New Sydney venture to bring five craft brewers together

Sydney hospitality consultant Michael Vale with Moo Brew’s GM Lauren Sheppard.

Five breweries have signed up for a new venue in Sydney’s Newtown, dubbed the Urban House of Brews, which is set to open next year.

Tasmania’s Moo Brew, Victoria’s Urban Alley, Western Australia’s Spinifex, Murray’s in NSW, which has previously had a Sydney venue, and Catchment Brewing Co. in Queensland have signed up to the venture which will see the historic Hub Theatre revamped into an entertainment venue.

The site, which was built in 1913 as a vaudeville theatre and cinema, has stood empty for more than 20 years.

Sydney-based hospitality consultant Michael Vale wanted to bring the Bavarian beer hall inspired concept to Newtown.

The organisers were looking for medium-sized breweries with little or no representation in the Sydney market to contribute to the project.

Vale told Brews News he expected the venue to be operational in 12 to 16 months.

“This theatre hasn’t functioned in 25 years and the council are keen to see it reopened, there’s a number of people involved, including the five interstate brewers, who are all very excited,” he said.

“Independent craft brewers have it tough getting into Sydney venues, into pubs and clubs, but they’ll have 10 taps each without sweetheart deals, at the price they want to sell them.

“We tried to pick the best of the crop,” he explained.

If approved, 650-person venue will be a huge project, especially as it is set to include entertainment from live music to themed and cinema nights, as well as five different bars each dedicated to one state brewery and a cocktail bar on a mezzanine level.

“The most important thing is that it will remain a 1913 vaudeville theatre and the integrity of the building won’t be touched. We’ll be creating something groundbreaking,” Vale said.

Breweries in the ‘Urban House of Brews’

Lauren Sheppard, general manager at Moo Brew said that after being approached several months ago and undertaking due diligence, they signed their heads of agreement on the venue last month.

“It’s been a tightly held piece of real estate in Newtown for a long time, it’s spectacularly beautiful and it’s been restored by the family who have owned it,” Sheppard said.

She said Moo Brew seemed the ideal candidate to represent Tasmania.

“Certainly in the independent scene in Tassy, there’s not a lot of breweries that could cope with what they suspect the demand might be. So Moo Brew is a good fit in that regard.”

“It spoke to us for a number of reasons too. We get the opportunity to ultimately create our own space there, with all our own IP and branding. We were integral in the design of our own bar space, which, being from Tasmania it’s a rare opportunity to have a customer-facing situation in Sydney.”

Moo Brew has had a presence in NSW in the form of a sales representative, and also a distribution and logistics presence.

“We already have a rep full time in Sydney and we have our own warehousing and logistics so that’s another advantage in that we don’t have to send direct from the brewery. But we can if we need to.

“We’ve got great customers in Sydney but it’s hard when you’re a production facility and only doing wholesale, to put our hand on our heart to say you can definitely go here and definitely have choice.

“It’s probably still a long way off, but the main appeal for us is having somewhere that I can 100 per cent guarantee our beers will be pouring, that’s so rare to find for us.”

While the individual brewer will be showcased, there’s also the opportunity to wave the flag for their state.

“From a Tasmanian point of view, it’s that the fact that we get potentially 10 taps and whilst we could facilitate them all, what I really love is that we’re gonna have control over if we want to offer those taps to other Tasmanian producers – it’s up to us.

“There are a number of other Tasmanian breweries who might not have been able to participate because of their supply constraints, so all the advantages of Moo Brew being there but also saying to the guys in the industry were doing this, we have a few spare taps would you like to put on some products?

“We have ownership over how Tasmania is presented in that space,” she said.

Matthew Newberry from Brisbane’s Catchment Brewing Co. said that it was a great opportunity for the brand.

“Essentially for us it’s a branding exercise,” Newberry said.

“It’s getting Catchment into NSW and gives us a bar in a live entertainment hub.

“It’s purely wholesale for us, the operator will run as their own venue but we get full control of the branding of everything as far as what beers we put on, 10 taps per bar, hopefully, we’ll be able to work with some other Queensland breweries.

“For us, it’s a really good branding exercise for little expense, the developer pays for the branded bars, we just have creative input, and hopefully we can grow around that.”

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