Less than a month after one of Victoria's pioneering craft breweries hit the market, another of the state's much-loved beer venues has gone up for sale. But while Red Hill's owners are looking to move on to all-new adventures, fans of Future Mountain needn't worry – unless they live close to Reservoir and love having trophy-winning beers on tap just around the corner.
Sure, the creators of barrel-aged, fruited and farmhouse style beers have put their brewery and venue on the market, but it's not the end. Far from it, in fact. It turns out that from one Future Mountain will spring two.
Confused? Then let us explain...
Ever since founders Ian Jones and Shane Ferguson hatched their plan for Future Mountain Brewing & Blending while brewing together at Boatrocker, they've always intended to move to the country with their families at some point. And now, less than four success-filled years on from the day they first opened the doors of their Reservoir brewpub, they're doing just that.
Shane hails from northern Victoria and Ian’s family put down roots in Gippsland after moving to Australia from the UK, so they're leaving the city behind, heading home, and plan to establish two brewing and blending locations. Then the plan is to focus on creating a greater diversity of farmhouse beers that make use of produce local to each region as well as the different terroirs.
"This has always been part of the longterm plan," Shane told The Crafty Pint. "With Ian and I having come from regional areas, from a lifestyle and family point of view it was very much something we intended to do, and our kids are at the perfect age.
"We're brewers and focus on the beer and the brand as opposed to the hospitality side of things, so we want to take farmhouse beers and do it regionally as there's so much more scope to be able to work more closely with everything agricultural."
And, while the decision is driven by lifestyle and their families – who have always been very much part of the brewing company's story – as Ian points out: "Future Mountain is part of the family. They're not separate – we're not going to choose one over the other.
"Future Mountain will come with us."
While the Fergusons and Joneses have already been scoping out potential properties – the former in the area where Shane grew up near Rutherglen, the latter around Thorpdale – before pushing the accelerator on Future Mountain part 2 (volumes a and b), they need to sell their existing home. The Reservoir brewpub – including the brewhouse, stainless tanks and an oak cellar – has been listed with Just Business Brokers and they believe it's an ideal pickup for a brewer, distiller, publican or winemaker seeking an urban cellar door, not least as all requisite approvals and licenses are in place.
When they do put pedal to metal, however, what will take shape is an operation unlike any other we're aware of. Figuring there's more value in selling the brewpub as a whole and setting up two small wort production breweries at their new homes, they plan to take existing cultures with them – they've already moved some to their parents' homes in small barrels in preparation – and have started wild yeast captures to see what they might be able to work with in the new locales.
Existing Future Mountain beers will go with them – they're excited to see which might be better suited to which location – but new ones will take shape, guided by the seasonal produce on offer in Gippsland and the High Country, as well as the climate and what they're able to capture and culture in each area. For the most part, their beers – now distributed in Japan as well as Australia – will be sold through wholesale channels, with the longer term plan being to establish farmgate style setups at both sites.
"There's myriad other options we've got," Shane says, "but it's very much a case of, 'Watch this space' for 2023."
One of those options, he says, could be to build "a form of oak-forward brewhouse – "a production system which is more sympathetic with that farmgate style."
Arguably, what's exciting them most, however, is the ability they will soon have to produce a greater diversity of beers, to blend different cultures from across the state.
"It's not a separation of the brand," Shane says. "It's still one entity, but the terroir aspect and the styles of beers that we make, this opens up so much more possibility for us."
When asked if they've taken inspiration from similar brewing operations elsewhere, they say they're unaware of other brewers working like this. Rather, they highlight similarities to the wine world where winemakers might produce their riesling with grapes from one region and pinot noir with fruit sourced elsewhere.
Of course, there's one other element of the plan that needs addressing. Sure, they're going to miss the brewpub where their dream took shape, they've got a grand (in their humble way) vision for the brand, and this will allow them to enjoy the family life they've always wanted. But, given they've become family to each other, I have to ask: "How will you cope without each other?"
It turns out their partners had already posed the same question.
"Bluetooth headsets," Ian says. "Constantly talking to each other!"
"Kara and Elisa had asked if we'd survive," Shane adds. "Fortunately, we'll still be working very closely with each other on a daily basis. And Zoom will really help that."