If you keep thinking that everywhere you turn there’s a new craft brewery or urban distillery opening—it’s not your imagination. A craft brewing and urban distilling revolution is sweeping the country and they’re popping up like mushrooms in major cities and suburban neighbourhoods.
In 1981, Australia’s first brewpub was granted a licence, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that craft breweries started popping up. At first, they took over industrial areas but soon invaded the bustling city streets and suburban neighbourhoods. Today, there are around 600 brewers and 400 distillers across the nation.
It might seem they are at a bursting point, but in reality, craft breweries and urban distilleries are just getting started. This begs the question, with limited land space, businesses are seeking neighbourhoods and areas that don’t have a brewery or distillery. Many of these areas are being gentrified by the craft beer and liquor industry, but it turns out when it comes to craft breweries and urban distilleries, gentrification is welcomed.
Recently, Sydney’s historical neighbourhood, The Rocks, welcomed its first urban distillery—Hickson House Distillery. More than just a place to sip gin straight from a copper still, Hickson House is also a bar and kitchen, serving modern Australian plates. This was the vision of Mikey Enright, the Co-founder and director of Barrelhouse Group.
“We looked around Sydney and just before COVID hit we fell in love with this beautiful warehouse. It was empty but in our eyes, we saw a bar, a restaurant, and a distillery where people could tour and learn more about the process. The original columns are magnificent and the history of the building just captured us,” said Enright.
With anything new, there is going to be gentrification. If you look at Brookvale in the Northern Beaches, there wasn’t much choice when you want to go out and drink, but the breweries and distilleries brought people to the industrial area. It has become a thriving hub, so if that’s gentrification, then I am all for it.”
Much like the renaissance of Brookvale, KAIJU! Cantina, a converted warehouse with 16 beers on tap, pizza, and hand-painted murals adorning the walls, brought life back into Huntingdale, Victoria.
“It’s a tiny suburb, there are few restaurants around,” said KAIJU! Co-Founder Callum Reeves. In fact, most people have their addresses say Oakleigh— that’s how small of a suburb it is.
One of the main reasons Reeves and the KAIJU! team decided to open KAIJU! Cantina in Huntingdale was because there is nothing like it in the area. According to Reeves, there are a lot of young families in the area, and it’s located near Monash University and Monash Medical Centre—one of the largest hospitals in Melbourne.
“Since opening, I was surprised people were coming from all over the place, including the inner north, which is where a lot of the craft beer drinker live. It became more of a destination than I thought.
Unbeknownst to Reeves at the time, the local council created a strategy for the local area, which included recruiting a mix of businesses to open, in an effort to bring people to the neighbourhood.
“You definitely need hospitality businesses in industrial areas as well as scattered throughout cities. There are people working in the industrial areas, and when it comes down to it, breweries need big open spaces, especially for deliveries and the sheer volume of equipment needed to brew. I also think it’s great for security. Having people in the area until later benefits local businesses,” said Reeves.
Other times, breweries and distilleries open in city spaces, simply because of the building. Little Lon Distillery is an urban distillery situated in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, which was intentional according to Founder, Brad Wilson.
“I wanted to do something in the hub of the city, so I researched the city, which gave me even more reason to do it. The challenge was, most red brick buildings were earmarked for development, except for this one little cottage. At first, it didn’t look like a suitable building for a distillery, but it was an opportunity, so we ran with it,” said Wilson.
The building Little Lon Distillery occupies is a heritage-listed building, and Melbourne’s last remaining single-story red brick building in the city. In its past lifetime, it was the centre of the red light district and the slums, but now it’s reinvented as a cocktail bar, where people can come in and taste Little Lon Distillery products.
“We just signed a longer lease, five more years to plan for its future. It has such an interesting history, so we’re working on branding and ways we can tell the story of its characters through our gins, including the story of the lady who lived in the cottage a hundred years ago,” said Wilson.
Wilson also shared he has plans to take over a train station shed in Ballarat, slated to open in October this year.
“There are plans for Ballarat to be a brewing centre, so we’ve jumped on and we will see where it goes. Before there was only one kicking around, but now there will be three. It just goes to show the demand for it,” he said.
Some breweries moving into more conservative neighbourhoods have experienced some pushback. Co-founder of Deeds Brewery Pate Ale explains the uphill battle he faced when getting permits for his brewery and taproom in Glen Iris, Victoria.
“We started Deeds Brewery in 2012, but we were using other people’s equipment, so when we were looking for a permanent place of our own, we found this old car workshop and fell in love. It’s about 2600 square metres and right at the end of the tram line, so people could get here easily.
We were excited to put a taproom in, but when we went to the local council, they rejected our permit,” said Ale.
Ale changed the request to just include the brewery and was approved. They started brewing in 2019 and became popular with the locals. When i comes to introducing a new business in a neighbourhood, the locals are the first you want to win over.
“In 2020 things were different. We engaged with the community and became part of its fabric, so we decided to pass around a petition to get the taproom up and running. It was something we really wanted. The response we received was overwhelming, and the council had no choice but to approve our permit,” he said.
Unfortunately, COVID hit and they couldn’t open the taproom until June, but ever since then, Deeds Brewery has been a place beer lovers come for good brews and good food.
It was later discovered the council had their reservations about parking space and the problematic behaviours associated with alcohol consumption, which Ale added, “because it has always been a conservative neighbourhood.”
For Newstead Brewing Co., Milton, a neighbourhood on Brisbane’s west side was the perfect place for their second location.
“To be able to give locals on the west side another Brisbane brewed craft option, particularly before a Suncorp Stadium match where the beer choices have previously been commercial in the surrounding area, was a really exciting opportunity for us. The Brisbane craft beer scene is an incredibly friendly and welcoming one, and we know that from a punter’s perspective, the more choice they have nearby, the greater the experience and opportunity to do a killer pub and brewery crawl,” said Kate Middleton, Head of Brand Marketing.
Although breweries and distilleries don’t all want to occupy city space. Stomping Ground in Collingwood is four kilometres from the CBD and is surrounded by big warehouses and soon to be apartments from developers.
Co-founder, Steve Jeffares, spent many years in America, particularly New York scouring the brewery trends, and saw many breweries didn’t have great ambitions to sell their beer beyond the four walls.
“Brewpubs made up about 50% of the U.S. and in Australia at the time, there were only around 5%. At that time, I thought there would be an explosion of brewpubs opening in Australia, creating the new pub, but it took a while. Now here we are, with more and more each day.
You have large and small brewpubs scattered around the country. Some have opened in response to gentrification, while others have contributed to it, but in my opinion, the brewpub has become the new pub,” said Jeffares.
The cold weather in most parts of Australia coinciding with EOFY celebrations is the closest thing that we’ll get to snowy Christmas vibes. And if you’re in dire need of some festive cheer after the first six months of 2023, grab your ugly sweater and head to your nearest Red Rooster for Xmas in July deals.
From June 29 – July 31, 2023, Red Rooster is serving up free food items, a chance to win $10,000 or one of 10 merch packs valued at $400 and other fun prizes. All you have to do is sign up as a Red Royalty member and spend $5 on at a location near you or online.
Each week there’ll be new delicious deals and prizes to win. The week one deals have already dropped and they’re looking pretty tasty. You can get access to them via your Red Royalty account. The more you purchase, the more chances you have to win.
Spoiler alert: you can get 10 chicken nuggets for free, right now. Brb running to Red Rooster.