It's a business model many in the beer world often put forward as a recipe for success: open in a busy spot, connect with your local community by brewing beers they like and create a space in which they'll want to drink them. Sell most of your beer through your own taps and you don't have to worry as much about invoice terms or chasing either payments or kegs either.
For close to two years, it was a business model that worked for Bay Rd Brewing, which, despite the name, is located at Donnison Street, Gosford. The location is a short stroll from the city's Central Coast Stadium, making the brewery a perfect spot for a local beer pre- or post-game, and a hub for any locals keen to drink in the shadow of the beer tanks.
But, with COVID-19 closing venues across the country, it was a direction they had to move from quickly.
“We completely changed the direction of the business when it all hit," brewery director Grant Buckham (pictured below) says. "It was very heavily focused on building the community in Gosford and growing that Central Coast space of people coming into the brewery.
“That was a huge eye-opener for myself: as soon as everything came to a screeching halt [where] no one could come into a venue. It did put a big question mark over the direction we were going to take.”
Unsurprisingly, that change meant a new focus on getting more Bay Rd beers into cans and looking beyond their venue and local community.
“I wanted to make sure people were coming in first and foremost before targeting the countryside,” Grant says.
Though the brewery is back open, he says they'll be sticking with a far busier roster of releases, with monthly limited releases being a regular feature, including those like the White Russian Stout and Dark Cherry Wheat that are a little more experimental than Bay Rd's regular range.
"We’re swinging for the fences and really going to step it up,” Grant says. “Our core range beers have always been about easy-drinking coastal beers and that model worked really well when things were running as [they were].”
Behind those beers for the last year and helping steer that new direction is head brewer Simon Maxwell, who we asked to join us for our Who Brews...? series.
Bay Rd Brewing - Simon Maxwell
Who are you?
Simon Maxwell, head brewer at Bay Rd. Prior to starting at Bay Rd, I was brewing at Willie the Boatman in Sydney’s inner west. And, prior to that, I built powerlines on the railways.
Why do you brew?
Obsession. I love beer, and I think being a brewer is the perfect mix of grunt work and brain work.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Drinking Coopers Red and Coopers Green as a teenager (when I was over 18 of course). In a world full of bland Aussie lagers, it really opened me up to what beer could be. I am still nostalgic whenever I crack open a Coopers.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
Three enthusiast friends were having a beer at Berowra Waters Marina with the idea of building a brewery near that very location. The road leading down to the water was call Bay Rd.
For lack of a better name at the time, the brewery was known between the three mates as Bay Rd Brewing, with the intent to change the name once a final location was found. Realising the name Bay Rd didn’t have ties to just one location it became the perfect name for a brewery and therefore stayed.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
I’d say our delicious Red Ale. Solid, not too flashy, never flavour of the month and happy to go unnoticed.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Our new Coconut IPA, White Russian Stout, Dark Cherry Wheat and Staves Brewery's Pale Ale.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
I'm probably biased, but what the guys at Willie the Boatman are doing right now has been spot on. Particularly their fruited sours!
Where can people find your beers?
Our beers can be found online or at a number of independent bottleshops from Newcastle to Sydney.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
Still making great beer!
Bay Rd are located at 89 Donnison Street, Gosford and you can keep up with them through their Facebook and Instagram. You can find them 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.