Pavement Whispers: Hiker Brewing Co. is expanding to East Brisbane with a new microbrewery and taproom

Pavement Whispers: Hiker Brewing Co. is expanding to East Brisbane with a new microbrewery and taproom

If you were left crestfallen by the recent closure of Black Hops Brewing’s East Brisbane brewery, this bit of news will likely be the soothing salve you’re seeking. The team behind Salisbury’s Hiker Brewing Co. has announced it is taking over the site, transforming it into a satellite microbrewery and taproom. Hiker’s range of killer concoctions are expected to flow from taps next month – here’s what we know …

This year has been a rough one for Australia’s craft-beer scene. Rising costs of ingredients, high excise tax rates and shifts in customer spending have put pressure on independent breweries across the country, with many high-profile operations closing or restructuring. Black Hops Brewing was one such case, with the Burleigh-born beer maker announcing in April that it would enter voluntary administration.

Although the business was rescued by a consortium operating under the banner of Black Ops Craft, a leasing snafu meant that its 314-sqm East Street taproom and brewery (previously home to Semi-Pro Brewing) wouldn’t reopen to the public. It’s not all doom and gloom, though – the crew behind Salisbury suds maker Hiker Brewing Co. has taken over custodianship of the Manilla Street site, with plans to open the location (its second) in early-to-mid July. 

Hiker’s co-owners Daniel Venema and Phil Sharp launched the brewery in February 2023, transforming an 800-sqm warehouse at the heart of an out-of-the-way industrial pocket into a cavernous haven for hop heads. Hiker has impressed over its short lifespan, earning the titles of Best New Brewery and Champion Brew Pub at the Royal Queensland Beer Awards, while also breaking into the GABS Hottest 100 craft-beer list with its Cloudscapes hazy IPA coming in at 52. Despite its early successes, Daniel and Phil had no plans to expand, content with establishing the Salisbury site into a popular community hub and event space, hosting everything from pinball tournaments and rock ‘n’ roll wrestling to skateboarding events and circus performances.

“It wasn’t really in our initial plans – we always thought of having a second venue, but it was probably 3–5 years away,” says Phil. “We actually saw [the East Brisbane space advertised] through a friend’s Facebook post and we thought we’d make an inquiry to see.”

Much to Phil and Daniel’s surprise, the venue’s lease agreement included use of many of the site’s existing amenities, including all of the furniture, as well as an operational cold room and tap system. With a fully equipped venue ready to plug and play, the initial startup costs of starting a microbrewery and taproom were mitigated substantially, making this a can’t-refuse opportunity.

“When we built Salisbury, it took us 15 months to get the development applications and everything like that through council,” says Phil. “Here, everything’s already in place – the only part of the equipment at the venue that isn’t really viable is the brewing equipment. So we’re stripping that out and then we’ll put in a small pilot system.”

Once open, the majority of beers dispensed at Hiker East Brisbane will be brewed over in Salisbury, with the pilot system utilised to test new ideas and concoct small batches of experimental drops (much like Hiker’s sweet-and-sour-sauce-inspired beer, which some of you may have sampled at last year’s GABS Festival). As the East Brisbane site is considerably smaller than its sibling, events will likely be limited to weekly trivia nights and food will be supplied by a rotating roster of food trucks.

Thus far, Hiker Brewing Co. has largely eschewed wholesale business in favour of an operations model that encourages brew lovers to seek Hiker beers out at the source – an approach that is not only better for the brewery’s margins, but also helps maintain the quality level of the beer it produces. The East Brisbane move will allow more brew lovers to get a taste of Hiker’s beers, without risking the wobbles typically inherent in scaling up production.

“We never wanted to be a big-volume business,” says Daniel. “That was never part of our plan, but now we can actually double our volume without compromising on any of the margins, which is a pretty crazy opportunity.”

“We can keep the same regimen in regards to taking care of the beer and making high quality products,” agrees Phil. “It also gives us another avenue to get our beer in the hands of customers. A lot of people on the north side probably don’t hike out to Salisbury as much –  it gives us a more central location for those people that love our beers.”

Hiker Brewing Co.’s East Brisbane taproom is expected to open in early-to-mid-July – stay tuned for more info in the coming weeks.

The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Brisbane dining guide with more than 2400 places to eat, drink, shop and play.

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