Kick Back Brewing has opened its doors in the Adelaide suburb of Aldinga.
Founder and head brewer Brenton Schoemaker (pictured above) was previously a geologist, but like many new brewers he was an avid homebrewer too, and when he realised a change was in order, made his passion his career.
“We opened on the June long weekend, and had an absolutely ridiculous opening. We couldn’t have asked for a bigger one in terms of turnout and we’ve had another big weekend,” Schoemaker said.
“We’ve only had eight days of trade and I’ve already seen people come back in multiple times!”
Like a true geologist, when deciding on the brewpub’s location he first mapped out South Australia, areas of high density population and the breweries in the state to identify a gap in the market.
“I could see holes in the market in South Australia, particularly taproom-style breweries and brewpubs. One of the gaps I identified was this location, and basically started pushing from there.
“It quickly evolved. We were looking at building a nanobrewery in a 40ft shipping container with a licence for 20 people. Then we started working with our council.
“We found that to start a nanobrewery it would cost as much as a larger brewery, so quickly those plans changed and we had an opportunity to buy the property we were looking at – I convinced my family that it was a great investment opportunity.
“But we let the financial situation dictate the size of what we would set up, which we thought was a 10hL brewhouse with capacity for 300 people on site. We did our research and went to a whole lot of breweries and decided that a brewpub was the way forward.”
The Aldinga suburb by all accounts is ‘up-and-coming’, making it an ideal spot for a local brewery.
“It’s always been pegged as a growing area, even the pub has just done a big reno down the road. But apart from that you still have to drive 10 to 15 minutes to get to the next pub,” Schoemaker explained.
“It’s a big mixture of people, younger families and trade families in the area, and there’s a new school going in because of that.
“We’re a regional country town that is changing into a booming suburb, situated right on some of the nicest beaches in the state, and with the infrastructure upgrades, people even in the CBD can live down here on the coast and commute.
“I just live down the road, which is probably a bit too close to where I work!”
Building Kick Back
Like many new brewery founders come to realise, the great idea is just the first step in a long process, and the development application process for Kick Back was no different.
“[It] took about two-and-a-half years to get through council, we actually did three different DAs, and the third was the successful one.
“The first one was for the shipping container, the second was a bigger version, the third was our final destination. We were fairly learned by then but there were classic council issues around waste, car parking, odour and traffic.”
Power upgrades were another major issue, and one new breweries often forget to factor in, as power grids will often require greater capacity for industries like brewing.
“We had unexpected costs through council issues but also partly due to the site with power upgrades,” Schoemaker explained.
“We had a basic power supply onto the existing building and then all the additional things, I’m not sure about other states but in SA we have a privatised power company, they come in and tell you they can give you this much power and its non-negotiable – you have to front it up or don’t get anything.
“So that was a huge one, it took it from single phase 70 amps to three phase 200 amps.
“We’re in a little township, all the power lines are underground and there’s hidden costs with that, but we’ve built something we wanted to build, apart from those costs you don’t see or expect, I think we’ve done a pretty good job.”
Inevitably however there were delays during COVID, and Kick Back is opening a little later than expected.
“We thought we’d be open last year – everything gets pushed out, there’s a shortage of all sorts of building materials because of what’s happened over the last 18 months so we’ve had to deal with those hold ups. Even with brewing equipment, there were hold ups with shipping and more expensive shipping, so everything takes longer than you expect it to.
“But I don’t think we’ve done too badly, even though opening in the middle of winter which wasn’t the plan, we’ve done a fairly good job of promoting ourselves and in a busy street, everyone has watched us develop it, so people knew we were here and were waiting for us to open, so that helped.”
Another thing that helped was getting a team behind them, with investment from the family and also a few other key players.
“Mike [Proud] is our head chef and part of the business, and we have an FOH manager Ryan [Moyne], who has been outrageously good, Sam [Tresize] my long term mate from school who has done marketing, branding and social media, and he is loving it. Those are the core people and my partner Sophie, she has been great at supporting the entire thing.”
Kick Back has also employed another seven staff for the bar and three in the kitchen, providing jobs for the local areas as well.
Homebrew and beyond
Moving from geology to brewing was a big leap, but so was the move from home to commercial brewing.
