Credit: Brick Lane Brewing Co.

Mateship, that distinctively Australian cultural idiom, is key to the establishment of Victoria’s most exciting new brewer, Brick Lane Brewing Co. Twenty five mates with their own successful careers, bonded by mutual respect and passion. A group with a vision and the commitment to a shared experience built around a love of beer, the independent beer category and the craft-beer community.

Investing over $20 million in plant and equipment saw founders Bart Campbell, Paul Bowker and Andrew Scrimgeour open the doors to their new, state-of- the-art brewery in Dandenong, on the fringe of Melbourne, in August. As well as producing their own branded lager, pale ale and other hops-driven innovations, the brewery provides contract brewing services to the independent craft-beer industry, whose growth has exploded in recent years.

ICON: When was the business conceived?

Paul Bowker, corporate lawyer turned founder and managing director of Brick Lane Brewing Co.
Paul Bowker (PB): “Unsurprisingly, the first thoughts of heading down the brewery path were had over a few beers between myself, Andrew and Bart. The three of us are great mates and Andrew and I shared a house — along with a revolving cast — in uni days. Between us we’ve bounced around a bunch of ideas for new ventures, some better than others, and it just happened that this one stuck. We all love a beer, love the culture of brewing and had the crazy idea that we could make a difference to the independent beer scene in Australia.”

ICON: How did you determine that the timing was right for this investment?

PB: “From a personal perspective, we’ve all worked in large corporates as well as launched a number of start-ups. We’ve never had more fun than building our own businesses from scratch and the idea of combining building a new business, with the growing craft beer sector and bringing in 25 mates to be part of the journey naturally excited all of us.”

ICON: How important is independent brewing to Australia?

PB: “Independent businesses can move fast, follow their instincts and take a medium to long-term investment horizon. The beer sector in Australia is extremely competitive with about 500 breweries currently operating. There’s a lot of talk of it being a crowded market, but in our mind, there’s a place for all of us. As long as we independent breweries all produce great beer, then we grow the market together and get better beer into the hands of more thirsty consumers. It would be great to see the day where independent brewers become the No. 1 choice for beer in Australia.”

ICON: Tell us about Jon Seltin, your head brewer?

PB: “We built the brewery around him. Of all the roles I’ve had, Jon is one of the most passionate and gifted operators I’ve ever worked alongside. Jon was formerly the head brewer at Hawkers Beer and Bright Brewery before that, both of which have some fantastic beers. He took a gamble to join our start-up when it was still very much in the idea phase and well before first dirt had been turned. Jon has saved us from ourselves a number of times and the brewery certainly owes a lot of its early success to Jon.”

ICON: What was your pitch to your mates?
Bart Campbell, New Zealand-born co-owner and chairman of NRL club Melbourne Storm, as well as founder and chairman of Brick Lane Brewing Co.

Bart Campbell (BC): “The pitch was simple: do you want to have some fun, bring to life your passion for this product with like-minded souls and, did I mention fun? In essence it was about good people, good beer, and having fun in a business you were passionate about.”

ICON: What are the key elements any start-up absolutely needs to get right?

BC: “Having the right people, the right plan and continuing to revisit, refine and execute well on the plan that you have all signed up to. That and don’t run out of cash!”

ICON: Dan Carter is a retired All Blacks legend and Billy Slater’s an NRL legend. How did these guys get involved?

BC: “I was lucky enough to know both gents from my working life, knew that they were passionate about beer but also really good humans who would add to the project that we were putting together.”

ICON: Describe the synergy between your career in sport management and Brick Lane Brewing Co.

BC: “Sport and beer both provide an opportunity for social cohesion, relaxation with friends and the sharing of good times, creating memorable moments in our lives. Like elite sports teams, performance is enhanced by a significant degree of happiness and harmony in the workplace, albeit understanding that in business — and sport — you have to have direct and robust conversations from time to time as you develop and grow.”

ICON: What have been some of the challenges in setting up a new brewery in a crowded market?
Andrew Scrimgeour, from Fosters to founder and new business director of Brick Lane Brewing Co.

AS: “Ahhhhh there have been so many. Brewery size, design and even what beer we make first. It’s a highly competitive category right now. Building relationships with the right customers and distribution partners as well as packaging designs that stand out on the shelf is paramount in a crowded market.”

ICON: When you look at what you’ve created, what gets you most excited about the Brick Lane story?

AS: “To be honest the thing that gets me most excited is that a group of friends got together to create something great, a truly world-class brewing facility to make great beer and be a base for the independent brewing community … and we did.”