After close to two decades, Feral's iconic Swan Valley brewpub is set to close in five weeks in a further reflection of changing times. The trailblazing brewing company, which was acquired by Coca-Cola Amatil in 2017, will move its pilot brewery to Bassendean, with last drinks at the bar on October 3.
Under the helm of co-founder Brendan Varis and protégé brewer Will Irving, the Swan Valley brewpub birthed a remarkable legacy of liquid which helped shape Australian beer culture. Their progressive energy delivered Tusk, the nation’s first double IPA in 2003, Feral White – once their best-seller, Hop Hog, Boris, Watermelon Warhead – an oaked, fruited kettle sour a decade ahead of its time, War Hog, Biggie Juice and an expansive list of influential limited releases.
In 2012 Feral expanded, accompanied by Nail Brewing, into a larger production facility in nearby Bassendean, and then another just doors down the road, which rendered the Swan Valley kit an R&D pilot brewery, but one which continued to define the brewery’s spirit; 2017’s Biggie Juice, one of Australia’s early hazy examples first appeared there.
Since the original brew kit was shut down due to COVID, the Feral team has been brewing smaller batches at Edith Cowan University, and GM Robert Brajkovich says a new pilot kit will now be installed in the Bassendean facility.
As for the decision to close the brewpub at a time when many brewers are eager to have a public face, it's largely been driven by the end of their lease.
“We’ve known for a good while that we would not be renewing the lease at that location," he says. "The plan was always to get another venue up and running before the lease ends.
“We were always looking for another opportunity over the past two years, and there have been countless rumours, but there’s nothing that’s come to fruition.”
Robert notes that “COVID hasn’t helped” on this front, with the pandemic's impact once that has “decimated the Australian hospitality industry”.
“I think that, in the current environment, and knowing our skill set," he says, "we’d probably look to partner with a hospitality operator.”
In the meantime, Robert says the current brewpub team have been offered roles at other hospitality venues through Feral’s network, or severance packages.
“It’s been emotional, and I give a big shout to anyone who has worked at the venue, and helped that build this venue and the Feral brand.”
A visit to the brewpub has long been a bucket list item for beer lovers in Australia – and visitors from overseas – particularly in the earlier days of craft beer's rise in Australia. Before Feral started distributing widely outside their home state, heading west and into the Valley was the most palate-pleasuring mission an avid beer drinker could embark on.
While there has been no comment about the future of the site, Feral beers will continue to be widely available, and, at time of writing, there are just five weeks left to take the uneven blacktop off Great Northern Highway, and over the humped, freight railway lines to toast this piece of modern Australian beer history.
Feral's Media Statement Regarding The Closure
We love WA. No doubt about that.
It is where we brew our beers, it is where we live; it is our backyard. Western Australia is the heartbeat of Feral Brewing Co. And we don’t intend to go anywhere.
We continue to go from strength to strength much like the ABV in Biggie Juice (#drinkresponsibly) but as a business and a brand, we’re looking towards the future.
Our Brewery in the Swan Valley will unfortunately be calling last drinks on Saturday 3 October.
We will be moving our pilot plant to our facility in Bassendean and have made the decision to not renew our lease.
You will still be able to enjoy our award-winning brews – Biggie Juice, Hop Hog, Sly Fox, Feral Draught, Runt and many more – from the pubs and bottleshops right here in Perth and nationally.
We would love for anyone that’s enjoyed the place over the last 19 years to come out in the next 5 weeks and raise a Hop Hog to the crew at the Swan Valley for their incredible service over the years.