Pivoting to an online model due to COVID-19 has seen Katoomba’s Mountain Culture Beer Co ascend new heights as they scale up production and look to open another brewery in the area.
After finally opening in a heritage building on one of Katoomba’s main streets in the Blue Mountains just last year, brewery owners DJ and Harriet McCready are already at full brewing capacity. They’ve also effectively sold out the allocation of beers destined for distribution up until March of next year.
In recent weeks they have taken on new brewing staff and on Monday their new tanks should be arriving in Australia that will take them into the 500,000 litre realm. But, even with that added capacity, they know they won’t be able to keep up with demand in a manageable way so plans are afoot to secure another production brewery to expand even further.
“We’re about a year and a half ahead of where we planned on being already,” DJ told Beer & Brewer this morning.
“We originally set ourselves up to be a brewpub and to serve the people of Katoomba and the Blue Mountains and perhaps service a few distribution accounts. But everything kind of got knocked on its head with Coronavirus.
“It’s by no means exclusive to us though. Breweries that had their shit together and were making solid beer have done really well out of COVID.
“A lot of my mates that I talk to have kind of got the same story where they’re like ‘man, I thought we were going to just be closing down and laying people off but it’s turned out we needed to invest in more equipment, hire more brewers and brew more than we ever have before’.”
In those heady few weeks when COVID first hit Australia’s on-premise trade, and with Harriet pregnant with their now five-week old daughter Dorothy, the McCready’s went all in on an online model and “canned everything in sight”. In turn they’ve defied their status as a regional brewery as those have often been some of the hardest hit in the industry due to the effects of the pandemic.
“We’re now sending beer to Brisbane, to Melbourne and everywhere in between and we honestly can’t keep up with the demand. We’re getting calls and new enquiries every day. It’s really quite amazing what has gone on,” DJ said.
“Doing what we did was great for us and it’s put us way ahead of where we had planned on being and the exposure that has come with it has been priceless.”
But with their brewing capacity already maxed out, and because DJ has seen what effect that can have on a brewing team first hand, it’s time to grow.
“To be honest, and even with the added tank space to come, I really don’t want to crank out any more than 500,000 litres out of here,” he said.
“I’ve worked for breweries before that were set up to be a brewpub and then all of a sudden production ramped up. It’s great for about six months but then you just see people getting burnt out.
“So I’m looking at building a much larger facility which is more in line with my background in production brewing. It’s been nice to use our current set up to play around with recipes and learn what we want to do and kind of see where the demand is right now.”
Despite the rapid rise in sales, the McCready’s are still going about the expansion in a holistic, steady way. The amount of brewing staff they have on board is more than is currently required but they think foundations forged now will serve them well when production can really increase.
“I want to make sure that we grow at a good rate so it’s ideal to have this time to on-board everybody and make sure they’re really trained up and ready to take the next step.
“We’re growing at a rate that means our quality won’t go down while everybody is getting across what we’re doing with our recipes and the style of brewing that we’re doing.”
Head here to read about Mountain Culture’s latest new release – the Yellow Brick Road NEIPA – out today and brewed and named in honour of the McCready’s daughter Dorothy.
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