Family-owned 2 Halfs Brewing Distilling in Sydney has had to weather unpredictable trading operations and delays in its first year of business, but community support has been a highlight.
The brewery, founded by Kirk and Dragana Bozinovski, opened in May last year but was forced to close its doors by the end of June due to lockdowns in New South Wales.
“We just had a taste of running the taproom for seven weeks and they had been the best seven weeks of the service,” co-founder Dragana Bozinovski said.
“Since the end of the lockdown in mid-October last year, it has been very unsteady and hard to predict due to the Omicron surge at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022.”
The business couldn’t solely rely on taproom sales, which led to selling takeaway orders to stay afloat.
“Since we did not get a foot in the door regarding packaged wholesale sales, we started bottling 750ml swing top bottles and selling straight out of the brewery,” Bozinovski said.
“Brisk foot traffic during that time meant we got sales to stay afloat.”
Once the lockdown ended in the middle of October, sales started to pick up only for another lockdown to impact the business leading into the Christmas period.
“The shadow lockdown just before Christmas with the Omicron surge took a grip on Sydney siders and being focused on taproom sales only, it did hit us hard,” she said.
“Since then it has been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. Things are improving slowly but still with uncertainty week to week.
“The 2 Halfs taproom is like that line out of Forrest Gump – life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.”
The pressures of the pandemic also led to the delay of launching the distilling side of the business.
“[The] distiller was meant to be purchased early on but COVID has changed our plans,” Bozinovski said.
“We have it now in place, it has been commissioned and Kirk [Bozinovski] is about to make the first batch of our gin any day now.
“There is a lot of interest for the gin and we have some fruits fermenting for some European style fruit brandies so watch this space for news.”
As 2 Halfs adapted to evolving circumstances due to the pandemic, the business reflected on what lessons it can utilise moving forward, including establishing a wholesale presence in retailers.
“I think we all learned that nothing is guaranteed over the last couple of years,” Bozinovski said.
“We depend on our taproom sales as our beer is only offered on the premises, whether draught or bottled, but we don’t have outside sales yet.”
While selling its beers in stores and online is a promising idea, Bozinovski acknowledged the possible challenges in that process, as experienced by Bucketty’s in Brookvale.
“It is something that involves other challenges such as storage, packaging, budgeting, beer development and so on,” she said.
“I think we are getting closer to that point so hopefully in two to three months you will be able to purchase some of our beers at selected liquor shops and online.
“Looking back, it would have been easier to start as a production brewery and build in the taproom later, once you establish yourself and get your name out. We have done it the opposite way.”
Despite the challenges, 2 Halfs acknowledged the support from the local community of Alexandria and named a beer after the suburb as a sign of recognition.
“During the lockdown and 5km travel rules we started selling takeaway beer in 750mL longnecks out of the laneway. People were lining up for beer and a chat and if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here today,” Bozinovski said.
“As a tribute we’ve named one beer after Alexandria and we are planning on keeping it as a core beer.
“We have some great neighbours as well, other businesses who are very helpful and encouraging as well as customers who drop by on the way to shopping or while walking their dogs. We made a lot of friends and we love that part of the business.”
While it’s difficult for the business to forge long-term plans, Bozinovski said the key is to stay flexible.
“The lesson we’ve learned is to make short plans but stay open to changes or opportunities.
“[We] definitely want to continue with our take on European style beers, have more presence on the market and grow our distilling side of the business.
“We hope to be able to grow our team as well over the next year, so me and Kirk can release some of our current duties and concentrate on quality product and marketing.”