FOUND. Taking Over Former Golden West Site In Subiaco

May 8, 2024, by James Smith

FOUND. Taking Over Former Golden West Site In Subiaco

"I've never seen a bigger opportunity in the WA market than I do now."


FOUND. first announced themselves to the world in winter 2022 on the back of ambitious plans to take over the former Perth Girls School. Their intention was to open a 1,000-capacity venue as well as a 25-hectolitre brewery on the heritage-listed site in East Perth.

As with many such lofty plans, the timescale for turning dream to reality has been pushed back. But FOUND. have been wasting little time bringing their beers and vision to life in other ways. 

It's little more than a week since they marked the first anniversary of FOUND.Lab – their brewpub home around 45 minutes from Perth – yet this weekend sees them hosting a soft launch at pop-up venue FOUND. FRIENDS in the suburb of Maylands. And that's not all.

The Crafty Pint can today reveal they have taken over the former site of Golden West in Subiaco, where they'll be opening their biggest venture to date later in 2024. Their move follows the collapse of Golden West into administration earlier this year, and will allow them to significantly increase production of their two flagship products, SUPER (a hazy pale ale) and CRISPY (a German pilsner-inspired lager).

They've taken on the lease as well as the assets on the site, although not the Golden West brand, and will be launching into a significant refurbishment of the 400-capacity venue – including an upgrade of the 15-hectolitre brewery setup – over the coming months.

"Subi is a suburb going through ups and downs," FOUND. founder Steve Finney says.

"It was the home of football in WA. With the football going to Optus it left a massive gap, but it's one of only two suburbs over recent years where the growth in apartments hasn't stopped. Hospo there has had a lot of investment."

 

FOUND. head brewer Will Irving and founder Steve Finney, in Melbourne to judge at the Australian International Beer Awards.

 

They plan to add to that investment in the local hospo scene too, making Subi the brewing company's main home and working on a concept they believe encapsulates the essence of a quintessentially modern Australian pub brewery.

Which brings us to Steve's quote at the top of this article: "I've never seen a bigger opportunity in the WA market than I do now."

It's a sentiment that appears starkly at odds with the prevailing narrative in much of the Australian beer industry right now, with sales down amid a cost-of-living crisis, and businesses closing, changing hands, or entering administration as brewing companies face an unprecedented series of challenges. Sure, that narrative tells only part of the story and there are plenty of businesses still enjoying growth as well as newcomers finding niches in the market, but "never seen a bigger opportunity"?

"If you look at purely the hype beer space [in WA]," Steve explains, "there's Rocky Ridge putting out great beer, but it's very limited outside that. And when it comes to medium to large breweries, there's good opportunities there too."

Referring back to the early 2000s and the huge volumes Matilda Bay was producing at the time – much of which was sold within WA – he says: "The WA beer market is still there."

Steve cites the potential for a brewing company capable of servicing that space – of looking after one's own backyard... "And our backyard is pretty fucking big."

"There's still these places where craft beer is not a thing, where it hasn't been introduced," he adds. "We talk about Gen Z and how they're not consuming that much alcohol, but what about all the other 30- to 70-year-olds that still haven't tasted good beer?

"The local community breweries are engaging with new people and bringing them along for the ride rather than just riding the wave of growth."

 

The bar at FOUND.Lab in Byford.

 

It's something they've witnessed – and been responsible for – firsthand since opening in Byford. Locals might have visited for the first time out of novelty as much as anything but, over time, as they've got to know their hosts, they've become regulars and started to step beyond the safer beer offerings, open to trying a hazy IPA or something enhanced with terpenes.

As head brewer Will Irving puts it: "We've given them a new hobby!"

While the Subi wing of FOUND. won't open for a few months, Perth's beer lovers will be able to enjoy a taste of Will's beers without travelling to Byford from this Friday. They've taken over the former Henry on Eighth venue, working with the same developers, Australian Development Capital, who are behind the Perth High School site.

The 160-capacity Maylands venue features 15 taps – 12 of them for beer – and will also showcase wine and spirits. Everything that ends up in a glass there will come from one of the FOUND. team's mates – hence the FRIENDS of the title – so expect to find the regular collabs they make with other Aussie and Kiwi brewers, as well as beers from the likes of Rocky Ridge, Range, Mountain Culture and Garage Project. On the food front, the "FRIENDS" will be the local restaurants and takeaways.

"I used to live on that road," Will says, "and there's amazing Indian food, Thai food – even the kebabs are so good you can eat them sober!"

Beyond Maylands and Subi, and with the ambitious East Perth project waiting in the background, Steve sees widespread opportunities for brewery owners to exploit within Western Australia – if they're willing to look outside areas in which craft beer has already achieved penetration.

"North of Perth is still a barren land," he says. "The demographics are great."

Rocky Ridge are set to open a satellite venue there, with work underway on a taphouse in Duncraig.

"That's a case of supporting a local market and supporting a local community," Steve says. "Going back to paving the way rather than following."


Following a soft launch this weekend, FOUND. FRIENDS opens at 49 Eighth Avenue, Maylands, begins full trading next Friday (May 17). The Crafty Pint will be running an event with the team there in late July, by which stage we're sure they'll have more details on their plans for Subiaco.

And, if you're in Melbourne and want to sample their beers, there's a FOUND. showcase as part of Pint of Origin, at The Royston on May 16.

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