in Bulimba. To keep up with demand for its beers, it is opening an additional site which is set to double its current 200,000-litre capacity.
Revel founder Jay Neven said plans for a second site have been in the works since day one.
“It dates back to when we wrote our original business case for Revel, which was Malt Brewing Co back then [before rebranding in 2018],” he told Brews News.
After re-establishing the brewing tradition in the Bulimba area (near where the original Eagle Brewing was founded in the 1880s at Bulimba Reach) Revel put its sights on expansion.
“The second part of our business case was, if we do all the right things and the business is running reasonably well, it would be nice to expand it, and take that great independent beer and make it a bit more scalable so we could take it to different states or saturate Queensland.
“We’re running at capacity [at Oxford Street] at the moment, at nearly 200,000 litres, and the demand is increasing for the beer.”
The 1917 heritage building in which Revel will locate a production brewery and bar/restaurant was originally a brewery for 8% abv beer, which was then processed to create acetate of lime – used in munitions manufacturing for Australia’s First World War efforts.
“I love a bit of history and old buildings and I didn’t want to do a brewery in a concrete jungle, even though it would have been cheaper and a bit easier,” explained Neven.
“I had a call while I was on holiday in 2018, and it turned out [it was about] a former brewery, designed by Auguste de Bavay, an architect, chemist and brewer, who worked for Carlton, United, and Swan breweries, and he was commissioned to build that brewery.
“I was like holy moly this thing has some really wonderful history and it aligns with our business case, but we weren’t ready for it, we were just in over a year of trading.
“But the opportunity was there and now we find ourselves a year later, after hitting production capacity at Oxford Street, signing up to it with BMI as our landlord.”
Revel’s development plans
Neven said that BMI were pivotal in getting the development off the ground.
“It’s family-owned, a local company and there’s a lot of synergy there, I don’t think we could have done it without that same sort of small business mindset, and the camaraderie and partnership that comes from everyone being on the same page.”
But as a listed building, it will also come with development challenges.
“Everything with a heritage building is complicated.
“We’re trying to have a very low-impact implementation of our presence in that building and preserve it, we won’t knock holes in walls or anything like that, and will reuse existing openings like doors and windows.”
Revel is installing a US-made Alpha Brewing, four-vessel brewhouse as well as a better-equipped lab to ensure consistent quality in Revel beers.
“What I’m super excited about is that because it’s a bigger brewery, we can do some of our bigger ranges of beers at bigger quantities, which liberates the five fermentation tanks down at Oxford to do some more limited release.
“We’re putting in a bigger lab in the new brewery and we’re going to look to increase our quality programme there.
“When you talk about business scale, you’ve gotta have [quality] at 100 per cent. We’re constantly trying to improve our processes in that space and that’s one thing I’m more excited about.”
Another new addition to Revel’s offering will be its food.
“We’re doing grain-to-glass but we want to do a bit more farm-to-table. A lot of our spent grain goes to local farmers to their cows, but we don’t bring that meat back to the brewery because we don’t use it much at the pizzeria.
“At the new site we plan to work with farmers to bring back [to the venue] different produce that has been grown and looked after because of the grain given to the farmers,” Neven explained.
Queensland craft beer
Neven explained that he was encouraged to forge ahead by the environment for craft beer that is developing in Queensland.
“The Queensland Craft Beer Strategy has created a lot of interest and understanding in the government and their services, local and state government included – it’s more awareness of what the brewing industry is trying to do.
“Breweries and brewpubs are very different to what you would traditionally have as pubs, they are community hubs, people are there for quality not quantity. It’s a very different culture around drinking and consumption.
“From a planning and general awareness of small business point of view, governments are starting to understand what we’re doing and doing the best that they can to make it more accessible for us as businesses to open and continue to operate efficiently and expand when we need to.”
He said that while the Queensland beer community was growing bigger, there was still room to grow.
“I think that there is a lot of headroom left in the independent craft beer segment,” Neven said.
“If you were trying to open up just a production brewery and a brand and that’s it, I’d say you will be competing with a lot of really really good breweries and brewpubs, and those small boutique microbreweries that just service their local suburb. So I’d say handle with care.
“If you’re a brewpub like us, and you genuinely care about your local community, and you want to engage with your local community and you don’t have aspirations to take over the world, and you just want to grow nicely in and around the area and create that solid presence, I think that’s highly sustainable and that’s why I’m interested in the brewpub model.
“If all else fails and we’re just at the new site, and people didn’t want the distribution side of it, well I’ve got a local community in this beautiful building that’s tapping into history and it’s a destination, it’s a really interesting, unique thing… that should be sustainable on its own.”
World domination may not be on the agenda, but Neven is certainly open to growth.
“Our objective is to create a sustainable business that supports our local community. If Australia wants the beer and it continues to grow, I’ll assess it on a case-by-case basis.”
The experience of opening a second brewpub has also proven a little more enjoyable than the first time round.
“I’m really excited, I was nervous and stressed about the first one, I was kinda on my own to start with and now I have a wonderful team, and we’re all working frantically as a big group with a common goal and I’m not alone – many hands make light work and it’s given me the headspace to enjoy this process.
“I’m excited about being excited, and not as stressed as last time!”
Revel’s second site will be located at 82 Colmslie Road, Morningside, and is set to open towards the end of 2020, with brewing on-site set to begin by the middle of the year.