“It’s a big step – I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Neal Cameron and the guys from Brewtique so that was a good start, as well as Hendo and the the Rockstar Brewer group, and then I’ve worked with a local commercial brewer commercial to bring me up to speed on cleaning processes, to make sure were doing top notch CIP processes.
“But my pilot brewery was 100 litres, so to 1000 litres it’s not a huge jump, it’s not been too scary and the recipes haven’t changed drastically.”
Kick Back has opened with four beers on tap, but with 16 to fill Schoemaker and his team have their work cut out for them.
The lineup consists of a Munich Helles lager at 4.2% abv called Good Folk, its 4.9% abv Day One Australian pale ale, a 6.4% abv IPA called Anchor Steady and lastly its Welcome Stranger hazy pale at a solid 7% abv.
“Now our first four beers are out,we have a British brown ale in tank, which is a 4.4% abv Newcastle Brown, then a West Coast Red IPA coming out and then we will have to desperately rebrew the hazy and the pale ale.
“We put 16 taps on at the taphouse, with the idea we’d have 10 or 12 of our own which now is a bit ambitious! We’re just catching up and putting a bunch of local breweries,including Prancing Pony, Mismatch and Swirl, we picked our favourite complementary styles and breweries from SA.
“The consumer palette is continually growing and their expectation for diff flavours and styles won’t go away very quickly, people are more and more switched on and attuned to flavours they like and we’ll put a lot of effort into those seasonal beers and experimental beers.”
Deciding on a starting lineup can be tricky, especially as a first-time brewery.
“But we definitely contemplated it from consumer perspective, it’s a business. A lager isn’t my beer of choice but it was developed for the business. The IPA and hazy were both beers I enjoy drinking and very much would brew for myself anyway.
“Hazy has a following because of this hazy craze going on, but the lager is selling as much and allowing us to broaden the consumer base really.
“We have such a broad customer base already in terms of age and where they’re from and what they like, it’s easy to offer everyone a lager when they come in if they don’t know where they’re at with craft beer.”
Lager can be a challenging choice for new breweries especially due to the time needed in tank, but Schoemaker has worked around this.
“We worked out timings around brewing lager and the recipe and worked to understand our water chemistry here and those things can affect the time in tank, so we can get it out of tank in shortest period of time,” he explained.
Kicking back in the future
While Kick Back has opened with barely a hitch, it wasn’t plain sailing all the way.
“I completely underestimated the cost of starting a brewery. I mean that in the sense of I can understand the brewing equipment size and what it will cost me to do that, but I didn’t understand how much it would cost setting up a taproom.
“There are all these hidden costs when you haven’t run a venue before, from point of sale systems to glassware and tables and chairs. Ordering 150 stools, lights, music, security, gas heaters, decoration, it really adds up, you have no idea!”
But if a job is worth doing it’s worth doing right, according to Schoemaker.
“We’ve gone a little fancy, we’ve got a nice space. The brewery and taproom space in general is becoming more competitive and I still believe that a beautiful comfortable space is going to be attractive to your consumer and will set you apart from some of the other spaces.”
When it comes to future plans, Schoemaker is very happy with his little slice of South Australia for now.
“It’s early days but we are focusing 100 per cent on becoming a well known local brewpub.
“We’re a tourist destination as well, and we will never not have those customers, but we want to be an all-year-round business supported by the local community.
“As much as possible we want to sell beer from our venue, we don’t have any packaging line at the moment but it’s always on the cards, we would have wanted one but the costs of implementing those ideas can be out of reach when you’re starting up.”
Kick Back will also look at diversifying into other beverage sectors.
“Once upon a time we were moonshiners and now we’re all legitimised! We’ve set up a small distillery and we will probably start with a gin, we’d love to put gin and tonic on tap and things like that.
“The new licensing scheme in SA allows us to sell comparable products. You hear about the difficulties they have in places like Queensland but in South Australia we’re doing ok for that sort of thing.”
Overall, the team is just happy to have the place open after their hard work.
“We’re feeling great. It’s been a fantastic starting couple of weeks to get a bit of confidence and cash flow is amazing to see it coming in, and people enjoying the product, that’s the most amazing part of the entire job.
Kick Back Brewing and Taphouse is open Thursday to Sunday at 11 Old Coach Rd, Aldinga, SA.
Brewery openings are presented by Spark Breweries and Distilleries, the finest in-venue and production brewing systems available, with local design and support.