Blackman’s Brewery eyes expansion
BLACKMANS Brewery is still a small player in the beer world according to company founder, owner and head brewer Renn Blackman, but the business has growth plans and is proceeding despite pandemic pressures.
“When COVID hit we were forced to close our Torquay venue,” he said.
“As soon as we started doing food deliveries, beer deliveries everyone just got around it and we’re so thankful they did.”
“It helped us stay above water…we’re quite lucky to have so much support – that and Job Keeper kept us afloat.”
The business also received a state government grant from its Agriculture Workforce Plan that it used to help make the shift to its new Grovedale brewing facility that enables it to double brewing capacity.
During a visit last week, state Agriculture and Regional Development Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said there had been a trend in local business success stories like Blackman’s.
“COVID has driven a real hyper localism amongst our consumers,” she said.
“People want to support their local businesses. They want to support local food and drink manufacturers.”
The business will turn seven this year and now employs over 50 people, around 20 more than before the pandemic, and last year produced half a million litres of beer.
“One to 10 million is still considered small,” Renn Blackman says by way of comparison.
“We’ve got a target of 25 per cent growth annually.”
The label is now stocked in over 150 outlets and predominantly rests on a Geelong and Surf Coast market, but Blackman said he is eyeing greater Melbourne expansion.
The shift to a Grovedale industrial warehouse now means around 80 per cent of the brewing is done there, the bulk of which goes to the wholesale market.
The remainder continues to be made at the original Torquay brew bar and ends up in the taps there and at its Ocean Grove venue.
Splitting the brew sites has also enabled the company to segregate its workforce so that if one team falls ill or is forced into isolation with COVID it doesn’t take the other out.
“That was a big part of it, just keeping everyone separate,” Blackman said of the move.
“It was a bit of a challenge when we had facilities where everyone has been, hospitality staff, brew staff.
“It’s obviously not ideal, it would be good just to get back to some kind of normal, but who knows when that will happen.”