30/04/2008 - 22:00

Boutique brewer caters for all tastes

30/04/2008 - 22:00

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It takes real chemistry to craft the perfect beer – just ask pharmacist Andrew Harris, who recently opened his own brewery.

Boutique brewer caters for all tastes

It takes real chemistry to craft the perfect beer – just ask pharmacist Andrew Harris, who recently opened his own brewery.

Boutique beer cafe Old Coast Road Brewery is aiming to tap into a new tourism growth area, just off the highway between the more frequented destinations of Bunbury and Mandurah.

Several microbreweries have opened their doors in the state’s South West in the past few years, piggy-backing on the tourism success of the Margaret River wine region. Now, ventures such as Old Coast Road Brewery are spreading the boutique industry further north – to Myalup.

Mr Harris’ impressive venue overlooks olive groves at the top of a 24-hectare block. It has a licence for 350 people and incorporates a brewery and cool room, a kitchen, a decked seating area and shaded outdoor barbecue area, and a large children’s playground.

The building’s main room is the venue’s centrepiece, with Mr Harris’ four personally brewed beers occupying a wall to themselves – there’s no bar to be seen, the beer is poured from taps straight from the brewing vats.

Old Coast Road Brewery looks as polished as one of Margaret River’s wealthier cellar doors but feels like the sort of place you could take your family for a day out, or your mates for a barbecue and a beer.

“You’ve got to sell what you’ve got,” Mr Harris says of his vision for the venue.

“We’ve got a 24ha block and a huge playground, and we want to see people getting out and enjoying the property with their family; dads kicking the footy with their kids, not just guzzling beer at a table.”

Mr Harris bought the land in 2005, having previously owned and operated four different pharmacies, the first two in Albany, and later in Australind and Melbourne. He says those experiences gave him the business experience he felt he needed to open the brewery.

“I had a rough idea I wanted to do something tourism wise, but I didn’t quite know what,” he says.

“I had always been an avid home brewer and around that same time I joined the WA Brewers’ Association, and started talking to people with experience in commercial brewing.

“I built a small home brewery with a capacity of about 50 litres, and spent the next few years experimenting with different styles and recipes.”

Unlike other microbreweries, Old Coast Road hasn’t made beer the prime focus, instead offering a fuller experience for families. Mr Harris also made marketing a top priority, hiring East Perth graphic designers Crea to develop a strong brand identity.

The brewery also commissioned an artist to design label series for each of the beers – classic English cars for the Harris Bitter Ale, vintage tractors for the wheat beer, and old sailing ships for the Porter Ale. When the beers eventually make their way to six-packs, the labels are intended to be collectables.

“To me, the effort you invest into your corporate identity is invaluable, as opposed to going it alone with signage you’ve put together yourself,” Mr Harris told Gusto. “Some people think it is dead money but it’s not, it’s crucial.”

Mr Harris is conscious the brewery could be a vanguard for tourism in the Harvey region.

“We’re a new little tourist region here. I don’t know if we’ll be another Margaret River, but we’ve got local produce, some wineries, and so on. And I think for any burgeoning region you need to support each other,” he says.

As well as retailing cheeses, olives, wines and other local products, and selling Simmo’s ice-cream from the front counter, there are plans for Old Coast Road Brewery to house Geographe Distillery, a separate business that will produce whisky and spirits using local produce.    

Mr Harris will soon begin bottling small quantities of his beers for sale on site but says wholesaling beer is not viable for most boutique outlets. He says the future of the brewery involves a larger emphasis on private functions, particularly from corporate clients from Bunbury, Mandurah and Perth. 

For the moment, Mr Harris is dealing with a larger-than-expected influx of customers.

“Initial signs are we will be viable; we are going to exceed budgeted sales and as long as we can keep costs down, I’ve got no doubt we can succeed,” he says.

Old Coast Road Brewery is open from 10am to 6pm during weekends and public holidays. For more information contact 1300 792 106.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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