A bakery franchise was a key ingredient in Mash Brewing’s business plan. Aimée Sargent reports
Since converting a run-down stock-feed shed in the Swan Valley into the brew house’s headquarters in 2006, Mr Cox has been focused on one thing – building an innovative franchise.
“When I lived in Europe I saw an opportunity to set up a network of pubs back in Perth, so I spent time working within the Brumby’s Bakery franchise to gain business knowledge and understand how they operated as a network,” Mr Cox told Gusto.
“The reason I added the brewery was that it was a niche market where we could sell our own products, rather than being branded with Foster’s or Lion Nathan.”
While no stranger to the product, Mr Cox knew his strengths – and brewing wasn’t one of them. He wanted to find a brewer who could get on board with his concept, so he spent time networking through the Western Australian Brewers Association. There he came across home brewer Dan Turley, who had recently completed a brewing qualification at Edith Cowan University and was working at Billabong Brewing in Myaree.
“I wanted someone who was young enough to grow with us and was willing to do things differently, and I knew Dan had the technical aptitude to do this.
“I believe employing someone with more experience would have been a downfall as they would have been too entrenched in the industry.”
Mr Turley is now Mash’s head brewer and works closely with the brew house’s other key appointment, executive head chef Melissa Palinka.
Mr Cox readily admits that while securing such high-quality people has been one of the biggest hurdles due to brewery’s location, it has allowed him to do what he does best – evolve the business.
“My intention was always to build up a number of people in core areas and [give them the freedom] to run their own department, which is what I think makes the business work,” Mr Cox explains.
“If you get involved in a business and think you can run every part of it, you will run into problems.”
Since 2007, several of Mash’s beers have been recognised each year at the Perth Royal Beer Show and the Australian International Beer Awards, held in Melbourne. Mr Cox believes the awards act as a gauge for how they are faring against other handcrafted breweries, as well as the larger players.
“Initially our products were ‘main line’ beers that were toned down for public consumption, but now we produce another range that we know are well suited to beer judges and enthusiasts that can be very hoppy and strong,” he says.
“We develop both ranges until we are happy with them, then we drop some and try something new, so we are constantly evolving, and I think that sets us apart from our competitors.”
A recent acquisition of a bottling line will also enable Mash to be bottled in-house, which will open up more markets and gain eligibility for the prestigious World Beer Cup held in the US.
“The handcrafted market is growing every year,” Mr Cox says. “In the five years since we’ve been established the market has changed phenomenally – the punters know what they want out of a beer, they know what different styles are now available.”
This growth has lead to a second venue in Bunbury that has been successfully operating for more than two years, and an upcoming opening in Rockingham. Mr Cox has franchise agreements in place and has retained a 50 per cent operating share for both businesses. He plans to do the same with upcoming developments in Karratha and Margaret River, the latter of which is intended to push the envelope in terms of brewery design and present a different concept to the public.
“The introduction of the small bar licensing in Perth has generated a different social scene and has opened up distribution opportunities for boutique products such as ours,” Mr Cox says.
“I think [our concept] fits in well with smaller locations which have a flair for the products – it creates a different vibe in the industry.”