Gage Roads to open WA venue

Gage Roads Brewing Co. has announced that it will be opening its first west coast venue in Fremantle, Western Australia.

The brewery told the ASX this morning that it would be developing the site on Victoria Quay at Fremantle Harbour.

Gage has agreed to lease the site in a long-term deal with “favourable incentives” for the 100 year-old venue known as A Shed, which will be used to develop a significant hospitality and brewery venue.

It estimates the project will cost between $6 million and $10 million, and Gage will commence construction with a view to opening the venue doors in summer 2022.

Gage Roads chief operating officer Aaron Heary told Brews News that he and the team were excited about the project, and it was a momentous occasion for Gage.

“It’s been a long time coming – we finally signed the documents last night which secured the whole thing which was relieving, it felt like we were in a marathon, and were sprinting across the finish line after a load of work!

“I’m so stoked that finally we get to open ourselves up to the public. For 15 years or more we’ve been brewing on the outskirts of Fremantle, and one of the most common questions we get are ‘are you open to the public?’ and ‘when are you going to open up a venue so we can find out more about you?’

“So throughout that journey we’ve had that dream about opening something up, it’s the perfect location and site to create our spiritual home.”

Heary explained that the move does not mark a shift from their east coast growth strategy, but is an important supplementary project for the brand.

“We’ve been very committed to the east coast strategy, we’re opening our first venue in Redfern under the Atomic Beer Project banner and it felt to us like if we were to do a Gage Roads venue somewhere on the east coast, it wouldn’t be right unless we did one here first.

“Sometimes opportunities come along and you’ve got to snap that up.

“It’s not a U-turn, it’s a strong foundation from which we can execute our strategy.

“Building venues and stuff over on the east coast, I feel that this one complements those projects and gives us a home here.”

Gage Roads had been nominated for the site following the expressions of interest phase and were already negotiating the lease for the site when COVID-19 struck.

“COVID is here and it’s here to stay, but there’s that saying, ‘when you’re going through hell keep going’.

“It’s been a challenging time for businesses and it’s been a tough year for us and our business but we’re committed to brewing great beer and sharing that with our customers.

“We’ve signed the lease for 40 years, so we’re thinking about creating a brand for the next 40 years. COVID could have got in the way and you could lose sight of the bigger picture.

“But it demonstrates a lot of confidence in our strategy in the state of WA to continue moving forward in this environment. We’re committed and really happy and I guess we’re stoked – sometimes things come along at the right time for a reason and you’d be mad not to go for it.”

The site

The venue is targeting a 2021-22 summer opening, and there’s a fair bit of work to be done, particularly reinforcing the harbour-facing side of the building to ensure the safe installation of brewing equipment.

The site will not replace Gage Roads’ existing home just outside Fremantle, but will include a smaller batch kit in the ballpark of 25hL to enable experimentation, small batch, limited and seasonal brews.

“I’m a brewer at heart so that’s the exciting bit. We want to service the bar and restaurant and also have it sized so it can do limited releases and trials for the larger brewery, which frees us up there to be more efficient,” Heary explained.

“We’re thinking 25hL and as you can imagine all the modelling for patron numbers and all that stuff has to happen now, so it will be in that range to compliment the bigger brewery. We’ve been talking about barrel aged programmes all and that cool stuff – we’re excited at the prospect of playing around.”

Heary said that as part of the project, Gage wanted to support local WA producers.

“We want to support our other independent brewing mates. We’ll have some guest taps and even some cans and bottled products out of our store there to wrap our arm around the rest of the industry, especially regional brewers that don’t have access to the market here. We’re going to do that and through the kitchen we’ll look at using local WA ingredients.”

It will also be pivotal in regenerating the area, which is often overlooked in the Fremantle area, but has lots of potential as a ferry boarding point to the popular Rottnest Island.

“It’s never had that critical mass of foot traffic, so we’re going to create foot traffic that will spur on further investment and bring the whole precinct to life which will be a good thing for Fremantle in particular.”

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan said that with the new Gage Roads project, the area will become a “world class tourist destination”.

“In a challenging economic period, this is a major demonstration of confidence by a key player in the W hospitality industry, that will generate jobs both in the construction and operational phases,” he said in a media statement.

Alannah MacTiernan, the Minister for Regional Development, a department which has previously invested in a number of WA breweries such as Whalebone and North West Brewing, said that the site will showcase beers and other products from WA to support its regional food and beverage businesses.

“A Shed is one of the most exciting tourism development opportunities in Western Australia and this project is a tremendous step toward delivering this part of Victoria Quay as a world-class civic hub in a port environment,” she said.

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