Philter Brewing is on the verge of its long-awaited opening in Marrickville.
Since Philter launched in 2017, founders Mick Neil, Stef Constantoulas and Sam Fuss have been on the hunt for their own venue and announced last year that they had found their base.
“We weren’t just going to settle for something, it had to be right, the right positioning, in and around where we all live too,” explained Fuss.
“We really made sure we ticked all the boxes, and being picky benefitted in the long run.”
Head brewer Fuss told Brews News it was a silver lining in the dark cloud that is COVID-19 that they hadn’t opened up before lockdowns hit.
“Fortunately for us, we haven’t opened the bar, which means we didn’t have to lay off people. There are so many other people dealing with that and we didn’t have to go through that.
“Our sales were not based on having a bottle shop or front-of-house operations, and a lot of breweries rely quite heavily on front-of-house and we would have but we didn’t have that issue,” she explained.
Fuss said that they were planning to open by the end of the month having already launched its bottle shop, although the Philter team are playing it by ear following the acceleration of lockdown restrictions in NSW.
“We’ve had a great time designing the bar and everyone will be really surprised by what we’ve done. We’ve gone a bit non-traditional in regards to what people would expect with a brewery with a bar and we’re excited to introduce people to that,” she said.
Setting up a brewhouse during COVID
Most importantly for Fuss, the brewkit is installed and commissioned, and it’s a point of pride.
“It’s the only kit like it in Australia, we got it early this year,” she said.
“All the tanks came in, the fermenters and brewhouse second, and it was a matter of getting it all plumbed in and making sure the power’s working. It’s a fully automated 4-vessel 25hL Premier brewhouse. The automation on this brewhouse, it’s awesome, I’m very happy.”
She said the automation aspect was a key consideration for her when choosing her kit.
“It more or less means the brewer’s focus is being up on the deck and watching the screen, parameters and beers – the brewhouse needs to produce a cracking amount of beer and continue to grow with us. So I made sure I specced that up beforehand – we can always add more fermenters.”
Fuss said that like many breweries-in-planning, Philter has been lucky in that they had their bar and brewery project to work on during COVID.
“I haven’t stopped over COVID. I can be in my warehouse and not annoy anyone and I’m considered an essential worker so with the site we’ve been careful to make sure everyone’s separated and distanced.”
But things weren’t so easy when it came to the brewkit, with commissioning engineers from the US unable to fly over.
“I’m still getting used to the kit because while we’re brewing beer, the automation side of it I’m fine tuning it with the States via Zoom calls.
“It’s been a really good learning curve though – we haven’t been able to rely on anything other than a Zoom call for a few hours early in the morning or late in the evening.
“I’m learning and I’m stoked about it , especially when you can troubleshoot issues on your own and get a result without having to call, pay for them and have downtime.
“I think that’s really important for everyone to know how to change a mechanical seal, or rectify an issue with the kit without having to call the engineers straight away.”
Fuss is also set to welcome the newest addition to her brewing team.
“I’ve been doing this on my own, but we did put a call out for 2IC. We got an awesome guy, he’s a Sydney boy working in New Zealand and he’s gotta come back and then he’s got to quarantine.
“At the moment I’m pulling in anyone I can, whether it’s Nick or Stef, I tell them to get downstairs to help mill in or mash out, or weigh out hops. It’s been challenging!”
The highlight of the launch will be selling Philter beers brewed on their own kit in their own venue, to customers who have followed the brand for years.
“It’s funny, these recipes are so close to my heart for so long it’s exciting to have them in house and play with them how I want to and if I want to tweak up a recipe, I can,” Fuss said.
She also said she had a few tricks up her sleeve for the grand opening.
“We’re going to open up with a little gift and a nod to our community. There will be our usual fresh little beers, and we’ll have a small batch tank which is a brewer’s play tank.
“So I’m looking forward to playing with that, and the brewhouse is so easy and versatile you could lend it to any style.”
“Over the next 12 months we’ll have a couple of new additions and then seasonals, a stout, a hazy – things that we love brewing and the people that follow us love drinking. There’s no point in getting rid of a good thing, but we’ll do taproom-only specialities and if it works who knows.”
One thing that’s on the backburner is a canning line which Fuss explained would be a project for 2021, and in the meantime like many breweries across the country, Philter is trying to traverse the landscape post COVID-19.
“Week by week it’s like ok we’ve got this going on, so are we doing half kegs half packed? Victoria is shut down so it can be up in the air – how much stock do you put into kegs, and are we going to get shutdown here too?
“We’ve already seen this happen so it’s about closely management the situation, and being able to manage it ourselves in-house is a big relief.”
Philter is looking on the bright side of a dark situation, and thankfully the experienced team aren’t novices at launching hospitality businesses.
“I’ve been pretty lucky, I’ve been able to go to a place every day and build and create something and I’ve apart from issues with transport from China, we’ve been relatively lucky.
“Now we’ve commissioned the brewery to a point and we’re brewing on it, which was the main goal to support production of the beer and bring it home all into one place. I’m stoked to have control because I am a bit of a control freak but hopefully that’s paid off!”
Brewery openings are presented by Spark Breweries and Distilleries, the finest in-venue and production brewing systems available, with local design and support.