The recent opening of the Bellingen Brewery sees a fresh new venture that is focused on providing a unique local experience to those who visit. It’s An open and imaginatively designed space that is filled with hand crafted local materials, good vibes and better brews …
Where did the inspiration come from to start this project?
All three of us had a plan to do something, and timing brought us together. Richard has been brewing and operating for seven years and wanted to take the company to the next level. Jason had finished up another project and had a very strong desire to do a project in the back of his property that was very communal and multifaceted. Rain has dreamed of doing a brewery since the age of 21 and just got back from a trip around Australia that re-inspired him to pursue this dream.
Who is involved?
Rain Foran, Richard Jennings, and Jason Brown.
Briefly tell us a bit about yourselves …
Originally from the UK, Richard qualified as a Marine Zoologist and spent seven years working on development projects in Africa, before immigrating to Australia. He moved from Adelaide to Bellingen in 1996 and established the Bellingen Brewing Company in 1998.
Rain grew up and was born right at the end of Darkwood Rd, Thora, on an incredible property. He spent some time in Sydney and overseas, but has always returned home; he has a strong connection to this area. He is very passionate about Bellingen and the environment. Rain has a very particular attention to detail and a strong respect for architecture. He leads a very full lifestyle, loves being in nature and adventuring through it, and actually spends a lot of time underwater. A respected foray into real estate has connected Rain even further with the area and its people; he loves being involved in the community.
Jason is a shire boy with an array of skills, and a distinct eye for design. After time in the florist world with his family, he spread his wings into music and then in to the corporate world with graphic design. He gained many skills, but this was not enough to fill his passion for life. Since being a young man, Jason has been surfing his way up the coast, coming to Bellingen regularly, and one year ago he purchased the site of the brewery. Many years later, he set up No.5 Church Street with a good mate, and now calls Bellingen home.
Bellingen has become an exciting little hub for music and food over the last few years. Did it feel like the time was right to launch a venue like this?
We believe the timing is right in many ways, for us individuals, for the community, and the fact that we think that there is a real desire for things that are real today. Whether it’s craft beer or anything that is hand made, people seem to want to connect with the things they consume more and more now and we hope this desire only gets stronger, because it really benefits our community and our country.
You have spent a bit of time renovating and setting up the space; how’s the journey been?
The journey has been really fun – but obviously it has had it’s stressful times as well.
We had a very clear direction which all three of us agreed on and which was heavily guided by our environmental passions. Every millimetre of this project was considered for its environmental merits and design aesthetics. All the timber used was recycled or sustainably sourced locally. We would spend hours before each decision we made, looking into our materials and making decisions based on the product that had the most minimal effect on the environment. We are very proud to stand behind this venue and know what has gone into it – and the feedback so far has been so generous. The ethics and decisions made on the build will be the same principles going forward in our company.
Craft beer is a hot topic these days. What’s the history behind this local beer?
Richard arrived in Australia from the UK in 1996. The beer scene there had changed radically in the previous 10 years, moving away from the dominance of the big multi-national brewers to the resurgence of local breweries offering choice and regional identity. Unfortunately, work got in the way of realising the dream for a few years, until Richard and family moved to Bellingen. In the meantime, craft brewers were beginning to be recognised and appreciated, so it was about time Bellingen put itself on the beer map.
From small beginnings serving beer at the monthly Bellingen markets, the word spread and the number of retail customers increased. The next step was to set up our own bar, where great beer can be served in a relaxed and comfortable space – and that’s where we are now.
What types of beer are brewed, and what are some of their unique qualities?
At present we are producing “ales” – Harvest, Darkwood and Black Pig Porter, which explore the range of styles from pale through to dark. The brewer has a choice of numerous malts, hops and yeasts to choose from when designing a new beer, and it is the combination of these elements that makes each craft beer unique. Now that the bar is open, we are looking forward to extending the range, and our plan is to become an organic brewery if we can – so watch this space.
What’s the secret to making a great beer? What are the strengths you look for when you taste one?
It’s a secret! The starting point is to use quality ingredients with no additives or preservatives and seeing that water is the biggest ingredient, it’s important to use the cleanest H2O you can find. On a technical level, it’s a question of balancing the malt, hops and alcohol to produce a beer that is enjoyable and interesting.
That’s what we look for when tasting a new beer.
Craft brewing is all about difference.
What style of food will you be serving?
We are working on a few concepts for the future, but what we can tell you is it will be sourced locally and will be the best we can find during each season.
How would you describe the venue and the experience it offers to someone over the phone?
“Hello; you must come have a look.”
Ha ha … I guess we want people to feel like it’s a unique venue that has always been here.
Plans for the future … What do you hope will happen over the next 12 months?
We have big plans. We want to focus on the brewery now that we have opened the venue; we have some exciting new beer ideas and want to start sourcing the best ingredients and hopefully more organic ingredients … The rest is a surprise.
Where can people find out more?
3/5 Church Street, Bellingen. P: 6655 2210.
Portrait: Russell Pell.
Other Photography: Bruce Jacups Photography.