Your Mates Brewing Co. has unveiled plans to open a second brewery, following a major growth spurt which will see it brew nearly 1 million litres this year.
The Sunshine Coast brewery has seen demand and capacity rise since its launch in 2015 as a nomad brewing outfit before opening its own Warana brewpub in 2019, and this growth has only been accentuated by its success in the GABS Hottest 100 in recent years.
Your Mates’ flagship Larry Pale Ale broke into the top 10 in 2019 and came in fourth place this year, rubbing shoulders with the likes of BentSpoke, Balter, and Stone & Wood, a major achievement for a comparatively small regional brewery.
Now, on the back of this growth, Your Mates is planning to extend distribution nationwide with the help of an additional larger brewing location. The brewery wants to be able to package 5 million litres a year with a new site.
Co-founders Matt Hepburn and Christen McGarry said that they never imagined that they would need to grow this fast this soon.
“We signed a seven-year lease on our current site thinking that, best case, we’d start to look at what’s next in five years or so,” McGarry explained.
“Two years in and we have leased a storage shed across the road and I’ve said for the 100th time, there’s no way we can fit any more tanks in here.
“And although we have gotten creative and fit plenty in here, it is just a band-aid solution. We need to look to the long term future.”
Plans for the new site are in the works with designs being drawn up, but Your Mates hasn’t identified the right site yet.
“We would really like to stay here on the Sunshine Coast but we haven’t managed to find our ideal spot yet,” McGarry said.
“We want to find something greenfield, with enough room to grow. We want to try and avoid the position we are in now, we feel like the walls are closing in on us at the moment!”
Your Mates’ second home
Your Mates have big expectations for the new site, which it is planning to fund through a combination of debt and private equity.
“Initially we are aiming to have the capacity to package 5 million litres per year and want to be able to triple that figure without moving again,” McGarry explained.
“We haven’t finalised our brewhouse setup yet but we are talking to some of the big manufacturers and are looking at innovative ways to get to our target capacity.
“We have learnt a shit-tonne of things in building, operating and growing our current site and we know that bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to brewing great beer, but you need to look to the future when sizing it up.”
The Sunshine Coast in recent years has seen the emergence of a vibrant industry, and other breweries, such as 10 Toes and Moffat Beach have already had to expand with more tank space or a second production brewery.
“It’s the craft beer capital of Australia! I’m not joking, there are 18 (possibly more) breweries up here and the Sunny Coast’s appetite for good beer doesn’t seem to be slowing down,” McGarry said.
“There are plenty of contributing factors to this, but at the heart of it are good brewers making good beer, there is a huge competitive and collaborative culture here and when we see other breweries making great beer it inspires us all to do better.
“It’s not just “x” brewery it’s “Sunny Coast Beer’ that we all represent.”
Growing as a brewery
As for many brewers across the country, COVID-19 was a steep learning curve for Your Mates.
“The most valuable lesson we learnt was how important our team is,” explained McGarry.
“I think we were very fortunate in that the timing of our off-premise growth both coincided with the drop in on-premise volume and then was accelerated through the shift of demand to packaged product.
“Now we are at approximately a 50/50 split for on and off-premise, which we hope to keep things around that ratio.”
Your Mates has also been thrust into the limelight after its top 10 pollings, an amazing feat for the growing brewery.
“The competition was fierce this year! We are again, just like every year, equal parts shocked and humbled to see Larry do so well and especially in the company of the breweries and beers that inspired us to start Your Mates in the first place.
“The atmosphere at the taproom on countdown day was electric and it really is one of the most fun and exciting days here at the brewery, everyone was just bloody frothing to see Larry back it up and show he’s not a one-trick pony,” said McGarry.
However, it was difficult to ignore the less-than-supportive response from some areas for the win.
“Yes, we noticed a few people who didn’t share our excitement and again there are plenty of reasons that might be…we don’t distribute nationally and I think because of that people certainly underestimate our size.
“Since last year’s countdown we are now available across all of Queensland which saw us produce just shy of 500,000 litres, this year we are on track to go close to 1 million litres.
“At the end of the day, we put more effort into making Larry the best-tasting beer than anything else. We are not only proud but truly believe that Larry is not out of place in the top 10 and a few negative comments on social media will not change that.”
Detractors aside, Your Mates is looking forward to its next phase of growth.
“Right now we are looking to expand our team and bring in some strong leaders in sales and production so that we can give more time to the expansion project.
“We don’t want to rush and Matt and I are looking forward to continuing to pinch ourselves because we are making beer for a living, employing local legends, living the bloody dream and having a great time doing it.”
Hear more about Your Mates Brewing Co. and its founders Christen McGarry and Matt Hepburn on the Beer is a Conversation podcast.