CoConspirators opens Brunswick brewpub

Major construction delays during COVID added months onto the development process, but CoConspirators Brewing Co. is now open for business in Brunswick.

The Melbourne brewpub was announced back in early 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic through more than a spanner in the works.

But the lockdowns in Melbourne, especially those that impacted construction workers, had a knock-on effect at CoConspirators according to Jacqui Sacco, who founded the business alongside Tim Martin and Maggie and Deon Smit.

“Initially we didn’t have any issues with COVID, it was just getting planning and organised, aiming to get things open by later in 2020, maybe August. And that just went out the window,” explained Sacco.

“Then this year, we were at the home stretch and planned to have 20 to 30 trades on site to get the thing done. It got locked back to five trades per day and we weren’t allowed to be on site at all.”

Despite the delays caused by lockdowns and restrictions, CoConspirators officially opened last Friday, 17th December.

“We have had a massive weekend, we had over 600 people through our doors since Friday 5pm,” said Sacco.

“It’s a great feeling to be finally open, finally getting to do things.”

The beers

CoConspirators is brewing on a 10hL brewhouse for beers sold on-site, but is still set to contract brew at Dainton Beer and Bodriggy Brewing Co.

“We were lucky, we ended up when we got the keys we had four weeks prior to opening to commission our brewkit, because we had a delay on a few pieces of equipment,” Sacco said.

“We were hoping to have more beer available on opening but that hasn’t delayed us too much either.”

CoConspirators has a collaborative approach and has launched with beers from neighbouring Foreigner Brewing, as well as beers brewed with Dainton, a seltzer from Bodriggy and taps featuring Wolf of the Willows.

The brewery is also known for not investing in a static core range, and plans to do new experimental and limited beers at the brewpub, as well as bringing back old favourites like Matriarch.

CoConspirators released its Table Saison on tap last week as its first beer, and a pale ale and hazy pale ale are set to be released this week.

But not having a ‘traditional’ core range can be difficult to navigate, even for an established brand and certainly one that intends to distribute wholesale.

“We don’t have a core range, but we might consistently do a lager, a West Coast IPA and change those flavours with different yeast and malts and those sorts of things.

“It’s about educating our customers,” explained Sacco.

“Our customers get it, that we always do something different and new. But I feel sometimes it’s our retail customers that we have to educate and tell them, we don’t have a core range, we have fresh, new and seasonal beers all through the year.

“We don’t do the same thing all the time and it’s about making sure they understand what we do.”

Without a core range it also makes it challenging to range in a major retailer, but despite now being ranged in Coles-owned Vintage Cellars, CoConspirators has been primarily focusing on independent bottle shops.

It has also been looking at further interstate and international export, primarily to Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.

“It can be tricky [to operate in international markets]. They take big batches at one time which is good, and it’s a new sort of area where we can get our beers, it’s the same as wholesaling and profit margins are about the same.

“Especially with the Asian market, they really like the design, the artwork really does resonate, we’ve gotten a few orders and they like the branding as much as the beer.”

Many new entrants to the brewing industry will have the discussion about what business model to adopt.

Contract brewing, developing brand awareness and loyalty has worked for a number of brewers before they open their doors to a venue, and Sacco declared that CoConspirators were no different.

“We did it specifically this way because we knew it would work for us. A lot of people jump in and do brewpub first, but I think this was beneficial for us because we’re established and we’ve been in the industry for a long time so people know our beers, and that worked for us.”

The build

CoConspirators taproom and brewery is installed, but the next stage will be expanding its hospitality offering.

“The next project is to get the kitchen open which we’re planning on in mid to late next year, although whenever I say it, it’s probably 12 months later!

“We’re doing snacks and everything here at the moment and we’re partnering with Brunswick locals like Greenacre Pizza, but food is important in a brewpub too.”

A key aspect of CoConspirators growth has been a crowdfunding campaign it undertook earlier this year, raising $619,348 from 407 investors. The brewery has already engaged with its investors, launching the taproom with an investor night.

“It was very essential to arrange the crowdfund during the time we had. Our investors have been very generous with their money, and the process went very well.

“We had our investor night prior to opening, and some of them we saw come back through the weekend, bringing friends, a lot of people came in twice!”

CoConspirators’ taproom and brewery is now open at 377 Victoria Street, Brunswick.

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