What is that? Where is that? Prepare for these questions when you show someone a photo of Revel’s planned new Morningside brewery.
It’s understandable. The rambling 1917-built brick facility with its enormous chimney is already a rarity for heritage-starved Brisbane – the fact it’s then so close to the CBD makes it like an object from another dimension, one in which the state government didn’t bulldoze all the old buildings.
And it is in Morningside – just. Take the rarely used Colmslie Road exit off the Junction Road roundabout, drive over a gentle rise and it comes into view, cordoned off behind a tangle of temporary fencing. The main facility is three buildings, neatly stacked down the far side of the hill, overlooking the river beyond.
“I grew up in the area and didn’t know about this place,” says Revel co-owner Jay Neven. “We wanted to expand, but we didn’t want to build another boxy brewery in a concrete jungle. [Co-owner Matt] Flex[man] and I have always talked about an old brewery or an old building somewhere around Bulimba that we could reactivate … when we found out about this place we were like, ‘Holy moly!’”
“It’s uncanny, how everything has unfolded,” Flexman adds. “Something like this was in the original business case, three years before we opened. So you sit back and realise, ‘We need to do this. This is our destiny,’” he laughs.
Revel has always been about tapping into Brisbane history – one of the intentions of its original Oxford Street brewery was to reintroduce brewing to a suburb that was once the spiritual home of the Bulimba Gold Top. And it turns out there’s a lot of history at Morningside, with some of it having to do with beer. Designed by Belgian bacteriologist and chemist Auguste de Bavay, the factory was originally used to make acetate of lime for munitions production. The process required a basic form of brewing, hence the input of de Bavay, who had worked for numerous Australian breweries including Fosters, Cascade and Carlton & United.
Later, the facility would become a naval base, a migrant hostel and, finally, the Hans Continental Smallgoods factory before it was abandoned in 2008. Beyond some artist activations, it has sat derelict ever since.
Now owned by BMI Group, a developer best known for riverside projects in Teneriffe, Bulimba and Breakfast Creek, Revel’s new brewery is intended as the anchor tenant in a business park that will eventually include bakeries, coffee roasters, butchers and other light industry.
“It will be a destination,” Neven says. “If you think in terms of five or 10 years, this whole precinct is going to go crazy.”
The first task of the brewery when it starts production mid-year will be to utilise the imposing central building to mirror the 200,000-litre-capacity of the Bulimba facility, which is often pushing on the limits of its own production. Morningside will then use the warehouse closest to the river to take control of distribution, and towards the end of the year open a taproom and restaurant in a third building, closest to the road.
“It will liberate us,” Neven says. “We can do bigger stuff more efficiently here. And Oxford Street can do all the petite limited stuff that we love. That will be our creative outlet where we punch out at least five limited releases a month.”
As for food, Neven and Flexman say to expect a straightforward menu that will follow on from Revel’s existing work supplying spent grain to regional farmers.
“We’re going to try to get that product back on supply and have a nice circular story there,” Neven says. “Maybe a dozen items [on the menu], all locally sourced. For me, it just needs to be a very unique offering that matches very carefully with the beers.”
Revel Brewing Morningside will open to the public towards the end of the year.