TWØBAYS Brewing Co. turns five
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The brewing world was a very different place in December 2018. With seemingly a new brewery opening every week, there was one brewery with a very different plan to carve their own niche in the Australian beer landscape. And five years on, TWØBAYS Brewing Co. are continuing to find success in a very different climate to the craft beer boom days of 2018.
Richard Jeffares loved craft beer until he was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease in 2015. On a strict gluten free diet, he feared he’d never explore a tasting paddle again. “I was on a road trip through America in 2017 and discovered breweries crafting gluten free beer from alternative malts that were just incredible. I could have that taproom experience with great beer again! There was nothing like that back home, so my mind was made up. I wanted to bring that choice of craft beer styles, and gluten free beer quality to Australian consumers with the full taproom experience.” And so, the idea behind TWØBAYS Brewing Co was born.
Australian Food Standards don’t allow you to use barley, wheat, rye or oats when making a gluten free beer, and there’s no such thing as a “gluten friendly”. Clarifying enzymes used in barley beers to ‘reduce’ the gluten, but they are not gluten free – and have the potential to make some consumers really sick. “There’s no middle ground for people with coeliac disease”, says Richard, “I learned the hard way early on, it’s not worth rolling the dice and drinking ‘gluten friendly’ barley beer. There’s nothing ‘friendly’ about even a tiny bit of gluten contamination”.
But doing it the right way wasn’t as easy as the American brewers had made it look and came with a steep learning curve. Richard speaks of the early days, “AG [Andrew Gow, the founding brewer at Mornington Peninsula Brewery] spent 9 months trying to create a great tasting beer from grains and malts no brewer in their right mind would choose to work with. They are small, fiddly little things, hard to mill, hard to mash, hard to sparge, hard to ferment, hard to get the right flavours from, and ridiculously expensive compared to barley… but he did it! And now we have the TWØBAYS Pale Ale people are drinking all over Australia today!”
The taproom, which opened early in December 2018, was always an integral part of the vision to give consumers that same experience Richard had in the States. “I remember we were all very nervous. We’d planned our grand opening event and had a taproom full of guests coming, but we still didn’t have our planning approval. We received it just a couple of hours before the doors opened. There was a moment when we thought we might have been turning everyone away!”, says Richard. Thankfully it all worked out for TWØBAYS and the brewery has been going guns blazing ever since, making great beer available to the 25% of Aussies that need to, or choose to, avoid gluten – and changing people’s perceptions of what a beer made from alternative malts can be.
“The support from the beer industry has been exceptional. When over 100 other breweries put you in their fridges, or even sometimes on tap, as their gluten free beer option, you know you have brewed some great beers.” says Richard. “I remember going to breweries when I was first diagnosed Coeliac and had no choice but cider. You can clink glasses and say “cheers”, but you still feel like you are missing out. These days it’s a no brainer to have some TWØBAYS in the fridge. If it’s not there, the gluten free mate in the group will be wanting to move on pretty quickly, or just won’t come in at all.”
There has been a lot to celebrate over the first five years, with a haul of over 50 medals, a collaboration beer with indie band Ball Park Music, and not just surviving, but thriving through some turbulent economic times. TWØBAYS is one of a handful of breweries of their generation that has successfully taken their brand nationally. “We’re now stocked in over 2,500 venues and bottle shops right around Australia, from Darwin to Port Douglas and all the way around to Port Hedland in WA. If there’s a bottle shop or venue in Broome who wants to close the loop, give me a call!” says Richard.
2023 was a watershed year for the innovative brewery, taking home the first ever Trophy awarded to a gluten free beer at a major Australian awards – Indies 2023 Best Specialty Beer, TWØBAYS Session Ale. And landing beers into several major venues including the MCG, AAMI Park (Melbourne Rectangular Stadium), and Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centre has given indie beer something to celebrate, and get beers made from alternative malts into the mouths of people who might not normally pick up a gluten free beer.
“It’s all out of self-interest” says Richard. “Not being able to have a beer at the footy with my family and mates had been a real frustration of mine, so being able to have our trophy winning beer at the G is certainly one of the biggest highlights of our first 5 years!”
TWØBAYS like to push the boundaries in the hope people who need, or choose, to avoid gluten can have the same experience in exploring beer as the rest of the beer drinking population. “We don’t want anyone to miss out on any style. Most of our consumers have never had a chance to try a Cold IPA, a NEIPA, Sour beers or Saison. They just don’t exist in the gluten free beer world. So we have had a crack at them all.” says Richard. TWØBAYS run Australia’s biggest gluten free tap takeover “Free the Taps” for Coeliac Awareness Week, and 2023 was the biggest yet, featuring 17 different beers in almost every state and territory – only the NT missed out.
Head brewer, Kristian Martin, gives an insight into what drives his creativity in the brew house. “It’s pretty much whatever Richard says he wants to drink next, we brew it!”, jokes Kristian. “Every time we make a new beer, it’s never been done before on a commercial scale with these malts, which makes it challenging, but also even more rewarding when we get it right. In the past year we’ve re-released our Passionfruit Sour, brewed a wet hop IPA (thanks to HPA for the fresh Galaxy cones), an ESB, a Cold IPA, a Hazy Pale and a Hazy IPA, and we’re just about to put an Orange Blossom Honey Saison on in the taproom”. For most breweries this is all pretty standard stuff but are all Aussie firsts for gluten free beers and consumers.
“Like opening any business, it hasn’t been a straight forward journey, and we know there are further challenges ahead. But to see the look on the faces of TWØBAYS drinkers at the Taproom, and to read the countless emails and comments on social media that thank us for creating great gluten free beer, makes every drop of blood, sweat and tears (and beers!) absolutely worth the hard yards.” says Richard.
What is in stall for the next five years? “There’s 65,000 liquor licenses in Australia, so we are only just scratching the surface.” says Richard.
The TWØBAYS team will be celebrating 5 years of TWØBAYS with friends, family and locals on Sunday 10th December at the Dromana Taproom on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria.
Cheers to five years of great gluten free beers!