Gluten-free takeover a surprise success

While tap takeovers are nothing new in the craft beer world, a gluten-free version with Two Bays Brewing has proved an unexpected success.

Last month Sydney’s Hotel Sweeneys and Brisbane craft beer bar Brewski held what was billed as a ‘world’s first’ gluten-free tap takeover, which proved to be one of the craft beer mecca’s most popular events.

“From 12 o’clock onwards we were flat out,” Brewski co-owner Antoinette Pollock told Brews News.

“People were queuing out the door. We didn’t expect it, although we had quite a lot of bookings on the day it was pretty overwhelming.

“We obviously do a lot of beer events, and it was certainly one of the most successful ones.

“We really wanted to support it, we knew Two Bays did great beers so we weren’t concerned about putting them on our taps, it’s a quality product.”

Pollock said 90 per cent of people there were gluten-intolerant or coeliacs.

“It was massive – we certainly had a percentage of Brewski typicals for a few other taps we had, but the majority of people were there because of gluten-free beers and a substantial gluten-free menu as well.”

This has historically been one of the barriers for venues, the perception from customer and buyer about the quality and taste of gluten-free beer.

Two Bays has been changing these perceptions, with its Berliner-style weisse, Pulp Fusion, winning a silver medal in a mainstream category at the recent Royal Queensland Food & Wine Show beer awards, in addition two silvers in gluten-free categories.

While stigma about flavour is being overcome, for venues there are more practical issues.

The line problem

“With the maintenance of the lines you have to be careful,” said Brewski’s Pollock.

“If barley beer has been running down that line especially in mainstream pubs where they might not be cleaned well or often [it could be contaminated].”

“Others will be doing at least a weekly clean, but you can’t just pull the tap off a beer and plug in a Two Bays and run it for a few minutes and now say it’s gluten-free, you’d have to clean the line completely.

“We had a lot of enquiries about how we were managing the tap lines for the coeliacs. We had to clean those lines and leave them for a longer time than we usually would, and we had to do the taps and couplers as well.”

Brisbane’s Brewski Bar

Two Bays is aware of the issue and, to counteract it, has come up with a desktop tap system said Richard Jeffares, founder of Two Bays Brewing and a coeliac himself.

“We’ve got three on the go at the moment,” he explained.

“One is in Adelaide where we had an existing tap contract-type of arrangement, but they are dedicated gluten-free kitchen. We said why don’t we put this desktop in? They loved it. It allows them to take speciality and core range beers which works well.”

But the focus on draught seems at odds with the focus on 2020 which saw breweries across the country move to packaged beer and off-premise. Despite the uncertainties in the market, Two Bays isn’t worried.

“We’re still very small so were just starting out, and yes we are worried that we would have a load of kegs no one wants. But our Raspberry Berliner Weisse was keg only, same with Ball Park Music [a collaboration with the eponymous Queensland indie band] will be on both taps and in fridges.

“My view is we can’t keep expecting shutdowns and plan for that or it will be a boring 2021.

“We do things slowly and don’t make big bets in the hopes that the lockdown will stay under control.”

With the hospitality industry starting to get back on track, Two Bays sees a real opportunity for future growth.

“For us, we think venues are starting to put gluten-free on, whereas five years ago you’d never find it. We’re finding venues approach us regularly to put us on tap.

“My dream is to go into a bar wherever I am in Australia and get a beer on tap instead of a can that I can drink, and I’d like it to be Two Bays.”

More takeovers coming

As part of the gluten-free revolution, six more venues are set to hand over beer taps to Two Bays during Coeliac Awareness Week.

From 12th March, a venue in every state capital will be pouring at least three Two Bays beers all week.

Venues The Duke of Brunswick in Adelaide, Brisbane’s Netherworld, The Crescent Hotel Hobart, The Fox Hotel Collingwood, Sydney’s Woolpack Hotel in Redfern, and Perth’s Petition, will either be serving Two Bays’ gold medal-winning Pale Ale, XPA or IPA alongside two limited edition beers.

Jeffares said the events were part of the brewery’s ongoing engagement strategy.

“For us, it’s really about delighting the consumer and getting beer on tap for coeliacs and gluten-free people just like everyone else.

“But also to help educate and open the eyes of the venues that there is that consumer there that it’s nice to have cans in the fridge, but having a schooner if you can is better.

“We know [gluten-free customers are] out there and love a draught beer, and unless they come here they can’t get it in too many places. So we came up with the idea of taking Two Bays on the road, bringing it closer to people.”

Jeffares said it was about giving both venues and customers a chance to try a quality craft gluten-free beer.

“[We’re aiming for] those venues that recognise these customers, with gluten-free menus for example, but don’t want to commit to giving them draught all the time. If we can do it right and get a reputation for it, we will become a go-to for it.

“Gluten-free people are sticky – if they find somewhere that looks after them with food and beer then they come back time and time again.”

Find out more about the events here.

Find out more about the Two Bays journey on the Beer is a Conversation podcast with Richard Jeffares.

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