It’s amazing what you can find down the back of the sofa. And even more amazing what you can find when you set fire to a sofa!
A couple of years back, three mates who had been homebrewing together since meeting while studying engineering at university in 2003 had spent the night trying to come up with a name for their long-mooted brewery. By 2am, they still had nothing. Inspiration was running dry.
For want of something better to do, they decided to torch an old sofa that was no longer wanted by its owner. Up it went in flames – but still they had no name for their brewery.
The following morning they returned to the site of their bonfire to find charred remains and a handful of springs. There, among the wreckage were some one and two cent coins – coins that must have been down the back of said sofa for a long, long time. They gathered them up and counted them: seven cents. Thus 7 Cent Brewery was born.
Next Saturday (February 16) the first official beer from the brainchild of Doug Bremner, Brendan Baker, and Matthew Boustead will be launched at Penny Blue. A 5.9 per cent UK style ESB, it will form part of their core range, with the other regulars being a West Coast US style IPA (with a Kiwi hop twist) and B4, a Belgian Dark Strong Ale that is the latest iteration of Matthew’s first ever all-grain brew – you’ll have to ask him what the four Bs stand forâ¦
“We were all home brewers [when we met at university],” says Doug. “I started getting into all grain brewing and really loved the process. We were drinking a lot of craft beer, which was taking off in Australia. We were really enjoying a lot of craft beers that were being imported from overseas and felt that some of the Australian craft beers didn’t challenge us that much. But we were inspired by what some people were bringing out and wanted to be a part of that ourselves. We loved making beers, perhaps even more than drinking them, so thought we could make a career out of it”
As with many home brewers, they were soon set upon taking their hobby into the real world. In fact, plans to set up their own brewery began in earnest almost three years ago. Yet, despite having a website for their venture in place for some time too, it’s only now that they are officially launching their first beer, having tapped a single keg of B4 for a Movember party at Penny Blue late last year.
“We have been setting up the whole brewery ourselves and maintaining full time work,” says Doug. “The challenge has been finding time to get it all done. The whole process of getting licensing is challenging, involving a lot of work and a lot of time.”
Doing everything themselves has had other downsides too. By keeping up full-time work they reckon they will only be able to brew once a month, which will mean production of just 12 kegs of their core beers each month plus a single keg specialty brew on their pilot setup for the first year. That said, by sourcing secondhand farm equipment and using their engineering skills and spare time to reverse engineer the gear at Matthews dad’s farm they have saved a huge amount of money – from start to launch, they’ve spent approximately two per cent of what most people spend setting up their first brewery – and thus are free to experiment.
“Because we are all working full time we don’t have to do brew an easy drinking pale,” says Doug. “We have got a hop farm in Timboon so we’ll do a wet hopped pale later in the year and we have a recipe for an 18 per cent barley wine so are looking for some barrels to put that in. We also want to do some good tasting light beers, at two per cent ABV, and are happy to pass the savings in excise on those beers to the consumer, so hopefully people will be able to have some tasty light beers for two dollars a pot.”
Despite the limitations of their particular setup at the start, they’ve got grand plans. The hope is to add some 18hL fermenters to their brewing setup in the next year (their brewhouse produces 600 litre batches at present) and, over time, increase production so that ultimately all three will be able to work on the brewery full time.
As for the origins of the business name, Doug says: “We burnt the couch as a gift to the beer gods. We felt the coins were an omen so named the brewery after them as a thank you.”
7 Cent have since ceased operating.