Melbourne venue for Bridge Road Brewers

Bridge Road Brewers is making a move to the city, launching a new brewpub in Brunswick East.

Beechworth-based Bridge Road has signed up to the East Brunswick Village development which is being delivered by the Banco Group.

The deal will see them launch a 350-seat brewery and dining hall at the “entertainment-focused” Bluestone Way section of the development. The brewpub will feature 30 taps to supply customers with beer made on site on a 10hL brewkit.

“The venue is a brewery first and foremost, with a dining hall as part of it. We’ll have a 10hL brewkit and 2,000-litre fermenters, so it’s not a token brewpub with a few tanks tucked away in the corner, there will be reasonable production for a single site,” explained Bren Kraus, co-founder with wife Maria of Bridge Road Brewers.

“We’re looking to create something that identifies as Brunswick East and is a standalone, but pays homage to Beechworth and what we do here.”

Plans have been in the background for a long time to have a bricks-and-mortar location for Bridge Road in Melbourne, Kraus explained.

“It’s been 10 years of us considering doing something in Melbourne. We’ve been looking and whenever I’m in the city, I’m dreaming about locations. I’d be on my bike in Melbourne on the backroads and see locations that would be great.

“Initially I had in my mind a warehouse standalone, like we have in Beechworth.

“But the more we thought about it, in these inner northern suburbs anything substantial will be developed quite heavily, and I can’t imagine a point where I’d be able to buy a standalone building in Melbourne.”

Bridge Road spotted a post from Banco Group seeking a brewery tenant for the site, and got in touch.

“They were really interested in us and knew about our brand and so we looked further into it, and we had confidence in it and how they communicated it and what they were looking for, rather than chasing big money or a startup.”

There are challenges with entering any new local market, said Kraus.

“The challenges are making ourselves appeal to the broader neighbourhood, not just people in the immediate development and East Brunswick, to make our brewery and venue desirable for people who live a few blocks away,” he said.

“I’m not trying to make a franchised carbon copy of what we have in Beechworth, the site is a brand new build and it should reflect that rather than the old stables in Beechworth, that would be unwise to copy.

“Sure there will be common threads, but I think it’s also an opportunity to do things differently – if someone in our region visits Melbourne they will be interested to see the different version of Bridge Road there.”

In terms of beers, there will be some crossover, but Kraus said he would like to brew for the local community.

“We will brew beer for East Brunswick Village but we will have some more creative freedom. We’ll do mobile canning so we can do some garage door sales, we have access to a loading bay where we will be able to do mobile canning, so there will be locally produced cans.

“Some kegs might find their way north, and some find their way south.

“The idea is that the venue will be self-sufficient as possible, with beers they can identify as their own.”

The move to Melbourne is an interesting one, as Bridge Road is well-known as a regional brewery.

“Definitely we’re aware that Bridge Road is more well-known in Victoria than any other state or capital, but we could flip it and say we do have distribution and sales in the ACT, Brisbane, Adelaide or Sydney so we might need to build awareness in those states and put a site there.

“But it’s a combination of factors, we are stronger in Victoria, we know how it works, we have relatively straightforward access to northside of Melbourne and then the opportunity for this site arose. All those things aligned.”

Hear more about Bridge Road Brewers on the Beer is a Conversation podcast.

There will be a 16-month build process, with the hope that Bridge Road’s East Brunswick site will be complete and open to the community before the end of 2022.

But unlike other developers who can be heavily involved in all aspects of design and build, Bridge Road has free reign.

“We’re strictly a tenant there, so we’re working together on things and they are super helpful but they recognise the brewery will be a key part of the development and social hub for them, and they have been amazing when we’ve asked for things in the development.”

Banco Group is the latest in a growing line of developers looking to bring the magic dust of brewing to their latest new build projects, but breweries thinking of working at this level should keep a few things in mind.

“We’re lucky because we have 16 years of trading history, we’ve proven we can do hospitality well in our own way. We’re different from most, in that there aren’t that many with the heritage we have that are still independent, but being old in craft beer can work against you as well!

“Being able to show your strengths in hospitality is probably more important than beer to begin with. A venue like this is driven by hospitality, definitely. But don’t get me wrong, the beer has to be amazing too.”

Follow the progress of Bridge Road’s new build brewery and venue on the Brewery Radar.

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