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Craft beer revolution

Locals and tourists alike are loving the Sunshine Coast’s burgeoning craft beer breweries. ‘Beer tourism’ is attracting new visitors to the region and locals are snapping up new employment opportunities.
Image: Greg Gardner Photography

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Craft beer revolution

Locals and tourists alike are loving the Sunshine Coast’s burgeoning craft beer breweries. ‘Beer tourism’ is attracting new visitors to the region and locals are snapping up new employment opportunities.

I’d like to introduce you to Iggy  Hop, Social Jam, Fun Manchu, Hipsterdoofus, Voodoo Lady, Josh Porter and Deadbeat Boyfriend.

No, this is not the line-up of the latest music festival. These are the names of some of Matt Wilson’s creations.

He uses deliberate ingredient selection, scientific precision, artistic flair, aromatic prowess and literary genius to bring his craft beers to life.

Mr Wilson is the founder and head brewer at the award-winning Moffat Beach Brewing Co and was one of the first venue owners in the region to take a punt at stocking only craft beers when he opened his doors six years ago.

There were only a handful of microbreweries on the Coast at that stage, but the industry has flourished and the region is now home to 13, with more set to open before the end of the year.

Although Deloitte research places craft beer volume at a maximum of three per cent across the nation, it is predicted to increase at a rate of five per cent each year for the next five years, far eclipsing the 1.7 per cent growth of the traditional commercial  beer market.

Mr Wilson says this is due to several factors, including growing consumer demand for sustainable practices and more people consciously supporting local businesses and their products.

“There’s nothing like drinking a fresh brew at the place it was made,” he says.

“I made a conscious decision to put craft beer in because it was not mainstream. When we first started working with the conservative Queensland palate it was slow going, but now the same customers are drinking nothing but Double IPAs (India Pale Ales), so I have definitely seen a shift in how people are drinking and how people’s palates have evolved in the time we’ve been there.”

One of the new kids on the block, Glass House Brewery owner Simon Michelangeli, is preparing to open his establishment at Forest Glen with a 200-seat venue and a brewery out the back.

Mr Michelangeli moved up from Melbourne seeking the ideal location for his venture and found it on the Coast. His friend and brewer with 15 years’ experience, Paul Sanders, will be taking control of the vats to produce signature brews that will be “more approachable” for craft beer novices.

“I think good beer is appreciated anywhere and while there’s a greater awareness and understanding of craft beer in Melbourne, what I see is the Sunshine Coast readily adapting some of the trends we see in Melbourne and Sydney and putting a unique local spin on it,” he says.

“From a Sunshine Coast point of view, the number of beers on tap has increased ten-fold in the past five to 10 years and we are now seeing a huge jump in the volume and quality of beer being produced here.

“While for 95 per cent of beer drinkers, craft beer is still foreign, Coast brewers are making beer with local produce, and it’s perfect for drinking in our climate. They are more approachable than some of the experimental beers.”

Mr Michelangeli says craft beer has become an art form and it is an important industry for the Sunshine Coast economy.

“People don’t realise how many people are employed locally through the craft beer industry. Major commercial brewers employ the equivalent of half a person for every million litres of beer they produce, whereas in the craft beer industry, every million litres gives a job to between 30 and 40 people,” he says.

According to a 2017 IBA/Essential Economics study, more than 65 per cent of craft breweries are based outside capital cities and almost three quarters of people working in Australia’s beer industry are employed in the craft sector.

Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Simon Latchford says this makes the industry both an attractive economic booster for the region, as well as a growing tourism magnet.

“Craft beer has brewed up a new market niche for the Sunshine Coast’s tourism  sector and breweries are now an integral component of the Sunshine Coast food and produce scene,’’ he says.

“In addition, it is pleasing to see many brewers building close working relationships with local farmers, not just for disposal of spent grain for cattle, but for sourcing local fruit and produce for seasonal beers or to serve through their kitchens.

“We have a remarkably talented group of brewers across the Coast who are starting to become known around the country.

“Earlier this year, Moffat Beach Brewing Co won the Champion Small Brewer of Australia award in the annual BrewCon – Australian Brewers Conference and Awards, held in Sydney. They also won two gold medals, as did Brouhaha at Maleny. Macleod Brewing Co in Maleny, Sunshine Brewery and Land & Sea in Noosa all won silver.

“What makes ‘beer tourism’ so attractive for visitors is that it provides a really rich and interesting insight into the character of the destination.

“Brewers are invariably passionate about their trade and love sharing stories about the trials and tribulations of setting up a brewery, and the sweat and tears that go into every brew, as well as sharing experimental and seasonal beers with visitors.”

Events like the Sunshine Coast Craft Beer and Cider Festival and the inaugural Oktoberfest are providing another reason for people to visit, stay and spend in our region.

“We are seeing new and innovative recipes coming out all the time and six new venues have opened since the last festival.

