Hervey Bay set to welcome Cauldron Brewing

Hervey Bay Council has given approval for a new craft brewery for the regional Queensland town.

Martin Potter, who also operates National Home Brew has been given the green light for Cauldron Brewing which will see the site converted into a brewpub with a full commercial kitchen, along with a retail showroom for Potter’s National Home Brew business.

The project will see $800,000 invested in the venture.

Potter told Brews News that he wanted to launch the brewery in Hervey Bay to cater for a strong base of craft beer fans who are under-serviced when it comes to independent beer offerings.

“The population here is booming, being driven by an improving local economy with affordable housing and there’s a great lifestyle on offer,” he said.

“Tourism features strongly in the local economy and so we’ll be aiming to cater to a wide audience and provide a point of difference from other establishments.”

Prior to the development application being lodged in October 2017, he spent years trying to find the ideal home for his brewery.

“It took us about two years to locate a suitable building to allow for sufficient expansion of warehousing and retail showroom for National Home Brew and to give us an ideal position for the Cauldron Brewing project.

“Many of the properties we checked had insufficient three-phase power, insufficient water supply or lacked space for effluent management and access to sewers.

“We were able to secure a long lease with multiple long renewal options, which gives some comfort for what we anticipated to be a fairly solid investment.”

Communication woes

Potter explained that communication issues were one of the main hurdles he experienced while trying to get things up and running.

“If someone else could learn from the many mistakes we’ve made along the way so far it’s don’t settle for poor communication or lack of it. Time flies and time is expensive.”

“We had originally planned on using one supplier for the brewery equipment, though in the end we had some struggles with communication and regretfully had to move on and shop around internationally. We’d made several inquiries about potential suppliers and we’re still waiting for some of those to be answered two and a half years later,” he said.

Despite his positive experiences in dealing with the local council Potter was also initially told that there wouldn’t be any town planning issues, which turned out not to be the case.

“There’s a lot of hidden traps in town planning, depending on where the property is and where various roadways sit along with surrounding zones and business operations,” he said.

“The first few enquiries to locate a town planner were to some ambitious individuals that must have thought we were trying to replicate a CUB brewery in the middle of town. To say some of the quotes were incredible would be an understatement.”

From the trials of trying to get advice from the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation to navigating a Community Impact Statement and attempting to set up interviews with the Queensland Police Service, he explained that communicating with government departments to get a phone call back or a reply to an email was an ongoing battle.

“If you want a brewery in Queensland, get a consultant and do it early, don’t do what I did,” he advised.

Funding the brewery

Potter recommended finding an accountant who understands the craft beer industry and your local demographic when it comes to dealing with finances.

“There are companies out there that understand craft and have figures and have developed insight, interest and a deeper understanding of the industry,” he said.

“When you’re forking out $35,000 plus a year on rent and outgoings, delays get expensive. Go with your gut feelings and find the right people for the job to get it done properly the first time and do it right.

“To date, we’ve spent somewhere in the ballpark of $184,000 to get some plans drawn, development application approved put some paint on the walls, some energy efficient lighting in place. ”

Potter was not able to receive state or federal funding for the brewery as he was told the project value and number of potential jobs was just too small.

“There’s a lot of really good people doing their best with managing grant funding. They care, but they aren’t given what’s needed to get the right people into meaningful jobs within our industry,” he explained.

“Along the way, we’ve discovered that there’s a lot of little expenses and a hell of a lot of big expenses that add up.”

Potter also said that whilst there has been a lot of talk regarding the Queensland Craft Brewing Strategy he is yet to see much change. The strategywas launched a year ago this month, promising big things for the region’s brewing industry.

“They’ve managed to put out some nice glossy articles about cool initiatives, we’re now a long way down the track and the outcomes promised for 2019 don’t look like they’ll arrive in a usable package before Christmas,” Potter said.

The brewery

Potter said he had originally decided up a four-vessel system was originally but this was downgraded to a three-vessel system.

“[We] revised the system down to 600 litres but kept the features that are normally reserved for larger systems. We’ve also added automatic knock out with foam sensors and some other safety features along with a few odds and ends, overhead grist case [etc], to help with productivity and time management on brew days.

The site will also include a mix of six and twelve hectolitre tanks, allowing the team to brew at high gravity, Potter said.

Potter said he was planning on making beers to be served locally.

“We are planning regular limited release batches of Imperial offerings, barley wines and such,” he said.

“We’re not concerned about wider distribution and following on from a number of conversations with brewers who struggle to get distribution, cold storage can get expensive if you’ve got beer hanging around, that’s not where we want to be for now.

“We had initially planned on having a 15 cans per minute canning line on site from day one, but we’ve held back for now and hope to follow through with it over the next 12 to 18 months. A counter pressure growler filler will fill the void for takeaways for now. ”

Despite all the hurdles in getting Cauldron Brewing over the line, Potter said that he has been in the industry for a lot of years and built great relationships on the way.

“It’s been heartening and it’s always been my experience that generally the people within the industry are there to help each other out with information and advice,” he said.

“It’s one of the truly unique things that helps the scene grow and succeed. I owe more than a few beers to others at this point.

“Along the way, we’ve done some training, visited a lot of breweries, learned a lot, made and drunk an occasional beer and developed a wide array of recipes.

“Spent a small fortune, met a lot of really good people and generally had a ball whenever I wasn’t tearing hair out or banging my head against a wall. We’ve also seen and experienced the worst of bureaucracy and burned the midnight oil pretty regularly over the couple of years,” he said

Cauldron Brewing is set to open in August 2020 during whale season, a high point in the region’s tourism for the year.

Cauldron will be located at 2-6 Boat Harbour Drive, Pialba.

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