Mouse Proof Brewery is set to open in Toowoomba this month with a unique purpose and goal to inspire consumers.
While many aspiring brewers aim to open a brewery to bring something different to the market, or to improve upon what’s already out there, Mouse Proof chose to tread an unconventional path.
“Our vision is that our punters feel empowered enough to value agricultural production systems, but that they also value the broader ecosystem services that agriculture affects,” said John Bennett, co-founder and head brewer of Mouse Proof Brewery.
Aside from his work with Mouse Proof, Bennett is also a Professor of Soil Science and Agrimetrics at the University of Southern Queensland, and deputy director of the Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Systems.
Along with Bennett, Mouse Proof was founded by Dr. Stirling Roberton, David West, Ned Skehan, Job King and Mal Campbell who all hail from agricultural or engineering backgrounds.
Together, the six of them chose to channel their passion for agriculture and sustainability into the foundation of Mouse Proof.
“Our brewery is based on a purpose statement of ‘Beer. Your link to the land.’ The mission is to help our punters realise that if you wear clothes, eat food, or drink beer, you are a part of agriculture and the sustainability of the industry,” Bennett said.
In terms of scale, the challenge to achieve this is insurmountable however, as Bennett explained, if consumers think about their impact on agriculture, that’s what counts.
“If we can help demonstrate the use of sustainable produce to create an end product for the consumer, and attach the sustainability narrative to that product, then the premium on the primary produce (barley, in this case) and the end product (beer) will be paid as the consumer understands that by choosing this end product they are helping protect the environment and ecosystem services they value.”
The current landscape in the craft beer industry does not showcase this kind of production in great detail, according to Bennett, but Mouse Proof hopes to change that.
“A big part of the issue is marketing the fact that if you eat, wear clothes and/or drink beer then you’re part of agriculture.”
“We hope that, while we won’t be able to use 100% sustainable produce from the start, the least we can do is get this education and marketing process embedded with our punters.”
The name Mouse Proof stemmed from Bennett, who lived in a “mouse proof” shed after losing his bedroom once he left for university.
“It became known as the Mouse Proof Shed and my cousin, Em, made me promise I’d call a bar the Mouse Proof Shed should I have one someday. Fast forward 18 years and we appear to have kept the promise, mostly,” Bennett said.
With all six founders based in Toowoomba, the decision to open a brewery there was a simple one but it also proved to be essential to their purpose statement.
“Toowoomba has every agricultural industry within a 500 km radius, so we are very well placed within that context,” Bennett said.
Located in Brook Street, Mouse Proof Brewery also has a taproom to help scale up to equipment that would allow canned production at a sustainable level.
“The plan is to eventually have a production brewery, maintaining the taproom, so that we can get the sustainability narrative out further than just our home base.”
The journey to building was no easy feat, with development and licence applications causing delays.
“We initially wasted nine months trying to get the brewery approved as part of an agricultural diversification and agritourism business on David’s farm just outside of Toowoomba.
“The council was less than helpful on this – their main suggestion being to head into a town nearby. We had to take stock of what we were trying to achieve at this point, as being in town didn’t really hit the vibe we wanted.”
The team ended up settling on a spot Campbell had found, in a Dairy Farmers factory complex.
From that point onwards, the licence application process proved to be an easier journey with only the liquor licence being the hardest to obtain, as the Queensland Heritage Register was involved.
“With the new artisan license coming through, and the building boom from the COVID stimulus, the State Heritage office was swamped.
“This part of the process has put our opening date back two months later than we had wanted. We still don’t know for sure, but believe the last weekend in August will be our opening.”
Bennett currently works as head brewer and explained that while he only has two years of brewing experience, it’s one of the main reasons Mouse Proof is opening soon.
“I had planned on waiting a few more years before starting up the brewery with the rest of the crew, but having won Best in Show at the Queensland Amateur Brewing Championship and the majority of other beers receiving a 35 or better score, we were encouraged by others to take the plunge,” Bennett explained.
Brewing is done on a three vessel 225-litre nanosystem that the team constructed themselves. The control panel is a 3-Phase Electric Brewery panel controlling 2x Blichmann Riptide pumps and 11000 Watts of heating elements in both the hot liquor tank and kettle.
The team ferments in four vessels that are temperature controlled within old commercial fridges while the beer is served through a 14-tap Andale glycol system.
In terms of the beers, the brewery will open with an XPA, American Pale Ale, Extra Stout, Pale Ale, Amber Ale, Red IPA, NEIPA and a Festbier.
“The remaining taps will be filled with our small batches that may include a Brown IPA, Double Black IPA, Lime and White Pepper Gose, Bier de Garde, and Marzen.
“The aim is to have the regular stuff people expect, but to keep introducing them to more alternative but delicious styles.”
With an opening date set for the end of August, the Mouse Proof team look forward to the community enjoying what the brewery has to offer.
“We have our first external public event on the 7th of August at Volcanic Brewing for Toowoomba’s First Independent Craft Beer Festival.
“The doors to our taproom, The Compressor Room, will open on either the 14th or the 28th of August, with the actual date determined by our final venue sign off.”
In terms of other aspiring brewers hoping to open their own breweries, Bennett reflected on the Mouse Proof journey and offered some free advice.
“It is amazing what people will do for beer, especially when they get a chance to feel like they have contributed to this spot they want to frequent. Good business partners and good networks have been the most valuable thing for us.
“You don’t need the best and biggest flash equipment to make beer. Good beer comes from good processes (including cleaning), so you can make some of the best beer on the ugliest looking equipment.
“Don’t wait for the bee’s knees to make a start, but have a growth plan so you know where you are headed.”
Mouse Proof Brewery is set to open at the end of August in Brook Street, Toowoomba.
Brewery openings are presented by Spark Breweries and Distilleries, the finest in-venue and production brewing systems available, with local design and support.