When Gab and Chris Moore set out on their brewing odyssey, they toured the US with their young family, visiting some of their favourite American breweries. This included the likes of Jester King, Fonta Flora, and Scratch, with the ultimate goal being the establishment of a farmhouse style brewery of their own in Australia.
Well, today that dream took a $2.35m step forward as the couple went public with plans for Dunetown, a brewery destination and hospitality hub on the Cape Conran coastal route, across the road from Gab's family farm in East Gippsland.
The Moores (pictured above with two of their three kids) have secured a grant from the Victorian and Federal Government's Local Economic Recovery program in support of bushfire-affected areas of Victoria – bushfires that came within 4km of their home and brewery – and will be using it to fund their new brewery and expansion, creating a place driven by "sustainability [and] connection to community and place".
The project is set to cost more than double the grant funding, with the aim being to break ground before the end of 2021 and open Dunetown in early 2023.
"We're not just doing this for ourselves but for the region," Gab told The Crafty Pint. "But also because we want our children to grow up in a thriving environment where there are things to do and there are reasons to stay.
"Up until now, there's nothing holding people here. There needs to be more to this area than timber and farming.
"My thing has always been about trying to change the idea of this being the end of the line; we can't continue to keep seeing ourselves as that place. We've got to start thinking about ourselves differently as no one is going to do that for us.
"It's about being proud of what we have."
As well as offering a unique beer, food and tourism experience, the plans for Dunetown incorporate circular economy includes elements such as biomass waste reuse, water treatment and reuse, heat capture and reuse, with the potential for a local energy micro-grid to feed back into local supply.
It will feature what Chris likes to call a “bloody big shed", which will house an upgraded brewing facility and a pilot social enterprise malting plant, where locally grown grain will be processed to service the Victorian brewing and food sector, along with a corn whisky distillery and a number of other agribusiness economic development opportunities. Surrounding this will be a Beer Hall and a "Drunken Botanical Garden" for hosting events.
It will give Sailors Grave a hospitality arm to their business for the first time, with Gab admitting they'd "done things the opposite way around" to many new breweries: launching as a wholesale operation and only launching an online store during the first COVID lockdown.
"It's been that missing link up until now, the retail / hospitality side," she says. "We need to add that for our growth."
In a statement on social media, the Moores acknowledged the challenges of recent years – not just the bushfires and COVID – but the sunsetting of the timber industry and a prolonged drought, writing: "These events have only made us more determined to be agents of change for our region."
The decision to build on the greenfield site adjacent to the proposed Marlo to Conran shared pathway and upgraded services link is one designed to attract domestic and international visitors to the region. Furthermore, with a larger and upgraded brewery, they hope to increase the export of Sailors Grave beers and created greater opportunities for local employment.
"Up until now, this area has been a real self-directed tourism experience," Gab says. "You have a boat, or you're fishing, or hunting, or camping. We need to start giving people more reasons to stay."
As for the name Dunetown, in part it comes from the fact the brewery will be built on tertiary dunes, but also it's simply a name that stuck.
"One of our mentors said that she hated it, because it reminds her of Mad Max," Gab says. "But I said that was exactly what I was going for!"
She says the butter factory in Orbost has been a great place for them to launch their business; they initially looked at starting on the Dunetown site but couldn't fund a project of that scale at the time. What's more, with locals buying their beers in greater volume as the business has grown, they're looking at the best way to utilise their current home once Dunetown launches, with possibilities including creating a cellar door experience there.
When they move in to their new digs on the coast, fans of their unique beers will be able to look forward to a raft of new creations as well as "exploration of fermentation outside beer" and, ideally, the "coalescing of many small businesses" around the brewery within its circular economy.
When we first wrote about Sailors Grave in 2016, Chris said: “We would love to be the grit in the oyster [of Orbost] where shit builds around us. We would love to involve people in as many ways as we can. We want to grow, and employ people and we always want things to collaborate on.”
Less than five years on, not only have they been delivering on that intention but they can now look forward to taking such collaborations further and deeper.
"We looked at our business plan from before we started," says Gab, "and it's exactly what we planned. It's finally happening."
Looking ahead, she says: "It's really overwhelming, actually, but we've hired a really good project manager so we can continue to focus on our business. But it's also really exciting.
"I really just want to see the dream realised. We're so lucky to get the grant – that they've backed us – because we wouldn't have been able to do this otherwise."