Author: Karli Florisson
Published: April 03, 2020
When Robyn and Nigel started Lucky Bay Brewing in their backyard, they could not imagine where the journey would take them. On January 31, their new, purpose-built facility that can accommodate over 290 people was officially opened by MP Alannah MacTiernan. It’s a far cry from their early days trying to create the perfect brew in their Barook Road shed, to building this unique venue that celebrates the best of Esperance.
Perhaps it is fortunate that Robyn and Nigel couldn’t see the future, as they’ve faced many obstacles to get the new brewery up and running. Two years ago, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation informed the couple that due to the brewery’s location in a catchment area for Esperance’s water supply, they would have to close. After negotiating a grace period, the couple sat down with a spreadsheet to crunch some numbers. ‘We just couldn’t see how it could work.’ The solution came in the form of a regional development grant from the Goldfields Esperance Development Commission. With their project ticking all the necessary boxes, Nigel and Robyn set about trying to find the perfect place to relocate the brewery. They spent six months looking at blocks of land. ‘Finally, we found this block, but it was too big, and had a house on it that we didn’t need. We approached the owner, and asked if they’d be willing to subdivide.’ The block of land, just out of town on the road to the Bandy Creek Boat Harbour, seemed perfect. The subdivision process was much more complicated than they had anticipated, looking almost impossible at times. Finally, six months before their relocation deadline, the subdivision was finalised, and they were ready to start building.
The inspiration for the unique design of the building came from an unlikely source – Wes Graham’s covered cattle yards, located on the Ravensthorpe Highway. The building is very practical. Designed so that the ceiling can be easily cleaned from condensation caused in the brewing process, and also to maximise the collection of rainwater that the brewery will use. Drake Brockman Building completed the building in six short months, using materials that Robyn and Nigel had collected that were significant to Esperance. As they explain, ‘Every piece of wood in this building has a story.’ The stunning front door was made from a Tuart tree taken from the Greater Sports Ground, removed to make way for the new building, crafted by local Scullduggery furniture. Some of the jarrah came from the front of the Esperance Hotel, and the tasting paddles were made from recycled wood from the Kepwari Wetlands walk trail. The venue is full of other local touches, from tables which were used at a neighbour’s wedding through to plants sourced from Esperance Farm Trees. The poles in the toilet block came from the old Pink Lake Salt Works, and Robyn’s brother created all of the cutout iron pieces around the building, from recycled plate steel from an old wheat bin.
Nigel and Robyn started serving beer at the new premises in late December, while still trying to relocate the brewery equipment and keep up the supply of beer to the thirsty locals and tourists that were flooding in. ‘The standing joke was that we were going to run out of beer,’ says Nigel. They managed to keep up the supply, and business has been booming. ‘It’s been so encouraging to see how many locals are loving the new venue.’ The new kitchen has hosted Esperance favourites Bread Local, a visiting Italian pizza chef as well as Esperance’s Sri Lankan Taste. And currently, Max is serving up woodfired pizzas from the kitchen. This fits in with Robyn and Nigel’s vision to have a ‘gypsy kitchen’ which provides a rotating menu showcasing talent from local chefs and foodies.
At the heart of Robyn and Nigel’s business is a deep desire to celebrate the community that they love. Both coming from rural farming communities, the couple has a strong desire to see Esperance flourish and for locals to be able to enjoy a vibrant community. Rather than seeing all of our local produce shipped elsewhere, they want to see it used for the benefit and enjoyment of the town. ‘We want to celebrate what is unique about Esperance,’ says Robyn. ‘It’s important to embrace and use what we’ve got, and to do it really well.’ The barley that they use for their beer production is sourced locally, from Scaddan farmers Gavin and Elaine Egan, as well as the wheat for the pizza bases. Rather than using malted barley, which uses a lot of water, energy, and requires sourcing from ‘malt houses’ in Perth or the eastern states, Lucky Bay Brewing uses up to 75% raw barley. Wherever possible, they have tried to source what they need locally. From using local olives and selling Condingup Wine, through to hosting local musicians, and telling local stories through the names of their beers.
Esperance locals have embraced Robyn and Nigel’s vision, just as they’re loving the award-winning beer. Australia Day saw the venue absolutely packed, for their busiest day ever, with local musicians providing tunes to go along with pints and pizzas. The family-friendly environment makes a great place to relax for the afternoon. The future is bright for Lucky Bay Brewing, with plans underway to try making their own ginger beer, as well as a non-alcoholic beer, sometime down the track. They’re also looking forward to continuing to work with more local producers. But for now, Robyn and Nigel are just grateful to see the community embracing the new venue as their own. Seeing people enjoying the vibrant space, with locals and tourists alike enjoying the atmosphere and the brews on offer, makes all of the hard work worthwhile.