Given it was founded by Dave and Bev McKee, their children Chad and Selena and their respective partners Maria and Dale, King Road Brewing Co was always going to be a family-friendly venue. Many set out with aspirations to create such a place, however the sheer scale of the brewery, the venue and its amenities ensures it really does deliver on the promise. To give you an idea, they’re building an entire playing field next door where older kids can play soccer!
Yet it wasn’t always this way. An easy 45-minute drive south of Perth, King Road has mushroomed – year on year since 2017 – from scrubby hobby farmlands east of the Kwinana Freeway. Originally, the McKees bought 90 acres of land in the early 2000s as an investment, but while playing around with apples the idea for something rather grander was birthed.
“This all came about because I started making cider for a hobby, for my own personal use,” Dave says. “And then the kids said, ‘We should be selling this, it’s pretty good.’.”
And it is, but more on that later.
After submitting plans for a cidery a decade ago, the couple realised a broader vision would help the project move forward. In simple terms, Bev notes that the council, “didn’t know what we were talking about”.
So, over the next few years, the idea of King Road Brewing Co was developed and, after regulatory permissions were granted, they spent, “four years building it, on the weekends and after work. We lived in the shed for four years, which is a bar now.”
A motor mechanic by trade, Dave managed much of the build himself using reclaimed materials, with help from his electrician son, fitter son-in-law and bricklaying best mate – a tidy team if ever there was for this kind of start-up. But, like many, the lead up to launch day was the easy part.
“From the day we opened, we were locking people out,” Bev says. “It was the Labour Day long weekend, and they were queueing down King Road because we only had a 200-person capacity originally. We sold out of everything.
“The whole thing has been a learning curve and we’ve been supported by the public since then.”
Early Facebook posts are a collection of thanks and apologies; a polite yet overwhelmed mitigation for the swell of enthusiasm for the new brewery, one which was – and still is – seemingly not around the corner from anyone but somewhere everyone locally wants to be.
To accommodate this growth, expansions have included the old hay shed, which has been transformed into a standalone venue, itself the size of many inner-city brewpubs. The vaulted space hosts regular live music gigs and weddings and opens on to the large brewery lawn. They’ve also added an additional brewery bar, more picnic tables and turf, an expanded children’s playground, and another kitchen with a 15 pizzas-at-a-time oven.
And there’s more. At time of writing, they were looking at introducing a canning line and expanding distribution while increasing the venue capacity to between 750 to 900 people.
It’s not only the King Road team with ambitious growth plans either: infrastructure around the brewery includes the extension of Tonkin Highway, the new West Mundijong industrial area and a near 900 percent forecasted increase in population over the next 15 years; nearby Baldivis was recently named Australia’s fastest growing suburb. It’s clear this semi-rural pocket of Perth’s southern corridor will soon be looking for much in the way of beery refreshment and family fun.
Onsite production commenced in Spring 2019 on a 15 hL Tiantai kit. Led by head brewer Steve Wearing, whose resume includes time with Nail, Homestead and Blasta, King Road’s core range quartet is currently supported by two seasonals, a classic Wheat and the Pacific-style Session Ale.
However, creativity is found among the approachable offerings, as a Choc Milk Stout featuring cacao nibs, vanilla and lactose proves – a Milo-like expression that hints at future innovation. Among the limited releases have been beers such as a tropical IPA featuring experimental hop NZH-107, and there’s plenty more of that ilk planned.
Now, about that cider. After 20 years of chauffeuring disabled clients to and fro in a medium-sized white bus, it was time for a hobby, and for Dave that was cider. Freshly pressed and lovingly brewed, King Road’s Lord of the Fermented Apple began simply. However, thanks to a chance meeting, he began trading bales of hay from the property with orchardists in the Perth hills, a partnership that continues to this day. As Steve says: “Dave is still in charge of cider.”
Clearly, there’s plenty happening as King Road continues to grow organically. Dave’s beloved cider is still hand-pressed on site, new beers are flowing with greater regularity than ever, and the McKee family business has been welcoming more new families each week, literally hundreds of them (COVID permitting). All in all, not a bad outcome for a hobby.