With pandemic panic engulfing the globe and the smart money hiding out in safe havens, far from the winds of misfortune, you won’t hear too many stories over the next few months about people opening up a new business. Mullumbimby couple, Rupert Brown and his wife Kristine, are busy bucking that trend – launching the Wandana brewery over the weekend in the Mullumbimby industrial estate, near the Leagues club, with little fanfare and all of the protocols in place.
‘Although I grew up in Mullum, I travelled for years, and eventually ended up working as a director, filming ads in Sydney, which is where I met Kris, who was a producer. When online advertising and the decline of free-to-air TV kicked in, and with a young family in tow, we realised we would have to re-place ourselves in the workforce’, says Rupert.
With Rupert’s passion for brewing beer as their main inspiration, they dared to dream the dream. Finding the right location was the first hurdle. ‘We had a venue in Billinudgel that fell through at the last moment, but when the old Mullum Removals site came up, we knew it was the right choice.’
With its spectacular views of the sun setting over Mt Chincogan, and a spacious interior, the site fitted their business model of a boutique brewery and venue. Work got underway last year, and although they have raised some working capital from investors amongst their friends, they largely own the company themselves. Then the COVID-19 crisis hit. ‘We were 90 per cent there, and you don’t stop when you’re that far along. Beer was already brewing’, says Rupert.
Music is the yeast of life
According to a study by the University of Wellington, yeast activates more quickly and thoroughly when exposed to music. Rupert has speakers installed over each of his brewing tanks that amplify sounds into the tanks as they are fermenting. ‘Hops taste very different according to where they are grown. I thought it was appropriate to play music to the brew from the area it was grown in.’ So the beer you drink from Wandana might have local hops that has been brewed with reggae and blues music played to it, bitter north American hops that have had grunge music played (think Kurt Cobain et al), or a German hops that has spent its short life listening to authentic polka music. ‘I had to turn the polka music down a bit, just for my own sanity’, says Rupert.
Future brews will include a pilsner that has been reared on a diet of Bach and Mozart, and a porter that has developed in the sound waves of Irish and Celtic tunes. The brews are available for takeaway sales from the premises, canned or decanted into an insulated stainless steel flask called a ‘growler’. The ‘growler’ holds a six-pack and is perfect for taking to a barbeque, for example, and is a textbook case of a no-waste enterprise solution. ‘Beer is like any other food, it tastes better fresh’, says Rupert. Having tasted the result, I must agree, the big breweries have just lost my custom.
• Wandana Brewing, 20 Manns Rd, Mullumbimby.