Lessons Learned: Woopi Brewing Co.

In the Bintani Lessons Learned series, Brews News revisits businesses a year on from a significant milestone like opening, expanding or raising capital to find out what the experience has been like and what lessons others might learn.

Woolgoolga ‘Woopi’ Brewing Co. has highlighted the importance of adaptation and feedback from the local community in its first year of business.

The brewery, which opened in Coffs Harbour last year, was co-founded by Sarah and Ryan Poole, along with Aaron and Jacqui Dobner with help from founder and former CEO of Mornington Peninsula Brewery, Matt Bebe.

Co-founder Sarah Poole told Brews News said that the team had experiencedan array of challenges including flooding, which affected many breweries across South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales earlier this year.

“There has been quite a list of challenges, some in our control and some completely out of our control including 106 days of rain in the first five months of the year, the impact of COVID on trade and staffing,” Poole said.

“Having a very clear plan and vision for what we wanted to achieve, and a great team including owners who are prepared to go the extra mile has meant we’ve been able to navigate anything that’s come our way.”

Poole advised other breweries to embrace adaptation.

“If I were to look back on the last 12 months with any advice it would probably be – trust little things will go wrong, but don’t take it too seriously. Look after your staff and love your locals.”

But despite the challenges, Woopi received valuable feedback from its local community.

“It has been amazing, challenging, fun and rewarding all at the same time,” she said.

“We have had amazing support from our community and continue to get fantastic feedback about the beer and the venue which is so important in the first 12 months.

“We were blown away by the opening few months and certainly had to adapt very quickly to resourcing the taproom and brewing enough beer to keep the punters happy.”

Community vision

For any new brewery, it can be difficult to prioritise providing experiences for the local community, depending on resources, time and budget. Working with local businesses on events has been key for Woopi Brewing Co.

“Our vision has always been that the brewery is a community space, and yes we certainly make great craft beer here, but we want to bring people together and share special moments,” co-founder Sarah Poole said.

“We want to push the boundaries on what a brewery means in a community like ours, and we will continue to invite musicians, artists, performers, groups and hope to see people of all ages enjoying the space.

“Local businesses, sporting groups and clubs have been key to us building a great community spirit since we opened.”

In terms of the future, Poole explained that the business will focus on four areas she described as product, destination location, sustainability and community.

Woopi has already made strides towards the product side of the business,having just hired Charlie Hodgson, former brewer at Helios Brewing Co, as its new head brewer.

“We are super excited to welcome Charlie Hodgson as head brewer in October, and we have many plans for exciting new beer releases. Charlie will continue the great work of Aaron Dobner,” she said.

In terms of location, sustainability and community, Poole explained there are various projects in the works.

“We are working hard to make the taproom and lawn a place that attracts locals and visitors all year round – we have a surf boat being installed for the kids in September and more shade going in for summer,” she said.

“We are really passionate about the impact we have in this beautiful part of the world so we are looking at every area of the business to see how we can improve the way we do things.

“[Community] will always be a focus for us, but we have some great plans with the local Mountain Bike community, local businesses and there are a few big plans in the pipeline for the wider region.”

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