Hawke’s Brewing Co. has brewed its first beers at its new Marrickville production brewery.
David Gibson and Nathan Lennon, co-founders of Hawke’s Brewing Co., launched the brand in 2017 alongside former Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, and have been on the lookout for a brewery from early on in their journey.
“I think every brewing company or brand needs a home,” explained Gibson.
“We were fortunate, we started brewing down at Colonial in Melbourne and contract brewing. It’s a great way to start and get it going.
“But a couple of years ago when I was doing tastings at bars and bottleshops, everyone would love the beer and ask ‘where do you guys brew? I’d love to try it’. I’d have to explain about contract brewing and what it means.
“If you’re serious about being a brewing company you need a brewery. It gives you the control to really get that beer singing as much as you can.”
Hawke’s brewing operations
Head brewer Brodie French, who has previously headed brewing operations at Sauce, started brewing on a 35hL Bespoke Brewing Solutions kit at the end of last month.
Prior to joining Hawke’s he was working as a beer quality and brewing consultant.
“It was going pretty well but the pull was strong enough to pull me away,” French said.
“If I had to nail it down to one thing, [the reason I wanted to move to Hawke’s] was purely the people. We have shared values and there’s a great culture here.”
French is working with a range of different-sized fermenters and two brite tanks as well as a Codi depalletiser and canner, as well as a West Rock cluster wrapper to cardboard wrap cans into six and four packs.
But despite having shiny new equipment to work with, French is most proud of some of the modifications he has made to the brewery towards his sustainability goals, particularly in relation to waste water, which has been an ongoing issue brewers and scientists have been trying to combat.
“Basically we have designed upstairs to get as much sediment as possible, to limit the amount of sediment hitting the drain in the first place.”
An initial system captures hops and proteins before it is filtered through an even finer bag filter.
“This removes all those suspended solids before they hit the drain, not going into the wastewater, which is better for the environment and better for the business, we effectively have several layers of pre-treatment.”
Glen Brasington, general manager at Hawke’s Brewing Co., explained that while the brewery is up and running, the venue is not yet fully open to customers.
“We do have a little retail outlet to buy merch and cold beer and retro eskys, and surprisingly, we get a fair bit of traffic already, more than we were expecting – maybe because we did the 9-metre high mural of Bob on the brewery, and people knew we were here!”
The reason behind the delay is not that building works are being completed but that finding front-of-house staff has proven to be a challenge.
“We’ve got the DA approved, we’re just putting in final touches on the fit out. But it’s a tough labour market, getting staff and resourcing that part of the business, that would be tough this side of Christmas,” Brasington explained.
“This time of year is quiet for the job market in hospitality with everyone gearing up for Christmas trading.
“People don’t necessarily want to leave their current employer in the lurch but we’re hoping that having a new shiny venue will attract a lot of local staff, floor staff, bar and waiters, but we won’t be recruiting those until late January.”
With the actual build of the brewery, Gibson said that he would advise other new brewers to think carefully about their location.
“If you are looking at sites, really do your due diligence,” he recommended.
“We were looking for two years and in that time learnt a lot. And it’s important you involve a town planner as early as possible, so there’s no hurdles with DAs or anything.
“Leave as much time as possible for putting DAs and CDC’s because they just take a long time.
“The other thing I would suggest, having not built anything commercially like this before, is to use a project manager. Brodie is amazing at the brewery part of the build, but you also need a project manager to manage the builders, I would highly suggest that, it’s been a process.”
Issues getting builders from LGAs which weren’t locked down throughout the year in Sydney which was hard hit by COVID was also a challenge.
“We’re probably crazy, building a brewery through COVID, but everyone has been in that boat in one way or another.”
Partnerships between breweries and charities are common – even private label brands like Hughie have tied their marketing to a charitable cause – but it is not often that the partnerships are tied so closely to the brewery’s origins and codified.
“The partnership with Landcare Australia was the whole reason Bob let us use his name and likeness,” explained Lennon.
“We proposed to Bob the arrangement, and for Bob it was something that made sense and aligned with his personal initiatives. He set up Landcare in the 80s and he generously then decided that the donation mechanism would come directly out of his royalties and wrote that ironclad into the endorsement agreement. It was special for him to do that.”
While Bob Hawke may have passed away in 2019, his legacy continues in the partnership.
“Off a small base we’ve still managed to raise close to $300,00 for Landcare and other projects around the country,” said Lennon.
“As we grow the arrangement is structured to ensure that as we go, the benefits to Landcare grow, and we’re hoping we can hit that $1 million mark in donations.”
It is also a symbiotic relationship with Landcare, Lennon explained.
“One of their biggest challenges was that the demographic involved [in Landcare] as getting older and they needed to access new potential land carers. Being a craft beer company and in that space, it’s a good opportunity to reach that younger audience.
“That’s that additional value to what we can bring to that partnership.”
Hawke’s has already been in the business long enough to win awards like Best Australian Style Lager at the AIBAs, and also be featured in the GABS Hottest 100. While its core range will now be brought in house, brewer Brodie French has other plans for venue beers.
“In terms of what’s in the pipeline, I have some ideas in mind for when the bar opens, we’ve got some taps to service there,” said French.
“I’m not talking barrel-aged imperial stouts, we’re very much keeping to what’s in our range already and not being crazy adventurous, but wanting to draw people in with interesting beers.
“We have a chat with the team about what would work and then it’s up to me and Kieran [Brigham] , the senior brewer to formulate recipes. Keiran, who came from Modus Operandi, after being there for 5 or 6 years, he’s been a godsend, helping us through the build phase in putting the kit together.”
Of course, Marrickville is not short of beer or breweries, but the Hawke’s team aren’t concerned about the competition.
“We come from another industry before this, and I will say I’ve never experienced an industry with so much camaraderie which is refreshing and comforting,” said Gibson.
“Everyone has been really supportive, the guys at Philter have helped us out a lot, and we know we can always call them, same as the guys at Batch, everyone sort of feeds off each other and it’s a positive experience.
“It’s great that Marrickville has become a bit of a hub for brewing, so we can have those brewery crawls, it’s only good for everyone’s business, and I think the council are really supportive as well which helps.
“And it’s a really good feeling. There’s nothing like brewing your own tank in your facility for the first time.”
Hawke’s is brewing on-site at 8-12 Sydney Street, Marrickville NSW 2204.
Brewery openings are presented by Spark Breweries and Distilleries, the finest in-venue and production brewing systems available, with local design and support.