By Tracee Hutchison
The Mornington Peninsula Brewery is changing the perception ~ and the palate ~ of the Mornington Peninsula as ‘wine country’.
It’s a bit like letting a kid loose in a candy store. Good aussie bloke who doesn’t mind a beer has a lightbulb moment to cut out the middle man and start his own brewery. You can almost hear the cheers go up in front bars all around the nation. Man builds the ultimate men’s shed.
For Matt Bebe, Managing Director of the Mornington Peninsula Brewery, years as a travelling businessman had wet his appetite for the craft beer market.
“I probably spent too much time in my previous career in bars or at breweries drinking craft beer and finding a passion for craft beer. I was looking for a small business for myself, I’m no good with my hands, but the idea of a brewery really interested me.”
“Travelling a lot of the time you are by yourself and I don’t like staying in a hotel room and I’d go out and find a bar and I’ll talk to anyone and ended up talking about beer and finding beer and the more I looked into it, I thought, there’s something here that we could do.”
The ‘we’ in the Mornington Peninsula Brewery story is Matt’s business partner and next-door neighbour, Malcolm McLean. Riding the familiar high of a Hawthorn AFL premiership, this one in 2008, the pair hatched a plan for a brewery of their own and the MP Brewery began.
“Yeah, we’d probably had a few beers, and we thought a brewery in Mornington, why not? But it is a business at the end of the day. So we had to get the business plan right, get our costings and cashflow sorted, which we did. It’s a business at the end of the day, it’s a business.”
The craft beer story on the Mornington Peninsula has largely been a quiet one, led by local pioneers Red Hill microbrewery in 2005, and followed by the likes of HIX @ Hickinbotham Winery, MPBrewery has injected a new energy into the potential of the local market.
“We were really lucky because we had the Red Hill brewery, who are about 7 years ahead of us, and they cracked a lot of nuts in terms of how to get things done. So what you had was a region with quality wine and then a quality beer and what we wanted to do was increase the volume of quality beer coming out of the Peninsula.
“We just thought, if we could have good wine and good beer, I just don’t think we’ve been able to express what the Mornington Peninsula has, there are so many facets to it but, to me, we’ve really run on the coat-tails of the wine industry as well.”
The MPBrewery Bar, is the local showcase for the house specialty and it’s a lively weekend destination for pizza, music and, of course, the local beer on tap. But it’s down the road, inside a big tin shed on an industrial estate at the back of Mornington, that the beer literally rolls into life.
“Most craft breweries will have a bottling or canning line on-site, we decided we’d invest in a canning line, canning to us is the next step.”
Inside, cans and bottles of signature ales, lagers, browns and porters roll off the production line, where they’re hand-packed and shipped off around the country and, increasingly, a growing international market, particularly China.
“There’s an affiliation between China & Australia and I think that if you’re looking at the Asian market China is the place to go. They kind of just see the word Australia and (they know) the quality is there. It’s not just about Australia it’s what comes with Australia and, to me, that’s quality. It’s a quality of lifestyle and what they choose.”
But, maintaining a local focus is central to Matt Bebe’s vision for MPBrewery, particularly when the connection runs deep. Schooled at Derinya Primary and then the Peninsula School, (where he taught maths and science in his first professional foray), living, working and brewing the Peninsula’s namesake beer has a very sweet taste indeed.
“I just love the Peninsula. I think it runs through your veins and it’s one of those places that I just love.”
Tracee Hutchison spoke to Matt Bebe on the ‘Wordy Rappinghood’ program on RPP FM.
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