Well, 2020 has been a ride, right? The name of this blog pretty well sums it up: rollercoasters of emotions, and fairy bread.
Because everyone needs fairy bread.
Shit has happened, a lot is happening, some sad stuff and some exciting stuff, all rolled into this short +++++ narrative.
To cut straight to the chase, 2020 has seen a massive upheaval here at the Ridge. We've opened a new venue (Subiaco), then closed it, closed our small bar (Darleens), increased our exports, grown our brewery, successfully received grant funding under the VAAIAF (Value Add Agribusinesses Infrastructure Attraction Fund), invested in increased sustainability, partnered with GWEILO BEER to brew some epic beers for them here in Australia and just generally sporting the "What the hell is happening" feeling to the year so far...and it's somehow July, and icantrememberthelasttimeisleptproperly.
While this has all been tumultuous, we have been incredibly lucky. Your support through this time has been amazing, for which we are incredibly grateful.
In hindsight, our initial reaction to Covid 19 shutdowns was poor and somewhat of a knee-jerk. Thankfully, we've kept our full and part time staff on, repurposed anyone displaced from Darleens or our Subiaco premises into roles in the brewery and generally, the brewery has worn the shutdowns, come out the other end and we are busier than we have ever been.
I can't thank our tireless work colleagues here at the brewery and through our (former) venues enough, their patience and dedication to Rocky Ridge through one of the toughest periods emotionally that we have experienced was absolutely exceptional.
To the sad stuff; Darleens, our first foray into hospitality, is now closed permanently. Regularly featured on the list of top regional bars in Australia by Beer and Brewer, Darleens was our spiritual home here in Busselton. May she live on with us all. (anyone interested in taking over the lease there, please contact us) Our venue in Subiaco, though only with us a short time at the grace of the management of the Vic hotel, showed us that the future is promising for us if we decide to go down that pathway again. I'm not going to dwell here, as this is all still fairly raw.
On a much more bright and exciting note, Covid has allowed to us narrow our focus and concentrate back on what we do best; BEER. We have had some HUGE developments here at the brewery;
Partnering with GWEILO BEER (HK) to bring you fresh, domestically brewed Gweilo Beers
VAAIAF Fund recipients:
Our recently announced partnership with Gweilo Beer has been in the pipeline for a little while and all starts with what sounds like a (bad) joke; Two Aussies and Two Poms walk into a bar in Hong Kong... To be fair, I'm not actually Joking. Ben (from Beer Direct and now Gweilo) and I went to Hong Kong last year to brew a collaboration beer (- did someone say something about an imperial custard tart brewed here coming out soon?), where we were able to meet Ian and Joe (Gweilo's founders) properly.. Suffice to say, Ben and I successfully outpaced our ExPat brothers, while responsibly consuming a few pints at their favourite local.
Fast forward to now, and we are brewing all Gweilo beers for distribution in Australia as well as sending some Gweilo beers (and our own) back to Hong Kong.
Now, I've been asked a few questions about how this aligns with our philosophy, and I can see how perhaps from the outside and on the face of things it may appear contradictory. However, Ian and Joe (and by extention Gweilo) share a similar experimental philosophy to us, pushing the boundaries of what beer can be and generally, just being all round great people to work with. In terms of sustainability, brewing Gweilo beer here on shore in Australia is hands down better for the environment, as it removes two full legs of shipping (raw ingredients to HK and packed product back to Aus). As with our own beers, any beer that is brewed and shipped to HK falls under our Greener Pastures program (more on this further on). Essentially, this means that all carbon emissions from these beers are accounted for with on farm planting and rehabilitation = Great beer, no Guilt.
We are ecstatic and honoured to be recipients of the 2020 round of the Value Add Agribusiness Investment Attraction Fund (VAAIAF). Our Brewery, set up as a diversification of our existing agricultural enterprise, will benefit immensely from this additional investment in infrastructure.
The funding agreement is for a minimum of 50% co-contribution. As the project stands, we will be contributing approximately 60% of the overall project cost and using it to significantly upgrade our brewing facility.
Our main use of the funding is the continued development of our export capabilities into SE Asia. This is a multifaceted upgrade, which we expect to be completed by November this year. The key areas we are working on are:
-Upgrading our capacity from our current 650,000 Litres to 1.3M Litres, (Additional Fermentation capacity) -Upgraded Lab and quality assurance facilities- Ongoing consistency, shelf life and stability -Installation of an upgraded Off-Grid Solar and Battery system to continue our development as a Carbon Neutral Brewery. (Note: This is also a necessity as there is no 3 phase power available to us on our current site)
Additional to this, undertaken by RRBC: -WasteWater Reuse system to allow us to reduce our overall water consumption and footprint -Brewhouse and Mill Automation project, reduce strain on operators -Further on site dry storage/ barrel workshop and controlled storage
These are huge projects and are going to take a fair amount of time and energy to bring into being, however, we are incredibly excited to be able to bring these projects to life!
I've touched a couple of times on Sustainability
now in this post. Here at Rocky Ridge we are passionate about lots of stuff; beer, provenance and sustainability being key divers for us.
Our brewery runs completely off grid for electrical consumption- we don't even have a connection to mains power, we rely solely on the power of the sun! This is something we are incredibly proud of and want to bring to the center of our story.
We have recently rebuilt our system, with the help of Innovative Energy Solutions, from the ground up, sporting an increased solar array, upgraded batteries and inverters. Our battery system is now capable of a massive 100 kWh of storage and our solar array saves an average of 250 kg of carbon production every day. That's the equivalent of 92 tons of CO2 per year!
We are also investing in a waste water reuse system, which will allow us to reuse any floor waste from the brewery for wash down and cleaning- ultimately dropping our water usage from approx 5.5l per litre of beer, to around 3.5l per litre.
Over the past few months, we have been working on an exciting new initiative to back up our off-grid electrical system and water reuse; Greener Pastures. This takes our mission for sustainable off grid beer to the next level.
Greener Pastures has a dual purpose: rehabilitation of our existing farm land and carbon reduction. While we do everything possible onsite to minimise our footprint [initiatives such as removing plastics- biopack, off grid solar] we still recognise that factors out of our control, such as transport, play a huge part in our overall emissions.
To combat this we have developed a matrix that allows us to calculate the number of trees we need to plant in order to offset our carbon emissions, both direct and indirect.
The program has been designed to be implement on our own farm, right here at the brewery and to then be expanded to neighboring properties and conservation regions.
This year, we anticipate a planting program of approximately 5000 trees, which equates to One tree for every 25 cartons of beer sold, or one tree per 3 50 l kegs. Each tree is the equivalent of 1.5 Tons of Co2 removal, so 7500 tons of CO2 over the lifetime of the tree.
There are many factors that were considered when designing the matrix; including raw ingredient transport, manufacture of packaging materials, transport of packaging, storage of finished good, 3pl logistics, cool-rooms in licensed venues and many many more points of emission. This is still by no means exhaustive and will be updated over time to reflect more accurate data.
I'll share more info about this in a dedicated blog post, so expect to see some in depth info, with the numbers and stats to back this all up.
To wrap up, this has been an incredibly challenging start to the year, wtih ups and downs and roundabouts at every turn.
I consider us to have been incredibly lucky through Covid 19, largely thanks to your continued support.
Hamish, Mel and Team RR