WA brewers receive $400k state funding

Three Western Australian brewers have received nearly $400,000 in government funding to help expand production capabilities.

Beaten Track Brewery, Cowaramup Brewing Co. and Rocky Ridge Brewing Co. have received nearly $400,000 between them through the WA state government’s Value Add Agribusiness Investment Attraction Fund.

The match funding grants aim to support businesses investing in new projects or expansion opportunities in WA that will build competitiveness, adopt innovative technologies or grow their operations.

A Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development spokesperson said that WA has the highest number of breweries per heard in Australia, and said that craft beer was considered a serious growth industry by the government.

“The three successful breweries in this round – Rocky Ridge, Cowaramup Brewing Company, and Beaten Track Brewery – are all expanding and potentially exporting, demonstrating the considerable appetite for local beer in WA and abroad,” the DPIRD spokesperson told Brews News.

It’s just the latest in a series of state government grant opportunities that have been taken up by WA brewers. Newly-launched Lucky Bay Brewing in Esperance received agribusiness funding earlier in the year in the first round, meanwhile Exmouth’s Whalebone Brewing Company received more than $200,000 last year in a round of Regional Economic Development Grants to allow it to expand.

Rocky Ridge Brewing Co.

Rocky Ridge Brewing Co. in the South West received $210,000 in the second round, which managing director Hamish Coates said would be used to upgrade its facility from 650,000-litre capacity to 1.3 million through additional fermentation space.

Rocky Ridge will also invest in a lab, an off-grid solar and battery system as it looks to become carbon neutral, as well as a wastewater reuse system.

“We are incredibly excited by the opportunities that are presented by the award of this funding. It’s a big win for us and great recognition of the strength of the Australian brewing industry,” Coates said.

He said that despite the challenging times, COVID-19 has brought some successes for the brewery, which announced it had teamed up with Gweilo Beer in Hong Kong to produce and export beer on its behalf.

Part of the funding will also go towards increasing its export abilities into South East Asia, as well as employing another five people full time in the area.

Coates said that the application process is time consuming but ultimately worthwhile.

“I’d suggest knowing exactly what it is you would like to achieve and ensuring that it aligns well with the grant structure.

“As a regional brewery, operating on a diversified family farm, concentrating on local provenance, we fit the criteria well,” he said.

Beaten Track Brewery

In the $4 million round of the fund this year, Beaten Track Brewery in South Boulder, 700 kilometres from Perth, received $112,230 which it will match to facilitate the expansion of its brewery.

Co-founder Allira Dudarko who founded Beaten Track with partner Mitch, said that the brewery was gaining popularity in its small WA town and the team needed room to grow by finding a new site and upgrading their brewkit from 3 to 5hL.

“Being a WA-based brewery, all our malt comes from our own wheatbelt, and that was the key point for the agribusiness grant – that you help increase demand for local product, so they’ve given us money to buy a new canning line as well as the brewkit and support the move.

“We do everything manually at the minute, a friend made us a canner with their 3D printer, but we’d like something a bit more automated.”

She said COVID-19 put a major spanner in the works and prevented its move to a new 400sqm site in the centre of town just yet, but they were hopeful that these plans would still come to fruition and said that COVID had really made their need for packaging line apparent.

“It was hectic but the community supported us so much, we had tons of friends being delivery drivers, we paid them in beer and burgers. The community spirit was amazing,” Dudarko explained.

Beaten Track even named a beer – Team Franks – after some of their biggest supporters.

When it comes to getting the grant, Dudarko made a number of recommendations to brewers looking to apply.

“I would definitely go and approach your local economic business development centre and get them to help you out wherever possible. Our Goldfields centre was invaluable, they put together plans and that was the biggest tick for us.

“We could say this isn’t just a one hit wonder, it can inject millions of dollars into the local economy of a regional town. It was eye opening to see how beneficial this project will be to the local economy,” Dudarko said.

She recommended brewers having an air-tight budget for a solid idea, a project that fits in with the grant’s objectives and said that having quotes ready to go in preparation for the opening of the grants were key.

Cowaramup Brewing Company

Family-owned, Margaret River region Cowaramup Brewing Co. was the third recipient, receiving $72,530 to match.

Cowaramup managing director Claire Parker said that the funding will allow it to invest in a canning line and fermenting tanks to increase production and invest in the growth of the business.

“We had to prove flow-on economic benefit, and tell them my projected turnover and work out the flow-on benefits to the community.

“The grant will help us provide more full time jobs through the canning infrastructure and more than double turnover over a period of two years as well as developing that regional input into the local community, to keep people in the area.”

She said one of the main things they needed to do was modernise and invest in a canning line, which was again proven by COVID-19 when they move to takeaways and food delivery.

Parker explained that they had been thinking about it for a while but would have to wait until they could commission a new canner from abroad, but is hoping the equipment will be in place by the end of the year.

Meanwhile the reopening of venues comparatively early in WA allowed them to continue with their match funding of the grant, and they had seen a wave of success as people looked to support local.

“We’ve got the grant which is brilliant, we haven’t got money coming out of our ears, but since we opened on 6th June, every weekend has been like a long weekend, it’s unprecedented,” she said.

“I’m feeling so grateful we’re still going. Luckily we’re a success story but as much as I feel excited and happy at what’s happening to us, I feel for everyone, the situation has hurt the whole industry.”

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