$5m grant bonanza for Australia's breweries

Australian breweries have collectively secured more than $5 million in grants from the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund it has been announced today.

Capital, BentSpoke and Blasta, along with Brick Lane, Ballistic Beer, Moon Dog, Modus Operandi and Seven Mile Brewing have benefitted from $5.1 million of the $52.8 million, second round of MMF funding.

In associated industries, East Coast Canning has made the list, as did Bickfords, owners of Vale Brewing, which received a grant of $1 million, although it is unclear whether the company’s bottling line project will specifically be for its brewery operations.

Between them, they have received $7.1 million in co-funding grant money, and the brewers and associated industries are spending $37.6 million on their projects in total.

The funding was launched as part of the 2020 Budget’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy, and aims to “support transformative investments in manufacturing technologies and processes”.

The first round last year saw Little Bang and Brisbane’s Ballistic Beer receive grants, and in a surprise move, CUB-owned 4 Pines also received $700,000 towards a project in the funding round, which was intended for small and medium businesses.

Amongst this round of grant recipients, WA’s Blasta Brewing Co. received large-scale co-funding grant of $900,079.

“We were absolutely delighted when we found out we had been successful,” said Steve Russell, founder of Blasta Brewing.

“This was a national competitive grant with a large number of applications – over 250 I believe – so we were very happy and thankful that our project was selected on its merits.”

It will help award-winning Blasta fund a massive expansion and relocation of its existing brewery.

The WA brewery, which was founded in 2018, will move its brewing operations to a new 4100sqm production facility in nearby Belmont.

“Blasta has been growing rapidly since we started out three years ago. We have increased brewing capacity three times and have since outstripped that capacity and have been at peak for some time.

“Our long term goals are to be recognised for our quality and products, scaling our business further nationally and internationally where customers seek them out. We aim to do this by developing a sustainable, environmentally focused business and will achieve this by having a local presence in those markets to meet those goals as we grow,” Russell said.

“We have been planning an expansion since mid last year and when we saw the opportunity of the federal modern manufacturing initiative we made a submission for our project.”

Blasta will be acquiring a 4-vessel, 50hL advanced brewhouse and a Krones integrated packaging line which will be designed to enable the implementation of IoT technology and collaborative robots to aid the packaging process, which Blasta said will free up staff to focus on quality and the development of new beers.

Dubbed the “Blasta Advanced Manufacturing 4.0” project, it will cost an initial $3.6 million and create approximately 50 jobs over brewery, sales, marketing, logistics and support departments.

The new brewery will allow Blasta to produce an initial 5 million litres of beer per annum, increasing to 10 million when fully operational.

“We expect the new brewery to be operational by the end of Q1 2022,” explained Russell.

“We will use cutting edge innovation to create a holistic state of the art integrated solution enabling us to be competitive, lean and efficient in our industry.

“The full scope includes automation from the brewery hot side manufacturing, cold side completion and integrated packaging.

The wider project will involve the development of advanced technology to aid Blasta’s environmental credentials, such as CO2 recovery systems, energy saving brewhouse features, energy storage and recycling, and the use of electric vehicles.

“We staunchly believe that despite automating certain parts of the production process, we will still have an artisanal hands on approach for key phases in the production process to ensure we deliver exactly the product characteristics we desire,” Russell said.

Along with Blasta, Ballistic will receive $122,294 for a pre-packaging and stability upgrade, Modus Operandi Brewing will receive $1 million towards the brewing and sale of Nort, its non-alcoholic brand launched last year, and Moon Dog has been allocated just over $350,000 to develop postmix alcoholic seltzer brands.

“We are very grateful to have been awarded the MMF grant and proud to be amongst such esteemed and progressive companies as a successful applicant,” said MO’s Jaz Wearin.

She said that the grant recognises the brewery’s brand recognition, production innovation, and jobs growth.

Elsewhere, Brick Lane will receive $1 million, Seven Mile Brewing has secured $125,000 towards production modernisation, and Capital Brewing will receive $946,959 of co-funding, to contribute to a $3.8 million upgrade of its facilities.

Fellow Canberra brewery and partner in the Manuka Oval pourage partnership, Bentspoke, will receive $671,000 towards a $2.7 million upgrade which will allow the brewery to double capacity.

“The MMF grant will allow BentSpoke to significantly expand its production facility, increasing capacity to 6 million litres,” explained BentSpoke founder Richard Watkins.

“Expansion of the cellar and upgraded packaging line are the prime areas of focus. Quality and innovation are at the heart of everything we brew and these areas will also be upgraded in line with the rest of the project.”

Jonathan Ward, CEO at BentSpoke, said the application process was, as to be expected, challenging.

“It’s a comprehensive application process. We spent a lot of time adapting our business case to the requirements of the grant and although it has been announced, we’re only just going to the grant finalisation process now, there are a bunch of conditions,” Ward told Brews News.

“This project resonated really strongly with some of the government’s manufacturing priorities, of which one is obviously food and beverage, and reading those manufacturing priorities allowed us to line up what our projects is with those priorities.”

He said that the grants are a testament to the growing desire at all government levels to support the brewing industry.

“We saw in the last Budget the support for excise and rebate changes for small breweries and distilleries, and due to the work of the IBA and the industry we’re seeing recognition of how much small breweries add to local and regional economies, and that’s been reflected in this support,” Ward said.

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