From the moment the doors first opened in late 2015, Collingwood’s multi-faceted The Craft & Co was pouring a couple of its own beers through the taps of the converted warehouse that also houses an eatery, deli, distillery, bottleshop and function space. Initially, the beers were brewed with beer industry mates, but the commissioning of the in-house brewery a few months later has allowed The Craft & Co range to evolve and production to expand, as well as opening up opportunities to collaborate with more brewers.
The man responsible for overseeing much of the development on the brewing side of the business alongside Kiwi brewer Greg Mace of FB*Propak is Heath McVeigh, a head brewer who has allowed his journey in beer to inform the direction of the brewery.
Back in 2008, Heath left Australia to study and teach in South Korea – a country with only the earliest stirrings of a craft beer industry. Most of South Korea’s growth in craft beer was pushed by expats – typically those hailing from America – who wanted access to the kind of beers they had left behind. Heath fell in with that crowd and took a job as a craft beer consultant for venues while also running education classes on beer and homebrewing.
On returning to Australia, it was those aspects of beer that made working at The Craft & Co so appealing. Due to the operation’s unique setup – embracing production, hospitality and education under the one roof – he could run similar classes to those he’d run in South Korea but with a larger brewhouse and the ability to run classes in English.
That he was brewing beers for a novice beer audience while overseas helped too as The Craft & Co’s broad audience requires beers with a suitably broad appeal. They’re all brewed with malts from Finland’s Viking Malt – another decision driven by Heath’s time in South Korea, where a strict import system meant only one variety of malt was ever available for brewers – thus giving his beers a point of difference in an increasingly busy marketplace.
While The Craft & Co’s core range sits well and truly in the accessible category, by contrast its special releases focus on experimentation (they have an amphora beer in their core range) and collaborations, often featuring other producers found under the same roof: the in house coffee roaster or onsite distillery. They've also welcomed other brewers, with the brewery regularly used by local gypsy operations – some of whose beers you'll find pouring through the in-house taps.
Since the start of 2017, production of The Craft & Co beer has grown considerably, rising from around 1,000 litres every few months to 1,000 litres every week. It’s a volume that remains the smaller end of the microbrewery scale but means you’ll find Heath’s beers pouring at other Melbourne venues.
As for the future, access to The Craft & Co Farm will provide further opportunity for the brewery to become a larger producer. Located in Bangholme, in Melbourne’s outer South East, the farm grows hops alongside grapes and vegetables for the restaurant, meaning you can look out for wet-hopped beers each time harvest season rolls around.