Meet Queensland’s best new craft brewer

Judge Steve Henderson, Rowan Haling from Burleigh Brewing Co and Matt Adams from Treasury Brisbane

Recruitment strategies in a fast-growing industry have helped develop the team according to Burleigh Brewing co-owner Peta Fielding following a major win last week for one of the brewery’s youngest team members.

The Gold Coast brewery’s Rowan Haling was honoured as the best new Queensland craft brewer at the Royal Queensland Food and Wine Show Beer Awards last Wednesday.

As part of the honour, Burleigh has been awarded a 12-month commercial contract to sell the brewery’s beer across the Treasury Hotel and Casino Brisbane’s restaurants and bars.

“I feel great, I’m still pinching myself, it’s almost like a dream,” Haling told Brews News.

Haling has been an up-and-coming brewer at Burleigh after being plucked from the packaging line.

“I’m born and raised on the Gold Coast, less than 15 mins from the brewery,” he said.

“After finishing high school I didn’t know which direction to go in in terms of my career. I got a casual role on the packaging line at Burleigh and after meeting the crew and being in that environment, I just had a thirst for more and was fortunate enough to get a full-time role in the brewhouse after a couple of years as a brewers’ assistant.

“It ticked all the boxes as far as what I wanted in a career, being very hands-on, challenging, and working with a good bunch of people, and it’s really rewarding as well.”

After working as an assistant brewer for a year, Haling landed a promotion to a brewer position. Like many brewers, Haling did not do any formal training but learned on the job.

“The majority of everything I’ve learnt is definitely hands-on experience but we have such a good, knowledgeable team here, I learn stuff every single day and it makes it that much easier having this team around me and I grew from that. It’s challenging at times but that’s why I like the job,” Haling said.

CEO Peta Fielding said that in Burleigh’s experience, bringing people on who have a cultural fit was a major priority ahead of formal training.

“We’ve now been here 15 years and we have a luxury of time behind us,” she said.

“When we first launched there weren’t unemployed brewers sitting around on the corner looking for jobs, so we really had to develop an in house approach to developing people.

“That’s been through a lot of evolutions and phases of course, but now we’re in a great position where we’ve got three or four senior brewers who have been with us around about 10 years each, they came to us with different levels of [experience].

“[Either] science backgrounds or one had done his professional brewing qualifications in Germany, so we have this really strong leadership group who then as we bring in new people we do have that breadth at the top to be teaching people.

“That’s an intentional strategy now, to bring in the right type of people with the right interests and commitment and teach them what they need to know. We don’t always get it right but we’ve certainly gotten better at it.”

Advising any prospective brewers either new to the workforce or looking to change careers, Haling said that taking a chance was key.

“In this day and age, it’s great because the industry is growing. The craft beer industry is growing as opposed to maybe 10 years ago so I’d say reach out, have a word with a local brewery and see where it gets you.”

Find out more about Burleigh Brewing in the Beer is a Conversation Podcast with Peta and Brennan Fielding.

Recruitment is challenging at any time, and with COVID-19 it has become even trickier, but that was why Burleigh’s approach gave them such longevity.

“With the way breweries are opening, it feels like certainly for the foreseeable future there will be demand for people,” Fielding explained.

“We took an intentional approach to developing people and growing and adding to the expertise in the industry, we don’t feel it’s beneficial to just move people between breweries because it’s not really increasing the knowledge and experience and strength of the craft industry overall, so as I say we try and bring new people in, build them up and add to the knowledge base.

“We’ve been known to recruit people from the big brewers too, which we couldn’t have done 10 years ago, because they see craft brewing as a genuine career opportunity which is awesome,” she said.

In addition to being home to Queensland’s best new craft brewer, Burleigh is also looking forward to supplying the Treasury Brisbane as part of the award win.

“Any ranging opportunity is a great opportunity, however big or small, that’s how tough it is out there,” said Fielding.

“Having the opportunity to showcase our beers where they’re not currently available is welcomed and wonderful and it’s up to us to work hard and make it so amazing that it sticks.”

While the details of the deal are still being finalised, Fielding said this move from RQFWS and the Treasury meant good things for the craft beer industry.

“Something like that wouldn’t have been contemplated even a few years ago. They didn’t know who was going to win and they were open to whatever came which is amazing.

“It’s invigorating for young people in the industry, there are people who haven’t been here as long and want to follow in Rowan’s footsteps.

“It speaks volumes about their belief in the industry which is awesome.”

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