WA’s Beerland eyeing expansion into eastern states

A carton of milk, a pair of shoes, a lotto ticket and a freshly poured pint of the best beer in the country could soon be on the shopping list for your next visit to the local mall.

WA’s Beerland is exploring new territories and, while its packaged and keg products will soon cross the border, the highly-successful Perth brewing team is also now plotting to set up camp in key east coast locations.

The plan is to emulate the formula of its Whitfords Brewing Company model, which has proven shopping centre beers can be a viable option for craft breweries.

Ken Arrowsmith at NBC

Ken Arrowsmith at Northbridge Brewing Co.

The Beerland expansion comes on the back of its strong showing at the Australian International Beer Awards in May when it collected five gold, two silver and four bronze medals. The Wheat, devised by veteran brewer Ken Arrowsmith, collected a Champion Trophy at what is considered one of the world’s biggest beer events.

Overnight Beerland’s business model was busted.

While broadening the brand’s horizons had always been on the office whiteboard for part-owner Ben Rasheed, the AIBA successes meant his team had to quickly look beyond its Whitfords and Northbridge Brewing Company food and beverage enterprises.

“It caused us to change our thinking considerably,” Rasheed told Brews News.

“Previously, our strategy was selling the beer at our own Beerland venues. We always knew at some point that we wanted to launch the product in its own right outside our venues, but we were never sure what that launching point was.

“That became abundantly clear the night we won the AIBA awards; the phone started ringing within hours and people wanted our product.

“We beat 2177 entrants to achieve what we achieved. That was a pretty strong signal to us that the time was right to expand. We started having conversations with the national retailers, key banners and on premise players and we said to ourselves at that point lets gear up the machine and go wider.

“It has taken a while to get the machine up and running. But we have a good supply of stock now and it is time to press go.”

The first step for Beerland was to put its offerings into more venues than the two brewpubs and the other hospitality venues in the group, including Perth’s Mustang and Universal bars and the Left Bank in East Fremantle.

Late last week, stubbies of the Wheat and Pale Ale became available in Perth. In a month they will be on offer in the eastern states with negotiations near completion with significant beer retailers.

Also in the diary is to establish a production brewery and packaging facility in WA. Rasheed said currently Beerland was “relying on some good friends” to share bottling lines.

And then there is the target to have what he dubbed “Flagship Venues” in as many key locations as economically practicable.

“We will look to bring what we are having great success with over here in Perth to those markets we are going to go hard in,” Rasheed said.

“That time has come now for Beerland.

“Our preference would be to establish a flagship venue or venues in each of the key markets we are active in.

“We feel the local connection is important. Having that flagship allows people to see what Beerland is all about. Our venues are very accessible, and I’d like to think people will ultimately see our product in the same manner.

“Each venue will have the same branding scheme, the same service model and the same value for money equation but each one is custom built to the location it is going into.

We would want to engage in the local market that we go into.”

There is no cookie-cutter style to the two Beerland venues in Perth. The Northbridge Brewing Company is in the heart of Perth’s inner city entertainment district and has forged strong ties with business and office workers.

The bigger Whitfords Brewing Company is in a northern suburban hub surrounded by families and has solid relationships with community groups.

And the Whitfords outlet is located in one of the city’s biggest shopping centres, the first of its kind in WA to feature a working brewery and one of only a few around the country.

“We like the Westfield Shopping Centre model and what they are doing with the development of their venues,” Rasheed said.

“They have really created an excellent hospitality environment and we’d like to explore working with them further.”

Both current venues feature 12HL brew kits that can pump out around 150,000 litres a year. The future Beerland flagship venues will have similar production capabilities.

“That drives authenticity and people can engage with the brand by seeing where the beer they are drinking is made,” Rasheed said.

Beerland recently appointed former Matso’s brand chief Chris Webster as sales and marketing general manager and is using his knowledge of the national brewing scene to drive the company’s growth.

The biggest factor behind Beerland’s success has been the contribution of Ken Arrowsmith since Northbridge Brewing Company opened four years ago.

A past head of operations at Swan Brewery, Arrowsmith’s emphasis on quality, meeting style guidelines and his quest to make beers that are approachable for a wide audience has underpinned the rise of the little operation now doing big things.

He was lured out of retirement to take on the NBC venture and is now overseeing production at both venues as well as leading Beerland’s search for a larger production facility.

While he has developed a triumphant core range of Wheat, Pale Ale, Lager, Kolsch and India Pale Ale, Arrowsmith has also overseen fellow Beerland brewers Andrew Dean and Tom Fleay as they push boundaries with monthly releases such as a Saison (Taking the Pith), Milk Stout (Licorice Allsorts), Schwarzbier (Get Schwarty), Brut (Brutal IPA), Maibock (What’s in the Bock), Rauchbier (Rauch the Casbah), Gose (Bento Box), NEIPA (Juice Willis) and American Brown Ale (Smoke and a Pancake).

Many of the seasonals are accompanied by a Beerland Club education evening that has been a highly popular occasion each month for craft aficionados. What an easy way to pick the brains of a brewing icon?

“Having Ken on board gives us complete confidence the product is going to be right every time,” Rasheed said. “We seek authenticity, quality and sessionability and he gives us those three elements just as we want them.”

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