“A number of our brewers are promising to bring specially crafted festival beers for punters to try,” Mr Latchford adds.

With a need to make their mark on the industry and stand out, innovation and entrepreneurship are key characteristics of brewery owners across the region.

In fact, there are four craft beer businesses listed as finalists across three different categories of the Sunshine Coast Business Awards; Brouhaha and Moffat Beach Brewing Co in agribusiness, TAPS Mooloolaba in hospitality and Sunshine Coast Craft Beer Tours in the tours and transfers category.

Thinking outside the square has been a necessity for Matt Hepburn and Christen McGarry, who founded Your Mates six years ago with a home brew recipe Mr McGarry created.

Without the capital to establish their own brewing facility, Mr Hepburn and Mr McGarry became “gypsy brewers,” using the facilities of other local establishments to create their signature Larry and Donnie beers to begin selling wholesale three years ago.

Their appearance on Channel 10’s Shark Tank in May appealing for investment to allow them to establish their own brewing facility didn’t see any of the high-profile panellists decide to sink funds into the project, but it did give them national exposure that saw them go on to secure funding.

Mr Hepburn says they have a confirmed site, but cannot release any further information at this stage.

“We’ve had a huge amount of interest in our product, but we are capped at production at the moment, we literally can’t produce enough beer,” he says.

“We have tripled in size every year over the last three years and we are definitely at the stage where we need to invest in a facility, get our own equipment and build our HQ for Your Mates.

“For us to have everything under one roof, we will be able show off what we can actually do with 10 beers on tap and create a community hangout where visitors can come and enjoy themselves. We are aiming to be one of the biggest breweries in Queensland down the track.”

Your Mates fans will be pleased to know they are planning to release another two new “mates” to sell alongside Larry and Donnie by the end of the year and Mr Hepburn says “there could be a lady thrown into the mix.”

Sunshine Coast Brewery Tours founder Josh Donohoe says he is ecstatic to have watched as the region evolved from the “one-dimensional” beers from the large commercial brewers to a wide variety including pale ales, stouts, saisons, witbiers and many more.

“Beer is also fun. We will be teaming up with Brouhaha at the December craft beer festival to create a dessert bar to offer beer sorbet, milk stout affogatos and ‘gummy beers’. When people see that it can be fun to try new things, it opens up their minds to what is on offer locally,” he says.

Please drink responsibly. Visit  drinkwise.org.au.

 

Get hopping and  support our locals

10 Toes, Bonsai Brewhouse, Brouhaha, Copperhead Restaurant and Brewery, Eumundi Brewery, Glass House Brewery (open soon), Heads of Noosa (open soon), Land & Sea, Macleod, Moffat Beach Brewing Co, Noosa Beer Co (open soon), Stalwart, Sunshine Brewery, Sunshine Coast Brewery, Wild Rocket at Misty’s, Your Mates.

Save the date

Oktoberfest will take over the Kawana Sports Precinct on October 20 and promises to deliver the biggest beer hall the Coast has ever seen.

The Craft Beer and Cider Festival attracted 4500 people at its inaugural event last year and event manager Adam Hazelgrove says they are anticipating closer to 6000 at the Kawana Sports Precinct on December 1 as they showcase the rarest and sought-after creations from more than 50 hand-picked local, Australian and New Zealand brewers and cideries.

 

Todd’s grog

As My Weekly Preview’s resident beer reviewer, Todd Widdicombe shares his thoughts on the Sunshine Coast’s craft beer scene.

I don’t always drink beer… wait a second… no, I do. It’s pretty much what keeps me up every afternoon.

I reckon people these days are all over craft beer like expensive leather on a rich man’s foot and even though craft beer only makes up a tiny percentage of the entire Australian market, it’s hard to believe because there is so much of it around.

In the past five years, the Sunshine Coast in particular has smashed it for embracing craft beer. Back in the day, they used to have what they’d call a microbrewery, with boutique beers that only posh people would drink. Meanwhile, us cats were on the Carlton Draft and VB, which I have devoted entire weekends to.

I respect beer, it has been helping ugly blokes like me find love since 1897 and I will always love a good pale ale.

A great milk stout or a really dark ale has a similar ambience about it as drinking a fine wine and since you can’t actually drink bacon, it’s a good alternative.

I’ve heard some people say there are too many craft breweries around, but that’s like saying ‘there are too many sprinkles on my ice-cream’.

Get out and try to the Mudjimba Middish from Sunshine Brewery or the Pipeline Pale Ale from 10 Toes and you will be changed forever.

There are 24 hours in a day and 24 craft beers per carton. Coincidence? I think not.

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Roxy has been a journalist for more than a decade and joined the MWP team at the end of 2016. She is a chocolate-powered writing machine who loves to engage with the Coast community, uncover untold inspirational stories and share information that can help people.

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