Project Brewing opened their doors in Melbourne's outer eastern suburbs midway through 2019 but their origins are forever interwoven with another brewery's launch in 2016.
It was while stopping into Healesville that Braden and Caitlin Beggs found themselves at the doorstop of a freshly-opened Watts River Brewing. Braden had been homebrewing for well over a decade by then and had often chatted to Caitlin about his vision for a brewery.
"We just happened to walk in there the first day they were open, we had no idea they were there," Braden says. "We walked in and I said to Caitlin, 'This is what I had in mind.'."
Fortunately, although perhaps not surprisingly considering the way much of the beer industry operates, the two couples behind Watts River – Aaron Malmborg, Emily Sheppard and Ben and Hanna Hamilton – were only too keen to offer advice and invited Braden to brew with them.
"It just so happened they were super helpful too, they were really good with their time," Braden says. "I have kind of attached myself to them ever since; I still go and brew beer there every now and again."
After learning what they could at Watts River, in June 2019 Braden and Caitlin opened Project Brewing in an industrial pocket in Rowville, a suburb on Melbourne's fringe not exactly known for its wide selection of watering holes.
The brewery has been a welcome addition to the neighbourhood, particularly appreciated by parents looking for a local spot in which to spend their weekends.
"We get great feedback every weekend from people saying that it's about time they have something in the area," Braden says. "People say it's just awesome that there's somewhere they can walk or cycle to with their kids and have a beer."
The brewing team is also particularly happy with one of their neighbours too: Tiny Bear Distillery is about a three minute drive away and already makes a gin with Braden and Caitlin.
"We take a bunch of hops around there every so often and make up a batch of gin," Braden says. "We call it our house gin but it's not a sedate gin by any chance, it's very fruity and citrusy because we put Mosaic in it."
To find out more about the brewery, we asked Braden and Caitlin to join us as part of our regular Who Brews...? series.
Who are you?
We are a husband and wife team who opened the brewery we wished we lived close to! The brewery is more of a project we wanted to "have a go at" than a solid financial decision so we both work full-time outside of the brewery to support our family of five children.
Braden spends his days as a process/mechanical engineer and Caitlin is a midwife and secondary school teacher.
Our brewery is child-friendly and our own kids regularly feature on the weekends as they like to help out when they can.
Where do you brew?
Our brewery and taproom is located in Rowville at 3/12 Laser Drive. We are in the middle of an industrial estate but regularly have people walk and ride from the neighbouring residential estates on the weekends.
We love experimenting with beer and regularly brew small 100 to 300 litre trial batches as well as up to 1,000 litre production batches in-house.
Visitors to the brewery can generally see and smell what’s happening on the production side as we want the process to be visible so people can ask questions and understand what goes into making their beers.
Why do you brew?
Good question... There are lots of reasons really:
- Being an engineer, Braden is very DIY and spent a lot of time designing and building different breweries as a hobby.
- Brewing was a way to better understand the process, make improvements and learn new things.
- We get a kick out of others enjoying a product we hand build from simple ingredients.
- We are fascinated by the brewing process and the infinite number of variables we have to play with when experimenting with different beers.
- We love the people in the brewing industry and the collaborative nature of it. We had a great deal of help and advice from many existing breweries.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Becoming a brewer started at home back in 2002 when we wanted to learn how beer was made. The path to becoming a brewery owner was really born from a hobby that spiraled out of control and a desire to start a business in an industry that we were passionate about.
If there was a turning point, it was when we walked into Watts River Brewing the day they opened and saw for the first time a brewery that we resonated with, a brewery in an industrial setting where people could see the beer being made, and you could talk to the brewers who were passionate about their product.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
The brewery is a project in every sense of the word! It started out as one and it continues to be with endless scope to upgrade and improve processes.
At home Braden would always have ten different projects on the go at any given time, now we have one big project with scope for many smaller ones within!
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Has to be the IPA. It’s the beer style that got us hooked on craft beer and brewing, and it’s also the beer we experiment with and learn from the most.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
More than likely it will be some 80s rock pumping on the stereo. But there’s also a chance some tunes from the 60s and 70s will sneak in, or a bit of metal and even punk rock.
Braden’s music playlist is best described as random with a high chance of 80s rock; almost anything goes as long as it wasn’t produced in the last ten years!
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Jeepers, might have to skip some to save paper. Our beer consumption has dropped right off in recent years so beers do have a tendency to accumulate before catching up with mates and having tasting sessions. Generally the fridge is full of hoppy beers for Braden and Vienna lager for Caitlin.
Increasingly, however, we are liking lower ABV options which has seen sours start to show up as a session option instead of just being palate cleansers between big IPAs.
At the moment in the fridge is:
- About ten different Bridge Road beers including B2, Fat Man, Bling Bling and lots of other randoms. Love Bridge Road beers, our original inspiration!
- Watts River Brewing IPA, Stout, Brett Pale, Belgian single and double – their Quad is usually there but can’t seem to hold onto them long enough,
- Modus Former Tenant.
- Hop Nation The Buzz
- Various KAIJU!
- Blackman's Angry Reg
- Salt Brewing Cranky Mrs
- Forrest Brewing Flanders Cherry Sour
- Project Brewing Vienna Lager
The list goes on...
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
Watts River Bluetongue Sour. It’s the first sour we have genuinely enjoyed and gone back for more. Also the inspiration for kicking off our own sour beer experiments.
Where can people find you beers?
At the moment mainly in our own taproom in Rowville. We try to have our four core beers as well as a minimum four one-off trial batches available at any time. We do bottle the Pale Ale and Lager, which can be found in a few local restaurants, but our other beers are all keg only until we decide on a canning line. We are getting the odd keg out into some local sporting clubs when we can; however our small capacity and time constraints limit this currently.
We're looking into contract canning and eventually the purchase of our own canning line that will help us get a wider
range of our beers out and about hopefully later this year.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
We like the idea of a bigger brewery with more space for tanks, barrels, kids area and so on. We love what Stomping Ground have done in Collingwood and see this as our ideal brewery.
Our current brewery was built with all the time and funds that we had available at the time but perhaps one day we will have more of both to build something bigger.
Drop into Project Brewing by heading to 3/12 Laser Drive, Rowville. The brewery is open Thursday to Sunday.
You can find it and hundreds of other good beer spots across Australia by downloading the free Crafty Pint app.
Other entries in the Who Brews...? series can be found here.