Lessons Learned: Two Mates Brewing

One year after a flooding disaster severely impacted the business, Two Mates Brewing co-founder Andrew Newton has reflected on the journey. 

In February last year, three months after initially opening, Two Mates, along with many other businesses, closed its doors after flood waters rose higher than expected in the Lismore region. 

With the future of the business uncertain, founders Andrew Newton and Grant Smith launched a GoFundMe campaign, while the community rallied to help rebuild a brewery that, at the time, was still in its infancy.

Listen to this Beer is a Conversation episode to learn more from Andrew Newton & Grant Smith on the effects of last year’s floods.

Now, almost twelve months on from the disaster, Two Mates co-founder Andrew Newton said it’s been a tough, but eye-opening journey. 

“I think one of the biggest lessons that we’ve learned, from a site that’s in a flood prone area, is that from a production point of view, we’re pretty susceptible to future events,” he said. 

“So it’s forced us into a pretty quick rethink on how to flood proof our business.

“For example, we know that Lismore is going to have another flood, that’s a given. It gets flooded every couple of years. Will it ever get flooded to the same extent as to what we experienced 28th Feb last year? No one can answer that question.”

Despite being in a relatively higher area of the region, the brewery took a major hit, leaving the business unable to brew at the site for many months. While it has been put back together, it’s a temporary solution, according to Newton. 

“We’ve put our kit back together in our location but the way we’ve put it back together, is that effectively if we need to move stuff, we can move a lot quicker,” he explained. 

“But that’s obviously come at a cost. We’ve put stuff together, knowing that it’s not going to be the long term solution. 

“So in some situations, we want to put a bandaid on something, as opposed to completely replace because we know in 12 months time, it’s going to get back together in a better manner as such, if that makes sense.”

This means its production system will have to be housed elsewhere, which, as Newton explained, could affect other areas of the business. 

“It’s a big change in our model, because we were only open for three months before the flood,” he said.  

“Now we’re saying, well, we don’t want to produce beer at the site anymore because it’s not a commercially viable solution for us to have to go through every three or four years, if the flood does come in at high levels. 

“From a business point of view, in a commercial aspect, we’ve had to go down that path, trying to find the right solutions for that, whilst also trying to stay true to what we represent. 

“We’re a community hub. We’re a Northern Rivers based craft brewery. So to still be able to tick all those boxes, which we still can, there’s some good options out there, once we secure them, and put it into play. But that’s just our biggest business challenge.”

While it has yet to find a new production site, Newton said the business wants to continue building its taphouse presence in Lismore. 

“We know that our venue is an amazing venue. Its features, its heritage, its look and feel, its community hub feel for what’s needed down in this area, is awesome but from a production point of view, it’s not the best option for our business,” he said.  

“We’ll always wish to maintain a taphouse presence here and some level of a pilot brew system that sits in here that we can put up a level nice and easily. 

“So we can give the consumer that ability to be able to walk into a great environment and still see that we have the ability to be able to brew beer in here, which people love seeing, but more importantly, from a back end business point of view, that key component of a brewing business is protected.”

Helping hand

As last year’s flooding disaster impacted multiple regions across the country, many other breweries faced similar fates to Two Mates Brewing. 

While support came through fundraising events, Two Mates co-founder Andrew Newton praised the industry’s collegiate nature. 

“For two individuals, Grant and myself, who have come out of completely different industries, to come into an industry that is growing,” co-founder Andrew Newton said. “When you’re talking upwards of 800 craft breweries around Australia, and it grows on a day-to-day basis. 

“It’s extremely competitive for shelf space, but we fast learned that whilst it’s competitive, it’s a real brotherhood.” 

He advised other breweries to reach out and utilise any help offered. 

“Our ability to be able to ask for help and receive it, in some pretty key areas, was extremely humbling and blew us away,” Newton continued. 

“So advice for breweries who have gone through similar to what we have or if they ever go through it, touch wood they don’t, is don’t be afraid to ask because the industry rallies.

“You can be as prepared as you want to be, but ultimately, there’s going to be an impact and the easiest option is to pull the pin off the back of that. 

“Harder option is to have a good look at what you can do, and how you can rebuild and regrow and this industry plays a key part in that because they look after each other.”

For Two Mates specifically, Newton acknowledged multiple suppliers and breweries that lent a helping hand. 

“Suppliers from Bintani, to Cryer [Malt], to the boys at East Coast Canning, Orora Cans, those guys have been unbelievable in their assistance for us at multiple levels,” Newton said. 

“And then the breweries that have helped us bridge that gap when we couldn’t brew and being able to continue to supply our beers into the marketplace during an area where we desperately needed it, the breweries jumped in and we’re talking about some big guys in the industry that jumped in. 

“Obviously, the likes of Stone & Wood, but you got guys like the Black Hops boys, Slipstream, Wandana, Seven Mile. 

“All key guys that have helped us ensure that we’re able to supply our products in a time when we couldn’t physically brew our own beer.”

New ventures

Amongst the disaster recovery following the floods, an opportunity arose for Two Mates Brewing to open a new venue in Varsity Lakes on the Gold Coast. 

With the Gold Coast having a prominent craft beer presence through breweries such as Burleigh Brewing Co, Lost Palms Brewing Co. and Black Hops Brewing, Newton acknowledged the potential for Two Mates in this market. 

“The Gold Coast is a pretty cool market. It’s obviously full of craft breweries,” Newton said. 

“The Varsity site came about because it was an existing premise that had a pilot brewing system in it and so for us, it gave us the ability to be able to get our foot into the Gold Coast market, albeit slightly back from that main strip. 

“We’re in a good community area that’s got some good community support there and it also gives us the ability now to jump in and have a good play with a little pilot system.” 

The Two Mates’ business model always involved opening taphouses, according to Newton, and is a key aspect in branching its brand across multiple markets. 

“Multiple taphouses give us that ability to be able to promote the brand, build real good brand presence and ultimately push the consumers’ focus into what our brand is all about,” Newton said. 

“So more dollars through the door at multiple levels we could look at commercially speaking. But it’s about increasing the brand profile.”

With its beers back in tanks, Newton acknowledged the effort in getting to this point and expressed his hopes for the future. 

“Being able to get the beer back in tanks in October, it’s a long journey,” he said. 

“A journey that had a few hiccups as we thought we could try and do it again when we had to fix things along the way. 

“But you know, we’re now pouring our second lot of beers that have gone back into tank, last week [and] this week. So our tanks are full again for the second time since the floods. 

“This means we can get back and start to focus on our beers out of our own premises and really push our story out there again.”

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