Flamin Galah Brewing Co. relocates to expand

Sam Hewson of Flamin Galah Brewing Co.

Flamin Galah Brewing Co. on the NSW South Coast looks set to grow further following an investor-backed relocation.

Less than a year after opening their first site, the husband and wife team of Claire and Sam Hewson are relocating from Scallop Street, close to fellow Huskisson brewery Jervis Bay Brewing, to a new site around the corner at Erina Road.

“The year has been a whirlwind,” admitted Claire. “A stressful but good whirlwind…our biggest challenge was keeping up with the demand for our product, which is a good problem to have on the surface but stressful when you drain the taps and the cool room at the growlers bar and tasting room every three weeks!”

The proposal for the new site was submitted to Shoalhaven City Council in November 2020 and will allow Flamin Galah to expand onsite hospitality and sales.

The new premises will also be home to an expanded brewhouse, with the team adding another 12hL brewhouse with six 1,200-litre and two 2,500-litre tanks.

In addition to its current system, this investment brings capacity up to nearly 250,000 litres a year.

Flamin Galah’s new site

The new site will be a brewpub and beer garden with a capacity of 120 with its drink on-premises licence, and Flamin Galah will move its current equipment over once it’s fully operational.

“It will be a relaxed but beautiful space where we will serve our popular beer into schooners as opposed to the taste test cups we are currently serving our customers at the tasting room/growler bar,” Claire explained.

“We can’t wait. Sam has been calling and nagging council daily! They will be sick of us soon and hopefully fast track the conditions so we can get moving. The squeaky wheel gets the oil as they say.”

Flamin Galah started looking at premises in mid-2020, and missed out on a few attractive sites.

“We believe this place was meant to be because so far the owners have been willing to allow us to do what we need or want to and the space is big enough to grow,” she said.

While the location is key, fitout is the next big consideration.

“We have been extremely lucky that Sam is a builder by trade and we’ve been able to save a lot with labouring ourselves.

“We just spent NYE and from New Year’s Day til now the 13th working 12 hours days doing what we can while waiting for the DA.

“We found out we could landscape and paint [before getting the construction permit] so we are almost finished.”

Claire also explained that it is worthwhile for breweries to get in touch with local government officials.

“The local mayor…should be willing to help get the DA fast-tracked given that your business will create jobs. Our council loves that we will be not only hiring employees for the brewery but local tradies and businesses.”

Flamin Galah was also able to secure an investor.

“After what we’ve put in – time and money wise – they saw the potential and wanted in. The investment has allowed us to expand massively and we are very grateful for the opportunity.

“We are approached often by other potential investors who are interested too so there is more potential to grow in the future,” Claire said.

The industry

Flamin Galah opened its doors to its original tasting room in late February, right before COVID hit, and was forced to quickly pivot fully to cans.

“We went straight into cans. Our plan was to do kegs but as soon as we opened, pubs and clubs closed because of COVID and the demand was not there,” explained Claire.

“Luckily we have our labels designed and ready to go for launching… and our local community really ran with the idea of supporting local,” she said.

With a sales rep from Crafted Connections, Flamin Galah was able to get the brewery’s beers to northern Sydney, Canberra and in-between.

Beers were also picked up by 10 BWS stores in the locality.

“We are excited about that. If you had told us at the beginning of 2020 we’d be in BSW on the top shelf of our local, we wouldn’t have believed it!”

Lessons learned

When asked what lessons Flaming Galah learned in its first year of business, Claire asked, “How much time have you got? The lessons have been endless.”

From a brewing perspective, Sam said that going from being a homebrewer to a professional was a tricky thing.

“When you’re a homebrewer,” he said, “the actual act of brewing is everything. But being a professional brewer it’s a tiny piece of the puzzle.

“Prepare to work long hours and drink beer less because you have to be fresh and aware when brewing.”

“He often refers to himself as a cleaner that gets to brew every now and then,” Claire said.

Trends change often, they said, but trying new things and experimenting kept them on their toes.

“Sam tries to experiment with new things all the time. That’s when he’s at his happiest and will spring out of bed in the morning if he is brewing something new. Our new hazy pale On Smoko has been a massive hit with customers since we released it. We’ve decided to can it this year.”

But it’s not all hard work, Claire said.

“We love the industry, [and] our customers who voice their love for the beer when they visit the brewery.”

And, she explained, the team’s perspective of the industry has changed since its launch too.

“We used to think it was closed and secretive, but since then we’ve realised when meeting others in the industry that we are all facing the same struggles and can laugh at the same highs and lows.

“It’s been great to meet the other local brewers in our area and chat about it all over a cold one.”

Plans are going full steam ahead for the new brewery, due to open later this year, and Flamin Galah also plans to have an on-site canning line to can its range, which it plans to distribute further throughout NSW.

Also in the plan is another taproom, potentially in the Jervis Bay area. But the Hewsons are cautious about growing too quickly.

“It’s the unknown of this year that will have us cautiously approach any new projects because we don’t want to grow too fast,” explained Claire.

“We want to enjoy the ride there, which is what we are doing right now. Building this new brewery has been so much fun and we want to keep it that way.”

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