Whether your first encounter with Jetty Road is walking into their highly impressive brewery venue in Dromana or picking up a pack of their beers, complete with its sleek and polished branding, you might well conclude Jetty Road arrived in the world fully formed, the result of calculated planning and deep pockets. Spend some time in the company of the founders and it doesn't take long to realise the reality is rather different – and that their story is, in many ways, that of the classic craft beer startup.
Head back in time, back beyond the days when they rocked up to the Ballarat and Bendigo beer festivals with just one beer and no brewery to call their own, and you'll find a pair of mates on the Mornington Peninsula with a passion for good beer and a talent for brewing it.
Indeed, the story of Grant Rodgers and Blake Bowden goes back way beyond that too. The pair were born within a week of each other and grew up together, although it was only after they headed off on separate adventures overseas that the idea for their own brewery was sparked.
While Blake had started learning to brew at just 15 – under the guidance of his boss at a cabinet makers – for Grant it was on a trip to Europe aged 21 that his taste was sparked. After experiencing beers, breweries and hospitality in France, Spain and the UK, he wrote the first business plan for what would become Jetty Road while in Malaga.
Later, once he was back in Australia and Blake had returned from a period living in London, they began homebrewing together – "getting a lot of exploding bottles and all that stuff," Grant recalls – and planning in earnest.
It took no less than six years from that first business plan to their first beer, but it was a period that allowed Blake to lay down and hone his recipes. Along the way, his homebrewing boss and now partner in Jetty Road, Simon Weir, was invited to help fit out Mornington Peninsula Brewery's venue, which in turn led to Blake lending a hand and gaining an insight into commercial brewing. As such, when they brewed their first batch of Pale (at Mornington, of course) it proved an instant hit. And so the Jetty Road journey began to gather pace.
A year on from selling their first kegs in October 2016, they packaged their first run of cans at KAIJU! before, in December 2017, they opened their Dromana venue; their 25 hectolitre Premier Stainless Systems brewery (and 300 litre pilot kit) was fired up the following September. By this stage, their vision and the quality of their beers had caught the eyes of the team at Founders First, the "craft accelerator" looking to invest in independent craft breweries and distilleries in Australia, and became their first investment partner.
Since getting his twin breweries up and running, Blake has rapidly expanded the lineup. There's a core range of typically hop forward beers ranging from a Bavarian-inspired lager to a punchy-yet-approachable IPA plus a colourful array of seasonals, often fruited, that have started appearing in limited can runs too.
As for the venue, it has a capacity of 220 yet regularly has to turn people away – just as well they're part of a growing hub of small producers on an estate that's also home to the gluten free TWØBAYS brewery, Bass & Flinders Distillery, and a coffee roaster among others. It's a warm and welcoming warehouse that serves up a rotating lineup of their beers plus the odd guest tap (often Bonza Brewing – the label conceived by Blake's brewery offsider Mick) and is centred around a bar built with reclaimed timber from Hastings Pier and a giant mural painted by local artists Snakehole, who Blake and Grant know from high school.
There's a full commercial kitchen staffed by six chefs who turn out a family-friendly menu focusing on local produce, plus a kids play area and a courtyard lining the wall where the brewery is housed. It's become something of a community hub too, hosting everything from yoga to a wake.
The family and friends vibe continues throughout the business. Grant's partner – a textile designer by trade – is their brand manager, while the duo were joined by family friend Nick O'Brien (who brought hospo experience), his mate Jonathan Pritchard, Blake's old boss Simon and his apprentice Shayne Bland as partners in the business.
Roll on to 2020 and, at time of writing, you can find Jetty Road's beers far from their Dromana home, both in independents and the country's larger retailers. As a member of the Founders First group of companies that includes the likes of FogHorn, Sauce, Sparkke, Slipstream and Ballistic, they're also part of the Indie Craft Collective sales force. And they're set to open a brewpub in South Melbourne too.
All in all, while it might have taken them six years to turn their business plan into that first batch of Pale Ale, it's clear they've wasted no time since.
Which just leaves us with the name. Given their brewery and venue is in Brasser Avenue, why Jetty Road?
It all dates back to their early homebrewing roots, back when Blake was shown the ropes by Simon. At the time they went by the name Jetty Rd Brewers and, given where that hobby has led them in the decade and more since, why look for another one?