UPDATE: Sadly, Westside Massive closed in April 2017 due to issues with the tenancy.
It's not often that a brewery outgrows its name, but that’s the case with Big Shed Brewing Concern – it turns out their big shed just isn’t big enough. After a successful 2016, founders Jason Harris and Craig Basford realised they needed more space in which to showcase their wares and look after their fans so launched a new venue.
At pretty much the same time, the first brewing guests the pair welcomed at their Royal Park brewery in 2014 have moved out in readiness to launch their own brewery and venue. Mismatch Brewing, in conjunction with Hills Cider and Adelaide Hills Distillery, are to set up shop in the Adelaide Hills.
This one-two punch could well be a sign of what’s to come as breweries look to increase their ability to sell direct to customers and gypsy/contract breweries seek out a home to call their own.
As for Big Shed’s new venue, it goes by the typically humorous moniker Westside Massive and is found on the main street in Semaphore, just 300m from fellow craft beer bar Sweet Amber Brew Café, a business that's heading in the other direction, having started to brew its own beers late last year.
“We had space limitations at the brewery,” says Jason. “Royal Park is our production facility and at Westside Massive we can showcase our products as well as other small batch breweries.”
He adds: “Obviously, this [Westside Massive] is a big experiment for us. We are in Adelaide and we have decided to set up our own bar away from the security of the brewery.
"So far, so good. I am pretty stoked with the public’s and Big Shed’s faithfuls support on this one, it is really what our business depends on.”
The venue itself is described by Jason as “a crafty dive bar with a little bit of polish.” Big Shed label artwork is found throughout the venue: along the front in the form of plastic banners; on large posters on the walls; and, of course, on many of the decals on their 12 tap system. The top row is dedicated to Big Shed’s regulars and one-off creations, while those below showcase some of Jason and Craig’s friends. Above the taps sits a wide screen TV displaying the beers, powered by Untappd.
There's fun aplenty to be had at Westside Massive too, with a large array of board games and two pinball machines. A pair of takeaway fridges ensure drinkers can take some quality liquor home and, if you’re after food to soak up the booze, there’s the tried and tested formula of burgers and pizza.
As for the name, according to Jason: “Some of our punters refer to themselves as the ‘Massive’, so [we thought we'd] name a venue after them. They are what’s got us to this point, so we are pretty appreciative that they have supported us.”
On New Year’s Day, we ran an article on The Crafty Pint called Through the Looking Glass that looked at where the industry could be heading and addressed some potential challenges faced by craft brewers today. We wrote that the accepted wisdom is that brewpubs and well resourced, large scale production breweries are best set to succeed in the current Australian market and asked “so what does that mean if you're something else: a gypsy or contract brewing business, or a small or mid-sized production only facility without a retail outlet?”
Says Jason: “With a venue, you are always guaranteed tap points, regardless of what’s going on with tap rotations around different venues.
“Our distributor can always bring people [to Westside Massive] to showcase our stuff, be that a potential customer or potential venue. The rest of the taps are just a lot of fun.”
He also thinks all breweries should attempt to have some sort of tasting room at their brewery – to assist with cash flow as well as acting as a shop front and a means to deal with customers in person.
As for gypsies looking to have a bar of their own, he says: “Hendo [BrewCult] has just done it in Victoria, he is probably going to be the model for that. To go and invest in a bar before investing in a brewery, I don’t think it is a stupid move.”
While he enjoys welcoming customers to the new venue, the end of 2016 saw him and Craig bid farewell to their first contract customers, Mismatch. The team behind the brewing company is now waiting for the completion of their own brewery in Nairne, Adelaide Hills, with Hawkers in Melbourne brewing the majority of their beers in the meantime.
Mismatch will be housed alongside Hills Cider and Adelaide Hills Distillery on farm style acreage with brewery, distillery and a tasting room style cellar door for all three companies based at the one venue. The venue will also contain function areas, an eatery and a chef’s garden in which they will grow their own hops and produce. It is set for a Spring 2017 opening.
Asked what he felt about the potential benefits of brewing companies having a venue of their own, Marc Huber, one of Mismatch’s founders, says: “Definitely it is beneficial. At least it is a place that we are sure to have everything of ours pouring, so everyone gets to try a bit of everything.”
That said, the Adelaide Hills base "will not so much be about selling a lot of volume for us as much as it is getting a lot of people tasting.
“We've already got pubs to sell our booze for us. It is more about growing the Adelaide Hills and showcasing our products than anything,” he adds.
“Moving forward I think it is probably important to have a home. The relationship we had with Big Shed was a little bit different than regular contract brewing. We were sort of the mates that moved in.
“When you have your own place you can play around with different styles, do some test batches which will allow you to be a little more responsive to the market. I think if you can’t be responsive to the market because it is changing so much, then you will get lost.”
It doesn’t seem that long since The Crafty Pint first visited the Big Shed (probably because it wasn’t). Ewan Brewerton was checking progress on one of Mismatch’s first batches and Jason and Craig seemed to be wondering just exactly what the hell they’d got themselves into. Yet, the start of 2017 promises to be an exciting time for both businesses, who started out together under the one roof and who are now venturing on to bigger things.
For Big Shed, Westside Massive already feels like a temple in which their loyal fans can come and pay homage, while Mismatch can look forward eagerly to an end to their wandering days.
You can drop Matt King a line if you've got something going on in beer in SA that we should know about. And you can check out his SA craft beer focused site too.