Two mates with a love for beer and beer cultureHow we got started

Turning a passion and flair for home-brewing into a commercial venture.

Durban needed a great brewery/taproom venueHow hard can it be?

Very, as it turns out.

We had joked many times about turning Tom’s home-brewing passion and expertise into a commercial venture, but real jobs and lack of time and money was a hindrance.  When Andy left his full-time job in late 2018, the talk became more serious, and with the idea of a small brewery and a vibey on-site taproom beginning to crystallise, the trigger was pulled in early 2019.  However, there was alot of blood, sweat and beers before the doors were opened in early 2020…

We need some equipment

New or second-hand?

The decision to buy new or used equipment was an easy one when we saw the quote from the supplier in China!  The equipment looked lovely in the pictures and the idea of new, shiny equipment with lots of fancy automation was very appealing, but the price wasn’t.  So, we spent many hours hunting around for some second-hand kit.  We eventually got lucky when we got news of a small brewery in Cape Town selling up everything – tanks, kegs, cold-room, tools and boxes of things we still trying to work out the purpose of.  After a trip to Cape Town to view the equipment and negotiate a price (and do some brewery and taproom research) we arranged to have the equipment shipped to Durban, where it sat in storage for a couple of months whilst we got the venue ready!

Finding the perfect venue

"That place is jinxed!"

We knew from the outset that we wanted to be somewhere in the Upper Highway area of Durban (Kloof/Hillcrest) – but where exactly?  After being shown lots of places by a friendly letting agent (thanks, Matthew!) – some good, some not so good – we realised there was a place right under our noses!  The old trading store in front of Kloof Village Mall had been vacant for a while after the last of many short-lived restaurant ventures had closed up.  “That place is jinxed!” was the usual comment that we got from friends and acquaintances, but when we saw it we realised that it would be perfect for us; it had a prominent location, was about the right size and the building had real character and most importantly, the landlord was very supportive of our plans.

As you can see in the photo on the left, the previous tenant had gutted the place, so we had lots of work to do to turn it into a working brewery and taproom.

Licensing Hell

Don't try this at home!

Now that we had found some equipment and the perfect venue, we needed to start the process of getting our licenses – we needed three from the KZN Liquor Board; a manufacturing license, and pub license and a liquor store license.  It became apparent very quickly that we needed help to negotiate the complexities and pitfalls of gathering all the required paperwork and submitting it in the correct manner, so we called in the experts to help (thanks, Victoria!).

This was the most arduous and tedious part of the whole venture; there was lots of forms to fill in and documents to prepare; everything needed to be done in triplicate; all documents had to be signed by a commissioner of oaths; things got lost, etc, etc.  thankfully Victoria kept us on track, and eventually we had confirmation that our licenses had been granted.

Fitting out the venue

Like a big jigsaw puzzle

Some parts of the fit-out were easy – the flooring was pretty straightforward (thanks Brad!) and furnishing in the taproom was kept functional.  The tricky part was piecing together the second-hand brewery equipment that we had bought from Cape Town (we are still left with some pieces that we have no idea what to do with!).  But before we could start putting things together, we had to move our very heavy tanks from temporary storage into their final places; this required a combination of brute strength, ingenuity and recovery sessions at Stokers pub.

Eventually in early December 2019 we were ready to brew our first batch of beer – a tried and tested brown ale which we called ‘Mrs O’Nions’.  Despite a couple of hiccups and lots of swearing, the final beer turned out great and is a firm favourite on our beer menu.

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