Beverage precinct set to support Queensland brewers

Pictured: Simon Michelangeli, Ted O’Brien MP, Emma Greenhatch (FAN) and Andrew Brodie (Sunshine Coast Airport)

Brewers in Queensland could benefit from a new beverage precinct on the Sunshine Coast which is predicted to “draw international attention” to the state’s industry.

The planned Turbine Precinct at the Sunshine Coast Airport is supported by an $8.78 million Federal Government grant from its Modern Manufacturing Initiative Translation stream.

Along with other stakeholders, the Food and Agribusiness Network (FAN) and the Queensland Drinks Accelerator led the funding submission.

Simon Michelangeli, founder of the Queensland Drinks Accelerator (QDA) and co-founder of the Glass House Brewery, said the precinct was intended to help Queensland beverage producers with export opportunities and new product development.

“[The new precinct] is a collaborative research and development facility which will provide analytical services and support to brewers and the broader drinks industry with product development services,” Michelangeli explained.

The team are currently in negotiations with the state government as well as federal around research and development and training support for the precinct.

Federal Member for Fairfax Ted O’Brien said the funding announcement will “draw international attention” to the Sunshine Coast.

It will join other Queensland industry initiatives including the state government’s BrewLab launched last year, which is focused on developing skills in the brewing industry as well as quality control.

Export and contract capacity

Michelangeli explained that he became involved in FAN and the wider project five years ago.

“[FAN] have been looking for an opportunity to establish a collaborative food and beverage precinct, and at the same time, Glass House was increasingly doing contract production,” he said.

“I realised that there was an unmet need in terms of contract production for beer and the broader drinks category in Queensland.

“We were looking for an opportunity to grow our business into that space, and joined that initiative started by FAN, and then worked with a number of other partners to develop a critical mass of capability that we then presented to the Federal Government’s MMI.”

“The main part of this announcement is that in contract manufacturing capacity, whether that be new-to-market producers or existing brewers that need additional capacity, giving them the ability to expand and look at national distribution and export in particular.”

As well as providing contract brewing services to enable smaller breweries to increase their production capacities, the precinct will be geared towards helping Queensland’s brewers in exporting activities.

“There are certain accreditation requirements required to go into certain markets like the UK, so we’re looking at a facility that will be able to support things like the BRC accreditation, which is the global gold standard for quality assurance,” explained Michelangeli.

“What we’re offering really is some small scale production, but in particular the ability to take breweries that have a regional focus and offer them a pathway to export.”

No-alcohol opportunities

Another focus of the beverage precinct will be in helping producers develop new products and tap into emerging trends, one of which is no and low alcohol.

The no-alcohol space is beyond many smaller brewers who could not afford the equipment required to de-alcoholise or pasteurise zero-alcohol beer, although this has been changing in recent years.

“We’re investing in dealcoholisation, and the ability to package non-alc beer which is obviously a challenge, as it essentially requires pasteurisation which is a limiting factor [for smaller brewers] providing some of the most advanced technology around,” Michelangeli said.

“The problem we’re solving here is providing the next step into the dealcoholisation market.”

While it is early days for the no-alcohol market, a number of brewers have invested in it, from Modus Operandi’s Nort to Hop Nation’s recent Mind Your Head no-alcohol XPA, not to mention the major brewers and their zero-alcohol brand extensions.

But the precinct organisers have confidence that the no-alcohol segment’s popularity will continue.

“It’s still early stages in the growth in that market segment, and it’s a big investment for a brewery to make given that there’s no proven demand, especially in the craft sector. But it’s rapidly growing.

“What we can do is help people get into the market and look to invest in their own capability with more confidence, because they’ve already proven it works.”

Planning is underway for the Turbine Precinct, which is due to commence operations later in 2023 with an initial focus on beverage manufacturing, after which it will be further developed to include advanced food manufacturing from 2024.

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