Bracket Brewing Forced To Find A New Home

February 20, 2024, by Will Ziebell

Bracket Brewing Forced To Find A New Home

One of Sydney's best-loved small breweries is on the hunt for a new home after a significant hike in their rent made staying at their original home untenable.

Bracket Brewing owner Mike Meletopoulo, who opened the doors to their brewery in Alexandria with his dad Mark less than four years ago, says they've known a move was on the cards since last year, but have struggled to find a suitable alternative ahead of their current, five-year lease ending on April 21. 

“We might find somewhere awesome," he says, "but it’s not cheap to move a brewery.”

Mike says they were told late last year that their rent would rise by 67 percent and, while they have since been offered a lower rate by their landlord, that still represented a considerable increase on their current rent – and would only apply to a short-term lease.

 

Bracket Brewing co-founder Mike enjoying one of his crispy classics.


Since launching in August 2020, Bracket have built a fanbase far beyond their inner-Sydney home for their ever-changing lineup of beers despite having to battle lockdowns, COVID-related restrictions, and the current economic headwinds. But this latest challenge could prove to be their toughest yet as they struggle to find a new home close to their core customer base that suits their needs for both production and hospitality.

“When we’re in normal production, we only produce about a thousand litres of wort a week,” Mike says. “We make most of our money from the taproom.

“But we’re very, very small; I think people think we’re a lot bigger than we are.”

To date, their search has proven largely fruitless, with inner-city warehouse spaces suitable for production and hospitality at a minimum as inner-city areas are rezoned. Mike says they came close to securing a new spot before, at the last minute, the landlord pushed for a three-year lease, opening up the risk they'd invest in moving and setting up a new space only to face another rent hike – or be forced to move again. 

“A lot of the places that were industrial are being knocked down and converted into residential,” he says. “That is what it is and how it all is, but it does force industry out.

“Landlords are also less likely to give longer leases because they’re expecting to have their warehouse rezoned and sold to a developer, or develop it themselves.

“For a business that’s going to put a lot into the building – say anywhere between $150,000 and $250,000 if you do everything yourself – that’s not really an option.”

 

Mike during a collab brew with one of Bracket's many industry mates, Carla Naismith from Shapeshifter.

 

Richard Adamson, co-founder of Young Henrys, past Independent Brewers Association chair, and founding member of the Inner West Brewery Association, says there's currently fierce competition for inner city warehouse spaces that would suit breweries. Ultimately, he says, such spaces sit on prime real estate for development and, while governments might recognise a need for a mix between more housing, commercial and retail spaces, competition still pushes prices up.

"It's certainly just another issue for us to face as an industry, unfortunately," Richard says. "I think it's going to get tougher to maintain those inner-city sites. Inner-city rents are tough.

"At the same time, there's a lot of competition for those warehouse spaces and there's a housing crisis at the moment, so developers are jumping on the opportunity to build."

As for Bracket, while their search for a more permanent solution continues, they’ve pushed their system as hard as they can to brew enough beer to get them through to the end of May, before starting the process of restoring the Alexandria warehouse to the state it was in before it became Bracket Brewing.

“We’ve been working really hard over the last couple of months to get our stock levels up,” Mike says. “I’m pretty excited by that, and it shows how much beer we can push through the system.”

At present, it looks likely their brewhouse will have to be put into storage, while mates in the industry have offered them space so they can keep making beer. 

“We haven’t been tight-lipped about it to our customers and friends in the industry,” Mike says. “We’ve been quite open as it’s the only way you can get help.

“We’ve had and heard some interesting ideas, including some that wouldn’t work."

Those ideas to date include finding separate sites for their brewery and taproom, but Mike says they'd prefer to take their time to find the right location in order to keep Bracket going well into the future. And, whatever that future holds, Mike remains bullish about the industry and their brewery's place in it. 

“I certainly don’t want to leave the industry; I’m not done with it yet," he says. “I’m sure we’ll work something out; it’s just a choose-your-own adventure book at the moment.”

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