After nearly six years in planning, Deeds Brewing is set to open its venue next month.
The project was plagued with difficulties after it was presented to the local council for the first time back in 2016, eventually going through VCAT, the Victorian planning development appeals process.
It was finally given the green light in April 2020 after new iterations of the project were put before the local council and a wellspring of local community support.
Deeds co-founder Patrick Alé said the 150-capacity taproom and brewery venue was a long time coming.
“One thing you can say about us is that we have persevered and pushed through to the other side,” he said.
“It’s been a hell of a journey. But Dave and I are starting to feel like light at the end of the tunnel.
“At one stage we were thinking of moving somewhere else. We weren’t getting anywhere with the council, but I’m glad we stuck it out. We’ve got something here that’s really special.”
While the building phase has proven to be a little less challenging than the planning of the venue, there have still inevitably been issues crop up.
“We started getting into building it in January, and it’s been a pretty complicated build. We’ve got a great builder, he’s been excellent and it’s going all to plan. We’re expecting to open in three or four weeks.”
“We’ve also been replacing the roof due to hail damage, so there’s a lot of stuff going on, but it’s going well and looks great.
“We’re just in the process of getting bar staff and kitchen staff as well, which has been a bit of fun – it’s hard to get kitchen staff, they’re in short supply!”
Perseverance is key
As with its prolonged taproom process, Deeds weathered the storm of COVID-19 with resilience.
“We managed to trade through, and a lot of volume from on-premise, got supplemented by off premise. We had a lot of online orders, and we were really focusing in on it. We built up our email database to engage with our consumers a bit more, and we’re making some really good beer,” Alé said.
“We could have decided to close our doors but we wanted to play it out and see what it was going to look like.
“We had a lot of the kegs sitting there, but we were able to put them in growlers, we sold a lot of our keg stock that way instead of having to throw it down the drain, and came up with good ways to avoid destroying stock,” he said.
Being flexible and willing to change was essential during COVID, Alé explained.
“We had to adapt really quickly and I’m proud of the team coming up with strategies on how to get our beer to customers across the country. That was a lot of the lessons about – adaptability and perseverance as well.”
Deeds adopted the same attitude to the taproom.
“There were challenges along the way but the way it’s come together, it’s close to the original concepts – architects are always refining anyway!”
Alé’s advice to other brewers facing challenging development application processes and dealing with local councils is to persist.
“From my perspective, persevere. We had the concept originally there was a good reason why you thought it was a good idea to begin with.
“I’d advise [other businesses] to get some really good people in your team.
“We’ve stuck with our architects from the start, our town planners helped us through the challenges we faced coming up with new ideas getting the locals behind us and getting them to support us.
“Maintaining a positive attitude [is essential]. With that comes ideas and ways to work through any challenge, that was my advice – with challenges there are also opportunities.”
While the build itself has been less challenging, having a delay in expanding the taproom was a blessing in disguise over the COVID-19 period, which Deeds weathered well.
“Cash flow was definitely a challenge, it has been the whole time. Doing this and still trying to run a brewing business and a sales and distribution business, you have to pay out a lot of money to build a taproom. There was a lot of balancing and we’ve got a really good team so that helped, but it wasn’t easy.
“Having been blocked from the taproom originally it allowed us to focus on the brewing side of things.
“Had we had a situation where we had the permit for both, we would have set up two very different businesses at the same time which would have been challenging.
“So that was pretty lucky really, it would have been a real juggle, and a hell of a lot more stress as well.”
The 150-capacity venue will feature 22 unique beers, with the potential for functions as well.
But with lockdowns still ongoing, however infrequently, and announcements which do not suggest international travel will be a reality until mid-2022, there are lingering concerns about COVID and its affect on the industry and hospitality in general.
“It’s hard to say how long the impacts will be, but a lot of the market is apprehensive in terms of making plans. Tourism hasn’t come back and with tourism comes hospitality,” Alé said.
“But during COVID we just found there was a lot more engagement, people were at home and not going out to their regular locations and having a very select range of beers.
“At home, they were more open to trying new things so that helped people’s interest and engagement especially with our limited range, and that’s continuing for us.
“We’ve got a core range that’s doing pretty well but in terms of volume purchases, that’s been impacted. People have been apprehensive about stocking up, so there’s still a bit of volatility.”
Adding to the six beers in its core range, Deeds has been undertaking limited releases every two weeks and has also added a cider to its core range.
“So we are continuing to push ourselves and grow our portfolio and try new things which keeps people interested,” he said.
The Deeds Brewing taproom will open in June.
Brewery openings are presented by Spark Breweries and Distilleries, the finest in-venue and production brewing systems available, with local design and support.