By MICK ROBERTS
THE cellar’s sunk and the concrete slab laid in readiness for a new micro-brewery to be opened in a historic former guesthouse at Bulli.
While progress has been steady, the owners of the 1886 heritage building, Resin Brewing Co, have “high hopes” their project will be open for Summer.
The Bulli Times spoke with the co-owners, Bulli locals Brendan Dowd and Steven House, to gauge their vision of establishing a brewery, bar and café in the former Railway Guest House.
The pair have worked together in a planning and approvals sense for over 20 years, so they are aware of the potential delays.
“The interior restoration of the guesthouse trickles along at the same pace really,” Brendan said.
“Hopefully we will replace the roof in a few weeks.”
Set out in a conservation plan, the building will be restored as close to its original state as possible. The site was purchased by Woolworths for demolition, to make way for an entry into its neighbouring shopping centre. However Wollongong City Council opposed the demolition and heritage listed the site.
Along came Brendan and Steve.
The pair first met while surfing at Stanwell Park in 1999.
“The surf was good but not many others surfing, so we got to chatting about how good we had the surf that morning to ourselves,” Brendan said.
“That was that though and off we went about our days (we thought). About half an hour or so later, I shuffled in to the back row of my university lecture (slightly late) bare foot and still somewhat sandy!
“Maybe five minutes after that I noticed someone doing the exact same thing, sat down next to me, and as we glanced and did a double take, I realised it was ‘that Steve’ from earlier that day.
“We’ve remained good mates ever since. I went on to travel for a couple years, Steve started an environmental consultancy, and when I came back, he employed me… and we essentially worked together in the science space for the last 18 odd years.”
Brendan and Steve have had a long interest in brewing.
“I’ve all-grain (home) brewed consistently for the past 20 plus years,” Brendan said.
“I recall my grandfather teaching me how to kit brew just before I was 18. My great grandfather and dad also home brewed at times.”
Steve also kit home brewed consistently for many years – until he had children.
“After a few years off, Brendan taught me all grain brewing and got me right back into it,” he said.
They had been throwing ideas around to establish a brewery for the last five years, and the plan stepped up a notch in 2017 when they started looking at potential locations. They looked at leasing different premises, and had some discussions with landlords.
“Once we went through how much customisation and investment would be required we thought it would be better to own that investment ourselves and have better control of our future,” Steve said.
“The guesthouse was always high up on our list of potential options so I called the Woolworths switchboard and within a few minutes was talking to the right person.
“A few days later we had agreed to terms and we exchanged contracts shortly after.”
Council development consent came through in December 2018 and the restoration work and new additions at the back of the guesthouse are well-underway.
“It really is all systems go currently, it’s hard to keep up,” Brendan said.
“Overall, Council and the community were very supportive following early engagement and worked with us to get the project up and approved.”
“Council have been very supportive of our project and like the community they want to see the guesthouse restored and protected,” he said.
“We had to modify some of our early designs – like removing the huge basement level at the rear of the build – but once we had accommodated their concerns, things went through pretty quickly.
“There is definitely a lot of red tape to get a development consent and start building – we have spent a small fortune on consultants and have had to get approvals from a suite of State agencies as well – the Heritage office, Railcorp, Sydney Water, Endeavour energy and the Office of Water.”
The pair is yet to work through state and commonwealth government liquor licensing and excise approvals.
“We don’t expect these to be simple processes – but we will get there in the end and start making some cracking beer,” Steve said.
“We love beer, coffee and food. Hopefully we can nail these and create a place that people embrace as their own.
“Café/coffee will be in the heritage building at the front, with the bar and brewery in the new addition at the rear, with the great outdoor deck area and a cool little interactive kids play area.”
Resin Brewing has created a two-metre deep cellar for the fermentation vessels to enable stacking brights on top, to accommodate height restrictions in relation to the heritage building.
“We have ordered a really pretty and shiny 10 Hectolitre (1000 litre) system,” Brendan said.
“Yep, a very fancy system from Australian company Spark Breweries,” Steve added.
“We are looking to have a cafe, restaurant and the onsite brewery serving all our owns beers, so with that we will likely be open from sun up to beyond sundown,” Brendan said.
Derelict for 15 years, restoring the guesthouse has been an added attraction for Resin Brewery.
“My favourite story is that the original owners, Roger and Sarah Heard, served the Governor General a meal on the inaugural train from Sydney to Wollongong in 1887,” Steve said.
“It was so good that he stopped the train at Bulli on the way back and went in to thank them.”
Brendan has been refining recipes, along with Steve, and has up to 10 beers ready for the brew pub.
Resin Brewing Co will join a small bar currently operating in the old Stock Bank building on the corner of Park Road and Prince’s Highway, and a proposed small bar/eatery proposed for the old chemist in the shopping centre.
Resin Brewing Co is located at 8 Station Street, Bulli – a short walk from Bulli Railway Station.