The Mill Brewery opens second Victoria site

Collingwood’s The Mill Brewery has opened a second production site in the suburb of Thomastown.

Opening a second brewery during COVID-19 was “not an easy decision to make” according to owner and founder Mirek Aldridge.

However the situation became dire as demand grew through the year, and the brewery did not have sufficient beer to fulfil it, or the capabilities to efficiently package the beer.

As a result, The Mill has invested in a 30hL brewery purchased from another expanding Melbourne brewery.

The kit was brought in at the end of June and installed and commissioned by The Mill team, which consists of Aldridge, sales manager Eric Trigg, new head brewer Eli Haines and brewer Jackson Potter.

The brewery has 180hL of fermentation capacity, and adds to the capacity of its existing 6hL brewhouse at its Collingwood site.

“This new facility will allow us to not only ramp up production considerably, but it will keep our new core range in constant supply,” said Aldridge.

While COVID posed some problems during the build, they proved not to be insurmountable.

“Lucky for us at the time most trades were still operating and were happy to take on the work,” said Aldridge.

“Right now with the construction shutdown would be rough for anyone in a similar position.”

The primary function of the site is as a production brewery rather than as a venue, but it will eventually operate with a cellar door.

Keeping up with demand

The primary reason for the expansion is to enable The Mill to keep up with demand, and having a large proportion of its sales on-premise at its taproom.

Even adding additional tanks at the existing Collingwood brewery in 2019 wasn’t enough.

“We could never focus on the wholesale market which for us, was something we’d only dipped our toes into previously,” explained Aldridge.

The team will also be investing in its canning operation, after what Aldridge described as a “slow move” to packaged product which was beginning to impact supply.

“The slow move to packaged product was mainly due to relying on mobile canners, since we never had any canning capabilities of our own at our Collingwood site,” explained Aldridge.

“We actually recently purchased a single head Gosling canning machine from Wild Goose and have been using that for our limited release beers, but the price factor and having to fit in with their available dates slowed us down.”

Funding the expansion through personal funds and private equity will allow the brewery to focus on wholesale and scaling the business to maintain profitability.

It has been so far, so good as the team makes its tentative steps into wholesale. The Mill beers are already featured in a host of bottleshops in Melbourne, as well as some in regional Victoria and Western Australia.

“It’s been well received moving into the wholesale market,” said Aldridge. “Our sales guy Eric has enjoyed having samples and decent stock levels. We’ve previously had to deal with a few kegs here and there and having to cap our sales to ensure we didn’t run out of beer at the taproom.”

The new production brewery will give The Mill more room to manoeuvre, but the existing site will remain the hub for the brand, but with the flexibility to focus on experimental, limited and seasonal releases.

Like Burleigh Brewing, The Mill has grown steadily and subtly than others in the market since its founding in 2017.

And like Burleigh, The Mill is keen to stay ahead of the game, having currently undertaken a brand revamp. The first releases to showcase the new branding will be its official new core range and its Serenity seltzer, which will be brewed out of the Thomastown site.

Their new range was officially launched at The Mill’s Collingwood home last Friday, with wholesale deliveries heading to bottleshops this week.

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