Fans of Fox Friday Craft Brewery on both sides of Bass Strait will soon find it far easier to enjoy the brewery's beers with the Tasmanian-based operation set to open a production brewery in Hobart’s northern suburb of Moonah as well as a brewpub in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond.
It represents the latest stage in a rapid rise for the brewery since Benn and Sarah Hooper bought it from founders Wayne and Naomi Clarkson in 2019 and set about building a following based largely on their hazy beers.
Benn told The Crafty Pint they’d been looking to build capacity for some time and a desire to stick close to their roots in Moonah led them to seek a site there. Subsequently, after taking on a new business partner based in Melbourne, they signed a lease on a location close to Mountain Goat, Burnley Brewing, and one of the city’s first craft beer pubs, The Royston.
“We’re hoping to have [Moonah] up and firing by around October,” he says, “whereas Richmond will be a brewery and taproom, so we’re thinking that will be maybe a year from now.”
Aside from the fact you’ll be able to enjoy loaded fries at one but not the other, both breweries are set to be similar in scale and scope: each brewhouse will be 12 hectolitres in size; each will have its own canning line. The idea is to maintain some synergy between the two sites, and for both to be capable of brewing core range releases as well as those destined for other bars or bottleshops.
“We can do collabs or Tassie versus Melbourne or brewer versus brewer and have some fun with it,” Benn says. “I think having the same systems and being able to pump out the core range, whether it’s in Tassie or Melbourne, having the same systems really makes sense so we get consistency.”
The announcement of this significant expansion comes just a few months after the Fox Friday Tap Room opened in Hobart’s CBD. It features ten taps and a menu inspired by America’s south, where Benn worked in the mining and oil industry while honing his skills as a homebrewer. The original brewery is located in Hobart’s north where Benn still brews on the same small system he and Sarah bought two years ago. It means they regularly struggle to meet demand, especially since the taproom opened, although he’s managed to almost triple capacity since taking over.
Initially, their focus was solely on kegs, but they started canning in March last year just as the COVID shutdown was approaching. But, once they had their own taps to fill, they ceased canning and only started again with a new release last week.
“It’s always been quite challenging," he says of keeping their growing fanbase happy, "and then when we opened the taproom it became even more challenging again because all my product would just go there.
“We moved everything to tins until September when we had our final can release, then everything from October stayed in kegs for our opening in November.”
Since opening, the venue has been warmly received by locals and Tassie’s tight-knit beer community, but it’s also meant Fox Friday beers have largely disappeared from other locations.
“It has been hard to keep promoting and marketing our brand because it is just in the one place,” Benn says. “You can get a bit caught in your own bubble.”
Once the production brewery opens later this year, followed by Richmond in 2022, Benn says the intention isn't just to get more beer into venues and bottleshops but also to enjoy greater flexibility with the styles they can brew, with a barrel program part of future plans. As for hazy IPAs and the other big beers Benn and Sarah have built a reputation around: those aren’t going anywhere.
Benn says he'll be travelling between the two breweries for some time, with his frequent flyer points potentially set to resemble those amassed during his time in the energy industry.
“We’ll be building the team but a lot of coffee is going to be consumed which Melbourne will help with," he says, before remembering he's got two hometown crowds to keep happy now. "Though the coffee down here is pretty good too.”