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Rocky Ridge ride out bumpy road

Due to COVID-19’s economic impact, Rocky Ridge Brewing have largely narrowed their focus down to brewery operations only but say it’s a decision that can allow them to prosper long into the future.

Aside from their brewery and cellar door in Busselton, WA, they have closed all of their other businesses and say, for the foreseeable future, they won’t be venturing “too far” into hospitality again.

Pre-COVID, Rocky Ridge was engaged, or about to engage, in a number of small hospitality businesses. Of these, they had been running legendary Busselton bar Darleens for the last two years but they are now seeking someone to take over the tenancy. Darleens has been closed ever since COVID-19 first impacted Australian businesses back in late March. Six weeks prior to that date, Rocky Ridge had also opened a new pop-up Perth cellar door and bar inside the Vic Hotel in Subiaco. That has also been closed since March.

Rocky Ridge’s managing director Hamish Coates said the business had secured new roles within the brewery and cellar door operations for all of their full and part time staff that were affected by the closures.

He said the recent snaring of more export contracts for a selection of their beers had been a positive reinforcement they had made the right decision to narrow their focus predominantly on their brewery operations.

They were also recently awarded a grant from WA’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development to facilitate further production growth.

“COVID shutdowns forced us to rethink our strategy and narrow our focus,” Coates said.

“At this stage, it’s unlikely we will venture too far into hospitality again, other than our (Busselton) Cellar Door.

“The renewed focus internally on our brewery operations has actually been a huge positive for us and should hopefully see us continue to grow as a brewery.”

Rocky Ridge have been exporting a range of their beers to Singapore for the last two and a half years. Now, a new arrangement that Beer & Brewer revealed last month, sees them partner with Hong Kong’s largest craft beer brewery Gweilo Beer. The arrangement means they will brew and export limited release beers for Gweilo as well as acting as their Australian distributor. They will also start to export their own beers to Hong Kong.

Gweilo’s co-founder Joe Gould told Beer & Brewer the collaboration with Rocky Ridge was “for the long-term” and one they hoped would “cement their reputation” Down Under.

Whilst the company is sad to see Darleens go from under their watch, they’d love to see someone with a passion for the local community, as well as a love for great craft beer, wine, spirits and food, take over the location. Coates said a new tenant could maintain the Darleens brand name if desired.

“Essentially (this) entails narrowing our focus to beer in order to grow our core beer and distribution business. Darleens was fantastic to us and a great bar to run.

“However, we also recognise that our future lies more in the growth of our packaged products, particularly as exports pick back up.”

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