The much-anticipated opening of Gage Roads Brew Co’s spiritual new home takes place tomorrow.
Gage Roads Freo is the culmination of a $10 million revamp of the “A Shed” on the Walyalup waterfront in Fremantle, Perth, initially built-in 1926 as a 100-metre-long cargo shed.
The new brewery sits on the waterfront overlooking Fremantle port, and features unspoilt views over the body of water that inspired the Gage Roads name – the strip of ocean separating Rottnest Island and Fremantle.
“It's the ultimate West Australian beach house,” chief strategy officer and brew chief Aaron Heary told Business News Australia.
“When you come in here, you'll see all the elements of West Australia. The bar is made from jarrah - all of the jarrah in this place was recycled and some of it came out of the wharf, and the front of the bar’s made from sandstone; West Australia is pretty much made from sandstone," he says.
“There’s rammed earth in the second bar; a lot of the beach houses in Margaret River are made from rammed earth. This continues through into the wine list, into the food and of course, 100 per cent WA beer – brewed locally, right from the tank and straight to the bar."
The building, which juts out over the ocean, has been designed to complement its iconic location and features a brewery, restaurant, bar and a family-friendly entertainment area that includes a sea-themed play area and climbing wall for kids.
The venue also pays homage to its past heritage. For decades, the “Green Room” functioned as the manifest clerk’s office, tallying goods and cargo arriving at the port, has been re-purposed to host special events and private functions.
Heary stumbled on the location after hearing a rumour that the site was potentially coming up for lease.
Armed with his two kids in tow, the reconnaissance mission led the trio to a boarded-up derelict site full of old boats belonging to the Maritime Museum next door.
Despite the ramshackle nature of the old building, Heary couldn’t help but be encapsulated as he imagined sitting out on the waterfront, beer in one hand, pizza in the other, looking out at the very spot the company was named after.
“I just thought, this is the perfect spot for us, and that set me on the journey to unlock this site and work with everybody to make it happen,” Heary says.
Heary has been part of the Gage Roads story from the start, having re-acquainted with the co-founders at a craft brewery conference in San Diego just before they launched the company, halfway through a 12-month road trip from Canada to Panama.
Quickly advancing through the ranks, Heary moved from head brewer and operations manager to chief operating officer after co-founder Bill Hoedemaker retired in 2014.
Heary is currently chief strategy officer and has been instrumental in formulating Gage Roads ‘return to craft’ strategy, the buy-back from Woolworths, the events strategy, the re-brand, building out the marketing and sales teams and executing the hospitality strategy.
As co-founder and managing director John Hoedemaker explained to Business News Australialast August, Gage Roads started out with a more industrial style of operation in order to produce the desired quality at a scale that reduces unit costs, eschewing the pub-brewery entry point that was common in the industry at the time.
“The timing wasn't quite right for us to do venues - back then, I mean, we had zero marketing staff and one salesperson,” Heary explains.
“We had to build a marketing team, we had to re-brand our products and create a really meaningful brand, and we had to build a sales force and distribution platform very quickly - which we’ve done. We've got over 60 in that department now."
He says the brand was built in a graphics-heavy way with bright colours so the beer would stand out on the shelf, complemented by an event strategy to get the brewery's beer into people's hands in "fun and engaging environments".
“Then hopefully they buy our products when they go to the liquor store," he says.
“But I still felt that to really be able to tell our story, about who we are and what we're about, each brand that we have really needed a home.
“This next stage is about putting roots down really significantly into the community and creating an experience for people and welcoming them into our brand and the home of Gage Roads, so they really get a deeper understanding of what our brand represents, what we're about, what we love and what our beers are about.”
Head brewer Simone Clements and her team are set to have a rotating roster of limited brewery-only specials, in addition to the full suite of Gage Roads core-range beers, with the first exclusives set to be a New Zealand hazy and an 8 per cent double-red IPA.
To help complement the beer, Danny Sanchez (ex Attica in Melbourne, Hadiqa) has been brought in as executive chef to oversee a menu inspired by the sea, a coastal lifestyle and local West Australian ingredients, alongside staples such as pizza and tacos.
Good Drinks Australia announced that it purchased Joe’s Waterhole in Eumundi on the Sunshine Coast for $5.3 million last September. The site will be redeveloped at the end of the summer into a hospitality venue and brewery for the Matso's brand.
The Freo brewery is open Monday to Sunday from 10.30am until late and can hold 1,500 people.
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