Entrepreneur Richard Jeffares and his family have been holidaying on the Mornington Peninsula since the early 1980s and moved permanently to the area in 2003, but it wasn’t until 2018 that Richard launched TWØBAYS Brewing Co.
It was quite a journey of discovery, spurred on by Richard’s diagnosis of coeliac disease in 2015. “I wasn’t excited about the beer choices for gluten free people at that time, in fact there was only one choice and it wasn’t giving me the taste profile I used to enjoy. I was a craft beer fan, and I missed the experience of going to a pub and enjoying a beer really. So when we decided to establish a brewery there had to be a taproom associated with it."
The seeds of the idea of brewing his own beer started in 2016 and then in the following year Richard decided to explore the idea, starting with a gluten free pub crawl across the USA from Portland to Montreal. Explains Richard, “The US are really the leaders in gluten free production and their regulations are similar to Australia - and they were certainly the leader in gluten free craft beer. I visited seven gluten-free breweries in the middle of their northern winter. I arrived in Minneapolis and it was cold but clear, and the next morning I woke up to six inches of snow. I had to drive for around six hours to my first stop, through snow and ice on a motorway and it was terrifying. Fortunately I was always heading in the direction of a brewery so the destination made it worth it – and I discovered the beer was worth it too.”
For Richard it was a question of getting the malts he needed, which he now imports into Australia from breweries he established relationships with during his study tour. “I fluffed around at the start to be honest, so it took around a year to put together the business case, the council approvals and the financing. We found a great spot in Dromana and fitted it out and then opened the Taproom in December 2018.”
Originally starting his career as an accountant, Richard worked sales and business development for large corporations like IBM and Telstra. “We moved to the Mornington Peninsula originally to take on two Captain Snooze franchises in Frankston and Dandenong which we ran for five years. So I’ve had a lot of leadership, commercial and sales experience – no beverage or fast-moving-consumer-good experience so there is still a huge learning curve ahead.”
The marketing and branding exercise was a big undertaking, creating the name TWØBAYS Brewing Co and establishing the brand identity. “We are thrilled with the end result. Being gluten free we knew a large part of our beer would be in cans on shelves so we wanted to make sure it stood out against other brands. It’s come together very well.”
The Taproom in Dromana is a relatively small part of the enterprise now, with the brand available nationally in every capital city. And having recently secured a deal with Dan Murphy’s for their Pale Ale means that their brand will gain tremendous public exposure. There are more that 1300 distribution points now, from retail to restaurants, pubs and hotels.
“We’re still a small business,” explains Richard, “working with sales represents via Distributors in each state. But I am pretty much running it all - from production manager to distribution to sales. We have a terrific local team as well from the surrounding areas which is great, reduced during current lockdown measures of course but we are looking to grow the team again when restrictions are eased. We are so excited for when all of our hospitality partners can open again.”
It has definitely been the point of difference that has made TWØBAYS Brewing Co such a success. TWØBAYS brews with millet, buckwheat, rice and lentils, which are all naturally gluten free grains, and these grains have been used to brew beer around the world for thousands of years. As for the rest of the ingredients, hops do not contain gluten and gluten free yeast is commonly used across all beer. TWØBAYS plans to experiment in the future with many other gluten free grains, such as quinoa and amaranth.
“I always say that if I hadn’t been diagnosed with coeliac disease I wouldn’t own a brewery so in many ways it’s the best thing that could have happened. It’s a manageable disease if you stay away from gluten. We believe we’re making a great product, we’re changing the way retailers think about gluten free and the market is definitely growing," says Richard.
"We have three core beers in our range and we release a seasonal beer every quarter, in fact we’re releasing a new beer in early November. In our Taproom we have 28 beers – any beer that you can brew in a barley brewery we believe we can brew in a gluten free version. We brew true to the beer style with the associated alcohol and carbohydrate content. We can’t wait to get our Taproom open again and for locals to try a new range of beers made from different grains with different flavour profiles – and enjoy our gluten-free wood fired pizzas too.”
Unit 1, 2 Trewhitt Court, Dromana