The Hangman Cometh

The Hangman Cometh

April 2, 2013 by Crafty Pint

Beer news junkies might recall that midway through last year there was a little bit of press for the Rocks Brewing Company in one of Sydney’s major daily newspapers. And although it was a fairly brief article, it alluded to some very big things for the company. It said, essentially, that Rocks Brewing’s Managing Director, Mark Fethers, was seeking outside investment in order to build a brewery and expand the distribution of the Rocks beer range.

In the 10 or so months since that article was published, it appears things have more or less gone to plan because Rocks Brewing Company is set to take over an 800 square metre site in the suburb of Alexandria and open what will be the latest in Sydney’s ever-growing list of breweries.

Says Mark, “the DA (Development Application) and licensing should be approved by August and there shouldn’t be problems with that at all. DA licensing [for the site] already exists for a 24 hour pokie den and it’s approved for a bar license – though we’re obviously not going to put pokies in there, no way in hell!”.

But despite any existing allowances, the brewery plan has morphed from an initial idea of a tin shed with a brewery open three days a week and pouring beer through a magic box, to actually putting in a full restaurant. As many who have dealt with brewing bureaucracy before will know, there may be a few minor obstacles still to be overcome.

Yet, confidence and excitement are both justifiably high and, pending that August approval, the brewery equipment is scheduled to be shipped in September in anticipation of an October arrival and a November opening. Though, if things do pan out in that order, drinkers may not have to wait that long to start visiting the site. Says Mark, “if we do get in by August, we’ll look to open the bar straight away. That way people can come and watch the brewery getting built – sit and watch and smell and feel it. That’s still a kind of ‘we’ll see what happens’ thing, but it’s an idea.”

If that does come to pass, what bar patrons will witness should be rather impressive and unique on these shores. According to Mark, the brewery is “a mash filter system which can pump out up to 30,000 litres a day if we want it to. It’s a 2,000 litre system but it can actually brew 15 times in a day, though it probably never will.

“If we actually brewed 10 times a day, 7 days a week, that brewery could brew over 7 million litres a year. That’s crazy! The economies of scale are crazy, but they also make sense for the investment. It’s 30% more efficient than most breweries and it’s going to be the only one of its kind in Australia.

“There’s a lot of stainless steel involved – it’s going to be very pretty.”

As if a new brewery wasn’t enough, there were some other big milestones for the company in March. Harts Pub, the current spiritual home of Rocks Brewing and one of Sydney’s most beloved and reliable destinations for craft beer, celebrated its third birthday (appropriately releasing a Celebration Ale) and Rocks’ flagship Hangman Pale Ale went into bottles for the first time.

When we questioned Mark about the former and whether the new brewery and bar might reduce the desire to hold onto the pub, he was quick to provide reassurance: “Harts is kicking along and doing great. The beers are good and we’ll be holding onto it for as long as we can”. The decision to pursue bottling provides flexibility in distribution; important when considering things like the proliferation of small bars in Sydney which tend to welcome craft beer but don’t always do draught beer. Says Mark, “[bottling] gives us the option of getting our beer into places that don’t do taps. So when someone says “do you do packaged beer?”, now we can say “yes, we do”.”

Then there’s the television show: ‘How To Build A Brewery’. The premise is pretty much what you might expect from the title and involves, as Mark says, a cameraman “basically following us around as we plan, design and build a brewery”. It’s evidently been green-lighted by the Discovery Channel and the cameraman is on board and due to start filming in the next month.

So, in an ideal world, by next summer we’ll be able to sit in the brand new Rocks Brewery, drinking beer made fresh on site and watching a television series about how it all got done.

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