Woolgoolga ‘Woopi’ Brewing Co. is set to open this weekend on the Coffs Harbour coast.
Opening a brewery is not for the faint-hearted, according to general manager, Sarah Poole.
“We’ve been working on this for so long, and underestimated a little. But to get a 200-patron venue, a Brewtique 15HL system, it’s massive. So we really have needed the support of shareholders and our families,” Poole explained.
Led by a group of shareholders including Sarah and Ryan Poole and Aaron and Jacqui Dobner, the brewpub is also supported by founder and former CEO of Mornington Peninsula Brewery, Matt Bebe.
“He’s a shareholder in the business and Matt has come on board to help strategically and make sure we have the right things in place.
“Microbreweries undertaking this process, it’s a significant process and having people like Matt is absolutely critical,” Poole said.
While the development application was initially submitted in August 2019, the idea to open a brewery on the Coffs Harbour coast first conceived long ago.
“We [Ryan and I] come from the Mornington Peninsula originally and really loved the concept and the way small microbreweries were popping up here [in Coffs Harbour].
“We also knew a few people down there in the industry. So we’ve been working on this plan before we moved. Aaron and Jacqui also wanted a family-friendly microbrewery that could appeal to the local community,” she explained.
After moving to Woolgoolga, the Pooles, along with the rest of the team, decided to capitalise on the growth boom occurring in the region.
“New people are coming into the region with lots of families moving here. So we wanted to have a space to cater to that.”
Licenced for 200 people, the brewpub sits at 7 Willis Road in Woolgoolga with the primary goal focusing on providing customers an authentic experience.
“Our focus is absolutely on the local community for the experience of going to a brewery. Smelling the beer, understanding how it’s made and enjoying time out with friends and family.
“There’s not a lot of options for people to do much in this region. Whether that’s people who are retired, or young families, we want to provide that for the community,” Poole said.
However, the journey from planning to development hasn’t been without its difficulties, with council issues and COVID threatening to halt progress.
“It was challenging. Particularly, because this is a new thing. Coffs Council have not gone through the process of having a microbrewery before, so we thought we would be trail blazers.
“But King Tide Brewing is another one that’s about to open around here which is fantastic.”
Equipment from overseas took longer than expected to arrive due to COVID, however it turned out to be a positive step for the team, according to Poole.
“For us here in New South Wales, we now have a roadmap out of lockdown. It would have been challenging opening up six months ago, in the middle of COVID, with impending lockdowns,” she said.
Lockdown restrictions were lifted on 10th September in Woolgoolga and once they did, the team worked to move closer to an opening date.
“We were really uncertain. As soon as we came out, we thought, if we pull out all the stops, can we open? Once we figured it out, we thought, let’s not delay it anymore.”
For anyone wanting to open a brewery, Poole offered a piece of advice.
“Never underestimate the funding. We certainly knew that but we still smashed our budget. That’s where having advice is really important.
“A microbrewery like ours, there’s a whole lot that goes into it. It’s not just about beer. It’s about operations, customers and food, ” she said.
While this advice is key for any emerging business, it’s especially important for the craft beer industry, according to Poole.
“Beer is a whole other thing. Whilst it can be challenging, having the right people is key.
“It’s also beneficial if those people involved have the right skills. That’s what we aim to do with our founding shareholders to help the business succeed from the get go.”
In terms of the beer, with Aaron Dobner helming the role of head brewer, the brewery plans to open with a series of choices for punters, including a Japanese lager, pale ale, IPA and an amber ale or a red ale mixed hybrid.
“We really wanted to start with enough variety to show what craft breweries are all about. The beer will be amazing, but our plan is to be a family friendly space for the community first,” Poole said.
While future plans for Woopi are not set in stone, the team aims to expand upon the brewery experience by including live music and creative arts.
“We have great plans for our outdoor areas to provide different types of functions and really, it would be about spaces for people to come in spades and if we can do that, just to make a success of the location and have the community involved, we’d be really happy,” Poole said.
But for now, the team is focused on opening and providing for the local community.
“Given that COVID has been challenging, it feels wonderful to contribute economically to our community and support for local trade.
“We’ve made a real effort to engage everyone in the local community so for us, that idea of community working with businesses within regions is important to us.
“So for us, coming into summer and coming out of COVID, it will be really great for us to be there for the local community.”
Woolgoolga ‘Woopi’ Brewing Co. will open this Saturday, 25th September at 7 Willis Road in Woolgoolga.
Brewery openings are presented by Spark Breweries and Distilleries, the finest in-venue and production brewing systems available, with local design and support.