Travelling along Strath Creek Road through towering gumtrees and dried creek beds, the landscape is vastly different to the inner city. On the outskirts of metropolitan Melbourne, pushing into regional Victoria, a brewery is tucked into the countryside.
Shearasun Brewing is located between Broadford and Strath Creek in Mitchell Shire, a region that’s gaining accolades for its food and beverage. The brewery is where mates Corey Bray and Glenn Shearer catch up, talk about life and work on their passion, craft beer.
Corey and Glenn have lived and breathed hospitality for much of their lives. Their paths crossed in 2001 at the Bray family hotel in Broadford. The boys instantly hit it off, chatting about their love for craft beer and dreaming about one day owning a restaurant/brewery. Corey began home brewing following his first encounter with craft beer – Cooper’s Pale Ale – in 1989, while Glenn had been brewing for years, intrigued by the intricate flavours and aromas.
“When you’re brewing beer, you’re brewing it for the love and flavour,” said Glenn. “While I was at uni there was another reason, very important at the time. It was a cheap option.”
After attending the GABS Beer Festival, the boys realised their dream could become a reality sooner than expected. The festival allowed them to chat with other brewers, who educated them on new skills and techniques that helped improve their craft.
The boys decided that it was time to start taking this hobby seriously and turn it into a business they can be proud of. Their first move was to employ head brewer Rodney Kuiper. Rod was originally employed as a painter for one of Glenn’s building projects and soon found himself at the reins of the Shearasun brewery. Rod’s brewing knowledge and experience made him the perfect man for the job. The infrastructure on Glenn’s property was converted and became the brewery we see today.
As a first step, thorough market research was needed. Sampling beers (like it was strictly business), Corey, Glenn and Rod gained an understanding of what the industry had to offer and how they would craft a beer that could compete in taste and price. Upgrading their equipment from a home brew to a pilot brew system also required a lot of exploration.
“We could go out and buy the biggest brew system, but we knew that if we didn’t test the market and the public weren’t keen on our style, then we were wasting our time,” explained Glenn. “We started with a pilot system then entered the market through the local footy club, which took the first couple of kegs.”
Once the market research was complete and the empty bottles were cleared, the boys began developing their ales. Corey and Glenn regarded Rod as the ‘mad scientist’ continually striving for the perfect ale, pushing them to produce the quality beer sold today.
“We know our pale ales, what we like, what’s on the market, what’s good and what’s not good. That’s why it took us four cracks and almost 14 months to get our Shearasun Pale Ale recipe right,” highlighted Corey.
Joining a local brew club helped them find out more about necessities such as barcoding, bottling, kegging and transportation. And regional festivals gave them the opportunity to meet the people drinking their product, with Corey and Glenn happily sharing a beer or two with anyone who was thirsty enough to pull up for a chat and crack a stubby.
The growing success has not come easy, living on Melbourne’s fringe, logistically, the boys have had their issues. Selling to pubs far and wide, the boys personally deliver the kegs directly to the pub doors, with a smile of course.
Corey and Glenn smirk at the mention of the large brewers, confident that Shearasun beers – and all craft beers for that matter – are superior in taste and quality. They explained that the battle to transition drinkers to the world of craft beer continues to spur them on today.
“That’s the goal, that’s the passion, converting them over. When you’ve got blokes who are second, third generation CUB drinkers, that’s all they know from their dad and grandfather. We want to educate them on craft beer and let them know that there are more beers out there with more flavour,” Corey emphasised.
The Shearasun brewery is the setting for many aspects of the boys’ lives. Not just a place of business, it’s where they come together socially and where friends and family members join in to give a hand.
“You’re working with your mate, we’re business partners, but at the end of the day we’re mates and you need to remember where you started from.”
“We love it when mates and family join us and get involved, helping with all the little jobs like bottle capping and labelling,” added Glenn. “It’s a chance for us to step away from our regular day job and really work on what we love. We’ll pop on the BBQ, pour some beers and have a good time afterwards.”
Corey and Glenn treasure the people, businesses and community groups that surround the brewery, those who’ve given so much support over the years. In return, they have thrown resources back into the community.
“We’re in a growth stage, so we try to put a lot of our revenue back into infrastructure. But we don’t want to lose sight of where we come from and the people who’ve supported us. We’re planning to focus on one or two community groups a year and donate a certain amount per carton,” said Corey.
Now entering year four, Shearasun’s goals match their commitment to quality and ambition for success. In the short term, the boys are eager to continue converting Aussie drinkers to the world of craft beer. In the long term, they hope that the economic powerhouse that is China will one day stock Strath Creek’s favourite brew.
When confronted with the big tasks ahead, Corey and Glenn found answers and advice from the Melbourne’s North Food Group. After joining MNFG last year, they were opened up to vast opportunities and networks. Shearasun received an in-depth business review that identified opportunities and showed how to harness them effectively. And exposure to the Chinese market literally came knocking at the brewery door as several Chinese delegations and groups organised by MNFG, visited food and beverage partners in the region.
“MNFG has connected us with specialists who’ve helped us progress to a point that would have taken us three to four years to get to alone. And we’ve avoided mistakes thanks to their help. As a start-up, you can’t afford to spend money on blunders. We’ve also had several groups of Chinese buyers come out to the brewery, which has opened us up to so much opportunity,” said Glenn.
Corey, Glenn and Rod have come a long way from their hobby brewing days. In its first year, Shearasun produced 30 to 40 barrels of beer and last year that increased to 48 barrels per month. Now in the process of introducing a new brew system, Corey and Glenn will be quadrupling supply.
The Shearasun future looks very bright.