Lessons Learned: Three Tails Brewery

A glass of Three Tails' beer on a table

Two years after opening Three Tails Brewery and Smokehouse in April 2021, co-founder Mick Ash has reflected on the journey to date. 

Like many breweries, it all started with three mates forming an idea over a few beers, and the rural New South Wales town of Mudgee has welcomed it with open arms. 

It’s really been a huge success story and we couldn’t be happier,” Mick said.

“We’ve created a world class venue in a small country town and we are very proud of what we’ve achieved.

“The feedback and reviews we receive couldn’t be more complimentary. 

“Mudgee Regional Tourism has also been great in promoting our brand.”

Three Tails’ Lewis Street building is heritage-listed, having originally been home to Mudgee’s post office.

While this made renovating the run-down site and negotiating with the local council a challenge, Mick said it did have its benefits.

“We had a blank canvas to work with so we ended up with exactly what we wanted.” 

In addition to the brewery, the venue is also home to Smokin Bro and Co, an American-inspired barbecue food business.

The venue itself is fabulous, and the marriage of craft beer and slow cooked Texan BBQ just works brilliantly,” Mick said.

Entrance to Three Tails Brewery

Staff shortages

While Three Tails hasn’t been short of customers or creative business partnerships, Mick said that staffing has been a different story.

“Like all industries we are short staffed, and in Mudgee it’s particularly difficult.

“We have 40 vineyards, pubs, cafes and restaurants all competing for a tiny pool of hospitality staff – it’s incredibly hard.

“Bringing in outsiders is also difficult as there’s only a tiny rental pool of properties.”

This staff shortage has significantly impacted the business’s service quality and ability to grow.

“We don’t always get to provide the highest levels of service that we’d like to – longer wait times at the bar are a simple example,” Mick said.

“The business owners are confined to working in the business, as opposed to working strategically on the business.

“We’d like to look at extending our opening hours but can’t.”

Since Mudgee only has a population of 10,000 people, Three Tails has struggled to find strategies to attract more staff, but Mick does have advice for others.

“Get your hands dirty and manage customer expectations – we sometimes have a sign asking them to be patient,” he said.

“When you get good staff, treat them like gold dust – take an active interest in their personal lives as well.”

Paddle of Three Tails Brewery beers

Value of having a venue

Mick said his experience starting and operating a brewery has demonstrated the value of having a venue and advises those who are looking to start their own brewery to take the brewpub approach.

“Make sure you have a venue that can sell the beer you’re brewing – a brewpub really is the way to go.

“Being solely a production brewery poses too many logistical challenges with distribution.

“The margins are small… [and] you’re fighting to get your products into a saturated market.

“A brewpub gets over all of this as you have a ready made outlet for what you produce – and if you’re like us, we don’t have any distribution problems as all our resellers are local.”

The bar at Three Tails Brewery with customers

Keeping up with demand

As Mick and his business partners look toward the future, Mick said their main goal is to try to keep up with the demand for Three Tails’ beer.

“We are looking to expand the brewery or perhaps open a second site,” he said. 

“We have a lot of resellers in the region so also ensuring they keep receiving a consistent supply and support.”

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