“We’re just homebrewers that got out of control…”
We sat down for a chat with whom we believe just could be the driving force behind the
very popular and locally loved, Brookes Beer. Mel Brookes, wife to brewer Doug, began
this project together humbly and with little intentions of where things have wound up
for them today.
Brookes Beer teaming up with Masons of Bendigo for their lunch roaming menu.
The golden selection.
Today, it is almost a trend if you will, to see women enjoying hops just as much as the
modern, hipster man. We sat down with Mel to see what it’s like to in fact be a woman
behind craft beer’s business end.
1. So, beer! Where were you before all this began?
I’ve always been in Sales and Marketing roles in my working life, for both corporate
and privately owned companies. Prior to Brookes, I was in the Swimming Pool Industry.
The company manufactured underwater lighting for pools and spas.
2. What was most motivating to make the change / did you see a gap in the market?
Could I have said 10 years ago that I would be part owner of a brewery?? Not on your life!
Doug comes out with ‘I think I’d like to start a brewery’ and I say ‘why not’…
I truly believe that if you have a dream you should give it a go. We should never
live with regrets over ‘If I’d only done this’!
I think we came into the craft beer industry at the right time. We’ve had a chance
to set ourselves up, learn and improve when the market wasn’t so crowded.
Four years on, we now have an incredible local customer base which is continuing
to grow. Local support will always be critical to the survival of a brewery/brand.
3. What do you love most about your job?
It sounds a bit cliché, but I’d have to say our customers. Without their support
we wouldn’t have a business…. But it’s not just about the sale for me….. I love the
different personalities who welcome me into their businesses, who trust us to supply
products that will work for them. Just like Doug and I, they’re working really hard
to survive – to that I say ‘Bravo’!
4. Do you find it difficult being in a male dominated industry? Is it even or is that an assumption?
The beer industry does have a lot of men in it. A lot wearing skinny pants and
sporting facial hair! It’s hipster, it’s funky and it’s pretty cool to work with Beer.
Now, (quite obviously) I’m not a hipster, neither am I young. It doesn’t stop me
from being able to talk about beer – how could I not – I love to drink the stuff.
I know of some incredibly successful women in this industry. I don’t believe that
being female is an issue. Being a wanker (of any gender) would be!
5. Who was the brains behind Bendigo Draught?
This was Doug’s idea. He’s the beer brains behind Brookes.
(Im great help, but never intend to be a brewer) It took a few test batches of
this one to get it right. This beer was about appealing to the beer drinkers who
don’t want a glass full of hops. Just good, honest and made the real way beer.
6. How much has the business grown since you first began?
Starting from a big fat zero, we hoped the only way forward was up. Thankfully it
has been and year on year we’ve continued to grow. We’ve gone through many growing
pains: we need another fermenter/how can we speed up this process/we need some help etc.
Great problems to have! We’ve now got two part timers who make our brewery life
so much better.
7. What’s planned for the future?
We’re going to work on developing some additional new products that suit the tastes
our local market and we’ll throw in the odd specialty when the time’s right.
We’ve got some thoughts on perhaps opening the brewery up to the public again for
a few short shifts a week.
8. What’s something special we should keep our eyes on on the day of the festival?
Mr Bendigo I.P.A will have a run alongside Bendigo Draught and Bendigo Pale Ale.
We’ll also bring along the oldies but goodies: American Pale Ale and Brown Ale.
9. Do you have an advice for other women wanting to make the move like you did?
Do it! If I can deliver a 63kg keg then you can too!
Seriously – Men & Women alike: If you’re passionate about what you are selling,
then it will come across to your customers. Be respectful of your customers business.
Never fall into the trap of telling a venue ‘what you must have’ – it won’t work.
Women as brewers – why the hell not?!
10. Why did you think Bendigo was the right market for this?
We looked around Melbourne and we could see that space was limited and very expensive.
It was already a little crowded. Bendigo had not had a ‘whole grain’ brewery open for
131 years prior to us opening. It was time for Bendigo to have a brewery again.
We think we’re the 54th brewery to open in Bendigo. For a regional town Bendigo had a
great love of craft beer and we could see (hope and pray as well) that it would
continue to grow…. And it has!