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 Sydneyâs 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 Brewingâs 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 Sydneyâs ever-growing list of breweries.
Says Mark, âthe DA (Development Application) and licensing should be approved by August and there shouldnât be problems with that at all. DA licensing [for the site] already exists for a 24 hour pokie den and itâs approved for a bar license – though weâre obviously not going to put pokies in there, no way in hell!â.
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, âif we do get in by August, weâll 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. Thatâs still a kind of âweâll see what happensâ thing, but itâs an idea.â
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 âa mash filter system which can pump out up to 30,000 litres a day if we want it to. Itâs a 2,000 litre system but it can actually brew 15 times in a day, though it probably never will.
âIf we actually brewed 10 times a day, 7 days a week, that brewery could brew over 7 million litres a year. Thatâs crazy! The economies of scale are crazy, but they also make sense for the investment. Itâs 30% more efficient than most breweries and itâs going to be the only one of its kind in Australia.
“Thereâs a lot of stainless steel involved – itâs going to be very pretty.â
As if a new brewery wasnât enough, there were some other big milestones for the company in March. Harts Pub, the current spiritual home of Rocks Brewing and one of Sydneyâs most beloved and reliable destinations for craft beer, celebrated its third birthday (appropriately releasing a Celebration Ale) and Rocksâ 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: âHarts is kicking along and doing great. The beers are good and weâll be holding onto it for as long as we canâ. 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 donât always do draught beer. Says Mark, â[bottling] gives us the option of getting our beer into places that donât do taps. So when someone says âdo you do packaged beer?â, now we can say âyes, we doâ.â
Then thereâs the television show: âHow To Build A Breweryâ. The premise is pretty much what you might expect from the title and involves, as Mark says, a cameraman âbasically following us around as we plan, design and build a breweryâ. Itâs 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 weâll 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.