After several years operating a brewery and tasting room out of their garage, Madocke Brewing Co. founders Jimmy Van Eetvelde and Annelies Nijskens have submitted plans for a brewpub.
Once approvals are secured, Madocke will open at a new location in the suburb of Ashmore before the end of the year.
Madocke, which specialises in Belgian beer, was founded when Jimmy and Annelies moved to Australia from Belgium just over four years ago.
It was a dream of theirs to open a brewery in Australia, and starting out in the garage helped them with market research and developing Madocke’s core range.
“It was a privilege that we were able to start from our garage to do a pilot model,” said Annelies.
“We were very lucky that the Gold Coast Council followed our pilot model idea. We submitted a home-based business application, stating that we wanted to do some research and development, touch the market and see what would evolve from there.”
“Once operational we started doing tiny little tasting sessions from our garage. We started selling our beers wholesale to bottle shops, bars and restaurants in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast which got us a nomination for Best New Brewery in Queensland at the Beeries 2019.
“Pre-COVID we literally grew out of the walls of our little garage as more and more people found their way to the Gold Coast for those tasting sessions.”
As it expanded, their small garage tasting room became incompatible with the regulations around a home-based business, which, in addition to capacity constraints, only allowed them to brew 10,000 litres of beer a year.
When a complaint came in about customers parking in their residential neighbourhood, Jimmy and Annelies saw it as a sign they needed to upscale.
“We said we were looking for new premises and so we closed down the tasting sessions from our garage immediately after the complaint. It was a slap in the face and a kick in the butt to make ourselves move forward,” Annelies admitted.
But despite these challenges, fortune smiled upon them and they found an ideal site for Madocke.
The Madocke brewpub
Plans for the Madocke Brewing Co. Brewpub were submitted to the City of Gold Coast council earlier this month.
The 615 sqm of space will include a 300 sqm brewery, 200 sqm of taproom space and the remainder reserved for offices and a potential tasting room.
It is the culmination of several years of hard work and the successful application for permanent residency to Australia, as failing the English requirements test made the family only eligible for a temporary visa at that time.
“We had to sit on our block and wait until we got our permanent visa, because one of the many conditions on our temporary visa was that we couldn’t have two premises under our name as a temporary resident,” Annelies explained.
Having started looking and put in an offer for the current site in mid-2020, it was September before they heard back.
“We went and had a look and came home, then we talked about it with Noa, our 16-year-old son. He’s good at 3D drawings and eight hours later he had the full thing designed for us. We had found ourselves a new location.”
It had always been the plan to move Madocke out of the garage, but initial plans had actually been for a production brewery alone.
“Having a small production facility with all the bottle shops selling our beer was the idea when we came to Australia, because that’s how it was in Belgium.”
“But coming to Australia, and seeing the craft beer industry boom, everybody has their own taproom, that’s how you have to go as well.
“It’s a great reward seeing your customers drink your beer and putting a smile on their faces.”
Madocke is funding the brewery partially through investors, and is hoping to divest a portion of the business to raise funds.
It has already brought Stone & Wood Brewing stalwart Neil ‘Pops’ Whittorn on board, who will be helping and advising the brewing team with his extensive experience in the industry.
Listen to the Radio Brews News Christmas Eve Eve special with Neil Whittorn.
Madocke will stay true to its roots and produce its classic Belgian-style beers, but Annelies explained they would be making some changes to the lineup to make Madocke’s range a bit more taproom-friendly.
“We are doing Belgian style beers… [but they] tend to usually be higher in alcohol and we can’t build a taproom on that – we would have to turn everyone out after their second drink!”
“Belgian beers will always be our speciality because of our background and heritage, we’re definitely not going to give up that. But they will become slightly more of a premium for us. The Quadrupel, Tripel and Dubbel for example, those really solid Belgian style beers, were thinking of only doing them in the 750ml bottles in the future.”
“Then we will have the more mid-strength and lower-alcohol beers for the taproom, which will be more hybrid beers – Belgian style beers with an Australian twist, so we can create a wider variety than only the higher alcohol Belgian beers.”
While Madocke beers, like traditional Belgian beers, have tended to come in bottles, Annelies and Jimmy are considering the move to cans to suit the Australian market.
“It’s been a discussion between me and Jimmy forever, what are we going to do? Belgian beers tend to be traditionally in a bottle, yes, but the Australian market is asking for cans,” she explained.
“For us, product placement in bottle shops is sometimes really hard, because occasionally we are placed with the international beers, but we are Queensland beers – and sometimes they can’t fit us in the fridge because of the bottles We’re then in that middle fridge, with all the others that don’t fit anywhere.”
Saturation in the market
While the Australian brewing industry continues to grow, and breweries crop up seemingly every week, breweries-in-planning are looking to set themselves apart.
Annelies explained that for Madocke, having the early insights into consumer trends and behaviours was key.
“If you’ve got the time,” she advised, “do your market research thoroughly.
“It’s been so good for us, but you have to have the time and the money because it doesn’t give you any return. It is a large investment we made in advance, because we saw the bigger picture.”
“It did help us to move forward, to show potential investors and the bank there is a market for us.”
She said this level of customer and business understanding would be essential for new breweries.
“I reckon in the Australian craft industry, because there are more and more popping up, you will have to have your point of difference, through having either a stunning venue, or producing the most outstanding beers. It would become harder and harder to start a new brewery with just IPAs or hazies.”
Like the new NSW brewery Slow Lane, Madocke concentrated on a particular sector of the market, which Annelies admitted can be a double-edged sword.
“Doing the Belgian beers is our strength but also our weakness because we are different. Many craft beer drinkers know of the Belgian beer culture and are happy to see that we offer these beers. We bring that diversity, but there are also a lot of people still new to drinking craft beer who are seeking that Pale Ale or IPA” she said.
“We have 14 beers at the moment and not one beer is similar to the others, we have 14 completely different styles, and are working with a large variety of different yeast strains.
“So for us, it’s about beer education and explaining to them the beers and taking them on a journey so they become loyal returning customers who spread the word for us.”
But she said, there is still hope for new breweries.
“There is still so much room, I still love seeing new breweries popping up everywhere, the industry is so nice and it’s a common goal of all of us to get as many Australians drinking craft beer instead of mainstream – we can’t keep up with production [at Madocke] so we know there’s still room!”
Overall the sense is that for Madocke, their own venue was a long time coming and Annelies and Jimmy are looking forward to their latest project.
“We are both shitting our pants looking at the scale of the project, but we’re confident to make it successful. We’ve built a business before [in Belgium] and sold successfully so we’re ready and keen to build this brewery – and Jimmy will be happy to be out of the garage!”
Madocke is still available, check out its site for stockists. Its new venue will be open at 286 Southport Nerang Road, Ashmore later this year – check out the Bintani Brewery Radar in the coming months to follow its progress.