Brisbane’s White Brick Brewing is closing its doors and the brewery is up for sale.
A difficult situation became an untenable one during COVID-19, and founder Adam Gibb told Brews News that he was unable to maintain the business in good faith going forward.
Founded in November 2017, Adam wanted the brewery, named after his late mother’s white brick home, to be a true community hub.
“In reality, it’s a matter of not being able to finance the business and that was made worse by COVID,” Adam said.
“With the pressures of the COVID shutdown and having to find more money, it just wasn’t workable. I’d rather get out when I can pay everyone and hold my head high.”
While White Brick did take advantage of government COVID-19 support, this was not enough long term, he explained.
“We did get JobKeeper. It helps a little bit, but the amount of it isn’t sufficient to pay rent and other costs.
“Whilst it pays staff wages, that’s only a small part of the costs of the business.”
White Brick beers are available in 22 bottle shops, but Adam said this wasn’t enough to keep them afloat having relied heavily on on-premise sales.
“It’s frustrating from a brewery point of view. You were operating and then get shut down, and couldn’t trade retail over the bar which is where most of your income comes from.
“With restaurants closed as well, bottle shops are the only outlet and most people were buying mass-produced rather than craft products.”
This has been shown in recent statistics from the IRI which have suggested that particularly at the very start of COVID shutdowns, budget bulk beer was a major winner.
But Adam explained that running a brewery proved challenging before the crisis as well.
“The reality is that the situation became really difficult to understand because the rules [with licensing etc.] change constantly.
“It’s being enforced with penalties rather than education.
“We’re getting mixed messages and we spend as much time trying to understand them.
“It also would have been nice in light of the Queensland Craft Beer Strategy if the politicians weren’t just taking photo opportunities in front of the Japanese-owned brewery and provided better support.”
Saying goodbye for now
White Brick is ensuring its three part time and one full time staff and suppliers are paid, its brewery is up for sale and they are looking for a new position for their brewer.
“What devastates me more than anything else is that we built a loyal community following and impact and it’s devastating that we can’t do that anymore,” Adam said.
“It leaves a hole for a lot of people, they came over to share a story and get inspired. It was never about the alcohol, it was more about the conversation and being part of something.”
What the future holds for Adam is still uncertain, but he said he will be going on a well-deserved break before starting anything new.
“Who knows. I’d love to stay part of the industry, but I’d love some time off to get a normal sleep pattern and see my family in daylight.
“When you do this you’re a slave to the business. We did what we had to do in order to survive and running a brewery in a regional area is definitely more difficult than in cities.”
Asked if he had any advice for potential brewery owners, he was optimistic despite the situation.
“I would say never stop following your dreams. It’s great fun and not everyone will end up a situation like this. It’s been a year beyond normal with floods, fires, pandemics, elections. We’ve experienced it all this year, it’s not been great for a lot of businesses and consumer spending has been erratic.
“It’s a great industry. The people are fantastic, it’s the best industry I ever worked in and I’d love to keep working in and contributing to it.”
Adam said he wanted to thank all the people that had made White Brick what it was.
“As a community brewery we’ve never had to throw anyone out or had a fight, that highlights what a community should be about – it’s caring and sharing.
“It sounds cliche but thank you to local people and businesses that have worked with us – I’ve made some great friends and had some great times.
“People have had their first dates here, people have got married and held receptions here, we’ve had 30th and 50th parties – a group of guys from the retirement community and an 86 year old grandma love our beer and things like that put a smile on your face.
“The joy I got from seeing people sitting down and sharing stories and forming bonds with people they could come in and say hello to in the future was heartwarming.”
White Brick Brewing’s last weekend will be 11th-12th July.