It’s been a heady rise for home-grown craft brewer Capital Brewing, which has announced a $1.1 million expansion to cope with heavier than expected demand on the back of strong community support for what it calls its ‘good-natured’ beers.
Less than two years after the company opened the doors to its Dairy Road facility in Fyshwick, Capital has announced that it has broken ground on a new packaging hall, that will double its production footprint and add six new jobs to its growing team.
The expansion will allow the brewery to grow its existing annual production of 1.2 million litres to 4.5 million litres, boost quality control and its capacity to create new specialty beers.
Capital will expand into an adjacent warehouse where the new packaging hall will include a state-of-the-art canning line, centrifuge, conditioning tanks and specialty grain store. Food grade stainless steel pipework will carry beer through the roof from the existing fermentation cellar to the new hall.
Further works over the next 12 months will include a quality control and microbiology laboratory, and a doubling of the number of taps in the hospitality venue to increase the range of beers available to the public.
New jobs will include packaging staff, a supply-chain manager, sales support manager and additional sales and marketing staff.
The announcement comes just weeks after news that a new Capital Brewing Co bar will open at Canberra Airport next autumn.
In less than seven years the company has grown from a small operation to one of the largest independently owned breweries in the country, with Capital beers in major chains, bars, venues, and independent outlets across Australia.
The capital team has grown from five to 46 full-time employees and cellar capacity has increased from a mere 15,000L to 82,500L, with an additional 40,000L of tanks arriving ahead of the summer.
Managing Director Laurence Kaine said the recipe for Capital’s success included the consistent quality of the beer, team development and engaging with the Canberra community.
“We’ve had massive support since we opened the brewery, way more than we anticipated. We didn’t expect to sell nearly as much beer and had to grow the business faster than we planned,” Mr Kain said.
He said the local community had really got behind its local brewery, and the company had deliberately cultivated that relationship, converting the last year’s favourable Commonwealth alcohol excise change into a fund that has ploughed thousands of dollars back into grassroots groups.
“In the past year we’ve put $70,000 back into those local groups. That’s been tremendous for us in terms of people supporting our brand and our product, and supporting local,” Mr Kaine said.
While the brand’s reach has gone national, the focus remains on the Canberra region, followed by Sydney and Newcastle, with the Snowy Mountains providing a winter buffer during the ski season.
“We do a huge amount of product at Perisher, where we’re on tap right across the mountain, and Thredbo, and that really keeps us going through winter when Canberra people are having fewer barbecues,” Mr Kaine said.
Mr Kaine said growth as a craft brewer had its limits and he was not keen growing past a certain size. “Once we hit our capacity on this site that’s really it for us, and that’s a pretty sustainable long-term business,” he said.
The Capital team is an eclectic bunch united by a love of beer.
American Wade Hurley has led the brew team, bringing a US-style to Capital’s beers and training up new additions – including a former SES public servant and a law graduate – as demand grows. Two more are set to join soon.
Mr Kaine said the company now had a full-time quality control manager and part of this latest move was to build a more substantial laboratory for the brew team so it could analyse the product more and also experiment.
“What we’re really focused on is making sure our core range of beers that we really love are as good and consistent and as fresh as they possibly can be, and really controlling how old they are. When a customer buys our beer in a fridge they know they’re going to get really fresh and good quality product,” Mr Kaine said.
Capital will release a new specialty brew this month but Mr Kaine said the company didn’t want to flood the market with new styles.
“We really don’t want to release a lot of specialties, we really want to perfect special recipes,” Mr Kaine said. “The special release we’re about to put out, we’ve been working on that for about a year and half, and we’ve probably brewed it eight times or so trying to get it exactly right before we release it in a can.
“We’ll probably do a few every year but we don’t want to be one of those breweries just putting out another new beer for the sake of it.”
Both Mr Kain and co-founder Tom Hertel have come a long way since working in Trinity Bar in Dickson while studying, and reuniting years later to start Honkytonks in Garema Place.
“That was really the first bar in Canberra that poured independent craft beer exclusively, and that’s when we started getting to know more and more people in the brewing industry and really enjoyed the way the craft beer industry operated,” Mr Kaine said.
“I’ve been in hospitality since I was 16 in bars and pubs, it [Capital] was really an extension of that.”
But with an extended family of committed Victoria Bitter drinkers, real success can be measured there.
“I come from a long line of butchers from Braidwood. My whole family drinks VB, and we’ve converted a lot of these family members off VB on to Coast Ale,” he said.