Marrickville's Sauce Brewing today announced they are to open a brewpub in Cairns. The new venture has been made possible through a partnership with "craft accelerator" Founders First, for whom Sauce becomes a third brewing partner following their investment in Jetty Road on the Mornington Peninsula and Newcastle's FogHorn Brewery.
The move will be a further boost to the beer scene in Far North Queensland, which has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. Hemingway's now operate two breweries – their main one a vast venue on Cairns Wharf, plus their original brewpub in Port Douglas - and picked up a trophy at this year's Australian International Beer Awards, while there's a growing number of other small breweries around Cairns.
Sauce founder Mike Clarke told The Crafty Pint he'd had Sauce brewpubs in mind for some time, yet said the opportunity in Cairns arose unexpectedly.
"We stumbled across this place that was ready made for a brewpub, so we thought, 'Fuck it. Let's start in Cairns," he says.
The site in Lake Street, in the CBD, was previously home to Blue Sky Brewery, which closed in July 2014, and had sat mostly empty since, with the brewhouse sectioned off by Coral Sea Brewery, a wholesale operation. Sauce are taking over the rest of the building, plus a couple of other adjoining tenancies, and will install a ten hectolitre brewery plus ten and twenty hec tanks.
Beer on offer at the 400-capacity venue will be a mix of Sauce beers available elsewhere and new recipes brewed on-site for the venue.
Of Cairns, Mike says: "There's a lot of people, there's a lot of demand, and there's a couple of successful breweries already." What's more, he says he loves the heat so now has an excuse to leave Sydney in the colder months.
"It's a good way to expand the brand and get out into more locations," he added of the move into brewpubs. "Get more people experiencing Sauce up close and personal."
The partnership with Founders First sees the investment group take a 50 percent stake in the business and follows discussions going back several months.
Today's announcement (which you can read in full below) states that both Cairns and any future brewpubs will focus primarily on the venue and hospitality experience, with the Marrickville venue remaining the key production facility.
The aim is to open around May 2020 and operate seven days a week, with "a full bar including wine & beer-themed cocktails", plus "a unique and ever-evolving lunch and dinner menu featuring beer & food pairings, local ingredients and a tropical flair."
"It's a bit of a mad dash, but it's doable," Mike says, with Sauce to oversee the brewing side of the operation and Founders First the venue. The latter will be helped in no small part by their recent signing, Ash Cranston, whose career in beer includes running venues, senior roles at Little Creatures, and helping get the impressive Felons Brewing up and running on the banks of the Brisbane River.
It's the next major step in what's been a rapid growth curve for Sauce. They launched as a gypsy operation in 2016 as they built their brewery home in Marrickville. Since moving in, they have become best known for hazy IPAs like Bubble & Squeak and the recent Citrus Haze collab with Barcelona's Garage Beer Co, and picked up an Indies trophy for their Piss Weak Sauce mid-strength last month too, the same beer that topped our mid-strength blind tasting late last year.
As for future Sauce brewpubs elsewhere, Mike says he has been weighing up other options, but adds: "I've got enough to do for the next six months."
We are delighted to announce that we have this week signed a joint venture agreement with craft beer accelerator Founders First, to build and operate a Sauce brewpub in Cairns, in Queensland’s far north.
Sauce founder Mike Clarke said today “I’ve had additional Sauce venues on my radar for a while now. It’s a really exciting way to build our presence beyond Marrickville. With this new venture we’ll be bringing the Sauce taproom experience from Marrickville to Cairns - giving customers in Queensland’s north a taste of Inner West Sydney’s craft beer scene, with super-fresh locally brewed beer.
“The team at Founders First bring significant resources and experience in operating world-class venues, some welcome funding, and most importantly they’re just a great bunch of people who’ve been a pleasure to work with.”
While Sauce Marrickville is first and foremost a production facility, with the taproom being ancillary, Cairns and any future brewpubs will focus primarily on the venue and hospitality experience. A smaller on-site brewhouse will brew the regular Sauce range plus an ever-changing menu of special batches unique to each location.
In addition to the JV in Cairns, the Sauce sales team will join forces with the Founders First operated “Sales Collective”. The purpose of the Sales Collective is to combine the sales resources of several independent breweries, including Foghorn, Jetty Road and Sauce, with more expected to join soon.
The benefits of this arrangement to the breweries are expanded reach, economies of scale, and a top-notch sales management team who can better support and nurture our people. The benefit to our trade customers is that they will now see a single sales rep with access to multiple independent brands, which is a huge time saver for retailers and publicans who are being bombarded by dozens of reps a day, each pushing a single product.
“It was really important to me that my guys are well looked after in this arrangement” said Clarke. “They’ve now had the opportunity to spend some time with the Sales Collective team and their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, so it’s clear we’ve found a good fit.”
The Cairns brewpub, located on Lake Street in the CBD, is targeted to open mid-2020 and will operate 7 days a week, with a full bar including wine & beer-themed cocktails. It will also feature a unique and ever-evolving lunch and dinner menu featuring beer & food pairings, local ingredients and a tropical flair.