Bendigo is a regional Victorian city known for good food and wine and a fervent community that embraces craft beer.
Yet, despite the presence of stalwart craft beer-supporting venues such as The Cambrian Hotel, The Dispensary Bar and Diner, Handle Bar and The Hop Supply Co, as well as a production brewery in the city and a number of other breweries located in the surrounding areas, plus two annual craft beer festivals and the passionate, indie-supporting Bendigo Beer, the city doesn't have its own brewpub.
Well, at least, it didn’t.
That was put right in March 2023 when the Brewers Collective opened their doors to the public. Located on Short Street, a five-minute walk from the city centre, and situated near the Sacred Heart Cathedral, the venue is a former financial office renovated to provide locals with a cozy and comfortable place to enjoy a beer before or after dinner.
The team behind the Brewers Collective includes head brewer Brett Davis and co-owners Randall Firli, Simon Francis and Niel Towan, while their families have been seen helping out in the venue too.
All are avid homebrewers, with various competition wins to their credit. Brett, who brewed his first batch of beer for his wedding 23 years ago, took his passion for brewing to the next level by completing a post-graduate certificate in Brewing and Malting at Ballarat's Fed Uni in 2018.
The venue itself is modest in size, but the timber floors, black and white colour scheme, and exposed brickwork give it a polished and modern look. It might be mistaken for a café, although the timber bar with eight beer taps soon makes it clear that beer is the focus. Remaining true to their roots, alongside The Brewers Collective is a regular tap featuring beers from the BAD homebrew club.
Food can be ordered in from the various restaurants and eateries in the surrounding area; the Brewers Collective are adamant about supporting nearby traders, a move that's in keeping with their community-focused attitude.
The launch of the Brewers Collective didn't come without its challenges, with renovations taking more than a year. However, this allowed time for news about the project to spread throughout the city's beer-loving crowd, among whom a consistent theme is how much the team undersold their plans: now they're open, they've impressed customers finally able to sample the finished product.
Now they've been pouring beers for Bendigo's beer drinkers for a few weeks, we invited Brett to tell us more about their story as part of our long-running Who Brews...? series.
Who are you?
My former life was pretty much opening cans of worms, at various manufacturing and retail establishments. Lots of homebrewing, lots of sampling, brewed with a few brewers. Helped at Cornella, studied at Federation Uni, and now we have our own space. Still getting my head around that.
Where do you brew?
We have our own nanobrewery in the small shed behind the bar. All our current tap beers are brewed and kegged here.
Why do you brew?
To provide the good people of Bendigo with the freshest possible local beer. We love to see folks enjoying a delicious glass of beer with friends.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Pretty much when Pete Martin (Tooborac Brewery) called and said he had discovered a way to make all-grain beer without having to set up complex equipment. Brew in a bag changed my life.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
We wanted a name which implies getting together, and also collaborating. Collective, collecting, gathering, congregating...
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Hazel Amazeballs. This was the beer that started it all. When Niel tasted this beer from the home brewery, he asked what we needed to start an actual brewery.
If you could have any person in the world join you on a brew day, who would it be, and why?
Charlie Papazian. That guy knows way too much about homebrewing. Our brewery is essentially a big homebrew system so I reckon he could make it sing.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
We don’t have speakers in the brewery. Brew days are hectic enough without being distracted by background noise. That sounds weird I know... but I like to be able to hear the starch converting in the mash tun.
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Range West Coast IPA, Cornella Sick Kent / Black Velvet, Brewers Collective Hazel Junior / Short St XPA, homebrewed bourbon imperial stout.
What would be your desert island beer of choice?
Boon Gueze is a favourite. Hard to pick a single style for a long haul island jaunt though.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
My mind has been blown by how much some of our customers have become attached to our locally-brewed beers.
Is there a particular style, ingredient, or trend in beer you'd like to explore further?
Some barrel-ageing would be nice.
Where can people find your beers?
At our brewpub in Short Street, Bendigo. Sometimes at The Hop Supply Co. More to come...
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
Same great location. More taps, more fun.
You'll find the Brewers Collective alongside well over a thousand other breweries and good beer venues in the free Crafty Pint app, a curated guide designed to help you discover the nearest good beer wherever you are in Australia.