After close to a decade of bringing local beer to its part of the scenic Otway Ranges, Forrest Brewing has big plans for its small town.
By the year’s end, the brewery’s founders, siblings Sharon and Matt Bradshaw, hope to have secured funding to start building a new home in Forrest’s historic timber mill. The brewery will not only be significantly larger than the current one – between 25 and 35 hectolitres as opposed to the current 600 litre system – but will also include a restaurant, conference centre and eco-style accommodation for more than 120 guests.
While this might sound like rapid expansion for a brewery that first opened its doors in the town’s general store in 2010, it’s a plan that’s been long in the making. Sharon and Matt bought the town’s timber mill four years ago believing it would provide the perfect place to help them in their long-time mission to put Forrest on the map.
“We’ve been developing our business and our beer brand with the intention of giving people a reason to get off the Great Ocean Road,” Sharon says. “The environment up here is incredible and quite a contrast to a coastal experience.”
It was Forrest’s potential to attract tourists and the jobs that will come with the expansion that helped the brewery secure a Regional Tourism and Infrastructure Fund grant from the Victorian state government in April last year. The $1.49 million grant is similar to one given to Holgate Brewhouse last year, intended to boost regional economies through tourism projects.
In a town of around 180 people, with 15 employees across full-time, casual and seasonal positions, Forrest Brewing is arguably already a major employer. There will be 24 full-time jobs connected to the expansion, while the wider Great Ocean Road region attracts an estimated five million tourists a year.
“The whole success of our funding application was around the motivation to pull people off the road and bring them here to have the rainforest exploration,” Sharon says.
The new brewery should be finished in 2020 or 2021, with the intention to start work in March next year, and to help grow Forrest into the future the Bradshaws are looking to take on new investors. They plan to raise $8 million by selling 40 percent of the company and, though they are casting a wide net for their new partners, they're already speaking to people with local connections.
“The main interest is coming from people connected to the south west,” Sharon says. “It’s often true where people born in a country area want to leave a legacy for their country town.”
You can take a look at the prospectus and check out the full details of the Forrest Brewing Company Expansion Project by heading here.