Blackman's expands with latest brewpub

Blackman’s Brewery has opened its third venue in Victoria with its latest site in Grovedale, Geelong.

It announced the opening of the brewpub last week, which will not only offer a venue to replace its Geelong CBD bar which closed last year, but also a production brewery to allow Blackman’s to double its brewing capacity.

Blackman’s was founded in 2014 on the Surf Coast and the brewery’s initial site launched in Torquay went on to win Champion Small Brewery at the Australian and International Beer Awards 2019.

Founder Renn Blackman said that the plans to open another venue, including brewing operations, were on the cards before COVID-19 hit.

“In Torquay, we only have a little brewing space, it was about 10 by 6 metres – we could do 1,000 litres of beer a week. We did that for a while and it grew and grew, and we ended up doing 400,000 litres a year in a space designed to do 100,000 litres,” Blackman explained.

“So for the past few years it’s been hectic, it logistically wasn’t making sense.”

The hunt for a new venue was on, and it needed to be a large space to enable Blackman’s to develop a production facility with a bar attached, so it needed to be a large space.

“Two or three months before COVID, I looked at this space and spoke to the landlord. But then COVID happened, and I said we’ll have to put it on the backburner.

“COVID was a big shock, all three venues we had closed down. By three to four weeks in we were doing takeaway beer, and food, we kept doing food in Torquay with Jobkeeper. The beer kept on selling, and we were selling heaps.

“We were struggling those initial couple of months, we were just emptying tanks going ‘God, what are we going to do?’

“Even as lockdowns finished, we kept making heaps of beer, more than we’d ever made, and cemented that we needed to make more beer.”

The new Blackman’s venue

“It’s been a stage process, we got in a bunch of new equipment, a new canning line, and moved some tanks from Torquay,” explained Blackman.

The new site in Grovedale highlights the move of many hospitality venues away from central areas and CBDs.

“It’s a little suburb in Geelong, eight minutes from the CBD, and it’s a built-up suburban area, lots of people live there and it’s industrial too.

“Finding a big space was hard, there wasn’t a lot of it.”

When they did find the space, developing the site proved less of a challenge than the first brewery in Torquay.

“Definitely with Torquay [the council] in 2014 had no idea what a brewery was. I think they thought big trucks and stacks, a big factory in their little town, and it was far from that.”

The City of Greater Geelong proved to be a bit more amenable.

“Geelong council were progressive, we got it done quite quickly. They were trying to help businesses out during COVID, so it took us probably five months to get the application done.

“We had a really good planner, and by this point, the council realised that breweries are awesome.”

While the new venue provides some much-needed breathing room, it also marked the end of Blackman’s first beer bar in Geelong.

“It closed because of COVID, but it was a small bar, only 50 people and in restricted numbers. The COVID rules meant we were only allowed 13 people and we just couldn’t warrant opening, so when the lease ended, and we knew we were doing this Grovedale opening, we cut our losses.”

The Blackman’s brewing team will be brewing on a Tiantai kit, with a number of former Colonial tanks, following the latter’s recent upgrades, and a new Codi canning line.

“Initially we’re going up to 1 million litres, so doubling what we’re making now, then we also have heaps of room to grow, if we want to keep on adding tanks

“Our canning line in Torquay can do 12 cans a minute, the new one can do 45 cans per minute.”

With the expanded capacity, potential avenues for growth for Blackman’s only grow.

“At the minute we’re probably 30 per cent in-house and the rest [of the beer] sold offsite. But that’s going to grow, we had a really busy weekend and hopefully in-house will grow again.

“The aim will be to grow offsite. We have a really strong presence on the Surf Coast but not a big presence in Melbourne yet, so we want better representation in Victoria and then further afield.

“We just haven’t had enough beer, people requested it, we filled our local orders, but now we can send it further afield.

With a third baby recently arrived and a new venue, Blackman has had his work cut out for him.

“It’s hectic, but we’re so lucky we have awesome people to work with, the staff do a lot, the team is amazing and it keeps it all flowing,” he said.

Blackman’s latest brewpub is located at 29/8 Lewlan Street, Grovedale

Brewery openings are presented by Spark Breweries and Distilleries, the finest in-venue and production brewing systems available, with local design and support.

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