Moon Dog aims for 10 million litres with new brewery

Moon Dog Craft Brewing is poised to launch a major production brewery and venue in the Melbourne suburb of Preston.

The brewery has invested in the new site with the help of equity partners to enable them to grow capacity to 10 million litres in the next few years.

Moon Dog World is a 12,000 square-metre venue and brewery which was previously a fabric manufacturing facility. When complete, it will feature some unique additions including a waterfall at the entrance and an ornamental lagoon, designed and created by Rohin Adams of Two Design, the company behind Starward Distillery.

Moon Dog founders and brothers Josh and Jake Uljans, together with mate Karl van Buuren are set to open the 725-capacity venue next month.

“In 2016 we went through our first major expansion installing a 50hL brewhouse in Abbotsford, reaching 2.5 million litres of capacity,” explained Josh Uljans.

“We thought we had about five years in that site, but realised soon into it that we were going to bust through capacity.”

Having taken over two sites next door and one across the road, the Abbotsford site, which the team founded in 2010, proved unable to keep up with Moon Dog’s growth.

“It was very organic expansion. But we’ve got a fairly sizeable production operation in a site that’s not ideally geared for that kind of scale, which brings all kinds of challenges with logistics, parking, loading trucks, so the move is about being able to accommodate future growth.”

The size of the new site is quite extensive compared to other brewpubs, but other breweries like Bodriggy Brewing Co and Otherside Brewing are also investing in major venues which double as multi-functional spaces.

“We wanted to make sure we were building something that could accommodate the potential we see in the business, a facility that has a 10-year-plus lifespan.”

The new site, which the team began looking for in 2018, is in a semi-industrial area with neighbours including 3 Ravens – it’s an “up-and-coming area” said Uljans.

While main production operations will move to the new brewery, the Abbotsford site will be maintained for posterity, and small batch brews.

“We’ll keep our original 12hl brewhouse so we can play around with it and do small batches.

“It’s done a fantastic job for us, so we’ve got mixed emotions. We’ve produced a lot of delicious amazing beers out of that brewery, but we’ll be producing a lot of delicious in Preston too.”

The new brewery operations are currently being installed in time for their September opening.

Moon Dog has invested in a custom brewhouse from a Chinese stainless steel fabricator, who helped the team work on their earliest brewkits. Moon Dog are using Deacam contractors to install electrical and automation technology, with a dual bottle and can filler from Gea Vipoll. They’re working with Bevtech to design the packaging line operations.

“We picked a system we think will be efficient and produce high quality beer,” said Uljans.

“It will allow us to continually improve our products. We’re always looking to make our beers taste better and last longer, and drive more efficiencies into our processes.”

Having a venue of their own has always been important to Moon Dog, said Uljans.

“We’ve had our own venue since 2014 and it’s been the lifeblood of the business. It allows people to have the most intimate and complete experience of who we are, what we do and what we stand for.

“Being able to provide that connection for consumers is critical. The venue in Preston is off the beaten track but it’s incredibly exciting, with a rainforest walk, a hidden tiki bar amazing cocktail programme and delicious food.

“What this site also gives us is the flexibility to be able to try things we haven’t been able to try before.”

The new automated brewery has 1,500 square metres of barrel storage and two kettles to ensure that Moon Dog’s brewers can brew kettle-soured beers without interrupting standard production processes.

“We can ramp up our programmes and gave that the oxygen it needs to realise its potential.

“We’re going to keep working to innovate and produce things that we find really interesting and will be really delicious and more than anything what the site will give us is flexibility to really try and build up lots of different types of products and be able to scale things up when they catch on.”

The next chapter

The trio have come a long way from humble beginnings, having moved from careers in law and the energy sector to start a brewery in 2010, using abandoned dairy equipment.

“We came into it as three guys in their 20’s in 2010 and using the dairy equipment in the original brewhouse, we had to learn to weld.

“We had a great idea and it was a good time to be launching a brewery that was focused on launching beers that were fun and exciting.

“I don’t think anyone would say we went about it the easy way, we’ve always been undercapitalised. None of us had worked in breweries before, we didn’t have any real immediately transferable skills having come from various corporate roles.”

But something about Moon Dog caught the imaginations of consumers and the beer industry alike.

“As long as you give people what they want, which is high quality beer made by brewers who put a lot of care and thought into them and have a great team behind them, with a story that people can believe in, which at its core is real, it’s a strong place to operate from.”

They have hired an experienced lineup to manage Moon Dog World including Matt Kenna, formerly of Little Creatures in Fremantle, WA who will be head of hospitality, Chris Hysted-Adams of Black Pearl who is the World’s venue manager and Damon Phillippakos as head chef.

From a current staff of 75, they will have an Australia-wide team of 130 people once Moon Dog World is open.

“We’ve definitely learnt a lot and we’ve built an amazing team, so this is the next chapter for us,” Uljans said.

Moon Dog’s new venue will open at 32-46 Chifley Drive, Preston in September.

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